Posts

Fostering Independence in Your Teens

Working with your teenage children towards growth and independence can sometimes be a tug-of-war between providing guided support and allowing the right amount of freedom. This is blog-independence-main-landscapeespecially the case when it comes to children with special needs. Recognizing that it’s important to do a little bit of both is the key to success in independence!

Here are some proactive and reactive strategies to try that will allow you to foster independence in your teens:

Proactive Strategies  

  • Determine the Current Level of Independence

By looking at the many different areas of independence, from social interactions to daily living, figuring out where your child lies is a great starting point. By doing this you set yourself and your child up for success with directly pinpointing their areas of strength and deficit. From here, you can determine what they’ll need more support with and what they can begin completing independently.

  • Model the Behavior

One of the best ways for children to learn any behavior is through imitation. By modeling what a task looks like it gives your child the exposure and opportunity to imitate it. This can range from conversation skills and socialization to completing household chores and purchasing items.

  • Set Expectations

Setting clear expectations prior to emerging independence will give your child a set of rules to follow. With this, everyone will be fully aware of what the guidelines are when it comes to added responsibilities and freedom. Involving your child in the creation of these rules allows for an added bonus of independence and control. If they understand and discuss the ‘why’ behind the rule, they’re more likely to follow it!

Reactive Strategies

  • Provide Prompts

Providing the right type and amount of prompts will allow your teen to achieve the ultimate goal of independence, if utilized in the right way. Sometimes, too many prompts can teach your child to become prompt dependent. When this occurs they rely on the prompt to complete a task or activity and independence becomes less likely. On the opposite side, not enough prompts may teach your child the incorrect way to complete a task or activity.

Trying for independence first and then utilizing least to most prompting (below) is usually a good way to start:

  1. Vocal – Direct and/or indirect statements provided vocally
  2. Gestural – Physical movements indicating desired response (e.g. pointing, nodding, etc.)
  3. Partial physical – Minimal physical guidance using a light touch
  4. Full physical – Hand over hand physical guidance
  • Provide and Ask for Feedback

Much like including your child in creating expectations, providing and asking for feedback gives them accountability and control of their own development. Providing your child with feedback throughout their learning experience allows for progress and mastery to occur faster. It takes out guessing games and gives them exact corrective and positive information regarding their own behavior. Asking for feedback allows for growth in communication and relationship development. This gives your child a chance to be the one dictating what they need more or less of from you. Be willing to listen! When the experience is collaborative, the result is long lasting.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

Meet-With-An-Applied-Behavior-Analyst

5 Reasons Why Your Child Needs a Visual Schedule

What is a visual schedule?

A schedule consists of main activities to be completed during a particular timeframe. A visual schedule uses words or symbols (depending on your child’s level of literacy) to represent activities on his/her schedule.

Why should I use a schedule with my child?

When used consistently, a visual schedule has many potential benefits:

  1. Security and Behavior: Following a visual schedule increases the predictability of your child’s
    schedule-Portrait
    environment. Understanding what comes next, and when a particular event or activity is going to happen, increases your child’s feelings of security and helps them understand what is expected, as well as what to expect. Security and understanding of expectations, along with familiarity with a consistent schedule, may decrease behavior problems and increase engagement in the activity at hand. Increased engagement leads to increased attention and, therefore, learning.
  2. Independence: Knowledge of schedules increases independence. Visual schedules can be used to guide your child through through morning activities and routines. For example, if your child knows he/she eats breakfast then brushes his/her teeth (and understands what needs to happen to complete these routines – e.g., bring plate to the sink, then go to the bathroom, etc.), he/she is more likely to initiate these routines independently.
  3. Flexibility: Predictability allows children to more easily mentally prepare for changes in the regular schedule. If something outside the regular series of activities is going to happen, a visual schedule allows your child to mentally prepare for this change, making for increased flexibility (and smoother transitions to new activities).
  4. Receptive Language: Using a schedule increases your child’s immediate and overall understanding of linguistic concepts. For example, abstract time concepts (later, next, first, last, etc.) that are often difficult for children to understand or conceptualize are experienced firsthand, and can be visualized by looking at the schedule. Furthermore, using a visual schedule will help increase your child’s understanding of verbal directions, as it pairs visual cues with verbal directions, providing additional support to verbal direction.
  5. Pre-Literacy Skills: Using symbols and pairing them with words on your child’s visual schedule facilitates his/her understanding that symbols and words represent concepts. This is an important concept for future acquisition of literacy skills, as letters and words require an understanding of symbolism – pictures or graphemes represent concepts separate from themselves.

Try a visual schedule to help your child and see the impact it has!

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

Household Chores for Children by Age

Children doing household choresWith school, holidays and less time to keep up with household chores, parents everywhere are looking for a few more helping hands to keep “home base” spick and span. Here is a brief overview of developmentally appropriate household chores:

Here is a brief overview of the developmental sequence of household chores:

Chores for a 13 month old:

Your child should begin to imitate you completing household chores. Pushing a pretend vacuum cleaner over the carpeting or helping you wipe up their craft table are excellent examples.

Chores for a 2 year old:

Your child should demonstrate the ability to pick up and put away their toys with verbal reminders (e.g. clean-up your puzzle before lunch).

Chores for a 3 year old:

Your child should be able to carry things without dropping them; dusting, drying dishes, and gardening. They should also be able to wipe up their spills.

Chores for a 4 year old:

Your child should be able to prepare dry cereal and snacks for themselves. They should also be able to help sort laundry before washing.

Chores for a 5 year old:

Your child should be able to put their toys away neatly, make a sandwich, take out the trash, make their bed, put dirty clothes in their hamper, and appropriately answer the telephone.

Chores for a 6 year old:

Your child should be able to help you with simple errands: complete household chores without redoing them, clean the sink, wash dishes with assistance, and cross the street safely.

Chores for a 7-9 year old:

Around 7-9 years of age, your child should begin to cook simple meals, put clean clothes away, hang up their clothes, manage small amounts of money, and use a telephone correctly.

Chores for a 10-12 year old:

Your child should have the ability to cook simple meals with supervision, complete simple household repairs with appropriate tools, begin doing laundry, set the table, wash dishes, and care for a family pet with reminders.

Chores for a 13-14 year old:

Your child should be able to independently do laundry and cook meals. By expecting your child to complete daily chores before moving onto their preferred activities, it is a wonderful way to prepare them for the demands of homework and other activities when they return to school.

Children of all ages can contribute to keeping up with housework. In addition to keeping your house clean, chores are also an excellent way to instill a sense of ownership and responsibility into your child’s daily routine. Your child could be responsible for one or two chores each day, or each week, depending on the time they have available. Create your own system for keeping track of the chores your child has completed (ex. sticker chart or a marble jar). Each time your child completes their chore, reward them with one token (ex. one sticker or one marble). When they reach 10 tokens, reward them with a bigger prize of their choosing (ex. an ice cream treat or a trip to the zoo). Be sure to verbally praise your child with each attempt at completing a chore and assist them as needed, especially while they work to complete a novel duty. Your verbal encouragement paired with the reward system will only help to motivate your child to take on more and more responsibility at home.

Fleming-Castaldy, R. P. (2009). National Occupational Therapy Certification Exam: Review and
Study Guide. Evanston, IL: International Educational Resources, Ltd.

Love What You Read?  Click Here To Subscribe To Our Blogs Via Email!

Dressing Skills: Developmental Steps for Kids

Dressing may seem like a simple task, but it is actually a task that requires multiple skill sets from children. Dressing requires skills girl dressing such as fine and gross motor coordination, body awareness, bilateral coordination, right/left discrimination, postural stability, and motor planning. As a parent, it can be difficult to know at what age a child should develop certain skills in dressing.

Developmental steps of self-dressing skills in children*:

1 year:

  • Pulls off shoes
  • Removes socks
  • Pushes arms and legs through garments

2 years:

  • Helps pull down pants
  • Finds armholes in pullover shirts
  • Removes unfastened jackets
  • Removes untied shoes

2.5 years:

  • Removes pull-down elastic waist pants
  • Unbuttons large buttons
  • Puts on front button shirt

3 years:

  • Puts on socks and shoes (though it might be the wrong feet or socks upside down)
  • Puts on pullover shirts with some help
  • Buttons large buttons
  • Pulls down pants
  • Zips and unzips with help to place on track

3.5 years:

  • Identifies front of clothing
  • Snaps fasteners
  • Unbuckles belt
  • Buttons 3-4 buttons at a time
  • Unzips jacket zipper

4 years:

  • Removes pull over shirts without help
  • Buckles belt
  • Zips jacket
  • Puts on socks correctly
  • Identifies front and back of clothing

5 years:

  • Dresses alone
  • Ties and unties knots

6 years:

  • Ties bows and shoelaces

According to Jayne Shepherd (2005), achieving independence in dressing may take up to 4 years. During this time, parents gradually perform fewer of the tasks, and encourage their children to do more, with the ultimate goal of independence.

*Source:

Shepherd, J. (2010). Activities of daily living and adaptations for independent living. In J. Case-Smith, (Ed.), Occupational therapy for children (5th ed., p., 501). St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Mosby.

Love What You Read?  Click Here To Subscribe To Our Blogs Via Email!

Making School Day Routines Easier with a Schedule

With school in session, it is important to solidify those morning, after school, and nighttime routines.  Using schedules provides predictability, encourages independence, and aids in transitions with your child.

Mother and daughter planning a schedule

Here are some quick tips to help make morning and nighttime routines easier with a schedule:

Types of Schedules:

A schedule can be created for any routine, such as bathroom, dressing, leaving for school, or after school routines.  For example, “Eat breakfast, brush teeth, and grab backpack” can be used for a morning routine, or “Eat snack, do homework, have 20 minutes of free time” could be used for an after school routine.

Location of the schedule:

Schedules should be placed where they are most accessible to your child.  If you are trying to promote independence while dressing, place a schedule on your child’s closet or dresser.  Bathroom schedules can be placed on a mirror, and morning/after school schedules can be placed on the refrigerator or door.

Using Pictures:

Pictures are great visuals for younger children or children who have difficulty understanding spoken language. Pictures can be drawn on a dry erase board or mirror, found on a computer (i.e., Google images), or cut out from a magazine.

Including your child:

Encouraging your child to help create his or her own schedule will increase comprehension and motivation for the responsibilities.  It is important to complete schedules before the routine begins.  For example, morning and after school schedules should be completed the night before.  Night schedules could be completed before dinner.  Your child should manipulate his or her schedule by moving pictures from the “to do” to the “all done” pile, or crossing off written tasks.

Flexibility:

Having some flexibility with your child’s schedule is okay, as long as the schedule is set before the routine begins and the arranged schedule is followed.  Rearranging the sequence of tasks, giving your child choices, and introducing new activities allow for flexibility within schedules.

Setting routines and implementing schedules should help make life a little easier.  If you have any suggestions that make your morning, afternoon, and nighttime routines easier, please share them below.

Love What You Read?  Click Here To Subscribe To Our Blogs Via Email!

Choosing The Right Friends: Supporting your Child’s Resiliency Against Peer Pressure

The older they get, the more independent they get. For adolescents, the world revolves around the friendship circle. While you can’t choose friends for your children, you can teach them how to choose wisely.  Some parents don’t get involved until it’s too late, when they desperately want their children to stop hanging out with bad influences. This may be accomplished, but the problem may return when the child meets someone similar. It’s more valuable to teach children about what a good friend means, rather than seek control over each individual peer of choice. You can start by asking your children to make a list of qualities that make up a “good friend” and helping them think about it objectively.

teenage friends standing outside

When discussing specific peers in their life, you can use the following questions as a screener:

Good Friend Checklist

  • Are you able to be yourself around them?
  • Do they make you feel good about yourself?
  • Do you have interests and hobbies in common?
  • Do you take turns being leader and follower?
  • Would you stand up for each other?
  • Do they want to help you when you’re upset?
  • Do they listen when you need to talk about your feelings?
  • Do they respect you when you say “no”?
  • Can you work it out together when you have a fight?

If most of the answers are “yes”, the friendship is likely to be a positive one and hopefully boosts self-esteem. If most of the answers are “no”, the friendship could lead to insecurity and poor decision-making and should be re-considered.  The “no” answers can also help identify which skills may need to be taught or strengthened.

Love What You Read?  Click Here To Subscribe To Our Blogs Via Email!

How to Teach your Child with Sensory Processing Difficulties How to Ride a Bike

Learning to ride a bike can be a scary and overwhelming adventure for both the parents and the child involved!  There are many components required for bike riding, such as motor planning, body awareness, trunk control, balance, self-confidence, following directions, safety awareness, timing, and sequencing.  However, one of the best things about bike riding is that the child is typically very motivated and excited to do it, as he sees his friends or other children in the neighborhood doing so already.

SPD Child riding a bike

Below are several strategies on how to get started:

  • Practice lots of balance activities:  balance is a huge part of bike riding; therefore, it is important to strengthen these skills by challenging your child’s ability to maintain various positions including standing on one leg, sustaining yoga poses, walking across balance beams, or kneeling on an unstable surface such as the bosu ball.
  • Incorporate a variety of activities with wheels:  while being able to ride a bike independently might be the ultimate goal, it is beneficial to incorporate other similar skill sets into your child’s play experience.  This will help you and your child to take the emphasis off of the fact that he does not know how to ride a bike and help to focus on the excitement of trying new things (e.g. scooter, skate board, tricycle, roller skates, etc.).  Similarly, your child might really excel at one of these activities, in which this activity can then be used as a confidence booster when the child has already mastered it.
  • Practice inside:  have your child practice simply balancing on the bike/sitting on the bike in a safe environment, such as inside (e.g. basement or playroom/living room if appropriate).  Place large pillows/beanbags next to the bike so the child feels secure, and if he falls, he will crash into the pillows.
  • Involve different family members/friends:  bike riding can be a very complex task; therefore, it can be extremely beneficial to involve different family members/friends to help with the process. Different people have different strategies and ways of motivating and sometimes one strategy will really hit home for your child.  Similarly, then the same parent and child won’t get so frustrated with one another.
  • Visual schedule:  help your child to make a visual schedule/calendar to illustrate when the child will start practicing and what skill he will work on each day (e.g. getting onto bike; peddling with both legs; ride to the corner etc); then the child can put an “x” or a sticker on the chart when he completes a day of practice, or practices a skill etc.  Visual schedules can be motivating for the child, and provide structure.
  • Take the pedals off:  taking the pedals off of the bike helps initially with learning the feel of the bike/balance. Take the bike to a small hill and have the child ride down without the pedals, this provides an introduction to moving and balancing on the bike without needing the coordination to pedal.

Learning a novel activity can be intimidating for a child, as it is a totally new experience and requires a significant amount of following directions and motor planning.  Similarly, teaching  novel activities can be nerve wracking for the parents, especially if it is a skill they have not taught before, like bike riding.  As parents, it is important to keep in mind that every child learns differently and requires different levels of support when learning a new skill.  Make sure to constantly praise your child during this challenging activity, even if it seems like the tiniest accomplishment (e.g. buckling bike helmet independently; putting kickstand down independently).  As always, feel free to talk with an occupational therapist or physical therapist if you need more individualized strategies or have other gross motor concerns for your child.

Love What You Read?  Click Here To Subscribe To Our Blogs Via Email!

Promoting Your Child’s Independence with Everyday Tasks

Have you ever done something for your kids when you know that they can or should do it for themselves?  Some examples include, tying their shoes for them, zipping or buttoning their coat, cutting their food, making their bed, making their lunch, and doing their laundry. boy in capeEvery parent is guilty of doing this every once in awhile, but this can actually be detrimental to your child’s development and their ability to gain skills needed for other tasks.

It may be so much easier for you to do it for them, take a lot less time, or be the easiest way to avoid a meltdown from your child, but this only prolongs them from learning valuable skills. Additionally, you are using your time when you could spend it doing other activities. In order to learn these skills, your children need to be granted the opportunity to problem-solve through a task and succeed. By doing so, this process may transfer to learning other skills, make them feel more independent, improve their proficiency with completing new tasks, and make your life as a parent easier as well!

Here are some tips to help your children gain independence:

  1. Add an extra 10-15 minutes for each activity. This will allow for the increased time needed for your children to complete tasks. If you build in extra time before you have to leave the house in the morning or during the bedtime routine, there should be fewer instances needed to intervene to help your children get ready in order to stay on schedule.
  2. Leave the room! No parent likes to watch their children struggle to do something. If you simply leave the room it may allow you to suppress the need to help them figure something out on their own. If they really need the help, they will come to you and ask for it.
  3. Demonstrate the task to them and then allow them to try it. In order to understand how to open a container or lace their shoes, for example, children are going to have to see it done first. You may have to show them how to do it a few times before they are able to accomplish the task.
  4. Give him or her verbal prompts. Providing step-by-step verbal directions will allow your children to navigate the steps of a task. By allowing them to try the steps out themselves, it helps their body learn the motions needed to complete the task.
  5. Provide written directions. This will allow you to help your children without having to repeat the directions every time. This way, they know where they can go if they forget the steps of the activity while still being able to practice it themselves.
  6. Help only when needed. If you sense your child is about to get frustrated after numerous failed attempts to finish the task, then give him or her the help they need. After practicing, he or she will eventually learn how to do it independently but they may still need a little help along the way.
  7. Give your child the expectation that he or she has to do things for himself or herself. Sometimes children simply do not want to put on their own shoes and socks because it is hard for them, but that is exactly the reason they should do it themselves! If your child knows up front that they are expected to try something before asking for help, there will be less likelihood for a meltdown or tantrum.

It may be difficult to implement these ideas at first, especially if your child is used to being helped each step of the way. However, if you use these strategies consistently, your children will learn how to become more independent and a responsible member of the family!

Love What You Read?  Click Here To Subscribe To Our Blogs Via Email! 

Raising an Independent Child

Childhood IndependenceIt’s summer time, the kiddos are out of school, and Independence Day is right around the corner!  It is the perfect time to help your children become more self-sufficient and confident by encouraging them to become more independent in their daily routines.

Where Childhood Independence Begins

Typically, children begin to demonstrate their independence by the age of two.  They may want to try everything by themselves and even act annoyed if you try to step in to help them.  This is perfectly normal and I encourage you to embrace this developmental milestone!

Bedtime should be the first area to be targeted when teaching your child independence.  Establishing a consistent bed time routine is a must.  Children should be sleeping in their beds independently.  They may still need reminders to stay in their room, but there are plenty of ways to work on getting this accomplished.  You can try giving them a signal of when they can leave their room (e.g., when the light comes up or when the clock looks like this: 7:00).  You can also keep a bin of toys in their room that they are allowed to play with in the morning.  It is very important to be aware of your reaction when they do get out of bed.  Firmly state the expectations (e.g., “Johnny, you need to stay in bed until the clock reads 7:00”) and guide them back to their room.  Do not provide eye contact or attempt to rationalize with them.  You may need to bring them back to their room several times over many days.  Don’t give up!  I promise it will get easier!

Read more