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Teacher Tips: Accommodating an Anxious Child

Sometimes anxiety can be easy to identify, such as when a child is feeling nervous before a test. Blog-Teacher-Tips-Anxiety-Main-LandscapeHowever, in some children anxiety may look like something else, such as ADHD or a learning disorder.

The following is a list of tips to use in the classroom to accommodate a child with anxiety:

  • Some children may participate in therapeutic services. Therefore, it is imperative to talk with parents/guardian about strategies that work (and do not work) at home. Teachers can use and modify those strategies to help in the classroom.
  • Also, checking in with parents regularly is important to ensure that accommodations are helping and determine necessary adjustments

Homework & Assignments

  • Check that assignments are written down correctly
  • Using daily schedules
  • Modifying assignments and reducing workloads when possible
  • Allowing the child to take unfinished assignments home to complete

In the Classroom

  • Preferential seating that is less distracting
  • With regard to class participation
    • Determine a child’s comfort level with closed ended questions
    • Use signals to let the child know his/her turn is coming
    • Provide opportunities to share knowledge on topics he/she is most confident
    • If possible, only call on the child when he/she raises his/her hand
  • Extended time on tests
  • Provide word banks, equation sheets, and cues when possible
  • Allow for movements breaks throughout the day & relaxation techniques
  • Determine a discreet way the child can indicate he/she needs a break, such as a colored card the child places on his/her desk to signal he/she needs a drink of water, to use the restroom, or any other strategy to lessen feelings of anxiety
  • Allow the use of a fidget for children who have difficulty paying attention

Please refer to the following websites for additional information about anxiety in children and accommodations that can be used, or modified for use, in the classroom.

Resources:

http://www.worrywisekids.org
http://www.childmind.org/en/posts/articles/2015-4-13-anxiety-classroom
http://kidshealth.org/parent/classroom/factsheet/anxiety-factsheet.html
http://www.adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/children/anxiety-disorders-school

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff 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!

Reasons to Seek a Neuropsychological Evaluation for Your Child

Neuropsychology is a field of psychology that focuses on the relationship between learning, behavior, and brain functioning. A child may be referred for a Blog-Neuropsychological-Evaluation-Main-Landscapeneuropsychological evaluation when there are concerns about one or more areas of their development. This can include a child’s cognitive, academic, memory, language, social, self-regulatory, emotional, behavioral, motor, visual-spatial, and adaptive functioning.

This type of evaluation can help rule out diagnoses such as Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Specific Learning Disorder, Language Disorder, as well as various emotional and behavioral disorders. A neuropsychological evaluation can also be helpful if your child has been diagnosed with a medical condition such as Down Syndrome or other genetic disorders, Traumatic Brain Injury, or Epilepsy. The purpose of the evaluation is to identify a child’s patterns of strengths and challenges in order to provide parents, schools, and other providers with strategies to help them succeed across contexts. It can also be used to track a child’s progress and response to targeted interventions.

In order to assess whether a neuropsychological evaluation may be helpful for a child, a family may identify concerns in the following areas:

  • Cognitive
    • Difficulties with verbal and nonverbal reasoning and problem solving
    • Requiring a significant amount of repetition and/or additional time when learning
    • Delays in adaptive functioning
  • Academic
    • Grades below peers
    • Concerns with reading (phonetic development, fluency, comprehension), mathematics (calculation, word problems), or writing (spelling, content, organization)
    • Needing additional time to complete schoolwork, homework, or tests
    • Frustration with academic work
  • Language
    • Expressive (output of language) or receptive (understanding of language) difficulties
    • Challenges initiating or maintaining a conversation
    • Difficulties with sarcasm or non-literal language (e.g, “It’s raining cats and dogs”)
    • Repetitive or odd language usage (e.g., repeating lengthy scripts heard from television or news programs)
    • Pronoun reversals or odd use of language
  • Self-Regulation
    • Difficulty paying attention or sitting still
    • Needing frequent prompts or reminders to complete tasks
    • Difficulty with multiple-step commands
    • Losing or misplacing items
    • Forgetting to turn in completed assignments
  • Social
    • Poor peer relations
    • Inappropriate response when approached by peers
    • Difficulty with imaginative, functional, or reciprocal play
    • Limited interest in peers or preference for solitary play
  • Repetitive Behaviors
    • Repetitive vocalizations
    • Repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g., hand flapping, finger flicking, body rocking)
    • Lining up toys, spinning wheels of cars, sorting objects for prolonged periods of time
  • Behavioral Dysregulation
    • Physical or verbal aggression
    • Defiance or non-compliance
    • Difficulties with transitions or changes in routine
    • Self-injury (e.g., head banging)
  • Emotional
    • Poor frustration tolerance
    • Irritability or easily upset
    • Eating or sleeping difficulties
    • Somatic complaints
    • Negative self-statements
    • Lack of interest in things he/she used to enjoy
  • Visual-Spatial, Visual-Motor, and Motor
    • Poor handwriting
    • Trouble with fine motor tasks (e.g., unwrapping small items, buttoning or zipping clothing, tying shoe laces)
    • Difficulty transferring information from the classroom board to a notepad, or transferring information from a test booklet to a scantron/bubble sheet
    • Difficulty with overwhelming visual displays (e.g., computer screen with several icons; homework with several problems on one sheet; a book with several colors and pictures)

Should a child demonstrate difficulties in some of the areas listed above, he/she may benefit from further consultation or a subsequent neuropsychological evaluation. Through this process, areas of difficulty can be identified, and targeted interventions will be suggested to enhance a child’s development.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff 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!

What is a 504 Plan?

I have received several telephone calls over the past few weeks from anxious parents about their child’s school wanting to create a 504 Plan in the academic setting.  Many times parents are not informed about what this means or about possible benefits that might be exhibited from such a plan.

What is a 504 Plan?

Section 504 is part of the Rehabilitation act of 1973 which was designed to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities in any facility that receives federal financial assistance.  What this means for a school age child is that the school is unable to deny academic services to a child because of a specific disability.  These plans were originally established for children with medical concerns such as being confined to a wheelchair or having a medical condition such as a seizure disorder.  Today, it is quite likely that the main reason 504 Plans are offered to children are from diagnoses of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

 How do 504 Plans and IEPs Differ?

There are a few major differences between a 504 Plan and an Individual Education Plan (IEP).  A child with an IEP has significant academic concerns in which he or she requires intervention from either a learning resource teacher, or specific therapist such as a speech and language therapist.  The 504 Plan should be thought of as accommodations within the classroom setting to help address the specific concerns that a child may exhibit.  These accommodations are designed such that the child’s academic demands are the same as his or her peers but there is assistance given such that the child can reach his or her academic potential. Read more

The Social-Emotional Side of Children with Learning Disorders

It is well known that kids with learning disabilities face academic challenges.  Academics are often the focus of interventions with these children, but it is important to also pay attention to the impact on their social-emotional development.  Read on for ways to make sure this critical aspect of your child’s development is not overlooked. Read more

Helping Your Child with Word Finding Difficulties

We’ve all had that feeling where our word or thought is on “the tip of the tongue.”  However, when this is recurring and interrupts communication with your child, then it becomes a problem.  Word finding difficulties (also called “word retrieval difficulties”) are not a vocabulary disorder.  Your child understands the definition of the word(s) and has used them before.  Word finding difficulties are the result of difficulties accessing the vocabulary they already have in their repertoire.  Imagine that your child’s vocabulary is like a library.  All the books are there, but your child just may not know where or how to get them.  Word finding difficulties are common in children with ADHD, learning disorders, and language disorders.

Common Signs of Word Finding Difficulty:

  • Using many filler words in place of specific vocabulary: “Where’s my, ah, um, my, um, you know….my backpack?”
  • Whole word/phrase repetition: “Do you know where, where, where my…. backpack is?”
  • Delayed responses: “Where’s my……………..backpack?”
  • Nonspecific language: “It’s on the thing.”

Strategies and Activities to Help Your Child:

  • Give your child time: It is easy to interrupt and fill in your child’s language during moments of word finding.  However, it is important to avoid this and give your child time to think about what he/she wants to say, and independently utilize word finding strategies.
  • Discuss attributes:  ‘Attributes’ are the common features that describe vocabulary – category, function, location, parts, and physical descriptions such as color, shape, and size.  During moments of word finding, encourage your child to describe the common attributes. For example, if your child cannot recall the word “cow,” he/she can provide attributes such as “it’s a big animal that lives on a farm, says moo, and gives us milk.”  As a communication partner, you can prompt your child by saying, “Tell me what it looks like; tell me where you find it.”
  • Sound/Letter cues:  Sometimes providing the initial letter or sound is as helpful to the child as providing the entire word.  As a communication partner, if you know the word your child is thinking of, use this strategy.  When you are unsure, encourage your child to give you the first letter or sound.
  • Word finding games: Word finding games such as Scattergories, Last Word, and Outburst are great games that target word finding skills.  If your child is having word finding difficulties, encourage him/her to use strategies such as identifying the category or function, describing what it looks like, or drawing a picture.

Feel free to share any of your word finding strategies below.  If you think your child has word finding difficulties, contact North Shore Pediatric Therapy and set up a speech-language evaluation.

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