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How to Use Visual Supports to Promote Structure, Routine and Transitions

first-then-board

First-then board used in therapy.

Many children require structure and routine within their day to help promote their ability to engage in daily activities, shift from one task to another and engage in learning. Visual supports can help promote and establish structure and routine in various environments including the home and school. Visual supports also allow children to anticipate what is expected of them. They help increase their ability to initiate and participate in daily activities and routines.

Try these visual supports at home or in school:

Visual Schedules: Visual schedules can be pictorial, written or both. You can display pictures representing each of the activities your child is expected to complete on a Velcro strip in sequential order. When each task is completed, your child can remove the picture from the Velcro strip and place it in an “all done” pocket of the visual or an “all done” container. You can also write the name of each task and/or draw a picture to represent the task on a dry erase board and have your child either cross off or erase each task upon its completion. Have your child engage and assist in the development of the visual schedule (e.g. assist in drawing the pictures that represent each task) and review the schedule prior to its use.

First-Then Boards: First-then boards encourage compliance and follow through for challenging and non-preferred tasks. You can place a picture of the less preferred task first with an arrow towards the more preferred task, to motive your child to engage in all activities.

countdown-board

Countdown board created by Sima.

Countdown Boards: Countdown boards allow your child to see how many times he or she has to complete a task. For example, if your child has to throw a ball 5 times, draw a circle 5 times, or place a puzzle piece 5 times and you can have him or her remove a number off the countdown board after each time the task is carried out.

These three visual supports can not only increase your child’s engagement in daily activities, but they can also make transitioning from one task or activity to another much smoother. They can be implemented in various environments and can easily be transported throughout the community.

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!

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What Will My Child Experience in an Occupational Therapy Session?

Pediatric occupational therapy focuses on increasing your child’s level of participation in all the activities of their daily life. From teaching your child to sit still, play basketball or fasten buttons, occupational therapists can work with your child to make sure their needs are met in the areas of self-care, play, school/academic-related skills, attention and regulation.blog-occupational therapy-main-landscape

Develop Fine Motor and Visual Motor Ability

Fine motor skills involve the controlled movements of fingers and hands to carry out tasks. For a child with difficulty in this area, one of our occupational therapists might work on the following tasks with your child:

  • Holding a pencil properly
  • Fastening zippers
  • Putting on socks
  • Stringing beads
  • Transferring coins from palms to fingertips

Visual motor activities often go hand-in-hand with motor skills as they combine fine motor control with visual perception. Occupational therapy sessions targeting visual motor skills can include activities such as drawing and cutting out shapes, writing letters, completing puzzles, completing mazes and dot-to-dots.

Explore All the Senses

Occupational therapy sessions targeting sensory integration are designed to help your child take in, process and respond to sensory information from the environment more efficiently. Here are two examples of how sensory integration activities could benefit your child:

  • If your child is hypersensitive to tactile input, a session may involve encouraging your child to tolerate playing with sand, dirt or finger paint.
  • If your child seeks out constant movement, a session may involve providing deep pressure input through yoga poses, for example.

Improve Executive Functioning Skills

Executive functioning skills help guide your child’s brain to complete tasks. These includes: task initiation, planning, organization, problem solving, working memory and inhibition. In teaching these skills, your child’s occupational therapist will mimic real-life tasks to improve the ease at which these tasks are completed.

“For example, to work on planning and organization, your child’s session may involve planning for and carrying out a long-term project with step-by-step-completion,” “For a child who has trouble with task initiation, a homework routine or contract may be created with the use of auditory and/or visual timers or movement breaks.”

Build Strength and Coordination

Tying shoes. Sitting upright at circle time. Playing basketball at recess.

These might seem like simple activities, but upper body strength and coordination play a large role in your child’s ability to carry out these daily tasks. Here’s how our occupational therapists help address these issues:

  • Upper body strength: This may be addressed with activities such as manipulating “theraputty” or by playing with a scooter board.
  • Core strength: This is often addressed through tasks that challenge the core muscles. During these activities, children are encouraged to complete yoga poses or play “crab soccer” in a crab-walk position.
  • Coordination activities: These activities target the planning and putting together of movements, particularly those that use both arms and legs at the same time (throwing and catching a ball, jumping jacks or climbing on a playground ladder).

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.


 

How Multidisciplinary Treatment Helps Children with Autism

There are many benefits to providing children with Autism a collaboration of different therapies in addition to Applied Behavior Analysis services. blog-autism-main-landscape

  • Occupational therapy (OT) provides children with skills to help regulate themselves. These skills may help decrease inappropriate stims and help provide children with more socially acceptable skills for regulation.
    • OT can provide children with strategies to help with motor skills.
    • OT can have a different perspective on activities of daily living and as such can provide different and alternative interventions to increase independence on self-care activities.
    • OT improves children independent living skills, such as self-care.
  • Speech therapy can help children with functional communication skills. Speech and Language Pathologists (SLPs) can provide additional support to the children to develop communication skills.
    • SLPs may also provide education and the introduction of alternatives to vocal communication in the form of augmentative devices or picture exchange communication system (PECS).
  • Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) develops personal one-on-one interventions for children to develop functional skills.
    • ABA focuses on helping children with social, academic, and behavioral concerns.
    • ABA will also focus on providing children with skills for functional communication.
  • Physical therapy (PT) can help provide children with additional motor function and can help with children who have low muscle town or balance issues.
    • PT can also help with coordination for children.
  • Collaboration of all therapies can help ensure that the most effective treatment is provided to the child in all settings.

Fusion of all therapies will provide children exposure to different strategies and interventions in different settings to help with day-to-day life.

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!

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How to Help Improve a Child’s Pencil Grasp

There are various factors that have an influence on a child’s pencil grasp. In addition to addressing a child’s physical attributes, the environment and tools used can also impact a pencil grasp.blog-pencil-grasp-main-landscape

Below are several strategies to assist in the development of an appropriate pencil grasp:

Increase Core Strength & Postural Control

Having a strong base of support can lead to more refined and controlled movements in the hands and fingers. Encourage play and activities on the ground, belly side down and propped up on the elbows and forearms. You can also incorporate animal walks, wheelbarrow walks, and kid friendly yoga poses throughout the day.

90-90-90 Positioning

During writing activities, set up the child to promote an appropriate pencil grasp. Make sure that the child is seated at a table with his or her feet flat on the ground and that the ankles, knees, and hips are at a 90 degree angle.

Vertical & Slanted Surfaces

Encourage appropriate wrist alignment and grasp by having the child draw on vertical or slanted surfaces.

  • Easel
  • Chalkboard
  • 3-Ring Binder

Hand Strengthening

Various strengthening activities can be implemented to increase the strength in the muscles of the hands.

  • Playdough, putty, clay:  roll, pinch, flatten, make shapes with cookie cutters
  • Rip paper or tear and crumple tissue paper to make a craft with the pieces
  • Use an eye dropper and food-colored water to decorate a coffee filter
  • Pop bubble wrap
  • Use a spray bottle to water plants or form letters on the sidewalk

Short Tools

Have the child use short writing tools to promote increased control. Break crayons or chalk so they are approximately 1-2 inches long or use golf pencils.

Separate the Two Sides of the Hand

The fingers on the thumb side of the hand should be utilized for holding and moving the pencil. The fingers on the pinky side of the hand (pinky finger and ring finger) should be tucked in against the palm and utilized for stability and control. To encourage this separation of the two sides of the hand, tuck a small object in the pinky and ring fingers during writing activities. For example, have the child tuck a small pompom, eraser, button, or cotton ball on the pinky side of the hand.

Both parents and teachers can incorporate the listed strategies within a child’s day to develop an effective pencil grasp and in turn help increase handwriting skills, confidence, and self-esteem.

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!

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Making Back-to-School a Breeze with Classroom Sensory Strategies for Teachers

It’s that time of year again! Each new school year is an exciting time not only for students, but also for teachers! They have worked diligently all summer to prepare their classrooms in order to welcome their new students. Creating a learning environment to fit the needs of each unique student is a big task, but with an understanding of sensory processing and self-regulation and implementation of simple classroom strategies, back-to-school can be a breeze! Blog-Sensory-Classroom-Main-Landscape

What is Sensory Processing?

The classroom is a rich, sensory environment that enhances students’ development. For some students, however, their unique patterns of sensory processing may affect their ability to fully participate in activities. Sensory processing is the body’s ability to filter out important information that is taken in via many sensory pathways and utilize that information to provide appropriate responses within the environment. There may be some students who are over-responsive to input within the classroom, such as covering his or her ears when the fire alarm rings or avoiding art projects that include messy play. For other students, they may be under-responsive and seeking input within the classroom, such as difficulty sitting still at his or her desk and being too rough with peers or classroom materials.

What is Self-regulation?

Sensory processing has a profound impact on self-regulation, which is the ability to maintain an optimum level of arousal in order to participate in daily activities. Self-regulation is a critical component of learning, as it can impact a student’s attention, emotional regulation, and impulse control. Providing individualized sensory experiences increases self-regulation, attention, and overall participation.

Sensory Strategies to Increase Self-regulation Within the Classroom:

Auditory

  • Provide clear, precise, and short directions
  • Ask students to repeat directions back to you
  • Place felt pads or tennis balls on the bottom of chairs to decrease unexpected, loud noises
  • Use large rugs to absorb sound
  • Offer headphones, ear plugs, or calming music
  • Create a “cozy or quiet” corner

Visual

  • Minimize bright or florescent lights
  • Reduce “clutter” within the room, such as art projects or decorations on walls
  • Reduce the amount of words and pictures on worksheets
  • Provide directions on the student’s eye level to increase visual attention
  • Utilize visual schedules
  • Seat students near the front of the room or near you

Tactile

  • Incorporate messy play, including sand trays, finger paint, and shaving cream
  • Do squeezes with Play-doh
  • Utilize hand fidgets while seated at desk or circle time
  • Offer modifications to activities for over-responsive students

Proprioception/Vestibular

  • Incorporate heavy work into the daily routine. Heavy work is any resistive activity that provides deep pressure input to the muscles and joints which provides increased feedback about body position in space.
    • Wall or chair push-ups
    • Animal walks during transition times
  • Utilize sit-and-move cushion or therapy ball for seated work
  • Provide alternatives to sitting at a desk, such as standing to complete work
  • Implement group movement breaks
  • Assign classroom “helpers”
    • Carrying heavy items
    • Pushing in chairs
    • Picking up objects off the floor
    • Passing out papers

Remember, you know your students best! Get to know their individual characteristics and needs prior to implementing these strategies. Whenever possible, consult with an occupational therapist at your school! With the use of these simple strategies, your classroom will provide the best environment for all students to learn and grow!

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!

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A Letter I Would Have Written for My Parents When I Was Still Nonverbal

This guest post is from Kerry Magro, a 28-year-old adult with autism who has become a national speaker and best-selling author. Magro is also on the Panel of People on the Spectrum of Autism for the Autism Society.

Dear Mom and Dad,

I know it’s breaking your heart to see me as I am now. Most of the kids we know are starting to talk while I’m just making sounds. I’m lashing out because I’m struggling. I can’t communicate myNonverbal Feature needs, and things are just not going the way I wish they would. I scream and fight with you every time you try and bathe me because I can’t stand the feeling of water. I cringe anytime I hear thunder, and I don’t like to be touched because of my sensory issues. Even now, as we make all the adorable videos of me dressed up as one of the best looking toddlers of all time, I know things aren’t easy, and we don’t know what my future has in store.

I want to tell you, though, to keep fighting for me and believing in me because without you both — my best advocates — I’m not going to be the person I am today. There’s hope, and you both play a huge part in that. Things are going to get better, and without you that wouldn’t be possible.

At 2 and a half, I’m going to say my first words, and at 4 you’re going to find out from a doctor that I have something called autism. In 1992, it will be something you would have only heard from some of the leading experts in the field and from the 1988 movie “Rain Man.” The road now is going to be difficult, but we’re going to get through it together.

Supports are going to be difficult to come by. The numbers of autism are 1 in 1000 right now and so many people still don’t understand. Life is going to be difficult. Challenges are coming. But here’s why you should fight through the challenges…

By fighting for me every day and helping me go through occupational, physical and speech therapy for the next 16 years, while giving me support at home and in school, I’m going to grow into an adult who is a national motivational speaker and gives talks about autism across the country.

Because if you fight for me right now and never give up, not only will I be that speaker but I’ll have the opportunity to write an Amazon Best Seller, consult for a major motion picture that makes 30 million dollars, and be someone who gives you love every single day. I will grow into an adult who embraces affection.

Love,
Kerry

I hope for any parent who reads this letter — coming from a now 28-year-old adult on the autism spectrum — that you never give up on your loved ones. The autism spectrum is wide and everyone’s journey is going to be slightly different. Become an advocate because by doing what you’re doing now, you not only give hope to your loved ones but you give hope to the autism community. We’re learning more and more about autism every day and more and more answers are coming to help our community progress.

Most important, I hope you take this letter as a sign that all parents of children on the autism spectrum can make a difference. Some days are going to be more difficult than others, but just know that you’re never alone in this community. And if you ever need someone to talk to, I’m just one message away if you click on my Facebook page.

A version of this blog originally appeared on Kerrymagro.com.

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A Sensory Friendly Fourth of July | Facebook Live Video

The 4th of July is a fun holiday and takes some preparation! Watch one of our expert Occupational Therapists who covered red flags and shared tips on how to ensure your child has a sensory friendly 4th of July.

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!

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Messy Sensory Play | Facebook Live Video

Have some fun and get a little messy! One of our expert Occupational Therapists discussed why messy play is important, provided tips for helping your child with touch sensitivities and even covered a few activity ideas for your kiddo to do at home!

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!

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Sensory at Summer Camp | Facebook Live Video

Kids are having fun at summer camp and it’s time to do everything we can to make sure they’re getting as much out of it as possible! Join one of our expert occupational therapists for Sensory at Summer Camp!

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!

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Sensory at the Pool | Facebook Live Video

Sensory At The Pool dove in to the world of a child’s sensory integration at a pool. Watch as one of our expert Occupational Therapists covered red flags, provided examples of what a child may experience (ex. walking across the cold, wet tile of a locker room floor) and shared some tips and tricks to helping your kiddo cope and make the best of summer!

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!

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