Posts

Teacher Tips: Helping Your Students Stay Organized

Organization is a fundamental skill for success in school and beyond, and it is crucial for it to be developed and reinforced early on. Many children struggle with organization and many teachers seek ways in which to aid in the development of good organizational skills. Executive function includes time management, planning and organization, and teachers can play an important role in the development of these skills. blog-organized-students-main-landscape

Check out some ideas below to help your students get and stay organized!

An Environment for Success

How can teachers setup their classroom to create a positive learning environment?
An organized classroom promotes organization habits among students and makes the teacher’s job easier.

  • Ensure that chair and desks are arranged in a way that allows for flexibility to fit group instruction as well as small group work.
  • It is helpful for students to have a supply center, which allows them to independently prepare and manage their materials. It may contain items such as scissors, hole punchers, pencil sharpeners, etc.
  • A homework center allows for a designated area where homework-related activities can be centralized.

Homework management

How can teachers develop effective systems for managing homework?
A clear routine and system for assigning, collecting, and storing homework will make managing homework assignments easier.

  • Designate a regular place for recording homework, whether a portion of the chalkboard, whiteboard, or online so that it is easily accessible to all students.
  • Establish a regular time for assigning homework. It may be beneficial to assign homework at the beginning of a lesson, so that students are not writing the assignment down as class is ending. This also allows for time to answer any questions regarding the assignment and can greatly increase homework completion rates.
  • Keep a master planner and homework log where all the assignments are recorded by either the teacher or a responsible student. This can be a class resource for students who are absent or are missing assignments.
  • Extra handouts can be kept in a folder, a file organizer or online. This way students who miss or lose assignments have the responsibility of obtaining the necessary papers.
  • Designate a physical structure, such as a paper tray, to collect homework rather than using class time to collect papers.
  • Establish a regular time for collecting homework. Consider using a “5 in 5” reminder, requiring students to complete 5 tasks in the first 5 minutes of class, such as turning in homework and writing down new assignments.
  • File graded work in individual hanging folders to decrease class time devoted to handing out papers.
  • To encourage organization, have students designate sections of their binder for (1) homework to be complete, (2) graded work, (3) notes and (4) handouts. Consider periodic checks and provide feedback.
  • Have students track their grades on grade logs to provide them with the opportunity to calculate their grades and reflect on their performance.
  • At the end of a grading period, encourage students to clean out their binders and discuss which papers are worth keeping and why. Encourage them to invest in an accordion file or crate for hanging files to keep important papers.

Time Management

How can teachers structure classroom time efficiently and teach students time management skills?

  • Timers provide students with a concrete visual reminder of the amount of time remaining for a task. They are a great tool for group work, timed tests or silent reading.
  • Post a daily schedule in a visible place to establish the day’s plan. Present the schedule to the students and refer to the schedule when making modifications to model time management skills.
  • Display a monthly calendar to provide students with regular visual reminders of upcoming events. These calendars are also beneficial for modeling backwards planning.
  • Carve out time for organization. Devote a short amount of time for students at the end of the day to reflect on their learning, manage their materials, prioritize homework assignments and make a plan for their completion.

Materials Management

How can teachers help students manage their materials?

  • Designate a short amount of time once a week for students to dump out and reorganize backpacks and clean up lockers.
  • When students finish tests or tasks early encourage them to use the downtime to organize their materials.
  • Have students use labels, racks or dividers to keep their items clean and organized.

Resources:

Rush NeuroBehavioral Center. (2006, 2007). Executive Functions Curriculum.

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-Occupational-Therapist

Executive Functioning Skills for School Success

Executive Functioning Skills for School Success

Executive functioning skills are behaviors that guide and complete actions.  They are the skills we use, independently, to help us to complete tasks and achieve goals.

Think of them as not the individual skills of a task, but the behaviors needed to complete the task.

Executive functioning skills are crucial for academic success. These skills are not directly taught in school, through are expected to be utilized in the classroom setting. The independent use of skills, including initiation, problem-solving, working memory, inhibition and organization, is difficult for both adults and children.

Executive functioning concerns are seen in a variety of conditions and diagnoses including ADHD, Learning Disabilities, Anxiety, Depression, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and a variety of medical conditions. However, there are no specifics of what is necessary for a diagnosis of Executive Functioning Disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5th Edition (DSM-V).

Executive Functioning By Age:

During the preschool years, prefrontal brain systems undergo rapid changes such as making newExecutive Functioning Skills for School Success neurological connections and speeding up how fast messages are transmitted in the brain. It is the time in which executive functioning skills, specifically inhibitory control, rule use, working memory, and motor persistence, play a critical role in the development of socialization and readiness for academic learning. The early years of schooling are learning how to be a student.  There are many inherent structures and routines in place to help ensure the child completes work.  As children get older the natural scaffolds of teacher interference and organization are removed, stressing the need for independence.

As children reach school age, executive functioning skills are central to successful acquisition and efficient use of academic skills, particularly in efforts to overcome learning problems of all kinds. At this age, children are expected to integrate multiple executive functioning skills as a means to complete longer tasks.

As these children age into adolescence, the demands of executive functioning skills increase tenfold. At this age, executive functioning difficulties are seen with spontaneous use of skills, strategic initiation of tasks, and mental flexibility. Meaning concerns are no longer with regard to impulse regulation but rather with initiating action on work/time management as well as developing organizational strategies to complete work.

Interventions for Executive Functioning:

A major component of intervention for executive functioning is that the techniques have to be in real-life contexts. Teaching skills during tasks that mimic academic and life demands results in better carryover of skill. This systematic approach to teaching problem solving with everyday activities is best.  Familiar tasks should be used to learn skills initially. The use of novel tasks in the learning process will prove difficult due to perceived difficulty, stress or anxiety around possible failure.

Specifically, as the child learns to complete a multi-step task following a set sequence of steps (with multiple opportunities to practice the routine), the task becomes less novel. The child is then able to improve functional activities with less reliance on external cues.

Interventions must be rehearsed, coached, and practiced to support overlearning or automaticity in the environment in which they will be needed. This will explicitly support the “how and when” skills associated with the child’s unique areas of problem behavior.

There is also an emphasis on developing a child’s metacognitive skills.  Metacognition is essentially thinking about thinking.  You are teaching the child to think and plan ahead before diving into an activity or task.

A fourth principle involves structuring the child’s environment by establishing simplified, consistent routines for daily tasks.  Teaching and carryover is most effective with accommodations and interventions across each environment. These accommodations could include verbal cues, nonverbal gestures, schedules, check-lists, alarm clocks, timers (auditory or visual), and/or environmental modifications.

Additionally, a motivational reward/consequence system, and/or self-talk methods can also be used to ensure success.

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!

Executive Functioning Skills for School Success

Multi-tasking seems to be the norm of the everyday lifestyle. When you think about it, in order to multi-task, your brain needs to be able to focus on two different types of stimuli, organize two sets of information, plan for two different motor movements and remember two sets of “to-do” lists. Sounds like a lot of work! The ability for your brain to do this is possible with executive functioning skills. Executive Functioning Skills or School SuccessExecutive functioning skills are the higher-level brain skills that allow a person to complete tasks throughout the day. These skills include memory, initiation, inhibition/impulse control, shift, and organization. Executive functioning is best understood by listing specific skills, however, it is not a unitary skill. Often times, these skills build upon one another and are used in conjunction to complete complex tasks.

School places executive functioning demands on children on a daily basis; from reviewing the daily schedule to written work. Some children find the school day to be more cumbersome due to difficulty in utilizing one or more executive functioning skills. When these executive functions are not working effectively, the individual, despite strong abilities, can experience significant problems in many aspects of learning, getting work done, social functioning, and self-esteem. These children, with or without an executive functioning or attentional difficulty diagnosis, can appear confused, become frustrated or angry easily, or refuse to complete work.

As the demands of school increase with each passing year, having well-developed executive functioning skills is critical to academic success. Below is an overview of each of the before mentioned executive functioning skills, along with, activities to help promote these skills at home.

Executive Functioning Skills Overview:

Executive Functioning Skill Definition Activities to Try
Memory Ability to retain and manipulate distinct pieces of information over short or long periods of time Sequential tasks of 3-5 steps with or without use of visual aides.Memory card games

Recall the events of the day in order from waking up to dinner time.

Initiation Ability to begin a task or activity and to independently generate ideas, responses, or problem-solving strategies. Utilize a “to-do” list of 3-5 items. This will encourage the completion of each task.Minimize distractions: encourage work to be completed in a specific location in the house with minimal visual and auditory distractions.

Create a weekly schedule for house-specific initiation of tasks (i.e., chores). Each day should have its own specific task to decrease the amount of demands presented.

Inhibition/Impulse Control Ability to stop one’s own behavior at the appropriate time, including stopping actions and thoughts. Teach social rules for a variety of settings: “When we walk into the store, first we will look at mommy’s list, and then we can look at bikes”.Redirect your child when they are interrupting you: “I am talking on the phone, I can talk to you as soon as I am done”.

Make sure to praise your child immediately after you direct your attention back to him.

Incorporate a fidget into daily activities, especially sedentary tasks, to provide a means to “get the wiggles out” without needing to flee from the task.

Shift Ability to move freely from one situation to another and to think flexibly in order to respond appropriately to the situation. Create a cognitive obstacle course: create 3 stations in which the child is to complete 3 different tasks (ex. gross motor, writing, puzzle) with 3 minutes dedicated to each station. Rotate between the stations until all 3 tasks are completed.Encourage multi-tasking in a structured manner. Sedentary tasks for multi-tasking can include a game-play scenario mixed with writing.

Use of a picture schedule to promote ease and regulation during transitions between activities.

Organization Ability to manage current and future-oriented task demands. OR Ability to impose order on work, play, and storage spaces. Create a “school ready” system to promote organization of school materials. This can be done in multiple ways: folders, binder system, use of a weekly planner.Use of graphic organizers for academic success: outline templates, Venn diagrams, idea webs, 3-5 step sequence graphs, main idea organizers.

Create a map of the school: utilize this map to establish a routine for navigating the hallways in an efficient and timely manner, including stops at either the bathroom or locker.

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!

 

creating a visual schedule

7 Tips For Creating A Visual Schedule

What is a visual schedule?

A schedule consists of main activities to be completed during a particular time frame. A visual schedulecreating a visual schedule uses words or symbols (depending on your child’s level of literacy) to represent activities on his/her schedule. For more information about visual schedules and why you should use them, click here.

7 Tips for Creating Visual Schedule:

  1. Pair symbols with words to increase your child’s understanding of the schedule, as well as to help develop pre-literacy skills (i.e., help your child start to understand that symbols like pictures and groups of graphemes represent concepts).
  2. Vary activities to increase engagement. For example, if you are creating a schedule for after school, make sure there is a change of environments within the schedule (indoor/outdoor) or a shift from adult-directed to child-directed activities, etc.
  3. Post the visual schedule in places where your child can easily view it.
  4. Start simple and be consistent, especially at first. Start with a few activities and help guide your child through the schedule at first. As your child starts to understand routines and activities on the schedule, increase independence by prompting your child to look at the schedule and figure out what comes next/what he/she has to do without your help.
  5. Understand your child’s cognitive, attentional, and energy needs. Arrange activities to meet these needs. For example, if your child is always tired at 3pm, schedule an activity that will allow your child to rest and regain his or her energy.
  6. Let your child make choices. One way to do this is to allow your child to help determine what should be on the schedule. Another way is to provide two choices for a particular block of time.
  7. Review the schedule before your child follows it. This provides an added review of what is going to happen, thereby increasing predictability and independence. Reviewing changes in the schedule before they happen is especially helpful. If you are deviating from the normal sequence of daily activities, your child will be more prepared for the change. Changes in the schedule are also opportunities to expose your child to new concepts and ideas.

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!

5 Tips to Keep Your Child’s Backpack Organized

Ever wonder how your child’s backpack goes from looking like it belongs in a museum exhibit on the first day of school, to looking like there was an explosion of school supplies, snacks and nick-knacks thrown together a few weeks later?  Read on for 5 tips to help your child keep his backpack organized throughout the school year.

5 Tips to Keep Your Child’s Backpack Organized:

  1. Have a designated place for everything.  Work out a system with your child at the beginning of the year (or whenever you realize that the current system is not working), and designate a spot for all materials.  This may mean putting all writing utensils in a plastic box or a carrying case, having different colored folders or using a binder system.  Make sure you have a place for the odds and ends too, such as scissors, rulers, and informational papers to bring home to mom and dad. Read more

Why Is A Full Occupational Therapy Evaluation Beneficial When My Child’s Only Difficulty is Handwriting?

Child practicing handwriting

Handwriting is a complex task that involves many prerequisite skills, including visual skills, ocular motor control, body awareness, fine motor planning, shoulder stability, and hand and finger strength. Each prerequisite skill contributes to efficient and fluid handwriting:

  • Visual skills are needed to accurately distinguish and interpret letters and shapes on a page, essential for writing. Ocular motor control is needed to move one’s eyes across the paper to write in an organized manner.
  • Body awareness is required to accurately move the hands for writing, as well as knowing how much force is needed to make marks on the paper with the pencil or pen.
  • Fine motor planning is needed so that your child can easily identify, plan and execute the task of writing letters, words and sentences.
  • Shoulder stability is required to control the pencil.
  • Hand and finger strength is required for endurance that is needed to write many letters to form words and sentences. Hand strength is also needed for an appropriate grasp on the pencil.

In order to address handwriting in therapy, it is imperative for the occupational therapist to assess your child’s current level of functioning in each of the above areas. The root cause of your child’s handwriting difficulties may be his or her struggle in either one area or multiple areas. A full occupational therapy evaluation is very comprehensive; it allows the therapist to get a baseline level of performance to identify your child’s strengths and weaknesses in the prerequisite skill areas, and unveil the source of your child’s difficulty with handwriting.

Following the evaluation, your therapist will develop goals based on your child’s performance and design a treatment program that concentrates on improving these foundational skills, and ultimately improve his or her handwriting organization and legibility.

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

Executive Functioning Activities At Home

Many kids have difficulty mastering skills such as problem-solving, organization, sequencing, initiation, memory, attention, and breaking downgirl with homework books tasks.  These skills (and many more) fall under the category of executive functioning.  As children get older and begin middle school, these skills are expected to advance quickly.  It is usually in about 5th grade where teachers and parents start to notice their child may be having more difficulty than her peers in executive functioning skills. Academic specialists, occupational therapists, and neuropsychologists are just a few of the professionals who address challenges in these areas, but there are also a variety of activities that can be done at home that are both fun and target the development of certain executive functioning skills.

Here is a list of activities that build certain aspects of executive functioning and are fairly easy to orchestrate in the home:

  • Using Playdoh, blocks, or Tinkertoys, build a figurine and have your child build an exact replica in size and color.  This works on multiple skills, including initiation, breaking down tasks, sequencing, organization, and attention.  If you are unable to build an example, or if you have an older child who enjoys playing independently, there are often pictures of structures to build that come along with block sets or images online that can be printed.
  • Have your child go through a magazine and make a list of all the toys/items wanted. Then, have her organize the list in some sort of order (most wanted at the top, alphabetical, price, etc.).  For older kids, you could also have them write a description of the item, cut the pictures out, and type up a list with descriptions and pasted pictures, or even plan a presentation.
  • There are many board games that target executive functioning skill development.  A few of the games used in the therapeutic setting that would be easy and fun options for home use include: Rush Hour (a problem-solving and sequencing game involving getting a specific car out of a traffic jam when the other vehicles can only move in straight lines), Mastermind (trying to determine what the secret code is by process of elimination), and Connect 4 Stackers (a game of attention, organization, and planning to be the first to get four in a row, like the original, but this game involves different dimensions).
  • There are many resources that can be printed from the internet. Logic puzzles come in many different levels of difficulty and involve taking given clues, making inferences from those clues, and eventually solving some sort of problem through the use of the clues. There are often charts that accompany these puzzles and require attention, organization, sequencing and problem-solving.
  • Have your child choose a recipe from a magazine. After verifying that it is a realistic recipe that can be made in your home, have her write a grocery list containing everything needed to prepare that dish, create a list of the necessary cooking supplies, and for older children, have them look up the price of each item at the store and create an estimated budget. If possible, let them be part of the entire process, and take them with you to the grocery store. Again, with older children, you could even put them in charge of pushing the cart and finding the items in the store. For older kids, they may also act as the “head chef” and be responsible for completing most of the cooking. For younger kids, if there are safety concerns, assign specific tasks as their job in the cooking process.

One of the most important aspects of doing therapeutic activities at home is that your child is having fun. These are just a few of the many activities that can be done at home to develop executive functioning skills and are also engaging and enjoyable for school age kids.




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

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!

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!

Organization, Social Skills, Puberty, oh my, Junior High! Get your teen ready!

The jump into middle school is a big one for many children and families!  So many unknowns! Higher demands from teachers for time management and organization, more pressure from kids socially, and puberty hitting, all at the same time!Girl in Junior High

Here are some Junior High tips!

Executive Functioning/ Organization

  • Make a daily written schedule and include wake up time, workout time, screen time and leave the house time.  Be very specific.
  • Buy an organization file binder versus the 8 separate folders your child may have had or been asked to bring.  This keeps them much more organized.
  • Ask the school for a locker in a preplanned place so your child does not have to run from one end of school to another if he has a tendency to be late.
  •  Think hard now if your child is struggling and ask for an IEP or 504 plan to get additional time or support.  This will be so helpful and his plan also follow him when he may need it on standardized exams.
  • Use a timer.

Social Skills

  • Get your child into youth groups or sports.  They can be through school clubs, park district, or religious organizations.  Youth groups are wonderful ways to find friends that are similar to your child.
  • Make plans with children that will be in his grade all summer.   He should not walk into school not knowing too many people, especially if he is timid or has any trouble socially.
  • Find a social group for teens at a local clinic or school so that he can practice his social skills with a trained professional.
  • Have your child read over the summer.  This makes them smarter and more confident.  An extra tip: they can also read about all kinds of junior high experiences.

Puberty

  • Read this great book mom and dad: “But I’m Almost 13!” by Kenneth Ginsburg.  It will help you understand and avoid so many struggles!
  • Don’t forget to talk with your child, give eye contact, and hold his hand when you are walking.   Just because he is growing up, does not mean he isn’t still your baby!
  • Kids who go out and start over-prioritizing their peers socially, physically, emotionally, may be looking for attention! Give your teens attention!  (See bullet above) and also, laugh with them, watch tv with them, take them out for an ice cream, don’t disengage!

Good luck!

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