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5 Tips to Help Your Child Through Failing Grades

As a new school year has begun, your child may be facing quite a few new changes in the classroom, whether that be a new school, new teachers and peers, or even new, and challenging blog-failing-grades-main-landscapecoursework. These changes can generate some difficulties in your student in terms of following academic or social expectations. Maybe they begin getting notes sent home about their inappropriate behavior in class or you begin finding failing grades on recent assignments. Either way, these can be discouraging to parents and their student. As a parent, it is important to identify these challenges early on and follow through with keeping your child on track for their own success.

Here are a few tips on how to help your child through failing grades:

  1. Be proactive. Parents should contact the teacher as soon as they notice their child having difficulty in a class. Follow up with any notes home or call a teacher to have a conference about the recent failing grade on an assignment. Ask the teacher for extra assignments or activities that can be done at home. It’s important to develop a plan with the teacher for collaboration purposes. The teacher may also have better insight into more specific skills that need to be acquired.
  1. Create a routine. Creating an after school routine at home provides clear expectations and consistency. This routine can and should include homework completion, meal time with family, and a bedtime routine. Building a positive routine around homework completion and continued practice can not only provide a balance of work and play, but can also build strong sense of responsibility in your student. Try and remove or minimize other distractions during the homework routine and create more time dedicated to helping your child with homework.
  1. Set expectations. As a parent, provide expectations and follow through. These expectations may begin with something small such as practicing number cards for 5 minutes before bed or making sure all books are brought home for the appropriate homework every night for a week. Whatever those expectations are in the initial stages, follow through and provide the appropriate praise and reinforcement contingent on the completion. It may be helpful to set up expectations with the teacher so you can map out short and long term goals.
  1. Consistently provide encouragement and support. Failing grades may not only be disappointing to the parents, they may also be discouraging to the student. Provide praise and positive reinforcement for even the smallest of progress and the continuation of hard work in and outside of the classroom. Continue to be an advocate for support. Offer help when needed while still requiring the student to complete the work independently.
  2. Look for underlying problems. While discussing specific difficulties with the teacher, look for potential underlying problems. Can there be difficulties with environmental variables such as, not being able to see or hear the teacher, forgetting to write down homework assignments, or being distracted by other classroom students or activities? Is there possibly an underlying learning disability? Is the child having difficulty attending to tasks? Whatever it may be, it is important to identify these things to make appropriate changes necessary for success.

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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The Do’s and Don’ts of Play: A Parent’s Guide to Helping Your Child Develop Better Peer Interactions

Imagine that you go to work in the morning and spend your entire day not knowing how to navigate thePlay Skills parameters of your workplace. You’re unsure of your job description, title, and workplace culture….and no one will give you any answers. By the end of the day, you feel utterly exhausted merely as a result of attempting to navigate a world with no structure or boundaries. Now, imagine you’re a child.  This is how children with limited play skills might feel as they are expected to respond to situations for which they don’t have the skillset each time they come in contact with a peer.

Play is the single most important mechanism children utilize to learn about their universe.  Play provides a framework to explain imaginative and real events in a child’s world. It allows them to learn about independence, manners, and character, as well as build confidence and practice new skills. Yet, some children have difficulty learning how to properly navigate these interactions.

The good news? You can help.

Play at Any Age

Play skills are developed in a progression.  Although there are times in which a child may fluctuate between all levels of play, the following indicates the age-appropriate development of peer interactions.

Solitary play (ages 0-2): Child is completely captivated with play and does not seem to notice other children.

  • Learns through trial and error
  • Copies other children and adults
  • Looks at other children playing but does not join in the play
  • Likes playing with adults as well as by himself/herself

Onlooker play (2-2 ½): Child is interested in other children’s play but does not join in. He/she may ask questions.

Parallel play (2 ½- 3):   Child shares the same space with peers but doesn’t actively engage with them.

  • Begins to use symbols in his play, such as using a stick as a sword
  • Starts to show some reasoning skills… may still learn by trial and error.
  • Copies other children and adults’ behaviors and language

Associative play (3-4): Child is interested in pursuing social interactions with peers while they play.

  • Shows more reasoning skills
  • Begins to ask “why” and “how” questions
  • Plays imaginatively, for instance, dress-up

Cooperative play (4+): Children play in groups of two or more with a common goal in mind; they often adopt roles and act as a group.

  • Shows understanding and uses reason related to experience
  • Begins to understand simple rules in games
  • Plays cooperatively, taking turns

Should I Be Concerned About My Child’s Play Skills?

Typical play:

  • Spontaneous
  • Flexible: child can add onto others’ play schemas*, play story** can change throughout, child does not become distraught if a peer/parent adds their ideas
  • Creative
  • Voluntary
  • Internally Reinforcing
  • Functional
  • Age-Appropriate

Atypical or Disordered Play:

  • Ritualistic: child engages with toy in the same order/manner, every time he/she plays with toy
  • Difficulty with Generalizations: child has difficulty accepting new patterns or rules, attempts to utilize one general rule for all similar events (i.e. “I know the youngest person goes first in Sorry, so I expect that the youngest person goes first in all games.”)
  • Non-functional
  • Repetitive: child performs the same action repetitively with a toy that doesn’t suit its purpose, ie. flipping, stacking, ordering items or repeats the same phrase over & over again while engaging
  • Limited Interests: child frequently finds a way to steer play story to a few favorite interests
  • Rigid: may accept when parents and peers join his/her play schema, but only by child’s rules and with his/her interests
  • Difficulty “bouncing back” from unexpected events in play: may recoil when a peer introduces a dinosaur, for example, when child expected story to progress in a certain direction. May become upset at changes or quit altogether
  • Avoids eye contact, or eye contact may be fleeting
  • Often requires prompting for basic communication, i.e. saying hello when approached by peer
  • Often includes non-reciprocal language: response frequently does not match question
  • Difficult for child to enter into an already-developed play scheme: two peers are pretending to be firemen, third child wants to join but can only talk about/pretend to be a doctor

*Play schema: diagrammatic presentation; a structured framework or plan 

**Play story: the story that is told through the play schema

Parent How-To Guide

If your child has underdeveloped play skills, here are some ways to assist in his/her development to encourage parallel, associative, and cooperative play:

  1. Provide Opportunities
  • Allow your child time for free play with same-aged peers
    • Don’t “helicopter” parent during free play, but provide modeling if necessary
    • Provide plenty of materials to encourage imaginary play, i.e. dress-up clothes, pretend food, cash register
    • Encourage symbolic play: child engages in imaginary play with an item and calls it something else, i.e. uses a banana as a telephone
  1. Model Feelings & Behavior to Encourage Problem-Solving
  • Provide your child with words to explain feelings
    • “Jimmy, it looks like you’re sad because Sally isn’t sharing her toy with you. Let’s tell Sally how you’re feeling together.”
    • If your child is old enough, encourage him to use the words himself. “Jimmy, you can say, ‘Sally, I am sad because I want to play with that toy too.’”
    • Starting your modeling sentences with the phrase “you can say…” is a very powerful way to neutrally provide your child with the words he/she may not know how to express
  • Provide your child with options for independent problem-solving
    • “Jimmy, do you want to wait until Sally is done with the toy or ask her if she can share it with you?”
    • This allows the child to choose between 2 options and learn to find solutions independently
  1. Set Expectations. Especially if your child demonstrates rigid behavior!
  • Be sure to set expectations before engaging in task
    • “Jimmy, we are going to the playground. At the playground, I expect you to play properly with friends. That means sharing the equipment, speaking nicely, and waiting your turn.”
  1. Give Positive Reinforcement
  • Encourage proper behavior and play skills by offering both natural consequences and praise.
    • Consequence, stated before engaging in task: “Jimmy, if you don’t follow the rules we discussed at the playground, we will need to go home immediately.”
    • Praise, stated after task is completed: “Jimmy, way to go! You followed all the rules by taking your turn and speaking nicely to your new friends. I’m proud of you.”

Seek Outside Help

If your child doesn’t seem to improve with these at-home tips, seek the assistance of an occupational or developmental therapist for hands-on support for both you and your child.

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!

References:

  • Parten, M. (1933). Social play among preschool children. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 28, 136-147.
  • http://www.child-development-guide.com/stages-of-play-during-child-development.html
  • http://brighttots.com/teaching_playskills.html
  • http://www.erinoakkids.ca/ErinoakKids/media/EOK_Documents/Autism_Resources/Teaching-Play-Skills.pdf
  • http://childdevelopmentinfo.com/child-development/play-work-of-children/pl2/

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3 Coping Strategies to Help your Stressful Teen | Pediatric Therapy Tv

In today’s Webisode, a pediatric social worker provides some useful tips to help a stressful teen.

If you haven’t already, check out our previous episode with Ali, discussing depression in children

In this video you will learn:

  • The first steps to take when helping a stressful teen
  • How to approach a stressful teen
  • Specific strategies to best help your teen overcome verbal or nonverbal stress

Diagnosing ADHD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common neurological conditions that affects between 3 to 6 percent of school-aged boy jumping on couch children.  Children with this condition exhibit significant issues with their ability to pay attention to tasks, inhibit their impulses and/or regulate their behavior.   In order for the diagnosis to be made, one has to witness significant impairment in regards to attentional regulation and/or activity level within multiple settings.  This means that the child must exhibit the concerns within the home, school, after-school program, sports team, etc.  In reality, the diagnosis can be made by a pediatrician or health care provider that is able to ascertain levels of functioning in the various domains by observing behavior or collecting parent and teacher report forms.

In the Neuropsychology Department at North Shore Pediatric Therapy, we focus on a comprehensive evaluation of a child’s functioning, including cognitive functioning, academic achievement, attentional regulation, executive functioning and social/emotional functioning.  Now, if the diagnosis can be made by a parent and teacher report, one must ask why a comprehensive evaluation should be mandated.  The answer to this is that over 45% of children that have been diagnosed with ADHD meet clinical criteria for multiple neurodevelopmental conditions.  Children with ADHD often present learning disabilities, emotional concerns and deficits with social regulation.  Sole treatment of the inattention may improve attentional regulation; however, there are other unaddressed concerns that may still linger.

Research has continuously demonstrated that the most common treatment of ADHD is a combination of pharmacological intervention, behavioral therapy, parent training, and teacher education.  Pharmacological intervention consists of stimulant medications that help to improve the child’s ability to attend to tasks.  A recent research article, which was even reported in an October edition of the Chicago Tribune, indicated that the majority of children who have been diagnosed with ADHD and are prescribed medication report significant improvement within their daily lives.  In the past, the main identification of improvement within children with ADHD was based upon teacher report.  Parents can now feel comfortable when asking their child if medication is helping. Behavior therapy focuses on the modification of the child’s environment to improve the frequency and duration of positive, on-task behaviors while extinguishing negative behaviors.  Parent and teacher education has a primary intent on discussing expectations within the home and school settings as well as possible modifications to ensure success.


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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.

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Best Books For Beginning Readers | Pediatric Therapy Tv

In today’s Webisode, an academic specialist introduces us to some of the best choices of books for children who are beginning to read.

To determine if your child is prepared to read, watch our previous Webisode

In this video you will learn:

  • What types of books are best to help children begin to read

Video Transcription:

Announcer: From Chicago’s leading experts in pediatrics to a worldwide
audience, this is Pediatric Therapy TV, where we provide experience and
innovation to maximize your child’s potential. Now, your host, here’s
Robyn.

Robyn: Hello. You are watching Pediatric Therapy TV, and I’m your host
Robyn, Ackerman. Today I’m sitting here with an academic specialist,
Elizabeth Galin. Elizabeth, can you tell us some great beginning reading
books?

Elizabeth: Absolutely. One of the best beginning reading books is the Bob
series. These are books that come in a package of ten, and they range from
pre-readers all the way up through second grade, working on different
sounds and they become more advanced as you move through.

My second choice is the We Both Read series, and the We Both Read series
has a page for parents to read, and then a page for the children to read.
So the child’s page has a more simple word or sentence, and the parents’
page allows you to get a more detailed story. It’s a really fun family
read.

The Flippa Word series is great as well. They work on three different word
families throughout the book, really bright pictures that allow the
children to address the different sounds. Just a really fun author for kids
of all ages is Mo Willems. He has the Piggie and Elephant series, and he
also has Pigeons on the Bus, great family reads.

Lastly is High Fly Guy for older kids. These books address some of the
needs of early readers, but they also arrange it into chapters, so older
kids feel like they’re really making some progress.

Robyn: All right, well thank you so much, Elizabeth, for bringing these,
and thank you to our viewers for watching. Remember, keep on blossoming.

Announcer: This has been Pediatric Therapy TV, where we bring peace of mind
to your family with the best in educational programming. To subscribe to
our broadcast, read our blogs, or learn more, visit our website at
learnmore.me. That’s learnmore.me.

Tips to Get a Child to Try a New Food | Pediatric Therapy Tv

In today’s Webisode, a registered dietitian provides strategies to help your child to try new foods.

In this video you will learn:

  • When is it recommended to offer a child a new food
  • How many exposures to a new food before we expect a child to eat it
  • How to make a child feel comfortable with trying new foods

Video Transcription:

Announcer: From Chicago’s leading experts in pediatrics to a worldwide
audience, this is Pediatric Therapy TV, where we provide experience and
innovation to maximize your child’s potential. Now, your host, here’s
Robyn.

Robyn: Hello, and welcome to Pediatric Therapy TV. I’m your host, Robyn
Ackerman, and I’m standing here today with Stephanie Wells, a Pediatric
Registered Dietician. Stephanie, can you give us three tips on how to get a
child to try a new food?

Stephanie: Sure. The first tip would be that you want to offer the new
foods in a low pressure situation. Offer them foods at the table or on
their high chair, and consistently offer them a new food, maybe once per
week. Don’t pressure them to try the new food, but just offer it to them
and encourage them to try it, and let them sort of come around to it. Just
remember that research shows that it takes a child 8 to 15 exposures to a
new food before they might actually eat it.

The second tip would be to have them help pick out a new food that they
might want to try. And they can do that at the grocery store or the farmers
market. And also get them involved in actually preparing the food.

The third tip would be to be a good role model for your children, in terms
of eating the types of foods that you would like them to eat. It can also
be really effective if they eat in a setting with their peers. So if they
have cousins or a play group where they can eat together, and if they see
other kids eating those types of foods, then they will be more likely to
want to eat it themselves.

Robyn: All right. Well, thank you so much for the tips. And thank you to
our viewers for watching. And remember, keep on blossoming.

Announcer: This has been Pediatric Therapy TV, where we bring peace of mind
to your family with the best in educational programming. To subscribe to
our broadcast, read our blogs, or learn more, visit our website at
learnmore.me. That’s learnmore.me.

What To Do (and Not To Do) When Your Children are Negatively Influenced by Friends

“But Johnny says swear words, so why can’t I?!”

“But Emily gets to stay up until 10:00!”

“But Mike talks back to his parents, and he doesn’t get in trouble!”

Do these comparisons sound familiar?

Friends can heavily influence your children’s behaviors and beliefs. As children begin to spend more time at school and extracurricular activities with friends, the more they begin to learn what is accepted and rejected by their peer group. boy pretending to shoot gunAlthough you may assert specific guidelines and values in your family, your children are likely to experience varying guidelines and values in their friends’ families. These differences can feel confusing for children as they begin to realize that not every family is the same. They may also feel frustrated when they think that they have more rules and fewer privileges than their friends do. Helping your children make choices that reflect your family’s guidelines and values can be challenging for parents.

Maintaining a balance of empathy and understanding with assertiveness and firmness is key in helping your children navigate their decision-making processes. Here are some Dos and Don’ts.

DON’T:

  • Make judgments about your children’s friends and their parents. Making statements, such as, “Emily’s parents shouldn’t be letting her stay up so late!” or “Mike is being a bad boy by talking back to his parents!” is not productive for your children because they do not give your children alternative, positive choices to make. Instead of talking about other families, take the opportunity to discuss your own family’s guidelines and values.
  • Dismiss your children’s arguments. It may feel tempting to say, “These are the rules in our family, and that is that!” but taking the time to explain to your children why you have certain rules can help them feel more confident about the rules they follow, which can improve compliance.
  • Justify your rules with long explanations. Children may get lost in long explanations. To keep your children engaged, it is better to give simple, concrete explanations with room for questions. (Ex. “In our family, the rule is that when you have a problem, you use a nice, calm voice. This is because we show respect and love to each other. What questions do you have?”)

DO:

  • Reach out to parents of your children’s friends if necessary. Some behaviors can be destructive (i.e. friends who are hitting, using inappropriate language, bullying, etc.). Contacting parents to discuss your concerns may be an important step in decreasing negative influences for your children. There may also be instances in which you need to set boundaries between your children and certain peers. If this is a step you decide to take, explain to your children in a gentle and firm way without placing blame or judgments on other families. (Ex. Instead of “You can’t play with Emily anymore. She’s a mean girl,” try “When we are around friends who hit and use swear words, we are not safe. Who are some friends that use nice words that you can play with? Who are some friends that use mean words and hit? I want you to play with friends who use nice words and a safe body.”)
  • Take the opportunity to talk about your family guidelines and values in a gentle and firm way. Instead of saying what not to do (Ex. “We don’t talk back.), talk clearly about what to do (Ex. “In our family, we use nice words and a calm voice when we have a problem”) and why (Ex. “This is because we show each other respect and love.”). You can help your children explore and understand what your values are by asking open-ended questions (Ex. “What does respect mean?”) and problem solving (Ex. “How can you show respect when mommy says something you don’t like?”). Express understanding and gentleness by encouraging your children to ask questions if needed. At the same time, maintain firmness and confidence that your family’s guidelines and values are important and constant.
  • Practice making positive choices with your children. Role playing is a fun way to help your children practice what to say and do when they encounter specific instances at school, on the playground, or on play dates. (Ex. “What can you do if your friend says something mean to you?”)
  • Praise your children when they make positive choices. Be specific with your praise. Instead of “You are such a good boy,” try “I love that you used your nice words with your brother. You are doing a great job showing respect.” Using specific examples of your children’s behaviors that reflect important family values can help your children understand and feel confident about their family’s guidelines.

What have you tried to help your children who are negatively influenced by peers? What has worked best for your family? Please share with us!