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Ten Tips for Parents for Successful Parent-Teacher Conferences

parent teacher conferencesParent-teacher conferences serve as an important time in a child’s academic year. The teacher can provide updates and insight into your child’s progress within the classroom. In today’s schools, teacher’s conferences schedules are often jam-packed and you might only have fifteen precious minutes with the teacher to talk about your child. If you want to get the most out of this vital time with your child’s teacher, then a little prep is needed! Here are our top 10 tips for a successful parent conference:

10 Tips to Prepare for Conferences:

 

  1. Ahead of the conference (in fact starting today!) ask the teacher to log behaviors or issues, so you have concrete examples about behaviors your child is engaging in that the teacher wants to discuss.
  2. Make a questions list beforehand. Focus questions not only how the child is doing academically but also socially and behaviorally.
  3. Invite your child to suggest if there is anything you should know before you go in or any concerns he or she would like to raise.
  4. Ask your child what he or she likes about school and also what he or she does not like.
  5. Ask the teacher how you can make sure your child reaches his or her potential? What extra activities would be recommended?
  6. Ask the teacher who your child is friends with and how that aspect of school is going.
  7. Ask the teacher who your child sits with at lunch and if he or she smiles a lot and looks happy.
  8. Ask the teacher if she has any other concerns about your child besides academics.
  9. If the teacher says anything negative about your child, without follow up, ask for a solution(s) and tell her you also will think of some.
  10. Don’t be defensive, just ask good questions!

 

Remember that the teacher is there to help your child develop to the highest potential. It is important to take the advice that is provided as they have seen many children and can readily identify areas of strength and weakness. It is important to work as a team to make sure your child’s academic and social needs are met.

If your child’s teacher identifies concerns regarding your child; the best advice is to be proactive and garnish additional information instead of waiting. If there are possible concerns regarding the child’s attentional regulation, learning, and/or social-emotional functioning, it would be recommended to seek out a comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation to help identify whether or not there is a specific diagnosis such as ADHD, a learning disability, anxiety, or Autism Spectrum Disorder. If and when a specific diagnosis is identified, individualized recommendations would be able to be created to help the child progress at the highest level possible.

If you are in the Chicago area and would like to discuss issues that arise from parent-teacher conferences or you have other concerns regarding your child, please contacts us at 1-866-309-4610 or fill in the contact form on this page.

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6 Coping Strategies for Children with Sensory Processing Disorder in Their School Cafeteria

Trays clashing, Silverware clinking, Kids shouting, Scary vegetables, Bright lights, Weird smells, People everywhere.
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The school cafeteria hits the senses with a wide array of sensory experiences all at once. Some children, especially those with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), can find the lunchtime experience overwhelming because of some or all of the sensory aspects of a cafeteria. Preparing your child or student for this part of the school day can help them enjoy, not dread, lunchtime and that can positively impact their entire school experience.

  1. Location, location, location- Where a child sits in the cafeteria can greatly affect his or her behavior and sensory input. For example, a child who is easily visually distracted should be sat so that he or she is facing away from the entire room, which will help them to they can focus on their meal. For a child with sensitivity to smells, make sure they are sat as far away from the lunch line as possible.
  2. Help the child advocate for themselves- Children with SPD can feel when they’re starting to get overwhelmed by whatever sensory stimulus is bothering them, but they can have a hard time explaining it to others. Teach the child that when they start feeling bad, upset, or their “engine” is running too fast (or any other term you use when your child is escalating) they should tell their teacher that they need a break. This could be a movement break, or some quiet time in a hall or designated quiet space.
  3. Give the child a fidget toy- This is a small toy the child can fidget with, ideally, without distracting other children. This would be great for the child who has a hard time not touching his friends who are sitting close to him.
  4. Put a sensory toolkit in their lunchbox- This can vary from child to child, depending on what their sensory needs are. You could put in a fidget for the child who has a hard time sitting still, or a favorite lip balm or lotion for the child who is sensitive to smells to give them a familiar scent to help calm them down (or one to mask the smell of the cafeteria). You could put in pictures of sensory strategies as reminders of how to calm down if they’re getting overwhelmed (e.g. deep breaths, hand-pushes, chair push-ups). Sunglasses could be helpful for the child who is sensitive to the bright lights in the cafeteria.
  5. Familiar foods- For those children with oral sensory sensitivities who are picky eaters, make sure to pack foods they will eat. This is not the time to send mustard on their sandwich for the first time or ask them to try whatever the cafeteria is serving. Have your child help you pack their lunch so that they know what to expect, or go over the menu for the week with them and choose the day(s) they will buy their lunch.
  6. Regulating foods- crunchy foods (e.g. carrots, pretzel sticks) can be very regulating for children with SPD, particularly children with oral-seeking behaviors. Other great food ideas include sucking thick liquids (yogurt, applesauce) from a straw, hard candies, or gum.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanston, LincolnwoodGlenviewLake Bluff, Deerfield, and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at 1-866-309-4610 and speak to an NSPT team member.

Back to School with ADHD

Executive functioning skills are daily requirements for everyone, especially for school-age children who are required to be organized, pay attention, plan, and manage their time. Children with attention-deficit/hyperactive disorder (ADHD) often struggle with executive functioning tasks that can negatively impact their attitude towards school, academic achievement and performance, and overall emotional well-being. 

Common experiences of children with ADHD include:

  • Difficulty remembering to submit or complete assignments
  • Forgetting instructions
  • Poor organizational skills and planning
  • Avoidance of difficult or time consuming tasks
  • Emotional dysregulation

It is imperative that preparations are made to provide skills and systems that will assist children with ADHD to have a successful school year and to enjoy learning.

Some steps to prepare your child with ADHD for the school year include:

  1. Create structure at home, teach and practice executive functioning skills.
  2. Encourage your child to make a to-do list for each day and check off items at the end of the day (parents can also create a list of their own and model this behavior for their child).
  3. Create a system that helps with organization of room and or study area, so items and books can be easily stored and located.
  4. Teach and model accountability by checking in at the beginning and end of the day.
  5. Allow appropriate natural consequences and implement logical consequences for behaviors.
  6. Allow your child to advocate for themselves at home, so that they will be confident to advocate at school.
  7. Work with your child to teach responsibility and develop skills.
  8. Play games that reinforce executive functioning skills (i.e. Jenga, Max, Distraction, AnimaLogic, and No Stress Chess).
  9. Maintain daily routine during days off and weekends.
  10. Get a neuropsychological assessment, so that school-based accommodations can be put in place.

Overall, ensure that your child is learning to manage their time, is building good habits, and is completing tasks.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Deerfield, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, and Hinsdale! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140!

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How to Help Your Child Who Feels Overworked in School

Does your child feel overworked in school? School-related stress is nothing new, but it is now happening to even younger students. With the increased importance of testing on students, teachers, and schools- children are facing more stressBlog-Overworked in School-Main-Landscape in school than parents may have experienced when they were younger.

Here are some helpful tips for how to help your child if they are overworked in school:

Don’t over-schedule kids

Although it is important to have children in activities outside of school like sports or clubs, don’t schedule so much that they are not able to do their homework. If you only have an hour scheduled for homework because they have to run to their art class, then swimming class and they only have time for a quick dinner and then bed, a child may feel rushed or pressured to get everything done. In addition, ask your child what works for them and let them have some control over their schedule. Some kids like to get to work as soon as they get home, while others need a break after school.

Praise effort, not grades

Everyone wants their child to succeed and most importantly everyone wants their child to feel successful and proud of themselves. In some children, that may mean that they bring home straight A’s every quarter or semester, but in some children that may look different. Emphasizing that a child needs a certain grade can lead to them feeling stressed and anxious. The truth is that some students may not be an A student. Praise effort and improvements, rather than A’s. Also, don’t ignore those classes like art or music.

If a child is really struggling in math, but excels in the fine arts, praise them for that specific talent rather than ignoring those “easy” classes. In addition to praising effort, it is important to try and limit consequences for lower grades. If a child studied and put forth effort, but came home with a lower grade than what was expected, don’t punish them- talk about it and how they could have studied or completed the work differently.

What not to say: “7th grade is the most important” “Junior year is the most important” “you need this grade in order to do this…”

When adults make these statements to children, they often hope it will motivate them to study longer or focus more, but it can often do the opposite. If a child hears these statements regularly, it can cause feelings of anxiety. If a child is anxious, they are less likely to be able to study and focus efficiently. It may be more helpful to show specific examples of how certain topics can be used in real life situations. This shows that the information they learn is important, but it alleviates the pressure that if they don’t master the topic, they won’t be successful.

Teach kids effective study habits, and how to balance it.

Sometimes it is not how much you study, but how you do it. Help kids learn good study habits like taking breaks, not cramming for tests, healthy sleep habits, and being organized. Ask your children what works for them. Some people need absolute silence, while some enjoy music in the background. Don’t force a habit on a child that may not work for them. Teaching children these skills will not only help them in school, but as a future employee as well.

Finding a work-life balance is something that a lot of parents and adults struggle with. It is important to model a healthy balance of work and fun to your children, so they can learn how to achieve that balance.

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.

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Separation Anxiety and School

It’s normal for children to sometimes feel worried or upset when separating from their main attachment figures. Although it can be difficult for parents and the child, it’s a normal stage of blog-separation-anxiety-main-landscapedevelopment.

Kids will often cry, whine, refuse to part or be overly clingy when it’s time to separate. Usually, these behaviors decrease with age, but sometimes, some kid’s reactions are extreme, and they interfere with their functioning in different areas of their lives. These kids may be suffering from Separation Anxiety Disorder. Kids who suffer from Separation Anxiety Disorder have a persistent fear of possible harm occurring to close attachment figures or excessive fear that they will leave and not return.

Some common behaviors related to separation anxiety include:

  • School refusal
  • Frequent somatic complaints (headaches, stomach aches, nausea)
  • Recurrent nightmares
  • Crying or having temper tantrums
  • Avoiding going to new places
  • Refusal to be alone

A common place where these behaviors occur is at school. For some kids, they might refuse to go to school, or they might have a hard time when being dropped off. No matter what type of anxiety the child is dealing with, it’s important to educate and teach your child about anxiety.

If your child is having anxiety about separating from you, here are some recommendations to consider:

  • Do not allow your child to stay home from school. This only worsens the symptoms over time and doesn’t allow them the opportunity to face their fear.
  • Do not ignore or deny the child’s worries. Teach your child about anxiety and its impacts.
  • Keep calm during separations. If your child sees you staying calm and cool, they are more likely to do so as well. When it’s time to say goodbye, make sure not to sneak out. This will only make the child more afraid.
  • Once your child makes it to school, identify a safe place for them if they are having a hard time. You can work with teachers or school counselors in identifying what would be appropriate.
  • Allow your child to pack a comfort item from school (favorite blanket or animal or a picture) that they can use when they feel homesick.
  • Create a goodbye ritual- maybe a special handshake or goodbye which can help the child feel more secure during the transition.
  • Praise your child’s efforts. Reward brave behaviors, however small they are!

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Deerfield, Lincolnwood, Glenview, 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!

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Managing Anxiety in the Classroom

Anxiety is one of the most common mental health issues in our country, affecting millions of adults and children alike. Children with anxiety at school may be experiencing it for several different blog-anxiety-in-school-main-landscapereasons. A few common reasons children may be anxious at school revolve around separation from parents or caregivers, social anxiety or test anxiety. Sometimes, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what the cause is, which is okay too. The important thing is that the symptoms are managed appropriately. Since kids spend the majority of their day in a classroom, it is paramount that teachers and other staff are trained to recognize, support and advocate for anxious students.

Identifying anxiety early on is a very important step as it can help mitigate larger problems later on in adolescence and adulthood.

Let’s start by discussing some common signs and symptoms that we may see in an anxious child. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Refusal or reluctance to attend school
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Negative self-statements
  • Perfectionist tendencies
  • Withdrawing from other children
  • Lack of participation
  • Tearfulness
  • Excessive worrying
  • Frequent trips to the nurse
  • A decline in academic performance

Over the years, our education system has made tremendous progress in identifying and helping children struggling with anxiety. One of the most common are accommodations under a 504 Plan. An example of an accommodation used in a 504 Plan would be adjusting the child’s seating arrangement (often referred to as “preferential seating”). An anxious child may feel more comfortable sitting closer to the teacher, or further away from a highly-energetic or rambunctious child. Another accommodation is extra time on tests (often referred to as “time and a half”), since test-taking can be a common trigger for anxiety. If you feel a 504 Plan might be helpful and appropriate for your child, it would be a good idea to plan a parent-teacher conference to discuss your options.

Close communication and collaboration between teachers and parents is a great way to ensure that your child is getting his or her needs met in the classroom. Sometimes, anxious kids just need a little extra encouragement and reassurance. Positive reinforcement is an excellent tool used for pointing out a child’s successes and efforts, and rewarding them for it. Many schools have a social worker or counselor on staff as well. Social workers and counselors are specifically trained to help children struggling with anxiety and other social-emotional issues. One-on one or small group sessions can be extremely beneficial in helping manage anxiety at school. Incorporating social work minutes into your child’s schedule is a great way to provide your child with extra support during the day.

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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Handling Breaks from School

Join one of our BCBAs, Jennifer Bartell, to learn about handling breaks from school. She discusses using multiple kinds of visual schedules.

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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Executive Functioning and Self-Regulation Skills for My Child

Children aren’t born with executive functioning or self-regulation skills, rather their brain has the capacity to develop them. As a result, these skills that support a child’s capacity to learn, grow and develop can be inhibited by a number of factors including stress, environment, relationships, or delays. They can blossom and develop more fully with support from adults and the environment around them. Some children require more focused support to better develop executive functioning and self-regulation skills. Support can be through Early Education Opportunities and/or more formal intervention and support like Occupational Therapy, Behavior Therapy or Mental Health Services. blog-executive-functioning-main-landscape

How to Identify on Track Development for Executive Functioning and Self-Regulation Skills

Positive Engagement in School

  • Your child has a positive experience at school, cooperates with expectations and meets expectations most days.
  • Your child completes their work in a timely manner and typically understands the material.
  • Your child’s school work is typically organized and can be located easily.
  • For younger children, they attend school most days without difficulty. They can share what happens at school each day and can tolerate when things change.

Pro-social Skills

  • Your child can get along with others, can initiate interaction and negotiate play appropriately.
  • Your child typically understands and follows routine expectations and rules.
  • Your child typically responds to redirection without difficulty.
  • Your child can communicate his needs, wants, or wishes appropriately and effectively.
  • Your child can take responsibility for their actions and can understand the consequences.
  • For younger children, they engage in turn-taking, sharing, and show emerging empathy for others if they get hurt or sick.

Healthy and Safe Choices

  • Your child makes safe choices when interacting with others across settings (home, school, and in the community).
  • Your child can recognize and understand the importance of rules and safety.
  • Your child can make healthy choices for themselves (balanced eating, exercising or participating in activities that make them feel good).
  • Your child can access and utilize help when needed.
  • For younger children, they can talk about the rules at home and school. They can cooperate with important routines like sleeping, eating and toileting.

Communication and Coping Skills

  • Your child can express their needs, wants, and feelings verbally and effectively.
  • Your child can typically communicate or express their frustration or anger in a safe, appropriate manner.
  • Your child can accept support or help from others.
  • Your child can advocate for themselves appropriately.
  • For younger children they can ask for help, ask for their needs with words or gestures, and can calm down with adult support.

How to Promote Executive Functioning and Self-Regulation skills

  • Provide a visual guide for routine and rules at home.
  • Make expectations clear and concise; talk about what happened if expectations are not being met.
  • Provide 1 or 2 step directions when giving instructions.
  • Spend time together for multi-step activities like art, a puzzle or baking activity; talk about the steps needed.
  • Encourage and praise hard work and persistence especially when trying something new or challenging.
  • Use first/then statements i.e. First we put the toys away, then we can have snack.”
  • Take time for calm and quiet activities together i.e. reading, taking a walk and coloring.
  • Model how to calm down or take deep breaths when upset.
  • Model healthy living and safe choices.
  • Develop Family Rituals that provide time to reflect and share about thoughts, feelings, and experiences (i.e. Highs and lows from the day over dinner, 3 best parts of the day on the drive home, marking off days on a calendar to look forward to a family outing).
  • Talk and share about feelings. Be willing to share your own.

Resources:

http://developingchild.harvard.edu/science/key-concepts/executive-function/ 

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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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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7 Tips for Helping Children with Autism Handle Breaks from School

Breaks during the school year can end up being stressful for parents.  The key to success would be to prepare as much as possible beforehand. blog-autism-school-breaks-main-landscape

Try these 7 tips to help your child with Autism handle breaks from school:

  • Give your child a heads up that there is going to be a break in the routine. Mark down the days on a calendar, and consistently review it with them starting a couple weeks before leading up to the break.
  • Work with outside therapy providers to create visual schedules or prompts that can make the break run more smoothly—this is especially true for kids who follow schedules at school regularly.
  • Keep your routine as consistent as possible during the break—keep bedtime, chores and meal times as close as you can to what kids would typically do.
  • Provide as much structure as possible during the break, the less down time you have, the better! This can be a good time to plan outings to places you can’t typically go, such at the zoo, aquarium, museums, and parks.
  • Check in with teachers about possible activities and academics that could be practiced over break. Frequently, teachers will assign extra work during this time.
  • Use the break to keep your child caught up in school—review their homework and give them a head start for what’s coming up at school after the break!
  • Breaks are also a great time to add more hours of therapy!

For additional information, check out our other Autism and school blogs.

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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This blog was co-written with Jennifer Bartell.

Jennifer BartellJennifer Bartell is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) and educator with over a decade of experience working with learners diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, double majoring in psychology and music performance, and earning a place on the Dean’s List. Following a move to New York City, Jennifer received her Master of Special Education degree from the City University of New York—Hunter College, wherein she specialized in Behavior Disorders and became dual certified to teach both the general and special education populations. While in New York, Jennifer was a part of the opening of the innovative NYC Autism Charter School—the first of its kind on the east coast—and had the opportunity to work in classrooms with reduced and one-to-one ratios and a curriculum created using the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis. Here she worked extensively with learners between the ages of 3 and 18, and presenting with an array of challenges, skill deficits, and abilities. Jennifer has vast experience in creating programming for community-based instruction, adaptive daily living skills, and self-care, yet also employs her education background to provide high quality academic and cognitive services as well. A well-respected member of the home- and school-based organizations for whom she has provided services, Jennifer is frequently called upon to provide professional development and training for her colleagues and those she is supervising. Jennifer has presented at a number of professional Applied Behavior Analysis and education conferences for fellow educators, behavior analysts, and parents around the New York area.