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Executive Functioning Skills: How Can I Help My Child?

Executive Functions are a set of higher order mental processes that allow an individual, or in this case, children; the ability to control their thoughts, actions, and attention in their ever-changingblog-executive-functioning-main-landscape environment. Often, children can present with executive functioning issues as a result of many different factors such as Autism and ADHD.

Below are some executive functioning skills and how they present in both individuals with normal and poor executive functioning, and some tools/strategies for parents:

Skill Example Tools
Organization Your child has trouble being organized or often loses, or misplaces items. Create a “home space” for your child’s items. This can include simply labeling areas of the home where items should be stored, so your child knows where to place items and lowers the risk of loss. Make checklists or use planners to help your child create a schedule.
Working Memory Your child easily forgets what they just heard, or what they were asked to do. Make connections in every lesson. Have you ever heard of ROY G. BIV? – this is how most people remember the colors of the rainbow. When teaching new content such as tying a shoe use cute, age appropriate analogies such as the bunny rabbit in the hole. Also, helping your child visualize information by writing it down, drawing pictures, and even becoming the teacher are great tools as well.
Self-monitoring Your child may not seem aware of themselves such as when they are doing well. Behavior charts are a great tool to help your child self-manage their own behavior. Choose an important behavior for your child to manage and how often you would like for your child to “check in” on this behavior.
Task Initiation/Planning and Prioritizing Your child takes forever to get started on a particular task or has trouble planning activities. Break whole tasks down into smaller achievable steps. If the desired result is for your child to complete an entire homework sheet, maybe setting a goal to do the first 2 problems together can be a happy medium. Also allowing your child to take breaks or receive rewards between tasks are a good strategy as well.
Flexibility Your child often has trouble with new ideas, transitions and spontaneity. Visual schedules and first/then language are your biggest friend. For a child who has trouble being flexible, try to alert your child to changes in routine as far in advance as you can. To help combat rigidity such as not wanting to try a new food, try to approach slow and steady first. This can include tasting a small amount of a new food instead of a large portion.
Impulse/Emotional Control Your child often has trouble controlling their emotions and impulses when they are sad, happy, or angry. Speak and repeat. When providing directions to a child, if applicable, state the directions remembering to adhere to your child’s learner and listener styles, and then have your child repeat back to you. Use social stories and modeling: For example, if your child often gets upset when they lose a game, a social story can help teach tools on how to act in this situation.

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-Applied-Behavior-Analyst

How Does Play Help Meet a Child’s Therapy Goals?

Occupational therapists often use play as a means of helping achieve our clients’ goals. Many times, it may not look like our sessions are working on your child’s areas of need; however, when we are working with children, we often try to adapt play activities in order to help your child meet his goals. Play is a very motivating activity for a child to engage in with the therapist and work on some of his goals. Play may also mask the fact that children are working on a difficult skill by introducing fun into the activity. For example, if one of the child’s goals is to improve his handwriting skills, you could play a game that involves writing, such as Boggle, Scattergories, or crossword puzzles.

Therapist and child at Gym

Here are some play activities that OT’s use to help your child meet his goals:

  1. If your child needs to work on balance and coordination, we may play basketball while standing on top of a bosu ball (imagine standing on the rounded part of a ball cut in half).
  2. A child who needs to work on core and upper extremity strength could meet these goals by playing a game while lying on his stomach over a therapy ball, while balancing with his arms on the ground.
  3. In order to improve self-regulation for a child who has sensory concerns, we may start our session by playing on the gym equipment in order to help regulate his nervous system.
  4. To work on bilateral coordination and fine motor skills with a child who does not like drawing, we often use play-doh and have him trace shapes and cut them out with scissors.
  5. Another way to work on gross motor coordination is to practice climbing a rock wall, climbing a ladder, or swinging on the monkey bars.

Sometimes, however, it may be difficult to adapt the activity and make it fun for the child. In this case, the therapist may have the child participate in an activity to work on the skills he needs to improve, but use a play activity as a reward.  From the first example in which the child’s goal is to improve handwriting, the child may still not want to play the games that involve handwriting. Then, the therapist may tell the child that after handwriting, he can do an activity of his choice.

Hopefully, this blog provides a bit more insight into the therapist’s mindset while working with your child. The therapist is constantly thinking and problem solving about how to make an activity therapeutic and how to make it easier or harder based on the child’s ability to succeed at the tasks. If the therapist is successful, the child will not even realize the activities are working on their areas of need and will want to come to therapy every session!

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How To Teach Your Child Pre-Writing Skills | Pediatric Therapy Tv

In today’s Webisode, a pediatric occupational therapist explains strategies she uses to teach pre-writing skills.

Click here to check out our previous Webisode, suggesting games for fine motor practice to develop handwriting skills.

In this video you will learn:

  • How an occupational therapist uses shapes to teach a child beginning to advanced handwriting
  • At what age a child should master all shapes for writing

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. I’m standing here with Lindsay Miller, a Pediatric Occupational Therapist. Lindsay, can you explain to us, what are some exercises you can do with a child to help with pre-writing skills?

Lindsay: Sure. With some children who are too young to begin writing their letters, we work on practicing making particular shapes. These shapes include horizontal lines, vertical lines, circles, diagonal lines, crosses, Xs, squares, and triangles. So with younger kids, we would probably start off working with the simpler shapes, such as the horizontal and vertical lines, and also the circles.

Once they’ve mastered those, then we would move on to the more complex shapes, like the diagonal lines, the crosses, the Xs, the squares, and the triangles. We work on these shapes in particular, because these are the shapes that you generally use when you’re writing. So if children learn how to write their horizontal and vertical lines and their circles, then it helps them once they’ve begin to start writing their letters, because these are the shapes that we use for upper and lowercase letters. So generally, by age five a child should be able to make all of these shapes.

Robyn: Wow. That’s really great tips. Thank you so much, and thank you to our viewers. 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 is Baby Sign and how it can help a Child’s Speech and Language Development | Pediatric Therapy Tv

In today’s Webisode, a Pediatric Speech Pathologist explains what Baby Sign Language is and how it can be helpful for an infant’s ability to speak, contributing to their overall communication.

Learn how sign language can help late talkers in our blog!

In this video you will learn:

  • How do babies use gestures to communicate
  • What skills do babies develop using gestures and signs
  • What age is appropriate to use gestures and signs with your infant

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 today I’m standing with a Pediatric Speech and Language
Pathologist, Kay Connolly. Kay, can you tell our viewers what exactly baby
sign language is?

Kay: Sure. It’s a very natural part of development. Gestures are absolutely
what we use when communicating. You’ll see your baby doing those very early
signs of pointing or lifting up their arms to be held, waving goodbye.
Those are all early signs, and baby sign language is teaching some of those
more common gestures that also have words associated with them. They can
use those as building communication, building vocabulary, building a means
of communication that isn’t necessarily verbal.

It’s very appropriate for those infants aged about 9 to 18 months. That’s
when you’re really starting to see those communications, those gestures,
and you start to see them using some vocabulary, too. It’s a really great
way to increase their overall vocabulary, and help them really communicate
effectively without using their voice, because your child will develop
their comprehension and their gross motor skills, like the pointing and the
gestures, earlier than they are actually ready to speak.

This is a great tool to use to help them communicate with you and describe
their wants and needs. As far as there’s some concerns that maybe, this
would replace verbal communication, and that’s absolutely not the case. In
fact, there’s some research supporting that this will actually increase
their overall vocabulary instead, which is really some nice research there.
That said, it should be used as a link between the gesture and the verbal
word. So when you’re teaching it, it should absolutely combine both and
really help your child to make that connection to increase their
vocabulary.

Robyn: All right. Thank you so much, Kay, and thank you to our viewers. And
remember, keep on blossoming.

Announcer: This has been Pediatrics 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.

Creative Ways to Help your Child Work on Handwriting

Working on handwriting at home can feel like a lose-lose battle for parents and children alike.  It can be a challenging and/or least preferred activity for children, which makes it hard for parents to want to implement and follow through with.  While handwriting is certainly an activity which your child’s occupational therapist or academic specialist can help with, it is extremely important to expose your child to handwriting consistently at home on a daily or weekly basis.

Boy writing

Below are different creative writing ideas to get your child practicing his handwriting with less hesitation!

  • Write the family grocery list
  • Copy a recipe onto a recipe card
  • Create a bucket list of activities or places to go
  • Make a birthday list (e.g. places to have next birthday party; themes for party)
  • Write upcoming events onto the family calendar
  • Write out personal goals for the upcoming school year (e.g. to be part of a school play; to join a new sports team; to get straight A’s)
  • Keep track of what you ate each day or plan meals for the next day
  • Help create a to-do list (e.g. chores; long-term homework assignments)
  • Keep track of a topic of interest (e.g. bird watching)
  • Write a book report on your favorite book
  • Make a comic book with drawings and short phrases
  • Copy jokes into a booklet format (e.g. from laffy taffy wrappers or popsicle sticks)
  • Create a list of potential outfits to wear to school or to pack for an upcoming vacation
  • Write out cards to send to family/friends
  • Paraphrase the rules to a favorite board game or card game

The suggestions above can help your child find a handwriting activity that he does not mind doing.  If it is still a struggle, offer him two options for the day (e.g. you can either write my grocery list for me or write out a card for Grandma’s birthday).  You can also try setting a timer and let your child know that he needs to write for 10 minutes or come up with at least 3 sentences (or whatever is age appropriate compared to his peers at school).  Lastly, for the first few trials, don’t feel like you have to edit or critique your child’s work, rather, just have him try to do his best work and praise him for being creative or trying something new.  There will be plenty of opportunities to work on sizing, spacing and spelling after handwriting becomes more of a routine at home.

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Get your Child Ready for 1st Grade

For many children going to 1st grade is a huge milestone.  More hours spent in school, higher expectations for academic, behavior,  social skills, and more peer pressure.Child in First Grade

Here are some tips to parent these kids as “right” as you can before 1st grade:

Academics

  • Prepare your child with some online fun academics, flash cards, or any workbook for 1st grade readiness;  but make it fun!  10 minutes per day is enough! You can even try KUMON math and reading to get them strong in basics for math and reading.  This will also prepare them with homework.
  • Strengthen up any weaknesses your child may have in academics. If they need a little reading help, use the following tips in this blog. If they need some number work, try flashcards, or try a tutor, but even just 10 minutes a day can make a huge difference in their self esteem about academics.
  • Get your child tested now if you detect any challenges. Don’t wait for the teacher to say something at conferences!  Go get a good neuropsychological exam and you will know what strengths and challenges your child has and have an opportunity to grow them.
  • Use a daily schedule even in first grade for time management and learning appropriate skills.

Behavior

  • Make sure your child knows how to follow rules, understands boundaries, and knows the expectations of first grade children.  This includes raising hands, taking turns, staying quiet and getting involved/participation, etc.
  • Get your child some support if behavior is an issue.  There are social groups, social workers, books, all kinds of tools to help out there!
  • Your child needs to know what YOU expect of him and what your consequences  are at home.
  • Make sure your family gets proper sleep and food daily.

Social skills/Peer Pressure

  • Make play dates for your child and help model proper 1st grade skills.
  • Join a community playgroup/social group at a local clinic, park district or religious organization.
  • If you suspect something is still off about his social skills, get him evaluated and he can practice his skills with the right support.
  • Make sure to keep your child engaged and talkative with you so you can help him through the tough and great times of 1st grade.

Good luck!

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Loop, Swoop, and Pull! Teaching Shoe Tying

Learning to tie shoes can be an exciting milestone for a child; however, teaching your child to tie their shoes can feel very daunting! Here are some tips to make it a littler easier and much less stressful.

Tips for making shoe tying a little easier

  • Child's hands tying shoeTake your child’s lead to determine if they are ready to learn this new skill. Children typically have the coordination and dexterity to tie their shoes by the time they are going to preschool or kindergarten. This, however, is not a steadfast rule and some kids may be ready earlier and some later.
  • Find a time to practice when
    you are not rushing out the door. Before or after dinner or on the weekend might be a good time to sit down and practice.
  • Choose a method and break it down into steps. Whether you use the two loop or one loop method be sure to go step by step. Either method starts with making an “X” and then a knot. Sometimes this is a good place to stop. Have your child master these first two steps before moving on.
  • When you are demonstrating for your child make sure you are sitting beside or behind them so that they are watching from the correct angle rather than in front of them where they would have to mirror your movements.
  • A rhyme or story can help your child remember the steps to shoe tying. One of the best known and simple rhymes is “Loop, swoop, and pull.”
  • When you first begin, have your child practice with their shoe on the floor or on the table. Sometimes this is easier as they can get up close and see what they are doing. There are also books and dolls available that have laces for practice.
  • Praise them for each step that they master! A little encouragement goes a long way!

 

How To: Teach Your Child to Write the Right Way

Young Boy Writing On EaselHandwriting is a very complex process that requires many prerequisite skills and abilities before it can be done successfully and easily. Some of these skills and abilities include the development of the small muscles in the hand, pencil/marker grasp, eye-hand coordination, the ability to draw shapes and lines, and visual perceptual skills.

For beginner writers, emphasis is placed on learning how to hold a pencil or marker, getting accustomed to making strokes on paper and beginning to form meaning out of what is drawn (for example, a loop is defined as a circle). The early writer learns to write first by imitating various strokes (horizontal line, vertical line, circle) , then copying the same strokes from a visual example and eventually drawing and writing independently. Below are preparatory activities your child can do to help them begin to write the right way! Read more