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Sensory Tips for Sporting Events

Summer is a great time to enjoy sports! Whether it’s going to a Bear’s pre-season game at Soldier field, aSensory Tips ball park, or even a sibling’s soccer game, sporting events come with a large variety of sensory experiences. This can be a great part of the event, or one that makes some children want to run for the hills. If your child has sensory processing difficulties, you may need to prepare your child (and be prepared!) for what’s ahead.

Here are some sensory tips for kiddos whose ideal Saturday may not be spent cheering in a roaring crowd at a sporting event:

For the child with auditory sensitivities:

  • Bring along noise canceling headphones or ear plugs to help drown out the loud sounds.
  • Tell your child when to expect a loud buzzer so they can cover their ears (e.g. watch the clock count down at the end of a quarter/half/period).
  • Give them “quiet breaks” where you take them to a quieter part of the stadium/arena, like the bathroom or concessions, to allow them to regulate.

For child who just can’t stop moving:

  • Give them movement breaks! Let them walk up and down the stairs and time them to see how fast they can do it; take them with you when you’re going to get food or to the restroom.
  • Give them a wiggly cushion seat that allows them to wiggle while still staying seated.
  • Make sure to incorporate a lot of movement activities before the event to help them be able to sit longer (e.g. animal walks, wall pushes, hokey pokey)
  • Let them stand. Some kids can pay attention better when they’re allowed to stand. Let them stand at their seat or find an area where they are allowed to watch while standing.

For a child who is sensitive to tactile input:

  • Let them be comfortable. If they insist on wearing a particular type of sock or their shirt inside out, this is not the time to say no (within reason). Allow them to be as comfortable as possible so there are no meltdowns in the middle of the 2nd
  • Let them sit in the middle of the family; some children are sensitive to light touch and may become upset if they are constantly being brushed by passers-by while sitting on an aisle.
  • Wear long sleeved lycra shirt: rushing through crowds bring along a lot of unwanted light touch. Wearing-sleeved shirts (i.e. Under Armour) can help lessen that aversive sensation.

For a child sensitive to visual input:

  • Bring sunglasses. Even if the event is indoors, the bright lighting may be overwhelming if they are exposed to it for long periods of time.
  • Bring a hat. A jacket with a hood also works and gives the option of blocking out bright lights and other distractions.

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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extra-curricular success for children with special needs

Ensure Extra-Curricular Success for Children with Special Needs

Often parents of children with special needs are worried and fearful about the ability of their child to succeed in extra-curricular activities such as sports, boy scouts, dance, art class, etc. Parents often fear the worst and are afraid of how the child will behave or act in such circumstances.  I would recommend that parents utilize several tips in order to help ensure success with each out-of-school activity, as these activities have many proven benefits for a child’s self-esteem.

Tips for Working with Coaches to Ensure Success for Children with Special Needs in Extra-Curricular Activities:

1. Be frank with the coach or director of the activity. Inform him or her about the child’s concerns. These are often individuals who volunteer to help children and more times than naught have the child’s best interest in mind.

2. Let the individual know what types of behaviors the child has exhibited in the past. What happened in school when parents were away, etc?

3. Create a list of accommodations that have proven to be beneficial for the child. Let the coach or instructor in on some of the modifications that have been helpful in the academic setting, as he may be able to apply the modification to the activity setting.

4. Be present, or within immediate reach, for the first few sessions.

5. Have the child go and see the building and room will the activity will occur. If possible, meet the instructor to form a relationship in advance.

Ultimately the main goal of after school activities is to increase socialization while teaching a skill, activity, or sport. The above tips should help provide some strategies to ensure the maximum success for children who have special needs in such situations.

Concussions are More Common in Teens than Once Thought

A research letter was published in the Journal of American Medical Association on Tuesday, June 25 which concussionsummarized findings from a recent Canadian study examining concussions in teenagers.  The Canadian research team found that concussion rates in adolescents are much higher than previously thought.

What is the prevalence of concussions in teens?

1 out of every 5 teenagers completing the research project indicated that they had sustained a concussion.  These numbers are high, and there are some flaws with generalizing these numbers to the population as a whole.  This was a survey research project in which the examiners asked teenagers a series of questions about head injuries and academic performance.  Although the likelihood of 1 in 5 teenagers having sustained a concussion is probably not realistic, it is known that head injuries are quite common at rates that are greater than suspected in the past.

Why is it important to know the incident rates of concussions?

The importance of knowing about the incident rates of concussions is that there are numerous known behavioral and emotional variables associated with head injuries.  Adolescents who have sustained a head injury are at risk for learning problems, substance abuse, and emotional concerns.

What does this mean as a parent or teacher?  If you notice a teenager exhibiting a sudden change in academic performance, behavior, or emotional regulation, you want to have an evaluation immediately.  Speak to your child’s pediatrician about a possible neurological or neuropsychological evaluation in order to help determine the possible cause for the changes, as one possible reason might be a sustained head injury.

To read the full Chicago Tribune article on this study, click here.  To learn more about North Shore Pediatric Therapy’s Neuropsychology Diagnostic Program for children and teens, click below.

Encourage Your Child to Try Different Swimming Techniques

Though the Chicago winter months bring cold, snow and gloomy days, swimming continues to be a great activity for the family, albeit girl in poolindoors. Swimming offers many benefits for children, including enhancing sensory processing, strength, endurance and coordination. A common concern among families with whom I work with is that their child does not like dipping their face in the water, which impacts the child’s swimming experience.

These strategies aim to assist parents that are working with their child to feel comfortable with dipping their face in the water during bath time, as practice for the swimming pool:

  1. Play “Simon Says” by indicating different body parts that should dip into the water. For example, “Simon says put your nose in the water” or “Simon says put your ear in the water.”
  2. Blow bubbles in the water using a straw. When your child feels comfortable with this, remove the straw and have them blow bubbles with their lips touching the water.
  3. Soak a washcloth in water and have your child wring it out over various parts of their body (hand, ear, mouth, etc). Allow your child to wring out the washcloth over your body as well.

Try playing these bath time games for several weeks and slowly introduce placing their whole face into the water. These activities will help your child feel more comfortable with putting their face in the water, one body part at a time.

 

Why Downhill Skiing is a Great Gross Motor Activity for Children

As I stated in my previous blog, many sporting events are not only enjoyable to watch for entertainment purposes, but they can also child skiingbe a perfect gross motor and extracurricular activity to get your child involved in with his peers. Both individualized and team sports incorporate many different skill sets that help your child to follow the guidance and leadership of another adult (i.e. the coach; an instructor).

Below are some examples of skills that downhill skiing could address for your child:

  • Balance:  Downhill skiing requires a significant amount of balance in order to efficiently set-up the boots and skis (e.g. clicking ski boots into skis), safely get onto a tow rope and/or a ‘magic carpet’ ski lift and prevent themselves falling down the ski hill.  Downhill skiing requires the child to maintain a relaxed posture going down the
    hill, rather than a stiff posture. A relaxed posture provides the child a reduced chance of falling. It can also better maintain his/her center of gravity.
  • Bilateral skills:  Using both sides of his/her body, including his hands and feet, in order to control and utilize the skis and ski poles.  Also, when getting onto the chair lift, a child is required to place one hand onto the back of the chair lift and use the other hand to hold the ski poles, therefore, the child utilizes both hands at once for different purposes in order to have the greatest success.
  • Timing and sequencing:  Being able to anticipate how often to complete turns when going down the ski hill in order to slow oneself down and remain in control. He/She will also need to understand where the other skiers are on the ski hill and move accordingly.  Similarly, when getting on and off of the chair lift, a child must use the correct timing and sequencing in order to prevent missing the chair lift and/or not getting off the chair lift in time.
  • Safety awareness and body awareness:  Being able to avoid crashing into another skier and being mindful of where your body is in space, so that you remain in control and make it easier for other skiers to know where you are going.  In addition, being mindful of where your ski poles are so that they don’t poke another skier and/or so you don’t drop them while on the chair lift or halfway down the ski hill.

As you can see, downhill skiing is not only a great form of exercise and a way for your child to learn a new hobby, it also helps your child improve many skills that are needed throughout daily life.  Similarly, the earlier your child learns how to ski, the easier it will be as learning a novel task as an adult can be more challenging. This is due to the fact that adults tend to be more cautious and over-analyze the task at hand. Feel free to reach out to your child’s teacher, occupational therapist or physical therapist to see if downhill skiing or other gross motor activities will be best for your child.  See you on the slopes!

Why Hockey is A Great Game to Teach Your Child

Not only is hockey enjoyable to watch for entertainment purposes, hockey is also a perfect gross motor and extracurricular activity Little boy playing hockeythat will get your child involved with his peers. Team sports incorporate many different skill sets and help your child follow the guidance and leadership of another adult (i.e. the coach).

Below are some examples of skills that hockey could address for your child:

  • Balance: Skating requires a significant amount of balance and trunk control. as ice can prove to be an unstable surface. In addition, there are thin blades to support their entire body weight.
  • Hand-eye coordination: Being able to control the puck in order to pass it onto teammates as well as shoot the puck into the net accurately and effectively (without getting it taken away by opponents).
  • Bilateral skills: Using both hands together in order to control and carry the hockey stick.
  • Timing and sequencing: Being able to anticipate where the puck will land as well as understanding where your opponents will be on the ice and moving accordingly.
  • Teamwork: Working together to work towards one purpose, rather than working independently.
  • Safety awareness and body awareness: Being able to avoid getting checked by opponents as well as being able to maneuver safely on skates and avoiding the puck (e.g. getting hit in face by puck).

As you can see, hockey is not only a great form of exercise and a way for your child to meet new friends, it also helps your child improve many skills that are needed throughout daily life. Feel free to reach out to your child’s teacher, occupational therapist or physical therapist to see if hockey or other gross motor activities would be encouraged for your child. Stay tuned for my next blog about why skiing is a great gross motor activity for children. Go Blackhawks!

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!

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10 Activities to Improve Balance

Balance is a great skill to help your child progress with their gross motor skills, leisure activities, and activities of daily living.

The following activities are various ways you can work on improving static and dynamic balance for improved performance in activities such as sports, games, self-care, and many more!

  1. Stand with one foot on the ground while the other foot is resting on a stool in front of the other foot. This is the primary skill in working towards balancing on one foot. If this is too easy, replace the stool with a ball that your child has to rest his or her foot on. Then, progress to just standing on one leg. To make it more challenging play a game (such as catch, zoom ball or balloon tennis) while balancing.
  2. Stand on top of a bosu ball. A bosu ball is an exercise ball cut in half with a flat plastic surface on the bottom. If your child gets really good at standing on top of the bosu ball, turn it upside down so that the ball is underneath and he or she is standing on the flat side. Once this is mastered, play catch while standing on the bosu ball.
  3. Stand on a balance board. A balance board is a flat surface made of wood or hard plastic that has a rounded or curved underside. This can be a very challenging activity just to stay upright!
  4. Simply stand on one foot! Make this into a contest with the whole family and see who can maintain their balance the longest.The person who wins gets to pick a family activity.
  5. Put two lines of tape on the ground and practice walking on a pretend balance beam. The space between the two pieces of tape could start large (6 inches) and progress to 4 inches apart. If your child steps out of bounds, he or she has to start again. By employing a balance beam that is flush with the ground, this will decrease any possible fear of falling. Once this becomes easier, utilize a real balance beam to work on more challenging balance skills.
  6. Sit on an exercise ball while playing a board game at the table. Don’t let your child put his or her feet on the ground while playing unless they need to make sure they don’t fall.
  7. Play hopscotch only while jumping on one foot. No switching feet is allowed! This makes the game slightly more challenging.
  8. Sit, kneel, or stand on a flat platform swing. Once you child can simply balance, play catch, zoomball, or balloon volleyball while sitting, kneeling, or standing.
  9. Stand on a trampoline with just one leg on the surface. To make this even more challenging, invite someone else to walk on the trampoline (or jump) while trying to keep your balance!
  10. Try any of the above activities with your eyes closed. Balancing with your eyes closed is significantly harder than having your eyes open. Therefore, if your child has mastered all of the above activities, make it one step harder to keep them challenged!

The possibilities are endless! Get creative and make these activities easier or harder depending on your child’s progression of skills.  By working on balance, your child will learn to use their muscles properly in order to adjust to changes in movement. This will set them up for success in playing games and sports with their peers! As always, ensuring your child’s safety during these activities is very important. Utilize pillows, mats, and adult supervision when practicing these activities.

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Hey, PE Teachers! Start Picking Team Leaders Who Will Pick The Right Kids For The Right Reasons!

Do you remember when your gym teacher picked two team captains and they got to pick their teams? Were you the captain? Great! Were you the last one picked? Not great. If the team captains are always the most popular or the most athletic of the bunch, make sure to rotate in those that are quiet or withdrawn. coach and childThey may not be the one scoring all the points but they could turn out to be a great coach one day! PE teachers can be intimidating to the quiet group, but your strength and assertiveness is a valuable lesson for them to model after! First meet them on their level as best you can (at their voice level, eye level, etc.), and slowly help build them up to your level. They will respect you for this and leave gym class feeling more confident!

The Importance Of Leadership Skills in Children:

Leadership skills are important for the development of self-esteem and social relationships. When learning the basics, children need to understand how and when to be a leader, as well as when it’s time to follow. This also leads to the development of another important skill: how to work well with others and be a part of a team. The children with less athletic abilities shouldn’t have to dread gym class, when they could be learning how to find their own role, develop leadership, and communicate as a team. They could be the ones who are great at planning, organizing, and strategizing. They could be empathic and able to support their teammates as they deal with frustrations of losing. So, don’t forget that they need to be chosen too. They might surprise you!

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Keep Play Safe and Fun in the Summer Heat and Sun

With the hot and humid Chicago summer we have been having these past few weeks, it is important to be mindful of how well your children’s bodies can handle the heat. Children are still playing outdoor sports and finishing up their leagues before school starts, and some camps may still be in session. Many older children have already begun practice for fall sports. When your children are spending hours outdoors during the day, keep in mind these safety tips:Young T-Ball Player Running

Safety Tips for Sports And Activities in the Heat

  • Drink plenty of fluids at least an hour before vigorous physical activity, as well as during and after the activity. Drinking too much water right before the activity may cause muscle cramps. Drinking very cold beverages may also cause cramps, so let the drink sit out for a few minutes after taking it out from the refrigerator.
  • Sports beverages are great, as they can help replace the salts and minerals lost when sweating.
  • Allow children to pace themselves with physical activities. Start out slowly and pick up the pace gradually so as to avoid muscle cramps. Avoid overexertion.
  • Be weary of signs of heat exhaustion (heavy sweating, muscle cramps, weakness, headaches, nausea or vomiting, dizziness and paleness).
  • If possible, stay inside in the midday when the sun is the hottest and strongest, and try to schedule sports activities in the mornings and evenings.
  • Stay in the cool shade as much as possible when outside.
  • Wear sunscreen.

Play outside safely, and have fun!