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Messy Sensory Play | Facebook Live Video

Have some fun and get a little messy! One of our expert Occupational Therapists discussed why messy play is important, provided tips for helping your child with touch sensitivities and even covered a few activity ideas for your kiddo to do at home!

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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Sensory at Summer Camp | Facebook Live Video

Kids are having fun at summer camp and it’s time to do everything we can to make sure they’re getting as much out of it as possible! Join one of our expert occupational therapists for Sensory at Summer Camp!

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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Water Safety

This guest blog post was written by Heather Hagstrom, Aquatics Supervisor at the Schaumburg Park District.

Cannonball!

Ahh, the pool! We are all familiar with the atmosphere of a swimming pool on a hot, sunny summer day.Water Safety  The sound of the water flowing over the grates, children laughing and squealing, the smell of chlorine and sunscreen, and then…a sharp whistle blast and it seems like the whole world stops for those brief seconds that we all stop and stare at a lifeguard jumping in the pool to rescue a struggling child. You frantically look to make sure it isn’t your child that is being pulled out of the water, and you notice that your child is right next to you and in perfect health and blissfully unaware of the hazards involved in this seemingly relaxing day at the pool.

As a parent, we are, unfortunately, hyper aware of the dangers associated with swimming. Between the years of 2005-2014, the CDC (Center for Disease Contol) estimates that nearly 3,500 individuals died from unintentional drowning. That breaks down to about 10 deaths from drowning PER DAY! Additionally, accidental drowning has been ranked as the leading cause of accidental death for children ages 1-5. These statistics are daunting and we may ask ourselves why do we even risk it? The answer is simple, IT’S FUN!

Besides being one of the only outdoor activities that can be safely performed on a hot summer day, it has also been researched and proven that water therapy can be very beneficial when working with a child that has special needs including autism, sensory disorders and down syndrome. The pressure of the water provides consistent deep pressure to the largest organ in the body-the skin. This phenomenon provides information to the central nervous system to describe where the individual is in space. Water is also known to help reduce the amount of weight the individual’s body frame is supporting, thus reducing any pain or pressure on the muscles or bones that may be due to their condition, i.e. tense extremities, bad posture, etc.

The intention of this article was not to scare anyone away from a lifetime of fun and effective therapies utilizing one of our greatest resources. However, there are concerns as far as safety goes that should be addressed.

Here is a list of best water safety practices that are effective in keeping your family safe:

  • Teach your children to NEVER enter the water without you
  • Enforce no running or horseplay policies
  • Encourage children to listen to lifeguards if they are present
  • Encourage children to take breaks every 2-3 hours to prevent exhaustion
  • If children are weak swimmers, utilize coast guard approved lifejackets
    • The lifejackets will state on the label that they are coast guard approved
    • Inflatable water wings are NOT coast guard approved as they are not proven to keep an individual’s head above the water
  • Always stay within an arm’s reach of your child while they are swimming
  • Avoid distractions like cell phones and IPADs when supervising your children near a pool
  • Swim lessons save lives! Enroll your child in a swim lesson class as soon as possible
    • Most swim lesson organizations provide resources if your child has special needs and requires an aide to help them in a class setting
    • Most will require you to request one, so please ask when registering!
  • Even if you’re an adult and a good swimmer—never swim alone
  • Never let your guard down-always stay vigilant

I supervise a staff of 150 lifeguards and I always tell them to never allow themselves to become complacent. In the blink of an eye- a life can be lost and there is no substitute for supervision when it comes to aquatic safety.

I hope you all have a safe and fun summer and last one in the pool is a rotten egg!

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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Heather biopicHeather Hagstrom is the Aquatics Supervisor for the Schaumburg Park District. After starting out as a lifeguard at Magic Waters (Rockford, IL) when she was 16 years old, Heather decided that aquatics was the career path she would take. She worked a variety of part time supervisory positions in aquatics at the Rockford Park District and then was hired as the supervisor at Schaumburg in April of 2014. Heather is a new mom to Mia, 6 months, and is enjoying passing on her love for the water and passion for aquatics with the little one who also is already a fish in her own right. Heather continues to raise the bar in her department as far as quality of aquatic programming and the highest level of safety for all her participants as well as water safety awareness programs for the community.

To learn about helping children with sensory issues at the pool, watch our Facebook Live recording:

Autism Friendly Activities in Milwaukee

With school out, parents may have mixed feelings about the summer ahead. What will my child do all Milwaukeeday? How can I keep them entertained? What can I fill their time with educationally since they are not in school? Well, fear not parents, there are a lot of fun, but educational activities you can do for your child with autism this summer in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

AMC Sensory Friendly Films

Mayfair Mall’s AMC movie theater features a few sensory friendly films each month, ranging from animated kid’s movies to action/thrillers. During the films, they keep the lights on and turn the volume down, which allows families safe access to the bathroom and alleviates any sensory tolerance concerns. Follow the link below for a listing of the upcoming films.

https://www.amctheatres.com/programs/sensory-friendly-films

Betty Brinn Children’s Museum

Betty Brinn Children’s museum has several rooms filled with educational toys as well as a rotating seasonal exhibit for your child to explore. Betty Brinn Children’s museum understands that access to educational and social opportunities for children with special needs can be difficult. As a result, they created a Family Focus Membership, that families can apply for, that provides free access to the museum for children with autism. If your application is accepted, you will need to attend a mandatory class at the museum, but then you will be given free access to the museum for a year. Follow the link below for more information on the Family Focus Membership.

http://www.bbcmkids.org/

Kids in Motion

Kids in Motion is an indoor play area for all children. They have several themed rooms with a variety of educational toys, a snack counter, and a main gym area that has a slide, tubes to climb in, and a roped in ball area. Kids in Motion in Brookfield, WI offers half off admission on Sundays for special needs families, which includes half off admission for siblings that are not on the spectrum. Follow the link below for more information on Kids in Motion.

http://www.kidsinmotionwi.com/

YMCA- programs for special needs kids

Several local YMCAs offer programs for all children, including special needs children, during the summer months. Whether you are looking for a class or all day summer camp, the YMCA has several different opportunities for children with special needs. If you are looking for a baseball camp, a great option is the Miracle League of Milwaukee, which accepts all children regardless of ability or prior experience. Follow the link below for more information on the Miracle League of Milwaukee.

http://www.miracleleaguemilwaukee.org/

While all of these options are affordable or free, there are several other great activities you can take part in Milwaukee with your child, such as the Milwaukee County Zoo or attending one of the many festivals Milwaukee has. In addition, Milwaukee County Parks are always free and can be fun for daily trips or to the Farmer’s Markets. While the summer months can seem long, keep all of these great opportunities in mind as you plan your summer months.

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 today!

To schedule an Applied Behavior Analysis assessment, complete the form here.

Help! My Child Hates Camp

Help! My Child Hates Camp

What’s there not to love about swimming, popsicles, and outdoor activities? A lot. For some. Camp represents freedom from school and an opportunity for long stretches of recreational activity, however for some kids, endless amounts of time outside and engaging in sports-like activities are far from ideal. Some kids do not enjoy camp. If you have a camper writing home about how much he loathes the camp experience, try these tips to encourage some fun.

Tips to Help Your Child Who Hates Camp:

  1. Have your child identify the positives about camp. Although there may be aspects that your childHelp! My Child Hates Camp does not prefer about camp, catch him making these statements so he doesn’t maximize a few small parts and minimize the parts that aren’t so bad or that he does like. If the child likes art, air conditioning, and cook outs, help him identify times within his day or week that reflect those preferred tasks. This will help balance out his perspective.
  2. Identify preferred summer-time tasks. If the child loves to bike ride, go on trips to the zoo, or make s’mores, factor those activities into the summer schedule outside of camp time. Help the child recognize that camp isn’t preventing him from engaging in what he wants but that his needs can still be accommodated. Encourage your child to calmly communicate his needs and work together to problem solve ways to get his needs met, although it might not be in the moment desired.
  3. Incentivize participation. If your child does not like being outside or engaging in physical activity/team sports, set up a system to encourage compliance.
  4. Talk to your child. Before registering for a camp, find out what activities your child is interested in doing and what he would not like. If your child is more into the arts, consider a program for theater, crafts, and dance. If your child prefers physical activity, opt for a sports camp. Touching base about preferences can facilitate open communication of needs and an opportunity to avoid potential problems.

Click here to read our camp survival guide for parents and kids.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

 

sensory experiences in nature

Sensory Experiences in Nature

School is out and summer time is finally here! After months of being cooped up inside, it’s time to take full advantage of the warm weather, longer daylight hours, and extra free time that summer affords us. Nature offers an incredible array of sensory experiences that are vital for our children’s development. Whether you live near mountains, beaches, in a farm town or big city, there are endless opportunities. So get out there, be creative, explore, and grow!

Here are 10 ideas to enjoying sensory experiences in nature:

  • Go for a hike! In addition to providing great exercise, going on a hike stimulates almost everySensory Experiences in Nature sensory system. Compare the trees and other plants you see along the way, feel their bark, collect some leaves, listen to the birds, insects, water, or wind blowing through.
  • Go to the beach. Feel the sand on your feet, swim or tread in the water, search for seashells or other hidden treasures, listen to the water and watch the tides.
  • Find an open grassy hill or field. Don’t forget about fostering our sense of movement! Find an open space and do all the running, jumping, spinning, cartwheeling, log rolling, and somersaulting that was difficult to do inside all year long. Our body craves different types of movement that many children are simply not getting enough of. This is so important for a child’s development of balance, coordination, visual control, and other foundational skills that support success in daily activities.
  • Climb trees! This activity should be a childhood staple. It develops coordination and motor planning skills as well as providing us with input to promote body and spatial awareness.
  • Go bird watching or just listen to the birds chirp. This is another great experience for development of spatial awareness.
  • Find a meadow or conservatory to smell flowers and compare their qualities.
  • Spend some time being barefoot outdoors. Of course be sure the area is safe for this but feel the grass, mud, moss, sand, or whatever your environment has to offer under your feet. The soles of our feet are very sensitive and we can therefore process a great deal of tactile information this way.
  • Try going for a blindfolded walk. Take turns blindfolding one another and rely on voices, nature sounds, and touch to find your way along a path.
  • Spend time in a garden. This not only provides a child with wonderful sensory experiences, it encourages responsibility to provide ongoing care for the garden and learn how plants grow.
  • Visit a farm. Depending on what is available to you, farms can offer sights, smells, and tactile experiences that are difficult to find elsewhere. Many areas around the country have working farms that invite families to come visit. Try out different types of farms to get a range of experiences. Some offer time with animals, while others may allow berry or vegetable picking.


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NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

5 Everyday Items to Re-Use for Fine Motor Exercise

During the summer, it is important to keep working out your little one’s fingers.  There are plenty of items around your fine motorhouse that you can use to exercise your child’s fine motor muscles.  Below are 5 items that you may have laying around that can be re-purposed into a “digital” gym.

5 items to re-purpose for fine motor exercise:

  1. Take-Out Boxes-Yes, I said take-out boxes.  The aluminum “press-and-close” variety offers a great chance to work your child’s tip pinch (pointer finger and thumb), 3-point pad pinch (pointer finger, middle finger, and thumb), and lateral pinch (“key grip”) muscles. Use these containers to store beads, coins, or other small objects to create a fun musical instrument too!
  2. Clothespins-Have your child use clothespins to transfer small objects from one container to another, to move game pieces, or to hold a blanket-fort together.  Have your child squeeze the clothespin with different finger combinations (listed above) to “up” the challenge.
  3. Balloons-Your child can grip the two ends of a balloon with different fingers as he or she stretches out the balloon.  In addition, pulling a balloon over a faucet to fill water balloons takes a considerable amount of fine motor control, strength, and endurance.
  4.  Spray Bottles-Fill a spray bottle with water, and have your child water plants.  For fun outside, you can also have a “water bottle” fight, or add food coloring to the spray bottle to “paint” a large sheet of paper.
  5. Paper-Have your child fold a sheet of paper to make a paper fan, a paper airplane, a paper hat, or a fun origami animal.  Folding paper requires a lot of fine motor precision and control, as well as visual-motor integration.  In addition, folding paper will help to strengthen your child’s tip-pinch strength and will help build fine motor endurance. Read more

Develop Executive Functioning Skills This Summer

Does your pre-teen have difficulty staying on task? Does he become overwhelmed when presented with a long-term project? Does he have a hard time controlling his emotions and behaviors? Is it a constant struggle for him to clean up his room? If so, your child may have difficulty with executive functioning. Executive functioning skills are the executive functionsfundamental brain-based skills required to execute tasks: getting organized, planning, initiating work, staying on task, controlling impulses, and regulating emotions.  These skills provide the foundation that all children need to negotiate the academic, home, and social demands of childhood.

Summertime is a great break from busy schedules overrun by homework, projects, and extracurricular activities, but the decreased structure can cause a child with executive functioning difficulties to lose the skills they have gained during the school year. Research has shown that practice is crucial in the development of executive functioning skills; kids who practice executive skills are not only learning self-management, but also developing the connections in the brain that will support the development of executive skills in later adolescence and adulthood!  Read on for ways to keep your child’s executive functioning skills sharp over summer break.

Tips for developing executive functioning skills all summer:

  • Praise: If you know your child is particularly good at a certain skill (e.g. task initiation), communicate that to your child and encourage him to use it to complete summer tasks.  For example say, “I really like how you got started on your chores before lunch.” This will encourage the maintenance of the particular skill your child has mastered.
  • Calendars: Summer schedules can be vastly different from the rest of the year, so to prevent difficulties with handling the change in schedule, use a calendar.   Calendars are a great visual tool to help a child with time management, planning and prioritizing. It allows him to plan ahead and know what is expected and when.
  • Accountability: Whether your child is participating in sports, dance, or going to camp, have your child be responsible (or partially responsible, depending on age and capability) for his equipment or supplies.  This can help him to maintain his organizational and working memory skills.
  • Summer Cleaning: If your child has difficulty with task initiation and organization in his room, take the time over the summer to organize a different space together (garage, spare closet) so you can problem solve together how to start, what to do, and how to be efficient. This allows your child to practice this daunting task with some guidance from you.   He can then carry this skill over to improve his personal space. You may even find old bins or containers your child can use for his room!
  • Summertime Incentives: Rewards make the effort of learning a skill and the effort of performing a task worthwhile. In the summer, there are a lot of fun activities and more time to do them! Take advantage of this and use these fun activities (extra time on the computer, extra time at the pool, going to a friend’s house) as rewards for the tasks you want your child to complete.

Instead of allowing your child to forget the gains he made in executive functioning skills at school, use the summer to make gains and have fun!  For more help with executive functioning, click below to download your free executive functioning checklist.

 

The Importance of Swimming Skills

Swimming was always one of my favorite activities as a child, which is why so many of my childhood memories from mysummer swimming chicago summers off of school take place at the neighborhood pool or at one of Chicago’s beautiful beaches. Aside from the fact that spending a day at the pool is a fun way to pass the hot days of summer, swimming has many other benefits for your child’s development. Below is a list of the top reasons why learning to swim is so important for your child.

Reasons Swimming Skills are Critical for your Child:

  • Strengthening: Negotiating the water requires your child to use all of her muscles. From her core to her arms and legs, your kid will become stronger while playing against the resistance provided by the water.
  • Coordination: Swimming requires a lot of coordination! While each swimming stroke is different, they all require simultaneous movement from your child’s arms and legs in different directions. As your child learns how to swim using a variety of swimming strokes, she is learning how to coordinate multiple movements from multiple body parts at the same time.
  • Sensory input: Swimming is a great way to get a lot of sensory input. The water itself provides deep pressure input to the whole body. The constant sensation of the water can help to decrease tactile sensitivity that your child may experience out of the water. The water also provides proprioceptive input to the body, which can help your child’s body awareness and the body’s position in space. Lastly, the changing position of your child’s head that is required with swimming provides vestibular input, which will help your child strengthen that sensory input both in and out of the water.
  • Safety: Being able to negotiate the water safely is an extremely important skill for your child to learn. While you can never predict what situation your child may encounter in the water, being able to swim, as well as being able to tread water, is the best way for your child to be prepared in challenging and potentially unsafe  water situations. However, it should be emphasized that no matter how strong of a swimmer your child is, all swimming and play activities around the water should be supervised by an adult.

Happy swimming this summer!

Summer Training for Fall Gaining

As summer begins, summer plans take shape.  Hopefully these plans involve lots of fun and sunshine.  Summer should be an enjoyable and exciting time for all children and their families, but it is important to remember to also focus on children’s growth and development.  Sometimes during the break from school, skills gained in an educational or summer therapytherapeutic setting can be lost.  It is important to remember that summer is a great time to keep working on skill development, therapeutic goals, and preparing each child for the challenges of the upcoming school year.

Research continues to show that consistent and high intensity therapy (two or three times per week) results in faster and better functional outcomes for daily skills.  With a more relaxed schedule, summer is a perfect time to increase therapy intensity and have fun building the skills children will need for the new school year.

Specific areas of focus in the summer to prepare for school:

North Shore Pediatric Therapy wants to help your child gain the confidence and independence to conquer all age appropriate tasks! Summer spots are limited. Call us at 877-486-4140 and let us know how we can best support you and your child!