Posts

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!

Social Work

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!

Meet-With-An-Applied-Behavior-Analyst

Bullying Warning Signs

Bullying is an ongoing concern for parents, care givers and teachers. How to tell if your child is being bullied can be difficult, as bullying can take on many forms. The act is a deliberate imbalanceblog-bullying-warning-signs-main-landscape of power; and can be physical, emotional, sexual or verbal.

Having a working knowledge of warning signs is essential for supportive parenting. If your child has some of the warning signs below, it is not a guarantee that they are being bullied. Open and honest dialogue with your children will provide more insight into the potential causes of some warning signs.

Below are a variety of warning signs that could signify your child is the victim of bullying:

  • Noticing your child has damaged belongings; this can span from clothing, to book bags, to text books, etc.
  • Unexplained physical injuries like bruises or cuts
  • Tendency to isolate from friends and peers
  • An increase in anxiety or fear related to attending school and often will explore opportunities to miss school (i.e. Excuses, faking sick, etc.)
  • Changes in sleeping or eating patterns; suffers from frequent nightmares, poor appetite
  • Appears sad, upset or angry when returning from school
  • Decrease in academic achievement
  • Health concerns; most often frequent stomach aches, headaches, etc.

Beginning a discussion with our children about bullying can be challenging, as many kids tend to shy away from disclosing this information. The most essential component is that as a parent you remain calm and supportive, not reactive to what your child discloses.

There are several questions below to guide a conversation related to bullying:

  • There has been a lot of bullying in the news lately. How does your school handle bullying? Tell me about a time you saw someone being bullied, or experienced it yourself. How did you handle it?
  • I’m worried about [insert behavior/symptom/action]. I’m wondering if you could tell me more about what is going on?
  • Tell me about your friends this year. Who are you spending time with, and what do you like about them?
  • Who do you spend time with at lunch and recess? Tell me about your bus rides home. With whom do you sit?
  • Are there any kids at school who you really don’t like? Why don’t you like them? Do they ever pick on you or leave you out of things?

If your child discloses that they are being bullied, it is essential that you remain calm. Overreaction can result in regret of disclosure or a tendency to limit discussing such content in the future. As a parent, the strongest role you can take if your child is being bullied is to provide support and care, validate to your child that this is not their fault and that you are here to love and support them.

At times, children can be very hesitant about disclosing bullying due to fear of retaliation. If you notice concerning symptoms, but your child denies, it is appropriate to reach out to your student’s teacher and express concern.

The following questions may provide greater insight into your child’s experience during the school day:

  • With whom does my child interact on a daily basis?
  • Tell me about my child’s peer interactions. Which are going well? Are there any you find concerning?
  • Have you noticed any behavioral changes within my child over the past [days, weeks, months]?
  • What is one thing my child does very well in school, and what is one concern you have for my child.

If you suspect your child is being bullied, beginning dialogue and providing a safe non-judgmental space is the first step in supporting your child. If you have greater concerns, or have information that your child is being bullied, it is important that this be addressed as soon as possible. Reach out to your school, principals, teachers, and notify them of your concerns. Provide your child with support and listen when needed, and if appropriate, provide the access to a licensed mental health provider for additional care.

References:

https://www.stopbullying.gov/at-risk/warning-signs/

http://www.violencepreventionworks.org/public/bullying_warning_signs.page

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!

Social Work

Teaching Your Child To Care

Teaching your child to care for others is an important role that each and every parentgirl caring for friend carries.

Often, people assume that compassion is a born instinct, but it can also be taught. Yes, all people are born with some level of a “caring gene”, just as Babe Ruth was born with a talent to play baseball. However, if Babe Ruth was never introduced to baseball, never taught the rules of the game, never tried to play, then what good would his natural talent have been? Everybody can be taught to feel for others; you just have to start teaching them while they are young and continue teaching them by example!

Here Are Some Tips to Help Your Child Learn To Be More Compassionate:

Start Young

  • Start teaching your child to care for others as soon as they are able to communicate.During play-time, role-play with your baby on dolls. Show them how to hold, hug and care for the doll. Even pretend the doll got hurt and show your baby how to comfort the doll. Playing with your child and a doctor’s kit is another great way to show your child to care for others and how one person makes another feel better.
  • It’s also important to teach your child in the moment. When at the playground or on a play-date and your toddler’s friend falls down or gets hurt, bring it to your toddler’s attention. You can say to your toddler: “Oh no, Joey got hurt, and is very sad. I think it would make him feel better if you gave him a hug”. This will ensure that when your child is in preschool, he or she will more likely be the kid who helps his or her friends instead of running past them when they get hurt.
  • Just as teaching your children to care for those who are hurt physically, it’s equally important to teach your child to be aware of those who get hurt emotionally. Let your child know that it is not okay to hurt other’s feelings. This will prove to be vital when your child is in grade school and Bullying begins.

Lead by Example

  • Parents are the first teacher a child ever has. Everything a parent does, their child is watching, taking notes and learning from. Show your child how to be compassionate. When you see a homeless person on the street, stop and give him/her some spare change. Afterward, explain to your child why you helped that person. How there are people out there less fortunate. Let your child know that there are children who may not have as many toys as your child. Ask your child how it would make them feel to not have all the things he/she has.
  • Often, people get frustrated when they have to pull over to let an ambulance or fire-truck pass by because it delays them to their destination. Instead of getting irritated, say out loud how you hope the ambulance or firemen get there in time to help those in trouble.

Find Local Places to Visit

  • Along with leading by example, you can help your child become caring and compassionate by actually working with those in need. Many nursing homes have programs where you can bring children to come and talk to residents.
  • You can also take your child to a soup kitchen to help serve people in need. Let your child feel good about helping others!
  • Have your child bring a bag of toys to a children’s home to give to less fortunate children. There are plenty of websites that offer information on places and ways you and your child can help. Below are a couple of examples:

 http://www.redcross.org/volunteertime/ and http://www.volunteermatch.org/

So go ahead, turn off your T.V. and video games and go out with your child into the world to make a difference!

I welcome any comments on more opportunities for children to “care”!

Strategies For Smooth Sailing Into Middle School

We are at that time of year-school supply lists, the cooling down of summer, and the fall wardrobe advertisements can only mean one thing: it is “back to school” time! Transitioning back to school can seem overwhelming as it is, but the shift Middle School Boy On Near Lockersfrom elementary to middle school can create unique changes and challenges for students and parents. Knowing what changes to expect, anticipating the challenges they may bring, and brainstorming strategies to address the transition can help children sail smoothly into their middle school years!

Below are some common middle school transition challenges and strategies for smooth sailing.

Middle School Schedule Changes:

One of the biggest schedule changes is the frequent transitioning from class to class during the school day. Transitioning from a summer to school schedule is challenging enough, but adding a school schedule that is completely new can be overwhelming. Your child will experience multiple firsts: first time taking multiple classes; meeting multiple teachers; and navigating between classrooms. These firsts can understandably create anxiety about being on time, going to the right class, and remembering which teacher teaches what! Since starting middle school means starting a new school entirely, another schedule change to anticipate is a different start and end time than what your child is used to.

Middle School Transition Strategies:

  • Talk to your child about her new school schedule for a couple of weeks beforehand so she knows what to expect on the first day.
  • If possible, schedule a visit with the school to familiarize your child with the building and classrooms. Take advantage of new student orientations, and find out where schedules are distributed before school starts. Then, help your child practice going from class to class.
  • Review with your child when her new school will start and end. Listen to any concerns and help come up with a plan to address them. For example, if your child is nervous about getting up on time for an earlier start time, brainstorm ways to tweak bedtime and morning routines so that your child can feel well-rested and ready for school in the morning.

Middle School Peers:

In middle school, your child is likely to see and meet children in her class that attended different elementary schools. This change can create anxieties about whether she will know students in her classes, have friends to eat lunch with, maintain old friendships, or meet new ones. Additionally, new middle schoolers make the transition from being “big fish in a little pond” in their elementary schools to “little fish in a big pond.” Shifting from being the oldest to the youngest students in school can be scary, and your child may have fears about these unknown upperclassmen.

Middle School “Friend” Strategies:

  • Acknowledge the big change in peers. Listen to your child’s fears, concerns, anxieties, and excitements and validate your child’s feelings as normal and okay.
  • Use a buddy system on the first day. Plan for your child to compare schedules with a friend and meet at school on the first day to go through their day together.
  • “Once school starts, create a space for your child to talk openly about her social experiences and listen to your child for any hints of bullying.

Classes and Homework Load:

One of the challenges I hear most is the homework load increase from elementary to middle school. Students have homework from multiple classes with varying due dates, which can create organizational difficulties. They may feel anxious about keeping track of assignments and due dates and feel overwhelmed by the increased work load.

Middle School Homework Strategies:

  • Help organize your child’s school work by creating one binder or multiple binders with a different divider for each class.
  • Use color-coded folders (ex. Blue for science homework, red for math homework, etc) so your child can transport her homework to and from school and keep track of her assignments.
  • Use a planner to write down which classes have assignments due on specific dates. You can teach your child how to use her planner before school starts so that she is not overwhelmed when teachers announce assignments.
  • Check in with your child about homework to see the areas in which your child may struggle. If your child is experiencing difficulties, reach out to teachers about peer tutoring, after-school help, or homework club.

Extra-curricular Activities:

Compared to elementary school, middle school offers many more opportunities to engage in various activities-community service, social clubs, academic clubs, and sports during and after school. These new activities can be very exciting but can also create some scheduling challenges. With an increased homework load, incorporating every activity your child is interested in may interfere with homework, already existing activities, and his sleep and rest!

Middle School Extra-Curricular Activity Strategies:

  • Encourage your child to go to informational meetings to learn about opportunities. You can talk to your child about which activities she is most excited about and help her make a list to prioritize.
  • Flexibility is key-“Why don’t we try soccer and community service club and see how you feel in a few weeks? If we need to take something out or add something, we can.”
  • Creating a visual schedule with your child is a fun way to help her stay organized and accountable for her schedule.

Anticipating the changes and potential challenges that come with middle school can help parents and children work together to ensure a smooth transition!

Please let us know, what transition strategies have you used that have worked?

*North Shore Pediatric Therapy, Inc. (NSPT) intends for responses to the blogs to provide general educational information to the readership of this website; all content and answers to questions should not be understood to be specific advice intended for any particular individual(s). Questions submitted to this blog are not guaranteed to receive responses. No ongoing relationship of any sort (including but not limited to any form of professional relationship) is implied or offered by NSPT to people submitting questions. Always consult with your health professional first before initiating or changing any aspect of your treatment regimen.

How To Notify A Parent About Concerns You Have For a Child In Your Classroom

Teacher In Front Of Classroo Of StudentsThe start of a new school year is associated with many changes for a child’s academic, behavioral, and social functioning.  Teachers are often the first ones to identify concerns regarding a child’s academic, social, or behavioral functioning.  Bringing concerns up to a parent can always be a challenging situation.  Below are several tips that can prove useful for teachers to help identify and bring up concerns with a parent.

5 Tips For Voicing Your Concerns The Right Way

  1. Be confident.  You as a teacher have the most insight in a child’s day to day functioning.  You are able to compare the child’s development to that of the other children in your classroom.  If you suspect that a child is falling behind his or her peers with any domain in your classroom it is important to identify this and bring it up to the parents.
  2. Document.  It is always important to have actual examples to show why you have concern about the child’s performance within the school setting.
  3. Plan.  Have a plan as to what your want to accomplish and how your ultimate goal will be met.  Be specific with your feedback to parents as to what you would expect their child to be doing and also what ideas you have for that child to reach the goal.
  4. Measurable and attainable.  Any goal that you have for a child needs to be measurable and attainable.  If a child was previously standing up and walking around the classroom every 20 minutes, it would not be reasonable to assume that the child can remain seated for a full day of school.
  5. Communication.   After goals are determined and a plan is established it is vital that you and the parents have constant communication in order to ensure that the child has made progress towards the goals that are set.

5 Tips For Easing back into the school year

Another summer has flown by, and a new school year is right around the corner. Parents and children alike are wondering what the new school year will bring. Parents wonder: will my child have tons more homework this year? Will my child meet new friends? Will my child have time for extracurricular activities? Children Children walking to schoolwonder: Will I like my new teacher? Will I get a recess? Who will I eat lunch with? Will I get to ride the bus? Here are some tips on preparing for the school year ahead, so that everyone can have a smooth transition from summer into fall.

1. Map out the route to school

Whether your child is going to walk to school, take the bus, or carpool with friends, both of you will feel more confident in the transportation process if you know where your child is going (e.g. which streets), how they are going to get there (e.g. meet a friend on the corner; turn right at the red fire hydrant etc), and how long it will take. You and your child can take several practice runs at using this route before school actually begins so that you can work out any kinks that may arise.

2.Talk About Changes

Make sure to talk about any changes that may be occurring this year, such as a new teacher, a different classroom, a new school, or a longer school day. By being honest and open with your child, they will be more likely to voice their concerns, and you can then work through these fears right away. You can make a chart with your child, listing “things I am excited for” and “things I am nervous about” or “things that will be different”; focusing on the pros of this new change occurring, and reinforcing that you know change can be difficult and scary, but it will help them to grow and learn.

3. Prepare a homework space

Prepare a personalized study nook or a homework table where your child will be able to have his own space to concentrate and spread out their schoolwork. Help him to find a table and chair combination that promotes a 90 degree angle of the hips, knees, and elbows so that your child has a tall, supportive posture to elicit good postural control and attention to task. Make this area more exciting by allowing your child to hang a bulletin board nearby with a calendar or pictures on it; have a cup full of different pencils/pens/markers for a variety of assignment; or a plastic bin containing a pair of scissors, ruler, markers, glue, highlighters, etc.

4. Plan out lunches

Plan out “special” lunches that your child enjoys by creating a list that can hang on the refrigerator. This will help your child to be involved in her lunch-time meal plan, help to eliminate extra planning time for the “lunch packer” in the morning, and also help parents prepare before making a trip to the grocery store. This list can be broken into different categories, such as “fruits”, “veggies”, “sandwiches”, “snacks” and “desserts” so that your child can learn more about the food pyramid and will be able to help to pick out one item from each category when packing a lunch.

5. Ease into a sleep schedule

Start easing your child into a school schedule by having him go to bed and wake up at similar times he will have to do when school begins in a few weeks. Work together to find activities that help to calm him down and/or wake him up, to use at night to unwind before bed, or in the morning to get the body moving (e.g. a warm bubble bath; reading a book; watching 1 television show; jumping jacks; wheelbarrow walks).

Start The School Year Out Right

A Guide To Meeting With Your Child’s New Education Team

Summer vacation is almost over and the first day of school for many children is on the horizon. The majority of children (and teachers) experience difficulty transitioning from the A Parent and Teacher Meetcarefree days of summer to the rigid structure of school. Children with special needs and learning disabilities are even more likely to exhibit difficulty with the school year. As a parent, it is your duty to advocate for your child in order to ensure that the academic year starts smoothly and that the child’s needs are being met.

I recommend that the parents establish a meeting with the child’s teacher and any ancillary staff that has an impact on his or her academic success (special education teachers, social worker, speech/language therapist, occupational therapist). In addition, it is always recommended that you have your child’s outside therapy team be part of this meeting in order to share information and develop effective strategies. Five specific goals of this initial meeting are listed below:

5 New Teacher Meeting Goals

1. It is important that all individuals working with the child be made aware of the child’s issues as well as what has worked/not worked in the past. It is vital that last year’s teacher have an opportunity to share information with parents about the challenges from the previous year as well as what solutions she has found helpful in the classroom.

2. Any outside therapist needs to be present at the meeting to share how things have been going over the summer. What has the child been working on as part of therapy, what goals were achieved, and what goals were not met. This will help establish expectations for the child.

3. Creation of specific, attainable, and measurable goals is important. If a child is getting out of his seat every five minutes it would not be realistic for his new teacher to expect him to sit for hours on end. We might set up an initial goal so that the child is expected to remain seated for ten minutes. Once that is achieved with regularity we move the goal up to fifteen minutes, and so on.

4. Establish a frequent communication system between parents and teachers. The goal of this is to not bombard teachers with constant emails/phone calls but to be able to have constant communication between all parties so that parents can help organize the daily assignments and ensure that all work is completed.

5. Identify that everyone is on the same team. The goal of this meeting is not to burden the academic staff with more work but to help develop solutions to ensure that the child’s needs are met.

Back To School: Help your child defeat anxiety and go back strong!

Boy going to SchoolHealthy Expression:

Start by helping your child express their worries, fears, problems and more in the comfort of their own home. Give them your undivided attention and find a private space away from siblings if needed. Help them find the correct labels for their feelings, ideally in their own words. Many children enjoy using creative methods of expression (e.g. drawing pictures, writing in journals, creating social stories) while some are able to spell it out while relaxing at bath time or bedtime.

Validate & Empathize

Showing your child that you respect, accept and understand their emotions serves as a big boost to their self-confidence! Sometimes this is enough to give your child the relief they are seeking. All feelings should be accepted (but not necessarily all behaviors that are often associated with negative feelings). Rather than reassuring them that you will keep them safe, let them know that yes, these things are scary and you hear their true feelings. Let them feel your belief in them—how proud, positive and excited you are! Read more