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How to Use Visual Supports to Promote Structure, Routine and Transitions

first-then-board

First-then board used in therapy.

Many children require structure and routine within their day to help promote their ability to engage in daily activities, shift from one task to another and engage in learning. Visual supports can help promote and establish structure and routine in various environments including the home and school. Visual supports also allow children to anticipate what is expected of them. They help increase their ability to initiate and participate in daily activities and routines.

Try these visual supports at home or in school:

Visual Schedules: Visual schedules can be pictorial, written or both. You can display pictures representing each of the activities your child is expected to complete on a Velcro strip in sequential order. When each task is completed, your child can remove the picture from the Velcro strip and place it in an “all done” pocket of the visual or an “all done” container. You can also write the name of each task and/or draw a picture to represent the task on a dry erase board and have your child either cross off or erase each task upon its completion. Have your child engage and assist in the development of the visual schedule (e.g. assist in drawing the pictures that represent each task) and review the schedule prior to its use.

First-Then Boards: First-then boards encourage compliance and follow through for challenging and non-preferred tasks. You can place a picture of the less preferred task first with an arrow towards the more preferred task, to motive your child to engage in all activities.

countdown-board

Countdown board created by Sima.

Countdown Boards: Countdown boards allow your child to see how many times he or she has to complete a task. For example, if your child has to throw a ball 5 times, draw a circle 5 times, or place a puzzle piece 5 times and you can have him or her remove a number off the countdown board after each time the task is carried out.

These three visual supports can not only increase your child’s engagement in daily activities, but they can also make transitioning from one task or activity to another much smoother. They can be implemented in various environments and can easily be transported throughout the community.

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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10 Tips for a Positive, Fun and Confident Transition Back to School

The next few weeks are full of big and exciting changes! Back-to-school time can be full of fun and excitement, but also can bring up worries and nervous feelings. It is normal for children to Blog-School-10Tips-Main-Landscapeexperience sadness, worry or feel unsure as they embark on new classrooms, new friends, and new experiences. With support and help to manage their emotions, young children can be successful and experience delight and fun in their new adventures.

Teachers work hard to provide children with the support and encouragement for a smooth and positive back to school transition and help to build comfort and confidence at school.

Parents and families can continue the support and encouragement at home to help their child feel successful and happy as they head back to school with the following 10 tips:

  1. Talk through the steps of a new situation so children can know what to expect and can feel prepared. It also allows you to see how they might be feeling about it. Children don’t need to repeat it or have a long conversation about it, just the basics on what to expect can help.

Talk about, draw or write down the steps to a new experience (even if your child isn’t reading yet), visuals provide a concrete guide that children like to follow. It is helpful to talk during a calm moment the night before, during meal time, or earlier in the day. Provide the steps clearly and concisely and let them know what you expect.

Talk about specifics that are new like car line and drop off. Talk through the steps of car line. “First we will pull up in line with the other cars, we will wait our turn, I will let you know when it’s time and then a teacher will come to the car door to walk you into school. We will wave goodbye and you will walk safely and calmly into school.” Provide specific cues on what you would like to see from your child.

  1. Practice! Children love to move and be independent. Physically practicing a new task gives them the confidence to do it on their own when it’s time.

Take a walk up the stairs and let them show you their new classroom. Give the children the opportunity to be the leader and teach you all about the new classroom, materials or a new rule. Walk through the front door or observe older friends during car line together.

  1. Acknowledge their feelings and listen to their thoughts and worries. We often don’t experience just one emotion around new experiences and they are all normal and okay! Remember to acknowledge, not fix.

Let them know you understand: I know it can be sad to say goodbye to your teacher and friends.  Share a time you felt nervous at doing something new. Children love to hear about adult feelings and know that you have different feelings too!

  1. Be encouraging and show confidence that they will be okay! Children take their cues from adults so our ability to manage our emotions and stay calm and positive is important.

A calming hand on a shoulder, practicing three deep breaths together to be calm, noticing our own body and actively trying to relax, and being consistent with the drop-off will model calm, consistency and confidence for your child.

  1. Consider a routine or ritual that can support a positive drop off.

Listen or sing the same song daily or have a special goodbye high-five upon arrival. Allow these moments to help cue to children that it is time to say goodbye.

  1. Make a calendar together that shows what day school starts.

Children can mark off the days with X’s or stickers to feel prepared and know what to expect.

  1. Share a plan for after school or when you get home so that your child can predict the end of the day. Knowing that they will have special time with you will allow children to feel safe and secure, to explore, and work hard at school.

Have a special after school activity planned on the first day like walking to the park, eating a favorite meal together or getting in PJs right after school to relax and watch a movie.

  1. Take time for quiet time or special moments and extra hugs leading up to the new school year and as they adjust to their new routine and schedule.

Plan for a fun snack together outside or listen to calming music in the car ride home.

  1. Anticipate that there will be upsets and tiredness. Transitions are hard for everyone. Young children are working hard to regulate and focus to meet the expectations of their new classrooms and get to know the rules. This takes a lot of work and often results in upsets and tiredness at home. Be patient and flexible.

Just like we may want to come home and relax on the couch after a hard day, children may need a little more time, support, and understanding to manage expectations and emotions they are experiencing during big transitions. Offer help to complete a task rather than another verbal reminder. Allow extra time to get ready in the morning or to get ready for bed. Slowing down and supporting will allow for a positive, peaceful transition for all.

  1. Focus on familiar routines and consistency at home. Stick to a morning and bedtime routine as best as you can (even if you have been able to move away from it over the summer or as they got bigger). Routine and rituals provide children with a sense of stability and safety so they can go out and explore their world with confidence!

Bring back that favorite book and read it nightly or add in time where each family member shares a feeling or experience from their day over dinner or before bed.

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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Up Up and Move Away with Kids!

Moving is already a stressful process without adding children into the equation.family moving day

Here is a list of life-saving tips that may help to ease both you and your children throughout the transition!

  • Before the move, start preparing the children by showing them books about moving to a new home. Show them pictures of the new city, the schools, the playground, the pool, etc. You should also discuss any feelings that the children may have regarding the move.
  • The day before the move, make sure the children have enough sleep.  Tired children will make the moving experience much more difficult for the entire family.
  • During the day of the move, have a backpack ready for each child that includes music, books, activities and additional batteries to keep them busy throughout the day.  Remember to pack snacks as well as the day will become quite busy. Hungry kids =cranky kids
  • Take a log of pictures of the entire experience, from packing and moving days to the first few weeks og living in the new house.  Make the experience very exciting!
  • Once you arrive at your new home, remember the needs of your children. You are bound to encounter issues that will most likely exhaust you. Consider hiring a babysitter for the first few days of the transition. An extra adult to have around will be able to give your children the attention they need while you are packing and unpacking.
  • Plan to take a day off from everything once you are finished with the move. This will allow the family to reconnect and recharge.

If your child is in therapy, ask your therapists for home program information so that you may continue the therapy on a daily basis.

Enjoy your new home!

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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).

Summer is Moving Time: How To Make Moving Easier For Your Children

Family On Moving Day With BoxesSummer is a big transition time for many families and moving is often at the top of the list. There is always trepidation about moving, especially when you have children. It does not matter if you are moving across town, to another city or to another part of the world; it can all be very stressful. I personally have moved my family seven times since my husband is a Navy Chaplain and these are some tricks I have learned to make moving an easier experience for your child.

Tips for Making A Move Easier On Your Child

  •  Try not to make any big changes during the transition– don’t work on cessation of thumb sucking, potty training, or change sleeping habits. Try to keep everything status quo if you can.
  • Focus on pre- packing rooms that the children do not use much. Plan on having
    their rooms packed last so they feel somewhat protected from the chaos.
  • It helps to have a “safe” suitcase of special possessions that your child wants to take along on the move. It can include pictures, stuffed animals, and clothes, but whatever is in that suitcase will stay near your child and is not packed in a box to be sent on the moving truck.
  • Plan on having a trusted friend, relative or neighbor keep children during the actual pack out day so they are not in the “frenzy” of moving day. It is difficult for children to see strangers in the house putting everything into boxes. You will also have a much better and focused moving day experience if you do not have to do tasks such as preparing food etc. and split your attention between your children’s daily needs and the moving tasks at hand.
  • If you have hired packers, make the request to have them leave by to 7-8pm. Once they leave you will be able to resume some normal evening activities and the children will have a sense of privacy and some processing time before bed. Stick with their normal routine as much as possible and normal bedtime so you can have a few minutes at the end of the day as well.
  • For our moves, I stashed little gifts in their “safe suitcase” so they could open them when we got to our destination or as we traveled. They looked forward each day to the gift they could open. I also kept a calendar handy that had pictures drawn on it so they could keep track of the days and how we might get to our destination.
  • Keep a picture of the house you are leaving and the place you are moving posted so they can see where they are going. When appropriate, talk about how things will be when they get there. What will your room look like? Will you be sharing a room now or be alone? What will you see from your window?
  • It also helps to use the preprinted books about moving so kids can talk about their feelings. You might be surprised how they open up and share what they are thinking and feeling. It is good to discover and dispel any bad feelings as they come up.

In all things try to stay calm because your children will draw from your strength and attitude and they will watch how you handle the changes. The whole moving process will be much better with a little planning and preparation!

Have you experienced a move with children? Please share any stories, tips or tricks! Leave a comment below.

Quick Tips For A Smoother Transition Into A Summer Schedule

Fun Family SummerMany children perform best when they follow a schedule and have a consistent routine. School is coming to an end and summer is approaching, which also translates to a less structured schedule and, potentially, a less productive day. Here are a few suggestions to make the most out of your summer routine:

Visual Schedules:

• At school, many children follow a picture schedule that lets them know what activities they will be participating in that day. Summer is a great time to let kids be kids and allow them to learn through play and gain independence while choosing what toys and activities they want to do on a daily basis. If your child craves predictability and struggles with transitions, try making a summer picture book. Take pictures of your child’s toys, games, books, and places they enjoy playing (backyard, park, pool, etc.) and allow them to create their own plan for the day.

Play Dates:

• Play dates with peers are a great summertime activity. Be sure to swap information with the parents of your child’s friends at school before the end of the year. Children learn a lot through playing together, including skills such as negotiating, compromise, taking turns, communication and imaginative play. Read more