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Transitioning from the Summer Months to the Academic School Year

Being home with my family last week meant spending a day with my 7-year old niece. I got to spend a hazy summer day snuggling and watching the latest Disney movies, playing with dolls, and completing an imaginative writing story. I would say my day was spent very well- a quintessential summer day!

As you sit and reminisce about the busy, sun soaked, laughter filled days, it is hard to imagine that summer is almost over. Many teachers are converting their summer schedules into school schedules and planning for the return of excited children.

You, as a parent, can also prepare yourself and your children for the return to school with these suggestions:

  1. Create a routine: Summer days can be filled with play dates, outings to local events, or dayTransition from Summer to School camp. However, setting your child up with a schedule for a month to two-weeks prior to the first day of school can be beneficial to establish responsibilities and a sense of time. Reset bed times and establish meal times that would mimic the meal times of the school year. Practice these routines on the weekends as well. Responsibilities that mimic “homework time” should be implemented in the evening routine- a simple writing task, quiet reading time, or a few worksheets to complete. (education.com provides a multitude of academic worksheets for all academic grades)
  2. Try to discourage day naps: Napping in the day, especially after school, can result in the establishment of inefficient sleep patterns. Typically, naps are phased out of the daily routine by the age of 5. Napping after school disrupts the nighttime routine by allowing a child to push off her fatigue, leading to alertness at inappropriate hours of the night. Establish a sleep/wake cycle prior to the start of school. This can also be encouraged with the simultaneous use of responsibilities and homework time that comes with a school year routine.
  3. For the first time first-grader: First grade is a lot of firsts! It is, in some cases, the start of a full day school schedule that is 5 days a week. It is also the first time you are leaving your child for such an extended period of time. If your child seems to experiencing “first day jitters”, validate them and establish a game-plan to address these concerns:

Create a special good-bye ritual. It can be a special hand shake, an extra tight hug, or a cool phrase. The good-bye ritual can become a part of the routine, signaling that it is ok to say bye to you and transition into school.

-Allow plenty of time to eat breakfast and get dressed. A time constraint with getting ready can lead to emotional distress. If your child requires an extra 5 minutes for socks, allow him this time, whether it be to wake up five minutes earlier or reduce “free time” in the morning.

-Allow your child to pick what he/she wants to wear to school. That little bit of independence in their day can provide essential learning opportunities for roles and responsibilities. Also, her attire should make her feel cool and special!

  1. Set-up a visit day: Do a trial run of the school atmosphere prior to the first day of school. This is a great opportunity to become familiar with the classroom, learn how to navigate to the gym, library or bathroom, and personalize your child’s cubby space/locker.
  2. Keep new hobbies going: Summer is an opportune time for a child to establish new likes and hobbies. Continue to encourage learning and refinement of newly learned skills through after school clubs, extra classes or community resources.

As much as your child loved summer vacation, she will love returning to school to see her friends on a daily basis. Help to build this excitement with discussion of what to expect at school this coming year and a fun count down!

Click here for tips on how to beat the back to school blues!

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!

 

separation anxiety

Separation Anxiety and the Young Child

 

 

 

Children can encounter many different types of anxieties and fears as they go through early childhood. Separation anxiety is one of these types of fears.

As children enter into preschool and begin the transition into kindergarten, they may begin to have fears about growing up, being away from their parents and losing their parents. It can be very typical for children between the ages of 4 and 6 to start verbalizing and expressing these fears. This age is a time of increased independence and transitions which can lead to increased anxiety for many children. Here are some strategies to help your child deal with these concerns:

Strategies for Managing Separation Anxiety in the Young Child:

  • Empathize with your child and to let them know that you are his/her forever family.
  • Let your child know that they are not alone and that many children have these same concerns and fears.
  • Avoid giving too much reassurance to your child because this can lead to increased anxiety and dependence on you.
  • Use books as a resource. Books that focus on transitions and feelings can be very helpful at this age. The Invisible String by Patrice Karst, The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn and Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney are great books to use to help ease transitions and to reduce the fears of being separated from parents.

If you notice that your child exhibits worries and fears about growing up and losing his parents and these fears do not subside within several weeks, it is recommended that you seek advice from a mental health professional in order to identify if your child needs assistance from someone to reduce their fears.






Child with iPad

Tips To Improve Transitions

“The only constant in life is change” – Heraclitus

Does your child struggle with ending activities, trying new things, or engaging in non-preferred tasks/demands? Transitions can be difficult especially when a child is not expecting the change. Advanced preparation, knowledge of perceived consequences, and balanced thinking can all aid in smoother transitions and overall compliance with directives.

Plan Ahead

Whether your child is anticipating a new ballet class or only has 20 minutes for the iPad, providing your child with clear expectations will help them transition. Having a conversation with your child a couple weeks in advance to identify any worries or fears regarding the new class, as well as identifying the positives, can help the child feel more in control and ready for something that doesn’t seem so “new.” Visiting the space, meeting the staff, and purchasing cute leotards can all challenge negative thinking and help the child view this new task as positive and familiar. In the event of transitioning from one activity to another, using a visual clock or kitchen timer as well as periodic reminders can assist your child in preparation to leave the iPad when it’s time.

Easier said than done…

Help your child create more balanced thinking by incorporating cognitive flexibility skills so they don’t feel like the world is over when you take away their preferred item.

Problem solving: help your child to come up other alternative solutions to the problem.

Ex: “When the iPad is over we can identify another time either later today or tomorrow you can use it” or identify another fun thing you can do if the iPad is not a choice (i.e. reading, TV, coloring).

Identify the positives in what will come next.

Ex: “I’m hungry for dinner, glad that’s now”, “going to the dentist so my teeth can be clean and healthy.”

Identify the size and severity of problem.

Ex:  “Getting off iPad is a small problem compared to getting sick and missing my birthday party or a highly anticipated concert or baseball game.”

Have your child evaluate the potential consequences of their actions.

Ex:  “If you don’t get off when I ask, what will happen…”

“I will lose dessert, I won’t be able to go on iPad the rest of the week. I might miss sleepover this weekend.”

Encouraging your child to evaluate the consequence of their choice prior to action and to engage in cognitive flexibility skills can aid your child in a smoother transition.






 

 

 

What to Do When All You Hear is “No” from your Toddler

It happens all too often.  We spend every minute teaching toddlers to talk and once they do, we can’t get them to stop! Around age one, first words will appear, just in time for toddlers to learn to express their opinions. The word “no” is often one of the first to be acquired and used by this age group.

If you are hearing “no” from your toddler more than you would like, keep this in mind.  First, as difficult as it may be to always hear “no” from someone so small, toddlers should be able to say no in acceptable ways. This is a critical step to learning independence and working collaboratively with others. Secondly, try to see things from your toddler’s perspective; assess WHY he is saying no. It could be he is tired, hungry or not feeling well.  Maybe he is just crabby (it happens to adults, right?). On the other hand, your toddler may be saying “no” because he is nervous or uncomfortable.  Or your toddler may be exerting independence and refusing simply because he can. To hear “no” from your toddler less frequently, try to address the situation first (i.e., give a snack, introduce the stranger, or allow time to adjust to new changes).   Read on for more ways to hear fewer “nos” from your little one. Read more

Tips to Integrate Children with Autism into Day Camp

Camp should be a fun summer experience that all kids can enjoy.  Sending your child to summer camp with new peopleautism and a new routine can be a scary thought for most kids.  The difficulty of this transition is much more pronounced for kids with autism.  There are ways to make this transition easier on kids with autism, so they don’t miss out on this fun, childhood experience.

Tips to transition to a camp setting for kids with autism:

  • Meet the counselors, staff and new teachers before the program begins.
  • Let the counselors, staff and new teachers know to what your child best responds, for example, first/then sentences, praise, or certain words.
  • Explain any “triggers” that may cause your child with autism to have a tantrum.
  • Take a tour of the facilities with your child before you send him for his first day.
  • Show your child a schedule of what his day will look like at camp so he is not surprised.
  • Read your child a social story about camp, following directions, and making friends. Read more

How To Avoid Anxiety As School Ends

The school year is in winding down and classes are becoming less structured on lessons and more focused on summer, end-of-the-year anxious childparties, and outdoor days. This time can be very exciting and fun, however it may also feel chaotic, unpredictable, and even sad for some children; children who are uncomfortable with change, children who have had a very successful school year and may anticipate a new school year with upsets, and children who may be switching schools for varying reasons.

The following are tips to help prepare your child for the inevitable end-of-the-school-year:

  1. Let your child know that it is OKAY that he/she feels this way, and that you understand. Normalizing and validating their feelings about the uncertain time ahead will hopefully take away any additional unpleasant emotions they are feeling, such as embarrassed or ashamed of themselves for Read more

Making School Day Routines Easier with a Schedule

With school in session, it is important to solidify those morning, after school, and nighttime routines.  Using schedules provides predictability, encourages independence, and aids in transitions with your child.

Mother and daughter planning a schedule

Here are some quick tips to help make morning and nighttime routines easier with a schedule:

Types of Schedules:

A schedule can be created for any routine, such as bathroom, dressing, leaving for school, or after school routines.  For example, “Eat breakfast, brush teeth, and grab backpack” can be used for a morning routine, or “Eat snack, do homework, have 20 minutes of free time” could be used for an after school routine.

Location of the schedule:

Schedules should be placed where they are most accessible to your child.  If you are trying to promote independence while dressing, place a schedule on your child’s closet or dresser.  Bathroom schedules can be placed on a mirror, and morning/after school schedules can be placed on the refrigerator or door.

Using Pictures:

Pictures are great visuals for younger children or children who have difficulty understanding spoken language. Pictures can be drawn on a dry erase board or mirror, found on a computer (i.e., Google images), or cut out from a magazine.

Including your child:

Encouraging your child to help create his or her own schedule will increase comprehension and motivation for the responsibilities.  It is important to complete schedules before the routine begins.  For example, morning and after school schedules should be completed the night before.  Night schedules could be completed before dinner.  Your child should manipulate his or her schedule by moving pictures from the “to do” to the “all done” pile, or crossing off written tasks.

Flexibility:

Having some flexibility with your child’s schedule is okay, as long as the schedule is set before the routine begins and the arranged schedule is followed.  Rearranging the sequence of tasks, giving your child choices, and introducing new activities allow for flexibility within schedules.

Setting routines and implementing schedules should help make life a little easier.  If you have any suggestions that make your morning, afternoon, and nighttime routines easier, please share them below.

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3 Transition Helpers For Children | Pediatric Therapy Tv

In today’s webisode, a Pediatric Occupational Therapist gives us tips on 3 different ways to help a child transition from one activity to another. Click here to read a blog about transitions and routines:

 In This Video You Will Learn:

  • How to best prepare your child for a transition
  • Why timers can help your child transition from one activity to the next
  • How a visual schedule can help your child who has difficulty with transitioning

Video Transcription:

Announcer: From Chicago’s leading experts in pediatrics to a worldwide
audience, this is Pediatric Therapy TV, where we provide experience and
innovation to maximize your child’s potential. Now your host, here’s Robyn.

Robyn: Hello and welcome to Pediatric Therapy TV. I’m your host, Robyn
Ackerman.

Today I am standing with Lindsey Miller, a pediatric
occupational therapist. Lindsey, a question I hear all the time
from parents is what are some ideas to help a child transition
better from one activity to another or one class to another?

Lindsey: Transitions can be really tricky times for children because
sometimes they don’t understand the time limits for certain
activities and sometimes it’s difficult for them to abruptly
change from one activity to the next.

One good option is to use a timer. With a timer, you can set it
for about 10 or 15 minutes and tell your child, “You can play
your toy for 10 minutes, and when the buzzer goes off it’s time
to go wash up for dinner.” They already know that when the
buzzer goes off it’s time for them to stop what they’re doing
and then move on to the next activity.

The other option I have is the use of a visual schedule. This is
really good for children because they can see what their day
looks like. You can get pictures from the Internet or pictures
from things around the house such as doing your homework,
dinnertime, playtime, bath time, and time for bed. The child can
refer to the schedule when it’s time to do the next activity.
When they’re done with their homework they can take off the
picture of the homework and set it aside, and they already know
that the next thing they’re going to do is go to dinner.

The last thing is giving your child a verbal warning for what’s
about to happen. If they’re playing a video game you can say,
“Ten more minutes and we’re going to go wash up for dinner.”
Then remind them again at five minutes, saying, “Five more
minutes and then it’s time to wash up for dinner.” Then remind
them at three minutes and at one minute, and then you can say,
“All right. It’s time to be done. We’re going to go wash up
now.” They already know what they’re supposed to do next.

Robyn: It seems what really helps children is knowing and having that
expectation that something is about to end and something else is
going to begin.

Lindsey: Exactly.

Robyn: Great. Thank you so much, and thank you for bringing the
visuals as well. It’s very helpful. Thank you to our viewers,
and remember, keep on blossoming.

Announcer: This has been Pediatric Therapy TV, where we bring peace of
mind to your family with the best in educational programming. To
subscribe to our broadcast, read our blogs, or learn more, visit
our website at LearnMore.me. That’s LearnMore.me.

How To Help Your Child Adjust To A New Routine, Classmates Or Classroom

We all know children respond best to routine and schedules, but it is also very important to teach your child to be flexible with change. Throughout a child’s life they will be placed in new situations and they will frequently find themselves having to change their routine and schedules, there is no avoiding it! There are ways to make it easier for your child so they can adjust to change and learn to be flexible.

Tips to Help Your Child Adjust to a New Routine

The Earlier the Better:

Start introducing your child to change as soon as you can! The more exposure they have to it, the better equipped they will be at handling it appropriately and effectively. If your child is used to change, it won’t be a big deal when it occurs in everyday life.

Plan For Positive Changes:

Pair changes with good outcomes as frequently as you can! You want to make sure you don’t allow your child to think that change results in a negative outcome. Create changes from time to time so your child is used to it and make sure that the change results in something that may be more fun or exciting. As much as we wish this were always the case, there will be times you have no control and that is why it is important to create situations that allow change to be a good thing, rather than a bad. This way if there happens to be a situation that leads to a negative outcome your child won’t always correlate change with bad.

Create Schedules:

Always create a schedule with them that emphasizes exactly what their new routine or schedule will look like. This allows the child to know in advance what they will be doing and reduces some of the anxiety they may be feeling of not knowing.

Plan New Play-dates:

If your child is meeting new classmates, create a little get together in advance so your child has the chance to meet them in a comfortable, familiar setting such as their home or a familiar park. This again will reduce some anxiety of meeting new people in a new place. The idea is to familiarize your child with as much as you can in a comfortable setting to avoid overwhelming them too much.

Visit The School:

If your child is going to a new classroom, set up visits to the school so they can visit the classroom and teacher a few times before school starts. This will familiarize him with the school and classroom so they can focus on making new friends, rather than learning where they are.

Practice New Routines:

If you are changing a routine, walk through all of the steps involved in the routine ahead of time so your child is prepared. For example, if your child is going to start taking the school bus as their routine to go to school, set them on a schedule to be ready for the bus a week before school starts and practice with them what it will be like to take the bus. For example, review where the bus will pick your child up, drop them off, etc. This will create a sense of comfort for your child to know what the expectations are in the new routine. If necessary, create a little checklist for your child that consists of each step in the routine. This will increase their independence with the routine as well as their confidence in completing it.

 

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.