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!
Performing Arts programs provide an excellent avenue to encourage speech and language skills in children. Learning happens best during fun and engaging multisensory experiences, such as acting out a story, dancing to music, or singing a new song. Through performing arts programs, children gain opportunities to socialize with other children, follow directions, engage in pretend-play, further develop creativity and imagination, build narrative language skills and cultivate expressive language skills. This blog highlights 5 top performing arts programs in the Chicago area for children of all ages, including a program designed for children on the Autism spectrum.
5 Top Performing Arts Programs in Chicago for Speech and Language Development:
- Dream Big Performing Arts Workshop: Dream Big offers a variety of performing arts camps and classes for children ages 2 through 18. Classes encourage children to explore dramatic play, creative movement, music, team-work, self-expression and creativity while having fun singing, dancing, and playing games. Classes are separated by ages: “Spotlighters” (2 years), “Mini Showstoppers” (3-5 and 4-6 years), “Moving Stories” and “Creative Drama” (3-5, 5-7 years). Programs also include customized, age-appropriate parties that include singing, dancing, theatre games and other drama fun! Read more
Swimming was always one of my favorite activities as a child, which is why so many of my childhood memories from my 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!
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 therapeutic 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:
- Potty training
- Executive function skills
- Bike riding
- Lunchtime fears or anxiety
- Comfort on playground equipment
- Speech intelligibility
- Improving social skills
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!
Camp should be a fun summer experience that all kids can enjoy. Sending your child to summer camp with new people 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
Though the Chicago winter months bring cold, snow and gloomy days, swimming continues to be a great activity for the family, albeit indoors. Swimming offers many benefits for children, including enhancing sensory processing, strength, endurance and coordination. A common concern among families with whom I work with is that their child does not like dipping their face in the water, which impacts the child’s swimming experience.
These strategies aim to assist parents that are working with their child to feel comfortable with dipping their face in the water during bath time, as practice for the swimming pool:
- Play “Simon Says” by indicating different body parts that should dip into the water. For example, “Simon says put your nose in the water” or “Simon says put your ear in the water.”
- Blow bubbles in the water using a straw. When your child feels comfortable with this, remove the straw and have them blow bubbles with their lips touching the water.
- Soak a washcloth in water and have your child wring it out over various parts of their body (hand, ear, mouth, etc). Allow your child to wring out the washcloth over your body as well.
Try playing these bath time games for several weeks and slowly introduce placing their whole face into the water. These activities will help your child feel more comfortable with putting their face in the water, one body part at a time.
Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) often present concerns interacting with peers and maintaining appropriate social relationships. These children often present appropriate social skill sets; however, issues with inattention and impulsiveness directly impact their ability to execute these skills on a regular basis.
Below are five strategies to help improve the social interaction of these children:
- Keep social situations limited to one or two peers as opposed to having them interact with a large group in which the child will likely become easily distracted.
- Try to modify the environment in which the social interaction is going to happen. Situations in which there are many distractions will likely set the child up for an uncomfortable situation.
- If the parent or teacher is in close proximity of the interaction, attempt to actively intervene in situations in which the child is not engaging with peers appropriately.
- Before the social interaction occurs, remind the child about the importance of taking turns, eye contact, personal space, etc.
- If the interaction occurred at a friend’s house, follow-up with the other parent afterwards and discuss the interaction. Use the feedback as a means of providing insight to the child about what was positive about the interaction and what he or she will need to improve upon in the future.
Many children with attention and impulsive behaviors exhibit social interaction issues. They have a difficult time regulating personal space and picking up nuances in social interactions. Above are some basic tips that parents and teachers should implement in order to help improve their child’s social relations. If the child continues to struggle with social interaction, it is recommended that he or she work with a behaviorally-trained social worker as an individual or in a group format to help develop the child’s social skills.
School breaks can be a fun and exciting time for children, but they may be chaotic, stressful and dysregulating for them as well. The school day is full of structure and predictability. While some kids may enjoy the continuous free time that vacations offer, other children may thrive during the school year and may regress academically, behaviorally and in their overall daily functioning and independence.
Here are some suggestions to help your child stay happy and continue to feel great during vacations from school:
- Create a Daily Schedule: Outline a basic daily schedule for your child to follow. This can include an early time for them to wake-up, any household responsibilities they may have and activities that are planned for that day (grocery store, mall, movie theater, etc). Depending upon the age of your child, you may want to include precise times for the day. Pictures of the basic plan may be sufficient. This provides a level of predictability
and structure that your child is accustomed to during a typical school day.
- Provide responsibilities: Assigning your child specific responsibilities will give them a tangible task to not only be responsible for, but something they can also be proud of as well. It will also be a way for them to feel successful. When children are in school, they often have a classroom “job” as well as being responsible for their individual belongings. This helps them to improve their confidence and feelings of success and pride throughout the day. These feelings can easily be transferred to the home environment by assigning household chores (cleaning or organizing) For older children, writing the grocery list and having them help at the market are acceptable responsibilities.
- Physical activity: Participating in heavy physical activity is a great way to help your child get and remain regulated. The school day offers multiple opportunities for kids to get up and move their bodies (recess, gym class, etc.). It can be simple to incorporate physical activity into your child’s day:
- Animal walks
- Push a full laundry basket around the house (to make it more fun setup a race course to push the laundry basket through)
- Jumping jacks
- Provide assignments/projects: Kids are accustomed to sitting at a desk and completing assignments each day that they are in school. They are given the opportunity to learn new information and then show what they know through their work sheets, quizzes and projects. This is another great structured activity that can also improve self-esteem and confidence in your child. A simple way to get assignments or projects for your child is to ask their teacher for any worksheets or ideas of tasks that can be done at home (worksheets, flash cards, reading). You can also incorporate more hands-on activities such as cooking, easy at-home science experiments, etc. If your child’s teacher does not have anything to help you, you can search the Internet for age/grade-appropriate projects and assignments.
- Projects (younger kids vs older kids) cooking, art, science
Are we there yet? Are we there yet? How much longer? Are these commonly heard phrases in your car? It’s summertime and a road trip is just around the corner.
Learn 5 activities for car rides that are not only fun, but a great way to encourage language skills on the go!
- I Spy: “I spy with my little eye…” Use this game to target the following skills:
- Story Time: Making up silly stories can make for a fun ride! Ask your child to make up a story using ideas, activities, or characters he sees out the window. Be sure the story follows an appropriate sequence of events. This activity can also be a team game. Each person in the family takes turns adding a sentence to the story!
- Camping Trip: This is a game to get the whole family involved in your child’s language development. The game begins with one person saying, “I went on a camping trip and I brought…” The frist person states an item that begins with the letter A (apple). The following family member repeats the phrase and adds his own item beginning with the letter B (“I went on a camping trip and I brought an apple and a bouncy ball”). See how far down the alphabet you can get while you target auditory memory, attention, and phonemic awareness!
- Clue: This game is great for targeting receptive and expressive language!
- Receptive Language: Tell your child you are thinking of an object. Provide “clues” (function of the object, category, attributes, etc.) to help them figure it out!
- Expressive Language: Now it is your child’s turn! Let your child provide you with clues and see if you can figure out what object he is thinking of.
- Rhyme: It is rhyme time! Take turns picking a word. Work together or make it a race to see who can find the most objects outside the car that rhyme with the chosen word!
Camp counselors have their work cut out for them- they have to plan daily activities, monitor the safety of the campers, be a cheerleader to encourage the campers throughout the day, and be a referee to teach the campers sportsmanship, turn taking, and following the rules. However, they are also the best advocates for the campers, as they can observe the strengths and weaknesses of each child, and can talk with the campers’ parents about what they notice throughout the day. Below is a list of some of the many signs indicating a child may benefit from working with an occupational therapist:
10 signs at camp that a child can benefit from occupational therapy:
- The child has difficulty following directions, either auditory and/or written, in order to engage in an activity. For example, first get the soccer ball, and then sit in the grass.
- The child shows aversion to different textures (e.g. grass; sunscreen; finger paint; tags in clothing).
- The child demonstrates decreased sportsmanship with peers, such as having a hard time losing, or a hard time with turn-taking.
- The child demonstrates decreased body awareness, such as being unaware of having personal space with peers (e.g. sitting/standing too closely to others), or moves too quickly or unsafely around his environment (e.g. trips often, bumps into things).
- The child demonstrates decreased hand-eye coordination and motor planning compared to same aged peers, such as difficulty with simple ball skills or basic swimming skills.
- The child has difficulty transitioning, such as a hard time with drop-off in the morning or with leaving at the end of the day. Similarly, the child may demonstrate difficulty transitioning between activities throughout the day.
- The child has decreased postural control, which might be noted by having a hard time maintaining an erect posture during tabletop tasks (e.g. leaning/propping/fidgeting) or has a hard time lying in prone on his belly.
- The child demonstrates picky eating during snack time or mealtime (e.g. only eats hot or cold foods; will only eat a few select food choices; only likes salty/sweet).
- The child has decreased attention compared to same aged peers, noted by jumping from one activity to the next without spending much time at each activity; or noted by distractibility and looking around to notice others in the room.
- The child has difficulty with handwriting/drawing/crafts compared to same aged peers (e.g. does not know how to hold writing utensil correctly; cannot draw a person with correct parts).
If any of the signs above apply to your child, he would definitely benefit from an occupational therapy evaluation and most likely ongoing occupational therapy (OT) sessions. OT sessions can help your child to gain more confidence for his fine motor and gross motor skills, body awareness, and other age appropriate activities. The goal is to help your child to keep up with same aged peers and expectations he is required to meet at home, at school, and within the community, so that he can have the greatest success.