Create a ‘Fidget’ to Help Your Child Focus This School Year

Markers. Crayons. Pencils. Book-bag. Pens. Glue. Ruler. Scissors. Calculator. Folders. Tennis Shoes. 3-Ring Binder. Notebooks. Etc. The “Back-to-School Checklist” seems to grow longer and longer each year. However, there is one useful item that often does not appear on this list which can help your child to stay focused throughout the ups and downs of the school day.   This item is known as a fidget.

As your child picks, pushes and squeezes his fidget, it will be provide his fingers, hands, and wrists with proprioceptive input. This input is extremely regulating for a lot of children, which can help them to stay focused during class.  Read on for simple instructions to make your own fidget at home.

Simple instructions to make your very own fidget:

  1. Encourage your child to choose his favorite colored balloon.
  2. Use a funnel to fill the balloon with rice or sand so that it is about the size of a baseball.
  3. Tie the balloon’s end into a knot.
  4. With markers, encourage your child to decorate his new fidget as desired. Read more

Helping Your Client to Optimally Attend: Advice for Pediatric Therapists

“Show me you’re ready!” As a Pediatric Occupational Therapist, I can’t even begin to guess how many times this utterance is repeatedchild attending throughout my day in the therapy gym. While I’m sure that my clients think I sound like a broken record, the bottom line is that if they’re not ready to pay attention, they’re not going to learn what I’m teaching.  What does it look like when a client is ready to attend?  Here are three important ways for young clients to show you, their therapist, they are ready to work and learn.

Three Tips to Gain Maximum Attention from Pediatric Therapy Clients:

  1. Ready Body: The body is still and facing the person who is speaking. It is not jumping, running, or facing other areas of the room. Read more

Q and A: Gender Differences in ADHD

Recently we highlighted a study that suggested that diagnosis rates of ADHD differed in children of different races.  Today’s blog points out the differences in symptoms and diagnosis rates between genders. ADHD

Now, more than ever, researchers are uncovering tangible evidence to explain the differences in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) symptoms among boys and girls.  With accumulating data, we are better equipped to understand the neurobiology of these developing boys and girls, refine assessment, and focus on treatment.

Q & A | Gender Differences in ADHD:

Q: Are boys, in fact, more likely to have ADHD? 

A: The ratio of ADHD in boys to girls is relatively equal, with reliable reports ranging between 2:1 (CDC, 2011) and 1:1 (Froehlich, 2007).  To no surprise, however, boys continue to be disproportionately diagnosed at higher rates than girls (Bruchmuller, Margraf, & Schneider, 2011), likely due to their tendency to display more disruptive behaviors. Read more

Racial Differences in the Diagnosis of ADHD

A recent study published in the June issue of the Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics indicated that Caucasian children are more likely to receive a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)ADHD in comparison to minority children.  This study followed more than 17,000 children across the nation from kindergarten through eighth grade and asked their parents whether not their children were ever diagnosed with ADHD.

Findings-Racial Differences in the Diagnosis of ADHD:

The researchers found that Hispanic and Asian children were about half as likely to receive a diagnosis of ADHD as Caucasian children.  African American children were about two thirds less likely to be diagnosed with the condition.

Implications of this Study:

It is important to realize that the study cannot indicate whether or not ADHD is over diagnosed in Caucasian children or under diagnosed in minority children.  However, the numbers are pretty glaring and most definitely indicate a discrepancy in not only diagnosing the condition, but also in the interventions received. Read more

ADHD and Executive Functioning Resource Guide

Are you looking for more information on ADHD or Executive Functioning?  Read on for top picks from our ADHD ResourcesNeuropsychologist.

Top Resources for Information on ADHD and Executive Functioning:

  • Taking Charge of ADHD:  The Complete Authoritative Guide for Parents.  Barkley, Russell (2013): This book provides parents with evidence based interventions regarding ADHD.  It is well written and easily readable, while providing parents and practitioners with the latest research supported information regarding ADHD and various interventions.
  • Executive Skills in Children and Adolescents:  A Practical Guide to Assessment and InterventionDawson, Peg and Guare, Richard (2010): This book is aimed at practitioners that work with children with Executive Functioning concerns.  It may be a little research heavy for some parents; however, it is a wonderful resource for therapists and educators.   It includes basic research on Executive Functioning as well modifications and interventions that can help children and adolescents with a variety of Executive Functioning issues including disorganization, inflexibility, initiation of tasks, and monitoring work. Read more

Concussions are More Common in Teens than Once Thought

A research letter was published in the Journal of American Medical Association on Tuesday, June 25 which concussionsummarized findings from a recent Canadian study examining concussions in teenagers.  The Canadian research team found that concussion rates in adolescents are much higher than previously thought.

What is the prevalence of concussions in teens?

1 out of every 5 teenagers completing the research project indicated that they had sustained a concussion.  These numbers are high, and there are some flaws with generalizing these numbers to the population as a whole.  This was a survey research project in which the examiners asked teenagers a series of questions about head injuries and academic performance.  Although the likelihood of 1 in 5 teenagers having sustained a concussion is probably not realistic, it is known that head injuries are quite common at rates that are greater than suspected in the past.

Why is it important to know the incident rates of concussions?

The importance of knowing about the incident rates of concussions is that there are numerous known behavioral and emotional variables associated with head injuries.  Adolescents who have sustained a head injury are at risk for learning problems, substance abuse, and emotional concerns.

What does this mean as a parent or teacher?  If you notice a teenager exhibiting a sudden change in academic performance, behavior, or emotional regulation, you want to have an evaluation immediately.  Speak to your child’s pediatrician about a possible neurological or neuropsychological evaluation in order to help determine the possible cause for the changes, as one possible reason might be a sustained head injury.

To read the full Chicago Tribune article on this study, click here.  To learn more about North Shore Pediatric Therapy’s Neuropsychology Diagnostic Program for children and teens, click below.

Develop Executive Functioning Skills This Summer

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

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

Tips for developing executive functioning skills all summer:

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

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

 

Summer Training for Fall Gaining

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

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

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

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

4 Ways to Better Handwriting before Pencil Hits Paper

Your child’s handwriting skills will affect his performance in school, beginning as early as preschool.    How your child holds his pencil, sits in his chair, and attends to the task of handwriting can affect your child’s ability to feel successful in completing a handwriting task. 

4 ways you can promote your child’s handwriting skills before his pencil hits the paper: 

  1. Address his posture: Your child’s posture at the table is directly associated with his fine motor control.  He Handwriting skillsdoes not just use his hand muscles to write—his core muscles are important too.  Make sure that the height of his chair allows for his feet to be placed flat on the floor.  Ideally, you want your child to be sitting so that there is a 90° angle at his knees and his hips.  This will put his body in a position that supports good handwriting.  Sitting on a wedge cushion (move ‘n sit cushion, air-filled cushion) that provides vestibular activation can sometimes help to improve his posture. 
  2. Address his grasp:  Your child’s pencil grasp can hinder or support his ability to write neatly.  Encourage your child to hold his pencil between the tips of his thumb and pointer finger.  The pencil should rest on the side of the tip of his middle finger.  Keeping the space between his thumb and pointer finger (the web space) open will ensure that he is utilizing his muscles in the most efficient manner and will reduce fine motor fatigue.  Sometimes, utilizing an adaptive grip on his pencil can help him to maintain the grasp with decreased difficulty. 
  3. Address his attention:  Your child’s attention can support or detract from his ability to accurately complete a handwriting task.  To support his attention, minimize the distractions in the room.  Your Read more

ADHD and Learning: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder’s Impact on Learning

Many children with a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder exhibit significant concerns with regard to their academic

ADHD and learning diability

achievement.  Research has demonstrated that a lot of children with the diagnosis also have a co-existing diagnosis of a learning disability.  However, even children without a separate learning disability diagnosis are also at risk for struggling with their academic achievement.

The hallmark feature of ADHD is inattention.  If a child has significant inattention and distractibility, he or she is unable to listen to the teacher and follow directions.  These children often present with impulsivity or hyperactivity, which can result in concerns with behavioral functioning in the classroom environment.

Another area of concern for children with ADHD is poor executive functioning which could have an impact on a child’s academic performance.  Executive functioning is the child’s ability to organize work, transition between tasks, develop effective problem solving strategies, and monitor one’s work.  Read more