Imaginary Friends: The Facts on these Fictitious Characters

I cannot think about imaginary friends without thinking of one of my favorite 90’s movies, Drop Dead Fred. In this particular comedy, a woman imaginary friendenduring a mid-life crisis is visited by her childhood imaginary friend as she copes through the termination of her marriage and the ending of her career. Although this funny flick is geared towards garnering laughs, there is a lot of truth to the plot. Yes, imaginary friends can seem silly and irrational at times but they all serve a purpose. According to an article in Psychology Today entitled “Imaginary Friends, Any in Your House?”, “For some children, imaginary friends assist in a child’s coping with a life change or acquiring a new skill. For others, their pretend friends or creatures are simply fun. Whatever purpose they serve and whatever form they take, fantasy friends indicate a fertile imagination that is as likely to belong to a child with [siblings] as to one without siblings.” Imaginary friends are a functional component of childhood growth and development and are not just indicative of the being an only child.

What Causes A Child To Have An Imaginary Friend?

Any changes that occur during a child’s life may present itself for the emergence of an imaginary friend. For instance, the birth of a new sibling may cause a child to feel less attended to or confused as to what their role is in the family. The companionship of an imaginary friend can provide an age-appropriate outlet to play out the child’s fears or insecurities. This creative medium allows the child to express the feelings and emotions that they may never get a chance to process since they do not have the vocabulary. As the child develops a new identity and gets acclimated to having a younger sibling, the presence of an imaginary friend may or may not dissipate. The creative aspects of play and exploration towards gaining a greater understanding of their environment can lengthen the duration of the imaginary friend.

Should I Be Worried If My Child Has An Imaginary Friend?

Imaginary friends are not to be worried about unless they interfere with your child’s daily functioning. If a child is having trouble interacting with other children, encourage them to incorporate their imaginary friend into their peer group as a tool to transition them into real-life social interactions. Allow your child to decide how much they want you, the parent, to engage in their fantasy play. Imaginary friends are a normal part of childhood development and can provide the voice to address troubling situations that could not be communicated in other ways. So, parents, do not neglect the imaginary friend. Pay attention to the content in which the imaginary friend appears as it can provide clues into the social-emotional world of your child.

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Choosing The Right Friends: Supporting your Child’s Resiliency Against Peer Pressure

The older they get, the more independent they get. For adolescents, the world revolves around the friendship circle. While you can’t choose friends for your children, you can teach them how to choose wisely.  Some parents don’t get involved until it’s too late, when they desperately want their children to stop hanging out with bad influences. This may be accomplished, but the problem may return when the child meets someone similar. It’s more valuable to teach children about what a good friend means, rather than seek control over each individual peer of choice. You can start by asking your children to make a list of qualities that make up a “good friend” and helping them think about it objectively.

teenage friends standing outside

When discussing specific peers in their life, you can use the following questions as a screener:

Good Friend Checklist

  • Are you able to be yourself around them?
  • Do they make you feel good about yourself?
  • Do you have interests and hobbies in common?
  • Do you take turns being leader and follower?
  • Would you stand up for each other?
  • Do they want to help you when you’re upset?
  • Do they listen when you need to talk about your feelings?
  • Do they respect you when you say “no”?
  • Can you work it out together when you have a fight?

If most of the answers are “yes”, the friendship is likely to be a positive one and hopefully boosts self-esteem. If most of the answers are “no”, the friendship could lead to insecurity and poor decision-making and should be re-considered.  The “no” answers can also help identify which skills may need to be taught or strengthened.

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Breaking the Ice: Go-To Conversation Starters for Kids

Many children find it difficult to approach new friends. They often learn how, by watching others and trying things out. While they mayClassmates talking outdoors be able to do this on their own, they will be even more effective if they have an adult to provide guidance, appropriate phrases, and opportunities to practice.

Having  “go-to” phrases can really help children be prepared for social opportunities and lower anxiety about the unexpected.  Here are some ideas to share with your kids.

Conversation Starters For Children:

Help them pick out 2-3 of their favorite “go-to’s” and practice in role play with each-other  toys/figurines or new children (when ready).

Just introduce yourself!

Example: “Hi! I’m Alex.”

Ask a question about what they’re doing.

Example: “Are you playing the new Angry Birds game?”

Show that you’re interested in them.

Example: “I think I want to read that book. Do you like it?”

Give a compliment.

Example: “I like your backpack!”

Ask for their opinion.

Example: “Which video game do you like the best?”

Share a little about yourself.

Example: “I moved once too, so I know it’s really hard at first.”

Offer to help.

Example: “I can show you where that classroom is!”

Offer an invitation.

Example: “Want to sit together at lunch?”

Guide your child by talking about each idea and asking them which ones they prefer. This is a great conversation to have with your child as school just begins, to help lower that back to school anxiety!

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7 Reasons to Attend NSPT’s New Bucktown Clinic Open house!

The Chicago Clinic has recently expanded to a new and improved space! We would like to celebrate and introduce ourselves by opening the doors to the community. We are so excited to share our new space with both our existing families and also hope to meet some new faces!

New Clinic Open House

  1. It is hard to find fun for the whole family, without paying a high price in the city. The open house is a FREE event that you can bring your family and friends to!
  2. There will be endless entertaining fun for your children of all ages, including a magician, face painter, balloon maker, and games.
  3. Kids will have an opportunity to explore their creative side by making various crafts!
  4. A sensory table will provide an outlet for the children to explore their senses while engaging with other kids and having a blast. There will also be Occupational Therapists to answer any questions regarding various sensory strategies and tools.
  5. Parents will have an opportunity to speak with experts in fields such as speech therapy, physical therapy and occupational therapy, as well as counselors, academic specialists, and more.
  6. Learn more about North Shore Pediatric Therapy’s multidisciplinary approach to treatment.
  7. Check out the new state- of- the- art facility, with over 4,000 square feet of therapy rooms and equipment.

Event Details:

Date: Saturday, September 15th
Time: 11:00-2:00
Location: 1657 W. Cortland St. (corner of Cortland and Paulina; 1 block south of Armitage)
Chicago, Il 60622

For more information regarding this event please contact Lauren at 877-486-4140 or LaurenW@NSPT4Kids.com

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How to Maximize a Playdate for a Child with Speech Delays | Pediatric Therapy Tv

In today’s webisode, a pediatric speech pathologist explains ways to help a child with speech delays play well with others. She provides useful strategies to encourage communications and respect between the children. For speech game ideas read our blog “5 Board Games That Promote Speech-Language Skills

  • The right timing for a playdate
  • How to introduce a speech delayed child to a regular child
  • What signs to look out for as the playdate progresses

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, and I’m standing here today with Megan Grant, a Pediatric Speech
and Language Pathologist. Megan, can you give our viewers some tips on how
to maximize a play date with a child with delayed speech?

Megan: Sure. A play date for a child with delayed speech and language
skills isn’t going to look that much different than that of a play date for
a child with typically developing skills. However, there are some key
things to keep in mind. Make sure that you time it right. Make sure that
the play date is scheduled after naptime and after mealtime, so that the
kids are well rested, their bellies are fully and they are ready to play
and interact with each other.

Also you want to make sure to keep it brief. Sometimes, 45 minutes to an
hour is only what the kids will tolerate in the beginning, so don’t worry
that the play date should be three or four hours at a time. You definitely
need to make sure that you keep it short, especially in the beginning. Kids
will work up that way. Also, introduce a friend who’s familiar to your
child. That’s definitely going to be a key as well. Someone who is from
music class or from school is going to be more accustomed to interacting
with your child, and your child is likely going to be able to interact with
them much better than if you introduce someone who is entirely new to them.

When you do have a child who has delayed speech and language, you can pre-
teach the other child and say, “You know, Billy’s still learning how to
talk.” And let them know that that’s OK. Sometimes, kids are very
receptive and they pick up very easily on the nuances of other children, so
that’s definitely going to help as well. Keep in mind that you are going to
have to provide models, more so than with kids who are typically
developing. Kids who have delayed speech and language aren’t necessarily
going to initiate and maintain play as easily, so you’re going to have to
jump in there and let them resolve some conflicts, but definitely give them
the support that they’re going to need. And just have fun. Watch for signs
of frustration. If your child starts to break down, you definitely want to
jump in there and you can feel free to end the play date sooner than later.

Robyn: All right. Well, thank you so much, Megan, and 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.

Swimming- A Fun and Beneficial Sport

Swimming is a great sport and pastime, particularly for children with sensory processing difficulties, as the waterBoy in swimming pool provides a multi-sensory experience for the body. Swimming also addresses a variety of skills, ultimately improving your child’s sensory processing, strength, endurance and coordination.

Proprioceptive/tactile processing: The feel of water on the body gives proprioceptive input, the input to the muscle and the joints, and gives a sense of where the body is in relation to other body parts. The constant sense of the water against the skin provides deep proprioceptive input and helps with developing body awareness.

Vestibular processing: Somersaults under water or headstands at the bottom of the pool provide vestibular input, as the body is responding to the changes in head position and assisting with balance to complete these tasks.

Auditory processing: The pool environment typically provides a loud and vibrant auditory experience, as children’s laughter and happy shrieks are heard while they play in the pool.

Strength: Moving the body against water when swimming is a workout for the muscles! The water provides natural resistance for muscles, which in the long run, builds up overall body strength.

Endurance: Not only does the resistance of the water against the body make the body stronger, it also assists with endurance. As the muscles become stronger, they will be able to endure swimming and other activities for longer periods of time.

Coordination: Swimming strokes are very complex. The brain must take in all of the sensory information from the environment and act quickly to move the arms, legs, torso and head in a coordinated fashion to produce the movement.

So many children find swimming exciting and fun, and love spending summer days at the pool. Parents can also appreciate spending time at the pool knowing that this activity is not only fun, but also good for their child!

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Organization, Social Skills, Puberty, oh my, Junior High! Get your teen ready!

The jump into middle school is a big one for many children and families!  So many unknowns! Higher demands from teachers for time management and organization, more pressure from kids socially, and puberty hitting, all at the same time!Girl in Junior High

Here are some Junior High tips!

Executive Functioning/ Organization

  • Make a daily written schedule and include wake up time, workout time, screen time and leave the house time.  Be very specific.
  • Buy an organization file binder versus the 8 separate folders your child may have had or been asked to bring.  This keeps them much more organized.
  • Ask the school for a locker in a preplanned place so your child does not have to run from one end of school to another if he has a tendency to be late.
  •  Think hard now if your child is struggling and ask for an IEP or 504 plan to get additional time or support.  This will be so helpful and his plan also follow him when he may need it on standardized exams.
  • Use a timer.

Social Skills

  • Get your child into youth groups or sports.  They can be through school clubs, park district, or religious organizations.  Youth groups are wonderful ways to find friends that are similar to your child.
  • Make plans with children that will be in his grade all summer.   He should not walk into school not knowing too many people, especially if he is timid or has any trouble socially.
  • Find a social group for teens at a local clinic or school so that he can practice his social skills with a trained professional.
  • Have your child read over the summer.  This makes them smarter and more confident.  An extra tip: they can also read about all kinds of junior high experiences.

Puberty

  • Read this great book mom and dad: “But I’m Almost 13!” by Kenneth Ginsburg.  It will help you understand and avoid so many struggles!
  • Don’t forget to talk with your child, give eye contact, and hold his hand when you are walking.   Just because he is growing up, does not mean he isn’t still your baby!
  • Kids who go out and start over-prioritizing their peers socially, physically, emotionally, may be looking for attention! Give your teens attention!  (See bullet above) and also, laugh with them, watch tv with them, take them out for an ice cream, don’t disengage!

Good luck!

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Monkey Bar Mania

It is time. Lunch is over and the weather is finally allowing our children to break free of their heavy winter coats and boots to enjoy the warm, fresh, and invigorating air on the playground. Antsy children struggle to contain their excitement as they take their final steps to the great outdoors- slides,Little girl climbing on monkey bars teeter-totters, swings, and kickball fields galore. Only the bravest of the brave dare take on the tall metal intimidators commonly known as the monkey bars.

Monkey bar climbing has been right of passage for children all across the playground. Conquering their cold frames take time, practice, and determination. Here are the developmental steps to achieving the ultimate goal: swinging from one end to the other without touching the ground as our ape-like friends seem to do so effortlessly.

  1. First, ask your child to reach for the monkey bars and let their feet dangle. Cheer them on and encourage them to hang on as long as they can. This will help them to strengthen the muscles in their hands and upper body.
  2. Next, encourage them to swing their legs back and forward while maintaining their tight hold on the bar. This swinging will in turn, give your child the burst of momentum they’ll need to eventually move across the bars.
  3. Next, help them coordinate the swing of their legs with the movement of an arm to reach for the next bar. Keep in mind that your child may need you to support them at their waist in order to complete the first few swings. It may also be a good idea to encourage them to first reach with their dominant hand as they may have an increased rate of success at grabbing the bar.
  4. After successfully completing one swing, talk your child through bringing their other arm to same bar that the first is holding. Once your child can successfully cross the monkey bars one at a time, they may then practice alternating hands on sequential bars. Once they’ve mastered the monkey bars, they can move on to eventually skipping one or two bars at time!

For other playground tips and tricks, see Amanda Matthews’ blog suggesting tips to work on motor skills at the park.

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What is an Appropriate Age for Dating? | Pediatric Therapy Tv

In today’s webisode, a pediatric social worker explains ways to determine at what age it is appropriate for your child to begin dating.  Click here to read our blog titled “5 Tips For Your Dating Teen”

In this video you will learn:

  • How to tell if your child is ready to date
  • What factors weigh in on the decision of dating
  • How to tell if your child is ready to date

Video Transcription:

Announcer: From Chicago’s leading experts in pediatrics to a world wide
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, and today I’m sitting here with Michelle Winterstein, a Pediatric
Social Worker. Michelle, can you tell our viewers at what age is it
appropriate to allow your child to start dating?

Michelle: Sure, Robyn. I don’t think that a specific age automatically
deems your child ready to start dating. I think it’s really an individual
factor, and it depends on the maturity of your child. I think the important
thing is when your child comes to you and expresses an interest in dating,
and you think that they are at the maturity level where they are ready for
that, then open up the lines of communication and make sure that your child
feels comfortable talking to you about the process of dating. I would also
recommend getting to know the child that your child is interested in dating
and make sure that that child’s family has similar values as your own.

Robyn: All right. Well, thank you so much, and 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.

Ways to Improve Core Strength at the Playground

As the weather is becoming nicer, you are most likely spending more time outside and at your neighborhood parks. If your child is working on improving their core strength in their therapy sessions and at home, this can also be carried over while playing on a playground.Child swinging in the playground

The following activities can be completed to improve your child’s core strength:

  • Climbing ladders
  • Completing monkey bars
  • Pumping themselves on the swing or pushing another friend or sibling on the swing
  • Going down the slide in a “V” position
  • Jumping off surfaces of varying heights with two feet together
  • Create an obstacle course throughout the playground
  • Crawling through tunnels, under things , and over things
  • Running on different surfaces (sand, wood chips, grass, sidewalks, uneven bridges)

Hopefully these activities will add some variety into the home exercise program your child is currently doing.

Happy Exercising!

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