How to Motivate the Unorganized Child

Executive functioning challenges can often be overlooked as children are otherwise labeled as lazy or Unorganized Childunmotivated. If a child has difficulties with executive functioning he or she may present with behaviors of avoidance, emotional outbursts, or not even acknowledging the task at hand. This is probably because they are feeling overwhelmed and do not have the foundational skills needed to problem solve through organizational tasks. Helping your child to develop these skills can support their independent success and can increase future task initiation toward personal organization.

What Can Parents Do to Help an Unorganized Child?

Support them, assist in their growth of skills, and praise any small triumph! The general idea is to have the child learn the problem solving skills required to think through tasks that are seemingly overwhelming. First you always, ALWAYS start small, then tackle bigger projects as they can manage. Then as they make achievements, don’t forget to recognize their hard work! Praise moments of follow through and self-initiated tasks with recognition and/or rewards.

5 Tips to Help Organize Their Life:

  1. Establish a place to write it all down- daily planners and a family calendar are great tools to keep track of their time.
  2. Introduce Responsibility- Create a Chore chart and a To-Do list as a family. Don’t forget to keep their age and time needed for completion of these activities in mind when choosing the appropriate task(s).
  3. Acknowledge that the time is ticking- Visual timers are great for those children who tend to take more time than necessary on simple tasks. Timers can also help to keep a child focused and engaged in the activity.
  4. Create a place for all items to have a specific home- Designate places for items and stick to it. Growing up with the golden rule  ‘Always place an item back in its original place, in its same or better condition’ may help keep the house cleaner. Utilizing organizational tools, such as visual prompts (numbering, color coding) and charts can help too.
  5. Check in- They will need a little help! Have the children show you their completed work, planner, clean space, etc. Make them feel accomplished and help them problem solve solutions to existing problems.

5 Activity Ideas to Facilitate their Organizational Skills:

  1. Tackle a junk drawer, pantry shelf, or game closet- Have them help a parent problem solve through the organization of a messy place. Starting in a small place is key so there are no overwhelming moments too big for the child. Have the child think through the task with the parent facilitating only when needed.
  2. Cook with your child- A successful meal requires significant planning, working memory, organization, and time management.  See how much they can lead the cooking activity and help when needed. This can be fun for the child while having a great learning experience!
  3. Have them set up the family’s calendar for the next week or month- Give them the tools to place all of the activities on the calendar and check their work when done. Have the child help recognize and problem solve through time conflicts.
  4. Create an annual family night with board games- Board games are great for independent thinking and problem solving. Their success within a board game can greatly depend on their ability to organize themselves and materials within the game.
  5. Assist with putting together new things- Following written or verbal directions can be very difficult. With supervision and help, have the child responsible for constructing and/or setting up new purchased items.

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!

Meet-With-An-Occupational-Therapist

Smart Technology Guidelines for Kids

Like it or not, our world has changed especially in the realm of digital technology and our kids are the pioneers of this new adventure. Technology guidelines are becoming more and more important. I have had parents ask if they are “bad parents” for letting their kids have screen time and I am here to tell you that: Blog-Technology Guidelines-Main-Landscape

You most certainly are not a bad parent!

Like most everything, moderation is the key to having success in building children’s much needed strength in digital technology while still keeping them involved in school, making friends, finding a talent and being an active part of the family.

Here are some easy to follow technology guidelines for families:

  1. Have family discussions about screen time and internet safety
  2. Limit screen time. Set a limit before your kids plug in and stick to it!
  3. Create rules about technology usage. Technology is a large part of how kids now socialize but they still need our help to develop the skills to think before acting. Here is a great contract to use with older kids.
  4. Be the example. Your kids will notice if you don’t walk the walk. Be aware of your own technology use and find balance in your own usage and family engagement.
  5. Have technology free zones. Two examples of having technology free zones are at meal times and bedtime. Direct your child towards content that engages them while using as many senses as possible.
  6. Approve the Apps! In 2014 there were 1.3 million apps in the Apple app store. Help your child choose apps that promote learning and create mindfulness rather than mindless play. There are tons of reviews for guidance on age appropriate/suitable content to find online! It is okay to make an unpopular decision about an app or video!
  7. Most importantly, be involved! Talk to your kids about internet safety, the family rules about technology and which apps they are choosing. Talk to your kids about what they are playing! Ask them to show you their latest creation or how they beat a level in their favorite game. The more your child feels comfortable talking with you about their technology usage the more you will know and hopefully there will be more communication and less fighting!

More Technology Guidelines Tips for Preschool Aged Children:

  • Create limits on usage and be consistent!
  • Play games and or watch together! Make sure to ask questions and have conversations about content. There are great learning and discussion opportunities to be had.

More Technology Guidelines Tips for Elementary Aged Children:

  • Kids this age are more able to download and access more, making it more difficult for parents and increasing the need for limits and increased discussion about content and meaning.
  • Filter sites and internet content, such as YouTube, using age appropriate guidelines.
  • Remember those limits that are set and stick to them.
  • Model limited use

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff 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!

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Dealing with Divorce: Creating Stability No Matter How Unstable You Might Feel

Divorce can be scary, filled with uncertainty, and will ultimately lead to a ‘new’ family structure. It is Blog-Divorce-Main-Landscapeimportant to be mindful of how uncertainty can feel to your children and to proactively take steps to create stability for your children during the divorce process.

Below are some suggestions to improve your child’s sense of stability during a divorce:

Create a Visual Calendar

As you and your family navigate the divorce process, one concern your children may have could be around their living arrangements. If your children have friends with divorced parents they may be familiar with what custody arrangements look like, however, every family is different. Early on in the process, it is important that your child understands what his or her living arrangements will look like. Moreover, one way to reduce your children’s uncertainty is to create a visual calendar for them so they know when they will be at mom or dad’s house. Involve your child in creating the calendar and making it their own by adding drawings, stickers, and favorite colors. Also, remember to update the calendar as needed – change happens and it’s important to communicate this.

Create Comfort in Both Homes

Another way to create a sense of stability is to reduce the feeling your children may have that they are living out of a backpack as they transition between parent households. One way to do this is to make sure each household has a set of your child’s essentials (i.e. daily routine items, clothing, stuffed animals, homework supplies, etc.). This can create comfort for your child as well as prevent unnecessary moments of frustration. Involve your child in this process by creating a list of needs together, then finding these items within your home or shopping together for them at the store.

Create Positive Experiences

While your child is settling into this ‘new’ family structure it is important to continue to create positive experiences. This might look like exploring new neighborhoods, finding new parks and ice cream shops – if one parent has moved to an unfamiliar area. Or creating a Wednesday night pizza tradition. Or finding a Sunday morning breakfast spot. Although learning to manage change and uncertainty is healthy and a necessary part of emotional growth, predictability can be just as helpful during times of heightened stress. Allowing your child to look forward to your new family traditions and experiences can create a sense of comfort and excitement.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff 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!

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reinforcement and punishment

How to Properly Use Reinforcement and Punishment

Reinforcement and punishment are common terms that most people have heard of and use on a daily basis, whether they realize it or not. Although the concepts seem easy to understand and implement, it can be easy to confuse the basic principles and/or implement them incorrectly.  In order to understand the difference between reinforcement and punishment, it is important to understand the definitions of both terms.

Reinforcement

reinforcement and punishment

Reinforcement is a consequence following a behavior that increases the probability that the behavior will increase in the future. The consequence can be either positive or negative.

Positive Reinforcement is something added to the consequence that will increase that particular behavior in the future.

Example: Your child cleans his room the first time you ask, so you give him  a cookie as a reward. In the future he is more likely to clean his room the first time you ask.

Negative Reinforcement is something removed from the consequence that will increase that particular behavior in the future.

Example: Students do well on their math test so the teacher doesn’t give them homework over the weekend.

Negative reinforcement is often interpreted incorrectly and becomes confused with punishment. But from the above definition and example, you can see that negative reinforcement is used to increase desired behaviors, and is not punishing in any way.

Punishment

Punishment is a consequence following a behavior that decreases the probability that a particular behavior will occur in the future. As with reinforcement, the consequences can be positive or negative.

Positive Punishment:  Something added to the consequence that will decrease a certain behavior in the future.

Example: Your child talks back to you, so you make them do extra chores.

Negative Punishment: When a consequence includes the removal of an item or privilege that will decrease the behavior in the future.

Example: Your child fails a test, so you take away their cell phone for a week.

 

Tips for using reinforcement 

  • Always be sure to only reward behaviors that you would like to strengthen and see again in the future. It is easy to inadvertently reinforce negative behaviors without realizing it (Ex: You child is crying in the grocery store because you won’t buy them candy. You eventually give in and buy them candy, so the next time they want candy in the grocery store they are going to cry). In this example the behavior of crying was positively reinforced, so that behavior will continue in the future.
  • Vary the type of reinforcement used to avoid overindulgence of a particular item or activity (i.e., if you always reward your child with candy for good behavior, they are likely to get tired of the candy and may stop engaging in the desired behavior).
  • Before choosing a reinforcer, figure out what your child is currently motivated by and use that item. Some children can be motivated by the same item for longer periods of time, and others may change their motivation more frequently.
  • Be consistent with the delivery of reinforcement in order to maintain the desired behavior.

 Tips for using punishment

  • Be sure to only punish behavior that you want to decrease. In addition to inadvertently reinforcing negative behavior, it is also possible to accidentally punish appropriate behaviors.
  • When punishing a behavior you want to decrease, always make sure you continue to reinforce appropriate behaviors.
  • If you find yourself using punishment and the behavior is not decreasing, re-evaluate the consequence and try another consequence. Also, what may be punishing to your child this week may not be punishing next week. Just as you always need to re-evaluate what reinforcers to use, you also need to re-evaluate what punishing consequences to use based on your child’s current motivation.
  • Be consistent with the delivery of consequences in order to decrease the undesired behavior.

Click here for more great tips to implement positive and negative reinforcement during play dates.

Crossing the Midline

MORE Activities for Crossing the Midline

As discussed in last week’s post, crossing the midline is an essential skill that affects a person’s efficiency in many of life’s everyday tasks. By engaging your child in activities that promote this skill, you are helping her to create pathways in her developing brain that can benefit her motor abilities, learning capacity, and behavior.

10 Activities to Promote Crossing the Midline:Crossing the Midline

  1. Dance! Get your child moving to a rhythm with her entire body and you will promote coordination and crossing over midline with big body movements.
  2. Play Twister.
  3. Do karaoke or grapevine walks.
  4. Engage in bimanual activities such as stringing beads, playing Pick Up Sticks, cutting with scissors, creating crafts or other projects with stamps, stickers, glue, etc.
  5. Play clapping games such as pat-a-cake or row, row, row your boat.
  6. Create a secret handshake that involves tapping feet, knees, or elbows to that of the other person.
  7. Involve him in baking! Let him stir the ingredients into a big bowl that he will have to help stabilize with one hand in front of his body, while the other makes big circular motions with the spoon.
  8. Engage him in a sorting game and encourage him to complete rounds of sorting using only one hand at a time.
  9. Play Simon Says. You could even take this up a notch and specify right or left side.
  10. Help with chores! Have her help you wipe off tables, mirrors, dishes, etc.

General recommendations to encourage crossing the midline:

  1. Always encourage children to complete self-care tasks such as dressing, eating, and bathing to the fullest extent they are capable. So many of these everyday tasks require us to spontaneously and purposefully use both hands together and to move one hand to the other side of the body.
  2. Before hand dominance is established, always present utensils (spoons, markers, etc.) at the child’s midline. Encourage the child to complete the task with whichever hand he initiates use of that utensil. Be sure he uses the other hand as the “helper” to stabilize the bowl or paper.
  3. Discourage w-sitting! W-sitting (where a child sits with his knees bent and feet out to either side of his body so that his legs form a “W” shape) has many negative implications. One of these is that the child is unable to cross midline as easily. When engaging in an activity on the floor, help your child sit “criss cross” instead.
  4. When completing work at a table, encourage your child to keep herself in the center of her work rather than scooting herself (or what she’s working on) to the left or right.
  5. Make it fun! Working on the development of midline crossing does not need to be a tedious exercise. As you engage in the fun activities listed here, you will begin to see how easy it is to adapt games and other tasks with this skill in mind. Don’t be afraid to get creative and let us know what you come up with!

Click here for a refresher on the 1st article to promote crossing the midline.

Preschool Playdate

Let’s Play! 5 Tips for a Successful Preschool Playdate

Are you considering planning a preschool playdate for your son or daughter?  That’s great!  Peer-to-peer play helps aid children in the development of their social-emotional abilities.  They learn things like problem solving, how to communicate their ideas, and how to overcome social obstacles.

5 Tips for a Successful Preschool Playdate:Preschool Playdate

Observe closely but don’t hover– Many parents have trouble deciding how involved they should be in their children’s interactions with peers.  The answer?  It depends!  The younger your children are, the more you’ll need to participate.  Children three and four years old may not need you to participate as actively, but they still need you close by.  Observe how the children play with each other.  Who takes the lead?  How do they handle disagreements?  Does anything surprise you about their play?  Remember, children behave differently depending on whom they think is watching.  So observe closely, but don’t hover.

Set expectations- Let both children know what is expected during play.  These expectations may be different depending on where in the house they play, or if they’re spending time outside vs. inside.  Keep expectations to a minimum (2 or 3 at a time).  To ensure that the kids understand, have them repeat the expectations back to you.  Then, when an issue arises you can remind them of the expectations that have been set.

Give plenty of warning before the end of the playdate- Transitions can be tough for little ones.  Let your kids know about 20 minutes prior to the end that in 10 minutes it will be clean-up time.  If you know your child has particular difficulty transitioning from social time or his favorite activity, give him more warning.

Help the children build problem-solving skills, don’t solve the problem for them – If the children playing aren’t agreeing on which toy to play with, rather than saying, “Ok, play with this toy for X amount of minutes and then play with that toy”, say something like “So you want to play with the trucks, but you want to build with blocks.  What should we do about this?”  By putting the dilemma into words, you help them recognize that there is a conflict, and that conflicts have resolutions.  If you put the question back on them and they are unable to figure something out, or if you notice emotions rising, only then should you provide a solution.

Communicate with the other child’s caregiver- If your child is going to another person’s house, let the other parent know what your child needs to be most successful when playing with others.  For example, if your child is quick to get frustrated, let the other parent know what helps your little one calm down.  Food is often involved in preschool playdates, so be sure to inform the other parent of any food restrictions or allergies.  If you’re hosting the playdate, ask the other caregiver about her child.  You may even want to invite the other parent in for coffee while the kids play.

Click here for activities to promote reading at your preschool playdates.

Step-by-Step: Potty Training a Child with Autism

Potty training can be an overwhelming process for parents of young children. Potty training a child with autism can make the process seem even more daunting. But not to worry, with consistency and patience, children with autism can be successfully potty trained.

When to begin potty training – There is no magic age to start potty training, as it varies from child to child. Children with autism are not always developing at the same pace as their same-aged peers. However, no matter what your child’s current functioning level is, you should be able to start the potty training process around age 3.

Step-by-Step: Potty Training a Child with AutismPottyTraining

  • It is best to begin during a time when you have at least 3-4 days in a row to devote to potty training (i.e., a holiday break or a long weekend).
  • Divide potty training into two phases:
    • Phase 1 – Urination
    • Phase 2 – Bowel movements
  • Start by working on phase 1, and once your child is consistently urinating on the toilet, you can then begin working on phase 2.
    • When potty training boys, have them sit instead of stand. This will make it easier when you introduce phase 2.
  • When begin the toilet training process, begin to slowly fade out the use of diapers or Pull-Ups. If your child learns that they will go back to wearing a diaper every time they don’t go in the toilet, they will most likely wait until the diaper is on to urinate.
  • Make highly desired items (i.e., IPad, computer games, favorite treat, etc.) contingent on urinating in the toilet. Do not give your child access to these items at any other time. Restricting these items will increase their reinforcing value, making urinating in the toilet more motivating.
  • Provide natural consequences for accidents. Never yell or scream when accidents occur. Instead, have your child help with the clean-up, change themselves (to the best of their ability), and put their dirty clothes in the laundry.
  • Expect some resistance from your child when you begin toilet training. Children with autism love routines, and you are going to disrupt their normal routine as soon as you start potty training. Negative behaviors like crying and screaming are very likely in the beginning. It is important to ignore these behaviors and continue with the process. Once they learn the new potty routine, the behaviors will decrease.
  • Be consistent. Once you start potty training, stick with it! Requiring your child to use the potty one day, and then putting them back in a diaper the next can be confusing and will most likely extend the potty training process.
  • Once your child is consistently urinating in the toilet, you can move onto phase 2 and follow the same steps. It is common for phase 2 to take longer, so do not get discouraged if your child is more resistant at first.

Following these general guidelines can help with the potty training process. It is important to remember that every child is different, and what works for one child may not work for another. If you have been trying to potty train your child without any success, it is recommended that you contact a professional to assist you. Someone with knowledge and experience with potty training can write an individualized plan tailored specifically for your child.

Click here to download a printable potty chart.






How to Handle Cyberbullying

With all the various forms of social media and online communication that children have access to, how does a parent serve as a gatekeeper to keep them away from cyberbullying and ensure positive peer interactions? Just like the conversations that occur about pro-social, appropriate behaviors that occur in real-time, proactive boundaries about expected behaviors should set with the initiation of online privileges.

Tips on How to Handle Cyberbullying

cyberbullying

Cyberbullying

Let your child know that periodic checks of their account will be monitored to ensure compliance. Outline for your child what can be viewed as expected behaviors (positive/supportive commentary, asking questions about homework, making plans, etc.). It is equally imperative that you also describe to your child the behaviors that are not tolerated as acceptable, such as bullying. Bullying online might look very different than bullying in real-life since there may not be any physical threat of harm. Therefore, re-define with your child what bullying means. Bullying can mean using verbal threats to compromise the harm and safety of others, using negative commentary to make fun of another, and any behaviors that can have a negative effect on a peer’s self-esteem or feelings.

Once you have set up the parameters for expected online communication, also provide your child with the potential consequences of non-compliance such as lose of online privileges, reduced interactions with other negative peers, apology procedures for engaging in bullying behaviors (call victim and/or victim’s parents to apologize), etc.

Set your child up for success by arming them with appropriate and inappropriate behaviors and what they can face if they don’t follow family-defined protocol.

Crossing the Midline: Activities to Promote

Crossing the midline is a fundamental skill that begins to emerge in infancy and continues to develop into early childhood. It is necessary for important developmental milestones such as crawling, walking, using a spoon to eat, writing, and reading.

Simply put, crossing the midline refers to the ability to meaningfully use a hand, foot, or eye on the opposite side of the body. In order for this to happen, the two hemispheres of the brain must be able to communicate with one another. If a child has difficulty crossing his midline, it can be a greater challenge for him to engage in everyday tasks from dressing to school work to sports. If you notice your child is having difficulty developing hand dominance, gets lost or frustrated when visually tracking words or objects, or seems generally less coordinated than other children his age, his ability to cross midline may be underdeveloped.

7 Activities to Promote Crossing the Midline:CrossingtheMidline

  1. Have the child straddle a low bench or other object that keeps his feet planted on either side. Use two different bracelets, stickers, etc. to differentiate the right and left hand while you have him pick up objects near his feet from the opposite side. This could be bean bags to throw, puzzle pieces to place, or beads to string onto a craft necklace. This activity can also be done in a “criss cross” seated position on the floor but be sure the child is not turning his entire trunk to pick up items.
  2. Having the child sit or stand in one place, throw, bounce, or roll a ball off-center of their body. He will need to use two hands to catch the ball and toss it back to you.
  3. With one hand placed flat on the surface in front of the child, have him use the other hand to trace over a large infinity sign. Switch hands after 10 cycles. Ideally this should be done on a vertical surface with the feet kept in one place.
  4. Trace big shapes, letters, and numbers in the air using index fingers and big toes.
  5. March to music and try to touch hands or elbows to the opposite knee.
  6. Trace horizontal lines across a long piece of paper. Make sure the paper is placed directly in front of his body and one hand is stabilizing the paper while the other traces across.
  7. Sit back to back and practice passing a ball to each other on each side. If you have more than two people, you can sit in a circle and play hot potato!

For additional suggestions and general recommendations to promote this skill, stay tuned for next week’s blog with even MORE great activities to try!

 

Click here for more information in helping your child cross the midline.

ADHD accommodations for adults in the workplace

ADHD Accommodations for Adults In The Workplace

If you are a parent of a child with ADHD, you may be familiar with some of the classroom accommodations that are typically recommended. These may include sitting in the front of the class and getting a hard copy of the notes, for example.

These accommodations prove to be beneficial… so what about when the classroom days are over and you are supposed to rely on yourself to stay productive and organized in the workplace?

Whether you are an adult diagnosed with ADHD or think you may have ADHD, here are some workplace accommodations to consider:

  1. Take breaks: go for a walk or sit outside with some coffee or tea.ADHD accommodations for adults in the workplace
  2. Avoid working in a cubicle, if possible, to avoid distractions.
  3. If you don’t have a door to close, wear ear plugs during times you need to focus.
  4. If your boss does not set a deadline for you, set your own!
  5. Break large projects into smaller tasks.
  6. Keep a paper trail!
  7. If a co-worker requests something from you, have them send it in an email.
  8. Keep a bulletin or dry erase board nearby and write down any important dates, notes, or ideas right after you hear them and go back and add them to a calendar or notebook.
  9. When you are given an assignment, repeat it back in your own words to make sure you understand (and remember!) all parts.

These are accommodations you can implement yourself. If you think you might need something a little more concrete, you do have the choice of disclosing your ADHD diagnosis to your employer and working with them to help you be even more successful!

These awesome tips were derived from the book, 10 Simple Solutions to Adult ADHD by Stephanie Moulton Sarkis, PhD. It is a great book that has more tips and tricks to stay organized and accomplish your goals!