Preparing a Teacher to Work With Your Child With Autism

Beginning a new school year with any child can be harrowing for parents! You may wonder, “Will my child get the support that he needs?” or “How will I communicate with her teacher?” andBlog-Autism-and-Teachers-Main-Landscape “What can I do as a parent to reinforce what is happening in the classroom?” These questions and worries can be even greater when the child in question has a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. The first step in starting any school year is to think proactively and approach your child’s classroom teacher prior to beginning the year!

Below are some tips for having a fun and successful year for you and your child with autism:

  • Communication – Communication is key! It is vital to communicate with your child’s teacher before starting school. Letting the teacher know all about your child and his or her strengths will help the teacher provide the best care in the school setting.  Additionally, set up means to communicate in an ongoing manner with your child’s teacher—this could be email, notes in your child’s backpack, or even a notebook that the child writes in themselves outlining their day!
  • Reinforcement – Give the teacher a list of things that are motivating to your child that the teacher can incorporate into your child’s day, and keep him or her learning!
  • Triggers – Letting the teacher know what can be triggering to your child will help avoid potential problematic behaviors in the classroom. This allows school staff to be proactive about managing potential challenging behavior.
  • Calming strategies – Let the teacher know what works best for calming your child down if he or she becomes upset.

All in all, STAY POSITIVE and BE PATIENT! Remember that the beginning of the school year is a time of getting comfortable and establishing routines…for kids and adults alike!

For additional information, check out our other Autism and school blogs.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, and Hinsdale. 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!

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This blog was co-written with Jennifer Bartell.

Jennifer BartellJennifer Bartell is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) and educator with over a decade of experience working with learners diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, double majoring in psychology and music performance, and earning a place on the Dean’s List. Following a move to New York City, Jennifer received her Master of Special Education degree from the City University of New York—Hunter College, wherein she specialized in Behavior Disorders and became dual certified to teach both the general and special education populations. While in New York, Jennifer was a part of the opening of the innovative NYC Autism Charter School—the first of its kind on the east coast—and had the opportunity to work in classrooms with reduced and one-to-one ratios and a curriculum created using the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis. Here she worked extensively with learners between the ages of 3 and 18, and presenting with an array of challenges, skill deficits, and abilities. Jennifer has vast experience in creating programming for community-based instruction, adaptive daily living skills, and self-care, yet also employs her education background to provide high quality academic and cognitive services as well. A well-respected member of the home- and school-based organizations for whom she has provided services, Jennifer is frequently called upon to provide professional development and training for her colleagues and those she is supervising. Jennifer has presented at a number of professional Applied Behavior Analysis and education conferences for fellow educators, behavior analysts, and parents around the New York area.

Helping Your Anxious Child Return to School

With the summer months winding down, and the back to school sales in full force, it’s probably time for Blog-Anxious-Back-to-School-Main-Landscapeyou and your child to start the annual transition from summer camp to school! For many children, this transition is filled with excitement and happiness. For others, the worry monster might be just around the corner. Children might demonstrate tearfulness, tantrums, and frustration due to their anxiety about school.

Below are a couple suggestions to help you and your anxious child get through the first few days back at school:

Create a School Day Routine

The structure of the school day might look a lot different than your child’s summer schedule.  Before school begins:

  • Create a morning routine with a timeline of activities your child will need to accomplish. Depending on your child’s level of independence, think about how much supervision your child will need for each task.
  • Remember to adjust your child’s wake up time to fit the school day schedule if it had changed during the summer. Helping your child create this routine prior to the first day of school will allow your child to understand what is expected and can lead to lower levels of worry.

Transitional Object

Separation from parents in the first few days of school can be traumatic. For younger children, a handful of difficult drop offs is age-appropriate and should decrease over time as your child acclimates to this new routine. One way to support your child through this transition can be through allowing them to bring something to school that reminds them of mom and dad. Transitional objects should be small and minimally distracting in class. A special key chain, small plush toy, or laminated picture of the family can be used for this. Remind your child to hold or look at these objects if they are feeling worried or missing home.

If you notice that your child is having a harder than expected time, their functioning in school is being impacted, or their anxiety about school is not subsiding, reach out for additional support.

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!

Social Work

A Sensory Friendly Fourth of July | Facebook Live Video

The 4th of July is a fun holiday and takes some preparation! Watch one of our expert Occupational Therapists who covered red flags and shared tips on how to ensure your child has a sensory friendly 4th of July.

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!

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Messy Sensory Play | Facebook Live Video

Have some fun and get a little messy! One of our expert Occupational Therapists discussed why messy play is important, provided tips for helping your child with touch sensitivities and even covered a few activity ideas for your kiddo to do at home!

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!

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Sensory at Summer Camp | Facebook Live Video

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!

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!

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Fidget Tools Overview

There are many strategies children use to attempt to regulate themselves. Whether this is more obvious Fidget Tooland large scale such as jumping on a trampoline or spinning around in circles continuously, or smaller, more discrete ways such as grinding their teeth, picking their skin, or squeezing their fists, each of these strategies are satisfying a need within their sensory systems.

These can be mindless or intentional, but the bottom line is that it is fulfilling their bodies and brains in a way that only they can truly understand. While we want to allow children to gain as much sensory input as they need to maintain a regulated state, it is important to explore options that are appropriate and safe. One such option is called “fidgets,” and they are a great tool, especially within the classroom environment, so as not to draw attention away from class learning.

It is important to understand the root of your child’s sensory seeking behaviors in order to provide him or her with the most appropriate fidget tool. There are two main sensory systems that fidget toys typically stimulate; these are the tactile and the proprioceptive system. The body reads touch based on light and deep touch, light being more stimulating (tactile) and deep being more calming (proprioceptive). Think, the feeling of a feather brushing across the underside of your arm versus the feeling of a deep tissue back massage.

  • If your child seeks regulation through obtaining deep pressure input i.e. jumping, crashing, and squeezing, a fidget that targets the proprioceptive system may be the best option. To put this in perspective, think about a child friendly and inviting “stress ball.” These may be in various forms, i.e. foam resistance balls, stretchy theraband, theraputty, and squeeze toys.
  • If your child tends to seek regulation through touch i.e. seemingly mindlessly touching other people, fabrics, or objects, a fidget that targets the tactile system may be the best option. For example, swatches of various fabrics, bracelets with a preferred fabric, and balls or other toys with bumps or (soft) spikes.
  • If your child seeks regulation through movement, and you are looking for something to provide him or her with that while maintaining appropriateness based on the environment (…as it may be frowned upon to start doing jumping jacks in the middle of circle time), there are options for this, as well. When it comes to movement, though it is important to consider if the fidget is facilitating the child to cope and pay better attention, or if it is actually contributing to increased distractibility. Typically, if a child needs their eyes to utilize the fidget, it may not be serving its ideal purpose and other options should be considered. Fidgets that provide movement include snaps, marble tubes, and plastic tangle tubes.

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!

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Sending a Child with Autism to School

Sending a child with autism to school can be a very overwhelming process, not just for the children butBlog-Autism-Main-Landscape also the parents. The key to success is starting the process early so that your child will have all of the supports they need to make not just their first day successful but their entire school year. While the process will be slightly different for each child due to their specific needs, here are some general guidelines to follow to ensure your child’s success when sending them to school.

Before the First Day

  • Finding the right school and classroom: The first place to start when preparing to send your child with autism to school is by selecting the best school for your child. During the previous Fall or Spring, start touring schools and meeting with the teachers and administrative staff. You want to make sure that the school and classroom setting you choose will be the most beneficial for your child’s specific needs! You can start the IEP process with testing as well to ensure that when the school year begins, your child has all the supports they need on the very first day.
  • Social story: Once you have found the right school for your child, write a social story about the various rooms of the school and their teacher. Talking to your child’s teacher before writing it will also ensure you know what rooms your child will be frequently in for their classes. Just make sure to get permission first from the school before taking any pictures.
  • Practicing: Starting new routines can be hard for children with autism so by practicing the routine a week or two before school starts, your child will most likely be more successful on their first day. When practicing, consider all of the new variables for your child, such as wearing a backpack or school uniform, practicing carrying a tray of food, or waiting outside for the school bus.

On the First Day

  • Safety and Sensory Needs: It is always better to be over prepared than underprepared. If you are concerned about your child’s safety, consider an I.D. bracelet, which can be purchased online or at local stores such as Walgreens. If your child has any sensory needs, have their supports ready and available. These could include headphones, chew tubes, a fidget toy, sunglasses, and/or a compression shirt. Make sure if you are sending any of these to inform their teacher and administrative staff as well.
  • Other Materials: Sending an extra pair of clothes is always a good idea. While schools often have some extra clothes for children to wear, children with autism may be sensitive to different scents or textures and as a result refuse to wear the communal clothes. If allowed, consider bringing a water bottle or a preferred snack to eat at specified times.

Other Considerations

  • Dietary Needs: When you are finding the right school and preparing your child for success, dietary needs can be frequently overlooked. Communicate with your teachers and administrative staff what your child’s dietary needs are currently, such as small frequent snacks vs. a large meal or starting by eating in a quieter area of the lunchroom. While you can have goals for your child to eat the school provided meals with their peers in the lunchroom, moving slowly towards these goals will make your child more successful not just during lunch and snacks, but all day by not having your child feel hungry.
  • Communication: It is important to be very clear and honest about what type of communication you would like with the school and how often. Oftentimes children with autism are not able to recall and tell you what happened at school. An agreed upon communication system can alleviate this concern and also be used as a tool to work on recall.

After your child’s first successful day at school, make sure to congratulate not just your child and the school, but also yourself for starting the hard work early. As the school year unfolds, remember to stay in communication with your child’s teachers and administrative staff to make adjustments as needed and enjoy watching your child with autism succeed at school.

For additional information, check out our other Autism and school blogs.

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!

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Top Sensory Strategies for Use in the Classroom

Promoting your child’s success at school can be a challenging task, particularly for parents of childrenSensory Strategies with sensory processing difficulties. Communication between parents, teachers and school personnel is critical for establishing a safe, supportive and enriching environment. Children with sensory integration difficulties may have enormous problems in the classroom, not because of a lack of intelligence or willingness to learn, but rather resulting from difficulty coping with a neurologic system that isn’t organizing and responding appropriately to a variety of sensory stimulation from the external world.

A well- organized sensory system is important for everything a child does, especially when it comes to maintaining focus and attention in the environment of a classroom. While the child with sensory integration difficulties can benefit from a sensory-smart classroom, so can every child. All children benefit from a calm, distraction free classroom where they can feel more in control, and in turn, improve their schoolwork and social skills.

The following is a compilation of sensory strategies for use in the classroom to promote the learning potential of every child, including those with sensory processing challenges:

Provide “Heavy Work” Opportunities:

Heavy work gives necessary input to the child’s body, helping him develop an improved body awareness and regulating his system. Allow the child to take responsibility in the classroom by completing specific “jobs.”

  • Carry books to the library, or to another teacher
  • Hand out papers to the class
  • Watering plants in the classroom
  • Push/pull heavy items in the classroom, i.e., chairs, boxes, class supplies
  • Erase the board
  • Empty wastebaskets or recycling

Seating Modifications:

Providing movement opportunities on the child’s seat, or at his desk is a great way to provide necessary sensory input many children crave, while also helping to increase their attention during stationary, table top tasks.

  • Tie a Theraband around the front legs of the child’s chair
  • Provide a wiggle seat to place on the chair surface
  • Allow time for “chair push-ups,” especially before seated writing tasks

Keep Those Hands Busy:

Many children with sensory processing challenges have a need for tactile input, resulting in constant touching of objects, and other classmates. For these kiddos, maintaining an optimal arousal level with regular (and non-distracting) tactile input is important.

  • Place a Velcro strip on, or inside of the child’s desk, or on the edge of his seat
  • Give the child a small bottle of lotion (with a calming scent, such as lavender) to place in his desk, or in his back pack, for those times when he needs to move his hands
  • Experiment with fidgets in a variety of forms: worry stone, paperclips, squeeze ball, necklace fidgets, bracelets, zipper pull fidgets, etc. (For some children, however, these items may be too distracting. If the object is decreasing attention, opt for the sensory input as noted above with Velcro placed on the desk itself.)

Movement Breaks:

All children need frequent breaks from work to get up and stretch and move their bodies. Frequent gross motor breaks help to “wake-up” the body and reset the brain, increasing arousal levels, resulting in improved attention and a calm body

  • Provide simplified yoga routines
  • Try jumping jacks, or marching around the classroom (or at the desk)
  • Try “animal walks,” such as bear walk, crab walk, or frog jumps
  • Recess time with active play including running, jumping and climbing

Reducing Visual and Auditory Stimulus:

For those children who become overwhelmed with too much visual input, or noise in the classroom, try the following strategies to help them maintain attention and focus.

  • Use low light, or natural light as much as possible versus fluorescent lighting
  • Provide a “quiet space” in one corner of the classroom where children can complete work with less distractions (adding beanbags to sit in this space would be a great addition as well)
  • Play quiet, rhythmic music
  • Eliminate clutter on bulletin boards
  • Place a curtain or sheet over open shelves containing games, art materials, toys that may be distracting

Snack Time:

Chewing, biting, or sucking on hard, crunchy items can be very regulating and calming for kids with sensory challenges.

  • Parents can pack chewy food items such as a bagel, or dried fruit to provide great oral proprioceptive input
  • Teachers may want to allow a water bottle with a thick straw to be kept at the desk (adding a little lemon to the water may help arousal levels as well)
  • Parents can pack a wide-mouth straw for eating items such as yogurt and applesauce
  • Provide crunchy fruit and veggie snacks such as apples, carrots and celery

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!

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Autism Friendly Activities in Milwaukee

With school out, parents may have mixed feelings about the summer ahead. What will my child do all Milwaukeeday? How can I keep them entertained? What can I fill their time with educationally since they are not in school? Well, fear not parents, there are a lot of fun, but educational activities you can do for your child with autism this summer in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

AMC Sensory Friendly Films

Mayfair Mall’s AMC movie theater features a few sensory friendly films each month, ranging from animated kid’s movies to action/thrillers. During the films, they keep the lights on and turn the volume down, which allows families safe access to the bathroom and alleviates any sensory tolerance concerns. Follow the link below for a listing of the upcoming films.

https://www.amctheatres.com/programs/sensory-friendly-films

Betty Brinn Children’s Museum

Betty Brinn Children’s museum has several rooms filled with educational toys as well as a rotating seasonal exhibit for your child to explore. Betty Brinn Children’s museum understands that access to educational and social opportunities for children with special needs can be difficult. As a result, they created a Family Focus Membership, that families can apply for, that provides free access to the museum for children with autism. If your application is accepted, you will need to attend a mandatory class at the museum, but then you will be given free access to the museum for a year. Follow the link below for more information on the Family Focus Membership.

http://www.bbcmkids.org/

Kids in Motion

Kids in Motion is an indoor play area for all children. They have several themed rooms with a variety of educational toys, a snack counter, and a main gym area that has a slide, tubes to climb in, and a roped in ball area. Kids in Motion in Brookfield, WI offers half off admission on Sundays for special needs families, which includes half off admission for siblings that are not on the spectrum. Follow the link below for more information on Kids in Motion.

http://www.kidsinmotionwi.com/

YMCA- programs for special needs kids

Several local YMCAs offer programs for all children, including special needs children, during the summer months. Whether you are looking for a class or all day summer camp, the YMCA has several different opportunities for children with special needs. If you are looking for a baseball camp, a great option is the Miracle League of Milwaukee, which accepts all children regardless of ability or prior experience. Follow the link below for more information on the Miracle League of Milwaukee.

http://www.miracleleaguemilwaukee.org/

While all of these options are affordable or free, there are several other great activities you can take part in Milwaukee with your child, such as the Milwaukee County Zoo or attending one of the many festivals Milwaukee has. In addition, Milwaukee County Parks are always free and can be fun for daily trips or to the Farmer’s Markets. While the summer months can seem long, keep all of these great opportunities in mind as you plan your summer months.

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 today!

To schedule an Applied Behavior Analysis assessment, complete the form here.

Teacher Tips: Accommodating an Anxious Child

Sometimes anxiety can be easy to identify, such as when a child is feeling nervous before a test. Blog-Teacher-Tips-Anxiety-Main-LandscapeHowever, in some children anxiety may look like something else, such as ADHD or a learning disorder.

The following is a list of tips to use in the classroom to accommodate a child with anxiety:

  • Some children may participate in therapeutic services. Therefore, it is imperative to talk with parents/guardian about strategies that work (and do not work) at home. Teachers can use and modify those strategies to help in the classroom.
  • Also, checking in with parents regularly is important to ensure that accommodations are helping and determine necessary adjustments

Homework & Assignments

  • Check that assignments are written down correctly
  • Using daily schedules
  • Modifying assignments and reducing workloads when possible
  • Allowing the child to take unfinished assignments home to complete

In the Classroom

  • Preferential seating that is less distracting
  • With regard to class participation
    • Determine a child’s comfort level with closed ended questions
    • Use signals to let the child know his/her turn is coming
    • Provide opportunities to share knowledge on topics he/she is most confident
    • If possible, only call on the child when he/she raises his/her hand
  • Extended time on tests
  • Provide word banks, equation sheets, and cues when possible
  • Allow for movements breaks throughout the day & relaxation techniques
  • Determine a discreet way the child can indicate he/she needs a break, such as a colored card the child places on his/her desk to signal he/she needs a drink of water, to use the restroom, or any other strategy to lessen feelings of anxiety
  • Allow the use of a fidget for children who have difficulty paying attention

Please refer to the following websites for additional information about anxiety in children and accommodations that can be used, or modified for use, in the classroom.

Resources:

http://www.worrywisekids.org
http://www.childmind.org/en/posts/articles/2015-4-13-anxiety-classroom
http://kidshealth.org/parent/classroom/factsheet/anxiety-factsheet.html
http://www.adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/children/anxiety-disorders-school

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!