extra-curricular success for children with special needs

Ensure Extra-Curricular Success for Children with Special Needs

Often parents of children with special needs are worried and fearful about the ability of their child to succeed in extra-curricular activities such as sports, boy scouts, dance, art class, etc. Parents often fear the worst and are afraid of how the child will behave or act in such circumstances.  I would recommend that parents utilize several tips in order to help ensure success with each out-of-school activity, as these activities have many proven benefits for a child’s self-esteem.

Tips for Working with Coaches to Ensure Success for Children with Special Needs in Extra-Curricular Activities:

1. Be frank with the coach or director of the activity. Inform him or her about the child’s concerns. These are often individuals who volunteer to help children and more times than naught have the child’s best interest in mind.

2. Let the individual know what types of behaviors the child has exhibited in the past. What happened in school when parents were away, etc?

3. Create a list of accommodations that have proven to be beneficial for the child. Let the coach or instructor in on some of the modifications that have been helpful in the academic setting, as he may be able to apply the modification to the activity setting.

4. Be present, or within immediate reach, for the first few sessions.

5. Have the child go and see the building and room will the activity will occur. If possible, meet the instructor to form a relationship in advance.

Ultimately the main goal of after school activities is to increase socialization while teaching a skill, activity, or sport. The above tips should help provide some strategies to ensure the maximum success for children who have special needs in such situations.

the benefits of a visual schedule

The Benefits of a Visual Schedule for Home and School Success

Do you feel like a broken record when you ask your child to complete a simple task or standard routine? Whether you’re asking your child to fulfill her typical morning routine or planning ahead for the upcoming weekend, try using a visual schedule to outline your expectations.

The benefits of a visual schedule include the following:

Visual schedules make chores or tasks objective instead of subjective. When there is a neutral source promoting expectations for the child, it fosters enhanced independence in the child as well as takes the emotionality out of having to remind, repeat, and get frustrated with the child’s progress. Even though it would seem like second nature to complete standard morning time practices, the visual schedule outlines for the child what comes first, second, last, etc. and provides a checklist to move through. Some parents take pictures of their child completing these tasks (i.e. making their bed, brushing their teeth, packing their bag, eating breakfast) to make this a visually pleasing tool and increase child investment in the process.

Visual schedules make transitions easier. For younger children who thrive with structure and benefit from knowing what is on the agenda for the day, a simple visual schedule can aid in transitions and reduce anxiety about upcoming events. These schedules can be less formal and just require a simple sketch of what is to come. During lazy days or even days with little going on, visual schedules can help to structure unstructured time and provide a variety of outlets in a time-sensitive fashion. For example, on a relaxing Saturday create a schedule with your child that incorporates meal times and provides options for morning “art time” and afternoon “outdoors time”. These schedules create structure with pictures. Instead of writing out art time, draw with crayons, paints, or chalk. Meal time would be indicated with a picture of a sandwich and plate. Drawing these expectations out can facilitate independence for even young kids to stick to the routine and understand the structure through the use of symbols.

These visual schedule help bring structure and independence to all home and school routines.

For more help this school year, watch this Pediatric TV Episode on how to set up a homework station at home.




FitnessGram

What is the FitnessGram and Why Are These Standards Used in Schools?

 

 

 

For more than 30 years, children from 5 to 18 years old have been tested using the FitnessGram Healthy Fitness Zone standards. Parents often wonder: What are these standards and how do the calculations reflect children’s health and fitness?

The most I remember from taking part in the FitnessGram back in the day was trying to reach for my toes and then getting pinched in the back of my arm. But the FitnessGram is more than just a measure of body fat and flexibility. The test items are used to determine body composition and aerobic capacity in children. They present a multi-dimensional view of children’s health. The test items reinforce health-related fitness research. The results serve to teach students and parents that just modest amounts of physical activity can improve their performance. The program helps children and parents better understand and appreciate a physically active lifestyle. The assessment does not compare one child to another and it tests fitness, not skill.

So what are the test items in the FitnessGram and what area of fitness do they measure?

To measure Aerobic Capacity (The ability to perform big muscle group high intensity exercises for a long period of time, such as running, jumping, and walking):

  • PACER test, Progressive Aerobic Cardiovascular Endurance Run, is a multi-stage endurance test, with twenty-one levels that increase in difficulty as children run 20 meter laps that gets faster and faster with each lap.
  • 1-Mile Run tests a child’s endurance and is a great indicator of fitness
  • Walk-test also helps to measure aerobic capacity, or the body’s ability to use oxygen efficiently.

To measure Muscle Strength (the ability of muscles to exert an external force) and Muscle Endurance (muscles’ ability to repeatedly exert an external force without fatigue):

  • Pull-ups are a measure of upper body strength and endurance
  • Push-ups are a measure of upper body and trunk strength and endurance
  • Curl-ups are a measure of abdominal strength and endurance
  • Trunk lift is a measure of back muscle strength and endurance

To measure Flexibility (the range of motion across a joint and the ability for muscles to stretch):

  • Sit and reach tests for flexibility of the trunk.
  • Shoulder stretch tests for the flexibility of one the shoulder, which is one of the most flexible joints in the body.

To measure for Body Composition (the makeup of the body and the ratio of fat tissue to non-fat tissue such as muscle and bone):

  • Body Mass Index (BMI)
  • Skinfold Measurement
  • Bioelectric Impedance Analyzers

The results of the test classify children’s performance as Healthy Fitness Zone (HFZ) or Needs Improvement (NI) zone. Children who score in the Needs Improvement zone receive reports that let them and their parents know that their currently at risk for future health problems. Some children may even score in the Health Risk category of the Needs Improvement zone. If they continue to live a sedentary lifestyle, there will be clear and potential health problems. Overall, The FitnessGram has been widely accepted in schools as a great educational tool for parents, teachers, and coaches. It builds a strong healthy foundation in children as young as elementary school. The program teaches them, through a hands-on approach, that being physical active in childhood pays off later on in life.

Click here for more great fitness related posts!

References:
Plowman, S.A. Muscular Strength, Endurance, and Flexibility Assessments. In S. A. Plowman & M.D. Meredith (Eds.), Fitnessgram/Activitygram Reference Guide (pp. Internet Resource). (2014) Dallas, TX: The Cooper Institute.
Plowman, S.A. & Meredith, M.D. (Eds.). Fitnessgram/Activitygram Reference Guide. (2014) Dallas, TX: The Cooper Institute.

prep your child's teacher to help your child with ADHD

How to Prep Your Child’s Teacher to Work with an ADHD Diagnosis

To start the school year out right for your child with and ADHD (or other) diagnosis, it is important to establish a close collaboration between you, your child’s teacher, any professionals of the treatment team, and your child!  Here is how you can prepare your child’s teacher to best understand your child’s needs to get off to a great start this academic year.

10 tips to prepare your child’s teacher to best help your child with an ADHD diagnosis:

1. Request to set up a meeting at the start of school year.

2. Get an idea of what your child’s teacher knows about ADHD and his general attitude towards ADHD. Some teachers may be more or less informed about ADHD, as research and diagnostic criteria has changed quite a bit over the years.
3. Inform the teacher of your child’s ADHD diagnosis (or other diagnosis), if he is on any medication or if you chose an alternative treatment method.

4. Find out what the culture of the classroom is like:

  • Structure: Is the daily schedule posted?  Does the teacher request frequent “brain breaks” during the day?
  • How does she describe her teaching style?
  • Rules & Expectations: Are there visual reminders posted around the room? What is the reward system? Incentives? Token System?  Nature of the homework assignments? Seating arrangements?
  • Can your child sit facing the front and close to the teacher?

5. Discuss the best way to contact one another (i.e. via phone or email).
6. Discuss if any notes home or behavioral report cards are necessary or how often?
7. Pass along any recommendations to your child’s teacher that she can implement that you have found helpful  for your child.

Examples:

  • “Jake does well when given one command at a time versus following multiple steps at once.”
  • “At home, we have found that having Jessica repeat back directions or rules, helps her to be more accountable.”
  •  “We use the token system at home and Sam seems to do well with it when we are consistent.”

8. Be supportive and open.

  • Assist the teacher in any way by being supportive and open to suggestions he or she may have.
  • Let the teacher know you want to work as team to make it a successful year for everyone.

9. Offer Praise and appreciation: A positive attitude with your child’s teacher creates a stronger relationship with all involved!

10. Request to set up a follow-up meeting to check-in : This could be half-way through the school year or sooner depending on the needs of your child.

Click here to read about self-regulating strategies to help children with ADHD.

ADHD in boys and girls

ADHD in Girls v. Boys

 

 

 

 

Although there are many features of ADHD that may overlap between genders, studies have shown there to be characteristics that differ among boys and girls. Neither of these characteristics are exclusive to the gender, but these are generally the characteristics seen in girls and boys with an ADHD diagnosis:

 ADHD Features in GIRLS:

  • Tend to show more symptoms of inattentiveness vs. hyperactivity
  • Are more likely to be diagnosed later in their academic career
  • Some adult women are not diagnosed until their child goes through the process and is diagnosed themselves!
  • Have a higher likelihood of being under-identified and under-treated
  • Display more symptoms of inattention, daydreaming, and memory problems
  • May be initially misdiagnosed
  • Tend to go under the radar during early school years
  • Tend to be slower learners and less motivated
  • Are at-risk for self-esteem issues, mood issues, and substance abuse
  • Adolescent-aged girls have lower self-efficacy and coping skills
  • Have a higher tendency to internalize problems
  • Are easily overwhelmed
  • Have difficulty with time management

 ADHD Features in BOYS:

  • Have a 2:1 ratio diagnosis of boys to girls
  • Are more likely to be detected and diagnosed early on in the school–age years
  • Show more symptoms of hyperactivity and behavioral problems
  • Have higher rates of impulsivity
  • Have Higher incidents of externalizing problems associated with ADHD symptoms (i.e. aggression, trouble getting along with peers)
  • Have trouble sitting still or disruptive in the classroom
everyday items for language play

How to Use Everyday Items for Language Play

 

 

 

When you walk into your child’s therapy clinic, you see toys, games, slides, swings, bubbles, scooters….I could go on forever. There’s always an endless supply of things to keep children entertained, motivated, and mostly, to make sure they’re having fun while working towards their therapy goals. However, you don’t need fancy toys or equipment to work on speech and language! Purchasing and using toys as therapy tools can be costly, overwhelming, and even intimidating for many families. However, there are a multitude of items you can find in your own home that will work great for speech and language home practice. And the best part, these are things you most likely already have so the cost is minimal or even nonexistent!

Home Tools for Speech and Language Practice:

Socks

What can I do with them?
Make them into a sock puppet or even a snake.
How can I use them for therapy?

  • Identify body parts
  • Pretend play
  • Feed the puppet; label food items you feed the puppet and verbs such as “eat” and “chew”
  • Conversational turn-taking skills

Bubble Wrap

What can I do with it?
Pop it!
How can I use it for therapy?

  • Verbalize “Pop!”
  • Have your child request “more”.  Allow him to pop a few and then hold the bubble wrap; either say or sign “more”.
  • Focus on size concepts; “These are big bubbles! This one is small.”

Toilet Paper/Paper Towel Roll

What can I do with it?
Leave it as is or decorate it!
How can I use it for therapy?

  • Play “I spy” to label common objects around the house.
  • Use it as a microphone for imitation. For example, say a word or phrase into the “microphone”, then have your child try it!
  • Make binoculars and use them to follow simple directions with location concepts. For example, “Find the ball under the table.”

Boxes

What can I do with it?
Get creative! Make it into a play house, mailbox, oven, etc!
How can I use it for therapy?

  • Work on basic concepts such as “in, out, on, off”
  • Hide objects under or in it; “Where did the ball go? Find the ball!”
  • Place item in the box, don’t let your child see it, and have them guess what it is by feeling and describing the item.

Milk Jug

What can I do with it?

  • Cut it to make it into a scoop
  • Make it into a shaker

How can I use it for therapy?

  • Scoop up/pour out various items; label verbs like “scoop, pour, fall” and concepts such as “full, empty”
  • Sing nursery rhymes and use the milk jug as an instrument; stop at various point throughout the song and have your child fill in the words. For example, “Row, row, row, your ____”
  • Fill it up with water, pour it out or water plants in the garden. Work on concepts like “in/out”, “full/empty”, “heavy/light”.

Markers/Crayons and Paper

What can I do with it?
Anything!
How can I use it for therapy?

  • Identification of body parts; draw a head and have your child label all the body parts you need.
  • Practice speech sounds; make dots ( “dot, dot, dot”), squiggles (“sssss”), dashes, etc. Pair any mark you make with a sound.
  • Make cards for family members. Talk about concepts/location of items. “Put the heart at the top of the page!”

This is just a tiny sample of items you can find in your home that can be used for therapy. There are endless possibilities. Remember all those old bridesmaid dresses you’ll absolutely never wear again? Hello, dress-up and pretend play! Get creative and have fun!

Click here for 5 fun and easy ways to promotes speech language in the warm weather!

what is phonemic awareness

What is Phonemic Awareness?

Literacy, or the ability to read and write, is paramount to a child’s success in school. Many children struggle with these skills, and this struggle may be due to difficulty with the building blocks of reading and writing, also known as phonological awareness. Phonological awareness can be thought of as one’s ability to identify sounds and letters as they relate to our spoken (and written) language. We all remember playing rhyming games in elementary school, but many people are unaware of their importance!

Children who have an understanding of phonological awareness understand that sentences are made up of words, words are made up parts (syllables), and each syllable has distinctive sounds. One great way to practice phonological awareness is through rhyming games and alliteration. Children will enjoy saying tongue twisters like, “Sally sells sea shells by the sea shore.” and identifying how many /s/ and /sh/ words they can count!

Phonemic awareness, a subset of phonological awareness, allows children to manipulate parts of language. Similar to phonological awareness, phonemic awareness is also comprised of parts including the following:
•    Segmenting: what sounds do we hear in the word “hat?” /h/, /a/, /t/
•    Blending: if you hear the sounds /t/, /o/, /p/, what do we get when we put them together?
•    Deleting: what’s “bat” without the “t?”
•    Substituting: if we change the /h/ in “house” to an /m/, what do we get?
•    Identifying: what’s the first sound in “cat?”

Phonemic awareness is separate from letter identification as it targets individual sounds; however, parents can incorporate letter names when practicing.

Phonological awareness typically begins in preschool and continues through early elementary school to prepare children for reading. These skills serve as the foundation for a child’s ability to read and write. If you suspect your child may be struggling with phonological awareness skills, a licensed speech-language pathologist can help!

Click here to read about 7 Ways to Increase Phonological Awareness.

Young girl cutting paper

Spring Crafts For Kids

The official first day of Spring has arrived and Spring breaks are in progress!  The weather may be a little chilly, but here are some springtime crafts for your family to enjoy.

Crayon Critters – ages preschool to school age

This craft is a great way to have children use their imaginations…and to use up crayon pieces!
 
Supplies

  • Wax Paper
  • Bits of crayon
  • Warm iron (under adult supervision)
  • Scissors
  • Stapler
  • Hole-Punch
  • Fishing line or yarn
  • Tacky glue (optional)
  • White paper (construction or copy)
  • Cloth (optional)
  • Black construction paper (optional)

Instructions

  • Create your pattern by drawing it on the white paper (draw it large enough to use up the entire piece of paper).  Some spring ideas:  butterfly, caterpillar, lady bug, bird.
  • Place a piece of wax paper over created pattern.
  • Sprinkle crayon shavings (sparingly!) on wax paper
  • Place another piece of wax paper on top of shavings and a blank sheet of paper or a cloth over that. Gently press down with a warm iron. The crayon will melt quickly.
  • Staple pattern to the crayon melted wax paper outside of the design area and cut out. This may be enough for the littlest crafters.
  • (Optional for older children) Create a black outline with construction paper for your critter to make it even more dramatic.  To do this, take a pencil and outline the critter on top of the black paper. Cut out holes or shapes in the black paper so the crayon design shows through.
  • Glue the black paper to the wax paper.  A little tacky glue will go a long way, so use a little at a time.
  • Punch a hole in the top of the critter and thread fishing line or yarn through to enable it to be hung in the window.

Egg Carton Wreaths – ages preschool to school age

At some point most of us will have an empty egg carton…instead of throwing it away, this is a great project to recycle it!

Supplies

  • Egg Carton (1)
  • Watercolor paints
  • Paint brushes
  • Cardboard
  • Tacky glue
  • Ribbon or yarn
  • Scissors

Instructions

  • Cut a ring (about 12″ in diameter) from a small piece of cardboard to be the base for the wreath.
  • Tear apart all the egg cups so they are individualized.
  • Make cuts in each egg cup to create petals.  (So it will have slits going all around the cup)
  • Decorate each cup using watercolors (or markers) to create all the flowers.  Feel free to add any other type of decorating technique  (glitter, feathers, pipe-cleaners, etc)
  • Use tacky glue to attach each flower to our cardboard ring.
  • Make a small hole in the cardboard base and use ribbon to hang.

Birdfeeders

Here is a great project that helps your child or teen feed the birds that have ended their hibernation and are ready or spring, just like us!
 Supplies

  • Toilet paper roll
  • Knife
  • Peanut butter (or shortening if there is a peanut allergy)
  • Bird seed
  • Paper plate
  • String or pipe-cleaners
  • Hole punch
  • Cheerios (or a cereal with a hole in the middle of each piece)

Instructions

  • Take a pipe-cleaner and bend one end bend one end (so the Cheerios don’t fall off), and thread the Cheerios on.  Make a loop at the top to hang it on the tree.
  • Use a hole-punch to make a hole at the top of your toilet paper roll.
  • Spread peanut butter or shortening on the toilet paper roll.
  • Pour birdseed onto a plate so you cannot see the bottom of the plate
  • Roll the peanut butter-covered TP roll in bird seed until it’s fully covered.

Options for hanging:

–Hang on the end of a tree branch.

–Put a string through a punched hole and hang it on a branch.

–Use the pipe-cleaner with Cheerios to hang on a branch

Bottle Feeder – for older kids

 Supplies

  • One- 1 liter bottle of soda
  • One- 2 liter bottles of soda. (bottles should have straight bottom sections, rather than curved ones)
  • 5′ of thick wire, at least 2mm gauge.
  • Sharp scissors or x-acto knife
  • Nails
  • Hammer
  • Paint (acrylic or tempera)
  • Paint brushes
  • Wooden spoons (2-3)
  • Bird seed

Instructions

  • Remove the labels and all glue.
  • Save the bottle cap from the 2 Liter bottle.
  • Cut the 1 liter bottle at roughly the halfway point between where the neck widens out and the bottom of the bottle. Keep the lower portion of the bottle.
  • Cut the 2 liter bottle at the widest part of the neck.  Keep the upper/neck portion of the bottle.
  • Cut a 1.5-2″ hole in the side of the smaller bottle, roughly 1″ up from the top of the feet,  no less than 1/2″ away from the top edge.
  • Test the bigger bottle (this is the roof) over the smaller bottle (main part of house) If the top section looks too big, trim the edges so that the top part is shorter and looks more like a roof.
  • Use the hammer and nail to add 2 holes, on opposite sides of the smaller bottle.   They should be 1/2″ away from the top edge of the bottle but not on the same side as the entry hole.
  • Next add four holes in the bottle cap not too close to the edge of the cap.
  • Paint the bottle pieces and let dry a couple hours or until no longer wet.
  • Cut two pieces of the wire (about 2′ long) and thread it through the top of the bottle cap.  Continue to threat the wire through the outside of the smaller bottle and then back up through the next hole. Repeat for the other side with a second length of wire.
  • Making sure all of the wires ends are even, overlap their ends by about 2″. Twist the ends together and hang!


Strategies and Resources for Your Child’s Writing Disorder

Writing disorders can make every day school tasks like taking notes, writing assignments into a planner, and completing written work very challenging for students.  Nonetheless, this does not mean that it should hold a child back from learning to be a great writer.  There are many resources available to help assist students become proficient writers and the following is a list that children and adolescents in our clinic have found helpful:

  • Assistive Technology Devices that may be available in your child’s school:

    • Word Processor
    • Dictation (e.g., Dragon Naturally Speaking programs)
    • Co-Writer Word Prediction Software
    • Inspiration Software http://www.inspiration.com/
  • Classroom-based accommodations:

    • Reduce overall written work load
    • Copy of teacher notes and outlines
    • Focus on one writing skill at a time until the child masters it
  • At home:

    • Encourage free writing about your child’s favorite topic
    • Help them talk out key points to cover and reinforce the organization format taught in school
  • If legibility of writing is a concern, a trial of Occupational Therapy can help with fine motor control and coordination.

Writing is a vital skill that should never be out of reach for any child.  For additional strategies, please visit: http://www.ldonline.org.  For information about your child’s rights and standards in public education, please visit: Idea.ed.gov.



Strategies and Resources for Your Child’s Reading Disability

Approximately 3-6% of school-aged children struggle with a reading disability.  This begins to impact students as early as kindergarten and continues to create difficulties across subjects as the child progresses through school.  At NSPT we are frequently asked for recommendations to help students with reading difficulties, both in the classroom and at home.  Below is a list of resources that we have compiled:

Previously known as the Illinois Branch of the International Dyslexia Association, ERI provides information about the diagnosis, research-tested treatments, parent support groups, and community events.  They also keep an up-to-date list of certified tutors in the Chicagoland area.

Bookshare is an excellent online collection of audiobooks, with over 225,000 titles.  Acceptable documentation of the child’s diagnosis (see website for details) grants students free access to download books for use on a variety of electronic devices.

Another option for gaining access to audiobooks, Learning Ally offers features such as highlighting text, play back controls, adjustment of speed and tone of voice for each student’s preference and easy bookmarking.

  • Multi-Sensory Programs

Widely accepted as the gold-standard in reading remediation programs, multi-sensory approaches teach phonics and fluency in a unique way by calling upon the action of various brain systems.  The following have demonstrated effectiveness:

  • Orton-Gillingham
  • Lindamood Phoneme Sequencing Program
  • Wilson
  • SLANT
  • Earobics

Your child may also have the right to the following:

  • Classroom-Based Accommodations
    • Test directions and/or items read aloud
    • If not read aloud, check for understanding of directions
    • Extended time

For more information on your child’s rights within the public school system, please visit Idea.ed.gov.