Developmental & Fun Holiday Gift List For All Ages!

Holiday gift giving can be tricky to juggle when providing educational toys that also happen to be fun for your children. Here is a list of suggestions that is seperated by Ages, Sensory Considerations and Fine and Gross Motor Skill Development.  girl with gifts

Holiday Toys for Infants (0-1yr)

Gross Motor:

“Tummy time” offers strengthening of the back, core and neck muscles that are critical to a baby’s development. There are many tummy time mats on the market to help this important position be a part of your everyday routine,

Tummy time play mats; $14.99 – $24.99

Fine Motor:

Babies enjoy exploring environments that are filled with music, colors, lights and a variety of textures. Cause and effects toys are great for developing fine motor skills as well as eye-hand coordination such as,

Fisher-Price Little Superstar Classical Stacker (6mos & up); $13.99

Sensory:

Providing infants with teethers and rattles of a variety of shapes, sounds and textures will assist in their exploration of their environment as well as help sooth those teeth coming in. Read more

Sibling Rivalry | Why Siblings Fight and How to Prevent it!

After reading Siblings Without Rivalry by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, I had to question whether or not this title was realistic. Don’t all siblings have difficulty getting along sometimes? The answer is yes – all brothers and sisters go through conflicts that may cause you to pull your hair out. However, there is a difference between normal sibling rivalry and behavior that is not typical between brothers and sisters. There are also plenty of ways that parents can both reduce the tension in the household and actually exacerbate the situation. Sibling Rivalry

Why do Brothers and Sisters Fight?

• Siblings fight due to developmental levels. Younger children are going to argue over “silly” things, such as sharing toys and sitting too close to each other.

• Brothers and sisters may not get along because their personalities are either too different or too similar. You also may have two children with very strong personalities.

• Siblings of children with special needs may have difficulty with understanding why their brother or sister gets more attention than they do.

• Sex and age can also cause sibling rivalry. Children of the same sex and close in age may be more competitive due to having similar interests.

• Parenting plays a major role. How you resolve conflict may impact your children’s problem-solving ability. As a parent, you also have the power to increase or decrease the tension based on how you react.

• Fighting amongst siblings is normal. How and how much they fight is the question to be answered when determining what atypical behavior is. Physical interactions between siblings are never okay and should always be addressed. You may never fully eliminate arguing between siblings, but the frequency can always be reduced. Read more

What is DEVELOPMENTAL DYSLEXIA?

DyslexiaDyslexia is one of the more common conditions to affect school age children. It is estimated that between 5 and 10% of children between the ages of 5 and 20 meet criteria for the disorder. The definition of dyslexia is an inability to read; however, while this is a disorder that is very easy to define, it can be difficult to diagnose and treat. Reading is an intimate and essential skill in our school systems. Children are taught to read in first and second grade; but by grade three they are expected to acquire new information from what they read and children who have difficulties in reading will begin to suffer in all subjects if left untreated.

Dyslexia and The Brain

There has been a wealth of information published on this disorder since first conceptualized nearly a hundred years ago. What researchers have essentially concluded is that we don’t have a formal reading center in our brain. Rather, we utilize language and speech areas to make sense of written words. Thus, any disorder that affects language systems can impact reading. In fact, in adult stroke patients, there is an unusual condition called alexia (can’t read) without agraphia (can’t write), which means that a person could write a sentence but be unable to read what they had just written. Through the advent of neuroimaging, we have been able to trace the pathways that lead from the visual perception of written text to the decoding of that text for meaning and have a pretty good understanding of how children with dyslexia read (or don’t read) differently than normal children. We have not been as successful in figuring out the cause of this disorder.

The current thinking is that our visual system is built to recognize objects from a variety of different angles because we are creatures that move in the world. For instance, if I turn a chair on its side, it won’t take you longer to figure out it is still a chair. However, letters and words need to be identified in the same orientation and in the same order if they are to have meaning. The visual system, therefore, “cheats” by funneling letters and words over to the language centers for processing instead of in typical object recognition centers. If this process occurs correctly, most children will be able to read as early as five years of age. If they don’t funnel this information correctly to the left side, they will continue to treat letters and words just like objects in the environment. For instance, a child might see the word “choir” but say the word “chair” since they are visually so similar in appearance. However, their meaning is quite different and clearly comprehension is going to be affected if many of those errors occur.

Signs of Dyslexia in Children

Some of the common signs of dyslexia in younger children can be the omission of connecting words (i.e., in, an, the, to, etc.), taking the first letter or two of the word and guessing, or converting words that they have never seen into words that they already know, even when the meaning is quite different. I hear often that parents become worried because their child reverses letters and, while this does occur in children with dyslexia, it is also a fairly common phenomenon with children who are learning to read, particularly with letters that look similar (i.e., b and d). Thus, it often does take a trained professional to differentiate children who are poor readers or who are developing slowly or in a patch-like fashion from children who actually have dyslexia.

Dyslexia in School

One of the challenges with this condition is that many of the schools have gone to an RTI Model (Response To Intervention) for reading. This means that they wait to see how a child responds to a normal classroom and if they fail, they move them to additional services, and if that fails, they move them to further intense services. Failing that, an evaluation is ordered. In real life, this means that many children are not evaluated properly for several years and by that time there are major gaps in their learning and acquisition. We do know of several methods for remediating dyslexia, although they often involve multiple hours a week of tutoring on a one-on-one basis and some school systems are simply ill-equipped to provide those types of services for children.

Most children that we see here at the clinic with dyslexia are bright and capable children who become increasingly frustrated with school because they are unable to bring their intellect to bear on many of the activities they are asked to perform in the school system. Even subjects in which they find much enjoyment are limited in terms of their ability to access the material because so much of it is done through written form. They often look poor on standardized reading and math testing; but because they are bright they can usually “muddle along” just enough to escape attention until they have fallen several years behind by middle school.

Treatment for Dyslexia

Fortunately, several treatment methods have been developed over the years that lead to a “normalization” of the reading system within the brain on imaging studies and to a dramatic increase in reading scores on educational tests. Only a trained professional can determine if your child has a developmental delay, dyslexia, or some other condition that is impacting their reading; but these are often critical evaluations to get done early since the remediation process can take 12 to 24 months.

I have evaluated hundreds of children for this condition and seen rather dramatic improvements when these children are placed in evidence-based programs for even a short amount of time. I urge all families who have children who struggle with reading to at least get a consultation with a trained professional to determine an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment planning.

How To Keep Your Toddler Well Behaved At A Family Function

Family FunctionAren’t toddlers so fun and adorable? You’re probably saying to yourself, “Well, most of the time!”

Keeping your toddler well-behaved at a family function can be extremely difficult, especially because you don’t want to unleash the “monster parent” in front of other family members.

Keep cool! Remember that your toddler is doing the best he or she can with the limited skills they’ve got. Tantrums, throwing items, hitting and talking back are all “normal” – these behaviors show that your child is curious and “independent (or at least that is what you tell your family).

This is true to an extent. Toddlers are at an extremely curious age. They always want to know how things work and will often try things out that aren’t exactly ok (e.g. seeing if their sister’s new fish can swim in the toilet).  It’s important to remember that communication at this age is tough. In the mind of a toddler, it’s much easier to throw their plate rather than try to say, “Mommy, I am done with my food.” It’s just not going to happen!  And finally, remember that they all want to be independent at this age. They are seeing what they can do by themselves, which often leads to frustration, anger and then the dreaded tantrum. Read more

Talking to Your Teen About Peer Pressure

If you’ve recently noticed your teen changing his or her behavior, language or dress to match up with their friends, you’re not alone. Few parents are excited by the teen years’ ability to undermine the importance of family and skyrocket the value of friendships. Both are impacted by the psychological urge as well as peer pressure teens get to separate from their family and discover their own identity.Peer Pressure Blog

It is normal for your teen’s friends to become intensely influential during this time. One way of relieving this stress for you is to remember that this is a typical developmental stage (with the key word being stage). Another way is to focus your attention on making the most of the time you do spend with them. Make sure it is both educational and meaningful, with open lines of communication. They will be seeking more independence than usual, so long lectures about what to do or say will be resisted and likely just generate a lot of frustration on your end.

Before your teen dives head first into the world of peer pressure, how can you send them out with the right social equipment?

Consider these tips before talking to your teen about peer pressure:

• What are my family’s values? They won’t forget the values you teach them, even if they don’t adhere to them all of the time or as much as you’d like them to.

• What lessons have I taught them that will support good decision-making?

• What top five personal qualities do I want them to have as an adult? Parent with the end in mind.

• Talk in detail about the true dangers of smoking, drinking and drugs. State more facts than opinions. Ask for their personal definitions, and you will find out what they are learning amongst their peers.

• Be empathetic about their desire to fit in with their friends. Reinforce the positive qualities that make someone a good friend.

• Teach assertiveness skills proactively. Ask them if they are comfortable saying “no,” and if not, practice different ways to do this. Don’t forget about the impact of confident body language!

• Talk to them about their world and how they see it. More importantly, listen.

• Is there a visible pattern of disrespect between your teen and their friends? What kinds of interaction are you able to observe, and what does it tell you?

• Watch movies or TV episodes that suggest constructive ways to handle peer pressure and manage the conflict that may follow.

• Be consistent with your expectations, rules and limits. Teens will be less likely to engage in risky behaviors when they are intolerable to you.

Be there for your teen when they need you, and you will remain the biggest influence in their life.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonDeerfieldLincolnwoodGlenviewLake BluffDes PlainesHinsdale and Mequon! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140!

Social Work

School Conferences: 3 Topics That Must Be Discussed

Parent teacher ConferenceParent and teacher conferences are soon approaching.  This is an exciting time for parents, as it serves as the first means of identifying how their children have been progressing thus far in the school year.  However, too many times parents leave the conferences with more questions than answers.  This is a hectic time; teachers are extremely busy, as they have twenty some conferences to prepare for themselves, and parents are often in a rush and feel unprepared.  Here are several ideas and guidelines for making the most out of a conference.

It is important for parents to make the most of the fifteen or so minutes that are planned for the conference.  Teachers usually have an idea of what they want to discuss during the meeting, and more often than not, the focus is on the child’s academic work and behavior within the classroom.  Parents, please develop and write down an outline of what you want to discuss during the meeting.  Like any structured meeting, the agenda must be decided by both parties.  It is important to identify what the current concerns are, as well as what your (as parents) ideal outcome is from having the meeting with the teacher.  Read more

Head and Brain Injuries in Children

David HuffMany of you have probably seen the highlights about David Huff; he is a pitcher on the Cleveland Indians, who got hit directly in the head by a line drive from Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez a few months ago (http://sports.espn.go.com/new-york/mlb/news/story?id=5232792). Luckily, Mr. Huff was not seriously injured from this. However, many children are not as lucky and sustain a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) each year. Current estimates indicate that approximately 180 out of 100,000 children will attain a TBI during their lifetimes.

  Read more

Organizational Strategies For Grammar School Students

Are school mornings hectic and stressful? Do the evenings fly by in a blur? Whether they’re in kindergarten or fifth grade, helping your children stay organized will help to get you out the door in the morning and leave more time for family fun at home in the evening.Unorganized Books

Here are a few organizational strategies you can use to get them better structured:

  • Organization for any family starts with a solid daily routine. This will help things to run smoothly once kids come home from school. Scheduling TV time, homework, dinner and a consistent bedtime will help the evenings move along like clockwork rather than chaos.
  • Checklists may be helpful in keeping kids on track with the family routine. Allowing them to check off what they have accomplished gives them ownership and increases their independence.
  • As the daily routine of the school year sets in, your child may require reminders to look through their backpack for any important papers to give you, assignments for the day, or upcoming school events. Building this process into the after school routine will help everyone stay on the same page and up-to-date with what needs to be completed.
  • Establish a designated area for backpacks, lunch boxes, show-and-tell items and other school supplies. An area close to the door will help your grade school student remember all of their supplies for the day’s events.
  • Help your student establish an organizational system for school. Binders with folders for each class or a labeled accordion-style folder will help them complete homework and meet deadlines. This strategy will stick with them for years to come.
  • Create an area for your child to complete homework that is free from too many distractions and allows for concentration and focused completion of homework and school projects. Making pencils, paper, and other necessary supplies easily accessible will help them to complete their assignments in a timelier manner.
  • If your child resists sitting down to complete their homework or becomes fidgety after sitting for too long, it may help to set a timer (5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes) and when it goes off give them a movement break. This provides an end point and may help them focus; giving your child a break during homework time is also helpful in keeping them motivated and on task.
  • Talk with your child’s teacher to identify what organizational strategies they will be using in the classroom in order to promote consistency at home.
  • Help your student use a daily planner to keep track of assignments given each day in school. Making a bulleted list for each class may remind them to fill out their planner each day.
  • Help your student to break down long-term projects into more manageable steps. This skill will prevent them from waiting until the last minute to complete the project, and will be beneficial into middle and high school.
  • Reviewing your child’s homework and recognizing their effort and accomplishments will motivate them to continue working hard.

 What is your best practice for organizing your child?

Click Here To Download Your Free Executive Functioning Skills Checklist

Halloween Tips For Children With Sensory Processing Disorder

Halloween SPDHalloween parties, costumes, make-up, masks, trick-or-treating, and treats. This all sounds like fun to many children, but Halloween “fun” can be a sensory nightmare for children with sensory issues. Fortunately, there are ways to help make Halloween more enjoyable for the child who struggles with sensory issues.

SPD For Halloween Tip 1 – Exposure to Halloween early and often

Start early in explaining Halloween to your children to ensure a successful night. Repetition helps kids with sensory processing difficulties understand an event or holiday.

SPD For Halloween Tip 2 – Pick the right costume

  • Choose a non-scary costume
  • Let your child help select a costume. A bumblebee suit with wings and bobbing antennae may be too much to handle, but a silly shirt or a handheld prop might be perfect.
  • Try out the costumes, make sure they are a good fit.
  • Practice walking and sitting while wearing the costume.
  • Wearing a mask may be uncomfortable. He may prefer to hold the mask or just skip it. 
  • If costumed, make sure it’s something she can partially or fully remove so she doesn’t have to go home if she becomes uncomfortable.
  • If your child is not wearing a costume, make sure they know there is nothing wrong with them.
  • If your child is afraid of trick-or-treating and seeing others dressed up in costumes, stay home and hand out candy from the front yard or the doorway.  
  • Your child can wear his costume in safe and familiar environments such as the neighbors’ and relatives’ houses. 
  • Never force your child to wear a costume. If they do not want to wear one at all, that’s okay!
  • Experiment with face make-up as tactile exploration. However, bring baby wipes to remove it just in case.

 

Read more

Zero Tolerance: Should 7 Year Old Boy Be Expelled From School For Bringing A Toy Gun?

A 7 year old boy in Florida last November was expelled from school for having a toy gun in his backpack.  A year later he is still expelled and everyone from the news to parent organizations are torn as to whether the Zero Tolerance Rule has gone too far or if it is appropriate.

Zero Tolerance Sign

Children naturally love to show and tell.  They find anything they can and “hide” it in their backpack.  Sometimes they take it out, sometimes they forget it, and sometimes they just decide to leave it there and play with it when they get home.  There are so many children with toy guns, and rarely do they just use their fingers to “shoot” during their imaginative games.  With nerf guns, dollar store plastic guns, water guns, chocolate guns, candy guns, and countless other varieties, where do we draw the line?  

If this is a family with a history of bad behavior and gun usage, then there may be some more power to the story. If this is a child with many psychological problems including behavioral and aggression, then we would have to discuss more. However, simply bringing a plastic toy gun to school and being expelled from school at the age of seven is a tough one.  Would it make more sense to give the parents the consequence for even buying it for him?  For not checking his backpack?  For negligence?  At least the kid would still be in school.     

What if he was ten and had that plastic gun?  I would ask the same questions.  If he is a kind and sweet seven-year-old or ten-year-old from a good family, would having a toy gun be so bad?  Many times adults take things out on the children instead of the parents.  Many times the adults are quick to punish without really trying to understand the underlying reasons behind a child’s actions.  

If a student brings a toy gun to school, should the parents be held accountable or not?

Should he still be expelled?

Share  your opinions in the comments on this story below: