10 Ways to Encourage Handwriting Practice Without a Pencil

When handwriting is challenging for a child, getting a pencil in their hand can be a difficult task. There are many ways to practice letters without using a pencil. The motor planning component of handwriting can be reinforced through the following activities.

10 Fun Activities For Practicing Handwriting:

  1. Pour cornmeal onto a cookie sheet. Then an adult draws a letter in the cornmeal. Have the child trace the letter a couple times. Then the child can draw the letter in the finger paintingcornmeal themselves. If needed, an adult can guide the child’s hand to make the letter appropriately.
  2. Buy cheap hair gel and put it in a large Ziploc bag. Lie the bag on a flat surface and the child can use their finger to draw letters.
  3. Put shaving cream on the bathtub wall and have the child write letters with their finger.
  4. Use sidewalk chalk or a paint brush with water to make letters outside.
  5. Use blocks to make large letters on the floor.

 For the following five activities, click here to print out large letters as a guide if helpful.

  1. Create letters out of playdoh.
  2. Use Wikki Sticks or pipe cleaners to make letters.
  3. Make letters out of a snack food, for example, raisins, cereal or marshmallows.
  4. Make letters using push pins in a cork board.
  5. Have the child crumple tissue paper, then glue the tissue paper on to cover the letter.

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The Use Of Visuals For Speech Development | Pediatric Therapy Tv

In today’s webisode, a Pediatric Speech and Language Pathologist gives details on how different visual aids can help children develop speech.

 In This Video You Will Learn:

  • What is a speech visual
  • What types of visuals can help with the development of speech
  • What ages and conditions the visuals work best with

Video Transcription:

Announcer: From Chicago’s leading experts in pediatrics to a worldwide
audience, this is Pediatric Therapy TV, where we provide experience and
innovation to maximize your child’s potential. Now your host, here’s Robyn.

Robyn: Hello and welcome to Pediatric Therapy TV. I’m your host, Robyn
Ackerman. Today I’m standing here with Deanna Swallow, a
pediatric speech and language pathologist. Deanna, can you tell
us what visuals are and how they help children with speech?

Deanna: Sure. A lot of research has been done to find out which ways
children learn the best. It’s been well-documented that children
learn well with a multisensory approach. Because speech and
language rely so heavily on an auditory system, we try to use
the visual system to help enhance a child’s ability to process
and use spoken language.

There are a lot of different ways and reasons that visual
support can be used, depending on the child’s needs. I’ll show
you an example that I made for one of my kids who has difficulty
following directions. I made a schedule for them that had each
different step visually presented so I could speak each step to
the child and then point to it as I spoke. In this example
visuals are used to help process.

For developing toddlers, oftentimes people will use baby sign to
enhance their development of speech. For older children or
children who don’t have means to verbally communicate at all,
sometimes we will use an entirely visually-based communication
system such as PECS, the Picture Exchange Communication System.
This system was developed for preschool-aged children with

There are a lot of augmentative communication devices that rely
wholly on visual input. Here’s an example of a binder I made for
my kids that has a lot of different activity choices. I’ll use
these in a variety of ways to help children to let me know
different activities they want.

Robyn: Thank you so much, Deanna, and thank you to our viewers. And
remember, keep on blossoming.

Announcer: This has been Pediatric Therapy TV, where we bring peace of
mind to your family with the best in educational programming. To
subscribe to our broadcast, read our blogs, or learn more, visit
our website at LearnMore.me. That’s LearnMore.me.

Home Alone: How To Know When Your Children Are Ready

Deciding when your child is ready to stay home alone can be challenging.  Some young children may insist that they are ready before you think they are, whereas some teenagers may feel nervous even though you feel confident in their abilities. While most experts agree that children should be at least 10 years old to stay home without adult supervision, there is no magic number of when children will be ready. Before determining whether your children are ready to stay home alone, ask yourself the following questions.

Is Your Child Ready To Stay Home Alone:girl happy

  1. Does my child show responsibility?
  2. How does my child handle unexpected situations?
  3. How aware is my child of safety procedures?

If you feel confident in your child’s abilities to show responsibility, stay calm in unexpected situations, and use safety guidelines, then the next step is to prepare your child to stay home alone. Below are 8 practical tips.

8 Ways To Prepare Your Child For Staying Home Alone:

  1. Check in with your child about how he/she feels about staying home alone.
  2. Explore any anxieties or fears your child has and provide active listening, support, and problem solving.
  3. Create a consistent safety plan with your child (i.e. emergency numbers, home security system, ways to reach you).
  4. Review with your child what is expected during the time he/she stays home alone (i.e. homework completion, can/cannot have friends over, can/cannot use certain appliances) .
  5. Give your child tasks or activities to do while you are gone (i.e. crafts, new movie, game).
  6. Role play with your child various scenarios (i.e. someone comes to the door, someone calls the house, smoke alarm goes off, someone gets hurt) that could happen while you are gone to help him/her feel confident and prepared.
  7. Practice with your child by leaving the house for 30 minutes and discussing how your child felt.
  8. Give praise whenever your child is able to stay home and follow all of the rules and guidelines!

We would love to hear your thoughts and ideas! What have you used to gage your child’s readiness to stay home alone? What tips would you give to other parents?

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How To Teach Your Preschooler To Cut With Scissors

Snip snip snip! Cutting is a skill that may take a good amount of time for a child to perfect. Cutting requires many components including: fine motor precision, bilateral skills, visual motor skills, grasping, problem solving, and attention to detail. Cutting can also be intimidating for parents to teach, as safety can be a definite concern! Here are some simple tips in order to work towards increased success with cutting:girl using scissors

Teach Your Child To Use Scissors:

  • Find an appropriate work station.  Seat your child at a table, with his feet flat on the floor, and with minimal distractions, so that he will be able to best attend to the activity at hand
  • Make sure your child is using his dominant hand to manipulate the scissors, and his non-dominant hand to hold the paper. If your child has not yet chosen his hand dominance, present the scissors at midline (the center of the body) so that your child can independently choose which hand to use. **Note: often times scissors are made more comfortably for right hand use.
  • Help your child to set-up his scissors correctly from the get go. This will prevent your child from developing a habit of holding his scissors incorrectly/inefficiently, and will lead to greater accuracy and confidence in the end. The thumb should be in the smaller of the two holes and the pointer and long fingers should be inside the larger hole. The ring finger and pinky can be tucked into the palm. **Note: make sure the thumb is facing up towards the ceiling, rather than turned towards the paper.
  • Patience is a virtue with cutting activities. A child should first start by simply snipping the paper, followed by cutting across the entire sheet of paper. After these skills are perfected the child can begin to practice cutting on both straight and curved/wavy lines, and cutting out large circles and squares. Lastly your child will work towards cutting out smaller circles and squares, and more complex shapes.
  • Remind your child to turn their paper rather than turning the directionality of their scissors. Your child’s scissors should ALWAYS be facing forward, cutting away from their body.
  • If your preschooler continues to struggle, try loop scissors or self-opening (spring loaded) scissors to help increase both of your confidence!

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iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch Apps to Teach Kids Social Skills

As a licensed clinical social worker, I have worked with hundreds of kids and teenagers since 1994. For many, social skills do not simply come Child with iPadnaturally; they need to be taught, just as they need to be taught spelling, reading, mathematics, social studies, and science. Kids with ADHD, learning disabilities, and autism spectrum disorders often find learning social skills to be especially challenging.

Throughout time, kids have learned through play. Kids as young as one year use pretend play to learn about their world. And, as any kid will gladly tell you, kids like to learn when we make it fun for them. When I was growing up, video games were emerging, but now the tiniest little ones can be observed effortlessly playing with their moms and dads’ iPhone, iTouch, and iPad.

Since the kids are interested anyway, why not teach them something while they play? There are many apps that teach kids social skills in a non-threatening, engaging manner.

The following is a list of some apps to help children with social skills:

1. Model Me Going Places– Free is a visual teaching tool to help children navigate common challenging locations in their community. Each location incorporates a photo slide show of children modeling appropriate beahvior. Locations include: hair salon, mall doctor, playground, grocery store, and restaurant.

2. Responding Social Skills– $0.99 teaches how to listen and respond to others, give directions, understand others’ feelings and perspective-taking.

3. Initiating Social Skills– $0.99 includes practice in greetings, starting conversations, giving information, and introducing oneself.

4. Everyday Social Skills– $0.99 Teaches basic social skills needed for everyday activities in the child’s community, including common activities like walking down the street, using a public restroom, waiting in line, asking for directions, asking for information, and joining a group.

5. Personal Social Skills– $0.99 Teaches responsibility, dependability, accepting consequences, maintaining personal hygiene, grooming, dressing, and more.

6. Hidden Curriculum for Kids– $1.99 Real-life scenarios spur conversations about the many unwritten social rules that we encounter daily that can often cause confusion and anxiety for those who cannot read these cues well.

7. Small Talk App– Presents conversation fillers for those awkward social moments, allowing users to choose between conversation: starters, jokes, factoids, “would you rather” questions, etc.

8. Look in my eyes– There are a series of apps that address eye contact as a social skill. Choose one of high-interest to the child: restaurant, car mechanic, undersea, dinosaurs, etc.

9. How would you feel if…–  Allows children to discuss their feelings about a variety of situations to promote emotion awareness.

10. Eye contact toybox app–  Helps kids practice eye contact while earning fun rewards.

11. Body language app–  Offers full-body illustrations of body language to help kids become aware of gestures, postures, handshakes, and other body cues.

12. Conversation Builder– Teaches elementary-aged children how to have multi-exchange conversations with their peers in a variety of social settings.

13. Social Skills– $6.99;  Offers social stories complete with photographs and sound to help children with social skills such as: attention, non-verbal communication, greetings, structured game play, turn-taking, imitation, and classroom rules. For the iPod Touch, one will need an external microphone to record the sound.

14. Super Duper What Are They Thinking?– Children can listen to 180 entertaining “thoughts” or answer “what are they thinking?” questions to teach perspective taking.

15. Stories2Learn– $13.99 Offers social stories that can be personalized using photos, writing, and audio messages. This allows stories to be created that show targeted social cues.

New apps are added frequently and as this industry grows, we will update you with the latest technology and apps.

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*North Shore Pediatric Therapy, Inc. (NSPT) intends for responses to the blogs to provide general educational information to the readership of this website; all content and answers to questions should not be understood to be specific advice intended for any particular individual(s).  Questions submitted to this blog are not guaranteed to receive responses.  No ongoing relationship of any sort (including but not limited to any form of professional relationship) is implied or offered by NSPT  to people submitting questions.  Always consult with your health professional first before initiating or changing any aspect of your treatment regimen.

Signs Your Child Is Ready For The Potty

In today’s webisode a Board Certified Behavior Analyst Gives us the signs to look for when beginning potty training with a child!  To read a blog on the 10 Do’s and Don’ts for Potty Training, click here.

In This Video You Will Learn:

  • The signs to look for if your child is ready for potty training
  • What directions your child should be able to follow in order to use the potty
  • Why the length of your child’s attention span matters

Video Transcription:

Announcer: From Chicago’s leading experts in pediatrics to a worldwide
audience, this is Pediatric Therapy TV, where we provide experience and
innovation to maximize your child’s potential. Now your host, here’s Robyn.Robyn: Hello, and welcome to Pediatric Therapy TV. I’m your host,
Robyn Ackerman, and today I’m standing here with Katie Sadowski,
a behavioral analyst. Katie, can you tell our viewers how to
know when your child is ready for potty training?Katie: Yes. For your child to be ready for potty training, you want to
look for certain signs. One sign that you want to notice is that
your child is showing a desire and want. There is an interest
that your child is showing in regards to being potty trained.
They’re now starting to stay clean, stay dry, and they’re
excited about it, and they’re happy. They also are wanting to
wear big kids’ underpants. Another thing that you’ll see is that
they’re taking an interest in what you’re doing when you’re
going to the bathroom and asking questions about what are you
doing or why are you doing that.

Some other things that are helpful when potty training are
looking at the fact, “Can your child follow simple directions?”
When you’re using the bathroom, there are a lot of one-step
directions that we have to complete. You go in, you turn on the
light, you close the door, you have to pull down your pants,
your underwear. So there are a lot of different things that your
child needs to be able to do.

Another thing is just making sure that your child can sit and
actually engage in an activity for a certain amount of time. If
they’re very quick to get frustrated or agitated, that will make
it hard in the potty training process.

Some other things that are good to notice is that your child is
staying clean or dry for a longer amount of time. Being able to
hold their bladder for longer, also shows that they’re getting
ready and that they’re capable of doing it. Some other things
that are helpful are that your child can easily pull up and pull
down their underpants as well as pants.

You want to make sure that your child is capable of walking or
running to the bathroom. When you’re potty training, it’s not
always, “There’s the bathroom.” You might be a little bit away,
so your child has to be able to get there in time.

Those are some things that you should definitely be looking for
and being aware of.

Robyn: All right. Thank you so much, Katie.

Katie: Thank you.

Robyn: And thank you to our viewers, and remember keep on blossoming.

Announcer: This has been Pediatric Therapy TV, where we bring peace of
mind to your family with the best in educational programming. To
subscribe to our broadcast, read our blogs, or learn more, visit
our website at LearnMore.me. That’s LearnMore.me.

Dressing Strategies to Help Kids with Sensory Sensitivities

Getting dressed and ready for the day can become a big challenge for those children who do not like the feeling of their clothes (e.g. tags, seams, twisting). Try these strategies to make the process go smoother, quicker and less threatening for your child.

7 Strategies To Help A Child With Sensory Sensitivities Get Dressed:

  1. Have your child engage in heavy work to warm up their bodies prior to dressing. For example push a laundry basket full of blankets, wall pushes, animal walks, etc.
  2. Provide your child with calming pressure. There are many strategies to provide pressure, including a weighted blanket, weight stuffed animals, hugs, or slowboy getting dressed massage.
  3. Keep auditory distractions to a minimum while dressing being performed. For example turn off television or radio.
  4. Set out clothes the night before with your child. This will help the task run smoother if your child already picked out an outfit. Having your child help with picking out their clothes provides them with a choice of preferred clothing and some control over the task. Examples of preferred clothing may include tight, loose, cotton, no tags, etc.
  5. Make a dressing routine and stick with it. This will provide a comfortable environment for your child, as they will know what to expect and when.
  6. When helping your child dress, approach from the front and provide a warning before touching to avoid unexpected touch which may be startling for you child.
  7. Leave extra time and discuss how much time the task should take prior to starting. A timed timer can provide a visual cue for your child of how long the task of dressing should take (e.g. timed timer, kitchen timer, watch).

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