mastering morning routines

Mastering Morning Routines

 

 

 

Many parents report the most anxiety prone time of the day is the weekday mornings. There is much going on in a very limited time. Parents often need to ensure that they are ready for work and have their children ready for school. This time of day is difficult for most children; however, children with attention problems or executive functioning weaknesses are much more prone to exhibit significant weakness with regard to their ability to follow routines and get out the door on time. Although it is difficult, it is not impossible for these children to be ready to go on time! Mastering the morning routine is the best way to get the family out the door, happily, each day.

Steps to Master the Morning Routine:

The main recommendation is to keep the mornings as structured and consistent as possible. Have the schedule planned and written out. Think about all daily routines from waking up, brushing teeth, getting dressed, to leaving the house. Think about not only the tasks that are expected of the child but also a reasonable amount of time to complete each task. It may come down to it that the list of expectations placed on the child’s morning is not realistic (today) and there might have to be some modifications.

Once it has been established that the tasks in the morning are reasonable, create a chart with picture cues for each task. Also, have the time expected for each task written down next to that item.

The first few days or weeks will require a significant amount of adult assistance to help ensure the child is finishing the tasks in the appropriate order within the required time allotments. Use strategies such as reinforcing completed tasks, timers, and praise.

Morning routines can be hectic but do not have to be impossible. With structure, organization support, and use of reinforcement, many children with attention concerns and executive functioning weaknesses are able to stay to the routine and get out the door in time.




teach your child to self-advocate

Teach Your Child to Self-Advocate

 

 

 

Self-advocacy skills are necessary for children to express their feelings and effectively get their needs met. In some situations, children refrain from speaking up to their peers for fear of being seen as aggressive and offending the other person. As a result, children may agree to situations that they don’t feel comfortable with (peer pressure), sustain engagement in non-preferred behaviors (trading their lunch when they would prefer not to), and run the risk for mood dysregulation over small, unrelated issues due to bottled up frustration from previously unresolved matters (getting disproportionately upset when asked by a parent to take out the trash or begin homework).

Practice these strategies with your child to improve self-advocacy, increase confidence in self, and effectively get their needs met:

Teach your child the difference between aggressive and assertive communication.

  • Aggressive communication encompasses both negative and hostile verbal/non-verbal cues. Often times, the message being conveyed gets lost in the delivery as the individual goes on the attack and uses a loud/mean tone.
  • Assertive communication is positive, pro-social, direct, and non-threatening. The message being delivered is not accusatory and the tone is firm and calm. Assertive communication provides a forum for expression of thoughts and needs and allows both parties to collaborate on an appropriate course of action.

Provide “time out” time or “off the clock” time to promote sharing of information without the threat of punishment or consequence to facilitate increased communication within the home.

Children may not speak their mind for fear of the aftermath. Allowing for 10-15 minutes a day where the child can process their thoughts, feelings, and needs can not only offer them the opportunity to practice self-advocacy, they are learning that it is ok to assert themselves and build confidence in their communication skills.

Read here for three tips for knowing when to intervene in your child’s relationships.






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.




Girl leaving for college

Navigating College with Autism

More than ever before, higher numbers of teens with Autism are attending college.  Reasons for this increase are related to enhanced recognition of the condition (and therefore diagnosis) as well as greater access to early intervention services which we know creates better outcomes later in life.  Autism or not, the transition to college can be challenging.  Leaving home for the first time and adjusting to a completely new environment is nothing short of overwhelming.  Despite the expected challenges, students with Autism are finding success in college and beyond, with just a little extra attention to their needs.

The following tips will help this transition:

  1. Girl leaving for collegeWhen selecting a university, it is important to consider a number of criteria about the university itself, including: campus living options (single room or double), campus and student population size, class size, community supports, technology, transportation, and learning center resources.  Schedule a visit to see the campus and get your questions answered.  The right fit between a student and school can make all the difference.
  2. Develop life skills needed to live on campus: reading maps and navigating directions, accessing public transportation, managing money, doing laundry, organizing time, and making or purchasing healthy meals.
  3. Work with a tutor to help create a good study schedule and habits.
  4. Work with a counselor to help manage anxieties and depression, to provide encouragement in building social supports, and assistance in maintaining a balanced, healthy, and fun lifestyle.
  5. Know yourself and how to self-advocate.   For example, request that bright lights in your room be replaced, wear headphones to block out noise, avoid larger-class sizes, and do not overwhelm yourself with an excessively rigorous schedule.
  6. Ask for help.  Do not be afraid to reach out in times of need.  Rather, know your supports and use them.
Peer pressure

How To Deal With Peer Pressure

Strategies to teach your child to manage pressures within their peer group 

Being a child can be challenging as you deal with navigating choices about friends, social appropriateness, and ways to feel accepted. Children are confronted with a number of messages about the world through their parents, their friends, and the media and at times it can be tough coordinating choices that satisfy all three sources. How can we teach our children to manage social pressures that they know are incorrect or can elicit negative feedback or consequences?

1) Work with your child on creating value system. When a child knows their values and sets of expectations, it becomes clear what choices would align and what choices would counteract their value system. When we make choices in line with our value system, we feel good about our decisions and can anticipate positive feedback or praise. If we make decisions that go against our core values, we experience consequences or negative feedback. For instance, if it is within a child’s value system to treat others with respect, it might feel strange for them to follow a friend’s advice to talk back to a teacher.

2) Teach assertive communication. Children may feel uncomfortable communicating their needs effectively to their peers out of fear that they may be seen as aggressive or mean. Instead, assertive communication projects a firm boundary in a calm tone. Assertive communication looks like:

“Please stop, I do not like that.”

The message is clearly stated in a non-threatening and calm tone. It is expressing a need and should not risk an overtly, escalated response from a peer. If a child were to yell this message or say it in a mean tone, the message changes and can appear aggressive. As long as the child remains calm and reasserts their message, appropriate reactions from others will ensue. Encourage your child to practice assertive communication with you when they are not happy with a directive in lieu of yelling or experiencing a large, upset reaction.

3) Work with your child on identifying positive qualities that they look for in friends. In this conversation, help your child come up with at least 5 traits that are important in having a friend so as to separate those who do not fit this mold. This will help your child decipher between peers vs. friends and how to choose individuals to spend their time with who embody traits that make them feel comfortable.


5 Ways a Speech Language Pathologist Can Help a Child with Autism

Having a child receive a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder can be a scary thing. The best thing you can do for your child is learn as much as you can about what to expect and how you can help in order to be the best advocate that you can.

Here are five areas in which a licensed speech pathologist can help a child with Autism:

  1. Communication – Regardless of whether your child uses sign language, pictures, or words to communicate, a speech pathologist can help a child with Autism learn a functional way to express his needs and wants.
  2. Understanding Language – It can be scary to live in a world where you don’t understand what is said to you. A speech pathologist can aid your child with Autism in comprehending and understanding language.
  3. Social Skills – A speech pathologist can help teach a child with Autism to use communication appropriately with others, whether that means teaching how to touch and look at others when speaking or learning skills to make friends.
  4. Feeding – Mealtimes are a critical part of family and social interaction and a speech pathologist can help your child with Autism eat a wider variety of foods safely and effectively for adequate nutrition.
  5. Safety Skills – Being able to recognize and avoid dangerous situations is a skill that a speech pathologist can help teach your child with autism to keep him safe!

All parents want what is best for their child and a speech pathologist can help your child with autism gain the skills to overcome the daily challenges he may face. To learn more about the steps to take after receiving an Autism diagnosis, click here.

Click here to visit our Chicago Autism Clinic.

How ADHD Impacts Your Child’s Social Skills and Friendships

ADHD is a neurobiological disorder that can affect your child’s ability to regulate his behavior and observe, understand, and respond to his or her social environment.

Does your child…

  • Often have problems getting along with other children (i.e. sharing, cooperating, keeping promises)?
  • Struggle to make and keep friends?
  • Tend to play with kids younger than him?
  • Become upset, aggressive, or frustrated easily when they lose a game or things don’t go their way?
  • Have difficulty following directions and rules?

Peer relationship issues tend to be a common problem area in children with ADHD. Children with ADHD tend to act in a way that provokes negative reactions from peers, and can become a target for teasing.  The hallmark symptoms of ADHD, such as hyperactivity and impulsivity, can be the main culprits to blame! These children tend to live in the NOW… meaning what they can achieve right now is what is important! The consequences, like losing friends and being left out the next time, are overlooked. Social skills (i.e. sharing, keeping promises, expressing interest in another person) have NO IMMEDIATE GRATIFICATION. These kiddos then have difficulty understanding the concept of building friendships based on these learned skills.

What can you do to help?

  • Practice social skills at home and when you observe your child playing with other children.
  • Avoid activities that require complex rules for success and a lot of passive time (i.e. choosing an infield vs. outfield position in T-Ball). They can become bored and distracted easily.
  • Keep groups small.
  • Discourage play with aggressive peers.
  • Experts have found more positive social interactions when there is less competition – this causes emotional over arousal, increased disorganized behavior, and frustration.
  • Make sure you are modeling appropriate social behavior at home.
  • Encourage friendships – invite kids over to your house and keep the play structured and supervised
  • Work with your child’s teacher and involve her in the process.
  • Enroll in social skills training class or contact a professional if more help is needed.

Sources:
Taking Charge of ADHD, Revised Edition: The Complete, Authoritative Guide for Parents  By Russell A. Barkley




Positive Thinking Tricks for a Better Mood

Changing your child’s thinking may be a helpful way to appropriately deal with day to day conflict that inevitably occurspositive thinking tips for teens. Have you noticed that when minor upsets in the day occur, your child has a reaction that lasts a long time? Does your child tend to think of the glass as half-empty? By challenging your child’s thoughts (and your own!) you will start to see the way that more positive thinking can improve his or her mood.

Tips to Help Your Child Think Positively:

  • Challenge extremes by finding exceptions. By challenging extremes (ex. Does every single kid in the classroom really get to do that? ) you can help your child see that there are exceptions to the generalizations that he is likely making. In the example above, if your child is feeling down because some of his peers get to do something he is not allowed to do, he may utter, “but EVERYONE else gets to!” By questioning the truth of his statement in a non-threatening way, you can help him see that there are indeed exceptions.  A great way to do this is by having him list a few examples. Read more

What is PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System)?

PECS or Picture Exchange Communication System is an augmentative and alternative form of communication that can be used across ages and disabilities.  It teaches functional communication that is immediately useful for individuals who have either not developed speech or who have lost speech.

Common Questions about PECS:

What about speech?

Many parents are concerned that by implementing PECS, we are disregarding speech or talking. That is not the case.  While implementing PECS, we are also addressing the development of speech. For those that have the ability to speak, we are continuously modeling and encouraging speech throughout the entire process. Read more