parent teacher conferences

Ten Tips for Parents for Successful Parent-Teacher Conferences

parent teacher conferencesParent-teacher conferences serve as an important time in a child’s academic year. The teacher can provide updates and insight into your child’s progress within the classroom. In today’s schools, teacher’s conferences schedules are often jam-packed and you might only have fifteen precious minutes with the teacher to talk about your child. If you want to get the most out of this vital time with your child’s teacher, then a little prep is needed! Here are our top 10 tips for a successful parent conference:

10 Tips to Prepare for Conferences:

 

  1. Ahead of the conference (in fact starting today!) ask the teacher to log behaviors or issues, so you have concrete examples about behaviors your child is engaging in that the teacher wants to discuss.
  2. Make a questions list beforehand. Focus questions not only how the child is doing academically but also socially and behaviorally.
  3. Invite your child to suggest if there is anything you should know before you go in or any concerns he or she would like to raise.
  4. Ask your child what he or she likes about school and also what he or she does not like.
  5. Ask the teacher how you can make sure your child reaches his or her potential? What extra activities would be recommended?
  6. Ask the teacher who your child is friends with and how that aspect of school is going.
  7. Ask the teacher who your child sits with at lunch and if he or she smiles a lot and looks happy.
  8. Ask the teacher if she has any other concerns about your child besides academics.
  9. If the teacher says anything negative about your child, without follow up, ask for a solution(s) and tell her you also will think of some.
  10. Don’t be defensive, just ask good questions!

 

Remember that the teacher is there to help your child develop to the highest potential. It is important to take the advice that is provided as they have seen many children and can readily identify areas of strength and weakness. It is important to work as a team to make sure your child’s academic and social needs are met.

If your child’s teacher identifies concerns regarding your child; the best advice is to be proactive and garnish additional information instead of waiting. If there are possible concerns regarding the child’s attentional regulation, learning, and/or social-emotional functioning, it would be recommended to seek out a comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation to help identify whether or not there is a specific diagnosis such as ADHD, a learning disability, anxiety, or Autism Spectrum Disorder. If and when a specific diagnosis is identified, individualized recommendations would be able to be created to help the child progress at the highest level possible.

If you are in the Chicago area and would like to discuss issues that arise from parent-teacher conferences or you have other concerns regarding your child, please contacts us at 1-866-309-4610 or fill in the contact form on this page.

CONTACT US TODAY

 

 

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Anxiety Disorders in Children

What Are Executive Function Skills?

Many of us have heard executive functioning used in terms of our children at school and at home. But what does it mean? Executive Function Blog

Executive Function – a Definition

Executive functions are necessary for goal-directed behavior. When we use the phrase “executive functioning skills,” we are describing a set of cognitive skills that control and regulate other behaviors and abilities. Our thought processes influence attention, memory and motor skills. (minddisorders.com).

Executive functioning skills help us to learn and retrieve information, plan, organize, manage our time, and see potential outcomes and act accordingly. When these processes work without difficulty, our brains do these tasks automatically, often without our awareness.

High Executive Function

In children and adults, those with high executive function skills are able to:

  • Initiate and stop actions
  • Make changes in behavior
  • Plan for the future
  • Manage time wisely
  • Anticipate possible consequences
  • Use problem-solving strategies
  • Use senses to gather information

For instance, the ability to initiate and stop actions may include working on a project for school or studying for an allotted time. Monitoring ones changes in behavior includes being able to act appropriately in a given situation and alter that behavior as needed. Planning for the future and managing time may include not procrastinating due to understanding the consequences of doing so.

Low Executive Function

When one is deficient in executive function skills, it may be difficult to plan and carry out tasks. The person may seem unable to sustain attention and feel overwhelmed by situations others find easier to navigate.

People with deficits in this area may also have comorbid diagnoses (meaning they go together). These include, but are not limited to: Attention Deficit Hyper-Activity Disorder, Autism, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Executive functioning deficits may run in families (learningdisabilities.about.com).

So, a child with executive functioning deficits may be able to pay attention to a lesson, until something new is introduced that requires a shift in their attention or that divides their focus. Children lacking in executive functioning skills also may have issues with verbal fluency.

Additionally, a child (or adult) with low executive function may have social problems. Executive functioning skills allow us to anticipate how others might feel if we do or say something. Those with low executive function may have difficulty interacting with others. Because they sometimes do not think things through before saying them, people with executive functioning deficits may blurt out inappropriate or hurtful comments, leading others to avoid them.

Working with your child, a therapist, and creating structure at home and accommodation plans at school are all ways to provide help for your child.

Increasing executive functioning skills will enable her to become a more organized, less stressed and less frustrated individual as she grows into a world of ever-increasing pressures.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Deerfield, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, and Hinsdale! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140!

Why is Mindset Important for Child Development?

Kids thrive on pleasing their parents, so when your child does something well you want to praise them! Have you ever said “you are so smart” or “you are so talented” at a sport? It’s not that simple, as the way you praise them can impact their confidence and drive. Blog-Mindset-Main-Landscape

As an example, our son picked up a baseball bat at 2 ½ years old and was able to hit a pitched ball (no tee!) that same day. I was an extremely proud dad, especially since all the other parents at the park were clearly impressed. We enthusiastically complimented his natural talent and he seemed so proud. When we signed him up for a t-ball team his enthusiasm faded and we noticed he was less interested in trying to learn the game. We wondered why he was not excited to play.

My wife and I noticed some patterns at home and school. He would only attempt tasks that he felt confident or had already possessed a level of skill. As it turns out, what we were doing when we were praising his natural ability was feeding into his ‘fixed mindset’. With a fixed mindset, Carol Dweck writes in her book Mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or athleticism, are fixed traits and don’t change over time. They believe their talent alone creates success—without effort.

So how do we make sure that we are praising our kids ‘the right way’ to be sure they give their full effort? One idea is to encourage them to have a ‘growth mindset’ – where people believe their skills and abilities can be developed over time through hard work.

When our son took up hockey and was learning to skate we saw this as an opportunity to try out a growth mindset. We were determined to focus on praising his effort since we knew learning to skate would be potentially frustrating for a kid who is naturally athletic. We talked with him beforehand about how hard it would be, that he would fall a lot, but getting back up and trying again was most important and after each session we were enthusiastic about his effort.

And guess what? It worked! Towards the end of the 8 week session he even started coming off the ice bragging to us about how hard he worked. Even though he was not the fastest or best skater on the ice he was proud of his own resilience and what HE accomplished. As parents, we too were bursting with pride for him!

I strongly encourage you to ask yourself how you can start incorporating this type of growth mindset approach with your own children. Learn to recognize how you praise your children and ask questions such as “What did you try that was difficult or challenging today?” I bet you’ll be surprised how quickly you will see a positive impact. Good luck and let us know how it goes!

FIXED MINDSET (Intelligence is static) → Leads to a desire to look smart and therefore a tendency to…→ (Challenges) avoid challenges → (Obstacles) …get defensive or give up easily → (Effort) …see effort as fruitless or worse → (Criticism)…ignore useful negative feedback → (Success of Others) …feel threatened by the success of others → AS A RESULT, they may plateau early and achieve less than their full potential.

GROWTH MINDSET (Intelligence can be developed) → Leads to a desire to learn and therefore a tendency to…→ (Challenges) embrace challenges → (Obstacles) …persist in the face of setbacks → (Effort) …see effort as the path to mastery → (Criticism)…learn from criticism →(Success of Others) …find lessons and inspiration in the success of others → AS A RESULT, they reach ever-higher levels of achievement.

References:

Dweck, C. S. (2006) Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Random House.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Deerfield, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale 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!

What Comes After the ADHD Diagnosis?

Many times parents leave a doctor’s office with more questions than when they came in. This is true for medical doctors as well as for clinical psychologists. After a parent is informed that his or her child has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) the next phase is to start to develop a treatment plan to help the child reach his or her potential. Treatment of ADHD should be thought of as a possible three tier system: medication, therapy, and school based accommodations. Blog-ADHD-Diagnosis-Main-Landscape

Medication for ADHD

Research indicates that stimulant medication is one of the primary treatments of choice for ADHD. Many parents are very cautious and scared about putting their child on medication. One of my first pieces of advice for parents is to stay away from doing their own on-line literature search. Anyone who has access to a computer and the internet is capable of creating their own website. A website that I refer parents to all the time is www.chadd.org which is the national resource on ADHD. The literature this website provides is empirically supported and often times created by some of the biggest names in ADHD research. The other piece of advice I give to parents is to schedule a meeting with the child’s pediatrician and have a discussion regarding medication; from how the medication works to what possible side effects to look out for.

Therapy for ADHD

Children and families often get referred for therapy when the child is diagnosed with ADHD. I am a proponent of therapy that is done correctly. There first needs to be a focus on what the targets of the therapy are as well as what specific goals will be worked on in the sessions. The therapy goals need to be specific and measureable. There needs to be some metric implemented to assess for change in the child’s behavior. Finally, parents must be active participants in the therapy. There needs to be homework assignments to work on during the week as well as specific strategies that parents can implement in the moment to help modify behavior.

School Accommodations for ADHD

The final domain that needs to be considered after a child was diagnosed with ADHD is accommodations in the classroom setting to help alleviate symptoms of inattention and impulse control which have a negative impact on the child’s academic performance. Many times after I diagnosis a child with ADHD, I discuss with the parents about creating a 504 Plan in the academic setting. A 504 Plan consists of a variety of classroom and testing based accommodations to help address academic symptoms of ADHD. The plan is always individually tailored based upon the specific concerns that a child exhibits.

The diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is only the first step of helping the child. Parents frequently will have to seek out outside resources such as pharmacological intervention, therapy, and school based accommodations in order for their child to reach his or her potential.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Deerfield, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, and Hinsdale! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140!

IEP Meetings From a Mom’s Perspective

I have worked for North Shore Pediatric Therapy for more than two years in the marketing department. I thought I was familiar with the many challenges families go through with their children, Blog-IEP-Meetings-Main-Landscapehowever, the idea of going through “the IEP process” never crossed my mind, until I had to.

When my son started kindergarten, we had some concerns about certain behaviors, but honestly really thought they were only phases. A few weeks into the school year as they began practicing drills, he had a severe panic attack requiring help from the school social worker. At that time, his teacher recommended he begin seeing the social worker more frequently and that led to our process of seeking a full evaluation to really understand him.

He was evaluated by Dr. Greg Stasi at NSPT and given a diagnosis of Anxiety Disorder and Sensory Processing Disorder. It was then that we were faced with the dreadful IEP meetings. I had heard so many stories of hardship parents faced when fighting for their child’s needs. As a result, I went into the process expecting a fight, and boy would they get one if necessary because in my mind, nothing was going to come between my child getting the help he needed.

Because of my job, I am fortunate enough to have access to excellent professionals and resources, who understand the IEP process, and who helped me prepare for the initial IEP meeting. I was ready for that day. And you know what happened? I didn’t have to fight. I was so fortunate to have a wonderful team wanting and willing to give my son everything he needed to succeed. Everything I was prepared to fight for was already part of their plan, too.

I know this isn’t typical, and so many families struggle to get their child’s needs met.

Here are some tips, from a mom’s perspective on how to approach IEP meetings to get what you, and your child, need:

  1. Be prepared. Those same resources I have access to because of my job…guess what? YOU have access to those same things! NSPT has so many blogs and infographics to help you begin your journey. Having a full neuropsych evaluation is a real plus as it lends a direction for goal development and is appreciated by the district staff.
  2. Be understanding. Understand that those on the other side of the table really do want to help. Often they are restricted by legal mandates. So you may find that there are questions you ask where they can’t fully answer.
  3. Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask any and all questions you have in order to understand each element being addressed. It goes fast. And they use a lot of terms you don’t recognize. Stop them and ask.
  4. Bring help. Don’t be afraid to bring outside support, such as a school advocate, to help speak on your behalf. They know the rules and can help you “fight.”
  5. Don’t sign the plan if you are not happy. You will be asked to sign the plan at the end. If you are not comfortable, don’t do it, unless it’s on the condition that you are requesting another meeting to go over the details again to re-write the goals.
  6. Hold Accountability. As the school year continues, don’t be afraid to check in on the team, the therapists, and the teacher to ensure all accommodations are being met.

Be the voice. Remember, you are your child’s voice. Don’t be afraid to speak up.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Deerfield, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale 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!

Academic Accommodations for Children with ADHD

Children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) may face many obstacles in the classroom. Structure and consistency are the two main keys to success for children withBlog-ADHD-Accommodations-Main-Landscape ADHD, but each case presents with its own challenges and accommodations should address the unique needs of the individual student.

The following are examples of what a child with ADHD may present in the classroom and associated accommodations:

For a student presenting with difficulties sustaining attention and following directions:

  • Instructions should be kept brief and specific and presented one step at a time.
  • Maintain eye contact with child while presenting instructions and have the child “teach” the instructions back to the teacher.
  • Reduce task length (i.e., focus on quality of work rather than quantity) or break complex tasks into smaller pieces.
  • Seat the child near the teacher and away from distractions such as doors, windows, or other students who may be disruptive.
  • Provide a “quiet zone” for the student to complete tests or in-class assignments.
  • Use verbal cues or signals as behavioral prompts when the child falls off task.
  • Set time limits or “challenges” for completing tasks.
  • Provide visual prompts for classroom routines.

For a child presenting with excessive activity and/or impulse control:

  • Allow the child to stand near his or her desk or kneel in his or her chair during seated work as long as no disruption is caused.
  • Use instructional approaches that encourage active responding such as talking, moving, or working at the board.
  • Provide breaks for directed movement such as passing out materials.
  • Reward short periods of waiting or on task behavior and gradually increase the period a child is successful.
  • Encourage non-disruptive activities such as reading or doodling during times of day that have proven problematic.
  • Clearly state rules and expectations, and clearly state positive and negative consequences for behaviors. Review these rules often and post visual reminders.

All children will benefit from positive feedback, reinforcement for small improvements, frequent opportunities for active participation, and assignments related to the child’s interests. Additionally, established routines and schedules, along with both verbal and visual reminders, will help any child to be successful in the classroom environment. Most importantly, remember not to assume that a failure to follow instructions is due to a lack of effort or an intentional failure to pay attention, nor is overactivity or impulsive behavior intended as an act of defiance.

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!

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!

10 Steps to Diagnosing A Learning Disability

If your child has difficulty with reading, writing, math or other school learning-related BlogLearningDisabilityDiagnosis-Main-Landscapetasks, this does not necessarily mean that they have a learning disability. Lots of children struggle at times with school.

Common signs of a learning disability:

  • Difficulty with reading, writing or math skills
  • Short attention span or difficulty staying on task (easily distracted)
  • Difficulty with memory
  • Trouble following directions
  • Poor hand-eye coordination
  • Difficulty with time management
  • Problems staying organized
  • Inability to discriminate between or among letters, numerals, or sounds
  • Difficulty with paying attention
  • Inconsistent school performance

Each learning disability has its own signs and not every person with a particular disability will have all of the signs. These signs alone are not enough to diagnose a learning disability, so a professional assessment is necessary to diagnose a learning disability.

If some of these symptoms sound familiar, below are 10 steps to take:

  1. Talk to your child about the areas they are struggling in order to understand the symptoms.
  2. Provide empathy and emotional support for your child. Let them know that lots of people struggle at times with school related tasks.
  3. Get specific feedback from teachers regarding problem areas or grades.
  4. Set up an initial intake session with a Psychologist/Neuropsychologist to discuss symptoms and background information.
  5. Have the child tested in specific areas:
    1. Intellectual/IQ
    2. Achievement/Academic
    3. Language/Communication
    4. Memory
    5. Attention
    6. Visual/Motor
    7. Problem Solving
    8. Social, Emotional, Behavioral
  6. Get feedback from teachers with specific forms regarding behaviors
  7. Discuss with Psychologist/Neuropsychologist the results of the testing and recommendations.
  8. Talk to the child’s school about accommodations and services.
  9. Follow up with teachers about effectiveness and gains of accommodations.
  10. Follow up Neuropsychological testing in 6 months to 1 years’ time.

References:

https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/learning/conditioninfo/Pages/symptoms.aspx

http://ldaamerica.org/symptoms-of-learning-disabilities

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!

Specific Learning Disorders in Children

Learning disorders are some of the most common neurodevelopmental LearningDisorders-Main-Landscapeconditions that children face. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), which is the guidebook on classification of diagnoses published by the American Psychiatric Association indicated that the prevalence of specific learning disorders across academic domains of reading, mathematics, and written expression is between 5%-15% in school aged children.

There is significant discussion both in the literature, and among clinicians and researchers, regarding how to appropriately classify and subsequently diagnose a specific learning disorder. Traditionally, it was assumed that a specific learning disorder existed when there was a significant discrepancy between a child’s cognitive ability and achievement in reading, mathematics, or written expression. However, within the US, changes have occurred over the past decade regarding the criteria used for determining a specific learning disorder which is now based on a multi-tier process involving early identification and intervention and the child’s response to the intervention.

Where children might exhibit learning disorders:

According to the DSM-5, there are three specifications of learning disorders that children might exhibit: Specific Learning Disorder With Impairment in Reading, Specific Learning Disorder With Impairment in Written Expression, and Specific Learning Disorder with Impairment in Mathematics. It is quite common for children to exhibit multiple learning disorders.

Potential related deficits:

There are definite concerns with a child’s social, emotional, and behavioral regulation if they have a documented learning disorder. Prior studies have indicated that up to 75% of children with a diagnosed learning disorder demonstrate significant social skill deficits expressed by peer rejection and social isolation.

What can be done:

It is our strong recommendation that in order to most effectively address a child’s specific learning disorder, it is important that the child undergo a comprehensive evaluation in order to effectively classify and make sense of the patterns of difficulty that the child presents with as well as to rule out additional existing factors of concern, and to best determine what specific interventions are warranted. Recommended interventions are specifically based on the area of weakness a child exhibits both across the testing as well as within the child’s academic environment.

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!