Primitive Reflexes: What Are They and Why Do They Matter?

What are primitive reflexes?

Primitive reflexes are foundational motor responses to sensory input that appear in utero or shortly after birth for the purpose of defense and survival. They are the foundation for higher level motor, cognitive or intellectual processes that develop as a child matures and takes on increasing demands. blog-primitive-reflexes-main-landscape

Most primitive reflexes integrate within the first year of life meaning that complex, adaptive and purpose-driven actions can over-ride automatic responses. Postural reflexes, which typically begin to develop in the second year or life, are automatic reactions with a higher level response. They develop a child’s equilibrium reactions for balance and coordination as the child begins to sit, stand, walk and run. Their development is heavily influenced by the integration of primitive reflexes.

Each reflex is associated with development of a particular area of the brain and lays the groundwork for control of motor coordination, social and emotional development, intellectual processing, and sensory integration. When primitive reflexes do not adequately integrate, persistence of these patterns may interfere with related milestones. When a reflex is present, it can be viewed as a signal that function in that region of the brain is not optimized. When difficulties in a particular area of functioning exist, research has demonstrated a strong correlation with the persistence of reflexes originating from the area of the brain regulating those functions.

Why might some reflexes not be integrated?

There are many explanations for why a reflex (or several reflexes) may not be integrated. Factors such as genetics, unusual gestational or birth history, limited sensory-motor experiences, or early disease, illness, or trauma may contribute to persistence of reflexes. It is important to note that many children, and even fully functioning adults, do not have all of their reflexes fully integrated. It is when an individual displays a cluster of symptoms impacting sensory, motor, emotional, social or academic functioning that reflex integration becomes an important component to examine.

What happens if reflexes do not integrate?

Since primitive reflexes are major factors in motor development, a child with persistence of one or more primitive reflexes may experience a variety of challenges. Primitive reflexes are what help infants initially learn about their inner and outer environments, and are heavily linked to the sensory system.

If reflexes persist, they interfere with the development of higher level sensory systems (visual, auditory, tactile, taste, vestibular, smell, and proprioceptive). Interference with sensory systems can lead to learning, behavioral, and/or social challenges for children, especially in academic settings. Additionally, postural reflexes, which depend on the integration of primitive reflexes, are unable to fully develop. Underdevelopment of these reflexes causes delays in righting reactions related to balance, movement and gravity. An individual who has not developed efficient postural control will have to compensate for these automatic adjustments by expending extra energy to consciously control basic movements.

Below are just a few red flags of persistent primitive reflexes:

  • Emotional lability
  • Over/under-responsivity to light, sound, touch, and/or movement
  • Anxiety
  • Distractibility
  • Inflexibility
  • Difficulty with reading, spelling, math, or writing
  • Difficulty remaining still, completing work while seated, or frequent fidgeting
  • Poor posture
  • Poor grasping abilities. May grasp pencil too tight or too loosely
  • Difficulties with eating (pickiness, excessive drooling, messy eater)
  • Poor balance and/or coordination
  • Poor spatial awareness and/or depth perception
  • Difficulty knowing left from right
  • Poor bladder control and/or gastrointestinal issues

What do we do if reflexes are not integrated?

Activities and exercises that target specific reflex pathways can be introduced in order to strengthen particular neurological pathways. By developing these pathways, we aim to integrate the reflex and mature related functions.

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!

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Fostering Independence in Your Teens

Working with your teenage children towards growth and independence can sometimes be a tug-of-war between providing guided support and allowing the right amount of freedom. This is blog-independence-main-landscapeespecially the case when it comes to children with special needs. Recognizing that it’s important to do a little bit of both is the key to success in independence!

Here are some proactive and reactive strategies to try that will allow you to foster independence in your teens:

Proactive Strategies  

  • Determine the Current Level of Independence

By looking at the many different areas of independence, from social interactions to daily living, figuring out where your child lies is a great starting point. By doing this you set yourself and your child up for success with directly pinpointing their areas of strength and deficit. From here, you can determine what they’ll need more support with and what they can begin completing independently.

  • Model the Behavior

One of the best ways for children to learn any behavior is through imitation. By modeling what a task looks like it gives your child the exposure and opportunity to imitate it. This can range from conversation skills and socialization to completing household chores and purchasing items.

  • Set Expectations

Setting clear expectations prior to emerging independence will give your child a set of rules to follow. With this, everyone will be fully aware of what the guidelines are when it comes to added responsibilities and freedom. Involving your child in the creation of these rules allows for an added bonus of independence and control. If they understand and discuss the ‘why’ behind the rule, they’re more likely to follow it!

Reactive Strategies

  • Provide Prompts

Providing the right type and amount of prompts will allow your teen to achieve the ultimate goal of independence, if utilized in the right way. Sometimes, too many prompts can teach your child to become prompt dependent. When this occurs they rely on the prompt to complete a task or activity and independence becomes less likely. On the opposite side, not enough prompts may teach your child the incorrect way to complete a task or activity.

Trying for independence first and then utilizing least to most prompting (below) is usually a good way to start:

  1. Vocal – Direct and/or indirect statements provided vocally
  2. Gestural – Physical movements indicating desired response (e.g. pointing, nodding, etc.)
  3. Partial physical – Minimal physical guidance using a light touch
  4. Full physical – Hand over hand physical guidance
  • Provide and Ask for Feedback

Much like including your child in creating expectations, providing and asking for feedback gives them accountability and control of their own development. Providing your child with feedback throughout their learning experience allows for progress and mastery to occur faster. It takes out guessing games and gives them exact corrective and positive information regarding their own behavior. Asking for feedback allows for growth in communication and relationship development. This gives your child a chance to be the one dictating what they need more or less of from you. Be willing to listen! When the experience is collaborative, the result is long lasting.

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!

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How to Use Visual Supports to Promote Structure, Routine and Transitions

first-then-board

First-then board used in therapy.

Many children require structure and routine within their day to help promote their ability to engage in daily activities, shift from one task to another and engage in learning. Visual supports can help promote and establish structure and routine in various environments including the home and school. Visual supports also allow children to anticipate what is expected of them. They help increase their ability to initiate and participate in daily activities and routines.

Try these visual supports at home or in school:

Visual Schedules: Visual schedules can be pictorial, written or both. You can display pictures representing each of the activities your child is expected to complete on a Velcro strip in sequential order. When each task is completed, your child can remove the picture from the Velcro strip and place it in an “all done” pocket of the visual or an “all done” container. You can also write the name of each task and/or draw a picture to represent the task on a dry erase board and have your child either cross off or erase each task upon its completion. Have your child engage and assist in the development of the visual schedule (e.g. assist in drawing the pictures that represent each task) and review the schedule prior to its use.

First-Then Boards: First-then boards encourage compliance and follow through for challenging and non-preferred tasks. You can place a picture of the less preferred task first with an arrow towards the more preferred task, to motive your child to engage in all activities.

countdown-board

Countdown board created by Sima.

Countdown Boards: Countdown boards allow your child to see how many times he or she has to complete a task. For example, if your child has to throw a ball 5 times, draw a circle 5 times, or place a puzzle piece 5 times and you can have him or her remove a number off the countdown board after each time the task is carried out.

These three visual supports can not only increase your child’s engagement in daily activities, but they can also make transitioning from one task or activity to another much smoother. They can be implemented in various environments and can easily be transported throughout the community.

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!

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Managing Your Child Through the Election Process

With the election right around the corner, media coverage of the election is everywhere and often finding its way down to children of all ages. As with other news topics, children may be exposed toblog-election-main-landscape hearing and seeing things they do not fully understand. As parents, it is important to be mindful of what your child is exposed to and also to support your child through answering their questions and managing their concerns.

Monitor Election Coverage

Political advertisements and news coverage may come across scary or worrisome to some children. Moreover, some media coverage does not sensor language. It is important to be mindful of what your child is hearing and to step in when “teachable moments” appear. Also be conscious of what your child may be overhearing during conversations you have with your friends or spouse.

Provide a Safe Space for Questions

Be prepared and create space for your child to ask questions about the election. These questions might range from asking about specific facts, to asking about mom and dad’s political orientation. Depending on your child’s age, the way you respond to these questions may range from simple (ie. the election takes place on Nov. 8) to more complex (ie. explaining your political position or discussing how your values impact who you vote for). As your child gets older, their values may begin to differ from yours. It is important to allow space for these types of conversations – as they can often strengthen the parent-child relationship.

Allow your Child to Participate

Make sure to teach your child about the election process and ask them what they’ve learned about it from school. Discuss with them, in age-appropriate language, what makes voting important and why voting is important to you. Children under 18 are even allowed to tag along with you to vote. Younger kids might even be interested in marking the ballot for you!

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!

Social Work

Bullying Warning Signs

Bullying is an ongoing concern for parents, care givers and teachers. How to tell if your child is being bullied can be difficult, as bullying can take on many forms. The act is a deliberate imbalanceblog-bullying-warning-signs-main-landscape of power; and can be physical, emotional, sexual or verbal.

Having a working knowledge of warning signs is essential for supportive parenting. If your child has some of the warning signs below, it is not a guarantee that they are being bullied. Open and honest dialogue with your children will provide more insight into the potential causes of some warning signs.

Below are a variety of warning signs that could signify your child is the victim of bullying:

  • Noticing your child has damaged belongings; this can span from clothing, to book bags, to text books, etc.
  • Unexplained physical injuries like bruises or cuts
  • Tendency to isolate from friends and peers
  • An increase in anxiety or fear related to attending school and often will explore opportunities to miss school (i.e. Excuses, faking sick, etc.)
  • Changes in sleeping or eating patterns; suffers from frequent nightmares, poor appetite
  • Appears sad, upset or angry when returning from school
  • Decrease in academic achievement
  • Health concerns; most often frequent stomach aches, headaches, etc.

Beginning a discussion with our children about bullying can be challenging, as many kids tend to shy away from disclosing this information. The most essential component is that as a parent you remain calm and supportive, not reactive to what your child discloses.

There are several questions below to guide a conversation related to bullying:

  • There has been a lot of bullying in the news lately. How does your school handle bullying? Tell me about a time you saw someone being bullied, or experienced it yourself. How did you handle it?
  • I’m worried about [insert behavior/symptom/action]. I’m wondering if you could tell me more about what is going on?
  • Tell me about your friends this year. Who are you spending time with, and what do you like about them?
  • Who do you spend time with at lunch and recess? Tell me about your bus rides home. With whom do you sit?
  • Are there any kids at school who you really don’t like? Why don’t you like them? Do they ever pick on you or leave you out of things?

If your child discloses that they are being bullied, it is essential that you remain calm. Overreaction can result in regret of disclosure or a tendency to limit discussing such content in the future. As a parent, the strongest role you can take if your child is being bullied is to provide support and care, validate to your child that this is not their fault and that you are here to love and support them.

At times, children can be very hesitant about disclosing bullying due to fear of retaliation. If you notice concerning symptoms, but your child denies, it is appropriate to reach out to your student’s teacher and express concern.

The following questions may provide greater insight into your child’s experience during the school day:

  • With whom does my child interact on a daily basis?
  • Tell me about my child’s peer interactions. Which are going well? Are there any you find concerning?
  • Have you noticed any behavioral changes within my child over the past [days, weeks, months]?
  • What is one thing my child does very well in school, and what is one concern you have for my child.

If you suspect your child is being bullied, beginning dialogue and providing a safe non-judgmental space is the first step in supporting your child. If you have greater concerns, or have information that your child is being bullied, it is important that this be addressed as soon as possible. Reach out to your school, principals, teachers, and notify them of your concerns. Provide your child with support and listen when needed, and if appropriate, provide the access to a licensed mental health provider for additional care.

References:

https://www.stopbullying.gov/at-risk/warning-signs/

http://www.violencepreventionworks.org/public/bullying_warning_signs.page

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!

Social Work

Creative Conversation Starters: Get Your Child to Talk to You

Having regular conversations with your child can be beneficial in many ways. You get to learn more about each other and further develop your relationship with them. Additionally, you can helblog-conversation-starters-main-landscapep
their confidence, self-esteem and their social skills.

I understand it can be difficult to find time between your busy schedule and their busy schedules, so we have to get creative! Some ideas of times you can maximize to get conversations with your child can be during a car ride to and from their activities, in a waiting room, during dinner and before bedtime as a part of their routine!

Get the Conversation Going

When I say conversation, it doesn’t have to be dry. Get creative with topics that may be fun or interesting to your child!

Here are some ideas to use as conversation starters:

  • Check in with your child daily. Ask about their day, what was something interesting that happened to them, what did they like about their day or what is something that could have been better.
  • Play 20 questions by thinking of an object, animal or person and have the child ask 20 questions to find the answers by only asking yes or no questions. Take turns!
  • Telling a story! If you or your child can’t think of one, you can go in a circle and say a word each to tell a silly story.
  • Take turns telling jokes.
  • Play would you rather with your kid. Ask age appropriate questions like would you rather not be able to go outside all day or not be able to go inside all day? Would you rather have a pool filled with chocolate chip cookies or Oreo cookies?
  • You can have a jar of questions at the dining room table. Place previously written questions in a jar and take turns going around the table answering them. The questions can be general like what is your favorite food, sport, vacation, music or movie? You can purchase one already made.
    • You can also incorporate specific questions if you are wanting to work on a particular area such as self-esteem. Then you can add questions such as: what do you like best about how you look? What do your friends say they like about you? What do you do that gives you confidence?
  • Play games that allow for open conversation. There are many out there including Chat Pack, Scruples, or Thumball are a few favorite.

Remember

Remember the point is to get the conversation going and have fun with your child! This helps further develop your relationship with them, because you are creating opportunities for them to share, problem solve and to know they can discuss anything with you. You are modeling appropriate behaviors, social skills and self-esteem. Who better to teach them this than you! Remember to really listen and respond in cool/calm way, there is no judging their response if they are being silly or answering sincerely. If you want to mold their response because you feel they could have done better you can ask: “What is another way you can answer that?” or “How would that feel if that was you?”

Resources:

http://idealistmom.com/raise-kind-kids/

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!

Social Work

What Will My Child Experience in an Occupational Therapy Session?

Pediatric occupational therapy focuses on increasing your child’s level of participation in all the activities of their daily life. From teaching your child to sit still, play basketball or fasten buttons, occupational therapists can work with your child to make sure their needs are met in the areas of self-care, play, school/academic-related skills, attention and regulation.blog-occupational therapy-main-landscape

Develop Fine Motor and Visual Motor Ability

Fine motor skills involve the controlled movements of fingers and hands to carry out tasks. For a child with difficulty in this area, one of our occupational therapists might work on the following tasks with your child:

  • Holding a pencil properly
  • Fastening zippers
  • Putting on socks
  • Stringing beads
  • Transferring coins from palms to fingertips

Visual motor activities often go hand-in-hand with motor skills as they combine fine motor control with visual perception. Occupational therapy sessions targeting visual motor skills can include activities such as drawing and cutting out shapes, writing letters, completing puzzles, completing mazes and dot-to-dots.

Explore All the Senses

Occupational therapy sessions targeting sensory integration are designed to help your child take in, process and respond to sensory information from the environment more efficiently. Here are two examples of how sensory integration activities could benefit your child:

  • If your child is hypersensitive to tactile input, a session may involve encouraging your child to tolerate playing with sand, dirt or finger paint.
  • If your child seeks out constant movement, a session may involve providing deep pressure input through yoga poses, for example.

Improve Executive Functioning Skills

Executive functioning skills help guide your child’s brain to complete tasks. These includes: task initiation, planning, organization, problem solving, working memory and inhibition. In teaching these skills, your child’s occupational therapist will mimic real-life tasks to improve the ease at which these tasks are completed.

“For example, to work on planning and organization, your child’s session may involve planning for and carrying out a long-term project with step-by-step-completion,” “For a child who has trouble with task initiation, a homework routine or contract may be created with the use of auditory and/or visual timers or movement breaks.”

Build Strength and Coordination

Tying shoes. Sitting upright at circle time. Playing basketball at recess.

These might seem like simple activities, but upper body strength and coordination play a large role in your child’s ability to carry out these daily tasks. Here’s how our occupational therapists help address these issues:

  • Upper body strength: This may be addressed with activities such as manipulating “theraputty” or by playing with a scooter board.
  • Core strength: This is often addressed through tasks that challenge the core muscles. During these activities, children are encouraged to complete yoga poses or play “crab soccer” in a crab-walk position.
  • Coordination activities: These activities target the planning and putting together of movements, particularly those that use both arms and legs at the same time (throwing and catching a ball, jumping jacks or climbing on a playground ladder).

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.


 

Who Will Take Care of our Special Needs Children When We’re Gone? Who Will Provide for Them Financially?

This guest post is from Howard N. Suss, MBA.

These are questions my wife, Zahava, and I talk about. Our son Shimmy is a spunky, lively, 15-year-old young man with both Down Syndrome and Autism. Shimmy is usually the life of the partyblog-financial-main-landscape and can make everyone in a room laugh, but also exhibits extreme behavioral issues (Thank you North Shore Pediatric Therapy, for helping us improve in that area).

About two years ago, our family (my wife and 6 kids) attended a special needs family retreat and my older kids had an “ah ha” moment when they attended a siblings presentation (this is a presentation that was given by a social worker, who herself has a 30-year-old brother with Down Syndrome). This presenter opened their eyes to the probable eventuality that one day THEY were going to have to take care of Shimmy. That wasn’t something a 20-year-old was expecting to hear.

My kids, generally, are very good with Shimmy and they work really well with him as far as providing for his needs and well being, as well as his safety. Long term, I’m not really concerned about that. What I am concerned about, and what I have been counseling clients about for over 20 years, is the financial burden that I don’t want placed on the kids when they have to step in, one day.

I have been practicing long term financial and estate planning, in general, and special needs planning in particular, for over 20 years. My company, The Suss Financial Group, is located in Skokie, Il. and we have an attorney in the office (I am not an attorney, we often work together).

My client’s number one objective is to structure a plan to provide long term income for their special needs “child” without jeopardizing government benefits, such as SSI. We work on setting aside money, on a consistent basis so that there is money for the future. This is a must for everyone, but especially for families in our situation. Things can change, but as it appears now, our Shimmy will probably not be able to earn a living and that’s why planning is so important.

There isn’t one financial solution for every family. I would recommend that you sit down with both a special needs planning attorney and a financial planner to discuss your specifics, but here are some ideas that work for clients who have family members with special needs:

  • Systematic savings for the individual with special needs either in the bank or brokerage account
  • Stocks, bonds or mutual funds
  • Private investments
  • Life insurance

Usually life insurance is the way to go, because you can provide a large sum for not a lot of money. The thought is, that the real need for funds results when mom and/or dad pass away and in most cases that’s not until much later in life. We will discuss this in more detail in a future blog.

Please remember that you really don’t want to title any assets in your kid’s name as it will affect his/her government benefits.

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!

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Howard N. Suss is a Registered Representative of Park Avenue Securities LLC (PAS). OSJ: 2550 Compass Road Suite H, Glenview, IL 60026. 847-564-0123 Securities products offered through PAS, member FINRA, SPIC. Financial Representative of The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America® (Guardian), New York, NY. PAS is an indirect, wholly-owned subsidiary of Guardian. The Suss Financial Group is not an affiliate or subsidiary of PAS or Guardian. 2016-28772 Exp. 9/16

howard-sussHoward N. Suss, MBD, has been practicing long term financial and estate planning , in general, and special needs planning in particular, for over 20 years. His company, The Suss Financial Group, is located in Skokie, Il. Howard resides in Chicago with his wife Zahava and 6 kids (one married and 2 in college) as well as 3 younger kids at home, including Shimmy, who has both Down Syndrome and Autism.

 

Howard can be reached at:

The Suss Financial Group
8170 McCormick Blvd., Suite 102
Skokie, IL. 60076
(847) 674 9470 ext. 1, office
(847) 674 9473 fax
www.sussfinancial.com

Collaboration Between Teachers and Related Service Providers

According to Merriam-Webster dictionary to collaborate means “to work with another person or group in order to achieve or do something.” When we work with children we are constantly blog-collaboration-main-landscape-01collaborating in order to provide children with the best possible education. Within a school there is a lot of collaboration that is evident between teachers, teachers and paraprofessionals, teachers and administrators, as well as between teachers and parents/families. Within special education there is a lot of collaboration that occurs as well in the school setting. But what about outside the school setting?

Many of the students who receive special education services within the school also receive services outside of the school setting. It is essential that the lines of communication are open not only within schools but with these other related service providers that are involved in a specific student’s daily life. Every individual or company that is involved in the well-being and education of the child should be communicating their role and how that can be facilitated throughout the child’s day to day life. This collaboration is key to ensuring that the child is receiving the best services and education. So how do we go about collaborating with other service providers?

There are many ways to collaborate. The key to collaboration is communication! The parent is the mediator since they have direct contact with teachers and the other service providers.

Below are some important ways that we can open up the flow of communication:

What parents can do:

  • Provide each teacher and/or provider with a contact information document.
    • This should include the names and contact information of teachers and other providers who work with your child.
  • Check–in with the various adults that work with your child to ensure that they have gotten in touch.
  • Provide updates yourself to teachers or other service providers about your child’s goals and progress.

What teachers can do:

  • Ask parents for contact information of other service providers that the student might be seeing (if the parent doesn’t provide you with this information).
  • Reach out to other service providers.
  • Update other service providers throughout the school year in regards to the student’s performance and goals.

What service providers can do:

  • Ask parents for contact information of other services providers that the student might be seeing (if the parent doesn’t provide you with this information).
  • Reach out to other service providers
  • Update other service providers and teachers throughout the year in regards to the student’s performance and goals.

The points made above are essential to ensuring that the lines of communication have been opened and everyone can begin to collaborate!

Collaborating is more than just emailing and making phone calls with updates. It should also involve meeting in person as a group and individually to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Once introductions have been completed a meeting should be arranged with all professionals and the family. This provides everyone with the opportunity to meet! In addition, it gives everyone the time to sit down and discuss the child so that everyone can ensure that they are all working together allowing fluidity between the variety of settings that the child will be in.

One meeting is not enough! Make sure at the end of the meeting that a date and time is set for another meeting a few months down the line. This meeting would be more about progress, new goals, successes or challenges that any of the professionals or family are having with the child.

Collaboration is all about teamwork! Working as a team is essential for the success of the children that we work with. We need to ensure that we continue to keep the lines of communication open and work with each other and the family. It is important to loop all professionals the family into decision making processes and program planning. It is also important to share a child’s success and progress so that the same high standard and expectations are held for the child no matter the setting. Collaboration is a truly important component in ensuring that our children are provided with the best services and education.

For additional information, check out our other Autism and school blogs.

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!

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Teacher Tips: Helping Your Students Stay Organized

Organization is a fundamental skill for success in school and beyond, and it is crucial for it to be developed and reinforced early on. Many children struggle with organization and many teachers seek ways in which to aid in the development of good organizational skills. Executive function includes time management, planning and organization, and teachers can play an important role in the development of these skills. blog-organized-students-main-landscape

Check out some ideas below to help your students get and stay organized!

An Environment for Success

How can teachers setup their classroom to create a positive learning environment?
An organized classroom promotes organization habits among students and makes the teacher’s job easier.

  • Ensure that chair and desks are arranged in a way that allows for flexibility to fit group instruction as well as small group work.
  • It is helpful for students to have a supply center, which allows them to independently prepare and manage their materials. It may contain items such as scissors, hole punchers, pencil sharpeners, etc.
  • A homework center allows for a designated area where homework-related activities can be centralized.

Homework management

How can teachers develop effective systems for managing homework?
A clear routine and system for assigning, collecting, and storing homework will make managing homework assignments easier.

  • Designate a regular place for recording homework, whether a portion of the chalkboard, whiteboard, or online so that it is easily accessible to all students.
  • Establish a regular time for assigning homework. It may be beneficial to assign homework at the beginning of a lesson, so that students are not writing the assignment down as class is ending. This also allows for time to answer any questions regarding the assignment and can greatly increase homework completion rates.
  • Keep a master planner and homework log where all the assignments are recorded by either the teacher or a responsible student. This can be a class resource for students who are absent or are missing assignments.
  • Extra handouts can be kept in a folder, a file organizer or online. This way students who miss or lose assignments have the responsibility of obtaining the necessary papers.
  • Designate a physical structure, such as a paper tray, to collect homework rather than using class time to collect papers.
  • Establish a regular time for collecting homework. Consider using a “5 in 5” reminder, requiring students to complete 5 tasks in the first 5 minutes of class, such as turning in homework and writing down new assignments.
  • File graded work in individual hanging folders to decrease class time devoted to handing out papers.
  • To encourage organization, have students designate sections of their binder for (1) homework to be complete, (2) graded work, (3) notes and (4) handouts. Consider periodic checks and provide feedback.
  • Have students track their grades on grade logs to provide them with the opportunity to calculate their grades and reflect on their performance.
  • At the end of a grading period, encourage students to clean out their binders and discuss which papers are worth keeping and why. Encourage them to invest in an accordion file or crate for hanging files to keep important papers.

Time Management

How can teachers structure classroom time efficiently and teach students time management skills?

  • Timers provide students with a concrete visual reminder of the amount of time remaining for a task. They are a great tool for group work, timed tests or silent reading.
  • Post a daily schedule in a visible place to establish the day’s plan. Present the schedule to the students and refer to the schedule when making modifications to model time management skills.
  • Display a monthly calendar to provide students with regular visual reminders of upcoming events. These calendars are also beneficial for modeling backwards planning.
  • Carve out time for organization. Devote a short amount of time for students at the end of the day to reflect on their learning, manage their materials, prioritize homework assignments and make a plan for their completion.

Materials Management

How can teachers help students manage their materials?

  • Designate a short amount of time once a week for students to dump out and reorganize backpacks and clean up lockers.
  • When students finish tests or tasks early encourage them to use the downtime to organize their materials.
  • Have students use labels, racks or dividers to keep their items clean and organized.

Resources:

Rush NeuroBehavioral Center. (2006, 2007). Executive Functions Curriculum.

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