Managing Anxiety in the Classroom

Anxiety is one of the most common mental health issues in our country, affecting millions of adults and children alike. Children with anxiety at school may be experiencing it for several different blog-anxiety-in-school-main-landscapereasons. A few common reasons children may be anxious at school revolve around separation from parents or caregivers, social anxiety or test anxiety. Sometimes, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what the cause is, which is okay too. The important thing is that the symptoms are managed appropriately. Since kids spend the majority of their day in a classroom, it is paramount that teachers and other staff are trained to recognize, support and advocate for anxious students.

Identifying anxiety early on is a very important step as it can help mitigate larger problems later on in adolescence and adulthood.

Let’s start by discussing some common signs and symptoms that we may see in an anxious child. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Refusal or reluctance to attend school
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Negative self-statements
  • Perfectionist tendencies
  • Withdrawing from other children
  • Lack of participation
  • Tearfulness
  • Excessive worrying
  • Frequent trips to the nurse
  • A decline in academic performance

Over the years, our education system has made tremendous progress in identifying and helping children struggling with anxiety. One of the most common are accommodations under a 504 Plan. An example of an accommodation used in a 504 Plan would be adjusting the child’s seating arrangement (often referred to as “preferential seating”). An anxious child may feel more comfortable sitting closer to the teacher, or further away from a highly-energetic or rambunctious child. Another accommodation is extra time on tests (often referred to as “time and a half”), since test-taking can be a common trigger for anxiety. If you feel a 504 Plan might be helpful and appropriate for your child, it would be a good idea to plan a parent-teacher conference to discuss your options.

Close communication and collaboration between teachers and parents is a great way to ensure that your child is getting his or her needs met in the classroom. Sometimes, anxious kids just need a little extra encouragement and reassurance. Positive reinforcement is an excellent tool used for pointing out a child’s successes and efforts, and rewarding them for it. Many schools have a social worker or counselor on staff as well. Social workers and counselors are specifically trained to help children struggling with anxiety and other social-emotional issues. One-on one or small group sessions can be extremely beneficial in helping manage anxiety at school. Incorporating social work minutes into your child’s schedule is a great way to provide your child with extra support during the day.

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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Handling Breaks from School

Join one of our BCBAs, Jennifer Bartell, to learn about handling breaks from school. She discusses using multiple kinds of visual schedules.

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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5 Tips to Help Your Child Through Failing Grades

As a new school year has begun, your child may be facing quite a few new changes in the classroom, whether that be a new school, new teachers and peers, or even new, and challenging blog-failing-grades-main-landscapecoursework. These changes can generate some difficulties in your student in terms of following academic or social expectations. Maybe they begin getting notes sent home about their inappropriate behavior in class or you begin finding failing grades on recent assignments. Either way, these can be discouraging to parents and their student. As a parent, it is important to identify these challenges early on and follow through with keeping your child on track for their own success.

Here are a few tips on how to help your child through failing grades:

  1. Be proactive. Parents should contact the teacher as soon as they notice their child having difficulty in a class. Follow up with any notes home or call a teacher to have a conference about the recent failing grade on an assignment. Ask the teacher for extra assignments or activities that can be done at home. It’s important to develop a plan with the teacher for collaboration purposes. The teacher may also have better insight into more specific skills that need to be acquired.
  1. Create a routine. Creating an after school routine at home provides clear expectations and consistency. This routine can and should include homework completion, meal time with family, and a bedtime routine. Building a positive routine around homework completion and continued practice can not only provide a balance of work and play, but can also build strong sense of responsibility in your student. Try and remove or minimize other distractions during the homework routine and create more time dedicated to helping your child with homework.
  1. Set expectations. As a parent, provide expectations and follow through. These expectations may begin with something small such as practicing number cards for 5 minutes before bed or making sure all books are brought home for the appropriate homework every night for a week. Whatever those expectations are in the initial stages, follow through and provide the appropriate praise and reinforcement contingent on the completion. It may be helpful to set up expectations with the teacher so you can map out short and long term goals.
  1. Consistently provide encouragement and support. Failing grades may not only be disappointing to the parents, they may also be discouraging to the student. Provide praise and positive reinforcement for even the smallest of progress and the continuation of hard work in and outside of the classroom. Continue to be an advocate for support. Offer help when needed while still requiring the student to complete the work independently.
  2. Look for underlying problems. While discussing specific difficulties with the teacher, look for potential underlying problems. Can there be difficulties with environmental variables such as, not being able to see or hear the teacher, forgetting to write down homework assignments, or being distracted by other classroom students or activities? Is there possibly an underlying learning disability? Is the child having difficulty attending to tasks? Whatever it may be, it is important to identify these things to make appropriate changes necessary for success.

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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5 Possible Autism Red Flags for Preschoolers

Autism spectrum disorder is a diagnosis that affects each child differently. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, and common ones include:blog-autism-red-flags-main-landscape

· Problems with social interactions

· Difficulties with communication

· Repetitive/stereotypical behavior

Our Family Child Advocates developed a list of five possible autism red flags for preschoolers. While this is not an all-inclusive list, and symptoms vary between children, these can be early indicators.

1. Not Just Shy

Don’t mistake shyness for autism — or vice versa. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a chart for parents that highlights the difference. For example, a child with a shy temperament might be “quiet and withdrawn in new settings.” However, a child on the autism spectrum suffers from a “lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests or achievements with others.”

During preschool years (ages 3 to 5), children are exploring their environment and interacting with their peers, family members and teachers. These interactions help children develop an understanding of the world and form important relationships with others.

Around this age, children should start showing an interest in what their peers are doing and begin to interact with them both during organized (e.g., planned activities) and unstructured activities (e.g., free play). If they only want to play alone (even if there are peers around them), this could be a red flag. In addition, if a child demonstrates limited eye contact with adults and peers — this could also be a sign of autism — especially if the child doesn’t make any eye contact when their name is called or during times of play/activities with others.

2. Something Doesn’t Sound “Right”

It’s true that speech and language milestones are reached at different times for each child. However, at the preschool age, most children should be able to:

· Speak four or more words in a sentence.

· Follow three-step directions like “find your chair,” “raise your hand” or “shut the door.”

· Answer “WH” questions: Who, what, where and why.

· Recognize some letters and numbers.

Children on the autism spectrum disorder may not be able to speak about or do these things. Also, when autism spectrum children do speak, people may struggle to understand what they are saying.

A child on the autism spectrum might repeat the same words (e.g., “clap, clap, clap!”) or phrases, (e.g., “How are you? How are you?”) over and over again. The repeated words or phrases might be said right away or at a later time. While most children go through a repetitive speech stage, this type of speaking pattern typically ends around age three.

3. Demonstrating Major Fury with Minor Changes

It’s common for children to struggle with changes to their everyday routine. However, children with autism can become extremely upset when changes occur, especially unexpectedly. This may be seen during transition times between activities, clean up time or when they are asked to do something. Some behaviors that may occur include: exhibiting withdrawal, repetitive behaviors, tantrums or aggression.

4. Stimming and/or Obsessive Interests

Stimming is self-stimulatory behavior which appears as repetitive body movements and/or repetitive movement of objects. Stimming can involve one or all senses, and some examples are: hand flapping, body rocking, spinning in circles or spinning objects.

It’s natural for children to be curious of the world around them. But obsessive interests are routines or hobbies that the child develops that may seem unusual or unnecessary. Some example of common obsessive interests might include only wanting to talk about and play with computers, trains, historical dates/events, science or a particular TV show.

5. Showcasing Signs of Sensory Sensitivity

Children with autism may have a dysfunctional sensory system. This means that one or more of their senses are either over or under reactive to sensory stimulation. This sensitivity could be the cause of stimming behaviors. Some preschoolers might react unusually to the way things sound, smell, taste, look or feel. For example, during sensory play (e.g., playing with sand, Play-Doh or shaving cream) a child who does not like to get their hands dirty and prefers to continually wipe/wash their hands — or avoid sensory projects all together — could be demonstrating signs of sensory sensitivity.


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.


 

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!

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How to Help Improve a Child’s Pencil Grasp

There are various factors that have an influence on a child’s pencil grasp. In addition to addressing a child’s physical attributes, the environment and tools used can also impact a pencil grasp.blog-pencil-grasp-main-landscape

Below are several strategies to assist in the development of an appropriate pencil grasp:

Increase Core Strength & Postural Control

Having a strong base of support can lead to more refined and controlled movements in the hands and fingers. Encourage play and activities on the ground, belly side down and propped up on the elbows and forearms. You can also incorporate animal walks, wheelbarrow walks, and kid friendly yoga poses throughout the day.

90-90-90 Positioning

During writing activities, set up the child to promote an appropriate pencil grasp. Make sure that the child is seated at a table with his or her feet flat on the ground and that the ankles, knees, and hips are at a 90 degree angle.

Vertical & Slanted Surfaces

Encourage appropriate wrist alignment and grasp by having the child draw on vertical or slanted surfaces.

  • Easel
  • Chalkboard
  • 3-Ring Binder

Hand Strengthening

Various strengthening activities can be implemented to increase the strength in the muscles of the hands.

  • Playdough, putty, clay:  roll, pinch, flatten, make shapes with cookie cutters
  • Rip paper or tear and crumple tissue paper to make a craft with the pieces
  • Use an eye dropper and food-colored water to decorate a coffee filter
  • Pop bubble wrap
  • Use a spray bottle to water plants or form letters on the sidewalk

Short Tools

Have the child use short writing tools to promote increased control. Break crayons or chalk so they are approximately 1-2 inches long or use golf pencils.

Separate the Two Sides of the Hand

The fingers on the thumb side of the hand should be utilized for holding and moving the pencil. The fingers on the pinky side of the hand (pinky finger and ring finger) should be tucked in against the palm and utilized for stability and control. To encourage this separation of the two sides of the hand, tuck a small object in the pinky and ring fingers during writing activities. For example, have the child tuck a small pompom, eraser, button, or cotton ball on the pinky side of the hand.

Both parents and teachers can incorporate the listed strategies within a child’s day to develop an effective pencil grasp and in turn help increase handwriting skills, confidence, and self-esteem.

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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7 Tips for Helping Children with Autism Handle Breaks from School

Breaks during the school year can end up being stressful for parents.  The key to success would be to prepare as much as possible beforehand. blog-autism-school-breaks-main-landscape

Try these 7 tips to help your child with Autism handle breaks from school:

  • Give your child a heads up that there is going to be a break in the routine. Mark down the days on a calendar, and consistently review it with them starting a couple weeks before leading up to the break.
  • Work with outside therapy providers to create visual schedules or prompts that can make the break run more smoothly—this is especially true for kids who follow schedules at school regularly.
  • Keep your routine as consistent as possible during the break—keep bedtime, chores and meal times as close as you can to what kids would typically do.
  • Provide as much structure as possible during the break, the less down time you have, the better! This can be a good time to plan outings to places you can’t typically go, such at the zoo, aquarium, museums, and parks.
  • Check in with teachers about possible activities and academics that could be practiced over break. Frequently, teachers will assign extra work during this time.
  • Use the break to keep your child caught up in school—review their homework and give them a head start for what’s coming up at school after the break!
  • Breaks are also a great time to add more hours of therapy!

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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This blog was co-written with Jennifer Bartell.

Jennifer BartellJennifer Bartell is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) and educator with over a decade of experience working with learners diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, double majoring in psychology and music performance, and earning a place on the Dean’s List. Following a move to New York City, Jennifer received her Master of Special Education degree from the City University of New York—Hunter College, wherein she specialized in Behavior Disorders and became dual certified to teach both the general and special education populations. While in New York, Jennifer was a part of the opening of the innovative NYC Autism Charter School—the first of its kind on the east coast—and had the opportunity to work in classrooms with reduced and one-to-one ratios and a curriculum created using the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis. Here she worked extensively with learners between the ages of 3 and 18, and presenting with an array of challenges, skill deficits, and abilities. Jennifer has vast experience in creating programming for community-based instruction, adaptive daily living skills, and self-care, yet also employs her education background to provide high quality academic and cognitive services as well. A well-respected member of the home- and school-based organizations for whom she has provided services, Jennifer is frequently called upon to provide professional development and training for her colleagues and those she is supervising. Jennifer has presented at a number of professional Applied Behavior Analysis and education conferences for fellow educators, behavior analysts, and parents around the New York area.

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.

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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Kindergarten Firsts: Fire Drills, Lock Down Drills and Tornado Drills

It’s that time of year: backpacks are filled with new crayons and pencils, new shoes and outfits have been selected and are ready to go. Along with back to school clothes and medical check-ups, Blog-Kindergarten-Firsts-Main-Landscapethere is another important detail to remember to address with your kindergartner, talking about fire drills, lock-down drills, and tornado drills.

For some children, the idea of fire trucks arriving at school is thrilling and having a break from their classroom to walk outside is a welcomed break. For other children, particularly children with sensitivity to loud noises or changes in routine, fire drills, lock-downs and tornado drills can trigger uncomfortable feelings and even panic. Unfortunately, safety drills are a part of life, but the good news is, there are steps you can take to help your child be prepared for them.

The first step in preparing your child for safety drills is to have a conversation, or several conversations, about them. Approach your child at a time of day when he/she is calm and broach the topic. You can introduce the topic by talking about how excited you are for your child to begin school, reminding him/her of the fun of meeting his/her teacher and seeing his classroom. Next, talk about a variety of things he/she will learn about, like animals, letters and numbers. Then, mention that you want to tell him/her about something that teachers and students learn about and practice so that they are prepared in all situations. Explain that drills are routines that teach them steps to do to keep them safe in case of a fire at school or an unsafe person, or unsafe weather.

You will want to keep the language you use very simple and non-threatening. Emphasize that schools are very safe places and that these routines are practiced because “practice makes perfect;” and that practicing the drills will help them remember the instructions that will keep them safe and keep them calm. If your child has sensitivity to loud noises or changes in routine, you will want to alert your child’s teacher before school begins.

Finally, remember to use calm and reassuring words as you discuss the drills, reinforcing the idea that teachers and staff are trained and that schools are strong and sturdy. If you feel your child may need additional support or reassurance, notify your school principal and your child’s teacher. Remember that North Shore Pediatric Therapy’s services provide counseling and can address persistent worries or other concerns.

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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