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.



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!

Toilet Training While in Preschool? Communication is Key!

Megan Sexton, director of Creative Scholars Preschool in Chicago, shares important insights about how to approach the topic of potty training with your child’s preschool.

The toddler years are joyful, busy times of great growth for children! These are the years where children Blog-Toilet-Training-Main-Portraitare finding their sense of self, exerting their will, and discovering what effects they have on the world. With these new discoveries comes a toddler’s desire for independence driven by a desire to find a sense of control over themselves and their world. Because of this, learning self-help skills such as toilet training can be a stressful time for children and their families especially when you also consider that approaches to teaching a child to use the bathroom independently vary greatly from family to family.

When a child is enrolled in preschool and is in the process of toilet training, the potential for differences in approaches multiplies and another layer of anxiety can build up for children and families. This is where the importance of frequent and clear communication between you and your child’s teachers comes into play. In fact, this ongoing communication should begin even before the toilet training process begins! Some parents are unsure about when is the best time to begin potty training and will rely on the recommendation of a toddler teacher who has likely helped many children and their families with the toilet training process. Other parents have a clear timeline of when they would like to begin the process for their child. Whichever way works the best for you, it’s important to have those conversations with your child’s school. This helps get everyone on the same page and sets the child up for success.

What do teachers want to know?

In order to best support children and families, there are a few pieces of information that are helpful when shared with your child’s school.

  • What words does your family use when talking about body parts and elimination? If a teacher doesn’t know a family term for something, your child may become confused when the teachers use different vocabulary.
  • Does your boy sit or stand when trying to use the toilet? Some little boys find it uncomfortable to sit because they don’t like having to direct their penis down and accidentally getting their finger wet. Others don’t like to stand because they become nervous about the potential of falling forwards.
  • What signals does your child’s body give when they have to use the bathroom? Do they wiggle? Do they stand in a corner? Will they use words to let someone know they need to use the restroom?
  • How do they react when they have an accident? Let your teachers know if they get embarrassed or afraid that they will get in trouble if they have an accident.
  • How often do you want your child to try to use the toilet? Some children are able to inform teachers when they have to go, others get so involved in their play that they need reminders to try.
  • Is your child wearing pull-ups or underpants? If your child is wearing underpants, do they use pull-ups at nap?
  • Is your child nervous about anything, for example, when the toilet is flushed?
  • What can your child do independently and what do they need support with? Can they pull up their pants, but struggle with buttons or zippers?
  • How do you want soiled clothing to be handled? Do you want teachers to keep underpants that have had a poop accident or just throw them away? Do you have a dirty clothes bag you would like the soiled clothes placed in or can teachers put the clothes into a plastic grocery bag? Where do you want the soiled clothes placed to make it easy to find at dismissal time?

Make a communication plan.

Whether your child attends a half day program in which all children are picked up at the same time or they attend a full day program in which children are picked up at various points in the evening, it is important to make sure that teachers and parents are able to connect regarding your child’s day and their progress with using the restroom during the day. Maybe your child has the same teachers the entire day or maybe they have a different set of teachers in the afternoon than they do in the morning. How do you make sure that everyone is on the same page?

Some ideas to help maintain this two-way communication, in addition to face-to-face conversations, include:

  • Keeping a notebook in your child’s cubby where each teacher and parent can write notes including how many times your child tried to use the toilet, how many times they were successful, and any notes regarding soiled clothes or questions.
  • Having a toilet use log with times across the top in which teachers and parents make check marks under the times the child tried and went to the restroom.
  • Sending the teachers a follow up email at the end of the day asking how things went.

When parents and teachers work together and have clear communication, the stress of toilet training can be greatly reduced; everyone ends up working together to help the children feel successful and proud of their latest accomplishment!

Megan-Sexton-1Megan Sexton has a master’s degree in child development from the Erikson Institute. She has taught children aged toddler through first grade and is currently the director at Creative Scholars Preschool. Megan believes in the power of play, inquiry, and relationships in shaping a child’s early years.

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.




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!

How Teachers Can Help a Child With Tourettes

When you look at someone with Tourettes, all you see or hear are the tics. You don’t see the constant struggle, the constant commotion that is going on inside the person’s body. Although it might be easy to assume that when a person is not ticcing, they are okay or calm or not experiencing anything related to Tourettes, more often than not, that assumption would be entirely incorrect.

Here are a few tips on how teachers can help a child with Tourettestourettesteachermain

  1. Trust that if the person did not have an urge to tic, they would not be doing the tic. Know that although there might be some level of control for some kids some of the time, it is difficult to control and takes an inordinate amount of energy. The consequence of “not-ticcing” is often delayed tic-bursts, decreased concentration, lost instructional time and/or social time, and muscle soreness.  The consequence of ticcing is often embarrassment, shame, isolation, muscle soreness, decreased concentration, loss of instructional and/or social time.
  2. Ignore the tics. Don’t worry what the other kids will think or if they will become distracted. Be the role model. Keep on and so will the kids. They will get used to the noises just like you would get used to hearing the sound of a fire truck if you lived near a station or the smell of baked goods if you worked in a bakery.  If the noises bother you, just remember they bother the child a whole lot more…and he can’t walk away from himself.
  3. Remember that, as bad as the tics can be, they are usually just the tip of the iceberg. The common Tourette Syndorome (TS) co-morbid conditions are OCD, ADHD and Learning Disabilities.  Your student is battling, not only a body out of control, but some major disabilities that even adults have difficulty living with.  Remember this is a real, neurological disorder that the child did not ask for and does not want.
  4. Learn as much as you can about the disorder(s) and the child. Just because you knew one kid with Tourettes in the past does not mean that you know anything about the current student. Listen to the parents. Contact the child’s private clinicians. Ask questions. Above all, if the adults in the child’s life feel it is appropriate, talk to the child!  Let him know you are trying to understand, that you will do your best to protect him from the bullies, and that you care.  Let him know it’s okay to tic if he needs to and come up with safe places if he needs to leave the room.
  5. Does your student have behavioral issues? It’s possible that things you think are “bad behaviors” are manifestations of Tourettes. The shouting out? Tourettes. Doing what the teacher says NOT to do?  TS is a disorder of disinhibition. If the child hears “Don’t run” he will most likely feel compelled to run. If he knows he shouldn’t be saying certain words or doing certain things, the premonitory urge will center around those words or those actions and it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for him to control the urge.
  6. Work with administrators to schedule a teacher in-service for all the adults working with the child, including the related arts teachers, lunch monitors and bus drivers. TS does not go away when the child leaves your room. Children with TS need to know that there are in a safe place with understanding adults who will support them.
  7. With parent permission, set up a peer in-service. Have someone who is knowledgeable about TS speak to the students. There are organizations that have teens, young adults and adults who can provide this service.  This will help all the children, including the one with TS, feel less fearful and more comfortable with each other.

Click here for more information on what it’s like to live with Tourettes.

About the Author: Shari was the 3rd person in IL to be diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome (1976). Her parents co-founded the IL TS chapter along with several others, including Joe Bliss. In 1978, while at a board meeting in her parent’s home, Mr. Bliss told Shari about his theory of premonitory urges and provided some tips and tricks on how to control the tics. It was the first time Shari felt “understood” and attributes much of her success to Mr. Bliss and his strategies. She co-founded the Illinois Tourette Resource Network in 2014 and is honored that she can continue the legacy of providing TS support to the Illinois community.

What It’s Like To Live With Tourettes

tourettes1mainThe diagnostic criteria for Tourette Disorder is so simple, so clear, so straightforward:

For a person to be diagnosed with TS, he or she must:

  • have two or more motor tics (for example, blinking or shrugging the shoulders) and at least one vocal tic (for example, humming, clearing the throat, or yelling out a word or phrase), although they might not always happen at the same time.
  • have had tics for at least a year. The tics can occur many times a day (usually in bouts) nearly every day, or off and on.
  • have tics that begin before he or she is 18 years of age.
  • have symptoms that are not due to taking medicine or other drugs or due to having another medical condition (for example, seizures, Huntington disease, or postviral encephalitis).

So simple, so clear, so straightforward.  So why is understanding the person with Tourette so complicated, so challenging, so confusing?  In large part because although it is easy to explain what it “is” it is exceptionally difficult to explain what it feels like to live with it.  Without that understanding, though, it would be incredibly difficult, if not impossible, for teachers and parents to effectively support children with TS.  And this is why…

When you look at someone with TS, all you see or hear, are the tics.  You don’t see the constant struggle, the constant commotion that is going on inside the person’s body.  Although it might be easy to assume that when a person is not ticcing, they are okay or calm or not experiencing anything related to TS, more often than not, that assumption would be entirely incorrect.

What causes Tourette tics?

Although once thought to be an “involuntary disorder”, there is a fair amount of peer-reviewed research that indicates people with TS have “triggers”, both internal and external. However, the triggers are ever-changing and inconsistent over time and even moment to moment. The initial documentation of a TS tic “trigger” was made by Joseph Bliss in 1980 (footnote) in the first-ever layman’s article published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.  His article describes how very slowly, over the years, he came to be aware of the faint signals that preceded a movement.  He described the sudden leap from impulse to movement as ”the moments before a sneeze explodes … almost as uncontrollable as a twitching nerve,” and concluded that the movements are actually voluntary: ”the intention is to relieve a sensation, as surely as the movement to scratch an itch is to relieve the itch.” Although a controversial concept in its time, it is now believed that in fact, most people with TS have “premonitory urges” in which they feel a sensation and then respond to it with a tic, which eliminates the sensation, but only for a fleeting moment when the urge begins again.

What are examples of triggers?

What are some of these triggers?  In addition to constantly changing, they vary person to person. Externally, they can be noises (loud noises but also softer noises like breathing and chewing), crowded places, certain people, unanticipated events, feeling as if someone is staring or talking about them, very cold weather, very hot weather, being physically over-stimulated, being physically under-stimulated, sitting for long (or even short) periods of time, being touched, certain foods, clothing, and smells, and so much more.  Internally, it can be hunger, over-eating, being tired, not having a specific task on which to focus energy, illness, injury and over-sensitivity to internal sensory input, to name just a few.  Although knowing what triggers a child’s tics can be helpful, for some children it is nearly impossible to figure out what they are, and some cannot be controlled regardless.  Therefore, as a start, it is essential for parents and teachers to gain a solid understanding of what Tourette feels like to the person living with it:  Joe Bliss’ concept of the Premonitory Urge.

What are Premonitory Urges?

Before a tic occurs, most people with TS feel a build-up of tension at a specific site within their bodies. Multiple “tension sites” can occur simultaneously.  This “tension” has been described in multiple ways such as an itch, a tickle, a punch, a storm, fullness, an ache, tingling, burning, and a feeling that something is not “just right.”  Once that feeling hits, the need to tic is extremely strong, analogous to holding in a sneeze or how it would feel if someone held their eyes wide and were told not to blink.  Although some people can control tics for periods of time, most people feel that if they don’t tic when they get the urge, that they will “burst” or get that feeling like they want to jump out of their skin. Even when tics are suppressed, eventually they need to be let out, creating a “tic storm” that can be painful, embarrassing, and create missed learning and/or social opportunities.

What is an example of a child with Tourette Syndrome?

So, let’s think about this in the context of a school setting.  Young Danny, aged 10, has Tourette. He was diagnosed at 5 and currently has no other diagnoses. However, over this past year, his parents are concerned about symptoms that look like anxiety and depression. They have also noticed that he is much more irritable when he gets home, than he has been in the past. He is a bright boy, with no learning disabilities but is not doing well in school.

Danny gets on the bus and sits with his friends. As they are talking, he feels an urge to lift his shoulders. It’s all he can think about and decides that a little shoulder movement isn’t going to cause attention to him so he does that tic and for a few moments he feels relief.  Then, he feels pressure building up in his arms and knows that if he tics, there is a chance he will punch the seat in front of him so instead of succumbing to the feeling, he focuses on tightening his arms, hoping that the feeling will go away. And it does until he exits the bus, but for the rest of the bus ride, all Danny can think about is squeezing his muscles as the tension build-up is getting stronger and stronger.  So much so that he has no available resources to talk to his friends.

As he exits the bus, he can no longer control the urge in his arms and is also aware of pressure building throughout his body. He stands still so he can fling out his arms, jerk back his head, and make a loud grunting noise.  It only takes a couple of seconds and when he is re-composed, he is acutely aware of 2 girls standing near the school door, laughing and pointing.  Danny feels a sinking feeling but is used to this, he ignores it, walks into the school, and starts to feel the premonitory urges build up once again.  As he heads down the hallway he wonders if there will be a lot of kids by his locker. He knows that if there are, it could set off his tics again if they get too close or touch him. If he’s touched on his left shoulder, he needs to touch his right shoulder. The closed in feeling will increase his urge to tic. Just the thought of this, combined with not knowing what to expect, starts to make him feel nervous. As he is reaching his locker, he sees only 2 boys there and feels some relief, but then all of a sudden he is aware of building tension in his mouth and throat and before he knows it he lets out a shriek. The kids turn and he feels humiliated. But, he knows if he doesn’t hurry up he’ll be one of the last people in the classroom, and walking into a crowded classroom increases his urge to tic, so he ignores the stares and continues to his locker.

Once in the classroom, Danny is continually assessing the situation.  It’s a constant effort of managing and mediating situations, both internal and external.  “Do I tic now so I can alleviate the pressure because if I don’t it will be more embarrassing later on?”.  “Should I go to the nurse and say I’m sick because I know that having to be in a quiet library will set off my tics?”.  “Will my teacher make me work with the kids who were just making fun of me? If so, I know I’ll be nervous and my tics will increase.  That will make  the whole day bad and it’s only 9:00 a.m.”   “If I go to the library I can try to hold in the tics but that’s not a good long-term strategy because then they’ll all come tumbling out in Social Studies. But maybe it’s worth it because the worst place to tic is in a quiet library.”  All the while, Danny is trying to listen to the teacher, trying to suppress some tics, but still ticcing, and then trying to ignore the stares and murmurs.  Now it’s 9:30 a.m. and he can’t wait to go home and take a hot bath because he knows his body is going to be in so much pain from ticcing and his brain is going to be so tired from trying to hold everything together.  “And my mother wonders why I’m so crabby when I get home,” he thinks to himself.

What does the teacher see?

Let’s look for a moment at the same situation from the teacher’s perspective.  She sees Danny walk into class seeming okay because he’s not ticcing. Of course she has no idea that already twice he’s been embarrassed by his tics, been laughed at, and that his arm and shoulder muscles are hurting from trying to contain the tic.  She notices a few tics but since they are slight shoulder and hand tics and a couple of eye blinks she again assumes he’s doing okay. Then, as she is talking about the group project she notices that Danny doesn’t seem to be listening.  She wonders why such a smart boy always seems to be daydreaming. She calls out his name and tells him to pay attention, which he does immediately.   Then, as they are lining up for library she commends him and tells him she is proud of him for controlling his tics.  “If only my teacher knew how much effort it takes, how stressed I am all the time thinking about it, and how tired and bad about myself I feel by the time I go home. If only she knew that when I say I have to go to the bathroom it’s really because I want to release my tics. If only she knew how much the comments and stares bother me. If only she knew that the reason I have trouble starting my work is because the pencil on my paper needs to feel “just right” or I’ll need to erase and start over again. If only she knew that the reason I stop working so much is because my socks don’t feel right and I have to adjust them until they do.  If only she knew.

As seen above, TS causes a constant struggle between the mind and the body.  Ticcing is no different than blinking or scratching an itch.  No one WANTS to tic, yet the urge becomes so strong it is virtually impossible to block it.  If the child controls the blinking, it might come out in squeaking. What’s better, what’s worse, when to do it?  The mind of a Touretter is constantly navigating a body that is out of control.  It’s annoying, discouraging and, at times, self-defeating. And, most bodies with Tourettes usually have additional disorders with which to contend.  So, Danny’s scenario was really quite “tame” as compared to most kids with TS. The tics are just the tip of the iceberg.  Add on ADHD, OCD, Depression, and/or Learning Disabilities and the “perfect storm” is created.  Put that child into a class where the teacher, understandably, has a difficult time knowing how Danny feels, alongside kids who either make fun of him, are scared of him, get annoyed with him, or “put up” with him at the risk of losing other friends who think Danny is “weird.”  Layer on top of that parents who are worried about their child, don’t feel like anyone else understands them, becomes alienated from friends and family, is frustrated by the notes home from school wondering why Danny can’t finish his homework (well, if he can’t finish it during the day he’s probably not going to be able to do it at home, either), frustrated with the lack of medical options, and feeling so guilty and so bad for their son who comes home every day with sore muscles, an exhausted mind, and feeling very beaten down.


  • Illinois Tourette Resource Network This group provides 3 support group meetings a month, monthly family activities, adult activities, online support, and workshops. They also provide speakers, teacher in-services and peer in-services.

Bliss, J. “Sensory experiences of Gilles de la Tourette syndrome.” Archives of General Psychiatry 1980; 37: 1343-1347.

About the Author: Shari was the 3rd person in IL to be diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome (1976). Her parents co-founded the IL TS chapter along with several others, including Joe Bliss. In 1978, while at a board meeting in her parent’s home, Mr. Bliss told Shari about his theory of premonitory urges and provided some tips and tricks on how to control the tics. It was the first time Shari felt “understood” and attributes much of her success to Mr. Bliss and his strategies. She co-founded the Illinois Tourette Resource Network in 2014 and is honored that she can continue the legacy of providing TS support to the Illinois community.

How to Help Your Child With Handwriting

According to the American Occupational Therapy Association[1], handwriting is, “a complex process of managing written language by coordinating the eyes, arms, hands, pencil grip, letter formation, and body posture. The development of a child’s handwriting can provide clues to developmental problems that could hinder a child’s learning because teachers depend on written work to measure how well a child is learning.” To improve handwriting skills, it is important to consider the child holistically to help determine where the underlying problem lies.

How to Improve Your Child’s Handwriting Skills:

  1. Evaluate her posture and body position. Encourage your child to work while sitting upright,Help Your Child With Handwriting
    with back straight and supported by the seat and two feet on the floor. Provide a footrest, or a cube chair with lateral support, if needed. If your child has a difficult time sitting still in this position (i.e. holds her head in her hands, lies down on the desk, or slouches prematurely), it may be due to a decrease in muscle tone, impacting core strength, postural control, and endurance for table work.
  2. Improve pencil grasp. Promoting a dynamic tripod pencil grasp is one strategy used by occupational therapists to improve handwriting success.  Children who use an inefficient pencil grasp fatigue quickly because they are enlisting the larger muscles groups to work overtime on small, finite tasks. Improving control of the distal muscles of the wrist and hand may improve overall fine motor development and legibility. Games such as Operation, Don’t Spill the Beans, Ker Plunk, and activities that require tongs and chopsticks are all helpful in strengthening these muscles, improving arch development, and facilitating the tripod grasp.
  3. Work on a vertical surface, such as a binder or an easel. This will help to stabilize the wrist and the hand, improve visual attention, and facilitate better eye-hand coordination.
  4. Facilitate multi-sensory engagement. For children who struggle with letter formation, including top down letter formation, line adherence, directionality, and overall legibility, practice working across multi-sensory writing apparatuses. Tracing bumpy letters, writing their name in shaving cream, sand, or finger paint, or using a stylus to trace, copy, or write letters on an iPad can improve motor planning, visual motor integration, and fine motor coordination. (Check out some handwriting app recommendations from our OT here.)
  5. Create a writing checklist. This is very motivating for grade school children and helps them to begin to edit their own work independently. Include simple, 1 step instructions (i.e. all of my words have enough space between them) along with a check box so that they can follow along and correct their work at their own pace.
  6. Adapt the paper. For children whose letters appear to be floating in the middle of the paper, or have a difficult time with placement of their words, adapting the paper itself can be a helpful tool. Often, I will create paper that has a blue line on top, a yellow line in the middle, and a green line on bottom and refer to them as the sky, the fence, and the grass, respectively. Using this visual, it is easy for children to see whether or not their letters fall on the grass, touch the sky, or pass through the fence.

Click here for 4 ways to better handwriting before pencil hits paper.


NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview 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!

Resource:[1] http://www.aota.org/aboutoccupationaltherapy/patientsclients/childrenandyouth/schools/handwriting.aspx

stop procrastinating

Help Your Child STOP Procrastinating

We are all guilty of that last minute Hail Mary to finalize a report or satisfy a deadline. Even during the times when you are confident you will be ahead of the curve, life happens and best laid plans fail. Teach, and practice, these helpful strategies to avoid procrastination.

Tips to Help Your Child Stop Procrastinating:

  1. Sit down with your child and organize all the work that needs to be completed.Help Your Child Stop Procrastinating Arrange these tasks in an A, B, C manner where A’s are of the utmost priority that need to be achieved right away and B’s and C’s are not as pressing. Once the A’s are completed, then the child can move on to the lesser important items. You can do this on a daily or weekly basis.
  2. Break down tasks on to visual schedule. Add daily tasks to a visual calendar so that the child can see what he is responsible for doing. If an assignment lasts longer than one day to complete, like writing a paper or studying for test, break down this task across several days in smaller time increments. Upon completion of this task, the child can cross off the assignment to garner a sense of satisfaction and have an active status for remaining work.
  3. Check assignment notebook/online database for assignments. Model for your child this essential step prior to engagement in homework. When your child comes home from school, make a habit of sitting down during snack time to discuss the requirements for the day. Encourage collaboration for prioritizing tasks through review of syllabus, assignment notebook, and any information posted on line to get the most comprehensive picture of tasks. This may not just include homework but money for hot lunch, filling out consents for field trips, and keeping track of other important information. These items can all be housed on the big visual schedule.
  4. Open communication. Encourage open communication in a non-punitive forum. Let your child know that he can still receive tablet time, play dates, and movies throughout the week even if they have a lot of work to complete. Scheduling down time and fun can also help to debunk irrational, negative thoughts about having to complete work if the child can see that fun and leisure is being factored in too.

Click here to set-up a routine for homework happiness.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview 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!

The Best School Routine For Kids With ADHD

One of the hallmark features of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a lack of organization and difficulty with self-initiation and time management.  With the beginning of a new school year, it is important that there be an emphasis on establishing daily routines and structure for these children. Below are some strategies to implement prior to the start of the school year to make routines common.

School Routine For Kids With ADHD:

  1. Setting a structured morning with specific routines is important.  Give the child School Schedules For Kids With ADHDownership by allowing him or her to have a say as to what should be part of the morning routine as well as the order of importance for daily tasks.  Use a visual schedule, consisting of either a white board or paper, in which the morning routine steps are clearly indicated.  Depending upon age, have the child start taking ownership of the daily routines by crossing them off the schedule when they are completed.
  2. Try to establish a structured schedule for the day.  First thing in the morning, sit down the child to go over what daily events are to happen that day.  Then have the events printed on a separate visual schedule.  This gives the child a key to go back to when needed to see what daily expectations are.  The child can also again take ownership by scratching off the completed tasks.
  3. Changes with routine will happen.  Even the most structured and rigorous individuals cannot anticipate all possible changes and events.  Always try to prepare the child as soon as possible when there is a change with the daily routine.  Try to have the change updated on the visual schedule so that there is a structured ‘change.’

Preparing for the structured school day should not have to wait until the first day of school.  Try to keep structure and routine as part of the child’s day to day life to ensure a smooth transition into the school year.

ADHD Resource Center

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview 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!

Tips to Establish a Good Relationship With Your Child’s Teacher

With the summer winding down, now is the time to start preparing your child for a successful school year. Transitioning from the leisure activities of the summer to the emergence of structure can be difficult, so planning ahead can be critical. One important component for success at school is good communication with your child’s teacher. Follow these helpful steps to initiate a strong relationship with your child’s teacher.

Tips to Establish a Good Relationship With Your Child’s Teacher:

  1. Set up a phone call or face-to-face meeting. Connecting with your child’s teacher prior to theHow to Establish a Strong Relationship With Your Child's Teacher beginning of school, or during the first weeks, can be essential to provide introductions and a brief dialogue about your child’s strengths and needs. This will allow the teacher to gain insights ahead of time to plan ahead with how to accommodate the student and carry over strategies that have been helpful in the past. If your child experiences separation or transitional challenges, try to arrange a prior meeting with the teacher before the school doors open to facilitate comfort, recognition, and familiarity.
  2. Have your child create a “get to know me” project that can be given to the teacher at the beginning of the year. This can be an art project, a letter, or list of positive aspects of self and what the child hopes to learn this year. This can educate the teacher on a child’s likes/dislikes and personal knowledge to begin making connections.
  3. Show gratitude. The student-teacher relationship is a special bond that takes time to cultivate. Whether it is simply sharing a compliment “I really liked that lesson” or bringing the teacher a special, thoughtful treat can help your child stand out.
  4. Discuss with the teacher a plan for collaboration as the year progresses. Work towards setting up a system of phone calls or email chains that can be used to transmit critical information and updates as needed. This can serve as a more proactive mode of communication to minimize crises or challenges.
  5. Teach your child self-advocacy skills. Educate your child on how to assertively communicate needs to the teacher. If the child is shy and struggles with initiating comprehension questions or something like needing to go to the bathroom, practice role playing stressful scenarios with your child. Work with your child to identify areas of concern and create coping statements that your child can implement as needed.
  6. Establish effective check-in strategies. If your child struggles with organization, math skills, or just simply calming down after lunch/recess, work with the teacher to identify times throughout the day that the child and teacher can check-in. Depending on age, the parent can work with the teacher to facilitate this or the child can independently initiate question-asking or assistance throughout identified times of the day. If the child is cautious about being singled-out in a “check-in” forum, encourage the teacher and child to create a discreet hand signal or gesture to indicate assistance, help, or feeling lost.

Click here for more tips to transition from the summer to the school year.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview 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!

sensory strategies for school

Sensory Strategies for School

Preparing your child to go back to school can be both exciting and challenging. Research suggests that approximately 1 in 6 children experience sensory symptoms that are significant enough to interfere with everyday life functions occurring at home and in the school.[1] Targeting the body’s sensory systems of oral, vestibular (movement), proprioceptive (body position), tactile (touch), visual, and auditory will help them to stay motivated and engaged in the classroom. Check out these 5 tips that describe various sensory strategies for school.

Sensory Strategies for School:

  1. Send your child to school with a healthy, crunchy snack in their lunch such as carrots,Sensory Strategies for School celery, granola bars, licorice, or gummy worms. Research suggests children with sensory processing difficulties, specifically those who are underresponsive to sensory input, benefit from crunchy snacks to improve their attention and arousal levels.
  2. Offer a move-n-sit cushion, wiggle seat, or theraband seat modification– Children who seek out movement often have difficulty sitting still in class. These children may benefit from some added movement opportunities to assist their body in focusing and attending to tasks. Often, move-n-sit cushions, wiggle seats, or tying a theraband around the two front legs of the chair offers the child just enough opportunity to stay aroused and attended without becoming too distracting.
  3. Assign classroom chores– for those children who are underresponsive to proprioceptive input, activities such as watering flowers, carrying books to and from the library, sweeping or mopping the floors, and cleaning the chalkboard are all effective ways to target the body’s proprioceptive system, which gives the body’s muscles and joints the resistant heavy work they crave. Often, these children require an adult to help them identify when their body needs to take a break and move around[2]. They may not register that their body is in an awkward, uncomfortable position when seated at their desk. Heavy work activities are often helpful in allowing their body to become more regulated and aware of their surroundings.
  4. Reduce visual clutter and auditory noise– For those children who are overresponsive to visual and/or auditory input, try and use natural light versus fluorescent lighting and reduce classroom background chatter whenever possible. Reducing visual and auditory external stimuli may help with overall attention and focus.  For grade school children, decreasing the amount of math problems on a page, and leaving plenty space between each problem may assist with better performance when working.
  5. Give children their own space– For children who are overresponsive to tactile stimuli or who have difficulties with tactile discrimination, it is important to decrease instances of accidental touch from classroom peers. For younger children, having separate carpet squares for them to sit on will reduce the amount of unexpected distracting touch from other classmates. For grade school children, it may be helpful to place their desk at the front of the class to avoid any unnecessary touch from others, or let the student walk at the end of the line to avoid anyone bumping into them[3].

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanston, Deerfield, Lake Bluff, LincolnwoodGlenview 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!


[1] Sensory Over-Responsivity in Elementary School: Prevalence and Social-Emotional Correlates By: Ben-Sasson, A., A. S. Carter, and M. J. Briggs-Gowan. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology J Abnorm Child Psychology 2009-01-20

[2] Kranowitz, C. (2005). How to Tell if Your Child Has a Problem with the Proprioceptive Sense. In The out-of-sync child: Recognizing and coping with sensory processing disorder (Rev. and updated ed.). New York: A Skylight Press Book/A Perigee Book.

[3] Kranowitz, C. (2005). How to Tell if Your Child Has a Problem with the Tactile Sense. In The out-of-sync child: Recognizing and coping with sensory processing disorder (Rev. and updated ed.). New York: A Skylight Press Book/A Perigee Book.