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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Making Back-to-School a Breeze with Classroom Sensory Strategies for Teachers

It’s that time of year again! Each new school year is an exciting time not only for students, but also for teachers! They have worked diligently all summer to prepare their classrooms in order to welcome their new students. Creating a learning environment to fit the needs of each unique student is a big task, but with an understanding of sensory processing and self-regulation and implementation of simple classroom strategies, back-to-school can be a breeze! Blog-Sensory-Classroom-Main-Landscape

What is Sensory Processing?

The classroom is a rich, sensory environment that enhances students’ development. For some students, however, their unique patterns of sensory processing may affect their ability to fully participate in activities. Sensory processing is the body’s ability to filter out important information that is taken in via many sensory pathways and utilize that information to provide appropriate responses within the environment. There may be some students who are over-responsive to input within the classroom, such as covering his or her ears when the fire alarm rings or avoiding art projects that include messy play. For other students, they may be under-responsive and seeking input within the classroom, such as difficulty sitting still at his or her desk and being too rough with peers or classroom materials.

What is Self-regulation?

Sensory processing has a profound impact on self-regulation, which is the ability to maintain an optimum level of arousal in order to participate in daily activities. Self-regulation is a critical component of learning, as it can impact a student’s attention, emotional regulation, and impulse control. Providing individualized sensory experiences increases self-regulation, attention, and overall participation.

Sensory Strategies to Increase Self-regulation Within the Classroom:

Auditory

  • Provide clear, precise, and short directions
  • Ask students to repeat directions back to you
  • Place felt pads or tennis balls on the bottom of chairs to decrease unexpected, loud noises
  • Use large rugs to absorb sound
  • Offer headphones, ear plugs, or calming music
  • Create a “cozy or quiet” corner

Visual

  • Minimize bright or florescent lights
  • Reduce “clutter” within the room, such as art projects or decorations on walls
  • Reduce the amount of words and pictures on worksheets
  • Provide directions on the student’s eye level to increase visual attention
  • Utilize visual schedules
  • Seat students near the front of the room or near you

Tactile

  • Incorporate messy play, including sand trays, finger paint, and shaving cream
  • Do squeezes with Play-doh
  • Utilize hand fidgets while seated at desk or circle time
  • Offer modifications to activities for over-responsive students

Proprioception/Vestibular

  • Incorporate heavy work into the daily routine. Heavy work is any resistive activity that provides deep pressure input to the muscles and joints which provides increased feedback about body position in space.
    • Wall or chair push-ups
    • Animal walks during transition times
  • Utilize sit-and-move cushion or therapy ball for seated work
  • Provide alternatives to sitting at a desk, such as standing to complete work
  • Implement group movement breaks
  • Assign classroom “helpers”
    • Carrying heavy items
    • Pushing in chairs
    • Picking up objects off the floor
    • Passing out papers

Remember, you know your students best! Get to know their individual characteristics and needs prior to implementing these strategies. Whenever possible, consult with an occupational therapist at your school! With the use of these simple strategies, your classroom will provide the best environment for all students to learn and grow!

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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A Sensory Friendly Fourth of July | Facebook Live Video

The 4th of July is a fun holiday and takes some preparation! Watch one of our expert Occupational Therapists who covered red flags and shared tips on how to ensure your child has a sensory friendly 4th of July.

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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Messy Sensory Play | Facebook Live Video

Have some fun and get a little messy! One of our expert Occupational Therapists discussed why messy play is important, provided tips for helping your child with touch sensitivities and even covered a few activity ideas for your kiddo to do at home!

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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Sensory at Summer Camp | Facebook Live Video

Kids are having fun at summer camp and it’s time to do everything we can to make sure they’re getting as much out of it as possible! Join one of our expert occupational therapists for Sensory at Summer Camp!

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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Sensory at the Pool | Facebook Live Video

Sensory At The Pool dove in to the world of a child’s sensory integration at a pool. Watch as one of our expert Occupational Therapists covered red flags, provided examples of what a child may experience (ex. walking across the cold, wet tile of a locker room floor) and shared some tips and tricks to helping your kiddo cope and make the best of summer!

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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Fidget Tools Overview

There are many strategies children use to attempt to regulate themselves. Whether this is more obvious Fidget Tooland large scale such as jumping on a trampoline or spinning around in circles continuously, or smaller, more discrete ways such as grinding their teeth, picking their skin, or squeezing their fists, each of these strategies are satisfying a need within their sensory systems.

These can be mindless or intentional, but the bottom line is that it is fulfilling their bodies and brains in a way that only they can truly understand. While we want to allow children to gain as much sensory input as they need to maintain a regulated state, it is important to explore options that are appropriate and safe. One such option is called “fidgets,” and they are a great tool, especially within the classroom environment, so as not to draw attention away from class learning.

It is important to understand the root of your child’s sensory seeking behaviors in order to provide him or her with the most appropriate fidget tool. There are two main sensory systems that fidget toys typically stimulate; these are the tactile and the proprioceptive system. The body reads touch based on light and deep touch, light being more stimulating (tactile) and deep being more calming (proprioceptive). Think, the feeling of a feather brushing across the underside of your arm versus the feeling of a deep tissue back massage.

  • If your child seeks regulation through obtaining deep pressure input i.e. jumping, crashing, and squeezing, a fidget that targets the proprioceptive system may be the best option. To put this in perspective, think about a child friendly and inviting “stress ball.” These may be in various forms, i.e. foam resistance balls, stretchy theraband, theraputty, and squeeze toys.
  • If your child tends to seek regulation through touch i.e. seemingly mindlessly touching other people, fabrics, or objects, a fidget that targets the tactile system may be the best option. For example, swatches of various fabrics, bracelets with a preferred fabric, and balls or other toys with bumps or (soft) spikes.
  • If your child seeks regulation through movement, and you are looking for something to provide him or her with that while maintaining appropriateness based on the environment (…as it may be frowned upon to start doing jumping jacks in the middle of circle time), there are options for this, as well. When it comes to movement, though it is important to consider if the fidget is facilitating the child to cope and pay better attention, or if it is actually contributing to increased distractibility. Typically, if a child needs their eyes to utilize the fidget, it may not be serving its ideal purpose and other options should be considered. Fidgets that provide movement include snaps, marble tubes, and plastic tangle tubes.

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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What Parents Need to Know About Feeding Therapy

There are a variety of reasons why a child may need feeding therapy. To many of us, it would seem like Feeding Therapyeating should be a basic instinct. However, eating is one of the most complex activities we do, especially for the developing, young child. Eating involves several processes in the body, including sensory, oral-motor, muscular, neurological, digestive, and behavioral systems. Feeding problems can arise involving any one of these systems, and often more than one of these is implicated.

The following are reasons why a child may have feeding difficulties:

  • Sensory processing issues
  • Picky eating
  • Food allergies or severe reflux
  • Autism
  • Developmental delays
  • Complex post-op recovery course
  • Transition from feeding tube to oral nutrition

Feeding therapy is usually done with one or more clinicians. Depending on the type of feeding problem, therapy may involve a speech-language pathologist, an occupational therapist, a registered dietitian, a social worker or behavior therapist, and/or a physician.

A speech-language pathologist will approach feeding in a comprehensive manner, looking at the actual physical swallow mechanism as well as the sensory aspect of feeding. Before beginning a more structured feeding treatment approach, it is key to rule out any medical reasons that a child is not safe to be taking food or drink orally. If there are concerns regarding vomiting, choking, gagging, etc. then the family should seek further guidance from their pediatrician who may recommend a modified barium swallow study. This test looks at the actual swallow mechanism in real time using x-ray to determine whether or not food or liquids are being aspirated (i.e., food items may slip into the lungs rather than where it is supposed to go). If a child is aspirating, physical symptoms may or may not include choking, wet/gurgly voice, and refusal to eat. Feeding therapy can move forward once it has been determined that a child is safe to take food by the mouth.

In addition to safety concerns, therapists will also look at the various chewing and swallowing stages to see if there is a breakdown in this complex process, once food is in the mouth. There is a developmental sequence of chewing for a child as well as development of independent feeding, first using hands and then moving to use of utensils. Each child will have different needs and a feeding therapy plan should be developed that is unique to your child. One approach to feeding therapy that has high success and is evidenced based is the Sequential Oral Sensory Approach to Feeding.

The Sequential Oral Sensory Approach to Feeding is a therapeutic intervention developed by Dr. Kay Toomey. Certification by Dr. Toomey and her associates through a training course is required for therapists to utilize this technique. Once certified, occupational therapists, speech language pathologists, dieticians, social workers and other health care professionals can intervene using the SOS approach. Under this approach, children are exposed to a variety of foods to increase their comfortability with a range of foods, focusing on exploration of the foods using all the senses: sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste.

Each week, the therapist will send the family a list of 8-14 foods based on sensory characteristics that will help the child experience foods that he/she might never have tried before. The family then brings these foods to the therapy session that week. During the session, the child and therapist (and often the caregiver) engage with the food in a playful manner to move up the “Steps to Eating” with each food, a 32-step process involved in eating developed by Dr. Toomey.  The ultimate goal is for the child to explore a variety of foods and expand the range of foods that he/she tolerates. The goal initially is not for the child to eat the food, rather discover and interact with a variety of foods and develop the skills needed to do so. Parents receive feedback after each session and are given recommendations to continue practicing these techniques at home during the week for ultimate success and generalization across environments. Using this approach, children become more comfortable with and generalize the skills needed to eat a wide variety of foods.

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 Julie Paskar.

J-PaskarJulie Paskar is a speech-language pathologist, and the Branch Director at the Lincolnwood clinic. She joined North Shore Pediatric Therapy in August of 2012. Julie obtained both her Bachelor of Arts in speech and hearing sciences and her Master of Arts in speech-language pathology at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. She has lived and worked in the Chicago area for the past eleven years. During that time, Julie worked for a pediatric clinic providing Early Intervention services as well as speech-language therapy services to children ages 3-12. She has her Early Intervention credential in speech pathology as both a provider and an evaluator. Julie’s areas of interest include: phonological disorders, motor speech disorders: specifically childhood apraxia of speech, feeding disorders, and expressive language disorders/delays. Julie is a Hanen certified therapist, has also attended both the Introduction to PROMPT and Bridging PROMPT trainings, has attended Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) Level 1 and Level 2 trainings as well as the Kaufman Speech to Language training. She has been trained in the Orton-Gillingham program which is a treatment program for dyslexia. Julie is a member of the American Speech-Language Hearing Association and is licensed to practice in the state of Illinois. Julie is dedicated to working with children and their families to make communication both fun and functional.

Make the Summer Olympics Come to Life in Your Own Home

With the Summer Olympics just days away, what could be a better time to engage your kids in fun Summer Olympicsactivities to promote physical activity, social interaction, a healthy lifestyle, and improve their overall development? Many kids dream of becoming a gold-medalist in the Olympics and with these activities, you can make your child feel as if they are standing on top of that podium while assisting in their skill development without them even realizing it! There are endless opportunities to promote your child’s well-being. Be creative! Below are a list of easy-to-do Olympic related activities to get you started:

Focus on Fine, Visual, and Gross Motor Skills:

Table time activities

  • Print off Summer Olympic word searches, mazes, and coloring pages.
  • Create the Olympic rings (Cut strips of paper, form them in to circles, and connect them).
  • Olympic torch craft (create an Olympic torch using a paper towel roll, covering it with tin foil, and cutting/taping flames to the roll using red, orange, and yellow tissue paper).
  • Origami Olympic Rings (http://www.activityvillage.co.uk/origami-olympic-rings)
  • Create gold, silver, and bronze medals using paper, clay, tin foil, or paper plates. Then connect them to a string or ribbon to wear during your Olympic games.
  • Write about a favorite sport, Olympian, or your child’s Olympic dream.

Play Sports and Competitive Activities:

  • Basketball, swimming, running, simple gymnastics tricks, volleyball, soccer, hockey, mini-golf, etc.
  • Water balloon toss or ring toss
  • Races (three legged races, sack races, spoon, or relay races)
  • Obstacle course
  • Throwing a ball through a hoop or at a target,
  • Create a long/high jump

Focus on Social-emotional Skills:

  • Model good sportsmanship- Play the Olympic games with family and friends. This gives you the opportunity to model good sportsmanship when losing, working as a team, and how to support/encourage others for your child.
  • Promote social interaction with others, sharing, and taking turns – these are all important for building friendships and play skills.
  • Use positive self-talk– “I can do it,” “I will try my best,” “The more I practice, the better I will get.” Promoting positive self-talk will help improve self-confidence, increase positive thoughts, and will help improve performance during tasks.
  • Create rules for the games to teach direction following and playing fair with others.
  • Celebrate differences– the Olympics are a time of celebration, unity, and peace. Take this time to teach your child about different cultures and countries from around the world and that we accept our differences and treat everyone equally.
  • Promote friendly competition– While playing games, time your child and see how fast they can complete the game. Then see if your child can beat their score every trial. This will promote focus, improve overall attention, and assist in friendly competition with themselves or others.
  • Identify feelings of others– Find pictures of athletes in the Olympics on the internet or in magazines which portray emotions on the athletes faces and ask your kids how they think the athletes are feeling.

Focus on Sensory Processing:

  • Tactile input
    • Create the Olympic rings with finger paint- have the child create a circle with their thumb and index finger and with a paint brush, paint their hand. Then print on to the paper and repeat with the next color (this is a great tactile play activity for the tactile defensive child)
    • Bake cookies and decorate them to look like the Olympic rings, medals, basketballs, etc. Have your child mix the dough with their hands and decorate with frosting, sprinkles, or candies. This way your child is engaging with all different textures.
  • Proprioceptive input with heavy work– Have races, whether it be while pushing a laundry basket, running around a track outside, or animal walk races (these are great activities to help regulate the sensory seeking child or increase arousal levels)
  • Oral and tactile input-Engage with and try different foods from different countries and cultures from around the world- maybe your picky eater will try something you never though they would!

Focus on Speech and Language:

  • Incorporate your child’s target sounds in the context of the Olympics. For example, if your child is working on his or her “L” sound, have them practice saying: Summer Olympics, medal, or basketball.
  • Improve expressive language by describing/explaining as well as answering open ended questions, you can ask you child some of these questions:
    1. How hard do you think the athletes work to be able to compete in the Summer Olympics?
    2. How do you think the athletes feel on the day when they will be competing in the Olympics?
    3. What types of things would you do on that big day to prepare?
    4. How do you think an athlete would feel if they took last place in the Olympic Games?
    5. If you were going to compete in the Summer Olympics, which sport would you chose and why?

Make it even more fun by making a whole day out of it and creating your own Olympic Games! Create an athlete registration table, make teams, dress up, and don’t forget the award ceremonies. Enjoy and may the odds be ever in your favor!

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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Sensory Tips for Sporting Events

Summer is a great time to enjoy sports! Whether it’s going to a Bear’s pre-season game at Soldier field, aSensory Tips ball park, or even a sibling’s soccer game, sporting events come with a large variety of sensory experiences. This can be a great part of the event, or one that makes some children want to run for the hills. If your child has sensory processing difficulties, you may need to prepare your child (and be prepared!) for what’s ahead.

Here are some sensory tips for kiddos whose ideal Saturday may not be spent cheering in a roaring crowd at a sporting event:

For the child with auditory sensitivities:

  • Bring along noise canceling headphones or ear plugs to help drown out the loud sounds.
  • Tell your child when to expect a loud buzzer so they can cover their ears (e.g. watch the clock count down at the end of a quarter/half/period).
  • Give them “quiet breaks” where you take them to a quieter part of the stadium/arena, like the bathroom or concessions, to allow them to regulate.

For child who just can’t stop moving:

  • Give them movement breaks! Let them walk up and down the stairs and time them to see how fast they can do it; take them with you when you’re going to get food or to the restroom.
  • Give them a wiggly cushion seat that allows them to wiggle while still staying seated.
  • Make sure to incorporate a lot of movement activities before the event to help them be able to sit longer (e.g. animal walks, wall pushes, hokey pokey)
  • Let them stand. Some kids can pay attention better when they’re allowed to stand. Let them stand at their seat or find an area where they are allowed to watch while standing.

For a child who is sensitive to tactile input:

  • Let them be comfortable. If they insist on wearing a particular type of sock or their shirt inside out, this is not the time to say no (within reason). Allow them to be as comfortable as possible so there are no meltdowns in the middle of the 2nd
  • Let them sit in the middle of the family; some children are sensitive to light touch and may become upset if they are constantly being brushed by passers-by while sitting on an aisle.
  • Wear long sleeved lycra shirt: rushing through crowds bring along a lot of unwanted light touch. Wearing-sleeved shirts (i.e. Under Armour) can help lessen that aversive sensation.

For a child sensitive to visual input:

  • Bring sunglasses. Even if the event is indoors, the bright lighting may be overwhelming if they are exposed to it for long periods of time.
  • Bring a hat. A jacket with a hood also works and gives the option of blocking out bright lights and other distractions.

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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