Encouraging Your Child To Talk About Their Day

Why won’t my child share more Information? mom and daughter talking

One of the most common things I hear from parents is the desire to hear about their child’s day. Whether at camp, a play-date, or a day at school, we’re anxious to hear all about it!

“So how was school today?” It seems simple enough. For children with language difficulties, however, sharing events from the day can be quite a challenge for several reasons.

Telling others about our day requires integrating several complex skills, such as remembering the details from the day, sequencing the events in the correct order, and forming sentences to describe each event in the past tense. For children with speech and language difficulties, these are no small tasks. When I ask kids what they did at school today, I am often met with responses such as “good”, or “I don’t remember” or, most commonly, “nothing”.

Tips to help your child talk about their day:

Avoid asking challenging questions during transitions. For children with speech and language difficulties (or anyone for that matter), it’s far more difficult to talk during transitions or while multitasking (e.g. walking in the Read more

A Little Roughhousing Goes a Long Way

As a pediatric occupational therapist, this story on The Today Show this morning caught my attention.Dad roughhousing with boys

The story illustrates that roughhousing helps “self- esteem and physical development” and that “it can actually make kids smarter, emotionally intelligent, likable — even lovable”.

For years, I have been prescribing home exercise programs to parents with children with sensory processing difficulties that include just this, a little roughhousing.

Recommended Roughhousing With Your Children:

  • I recommend pulling couch cushions on the floor and having their children jump around. I suggest squishing their child between pillows and making a “sandwich” out of them.
  • I also advise parents to wrap up their child in a blanket and have them log roll across the floor. This roughhousing is actually intense proprioceptive sensory input (the input your body receives from your muscles and joints).

This type of play provides kids with the input that they need to help them be more organized for every day activities and is regularly used in pediatric occupational therapy sessions. In fact, these activities help your child to learn and be more aware of their bodies.

So go ahead and have a little fun!

Dealing with Avoidance Behaviors in Preschoolers

anxious boyThe preschool years are an amazing time in children’s lives. They have already learned many skills in their first few years and feel like they are on top of the world. They are at the age of “I can do it myself.”

At this age, children are egocentric and believe that everything in the world revolves around them. For instance, if you ask a preschooler what to get Daddy for Father’s Day, she may answer with a gift that she would like: “Legos! A Doll! Dora The Explorer!” It’s not her intention to be hurtful, of course – it’s just where she is functioning developmentally.

The Preschooler Wants The Best Of Both Worlds

In their quest for independence, preschoolers will be torn between wanting to be a baby and wanting to be a big kid. Babies get lots of attention because they need Mom or Dad’s help with everything. Preschoolers like that attention and thus may regress to “I need help” when they previously did a task independently. They want to do “big kid” things, but because their imaginations are thriving, they can also create scenarios in their minds that make ordinary events seem more scary to them. Therefore, they may try to avoid certain activities either because they feel they will miss out on time with Mom or Dad at home (attention) or because they fear that something bad could happen to them when they try a new adventure.

This could lead preschoolers to refuse to go on play dates independently, say they are sick and can’t go to school or camp, or simply refuse to get ready for any of these exciting “big kid” opportunities. Parents can confront these avoidance behaviors with some careful phrasing, active listening, and allowing their preschool-age children to exert their independence by making good choices for themselves whenever a choice is possible.

How to Confront Avoidance Behaviors:

As parents, we always want to know why a behavior is occurring, but…

1) Resist the temptation to ask preschoolers “why” they are exhibiting the particular avoidance behavior (e.g. don’t ask, “Why don’t you want to go to school?”). Young children will inevitably answer that question with “I don’t know”, which will inevitably frustrate parents.

2) Try talking with preschoolers about what they think about when they imagine going to school, camp, play dates, etc. You may be surprised to learn that your child is thinking about what you’ll be doing (in other words, what he or she will be missing out on) while the child is on this new adventure. It may not be that she doesn’t want to go, but rather that she can’t relax enough to allow herself to have a good time. Read more

Gross Motor Skills on the Playground

Through play, children explore and learn about the world. While doing so, they also learn the gross motor skills that they need in order to successfully navigate their surroundings. Children also learn about sensory information, which allows them to react appropriately to the environment. Gross Motor Skills Blog

Children take in sensory information by touching different textures, experiencing different smells, and hearing different noises in their environments. A great place for children to practice and develop gross motor skills without even knowing it is on the playground!

Great sensory and motor activities for your children on the playground include:

Slides

Slides help in the development of the vestibular system, as the body is in motion and the head can be placed in different positions. It is also a great motor activity, as it requires the child to climb the stairs of the slide, balance on one foot and shift his weight during stair climbing.

Climbing Wall

Climbing a rock wall is great practice for coordination of the upper and lower extremities, as the child has to figure out where to place his hands and feet, and in what sequence. The wall also helps the child develop his upper body and finger strength. Some playgrounds have moveable structures to climb (for example, made out of rope or chain link), which require even greater coordination skills and balance, as the body is required to shift its weight accordingly as the structure moves. Both of these activities also provide proprioceptive input to the joints and muscles.

Tubes

Children can crawl through tubes on all fours, in a bear crawl or in the crab walk position. This helps a child develop core strength and body coordination skills.

Swings

Swings are a great source of vestibular input, as the body is in motion while the feet are off of the ground. Pumping your feet also helps to develop sequencing and motor coordination skills.

Monkey Bars

Monkey bars help to develop upper extremity and hand strength, as well as coordination. If the child hangs upside down on the monkey bars, it also provides great vestibular input!

See-Saw

The see-saw requires coordination, sequencing and cooperation of two children at the same time in order to make the see-saw move. Balance and core and upper body strength are required to hold oneself up on the see saw.

Spring Rider

A spring rider is a seat on a spring that rocks back and forth. It provides great proprioceptive input into the body’s joints, as well as vestibular input while the body is in motion and the head is placed into different positions. A child also needs to coordinate his body movements in order to make the spring rider move, and core and upper extremity strength is required to hold on to the rider.

The playground is the perfect place for children to develop their gross motor skills – skills they will need for everyday activities. These skills can help prepare them for school, as they will need the core strength to develop proper posture for table top activities, and coordination skills for writing and cutting. Gross motor skills will also prepare children for sports and cooperative play with their peers. Movement activities can help to regulate the nervous system, so that a child can be better able to pay attention during class or when doing his homework. Most importantly, movement activities encourage a healthy lifestyle and help children build confidence, as they are able to participate in a variety of activities with peers and become more self-sufficient in their daily tasks.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonDeerfieldLincolnwoodGlenviewLake BluffDes PlainesHinsdale and Mequon! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140!

Meet-With-An-Occupational-Therapist

Handwriting Over the Summer: Practice Makes Perfect

Children worked so hard on writing at school, and they should continue writing over the summer to prevent losing all of the progress they made. Practice makes perfect! Repetition will decrease anxiety and keep them at or above the expectations for the following year. Here are some fun writing exercises you can try over the summer:

Handwriting Excerses:

• Write a story with your child. Each day, set aside time for her to write a few sentences or paragraphs (depending on her age) for a special story. By the end of the summer, you will both have written a special story together. This approach will keep your child interested, as she will enjoy reading her contributions each day.

• Have her practice the formation of specific letters by writing large capital letters with sidewalk chalk on the driveway. Next, have her use a hose with a nozzle to spray a stream of water and erase the chalk lines. This will help increase fine motor control and strength.

• While you are in the car, or sitting on the beach, use “air writing” to send each other messages. You can also have her write messages to you in the sand on the beach, in the water at the pool, or in the shaving cream while dad is shaving.

Just have fun with it. You can also set aside some serious writing time where you purchase handwriting books at the local bookstore or toy store, or print worksheets from the Internet for practice. Repetition, repetition, repetition!

How To Motivate Children With Autism Using Reinforcers

Reinforcer SetA common difference between children with autism and typically-developing children is their motivation for social feedback and other natural consequences that occur for learning to take place. Typically, developing children have an easier time learning because they are motivated by social feedback from their parents and teachers. But with a child with autism, it is not always as simple as saying “great job!” to encourage learning. Without motivation, it can be very difficult to gain the attention of an autistic child, and even more difficult for learning to take place.

So, how do you motivate a child diagnosed with autism?

Reinforcers Can Help Motivate Children!

Reinforcers motivate children to learn new skills. Often times, children with autism are not readily motivated by social feedback or other natural consequences received from parents, teachers or peers. Insensitivity to social consequences and signals is a core aspect of the disorder.

How To Find A Powerful Reinforcer: Read more

Quick Tips For A Smoother Transition Into A Summer Schedule

Fun Family SummerMany children perform best when they follow a schedule and have a consistent routine. School is coming to an end and summer is approaching, which also translates to a less structured schedule and, potentially, a less productive day. Here are a few suggestions to make the most out of your summer routine:

Visual Schedules:

• At school, many children follow a picture schedule that lets them know what activities they will be participating in that day. Summer is a great time to let kids be kids and allow them to learn through play and gain independence while choosing what toys and activities they want to do on a daily basis. If your child craves predictability and struggles with transitions, try making a summer picture book. Take pictures of your child’s toys, games, books, and places they enjoy playing (backyard, park, pool, etc.) and allow them to create their own plan for the day.

Play Dates:

• Play dates with peers are a great summertime activity. Be sure to swap information with the parents of your child’s friends at school before the end of the year. Children learn a lot through playing together, including skills such as negotiating, compromise, taking turns, communication and imaginative play. Read more

Disc-o-Sit | Easy Home Activities That Target Balance and Core Control

The Disc-O-Sit cushion is a fun and easy tool to use at home.   This round, rubbery cushioncan be used to work on balance, core strength and postural control.  Below are suggestions for a variety of activities that your child will enjoy!

Using The Disc-O-Sit Cushion While Standing or Kneeling:Disc-O-Sit Product

  • Tape a piece of paper or a picture to the walland have your child color while reaching overhead
  • Play baseball or bowling
  • Play catch
  • Play balloon volleyball Read more

An Introduction on Interventions for Executive Functioning

As discussed in my previous blog “What is Executive Functioning”, executive functions are the skills that help organize and guide a child through daily life.
There are many aspects of executive functioning:

  • Organization

  • Planning

  • Problem solving

  • Working memory

  • Initiation of tasks

  • Impulse control

  • The ability to monitor the effectiveness of one’s work

While these are different skill sets that require various accommodations and interventions, they all have several things in common.  The most common link between the various interventions is that they must involve a real-world, structured approach to teaching problem solving during everyday activities. The problem that we see all too often with clinical interventions, which don’t include practice in the child’s ‘real-world,’ is that the child may be a rock-star when completing tasks in a contrived clinical setting but still may struggle within the classroom. Read more

Basic Principles and Practices for Teaching Children With Autism New Skills

Teaching new skills to children with autism can be very difficult. It is important to first understand the fundamentals of behavior.

Behavior is an important part of teaching because in order to learn a new skill, a child must understand what response is desired and when. A child learns when a response is desired by experiencing a stimulus (i.e. item/request/instruction) and discrimination (Sd- discriminative stimulus).  A child simultaneously learns there is a desired response and discriminates that the response is only desired in the presence of the Sd. For example, if you are teaching a child to say “book” in the presence of a book, the Sd would be the book itself and the desired response would be saying “book.” That child will learn to say “book” only when that book is present. Later on, that child may begin saying “book” in the presence of new books, a pattern called generalization.

So, why is behavior important in teaching a new skill? It is important because a child’s response IS a behavior!

 Descriptions Of Behaviors:

Reflexive Behavior is our bodies’ natural reaction to environmental stimuli (e.g. blinking when someone blows in your eyes, or jerking your leg when someone hits your knee cap). These behaviors are called reflexes and occur without being learned. Read more