sensory strategies for swimming

Sensory Strategies for Swimmers

The water is cold! My swimsuit is too tight! It is too loud! The water hurts!

For many adults, summers spent lounging by the pool are some of the fondest memories. Swimming,sensory strategies for swimming whether it be at a pool, lake or ocean, and learning to swim, is considered a right of passage. The activity provides an array of learning experiences, including gross motor skills, balance, core strength, endurance, sensory processing opportunities and social interactions. However, with the many sensory demands that are involved in swimming, the task can become overwhelming for some children. Below is information regarding the many sensory systems that require integration within the brain while participating in a swim lesson.

Sensory Systems and Strategies for Swimming:

Sensory System How the Sensory System is Affected by Swimming Suggestions to Promote Processing of this Sensation
Motor Planning Motor planning is the groundwork for sensory integration. Swimming is an opportunity for your child to learn motor planning for symmetrical and asymmetrical movements, bilateral movements, crossing midline, learning to invert the head, and separation of upper body and lower body movements. ·         Practice riding a bicycle·         Practice reciprocal arm movements while lying prone on a scooter board.·         Jumping Jacks

·         Somersaults


Proprioception The ability to sense your body in space and movement of the body and its parts. Proprioceptive difficulty for swimming can present with little motor control, difficulty in motor planning, difficulty in modulating the sense of pressure and postural instability. ·         Water play in the bathtub.·         Heavy work and deep pressure input to the legs, arms and torso: log rolls, burrito rolls, nig bear hugs
Vestibular The vestibular system is controlled by the inner ear, mainly the movement of fluid within the three ear canals, and is the information gathering and feedback source for movements. All other sensations are processed in relationship to basic vestibular information. Swimming can be difficult in terms of vestibular processing due to head inversion, head turning and buoyancy. ·         Somersaults·         Swinging·         Jumping

·         Scooter board activities in different planes of movements: prone, supine, kneeling, criss-cross apple sauce,

·         Spinning

·         Log rolls


Tactile Water provides 600-700 times more resistance to the body than air. Movement through the water is a full body experience, thus providing tactile stimulation to every inch of the body. Water can also provide information regarding temperature. In addition, the act of swimming provides tactile input through the wearing of swimsuits, which can feel tight and restrictive in some cases. ·         Water play with warm water and with cold water·         Wearing tight clothing, similar to spandex or Under Armour·         Wearing swim suits and swim trunks as play clothing to get accustomed to the fabric; wear during dry and wet activities

·         Slip and slide activity


Auditory The amplitude of sounds underwater are affected by the pressure, which can cause a higher sensitivity to these amplitudes. This means, as sounds across air can be managed and integrated into your sensory system, the same sound under water can feel louder, causing discomfort in the ear drum. ·         Try wearing ear plugs while under water·         Play a sound game prior to swimming; place one ear in a small bucket of water and have one ear exposed to the air, listen to the same sound both above and below the water

Swimming can be both challenging and fun, but know your child’s limits as well. Continued exposure in a controlled and safe environment can help to establish safe and error-free learning along with confidence!

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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!

transition to summer

Transitioning from the School Year to Summer Break

Another school year is coming to a close before we know it. By this time of the academic year, your child has most likely become accustomed to his routine, the structure of the school day, the set-up of the classroom and the schedule of the day from breakfast to bed. Just as the beginning of the year was a hard change, the beginning of summer can bring its own challenges.

While children are excited for the beginning of summer break, many parents experience anxiety. This is because the school year provides nine to ten months of structured activities, allowing your child to build academic skills, executive functioning skills, and social skills. The summer, in turn, provides the perfect time to practice and perfect these skills.  With the proper preparation and planning, the transition to summer can be eased.

Here are a few tips to transition from the busy school days to the relaxing days of summer:

  1. Create a daily schedule: this can be visual or verbal, providing your child with the overview of the day. Thetransitioning to summer daily schedule can include the morning routine, daily activities, camps, a menu for dinner, and the bedtime routine. Providing this schedule helps to mimic the routine that the school day offers, allowing a child to process the idea of consistency. This can also assist in self-regulation and executive functioning skills, including attention, memory and sequencing. Implement the idea of a schedule during the last few weeks of school as to get your child accustomed to it as they separate from the school year.
  2. Plan play dates: Play dates are essential to childhood development. The planning of these social get-togethers can be easier during the school year as parents often see each other during drop-off/pick-up times or during school sponsored events. The planning can seem more daunting over the summer but make sure you keep in contact with the families of your child’s friends. This will allow a child to still feel connected to their school year and help to build excitement for the year to come. In addition, play-dates with same-aged peers allows for sharing of skills learned at school, the peer modeling of skill, and continued practice of social skills.
  3. Organize summer academic activities: The summer is a great time to look into library programs, create summer crafts that work on fine motor and executive functioning skills, and create children’s reading clubs. Just as the academic year is meant for brains to grow and blossom, the summer is an opportunity to build on those skills. Turn math problems into summer themed scavenger hunts, take coloring and writing activities to the sidewalks, read a book about a child experiencing the school year and encourage imaginative thinking, fine motor skills and problem-solving skills.

And remember, have some fun in the sun!

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!

Chicago Ice Cream

The 8 Best Ice Cream Spots in Chicago




As we enter August, what better way to remind us that we still have a little touch of Summer left then to list some favorite ice cream shops around Chicago!

While I have not “tested” all of the places listed below, most I have visited and are guaranteed to be delicious!

1)    Scooter’s Frozen Custard–Roscoe Village, Chicago

Started by a husband and wife who quit their jobs working in sales, they opened in 2003 and most days you will find a line out the door! There is a “Flavor Schedule” so each day is different (which means more than one visit is needed!). Their “Concretes” are heavenly and big enough to share. Open seasonally, make sure to stop by between March and the Friday after Thanksgiving.

2)    Tom and Wendee’s Italian Ice–Lincoln Park, Chicago

I knew when my best friend, who doesn’t eat chocolate, took me here to have the Chocolate Italian Ice that this was a special place! It is open seasonally, March to October. Some favorite flavors are Black Cherry, Chocolate Coffee Toffee, and Watermelon. If you can’t decide, they can do ½ and ½!

3)    Capannari Ice Cream–Mt. Prospect

A hidden gem in the suburbs, this place is a true “ice cream parlor”. It is family owned and the ice cream is made on-site. They host a lot of events, especially in the community, which is always nice when local places give back. Their list of “standard” flavors is quite large and there are also rotating flavors!

4)    Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams–Lakeview, Chicago

Having gone to The Ohio State University and having lived in Ohio for many years, I knew about this terrific place before they branched out to other states.  Yes, it is a bit pricey, and the flavors are quite unique. Stop in and you will see what is meant by this quote from their website: “Jeni and our kitchen team make every ice cream, sorbet, and frozen yogurt from the ground up with grass-grazed milk, local produce, American bean-to-bar chocolate and select ingredients from around the world”.

5)    Original Rainbow Cone–Beverly, Chicago

A favorite at the Taste of Chicago, the rainbow cone, consists of the following flavors all mixed together (in a cone!): Chocolate, Strawberry, Palmer House, Pistachio and Orange Sherbet. Open seasonally from March to November, there are other items on their menu…but why not treat yourself to 5 flavors all together!?

6)    George’s Ice Cream And Sweets—Andersonville, Chicago

Ahhhh, with a place so close to home, George’s is certainly a favorite! Their fun, unique flavors are sure to please, especially the Fat Elvis (banana ice cream, peanut butter ripple, and liquid chocolate chips) or Horchata. With plenty of seating inside the shop, you can relax and enjoy your ice cream. BTW, the staff also allows you to “taste” as many flavors as you want…handing you numerous tiny spoons with smiles on their faces!!

7)    Homer’s Homemade Gourmet Ice Cream –Wilmette

With so many flavors to choose from, you can’t go wrong!

Another great thing is you can share the fabulous flavors with out-of-towners—they ship via Fed Ex. You can also find it locally in some grocery stores!

8)    Paciugo—Lincoln Square, Chicago

I discovered this place as I was walking with friends after dinner and wanted something sweet. To my amazement, their gelato hit the spot! The flavors rotate daily and are divided by category (Milk, No Sugar Added, Soy, Water-Sorbet) so there is something for everyone! The best part is you can do a small cup and choose 3 flavors…and it is 70% less fat than ice cream. Hey, why not order a medium?!?

Click here to get the official scoop on ice cream and nutrition!

Child's flowers

Nurturing With Nature: Fun Outdoor Crafts




Here is a way to combine an adventure outdoors with a fun craft project!  Any of these crafts can be modified for any age group so everybody can join in the fun!

1)    Nature Tea Light Holder


  • Leaves and foliage
  • Glass votive holder or jar (can find these cheap at dollar stores)
  • White tissue paper
  • White craft glue
  • Water
  • Paintbrush
  • Tea light candles

   Steps to create:

  1. Child's flowersCollect small leaves and other foliage from outside. Make sure they aren’t too dry or crumbly.
  2. Lay leaves in a single layer and place a large book on top to flatten them. Leave for an hour or two.
  3. Spread a layer of white craft glue on the outside of the votive holder. Stick the leaves to the glue and press into place. Let dry.
  4. Mix equal parts of water and white craft glue to create a paste.
  5. Tear tissue paper into squares about one to two inches in size.
  6. Use a paintbrush to glue the tissue paper over the leaves using the decoupage mixture. Overlap the tissue paper and make sure all of the glass is covered. Carry over the lip of the votive holder as well and be sure that the tissue paper is “painted” against the inside of the glass.
  7. Allow the jars to dry overnight.
  8. Place a tea light candle inside each votive holder!

2)    Flower Prints


  • Fresh flowers
  • White drawing paper
  • Eight-color set watercolor paints
  • Paintbrush
  • Small container of water
  • Sheets of scrap paper

Steps to Create:

  1. Gather the flowers to use for making the flower prints.  Flowers that have distinct petals produce the best results.
  2. Remove the stems from the flowers to help them press flat while making the prints.
  3. Take a sheet of paper and choose one flower to start.  Gently paint, flower side up, with the watercolor paint.
  4. Flip the flower and position on the paper, painted side down. Place a sheet of scrap paper over the flower and gently press. Remove the scrap paper, lift the flower, and check out the cool print!

3)    Rocky Mosaic


  • Small rocks or pebbles
  • Cardboard
  • Glue
  • Tempera paints
  • Small paint brush
  • Pencil

            Steps to Create:

1. Take a nature walk and pick up a cup full of small pebbles and rocks.
2. Draw shapes or pictures on the piece of cardboard with a pencil.
3. Label the shapes and/or pictures on the cardboard with the names of each color you will paint the rocks. (This will depend on             what color paint you have available!)
4. Paint each rock/pebble the different colors that are labeled on the cardboard.
5. Lay the cardboard on a flat surface. Glue each rock to the area labeled with the matching color.
6. Let the glue dry overnight…the picture mosaic will then be ready to hang up!!


Girl with painted hands

School is Out: Crafts for the Summer!

The weather is warm and children (and teachers) are getting antsy.  This could only mean one thing…SCHOOL IS OUT FOR SUMMER!  Here are some ideas for crafts for the summer that can be created and enjoyed outside.

Beaded Wind Chimes


  • Paper cup
  • Pipe cleaner
  • String or Yarn
  • Big beads
  • Small bells
  • Metal washer
  • Drinking straws
  • Poster paint or acrylic paint
  • Paint brushes
  • Scissors
  • Hole punch


1)     Trim a paper cup to a height of approximately 2 to 3 inches.

2)     Punch 4 evenly-spaced holes around the cup’s mouth. Punch a small hole at the center of the paper cup base.

3)     Paint the paper cup with poster paint and make your own designs.  *Use acrylic paint if the surface of your paper cup is glossy or waxy.

4)     Cut 4 equal lengths of string about 12 in. long. Cut a 5th string that is 14 in. long—this will be the pendulum.

5)     Tie a small bell at the end of 4 of the strings.Girl with painted hands

6)     Cut drinking straws into 1-inch long pieces.

7)     String beads and drinking straws through each of the 4 strings. Leave 1.5 to 2 inches at the top of each string.

8)     Attach the beaded strings to the painted paper cup through the punched-out holes.

9)     To make the pendulum:

— Trim a pipe cleaner to 6 in. and make a loop on one end.

— Tie one end of the 5th string through the loop on the pipe cleaner. Attach a metal washer on the other end of the string.

10)  Attach the pendulum by inserting the end of the pipe cleaner through the hole at the center of the paper cup. Pull all the way through, the loop on the pipe cleaner serves as a stopper and as the wind chime’s handle.

11)  Check if the metal button or washer is at the same level as the bells.

12)  Hang outside and let the breeze work its magic!

Paper Plate Frisbees


  • 4 paper plates
  • Markers, crayons, or paint (will need paint brushes)
  • Scissors
  • Clear shipping tape


1)     Place both plates right side up, as if you were going to put food on them. Cover them with clear shipping tape, allowing the excess tape to overlap, but do not fold it over.

2)     Use the scissors to cut off the excess around the plate.

3)     Turn the plates upside down and use markers or crayons to decorate as you wish.

4)     Place both plates together so that the decorated sides are facing out. Holding the plates together, cut a circle out of the center of each plate.

5)     Place both plates, decorated side facing up, onto the work surface. Using the clear shipping tape, cover the decorated side, over lapping the center circle. Fold the edges over through the center circle and trim the edges of the outside of the plate.

6)     Place the two plates together, decorative side facing outward, and tape all of the edges together.

Bubble Painting


  • Paint—tempera (liquid or powder)
  • Liquid Dishwashing soap
  • Drinking straw
  • Paper—construction or copy
  • Large shallow dish (2-3)



1)     Pour a quarter cup liquid dishwashing detergent into a shallow dish. If you use powdered tempera paint, mix a small amount of water with the paint. (If you want to have a variety of colors, use multiple shallow dishes for each color)

2)     Add the paint mixture or liquid tempera to the dishwashing liquid until the color is very dark.

3)     Place one end of a straw into the mixture, and blow until the bubbles are almost flowing over the edge of the dish.

4)     Gently place a piece of paper on top of the bubbles and hold it in place until several bubbles have popped.

5)     Continue this process with different colors, blowing more bubbles as needed.

*This technique is wonderful for making home-made greeting cards!!

Mix together the paint and some washing up liquid in the tray. Add some water until it is runny enough to blow bubbles. Use the drinking straw to blow into the paint to make bubbles.

Gently place the paper on top of the bubbles. When the bubbles pop remove the paper and leave to dry.

Girl at the park

Top Park Picks for Children

The weather has finally decided to warm up, which means children and adults alike are yearning to be outside! Chicago has so many wonderful parks and playgrounds, below are some of the top picks to check out:

1)     Oz Park

2021 N. Burling St, Chicago 60614

— Themed for Wizard of Oz
— Best for ages 5 and under
— Wheelchair accessible
— Baseball fields, basketball and tennis courts, walking paths, gym

2)     Morton Arboretum

4100 Illinois Rt. 53, Lisle 60532

— Open air facility with live plant exhibits
— 6 treehouse structures
— Children’s Garden

3)     Adams Water Playground

1919 N. Seminary Ave, Chicago 60614

— Interactive water play area
— Small field house with indoor activities for toddlers
— Shaded playground
— There is a schedule for open times

4)     Berger Park Cultural Center

6205 N. Sheridan Rd, Chicago 60660

— Converted mansion buildings
— On the lake
— ADA accessible
— Waterfront Cafe

5)     Mothers on a Mission Playground—part of Berwyn Gardens

 Kenilworth Ave, North of Cermak Ave, Berwyn; 708-749-4900

— Opened 2011 and was assembled by volunteers
— Wheelchair accessible
— Special sensory features
— Unique AeroGlide

While enjoying the parks, children will also be practicing fine motor and gross motor skills as well as getting exercise through play.  Here at NSPT, we have wonderful Occupational and Physical Therapists who too can help with fine and gross motor concerns you may have!

Is My Child Ready for Preschool?

If your child is approaching the preschool years, you may start to wonder if she is ready to begin a preschool program. Many thoughts and concerns may be circling through your mind when contemplating this idea. Rest assured that these concerns are normal. Answer the following questions to help you determine whether your young child is ready for a preschool program.

Questions to Determine Preschool Readiness for Your Child:

  • Is she toilet trained? It is important to consider toilet training when thinking about your child’s readiness to start preschool. Being toilet trained can make the transition to preschool easier and less stressful. Most children in preschool classes are toilet trained and will not be in diapers. This may cause some stress for a child who has not met this milestone. It’s also critical to know that there are some schools with toilet training requirements, so make sure that you have read the information on this topic if you are considering preschool. Read more

Conquer the Back-to-School Blues

Summer is winding down, and school is fast approaching.  While this time of year brings excitement, it also triggers stressors in parents and children alike. Children wonder so many things: What classroom will they be in? Who will be in their class? How will their teacher handle their idiosyncrasies? Parents also have their own set of questions regarding their children’s return to school. Follow the tips below to help ease the whole family into the new routine of school and to help everyone conquer the back-to-school blues.

Steps to Conquer the Back-to-School Blues:

  • List the positives of each possible classroom assignment and teacher. The mere mention of your child’s classroom placement may cause him, and you as parents, concern. Instead of worrying about it, come up with a list with your child about the positives of each classroom option. Be creative and help your child explore the small (but potentially positive) details of being in every classroom available to him. For example, one classroom may be closer to the washroom, or one might have a door to the playground. Listing the positives of each potential teacher/teacher’s aide is also recommended. This can help put you and your child at ease by recognizing that there are great things about any classroom possibility.
  • Remember that there are opportunities to see friends outside of the classroom. When the class list is posted and you and your child find out that he may not have many friends in his classroom, remind him that he can see his friends before and after school, at lunch, at recess, and in elective-type classes.  Also, if there are children of concern in your child’s classroom, it is also helpful to remember that there will be some opportunities throughout the day to mingle with other kids. Listing the positives of some, or all, of the kids in your child’s class is also recommended here. This will prepare your child for the school year and for how he can get along with the peers in his classroom. Read more

The Benefits of Ride-On Toys

Today our guest blogger, Full Throttle Toys, Inc. owner Matt Westfallen, gives us the 411 on benefits of ride-on toys.

Around Chicagoland, summer is in full swing. Along with the extra hours of summer fun and sun comes the worry thatfull throttle our kids are losing the skills they acquired during the school year. Worksheets and flash cards will help, but there is another fun way to help kids with some of the “intangibles” of learning.

When used safely and properly, battery operated, ride-on toys have been proven to provide children with opportunities to practice many early learning skills that are rarely taught in school yet are vital for balanced growth.

Skills that Can Be Developed by Using Ride-On Toys:

  • Gross and Fine Motor Skills: Battery-operated, ride-on toys provide many ways to develop gross and fine motor skills. By operating the vehicle on various types of terrain, opening and closing doors or manipulating the dashboard, children will be using both fine motor skills and gross motor skills.
  • Exercise and Exploration: While playing with a ride-on vehicle toy, not only will children be burning calories, they’ll be outside exploring their world.
  • Sense of Balance: While operating ride-on toys, children will also develop an improved sense of balance. Children who have played with ride-on toys find it easier as they grow older to ride bikes, and to use roller blades and roller skates, because they have learned to distribute their weight while operating vehicles on various surfaces.
  • Spatial Play: It is also important to note that spatial play is stimulated when your children are out exploring the outdoors in a ride-on vehicle. This type of play will improve observation skills and stimulate their imaginations. Read more

5 Chicago Performing Arts Programs to Encourage Speech and Language Development in Children

Performing Arts programs provide an excellent avenue to encourage speech and language skills in children.  LearningChicago performing arts happens best during fun and engaging multisensory experiences, such as acting out a story, dancing to music, or singing a new song.  Through performing arts programs, children gain opportunities to socialize with other children, follow directions, engage in pretend-play, further develop creativity and imagination, build narrative language skills and cultivate expressive language skills.  This blog highlights 5 top performing arts programs in the Chicago area for children of all ages, including a program designed for children on the Autism spectrum.

5 Top Performing Arts Programs in Chicago for Speech and Language Development:

  1. Dream Big Performing Arts Workshop: Dream Big offers a variety of performing arts camps and classes for children ages 2 through 18.  Classes encourage children to explore dramatic play, creative movement, music, team-work, self-expression and creativity while having fun singing, dancing, and playing games.  Classes are separated by ages: “Spotlighters” (2 years), “Mini Showstoppers” (3-5 and 4-6 years), “Moving Stories” and “Creative Drama” (3-5, 5-7 years).  Programs also include customized, age-appropriate parties that include singing, dancing, theatre games and other drama fun! Read more