4 Ways to Better Handwriting before Pencil Hits Paper

Your child’s handwriting skills will affect his performance in school, beginning as early as preschool.    How your child holds his pencil, sits in his chair, and attends to the task of handwriting can affect your child’s ability to feel successful in completing a handwriting task. 

4 ways you can promote your child’s handwriting skills before his pencil hits the paper: 

  1. Address his posture: Your child’s posture at the table is directly associated with his fine motor control.  He Handwriting skillsdoes not just use his hand muscles to write—his core muscles are important too.  Make sure that the height of his chair allows for his feet to be placed flat on the floor.  Ideally, you want your child to be sitting so that there is a 90° angle at his knees and his hips.  This will put his body in a position that supports good handwriting.  Sitting on a wedge cushion (move ‘n sit cushion, air-filled cushion) that provides vestibular activation can sometimes help to improve his posture. 
  2. Address his grasp:  Your child’s pencil grasp can hinder or support his ability to write neatly.  Encourage your child to hold his pencil between the tips of his thumb and pointer finger.  The pencil should rest on the side of the tip of his middle finger.  Keeping the space between his thumb and pointer finger (the web space) open will ensure that he is utilizing his muscles in the most efficient manner and will reduce fine motor fatigue.  Sometimes, utilizing an adaptive grip on his pencil can help him to maintain the grasp with decreased difficulty. 
  3. Address his attention:  Your child’s attention can support or detract from his ability to accurately complete a handwriting task.  To support his attention, minimize the distractions in the room.  Your Read more

Summer Interventions for a Better Report Card

With the end of the school year quickly approaching, parents are often left to wonder about what to do during the summer to ensure

Summer interventions for a better report card

that the transition to the next school year goes smoothly.  One key piece of information in determining summer plans is the content presented in your child’s final report card.  It is vital that parents take the child’s final report card seriously and utilize the information from it to develop any areas of weakness shown during the previous school year. Read more

How To Avoid Anxiety As School Ends

The school year is in winding down and classes are becoming less structured on lessons and more focused on summer, end-of-the-year anxious childparties, and outdoor days. This time can be very exciting and fun, however it may also feel chaotic, unpredictable, and even sad for some children; children who are uncomfortable with change, children who have had a very successful school year and may anticipate a new school year with upsets, and children who may be switching schools for varying reasons.

The following are tips to help prepare your child for the inevitable end-of-the-school-year:

  1. Let your child know that it is OKAY that he/she feels this way, and that you understand. Normalizing and validating their feelings about the uncertain time ahead will hopefully take away any additional unpleasant emotions they are feeling, such as embarrassed or ashamed of themselves for Read more

Benefits of a Slant Board

There are many reasons to invest in a slant board for your child, including benefits in handwriting.  A slant board typically consists of aslant board flat surface positioned at an angle with clips or anchors to hold materials (such as paper and books) in place.  They come in a variety of sizes and angles, and some are even adjustable. 

Below are several benefits of slant boards for your child for use both in and out of the classroom:

  • Promotes fine and visual motor skills- The angled position of the slant board promotes better placement of the shoulder, arm and hand.  It is therefore providing a better position to work on skills such as writing and drawing.  The position of the board also brings the paper closer to the child and makes it easier to see.
  •  Promotes an efficient marker grasp- The best hand position for handwriting and holding a writing utensil is in wrist flexion. The angled position of the slant board promotes this position, which provides better support for holding a pencil appropriately.  This position may also assist in applying just the right amount of muscle force in holding a pencil.
  •  Provides an easier to reach work surface-For children who have difficulty reaching the entire paper while flat on a desk, the slant board provides an easier distance to reach from the top to the bottom of the page, while also keeping the paper stabilized.
  • Helps with posture- Typically, writing or reading on a flat surface utilizes an inefficient posture, as seen through slumped body position, elevated shoulders, and looking down consistently. The slant board brings the line of vision higher, which encourages looking down to promote an upright posture.
  • Allows visual tracking for reading Placing a book or other reading material on a slant board may reduce eye strain. The child does not need to refocus their eyes as they scan through a page since all text remains at the same angle.

There are many slant boards on the market to choose from! It is best to choose one made of stable material and with an adjustable slant. The slant board can be used at home or at school, or anywhere that you child engages in writing, reading or drawing!

 To watch a 2 minute video on how to improve handwriting in children, click here!


8 Tips to Ease Homework Time Stress

For many families of middle and high school students, evening time becomes a stress-filled time for everyone. This is due to the fact homework stressthat tired and over-scheduled kids fight to focus to complete their homework. Fortunately, this time can become much more relaxed and productive with a few tweaks to routines and tips to help students to manage their time and work better.

8 Tips to Ease Homework Time Stress:

  1. Start with goals: Prior to making any changes to a homework routine that is not working, sit down with your child to identify their goals around their homework time.  Do they need to create more time?  Focus more effectively?  Remove distractions?  Get started earlier?  A meaningful plan can then be created from these goals with all family members on board.
  2. Create a dedicated space:  All too often, kids complete their homework with a host of distractions nearby: T.V., Internet, phones or other family members doing other things other than work.  Homework is best completed in a quiet space that is free of all distractions.  If the Internet is needed for research, this should be done during a specific time set aside for this purpose. Phones and televisions should be off.
  3. Create a plan: Before tackling any homework assignment, kids should set up a schedule that includes what assignments need to be completed and an estimate of how long each assignment should take to complete. These assignments should then be ordered according to their due date and difficulty level.
  4. Break down big assignments: When creating the homework plan for the evening, it is important to also take into consideration of any long term assignments that have been given. Divide these assignments into several (3-10, depending on the assignment) parts to complete over the course of the time until the assignment is due. Then, the big project is easily absorbed into the week, instead of being a shock the day before it’s due.
  5. Take regular breaks: Kids are unable to focus for longer than 45-50 minutes at a stretch. Plan 10-minute breaks into each hour of homework. The best breaks include some physical movement and/or fresh air.
  6. Keep track of paper: Students should keep assignments and notes for each class in a separate folder or section of a notebook. After completing each assignment at home, papers should go directly back into the appropriate folder.
  7. Identify circadian rhythms: Is your early bird trying to complete homework at 10:00 p.m.? Is your night owl frantically trying to finish homework the morning before school? Work with your child’s natural cycles in order to determine the best homework time for them, given other commitments. An early bird may benefit from rising an hour earlier to get work completed.  A night owl may focus best getting starting after dinner.
  8. Study Smart: Kids learn in many different ways. For example, take a look at Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence Theory in order to identify the way your child learns best. Tailor study time to their strengths. For example, interpersonal learners prefer to interact while learning, therefore, quizzing aloud and studying in groups would suit them well.
If homework time continues to be a struggle for your family, contact one of our Academic Specialists at North Shore Pediatric Therapy. Our Academic Specialists can create a homework time plan specific to your child and family’s needs.


Why does my Therapist want to observe my Child at School?

There are many benefits for therapists that are permitted to observe their clients in the classroom. These observations, when schoolappropriate, are beneficial not only to the therapist, but to the teacher, family and child as well. These observations provide the therapist with additional insight into your child’s school day, as well as promote collaboration with teachers; constant and open communication within your child’s “team” (including their doctors, therapists, teacher, etc.) is vital to his/her success in reaching his or her goals.

Below are 5 reasons to why an in-school observation is important to help your child reach his or her full potential in the classroom:

  1. By observing a child in the school environment, a therapist can make recommendations and modifications specific to that child in his or her classroom environment. Important environmental factors include classroom set-up, structure, size and possible distractions (such as noise or visual distractions). For example, should the student have his or her seat located in a more optimal area? Is there something that is distracting the child, such as a certain poster?
  2. Provide realistic and practical recommendations. Without seeing the child’s classroom, it may be difficult for a therapist to provide recommendations that are feasible for each student and teacher to follow. For example, for middle school students, it would be important to know the distance from his/her locker to the homeroom class or how much time they have between classes to get from one class to another. For an elementary student, learning about the classroom “jobs” can be important for the therapist to know.
  3. Update and create treatment plans and goals for therapy. Not only can your therapist provide the classroom teacher with recommendations for their classroom, but by being able to observe a child in their own classroom environment, a therapist can appropriately update treatment plans and goals to optimize your child’s success in the classroom.
  4. Collaboration between your therapist and teacher is a very important part of the therapeutic process, especially when your child is having a difficult time within the classroom. By meeting the teacher in-person and other staff members within the building, a relationship and “team” is formed with the shared interest of helping your child succeed.
  5. Visiting a classroom provides a therapist with an opportune time to advocate for their students as well as provide information to teachers regarding their students and the challenges that the students may be facing, which can make the learning and school process difficult.

Following a school visit, therapists will provide the parent with feedback, including observations of their child’s functioning in the classroom and a list of recommendations. For more information on school observations, please consult your child’s therapist to discuss if an observation is deemed necessary and appropriate.

5 Ways To Prevent Meltdowns After School

Oftentimes, after-school hours and times of transition can be extremely difficult for children, especially for children with sensory processing disorder (SPD)boy tantrum. Children may often perform well throughout the school day, but then quickly meltdown after they get home. Meltdowns occur because the child will often take in a high amount of sensory experiences (e.g. noisy lunchroom) and has many demands placed on him/her throughout the school day. Once the school day is finished, the child is usually exhausted upon arriving at home, therefore, it is vital for parents to overly-prepare their children for what is expected of them after school (e.g. extracurricular activities, homework, bath time, relaxation time, and bedtime) so that the entire family can have a more positive end to the school and work day.

5 Ways To Prevent Meltdowns After School:

  1. Over exaggerate expectations:  It may feel silly at first, but it is extremely beneficial to talk aloud with your child about
    what is expected of him/her and what the day’s schedule will look like. This becomes even more important during the weekends when there is not as much structure within the day. Overall, children crave rules, directions, structure and routines, therefore, it is crucial for parents to be clear and consistent and provide fair and obtainable expectations for their children.
  2. Picture/visual schedule:  These tools can be incredibly helpful for younger children and/or those children who are particularly visual learners.  Picture/visual schedules help the child see what the schedule is (e.g. first snack, then homework, and last television time).  Similarly, when one of the tasks is completed, the child can put an “X” through the task or remove it from the schedule (e.g. if it is Velcro). This provides the child with independence and a feeling of accomplishment.  Ideally, this prevents the parents from having to ‘nag’ the child too frequently.
  3. Timer:  Both visual timers and auditory timers can provide a child with structure and with a reasonable goal to work towards (e.g. We’re going to practice your spelling words for 15 minutes and when the timer goes off, you can take a 5-minute movement break before moving onto the next piece of homework).  A timer helps the child know that there is an end in sight.  Similarly, for older children, a timer can help them to become more independent with time management.
  4. Calendar/Assignment notebook:  These tools can help promote responsibility and time management. In addition, they can also help  provide a visual cue.  Similarly, these tools can serve as a ‘to-do’ list and it can be a great motivator to cross something off of the ‘to-do’ list as it provides a sense of accomplishment and completion.  Try making it a habit to look over your child’s calendar/assignment notebook with him/her each morning. This will help both of you stay on the same page and so that you may successfully plan ahead together.  Ideally, this will instill good habits for the child down the road as well.
  5. Write a note:  Who doesn’t love receiving a thoughtful note or card?  Try leaving your child some encouragement throughout his/her week (e.g. Before her big math test tomorrow, leave her a note the morning before, near her spot at the breakfast table.  Remind your child that you know he/she has a big test tomorrow and that you are happy to help her study tonight. In addition, remind her to just take one day at a time and encourage him/her to just try her best). Having a positive support system can  help your child feel less pressure and less stress, even during difficult times.
Overall, structure and over-communication are the keys to your child’s reduction in meltdowns after getting home from a long school day.   Keep in mind that even adults crave structure and consistency throughout the day.  Feel free to ask your child which one of the strategies above would be most helpful for him/her- children are often more aware and knowledgeable than we usually give them credit for. In fact, they will most likely have input as to what works best for their body!  Please reach out to an occupational therapist or behavior therapist if you require more individualized ideas for your own child regarding after-school meltdowns.

How to Help with Homework

Homework time is one of the most difficult parts of a parent and child’s day, especially if your child has difficulty with the tasks Homework Helprequested of them. We are often asked how to give the help needed without “doing homework” for him/her. We understand, , that as a parent, you want your child to succeed in school; however, you don’t want to fight a battle every night watching your child struggle.

5 tips to make homework time a little easier:

  1. Remove all distractions: turn off electronics, clear the desk/table of extraneous items and provide enough light. It might also be helpful to provide a snack and ask them to use to restroom shortly before starting homework to minimize disruptions.
  2. Create a schedule: determine how much homework your child needs to complete that night. Allow your child to choose which activity he/she wishes to complete first, next and last. Choices are a great option to allow your child to retain some control during required activities. If a break is necessary mid-way through an activity, schedule that activity as well with a time allotment (e.g., “Okay, after your spelling words, you can have five minutes with your action figures before we start the math problems”). If your child would prefer a visual schedule, pictures can be utilized for the schedule instead of a written one.
  3. Make it fun: the best part about kids is that, in their world, everything is funny. Try practicing spelling words in funny voices. Use goofy items to count math problems. Practice handwriting with homemade mad-libs. Make up jokes and creative plays to practice new lessons. Emotions are contagious – if your child sees you having fun, they will too.
  4. Providing help: Children should never fail more than they succeed. In fact, they should succeed almost every time. If not, do what you can to make the task easier. Pick one aspect/goal for your child to focus on and you do the rest until they have mastered the task. For example, your child is required to write 10 sentences using new vocabulary words and both writing and sentence construction is very difficult for your child. Have him/her form ten sentences using a vocabulary word and have him/her say them aloud while YOU write them down. Once you have written the sentences, your child can copy your sentences by practicing their nice handwriting without the stress of making up a sentence. This will ultimately make homework time less stressful and boost a child’s sense of success and accomplishment, which are crucial to mental well-being.
  5. Use resources: Schools and libraries often have resources to provide suggestions for completing homework.

Remember, homework is an important tool that allows your child to keep up with their peers in the classroom; it should not be so time-consuming and difficult that it ultimately impacts you or your child’s home life and anxiety levels. If you have any questions, concerns or desire suggestions, feel free to contact us.

Warning Signs of a Learning Disability

Prevalence rates of Learning Disabilities have an average range of 2-10%. While we aware of the negative impact that learning learning disability girldisabilities may have on achievement, when identified early, your child can be given the opportunity to meet their potential.

Below are 7 signs that may suggest that further evaluation may be needed:

  1. Uneven delays in development that persist to school age
  2. Inconsistency in your child’s performance and retaining of information
  3. Your child seems to need extra time to process information, learn concepts and complete work.
  4. You notice an increasing, strong dislike for school
  5. Your child routinely avoids academic tasks
  6. There is a sudden drop in achievement or a consistent pattern of under-achievement
  7. You recognize a change from your child’s typical behavior or mood presentation (e.g. opposition, anger, sadness, anxiety, inattention or negative self-statements)

It is important to know that children with learning disabilities are not lazy. The opposite is more often the case; they are highly motivated and want to learn.

What can you do if you suspect learning difficulties?

  • Bring your concerns to your child’s teacher. Develop a plan that will implement interventions and monitor your child’s response.
  • If problems persist, request that an evaluation to be conducted. This evaluation can be done through the school, but it may take several months to complete. Parents may wish to seek a private evaluation for faster results.
  • Closely monitor the progress your child is making with any strategies that are put into place.
  • A final and very important point is to provide opportunities for your child to be successful everyday. This will help them feel a sense of mastery and achievement that all children require.

1.Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition, Text Revision. (2000). American Psychiatric Association: Washington, D.C.

Educational Graduate Gifts At Each Age

It’s that time of year!  Children are graduating and proud parents are celebrating this milestone.  Read on for special gift suggestions for graduates of all ages that also have educational value.

Educational and Fun Gifts for Your Grad By Age:

Kindergarten Graduation Gifts:

  • Special Books: Classic, hard-cover books will be fun to read in the moment and treasured as a keepsake for years to come.  Consider titles like Ferdinand, The Tale of Peter Rabbit or Paddington Bear.
  • Magna-Tiles: Consider investing in a set of Magna-Tiles.  These magnetic building tiles will occupy the imagination of your soon-to-be first grader for hours on a rainy day over the summer.
  • Lego Building Blocks: Legos have been around for a long time and for good reason.  Lego building sets engage young builders as they create predetermined buildings or design their own.

Junior High Graduation Gifts:

  • Special Books: Inspire your soon to be high school kid with a copy of Oh the Place You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss.
  • Educational Video Games:  You can’t tear your teen away from the Xbox360 or Wii, but at least you can inspire them with a game that will teach something.  Consider Civilization Revolution (Xbox360) or The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Wii).

High School Graduation Gifts:

Graduation is a wonderful accomplishment.  Celebrate your children with gifts that will continue to enrich them as they move to the next phase of  life!