Academic Advocate Program

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Academic Advocate Program


What type of services are provided as an academic advocate?Academic-Advocate

Academic advocacy services include: reviewing previous testing, identifying strengths and weaknesses, and working with families to ensure that their children are receiving the most appropriate services and accommodations.

Would the psychologist attend an Individual Education Plan Meeting?

Yes, the psychologist would attend the meeting serving as an academic advocate. Parents have the right to request an outside individual to serve as an advocate for their child.


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Psychotherapy

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Psychotherapy


Psychotherapy is a collaborative treatment based on the relationship between an individual and the therapist. Grounded in dialogue, it provides a supportive environment that allows you to talk openly with someone who’s objective, neutral and nonjudgmental. You and your therapist will work together to identify and change the thought and behavior patterns that are keeping you from feeling your best. Within psychotherapy there are several different approaches that can be chosen.

Examples of psychotherapy approaches that NSPT has to offer:

  • PsychotherapyCognitive Behavioral Therapy
    • Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on the child’s thoughts, feelings and behaviors. During a session where CBT is used the therapist will work with a person to uncover unhealthy patterns of thought and how they may be causing self-destructive behaviors and beliefs. New coping skills will be identified with ways to implement them.
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy
    • DBT emphasizes validation of feelings and behaviors instead of struggling with them. Having a child come to terms with uncomfortable feelings will allow him or her to push past what is blocking them and allow them to make the necessary change.
  • Play Therapy
    • Play therapy uses play to communicate with and help people, especially children, to prevent or resolve psycho-social challenges.  This technique is often utilized with small children in which talk therapy is not a possibility. The objects and patterns of play can be used to understand the underlying rationale for behavior, both inside and outside of therapy session.
  • Art and other creative forms of therapy
    • Through creating art and reflecting on the processes, children can increase awareness and the ability to cope with symptoms, stress and traumatic experiences.

During the first meeting the therapist will meet individually with the parent(s) to obtain a comprehensive history about the child and identify the concerns that have lead the child to be referred for services. Parents are a very important part of treatment and are encouraged to be involved in treatment whether it is through regular therapy sessions or parent support sessions in order to help strengthen the family and support the child. Also at this time the various therapeutic techniques will be discussed and therapy goals will be chosen.


What kind of conditions/issues would benefit from psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy would be appropriate for a variety of issues and concerns including: depression, anxiety, school problems, social concerns, divorce, anger issues, etc.


What is a Neuropsychological Evaluation?

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What is a Neuropsychological Evaluation?


What is diagnostic testing?

The purpose of a neuropsychological evaluation is to help identify strengths and challenges with children’s cognitive functioning. The goal of the testing is not only to help determine specific diagnoses that a child might have, but more importantly, to help determine and develop appropriate accommodations and interventions that would make the child’s life easier.


Who can benefit from a neuropsychological evaluation?

In reality, any child could benefit from a neuropsychological evaluation. The main goal is not to diagnosis a child, but more importantly, to help determine how a child learns best and what his/her social/emotional strengths are. Typical diagnostic questions that are presented to a Neuropsychologist include:

  • Does my child have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?
  • Is my child on the Autism Spectrum?
  • Does my child have a learning disorder?
  • Does my child have any emotional concerns (anxiety, depression)?
  • How can I get my child to learn more effectively?

Areas of a neuropsychological evaluation:

Testing batteries are individualized to address specific presenting problems. However, a neuropsychological evaluation will always address, in some form, a child’s: Neuropsychological Evaluation

  • Cognitive ability
  • Academic achievement in reading, mathematics, and written expression
  • Visualspatial, visual-motor, and graphomotor integration
  • Attention
  • Executive functioning (organization, planning, problem solving)
  • Memory
  • Language functioning
  • Social/emotional/behavioral functioning

What does the evaluation process entail?

The evaluation process is individually based and dependent upon the age of the child. What is included for every child, no matter age or need is:

  • A parent intake session in which the child’s parents meet with the Neuropsychologist prior to the testing in order to determine the child’s concerns and needs
  • Phone or personal contact with the child’s therapists and teachers, if needed
  • An age-based comprehensive evaluation
  • A parent feedback in which the parents meet with the Neuropsychologist in order to go over results from the evaluation, as well as, appropriate recommendations and accommodations
  • A child feedback (dependent upon the child’s age) in which the child is presented with important information from the evaluation

What are the benefits of being tested by a Neuropsychologist?

Many children can receive some form of psychological testing through the school system. The testing that is conducted by the schools is limited. School psychologists are not able to make diagnoses and typically only administer cognitive and academic testing. Even if a child has had a recent school psychological evaluation, it is recommended to have a partial evaluation with a Neuropsychologist. The Neuropsychologist would be able to add onto the school evaluation and help determine if there are any concerns regarding the child’s social/emotional/behavioral functioning, as well as, various domains not assessed within the school environment (e.g., attention, executive functioning, memory, visualspatial functioning).


When do parents get the report from the evaluation?

Typically, the parent can expect a copy of the report within two weeks following the feedback session (or sooner if needed).  The initial report is usually a draft and edits might be done based upon the findings from the feedback session.


What happens after the testing?

The process is by no means over when the testing is completed and the parents have met for a feedback session.

Even if the child does not meet the necessary criteria for a particular diagnosis, the parents do not leave empty handed. The goal of the Neuropsychologist is to help develop appropriate interventions based off the parent’s concerns. Just because a child does not meet criteria for a given diagnosis, there are still issues regarding his or her behavior. The same process applies in that the Neuropsychologist will evaluate results from the assessment in order to determine strengths and weaknesses, and then develop appropriate accommodations for the child.


At what age does testing start?

Typically, a neuropsychological evaluation would be conducted for children ages 3 and older.


Ocular Motor & Visual Perceptual Assessment & Treatment

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Ocular Motor & Visual Perceptual Assessment & Treatment


Ocular motor (oculomotor) control and visual perception are foundational skills necessary for a variety of daily

activities, including, but not limited to reading, writing, catching, throwing, organization, and safety when navigating environments. Occupational therapists are trained to identify and treat difficulties related to visual perception and ocular motor control in order to facilitate participation and engagement in meaningful activities.

Ocular motor muscles, much like the small muscles in our hands and fingers, work together to control eye movements and facilitate eye teaming (the ability of our eyes to work together in a coordinated fashion). Our eyes must work together to complete smooth tracking movements (such as tracking words across a page as you read) and saccadic movements (such as used when looking up and back down to copy information from the board). Impairments in ocular motor control (often stemming from muscle weakness, vestibular processing challenges, injury or dysfunction within the central nervous system) can directly influence a child’s ability to accurately perceive and receive visual information.

Visual perception describes the ability to perceive and interpret visual information. Visual perception includes many components, including visual discrimination, visual-spatial awareness, figure-ground perception, form constancy, and visual memory, to name a few. Challenges in this area are often associated with learning difficulties in reading, writing, math, and spelling. Other daily activities, such as grooming and dressing, play activities, and athletic performance, are also frequently affected.

Visual perception and ocular motor skills are evaluated through standardized assessments and various clinical observations. Following evaluation, a specific treatment plan is created to address a child’s unique needs. Ocular motor control and visual perception skills can be addressed through a variety of therapeutic Ocular Motorinterventions. Compensatory and environmental adaptation strategies are also often taught to help a child overcome challenges and adapt tasks to best fit his or her needs. In addition, parent and teacher education is an important component of intervention in order to best support a child in all environments.

If you have concerns regarding your child’s ocular motor control or visual perception skills, contact an occupational therapist to schedule an evaluation.

Occupational Therapy Home Programs

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Occupational Therapy Home Programs

Occupational therapy home programs are a crucial component to the success of your child’s occupational therapy, because most children attend therapy only one to two times per week. Your child’s occupational therapist will provide you and your child with specific activities to work on at home in order to continue progress toward your child’s goals. Home programs vary depending on a child’s individual needs and the programs can address a variety of different skills.

Below is a description of some common occupational therapy home program activities, as well as their purpose as it relates to your child’s treatment plan.

  1. Sensory Diet – a sensory diet is a set of activities designed to meet the sensory needs of your child. A sensory diet may include heavy work, movement, tactile (touch), feeding, or oral-motor activities. Your child’s therapist will work with you to design a sensory diet that works well for your schedule and your child’s individual profile. If your therapist recommends a sensory diet, it is important to have your child participate in these activities, daily, in order to help him or her maintain an optimum level of regulation. It also gives your child the ability to learn and engage with his or her environment.
  2. Exercises – a home exercise program may include various exercises for you to complete at home with your child. These exercises may be targeted at building muscle strength in your child’s fingers, hands, upper extremities, core, or even eye muscles. Exercises may also be targeted at building balance, posture, or body awareness. Most exercises given to you by your therapist will not look like exercises. This is

    Occupational Therapy Home Programs

    because your therapist wants the home program to be fun and motivating for your child to complete.

  3. Skill Development – occupational therapy home programs targeted at skill development may be recommended by your therapist. This may include having your child complete specific worksheets, activities, or even play games in order to directly build a skill. Common activities may include mazes (to develop fine motor and visual motor skills), handwriting assignments, or even a request to have your child shop for and bring back materials to complete a craft activity (to target organization and planning skills).

Your child’s participation in occupational therapy home programs, in conjunction with participation in therapy sessions consistently at the recommended frequency, will maximize your child’s progress in therapy.

Wilbarger Approach & Therapeutic Brushing

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Wilbarger Approach & Therapeutic Brushing


The Wilbarger Approach to Sensory Defensiveness (commonly referred to as “brushing”) is a highly individualized intervention protocol used to treat sensory defensiveness, particularly tactile defensiveness. The approach consists of education, individualized sensory diet activities and intervention from a professional trained in sensory integration theory and practice.

Tactile defensiveness and hypersensitivity happens when the nervous system does not interpret touch sensations and stimulation accurately, resulting in a child responding with fear, avoidance, withdrawal, or acting out with a “fight-or-flight” response to sensory stimuli. A child’s avoidance of tactile experiences and lack of engagement in tactile play ultimately limits his learning experiences and development of gross and fine motor skills. Functional implications of tactile defensiveness include avoidance of certain clothing textures; refusal to wear socks or shoes; discomfort with bare feet in sand, grass or on carpet; irritation from tags in clothing; and becoming bothered by various, every-day touch experiences that typically would not cause alarm or issues for others.

The Wilbarger Approach to Sensory Defensiveness can be used as early as the age of 2 months and into adulthood. The protocol requires use of a specific therapeutic, surgical brush that provides deep pressure tactile input and stimulation to the child’s legs, arms, hands, feet and back. The brushing is always followed by joint compressions at the head, shoulders, trunk, arms and legs to enhance joint perception and feedback, and to re-train the child’s brain to help identify and process various tactile inputs appropriately. The goal of the approach is to help clients develop more appropriate responses to sensory experiences through the use of enhanced sensation. It is imperative to use this approach in conjunction with a sensory diet, which is a carefully designed and personalized activity plan that provides the sensory input a child needs to stay focused and organized throughout the day.

At North Shore Pediatric Therapy, our occupational therapists are trained to provide the education, Wilbarger Approachindividualized sensory diet activities and sensory integration intervention necessary to perform and prescribe the Wilbarger Approach to Sensory Defensiveness. If you feel your child demonstrates sensory defensive behaviors and would benefit from an intervention technique like this, please call NSPT today to schedule an occupational therapy evaluation.

Therapeutic Listening

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Therapeutic Listening


Therapeutic Listening® (All rights reserved to VitalLinks.net; Vital Links is not an affiliate of North Shore Pediatric Therapy) is a sound based intervention that combines the therapeutic benefit of music with sophisticated sound technology to influence how a child perceives, processes and responds to sound.  A child’s ability to appropriately process sound can influence his ability to interact with his environment and learn new skills.

Therapeutic Listening® (TL) consists of listening to electronically altered music over specific headphones that are able to pick up higher and lower than normal sound frequencies.  Because the process of listening involves many levels of the brain, listening therapy can influence many aspects of a child’s functioning. Children with a variety of different presentations and needs can benefit from Therapeutic Listening®.  A customized listening program can be used to target a child’s sensory modulation abilities, behavioral regulation, emotional regulation, communication skills, postural control or motor skills, as well as auditory processing to reduce sensitivity and/or increase responsiveness.

The modified music utilized in this program provides input that stimulates not only the auditory system, but also the vestibular system due to the close proximity of these two systems within the inner ear.  The music contains a variety of frequencies and rhythms, and simulates sounds directed from different points in space.  The combination of these variables helps a child to better understand their environment through enhancing spatial orientation and promoting attention and arousal level.

When supervised by a skilled clinician, listening therapy can be carried out in the clinic, home or school. Therapeutic ListeningParticipation in the Therapeutic Listening program consists of two 30 minute listening sessions every day. Music chips are switched every two weeks in-order to target new skill areas and provide a challenge. Chips are chosen based on a child’s individual needs as determined by their clinical presentation. Parents and families are responsible for purchasing the equipment needed to implement the program, including specialized headphones and a microchip player (available through VitalSounds.com; not an affiliate of North Shore Pediatric Therapy). Therapeutic Listening is a powerful tool to assist a child in meeting his or her therapy goals.

Contact an occupational therapist today for more information.

Social Enrichment Groups

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Social Enrichment Groups


Social-Enrichment-GroupsSocial enrichment groups help children facilitate productive and positive social interactions with others. Social skills are the communication, problem solving, decision making, self management, and peer relation abilities that allow one to initiate and maintain positive social relationships with others. During social enrichment groups, children learn how to make better choices in situations with peers, such as respecting personal space, regulating the volume of one’s voice, making conversation, greeting others, behavioral regulation, maintaining eye contact, and team work.

(Source: Case-Smith, 2005)

Handwriting Assessment and Treatment

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Handwriting Assessment and Treatment


Handwriting is a complex task that requires many foundational skills. North Shore Pediatric Therapy’s occupational therapists are trained to assess the prerequisite skills necessary for efficient and fluid handwriting. A child’s handwriting assessment is comprehensive; it includes identifying his current level of functioning in the areas of visual skills, ocular motor skills, body awareness, fine motor planning, shoulder stability, and hand and finger strength. To do this, our therapists will discuss the child’s performance with the parents and teachers, perform standardized assessments, obtain a handwriting sample and observe the child’s fine and gross motor movement patterns. This handwriting assessment allows the therapist to identify the child’s strengths and weaknesses in these skill areas to reveal the source of his difficulty with handwriting.

Following the handwriting assessment, the therapist will develop goals based on the child’s performance and design a treatment program that concentrates on improving these foundational skills. Treatment for handwriting difficulty may include the Handwriting Without Tears ® program, sensorimotor strategies, strengthening the intrinsic muscles of the hand, compensatory strategies such as pencil grips or writing paper with visual cues, and ergonomic strategies such as a slant board or the child’s positioning at the desk.

The therapist may also suggest that she complete a school visit to observe the child in his classroom environment to identify recommendations to help him be most successful with his handwriting at school. Recommendations might include having the child write on an inclined surface to assist with positioning and pencil grasp or using 3-lined paper with dotted lines in the middle to assist with more accurate spatial placement of the letters on the line.Handwriting Assessment

Throughout therapy, the therapist will also provide activities and exercises for the child to complete at home. Participation in home exercises will help the child practice the foundational handwriting skills during the week outside of therapy and will ensure improvements in handwriting performance.

(Source: Case-Smith, 2005)

Executive Functioning

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Executive Functioning


Executive functioning is the decision-making processes that include planning, organizing, sequencing, strategizing, response inhibition, sustained attention, time management, flexibility and remembering details. Executive functioning is required at the onset of a task or when a novel task is presented. It’s needed to organize one’s thoughts and actions in order to create a plan and execute the plan. In addition, executive functions help with self-regulation, which is the ability to monitor one’s behaviors. Improving self-regulatory processes will increase executive control, which together, are central to cognitive, linguistic, behavioral, and affective control—all of which are fundamental to learning and success in school.