Should My Child Be Tested for Autism?

As parents, it is natural to worry about your child’s development if he or she does not seem to be meeting developmental milestones on time. When will my child say their first word? Shouldn’t they be walking by know? Should they still be having this much trouble reading?

Children’s developmental milestones can vary greatly, and the rate of when milestones are accomplished does not always yield significant advantages or disadvantages in the long run. However, there are some early markers for Autism Spectrum Disorder that could indicate you should get them tested.

Does your child…

  • reduced eye contact
  • loss of previously acquired speech or social skills
  • delayed language development
  • resistance to minor changes in routine
  • repetitive behaviors (e.g., flapping, rocking, spinning)
  • unusual and intense reactions to smells, tastes, textures, lights

If your child demonstrate some of these early markers, a neuropsychological evaluation is helpful in identifying Autism Spectrum Disorder.

An Autism evaluation includes:

  • An interview with the child’s parents/caregivers
  • Administration of a play-based test designed to evaluate the presence of the behavioral excesses and deficits found in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • A completion of rating scales that help assess your child’s level of functioning

Depending on your child’s age, a neuropsychological evaluation can also include assessment of cognitive functioning, language skills, and visual-motor skills to obtain a comprehensive evaluation of your child’s global functioning.

Should findings indicate that your child has Autism Spectrum Disorder, receiving a diagnosis will allow for treatment specifically geared towards helping children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, as well as provide recommendations for school regarding your child’s needs. Should findings not reveal Autism Spectrum Disorder, recommendations are still generated based on your child’s strengths and weaknesses to maximize their opportunity to reach optimal success.

The earlier a child receives intervention, the better the outcome. We are committed to continuing to provide these diagnostic services, even during the pandemic, by  following the guidelines set forth by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. What this may look like is a tele-health diagnostic interview and feedback session, where we review the results of the evaluation. In-person sessions would involve our best efforts at social distancing and use of protective gear to minimize risk of transmission. If you believe that your child may have autism spectrum disorder, schedule a neuropsychology consultation today.

NSPT offers services in the Chicagoland Area. 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!

Your Guide to Telehealth Consultations for Neuropsychology

Parents and children are faced with a variety of challenges in reacting and responding to the ways COVID-19 affects their families. Many find themselves at a loss for how to handle this crisis. We want to help. That’s why our neuropsychologists are available for consultation, via telehealth, to assist you.

What is telehealth consultation?

Telehealth are essential health services provided via phone or through a video. Telehealth allows you to get the assistance you need while also keeping your family safe. Using telehealth, our neuropsychologists can answer questions, guide services, and help your family navigate next steps.

What questions can consultation answer?

  • During e-learning, I noticed my child has a hard time in a certain subject, such as reading or math. Is this typical or should they be tested by a neuropsychologist?
  • My child has a hard time sitting still and focusing, is this ADHD or e-learning?
  • I am worried my child is falling behind developmentally, what can I do?
  • My child was already diagnosed with ADHD, how can I make sure they continue to learn and grow?
  • What are the next steps in advocating for my child to get school-based services/accommodations?
  • How can I get other services (speech, OT, ABA, etc.) started for my child?
  • My child already has school accommodations, how can I make sure they continue in the fall? How can I adapt them to reflect any new concerns from e-learning?

What we can do through consultation:

  • Provide information for you to decide whether a neuropsychological evaluation would answer questions you have about your child’s developmental needs
  • Help guide services and find appropriate supports for your child
  • Collaborate with schools to navigate how your child can successfully return to their educational setting
  • Work with service providers (OT, speech, ABA) to problem-solve any new or existing concerns
  • Answer questions about past evaluations in light of new stressors or challenges

NSPT offers services in the Chicagoland Area. 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!

Managing Your Child’s Stress During COVID-19

This week, the head of our Neuropsychology Department offers some advice on how to manage the stress your child might have during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Life has changed. 

Restaurants are closed. Playdates are scheduled over zoom. The classroom is now our kitchen table. Our world has grown smaller. While this can be difficult for us, it can be even harder on children. It’s difficult for children to understand Coronoavirus and to process how and why all of this is happening. But we can adapt, we can survive, and we can help our children through this. Here are some things I’ve done to help my six year old during the pandemic.

  • Avoid the news (on television and social media).
  • Have daily/nightly routines such as family movie nights, game nights, etc.
  • Do activities that you normally would not do such as camping in the basement or in the backyard.
  • If there are multiple adults in the household, take turns with eLearning.
  • Keep a schedule for eLearning and for the entire day (we thrive with routines and structure)
  • Try to think of activities to change the day such as going for walks or car rides.

Remember, brighter days are ahead. We will all get through this together. Not everyday needs to be perfect, forgive yourself for being frustrated with this “new normal”. Patience and hope will see us through.

If there are concerns about your child’s behavior or learning, we recommend scheduling a Neuropsychology consultation to discuss any evident issues.

NSPT offers services in the Chicagoland Area. 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!

E-Learning Tips from an Occupational Therapist

We’re back with more tips on how to help your child finish the school year out from home. This week, we asked one of our Occupational Therapists for some tips on how to help structure your child’s new school day. Here’s she had to say.

Set the Expectations

  • Create daily, morning, or afternoon visual schedules or calendars and include e-learning subjects (math, reading, OT, PT, SLP, etc.) – Utilize pictures or words depending on the child’s reading abilities.
  • Review expectations before e-learning sessions begin (i.e. whole body listening techniques, sitting quietly, keeping hands to self, staying in our seat).
  • Post expectations or rules for e-learning on a wall next to the child’s e-learning space. For example, post a visual display of whole body listening techniques or hang a list of 5 rules written or created by the child.
  • Discuss incentives for following the expectations/rules throughout an entire e-learning session.

Set up a Designated Environment

  • Create a work space that is special for e-learning. If you can set up a particular desk or table that is only used for e-learning, this can help children set expectations and boundaries in the home setting. If a separate space is not available, utilize an “e-learning clipboard” or other materials that will make this space particularly special and unique for e-learning opportunities.
  • Place all necessary materials in reach (pencils, paper, crayons, scissors, workbooks).
  • Provide special writing utensils or materials that can only be used during e-learning (i.e. smelly markers, colored pencils, etc.).
  • Minimize distractions. An e-learning workspace should be far from TV, toys, etc. to improve focus and attention. Position the child’s workspace in a clutter-free area with minimal visual distractions. If necessary, provide headphones to minimize auditory distractions.

Provide Opportunities for Movement

  • Before an e-learning session begins, provide at least five to ten minutes of sensory opportunities for heavy work or general gross motor movement. These can include: animal walks, yoga poses, or other proprioceptive activities.
  • Allow opportunities for movement during e-learning sessions (i.e. stretch breaks, chewable pencil topperwiggle cushion, etc.)

NSPT offers services in the Chicagoland Area. 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!

5 Ways to Maintain Language Skills During Social Distancing

Social distancing may be challenging for children with speech and language disorders, as it limits decreases their daily opportunities to practice language with others. In addition, having to transition to phone calls and text messaging as opposed to face to face communication may be overwhelming for our kiddos with speech and language disorders.

Never fear! We’ve outlined 5 ways to stay connected and practice pragmatic language while maintaining social distance.

  1. Virtual connectivity. Facetime or Zoom friends, grandparents, and others! Virtual connectivity with a visual, socially interactive interface provides a multi sensory input for kids to socially interact while maintaining physical distance
  2. Physical exercise! There are many free programs offering online classes right now for physical exercise. Try out an aerobics class at home with your child in the house. Turn it into a language opportunity (i.e. sequencing activities you did in the class, how it felt to exercise, etc).
  3. Spring cleaning. Spending more time in the house we have increased opportunities to organize our homes. Have your child put items into groups, sorting, organizing, and sequencing to practice their language skills.
  4. Daily routine and structure. Establish several times a day where everyone in your home will complete an activity together each day to reduce the thoughts and feelings of social isolation (i.e. having one meal together a day, going for a walk at a certain time each day, reading a book together at the same time each night).
  5. Creative activities. Encourage interactive activities that involve interactive social exchanges at home. Turn your living room into a “park” and have a picnic on the floor, build blanket forts, and encourage other creative activities your child may be interested in to promote language and social connection with the family.

NSPT offers services in the Chicagoland Area. 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!

5 At Home Speech Language Activities

Social distancing proves to be a challenge for families with children who rely heavily on structure and consistency in their daily schedules. That’s why the implementation of parent home programs is essential now more than ever to maintain carry over of learned therapy skills. Here are some tips to make therapy at home fun while providing structure.

  1. Provide correct modeling of speech and language
    Turn ordinary conversation into opportunities to practice speech and language goals. Provide correct models whether it be articulation, language and grammar skills, or social pragmatic skills. If your child makes a mistake, (i.e. incorrect usage of speech sound) rather than correcting their error, continue to provide the correct model of the desired speech sound.
  1. Create visual schedules
    Many of our kiddos can benefit from visual schedules. Advantages of using a visual schedule include but are not limited to: helping remaining calm/maintaining self regulation, providing the child with a positive routine with predictability of what to expect next, increasing receptive language skills with the use of visuals, increasing language processing skills with the use of both visuals and written text, promoting sequencing skills (first, second, now, later), and providing structure in the child’s day to day life.
  1. Practice verbal routines
    Using verbal routines for children with language disorders is an excellent way for children to foster language development in their daily lives. Verbal routines are when you use the same words/phrases in an activity every time (i.e 1, 2, 3 or ready, set, go!). These routines are predicable and provide opportunities for the child to enhance their language skills. Verbal routines can be applied in both unstructured and structured tasks such as playing with bubbles, playing catch with a ball, or higher level cognitive tasks such as saying “my turn” before every turn in a family board game night at home.
    In addition, functional language routines can be found in nursery rhymes and songs. These songs additionally provide opportunities for labeling, object identification, and sequencing. (i.e. head, shoulders, knees and toes, if you’re happy and you know it clap your hands, row row row your boat).
  1. Provide opportunities for children to ask questions and make comments
    Set the stage for your child to ask questions during functional tasks that will give them the opportunity to ask questions or make comments. For example, if your child wants to draw or write provide them the piece of paper but leave out the pen or pencil to provide them the opportunity to ask questions in relation to the task.
  1. Read books out loud together!
    Reading books is a wonderful and fun way to practice language at home. Use books with predictable patterns that can be easily learned and require active participation from the reader.

Whether you are continuing face to face therapy at one of our clinics or beginning telehealth with one of our therapists, we are here to continue to serve you.

NSPT offers services in the Chicagoland Area. 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!

10 Tips for School Days Off with Children with Special Needs

Days off of school are the best days of the year for many kids. Many of us have fond memories of waking to our parent telling us that school was closed for the day.

But these days can be challenge for children with special needs, especially those who rely heavily on structure or sensory stimulation. We don’t want our buddies to miss out on the fun, so we prepared some tips you can use to help make the most out of your day at home with your child.

  1. Play some calm music. Give your child a chance to unwind with some headphones and a soothing playlist. And, if they feel like dancing, give them space and let them shake out their sillies.
  2. Make them a new visual schedule. You can use their computer, their phone, a whiteboard, or a piece of paper for this. What you want to do is give them something visual that they can use to understand that their schedule will be different today.
  3. Have them play outside. Let them run around the backyard or take them for a walk around the block. Keep their energy up and their spirits high!
  4. Do a puzzle together. Puzzles are a soothing way to pass the time while also engaging the mind.
  5. Make an obstacle course. Bring the best parts of gym class home to help them burn off some of that boundless energy!
  6. Do some crafts. Engage your child’s creative side by getting into some good (possibly messy) fun! You can find tons of ideas on pinterest. (Contact your therapist as well, it’s possible they already have ideas specifically suited for your child’s needs.)
  7. Bake! Who doesn’t love something that’s fun to make and even more fun to eat? You can take this opportunity to work on reading, spatial reasoning, and self regulation skills.
  8. Contact your therapist for activity suggestions. Your therapist should be able to provide some activities that your child to do to keep them from regressing while they wait for their next session.
  9. Remember to take time for yourself. It’s your day off too.
  10. Breathe. Use this opportunity to take some quiet time with your family. Maybe try doing some yoga or meditation together.

NSPT offers services in the Chicagoland Area. 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!

Gross Motor Milestones in the First Year

Developmental check-ups with a Pediatrician throughout your child’s first year of life (at 2, 4, 6, 9, and 12 months) are a perfect place to bring up any concerns you as a parent may have about your child’s development. While pediatricians have their own set of developmental red flags, these only hit the “big-bad-uglys” as we like to call them, including: is your child rolling by 6 months, sitting independently by 8 months, crawling by 12 months, and walking by 18 months.

These red flags are very specific, meaning a child who exhibits these red flags would be identified for services, but not very sensitive, meaning many children who would benefit from therapy services are missed. I have seen many children referred to physical therapy for delayed walking skills, who are not standing independently or didn’t roll consistently until 8 months.

To help these children who are being missed by the pediatrician’s red flags, I have put together a list of gross motor skills to discuss with your pediatrician at your child’s check-ups throughout their first year.

A gif of a toddler taking a couple of steps while using a chair to stand up.2 Months:

  • Lifts and maintains head up when on belly

4 Months:

  • Controls head during pull to sit
  • Controls head when held at shoulder
  • Controls head while in supported sitting

6 Months:

  • Sits independently for 1 minute
  • Rolls from belly to back
  • Rolls from back to belly
  • Lifts chest off ground when on belly, pushing onto extended arms
  • Grabs feet or knees when on back
  • Bears weight through legs in supported standing

9 Months:

  • Gets into and out of sitting independently
  • Army crawls or crawls on hands and knees

12 Months:

  • Pulls to stand at stable surface
  • Cruises along furniture
  • Stands independently for 5 seconds
  • Walks forward with hands held

NSPT offers services in the Chicagoland Area. 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!

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North Shore Pediatric Therapy wishes you a Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, and Merry Christmas!

13 Holiday Crafts for Fine Motor Development

North Shore Pediatric Therapy wishes you a Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, and Merry Christmas!We’re into the holiday season with Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa just three weeks away, so why not get your children into the spirit by getting them involved in prepping the decorations? Here are 13 simple craft ideas that will entertain, add some cheer to your home and also promote your child’s fine motor development:

13 Holiday Crafts to Promote Fine Motor Skills

  1. String beads onto pipe cleaners and shape them into various holiday symbols such as candy canes, dreidels or wreaths.
  2. Fold up pieces of paper and cut out snowflake designs.
  3. Make a snowman picture by pulling apart cotton ball pieces and gluing them onto paper. You could also draw a snowman on the paper and have your child carefully secure marshmallows over the lines.
  4. Create your favorite holiday image using pony beads and elastic cord. You can find free instructions for various patterns online so there are plenty of options for this one!
  5. Paint the ends of an acorn using a thin paintbrush. You can also use glue instead and cover with glitter.
  6. Build a Christmas tree, menorah, or Kinara using popsicle sticks and glue. Decorate each stick however you would like using glitter, markers, stamps, sequins, crumpled tissue paper, paint, ribbon, etc.
  7. Create a window cling. This can be done using a craft kit or by following simple do-it-yourself instructions online. Your child can use a template as a guide or make an original design of his own.
  8. Decorate holiday cookies using cookie cutters, frosting, sprinkles, or other small pieces of candy. Be sure to have your child help with baking preparation too for extra strengthening and skill development while stirring, scooping, and rolling out the dough!
  9. Similar to baking cookies, you can use play dough to work on many of the same fine motor skills. Use plastic play utensils and scissors to cut playdough apart, roll out large pieces using a rolling pin or the palm of your hand, and use fingers to roll small pieces of play dough into balls. Use playdough stamps and other molds to create your favorite holiday symbols. For creations that you and your child are especially proud of, bake them in the oven for a few minutes to harden the dough and preserve the shape. Then they go on display or even on your tree!
  10. Make your own ornaments. The options are endless with this one but some ideas are to decorate ornament balls, use cardboard cut-outs, or glue together felt pieces. Your child may also enjoy turning their baked playdough into a holiday ornament!
  11. Build a gingerbread house. This is a great activity for siblings to work on together as it allows for plenty of creativity and a variety of challenges for different skill levels.
  12. Create a dreidel gift box using a printable template.
  13. Make a holiday count-down chain. Cut out strips of construction paper and secure them into loops that link together. Make this a fun family activity by hanging the chain in a common area of your home and removing one link daily as the holiday approaches!

Click here for tips on the perfect holiday gift for motor development!

 

 

Picky Eater’s Guide to Thanksgiving

Ahhh, Thanksgiving. For some kids, it’s their favorite meal that comes just once a year! For others, they may dread the sticky mashed potatoes that get plopped on their plate or the smell of Aunt Cathy’s green bean casserole. Preparing your picky eater for this time of year might help you avoid the epic battle you fear is coming!

Here are 5 tips to help this time of year be fun and festive, not frustrating and frightful for a picky eater:

  1. Exposure!- Don’t let the Thanksgiving meal be the first time your picky eater sees all the new foods. Thanksgiving foods are not commonly seen throughout the year and can add stress to an already overwhelming situation. In the weeks leading up to the big meal, try to incorporate one or two Thanksgiving-type foods a week into your family meals or snack time. Even if they don’t want to eat it, they can touch it, smell it, play with it, and talk about it!
  2. Encourage your child to be your sous chef– Incorporating your picky eater into the cooking and creating of meals gives them a varied sensory experience, even if it’s a food they’ve never had (or have tried and disliked). This way, they get to see and feel the ingredients, use spoons and mixers to combine it all, and smell the final product, and feel accomplished for helping!
  3. Let your child choose something to make- Allowing your child to choose a menu item guarantees they will have something they like! Macaroni and cheese, mozzarella stick appetizers, chocolate chip cookies, or homemade rolls may be some favorites.
  4. Bring sauce!- Sauces and dressings can be the key to kids eating new or less-preferred foods. Even if you’re not hosting, bring it with you. If they love barbecue sauce, put a small bowl next to their plate and let them add it to whatever they want!
  5. When in doubt…bring foods they like– If you’re going to someone’s house where you have little to no control as to what is served, you can always bring a few healthy foods you know your child likes. You can re-heat it when the other food is served, and explain to the host that your kiddo doesn’t even eat your cooking to avoid any offense. Just prepare for all of the other kids to be jealous!

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NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Deerfield, 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!

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