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!

5 Ways to Practice Imitation with Your Child

Think back to a time you were trying to learn a new skill… whether that be how to complete a math problem, re-create a recipe or craft you saw on Pinterest, or navigate the depths of Microsoft excel. One of the first things we do is ask someone to show us or model the steps for us (or if you are me, search YouTube for videos demonstrating the steps)! Developing the skill to imitate others is crucial to our development, especially for children with ASD. That’s why we’ve provided you with 5 ways to practice imitation with your child! 

  1. Dancing
    Imitating dance moves in songs is such a great way to teach your child to imitate gross and fine motor movements. You can play the song and demonstrate the moves yourself or find some videos where the person singing will imitate them on screen.
    We use this technique in our school readiness program at NSPT- Blossom Prep School and found it helped preschoolers not only learn the moves to the songs but also how to behave and collaborate in a learning environment. These were just a few of the songs we used.

  1. Playtime
    One thing some kids with ASD struggle with is the ability to functionally play with toys or games. Stacking blocks, rolling a car down a ramp, rocking or feeding a baby doll, stringing beads, or rolling playdoh, children may have trouble understanding what these toys are used for. One way you can teach this skill is through… You guessed it- Imitation! By teaching a kiddos to play with a toys according to its function you can open the door to so many more social play and independent play skills.
    This is something that we cover extensively in Blossom Prep School, taking our kids from station to station and modeling play with various toys and pretend scenarios, like they would with their peers.
  2. Daily Routines and Activities
    You can also use imitation to teach your child to complete tasks such as brushing your teeth, self-feeding, or washing their hands. By modeling the steps and having them imitate you during natural routines and activities, you can strengthen imitation skills while simultaneously teaching your child to independently complete important daily living skills.
    Here are a few fun ways we like to incorporate this type of teaching into Blossom Prep School:

    • Imitating a peer or adult using utensils to eat snack
    • Imitating a peer or adult while cleaning up an activity or game
    • Imitating a peer or adult putting on shoes or other clothing items
  1. Arts and Crafts
    Similar to teaching children to functionally play with toys and games through imitation, you can also teach them to complete different arts and crafts projects. You can do this by modeling each step or modeling multiple steps at a time for children with more established imitation repertoires.
    Here are a few fun examples of crafts that work well with imitation that we have used in Blossom Prep School:

  1. Singing Songs & Saying Fun Phrases
    Another form of imitation that is important is vocal imitation. The ability to vocally imitate others is needed not only to be able to learn to say or pronounce certain words and phrases, but to learn how to engage in social conversation! One way to work on this skill is through having your child vocally imitate you saying funny words and phrases or singing songs. In Blossom Prep School we work on vocally imitation throughout the lesson, repeating funny phrases in songs or books or repeating the teacher in order to teach a vocal response to a question.

For more information on the importance of teaching imitation and observational learning you can listen to a podcast by ABA Inside Track on the topic.

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 Things To Consider Before Transitioning From ABA to Preschool

So, your child is doing well in ABA and you think that they’re ready to try out preschool. Luckily for you, when it comes to sending your child to school there are a lot of a lot of options! With these options, decisions that need to be made. Where does my child still need to improve? Where do they succeed? What does their ideal school look like?

The best place for your child to thrive is an environment that’s not restrictive. They should be in a classroom that supports them but also gives them some autonomy. But, just how autonomous should your child be? Depending on what your school district offers you may have a few classroom options. Some of those options will be more restrictive than others (the most restrictive being a self-contained special education classroom and the least being a blended classroom or general education classroom). The goal is ultimately to teach your child to be independent. In order to determine their best starting path toward that goal, here are a couple of things to consider.

  1. Is 1:1 support required to participate in activities?
    Is 1:1 support needed in order to participate in most activities? In Blossom Prep School, we pair all of the kids that participate with 1:1 Behavior Therapists that help to prompt them through the different activities and routines as well as take data on independent successes. With this model, we are able to teach kids how to participate while also systematically fading out the support so that they can be as independent as possible in a classroom setting. We use that data to determine when a child is ready for traditional classroom environment.
  2. Does your child generalize skills?
    Is your child able to generalize the skills that they have learned in a 1:1 setting? The two biggest skills that impact them is the classroom would be the ability to generalize following directions as well as imitation skills. One thing we work on in Blossom Prep School is the ability to follow generalized directions as well as imitation skills through dancing to different songs, lining up with our friends, turning the page of the book, participating in calendar time, raising their hand to participate, and completing various play or listener activities. We work with the supervising BCBA to make sure we know what skills have been mastered in a 1:1 setting so that we can immediately begin to work on them in a more natural setting.
  3. Can your child function on Generalized Conditioned Reinforcer (GCR)?
    A GCR is the fancy term for a secondary reinforcer such as a high five, social praise, or maybe even a token board system. In a 1:1 setting or the preschool readiness group it is a little easier to control reinforcers such as access to certain toys, games, videos, or edible reinforcers, but in a blended or general education classroom it is a little harder. It is important that your child can complete multiple activities for more natural social praise reinforcers or with delayed reinforcement that they can received after participating in several responses rather than accessing their reinforcer after each response. In the Blossom Prep School program, we work to fade tangible reinforcers and pair more generalized reinforcers such as praise from the teacher and peers or using the completion of a task as a reinforcer in itself.
  4. Does your child have any barrier to learning?
    Behavior Intervention Plans are something that are pretty commonly used in ABA programs. Most of the time, these plans are targeting behaviors that interfere with the ability to learn! So, when evaluating if your child is ready for a less restrictive classroom environment, it is also important to evaluate their ability to learn in a group format! Other barriers include severity of problem behavior, toilet training, self-help skills, prompt dependency, reinforcer effectiveness and motivation, and hyperactivity. There are several assessment measures BCBAs can use to help inform you of the barrier to learning as well as if those barriers pose a concern for transitioning into a group learning format.
  5. Can your child follow routines and schedules?
    One of the last things to consider is your child’s ability to follow common classroom routines and schedules. In any classroom if is expected that your child is at least able to follow some classroom routines with or without supports. We target this skill in Blossom Prep School by using repeated practice to practice specific routines such as lining up and transitioning from centers, snack time, using the bathroom, and circle time. We use strategies such as visual activity schedules and fading prompts to allow for independence.

As mentioned in the points above, At North Shore Pediatric Therapy we have a school readiness program called Blossom Prep School that can be offered as part of an ABA treatment plan to work on these very important skills. If any or all of these concerns seem like they relate to your child, do not hesitate to reach out to our main line to discuss your options for enrolling in Blossom Prep School 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!

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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Spooktacular Speech and Language Activities

The costume is picked and the decorations are up. Halloween is just around the corner, and it’s time to use this fun season to work on speech and language! Use the ideas below to incorporate speech and language skills into Halloween activities.

Halloween Speech and Language Activities:

Create a picture scene                             

Use stickers or window decals to create a fun picture scene. Have your child follow directions (‘put the pumpkin inSpooktacular Speech and Language Activities front of the wagon’), make up a fun story, talk about what people are doing in the scene, and label and describe objects. The opportunities for speech and language targets are endless using picture scenes!

Paint a pumpkin

Grab a pumpkin and some paint, and let your imagination do the rest! Once your child has decided what to paint, use describing words to talk about the creation. Discuss the steps in painting the pumpkin using words such as first, next, then, and last. Then add the pumpkin to your Halloween decoration collection!

Make a map

Draw a map of your neighborhood or your trick-or-treat trail. Have your child add in details such as houses along the way, Halloween decorations, and street names. Maybe your child can even lead the trick-or-treat brigade!

Ask Twenty Questions

Play Halloween-themed 20 questions. This activity targets vocabulary, answering questions, formulating questions, describing, and critical thinking.

Complete a craft

Kids love arts and crafts! Make a scarecrow, pumpkin, ghost, or bat. Target following directions, describing, and even comparing multiple craft projects (‘My bat has smaller wings that yours’).

Bake a treat

Whip up some delicious Halloween treats! Find a recipe, make a grocery list, go shopping together, and follow the steps in the recipe. This activity incorporates vocabulary, sequencing, and following directions.

Let these activities guide speech and language in fall time fun! If you are concerned with your child’s speech and language development, seek the help of a speech language pathologist.


NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanston, Deerfield, LincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff 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!

MORE Tips To Help Your Child with Autism Enjoy Halloween

Halloween is fun and exciting holiday for many children. It gives the opportunity to dress up in their favorite costumes and get a lot of candy. While these traditions seem easy and effortless for most children, for a child with autism it may not be so easy. With the proper preparation Halloween can be a very fun holiday for any child with autism and below are a few steps on how to make Halloween an enjoyable experience.

Help Your Child With Autism Have a Happy Halloween With These Tips:

  • Let you child pick out his costume so you know it is something he will want to wear.MORE Tips To Help Your Child Enjoy Haloween
  • Make sure your child is able to wear the costume around the house prior to going trick-or-treating. This will allow him to get used to how the costume feels and allow you to make any necessary adjustments to the costume to make it more comfortable for your child.
  • If you are planning on trick-or-treating, take walks around your neighborhood or wherever you plan on going in the weeks leading up to Halloween. Also, you may want to practice walking up to the doors of people you know and ringing the doorbell.
  • Read your child social stories about Halloween traditions and trick-or-treating.
  • Make a schedule of the events that will take place the night of Halloween. Show this schedule to your child frequently so they know what is coming next. You could even make a map of each house you will be going to and they can cross off each house they go to.
  • If your child has limited verbal skills, make a picture they can hold up that says trick-or-treat, or if possible have a sibling do all of the talking.

Click here for more simple tips to prepare your child with autism for Halloween.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanston, Deerfield, LincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff 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!

Halloween and Autism

Simple Tips To Prepare Your Child with Autism for Halloween

 

It’s that time of year again: the leaves are changing, the weather is getting cooler, and children and parents alike are beginning to feverously plan Halloween activities and costumes. While this may be an exciting experience for most families, it can be a difficult and anxiety-provoking experience for families with children with autism.  Children with autism may interpret and react differently to Halloween festivities and costumes, which can be an overwhelming experience. However, this doesn’t mean that children need to sit on the sidelines and avoid Halloween activities altogether. With the following tips, parents and their children with autism can have a stress-free and enjoyable Halloween.

Costumes

Costumes are a quintessential part of Halloween. It is important to remember that costumes are possible for your Simple Tips to Prepare Your Child with Autism for Halloweenchild with autism, but should be safe and comfortable for him or her to wear. This is especially important if your child has sensory difficulties. Take into consideration how the fabric and the fit of the costume will affect your child: Is it a fabric the child is used to wearing? Is the fit too tight or too loose? A great way to decide if a costume works is by practicing wearing the costume around the house. This allows your child to become acclimated to the costume, and lets you know whether or not the child will be able to tolerate wearing the costume for extended periods of time. With practice and knowledge that a costume works, you can avoid meltdowns and last-minute costume changes on Halloween.

Social Cues

It is not everyday that we ask our children to walk up to a stranger’s house and socially engage with the stranger for candy. This is a break in typical social rules that children normally follow. This break in rules may be difficult for a child with a rigid understanding of rules and expectations of the world. One way to help your child overcome this change in rules is through setting a schedule and script that your child can follow for trick-or-treating. For example, the script and schedule may look like the following:

  1. Ring doorbell
  2. When an adult opens the door, say “Trick or Treat”
  3. Allow the adult to put candy in your candy bag
  4. Say “Thank you” and walk away from the house

This script and schedule allows your child to understand the expectations and rules of Halloween while also creating an easy timeline that they can follow and refer back to with parents. Similarly, you may want to practice this script with your child prior to Halloween at your own household. The child can put on his or her costume, and practice ringing the doorbell and asking for candy to simulate trick-or-treating on Halloween.

Know your Child

Even with extensive preparation, Halloween can be an overwhelming and tiring experience. Know and recognize when your child has had enough and is ready to call it quits for the evening. The point of Halloween is for your child to have an enjoyable time, whether that lasts 30 minutes or 2 hours. Halloween is all about maximizing your child’s fun while spending time together as a family.

With the right knowledge and planning, families with children with autism can have a successful and happy Halloween!

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanston, Deerfield, LincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff 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!

How to Choose a Halloween Costume for a Child With Sensory Processing Disorder

Halloween is a time for kids to dress up in fun costumes, however, this may be very uncomfortable for kids with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). Kids with SPD may find certain clothing uncomfortable due to tactile sensitivities. This may range from kid-to-kid; some kids may prefer to wear loose fitted clothing, some may prefer to wear clothes that are tight, and some kids may prefer to wear soft clothing. It is best to explore which type of clothing your child prefers prior to picking out a Halloween costume. Halloween

Once you know which type of clothing best suits your child, you can then begin to find what Halloween costume will be most comfortable for them to wear.

Here are some recommendations to make your search for a Halloween costume easier:

  • Allow your child to be a part of the process of choosing a Halloween costume and try to incorporate their favorite things.
  • Never force your child to wear a costume.
  • It may be helpful to find costumes that are seamless and do not have tags.
  • Wash the costume prior to your child wearing it.
  • Allow your child to wear their costume prior to Halloween.
  • Masks and face paint may be uncomfortable for a child with SPD. It will be helpful to practice wearing a mask or putting on face paint prior to Halloween to see if your child can tolerate the feeling of having it on his or her face. If your child decides to wear a mask, allow them to remove it if needed. Also, if your child decides to wear face paint, make sure to bring facial wipes in case you need to remove it from his or her face.

It is more important that your child is comfortable in his or her Halloween costume, rather than what costume they wear. It will be helpful to know what type of clothing your child finds comfortable and what clothing they find uncomfortable in order to find the best costume for his or her needs.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonDeerfieldLincolnwoodGlenviewLake Bluff, and Des Plaines! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 or fill out the form below and we’ll reach out to you!

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