Surviving Halloween With Sensory Issues

How to Survive Halloween with Sensory IssuesWhen I think of Halloween, my mind races back to colorful memories of bright and lively costumes, overly sweet and delicious fun-sized bars of chocolate, and children of all ages screaming “trick or treat”! As most parents know, children who are especially oversensitive to auditory, visual, and tactile stimuli may experience a spark in meltdowns or increase in negative behaviors as a response to this incoming sensory input. Below are some helpful strategies to circumvent these challenges before the day and ensure a safe, fun, and successful Halloween for all.

How to survive Halloween with sensory issues:

  • Recognizing the symptoms of auditory sensitivity is the first step in preventing any tantrums or negative experiences resulting from auditory overload. If your child has auditory sensitivities, investing in some noise-canceling ear plugs or headphones may help to alleviate some of the meltdowns that arise with loud music or conversation at Halloween parties.
  • Trick or treating is one of the most fun and special parts about Halloween. Encouraging children to take part in this special tradition is important to allow them to be able to explore and grow their social skills and leisure opportunities. If your child is tactile or visually sensitive, or he becomes overly emotional or uncomfortable when having to meet and introduce themselves to people, it may be helpful to have an older sibling take on the responsibility of introducing selves to neighbors or family while trick-or-treating. Let your child choose if they want to partake in ringing the doorbell and asking for treats, and know that it is okay if they wish to hang back with caregiver while visiting unfamiliar houses. Role playing with your child to help them prepare for the day’s activities can also be a helpful way to improve their social emotional responses.
  • Practice makes perfect, especially when it comes time to wear a costume! Oftentimes, Halloween costumes can be hot, difficult to put on, or uncomfortable. To avoid this nightmare, prepare your child by having them wear their costume days before the festivities, so that they have an opportunity to break in their costume on their own time, which can highlight any potential issues beforehand. Hosting a fashion show with other siblings or friends could help to make the idea of wearing non-traditional clothing more fun and exciting in a non-threatening environment.
  • For Halloween parties, make sure to bring some familiar food for the child to enjoy. Safe food choices can be comforting in an unfamiliar setting like a family or friend gathering, especially when the parent is not there for support. If the party is at your house, take advantage of this by setting up a sensory corner away from the main area of entertainment and provide extensive individual and all age activities to try out. Some good suggestions may include coloring, painting pumpkins, or themed craft jewelry. Playing quiet music and decreasing the amount bright lighting can help alleviate some stress for children with sensory concerns.

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!

parent teacher conferences

Ten Tips for Parents for Successful Parent-Teacher Conferences

parent teacher conferencesParent-teacher conferences serve as an important time in a child’s academic year. The teacher can provide updates and insight into your child’s progress within the classroom. In today’s schools, teacher’s conferences schedules are often jam-packed and you might only have fifteen precious minutes with the teacher to talk about your child. If you want to get the most out of this vital time with your child’s teacher, then a little prep is needed! Here are our top 10 tips for a successful parent conference:

10 Tips to Prepare for Conferences:

 

  1. Ahead of the conference (in fact starting today!) ask the teacher to log behaviors or issues, so you have concrete examples about behaviors your child is engaging in that the teacher wants to discuss.
  2. Make a questions list beforehand. Focus questions not only how the child is doing academically but also socially and behaviorally.
  3. Invite your child to suggest if there is anything you should know before you go in or any concerns he or she would like to raise.
  4. Ask your child what he or she likes about school and also what he or she does not like.
  5. Ask the teacher how you can make sure your child reaches his or her potential? What extra activities would be recommended?
  6. Ask the teacher who your child is friends with and how that aspect of school is going.
  7. Ask the teacher who your child sits with at lunch and if he or she smiles a lot and looks happy.
  8. Ask the teacher if she has any other concerns about your child besides academics.
  9. If the teacher says anything negative about your child, without follow up, ask for a solution(s) and tell her you also will think of some.
  10. Don’t be defensive, just ask good questions!

 

Remember that the teacher is there to help your child develop to the highest potential. It is important to take the advice that is provided as they have seen many children and can readily identify areas of strength and weakness. It is important to work as a team to make sure your child’s academic and social needs are met.

If your child’s teacher identifies concerns regarding your child; the best advice is to be proactive and garnish additional information instead of waiting. If there are possible concerns regarding the child’s attentional regulation, learning, and/or social-emotional functioning, it would be recommended to seek out a comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation to help identify whether or not there is a specific diagnosis such as ADHD, a learning disability, anxiety, or Autism Spectrum Disorder. If and when a specific diagnosis is identified, individualized recommendations would be able to be created to help the child progress at the highest level possible.

If you are in the Chicago area and would like to discuss issues that arise from parent-teacher conferences or you have other concerns regarding your child, please contacts us at 1-866-309-4610 or fill in the contact form on this page.

CONTACT US TODAY

 

 

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6 Coping Strategies for Children with Sensory Processing Disorder in Their School Cafeteria

Trays clashing, Silverware clinking, Kids shouting, Scary vegetables, Bright lights, Weird smells, People everywhere.
Blog-Sensory-Cafeteria-Main-Landscape

The school cafeteria hits the senses with a wide array of sensory experiences all at once. Some children, especially those with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), can find the lunchtime experience overwhelming because of some or all of the sensory aspects of a cafeteria. Preparing your child or student for this part of the school day can help them enjoy, not dread, lunchtime and that can positively impact their entire school experience.

  1. Location, location, location- Where a child sits in the cafeteria can greatly affect his or her behavior and sensory input. For example, a child who is easily visually distracted should be sat so that he or she is facing away from the entire room, which will help them to they can focus on their meal. For a child with sensitivity to smells, make sure they are sat as far away from the lunch line as possible.
  2. Help the child advocate for themselves- Children with SPD can feel when they’re starting to get overwhelmed by whatever sensory stimulus is bothering them, but they can have a hard time explaining it to others. Teach the child that when they start feeling bad, upset, or their “engine” is running too fast (or any other term you use when your child is escalating) they should tell their teacher that they need a break. This could be a movement break, or some quiet time in a hall or designated quiet space.
  3. Give the child a fidget toy- This is a small toy the child can fidget with, ideally, without distracting other children. This would be great for the child who has a hard time not touching his friends who are sitting close to him.
  4. Put a sensory toolkit in their lunchbox- This can vary from child to child, depending on what their sensory needs are. You could put in a fidget for the child who has a hard time sitting still, or a favorite lip balm or lotion for the child who is sensitive to smells to give them a familiar scent to help calm them down (or one to mask the smell of the cafeteria). You could put in pictures of sensory strategies as reminders of how to calm down if they’re getting overwhelmed (e.g. deep breaths, hand-pushes, chair push-ups). Sunglasses could be helpful for the child who is sensitive to the bright lights in the cafeteria.
  5. Familiar foods- For those children with oral sensory sensitivities who are picky eaters, make sure to pack foods they will eat. This is not the time to send mustard on their sandwich for the first time or ask them to try whatever the cafeteria is serving. Have your child help you pack their lunch so that they know what to expect, or go over the menu for the week with them and choose the day(s) they will buy their lunch.
  6. Regulating foods- crunchy foods (e.g. carrots, pretzel sticks) can be very regulating for children with SPD, particularly children with oral-seeking behaviors. Other great food ideas include sucking thick liquids (yogurt, applesauce) from a straw, hard candies, or gum.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanston, LincolnwoodGlenviewLake Bluff, Deerfield, and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at 1-866-309-4610 and speak to an NSPT team member.

Sing, Dance, Draw — All to Learn How to Write!

Learning Without Tears Workshop Review

By: Dana Pais OTD, OTR/L

When you sign up for a continuing education course, you never really know what you’re in for. Sure, the course brochure shares the description and objectives for the day, but what about the instructor’s teaching style? What about the learning activities? Is it going to be all lecture and difficult to sit for 8 hours for 2 consecutive days?

I recently attended two Learning Without Tears (LWT) workshops in Chicago: Pre-K Readiness & Writing and K-5 Handwriting. Both were fantastic! The instructor, Diane Eldridge, was very engaging and fun. She had a good sense of humor and engaging teaching style that is needed when the participants are not used to sitting in a class for 2 days–especially given that the LWT courses are geared towards educators and therapists who spend all day on the move. Diane taught with an appropriate balance of seriousness and lightheartedness. She made sure we had the background information and knowledge needed to utilize the program, while also giving us time to practice and opportunities to collaborate with colleagues.

At the beginning of each workshop, participants are given a large tote bag of materials that are needed to execute the LWT program. There’s lots of fun goodies: activity sets, workbooks, crayons, magnetic stamps, slate chalkboard, songs and more. An occupational therapist’s dream! During the workshops, participants learn how to use all the components to implement the LWT curriculum in an organized manner. The workshops are structured to teach the program using the program materials, which to me is the best hands on way to learn.

Overall, I highly recommend the Learning Without Tears workshops. I fully believe in LWT’s multi-sensory method for teaching handwriting and had a great experience at the workshops. It made me excited to learn about handwriting even though I already know how to write!

Increasing & Decreasing Behavior With ABA

Happy Travels with a Child with Sensory Processing Disorder

Throughout the year, you and your family are bound to hit the open road a time or two forTraveling with Sensory Processing Disorder one of a number of reasons. Many families may want to check out the scene in a new city. Others, will seek thrills at an amusement park or visit a family member that lives out of town. These trips can provide children with priceless learning opportunities and families with memories that will last a lifetime. For children with Sensory Processing Disorders however, these trips can be also be extremely challenging. Below are 6 tips and tricks to use in order to best support children who have difficulty processing sensory information on your next family vacation.

  1. Discuss what to expect: Talking about the specific logistics of a trip can help to ease your child’s anxiety about the ambiguity of what’s coming next. Similarly, it’s important to talk about what will be expected of your child while traveling. Here are some questions that your child may have prior to traveling. Think through each one and discuss them as a family before your next adventure begins:
    1. What is the mode of transportation (ie. plane, train, or automobile)?
    2. What will you see? Will there be a lot of people?
    3. What will you smell?
    4. What will you hear? Will it be loud?
    5. How much time will it take? What will you do to pass the time?
    6. How much space will your child have? Will there be time or room to play?
    7. What are the rules while traveling?
  2. Decrease the amount of extraneous and unfamiliar noise: Use noise cancelling headphones or calming music. Both strategies can help your child to calm themselves and more effectively process auditory sensory information, especially with the added stressors of travel.
  3. Prepare a backpack of travel essentials: Many adults pack a small carry-on bag with a few items that will help them pass the time. Items often include shoulder pillows, eye masks, ear phones and iPods; as well as a favorite book or magazine. For children with various sensory processing disorders, include some of the items listed below:
    1. Snacks, water, gum, or hard candies.
    2. Pack a heavy object to help your child regulate. A book or weighted blanket are great options.
    3. Bring a comfort object such as a blanket or favorite stuffed animal.
    4. Include fun activities such as mini board games, coloring pages, books, or playing cards
  4. Call the airline or tourist destination ahead of time: Explain your child’s sensory needs. Certain airlines, parks, and museums have special accommodations for children with sensory processing disorders.
  5. Preparatory Heavy Work: Before taking off for your trip, or during breaks in travel, engage your kiddos in Heavy Work activities. Tasks include animal walks, pushing or pulling luggage, push ups, or big hugs from mom and dad. All of these activities provide your child’s big muscle and joint groups with proprioceptive input. This input is extremely regulating for children, like exercise could be for an adult, and will help to calm your child for the next leg of travel.
  6. Expect some ornery fellow passengers: While it is unfortunate, you may come across someone throughout your travels who will have a low tolerance for kids being kids. Depending on your comfort level in doing so (or your ability to turn the other cheek), write out small note cards explaining that your child has a Sensory Processing Disorder and that as a family, you are doing the best you can to travel with minimal interruptions to the routines of those around you. You could even offer nearby passengers earplugs to help block out any extraneous noises.

The bottom line is that while traveling can be challenging, it can also be an extremely rewarding experience for everyone involved. With a fair amount of foresight and appropriate preparation, you can help to shape your trip into an experience of a lifetime for your whole family. Happy travels!

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, 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!

Valentine’s Day: What You Need To Know

Neuropsychological Testing Day

benefits of neuropsychology testing

Neuropsychological evaluations for kids

benefits of neuropsychology testing

How can neuropsychological testing benefit my child?

  • Testing can identify your child’s learning style and cognitive strengths.
  • Additionally, an evaluation will help our neuropsychologists recommend adjustments to implement at school and/or at home.
  • Furthermore, neuropsychological testing can help determine any appropriate therapies such as speech or Applied Behavior Analysis.

My child has a recommendation for a neuropsychological evaluation, now what?

  • First, schedule an appointment. Testing appointments are available Monday to Friday, and all appointments begin at 9 a.m.
  • Next, your doctor provides you with parent and teacher rating scales that you will fill out and return on the day of the testing appointment.
  • Lastly, a Family Child Advocate will work with you to schedule the testing and feedback appointments.

Where is pediatric neuropsychological testing done?

All neuropsychology testing is currently carried out in our Des Plaines clinic.  The Early Childhood Developmental Assessments take place in multiple clinics. Additionally, the intake and neuropsych testing appointment take place in our Des Plaines clinic, and the speech and OT appointments typically scheduled in the clinic nearest the family.

In order to help accommodate families, our 3 psychologists visit other clinics for intakes and feedbacks. See our website for scheduling.

Who conducts neuropsychological testing?

Conducting the appointment is one of our expertly-trained, master’s level neuropsychology technicians or doctoral-level diagnostic students. These professionals go through the same rigorous training program as our in-house technicians.  Testing is monitored throughout the day by one of our psychologists and Training Coordinator.

Due to this testing model, we are able to see upwards of 20 kids per week! As a result, this means less time until you and your child can begin the process of getting the help he/she needs! Certainly, we do our best to get your child in for testing in a timely manner to avoid any long wait lists.


NSPT offers services in the following locations:  BucktownEvanstonDeerfieldLincolnwoodGlenviewLake BluffDes Plaines, and Mequon!

If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (866) 815-6592 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

 

what to expect in a neuropsychological exam

Neuropsychological testing for kids at NSPT

what to expect in a neuropsychological exam

A child receives a referral for neuropsychological testing when there are concerns about one or more areas of development. Certainly, these areas of concern can include cognition, academics, attention, memory, language, socialization, emotional regulation, behavioral concerns, motor difficulties, visual-spatial, and adaptive functioning. Testing can identify your child’s learning style and cognitive strengths. Lastly, through testing, our neuropsychologists can recommend accommodations to implement at school and at home.

What is a neuropsychological evaluation?

A neuropsychological evaluation aids the psychologist in determining a diagnosis.
Such as:

How do I know if my child needs a pediatric neuropsychological evaluation?

An evaluation is usually recommended if your child has a medical condition such as Down syndrome, epilepsy, or a traumatic brain injury (TBI). So, the goal of the evaluation is to identify your child’s strengths and weaknesses. With this information, we can provide the right treatment recommendations, determine progress and response to intervention, and monitor functioning.

After your pediatrician has made a referral for a neuropsychological evaluation, you need to schedule an intake appointment. Typically, each intake appointment is one hour long.

Is my child eligible for testing at NSPT’s neuropsychological testing center?

Due to our growing team, we are able to test a larger population. Most noteworthy, we offer three types of testing services:

      1. Early Childhood Developmental Assessment
        This is a multidisciplinary approach where our team works with a speech therapist and occupation therapist to assess children ages 15 months to 3 years, 11 months with developmental concerns ranging from socialization, language, and motor development. Each of the 3 scheduled testing appointments are typically on separate days.
      2. Neuropsychological Evaluation
        NSPT’s standard neuropsychological evaluation for individuals ages 4 through college-age.
      3. Adult ADHD assessment
        This is a new service we are now offering to adults who are interested in an ADHD evaluation. Typically, this is a one-day, 4-hour evaluation.

What should I expect during the neuropsychological intake?

  • Your first appointment is centered around talking with the psychologist about your areas of concern. Therefore, you will be asked to do the following:
    • Provide information about your child’s history.
    • Including medical, developmental, academic, attention, behavior, motor, and social history.
    • Inform the psychologist of any current, or past, services your child receives, such as:
      • speech-language therapy
      • occupational therapy
      • physical therapy
      • individual therapy
      • academic tutoring

What to bring to the neuropsychological intake:

  • You and your child
  • Completed intake paperwork
  • Similarly, any prior psychological/neuropsychological evaluation (if applicable)
  • Your child’s most recent 504 Plan or IEP (if applicable)
  • Additionally, any recent private intervention evaluation (e.g., speech-language therapy, occupational therapy)
  • Certainly, don’t forget your child’s most recent report card or standardized exam scores
  • Finally, any relevant medical information (e.g., EEG report, CT/MRI scan report)

Lastly, after the intake, you will schedule the testing session for your child.  Most of the time, testing is completed in one day (5 hours of testing). Occasionally, the testing will be completed over two days.  The psychologist will create a neuropsychological battery based on the areas of concern. However, the battery is subject to adjustment on the day of testing.  Typically, this occurs if another area of concern arises during the testing session.

To sum up, a pediatric neuropsychological evaluation can also help to determine any appropriate therapies such as speech or Applied Behavior Analysis. For more FAQ, click here

 

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonDeerfieldLincolnwoodGlenviewLake BluffDes Plaines and Mequon! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (866) 815-6592 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!