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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!

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!

Holiday Speech and Language Activities

Here are some examples of how a holiday tradition can be turned into a speech and language activity: blog-holiday-speech-main-landscape

Looking at Holiday Lights

  • For a younger child: Play a silly sentence game. Make a sentence about the light display but put in a nonsense word. See if your child can fix the silly mistake. For example, “The snowman is under the grass.” or “There is an elephant on the roof.” Then see if your child can make a silly sentence for you to correct.
  • For an older child: Create complex sentences. Challenge your child to use the conjunctions and or but to talk about the lights. For example, “The window has a wreath and the garage has a bow.” or “This house has only white lights, but that house has all different colored lights.”
  • For a child working on speech sounds: See if the child can find decorations containing their sounds. For example, if a child is working on /l/, they can practice saying blue lights, yellow lights, snow globe, soldier, and igloo.

Singing Holiday Songs

  • For a younger child: Work on rhyming by starting a well-known carol then substituting a non-rhyming word in place of a rhyming word. For example, “Dashing through the snow, in a one horse open sleigh. O’er the fields we go, laughing all the go.”
  • For an older child: Make inferences about song lyrics by asking your child why For example, “Why do you think Santa asked Rudolph to guide his sleigh?”
  • For a child working on speech sounds: Listen to a familiar song and have your child write down every word with their sound. Then go back and practice saying the words they wrote. For example, a child working on final /l/ can listen to “Chanukah, Oh Chanukah” and practice saying the words we’ll, all, while, and table.

Decorating the Christmas Tree

  • For a younger child: Teach directional concepts. Ask your child, “Should I put this ornament above the tinsel or below the tinsel?” or “Should I put the star on the top or on the bottom?” while showing them what each directional word means.
  • For the older child: Practice describing ornaments by word features. Have the child say the shape, size, color, material it’s made of, and parts. You can play a guessing game where the child describes clues about the ornament and you guess which one they are describing.
  • For a child working on speech sounds: Pick a word that has a child’s sound in it and have your child repeat the word while decorating the tree. For example, a child working on “ng” can say “hang” every time someone hangs an ornament. A child working on /r/ can say “wrap” a number of times while wrapping lights around the tree.

Making Holiday Crafts

  • For the younger child: Practice requesting. Provide your child with all necessary materials but leave one item out. Encourage them to make sure they have all the items they need and have them ask questions if they do not have everything.
  • For the older child: Work on narrative skills. Have the child pretend they are leading a how-to TV show. Have them use the words first, next, then, and last to give at least four steps. Build the craft yourself and see if the directions are clear enough to be followed and encourage your child to clarify communication breakdowns if needed.
  • For a child working on speech sounds: Create a phrase that the child must use for each part of the craft. For example, a child working on ch can say,” I chose the ____.” A child working on /g/ can say, “I got a ____.”

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, EvanstonLincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Deerfield, Des Plaines, and Hinsdale! 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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10 Festive Activities to Get Your Family in the Holiday Spirit

You’d have to be crazy to say you live in Chicago for the winters, but you’re not crazy to say you love the holiday season in the city. From light parades to ice skating rinks, there are plenty of blog-holiday-activities-2-main-landscapeholiday activities to help get your family feeling festive.

Here is a list of 10 holiday activities around the city for a classic Chicago holiday season:

  1. Christkindlmarket in Daley Plaza. Christkindlmarket is an open-air, European holiday market in Daley Plaza featuring traditional art, handmade gifts, German foods, beer, hot spiced wine, choirs, and carolers. Free admission!
  2. The Great Tree at Macy’s Walnut Room. Expect to wait to get a table in the Walnut Room. You can see the Great Tree from the eighth floor of the store.
  3. Zoo Lights at Lincoln Park. ZooLights at the Lincoln Park Zoo features millions of holiday lights, ice carvings, music, carousel rides, train rides, food, and gift shopping. Free entry.
  4. Ice Skating at Maggie Daley Park. Admission is free, but skate rental is $12 during the week and $14 on the weekend. The ice ribbon will be open through the first week of March.
  5. Winter WonderFest at Navy Pier. Festival Hall at Navy Pier becomes an indoor Winter WonderFest for the holidays, with music, carnival rides, and entertainment. Expect crowds. Free entry.
  6. Shopping on Michigan Avenue. View the festive lights, people watch the tourists and get some shopping done before stopping for a delicious holiday lunch at one of the city’s many restaurants in the area.
  7. A Christmas Carol. The Goodman Theatre’s annual holiday production of the Charles Dickens classic enters its 39th year with seasonal charm intact.
  8. Christmas Around the World. View more than 50 trees and displays at the Museum of Science and Industry’s Christmas Around the World exhibit, a Chicago tradition since 1942. Each tree is decorated by volunteers from Chicago’s many communities, representing their diverse culture and holiday customs.
  9. Morton Arboretum Holiday Lights. Parents and children alike will love the 50 acres of vibrant LED lights that are hung on the Morton Arboretum’s vast treescape, creating a kaleidoscopic winter wonderland. This year’s “Illumination: Tree Lights” is wowing audiences already; it’s absolutely worth the drive out to Lisle.
  10. A Charlie Brown Christmas. With The Peanuts Movie introducing Charles M. Schulz’s characters to a new generation of kids, Emerald City Theatre and Broadway in Chicago bring the classic TV special about the true meaning of Christmas to the stage.

We wish you a happy holiday season and a happy new year!

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Activities to Help A Child with Low Tone

Muscle tone refers to the amount of tension present in a muscle. This is different than muscle strength, Low Tonewhich refers to the amount of power a muscle can generate. Low muscle tone means that the muscles are slow to activate and initiate movement, and have decreased endurance for sustaining contractions. A child with low tone may appear weak, floppy, and have poor posture.

If your child has low tone, here are some activities you can try at home:

  1. Yoga poses – Practice a variety of yoga poses each day. Superman pose and plank are good for developing core and upper extremity strength.
  2. Animal walks – Encourage your child to use animal walks around the house. These include bear walking, crab walking, and wheelbarrow walking.
  3. Lying on the belly – Whenever your child is playing a game on the floor, encourage them to play while lying on their stomach. This will support the development of back and neck strength.
  4. Carrying heavy items – Have your child help out around the house by carrying items that are heavy (but not too heavy!) such as a bag of groceries, a basket of laundry, or a watering pot. If it is too challenging for them to carry these items, try having them push them around the house instead.
  5. Climbing and swinging – Any activity that requires the child to lift both feet off the ground at the same time will help develop their core strength. This can include climbing a knotted rope or hanging by their arms from a trapeze swing while kicking a ball.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee. 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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5 Reasons Free-Time is a Good Thing

Free-time is a good thing. Parents spend a lot of time encouraging their children to participate in recreational activities during the school year. There is nothing wrong with having your child participate in different activities and helping them to figure out what they are passionate about; however, over-scheduling your child with too many activities can often lead to increased stress in children and their parents. It is important for parents to be cautious about how much they are scheduling their children and to encourage more free time.

Here are 5 reasons why it is important not to over-schedule your child:KidsFreeTimeFall

  1. Over-scheduling can create increased stress and anxiety for both parents and children. Over the last several years there has been an increase in anxiety related disorders due to the stressors involved with over-scheduling.
  2. It creates less time for children to complete their homework and can cause them to have less sleep at night due to staying up later to complete their homework.
  3. It decreases the amount of quality time a children can spend with their family.
  4. Over-scheduling can cause a child to have less time for free-time and with you. Quality time doing imaginative play with your child is important in order to encourage creativity and to help develop independence in children.
  5. It can also cause children to have difficulty maintaining with peers due to not having enough free time to spend with them and to build their relationships.


 Is over-scheduling or homework creating stress? Read here for 8 Tips to Ease Homework Time Stress.




How To Make a Weighted Animal

Here at North Shore Pediatric Therapy, we utilize weighted objects for a countless number of activities. They can be used as a self-regulation strategy, providing deep proprioceptive input to your child’s muscles and joints.  Various weighted materials, including vests, belts, blankets, wrist-weights and ankle-weights, are utilized in the clinic multiple times throughout the sock puppetsday. For all of you crafty parents, as well as those who (like me) are “creatively challenged,” below are some DIY instructions to follow so that you can create your very own, personalized weighted animal.

4 Steps To Create Your Very Own Weighted Animal:

Step 1: Find an old knee-high sock. You can choose a sock that is your child’s favorite color or has their favorite cartoon characters on it.
Step 2: Fill the sock with a grainy material, such as rice or sand. Put enough rice in your sock so it is four-fifths of the way full. Tie the open end of the sock closed. There should be enough rice in the sock so when it is draped across your child’s shoulders, it droops down onto their chest. This activity has the added benefit of incorporating direction-following and tactile play into your daily routine.
Step 3: Finally, decorate the sock with “googley eyes” and markers. The sky is the limit as far as whether your sock animal has polka-dots, stripes, zig-zags or checkers.
Step 4: Kick back and relax with your very own personalized weighted animal.

These strategies can be utilized when your child is feeling frustrated or having a difficult time organizing their thoughts. Your child’s weighted animal can also be used for strengthening. When at home, have your child carry the animal around the house or encourage them to sustain various Yoga poses while holding their animal friend. The added resistance while sustaining these poses will only help build muscle strength and improve motor planning. Whether your weighted animal is used as a self-regulation strategy or a strengthening tool, it is up to you and your child’s interests. In either case, creating the animal is a wonderful craft to save for a rainy day and a great way to get the whole family involved. Make one, make two or make a whole zoo of weighted animals. Your child’s new friend is sure to be a hit and cherished companion for years to come.

Why Can’t my Child Sit Still? Strategies for the Overly-Active Child

Does your child seem to be constantly on the move or just can’t seem to sit still? This is a common concern that parents have of their wild child children as they are worried that this behavior can affect their child’s ability to pay attention in school, play appropriately with other children and participate at mealtime and homework time at home. Children who seem like they can’t sit still or can’t keep their hands to themselves may have a sensory processing issue and/or low muscle tone. Muscle tone is the amount of stretch muscles have at rest. Muscle tone cannot be changed, but the good news is that there are many strategies that can be used to increase their ability to sit still. It is easier for children with low muscle tone to move around than to sit still. When children move around, they are using more muscle groups and do not have to contract the muscles for an extended period of time; however, sitting still requires an individual to contract their muscles for an extended period of time therefore, children who have low muscle tone may not have the endurance to contract their muscles for very long.

Below are some strategies that will help your child sit still in order to maximize their educational potential:

  • Use a Move-N-Sit (AKA disco-sit) cushion. This is a rubber disc that is placed on the child’s chair. The rubber disc allows a child
    to move around in their seat. This will decrease the need to get up and move from his or her seat.
  • Participate in heavy work activities prior to sitting. Examples of heavy work include: erasing the blackboard, moving his or her chair or desk or carrying books back to the library. Heavy work provides a lot of input to a child’s muscles and joints, which can be very calming and regulating for the nervous system.
  • Allow the child to have frequent movement breaks. This will give him or her an outlet to exert the energy they have and get the movement they seek. By allowing your child to take short frequent breaks, they will only have to stay in once place for shorter periods of time until their next break.
  • Have him or her chew bubble gum or suck on hard candy. This is an example of an oral sensory strategy. Putting things in the mouth provides a lot of proprioceptive input to your mouth and jaw. This can sometimes substitute the need to physically move around which, in turn, allows the child to focus more on the task at hand.
  • Use a fidget toy. A child may be able to get the movement he or she seeks by playing with a small toy with their hands, such as a koosh ball or stress ball, without taking away from their own learning experience. It should be noted that a fidget toy is a privilege and should be taken away if it becomes disruptive.
  • Implement a strengthening program. Doing wall push-ups, sit-ups and Super-mans (laying on your stomach with your arms and legs elevated from the ground) can increase a child’s muscle strength. Since muscle tone cannot be changed, it is important to improve their strength. Speak with your doctor or a health professional in order to implement a safe and individualized exercise program for your child.
  • These are just some of the many ways that can improve your child’s ability to sit still in class or at home for extended periods of time. These strategies can give your child the opportunity to make the most of their educational experience and succeed at school!

Click here to learn more about Sensory Processing Disorder

Common Household Materials for Tactile Exploration and Learning

At times, the best source of entertainment can be found in the simplest materials! Use these readily available household items for a child playing with ricerich tactile sensory and learning experience right at home.

Common Household Materials for Tactile Exploration and Learning:

  • Beans or Rice tubs- Find buried treasures hidden within! Fill a small container that can be used more than once and add fun treasures for you child to dig for. These items can include creepy crawlers, toy cars or action figures. In addition, while playing games with small pieces, have you child find them in the bean or rice bin. The textures of the rice and/or beans provide different textures for you child to explore.
  • Shaving cream– Use shaving cream on a mirror, table, the bathtub or anywhere else that can be easily be wiped clean. Kids can simply explore their tactile sense by covering their hands with this fluffy foam. They can also spread a thin layer over a flat surface and practice their pre-writing or writing, For example, have your child draw pictures….like Pictionary!
  • “Goo”– Mix cornstarch, water and food coloring in a bowl and mix ingredients together. This slimy substance will feel dry when it is squeezed, but then drips through your fingers.
  • Hair Gel– Put colored hair gel in a secure plastic freezer bag, add tape over the zipper for extra protection. Kids can use their finger to draw letters, shapes and designs.
  • Paint– Ditch the brushes and have fun with finger paint! Create an extra challenge by painting on a vertical surface, such as an easel or on paper attached to the wall. Performing any tasks on a vertical plane can improve shoulder stability. It can also provide the needed support for your child’s handwriting and fine motor control. Touching the paint with your hands provides the tactile input and also promotes body awareness.
  • Art Dough– In a bowl, mix together 4 cups of flour, 1 cup of iodized salt and 1 ¾ cups of warm water. Have your child knead this mixture for about 10 minutes. Mold the clay with your child…the possibilities are endless! Once the creation is perfected, bake at 300 degrees until hard and let it air dry for a few days. Once dry, these can be painted or decorated. The activity also improves hand strength as well as provide tactile input.

Overall, these are quick, fun and easy activities that not only provide your child with a rich sensory experience, but they all address many other areas of development! Other areas that are addressed include, but are not limited to, fine motor coordination, motor planning, should stability and visual motor skills. Please consult a occupational therapist for additional information or more tactile activities. Happy exploring!

Incorporating Balance into Your Child’s Before-School Routine

boy balancing on floorBalance, like many things, will only get better with practice and through challenging the balance systems. However, it can be hard to find time after school to work on balance activities when kids already have mountains of homework to keep up with. It can also be difficult to make balance exercises fun and enjoyable for kids.

In order to work on balance skills while saving time and keeping it interesting, here is a list of 5 balance activities that can easily be incorporated into your child’s before-school routine:

  1. Put pants, shoes, and socks on while standing up-This will require your child to stand on one leg while using her arms to don the clothing.
  2. Sit in ‘tall kneeling’ (sitting on knees with hips straight and knees kept at a 90 degree angle) while packing up the backpack-Sitting in the tall kneeling position narrows your child’s base of support, making it harder for her to maintain her balance. This posture also helps to strengthen her hip muscles, which are an important part of keeping her stable in positions that are challenging for her balance.
  3. Sit on a pillow while having breakfast-The pillow serves as an unstable surface, so your child will have to work hard to balance while sitting on it. This is a great way to work on core strength as well.
  4. Walk heel-to-toe on the way to the bus stop-Narrowing the base of support by walking heel to toe will challenge your child’s balance  and help improve her balance when she performs dynamic movements such as running or walking.
  5. Brush teeth with eyes closed-Vision is a big component of balancing, and when you close your eyes you are no longer able to rely on that sense to balance. Your body instead will have to use its vestibular and proprioceptive systems to keep steady.

It is going to be important to supervise your child when beginning these balance activities, as they may be hard at first. If you have significant concerns about your child’s balance with daily activities or if you have balance-related safety concerns, you can contact an occupational or physical therapist at North Shore Pediatric Therapy. To find out more about the vestibular system read our blog To find out more about the proprioceptive system read our blog

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