Posts

Sending a Child with Autism to School

Sending a child with autism to school can be a very overwhelming process, not just for the children butBlog-Autism-Main-Landscape also the parents. The key to success is starting the process early so that your child will have all of the supports they need to make not just their first day successful but their entire school year. While the process will be slightly different for each child due to their specific needs, here are some general guidelines to follow to ensure your child’s success when sending them to school.

Before the First Day

  • Finding the right school and classroom: The first place to start when preparing to send your child with autism to school is by selecting the best school for your child. During the previous Fall or Spring, start touring schools and meeting with the teachers and administrative staff. You want to make sure that the school and classroom setting you choose will be the most beneficial for your child’s specific needs! You can start the IEP process with testing as well to ensure that when the school year begins, your child has all the supports they need on the very first day.
  • Social story: Once you have found the right school for your child, write a social story about the various rooms of the school and their teacher. Talking to your child’s teacher before writing it will also ensure you know what rooms your child will be frequently in for their classes. Just make sure to get permission first from the school before taking any pictures.
  • Practicing: Starting new routines can be hard for children with autism so by practicing the routine a week or two before school starts, your child will most likely be more successful on their first day. When practicing, consider all of the new variables for your child, such as wearing a backpack or school uniform, practicing carrying a tray of food, or waiting outside for the school bus.

On the First Day

  • Safety and Sensory Needs: It is always better to be over prepared than underprepared. If you are concerned about your child’s safety, consider an I.D. bracelet, which can be purchased online or at local stores such as Walgreens. If your child has any sensory needs, have their supports ready and available. These could include headphones, chew tubes, a fidget toy, sunglasses, and/or a compression shirt. Make sure if you are sending any of these to inform their teacher and administrative staff as well.
  • Other Materials: Sending an extra pair of clothes is always a good idea. While schools often have some extra clothes for children to wear, children with autism may be sensitive to different scents or textures and as a result refuse to wear the communal clothes. If allowed, consider bringing a water bottle or a preferred snack to eat at specified times.

Other Considerations

  • Dietary Needs: When you are finding the right school and preparing your child for success, dietary needs can be frequently overlooked. Communicate with your teachers and administrative staff what your child’s dietary needs are currently, such as small frequent snacks vs. a large meal or starting by eating in a quieter area of the lunchroom. While you can have goals for your child to eat the school provided meals with their peers in the lunchroom, moving slowly towards these goals will make your child more successful not just during lunch and snacks, but all day by not having your child feel hungry.
  • Communication: It is important to be very clear and honest about what type of communication you would like with the school and how often. Oftentimes children with autism are not able to recall and tell you what happened at school. An agreed upon communication system can alleviate this concern and also be used as a tool to work on recall.

After your child’s first successful day at school, make sure to congratulate not just your child and the school, but also yourself for starting the hard work early. As the school year unfolds, remember to stay in communication with your child’s teachers and administrative staff to make adjustments as needed and enjoy watching your child with autism succeed at school.

For additional information, check out our other Autism and school blogs.

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!

Find-Out-More-About-Autism

4 Practices Parents Can Do at Home That Will Help Children with ADHD at School

This guest blog was written by retired teacher, Joyce Wilson.Blog-ADHD-Main-Landscape

It’s common for parents of children with ADHD to be concerned for their children’s behavior at school.
But there’s no need to feel powerless. Implementing a few best practices at home will create a ripple effect and help improve your child’s behavior in the classroom, too.

  1. Encourage Physical Activity

Regular exercise has many benefits for children with ADHD, most having to do with increased brain function. Play games and sports with your child or simply go for a walk outside. The fresh air and bodily movement will help calm his restlessness and sharpen his focus.

It’s wise to let your child’s teacher know that taking away his recess time as a punishment is the exact opposite of what she should do if she wants to see an improvement in his behavior. Let her know how important this active time is for his mental focus.

  1. Encourage Organization

Teach organization and tidiness at home so your child can take these habits to school with her.

Teach her the importance of having a tidy room and work space and help her organize her school supplies. Use dividers, Post-it notes, folders, and color coordination to break her schoolwork down into a manageable, organized chunks.

  1. Create Structure

Your child will benefit from routine in the form of a daily schedule that runs morning to night. Keep schedules and to-do lists posted where your child can see them and include checkboxes next to each task on a list.

Sticking to a schedule helps children with ADHD persist with tasks that they might not necessarily feel like doing at the moment. Insisting they stick to a routine will help performing these tasks become habits for them. For instance, although it’s often difficult for children with ADHD to fall asleep, they still need to stick to a regular sleep schedule the best they can.

  1. Make Your Expectations Clear

When your child is organized, sticking to his schedule, and participating in physical activity like you’ve asked him to, make sure you’re rewarding him for his efforts and thanking him for his cooperation.

Positive reinforcement through small rewards is just one aspect of managing your child’s behavior. Set rules and make it clear to your child that you expect him to follow them at home and at school. Be specific when disciplining your child and let him know exactly how you’d like him to improve his behavior.

Be specific with your praise as well so he can continue to make you proud by doing exactly what you’ve asked him to. Giving him the praise he deserves will encourage him to continue to succeed in life at home and life in the classroom.

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!

Find-Out-More-About-ADHD
Joyce Wilson is a retired teacher with decades of experience. Today, she is a proud grandmom and mentor to teachers in her local public school system. She and a fellow retired teacher created TeacherSpark.org to share creative ideas and practical resources for the classroom.

Top Sensory Strategies for Use in the Classroom

Promoting your child’s success at school can be a challenging task, particularly for parents of childrenSensory Strategies with sensory processing difficulties. Communication between parents, teachers and school personnel is critical for establishing a safe, supportive and enriching environment. Children with sensory integration difficulties may have enormous problems in the classroom, not because of a lack of intelligence or willingness to learn, but rather resulting from difficulty coping with a neurologic system that isn’t organizing and responding appropriately to a variety of sensory stimulation from the external world.

A well- organized sensory system is important for everything a child does, especially when it comes to maintaining focus and attention in the environment of a classroom. While the child with sensory integration difficulties can benefit from a sensory-smart classroom, so can every child. All children benefit from a calm, distraction free classroom where they can feel more in control, and in turn, improve their schoolwork and social skills.

The following is a compilation of sensory strategies for use in the classroom to promote the learning potential of every child, including those with sensory processing challenges:

Provide “Heavy Work” Opportunities:

Heavy work gives necessary input to the child’s body, helping him develop an improved body awareness and regulating his system. Allow the child to take responsibility in the classroom by completing specific “jobs.”

  • Carry books to the library, or to another teacher
  • Hand out papers to the class
  • Watering plants in the classroom
  • Push/pull heavy items in the classroom, i.e., chairs, boxes, class supplies
  • Erase the board
  • Empty wastebaskets or recycling

Seating Modifications:

Providing movement opportunities on the child’s seat, or at his desk is a great way to provide necessary sensory input many children crave, while also helping to increase their attention during stationary, table top tasks.

  • Tie a Theraband around the front legs of the child’s chair
  • Provide a wiggle seat to place on the chair surface
  • Allow time for “chair push-ups,” especially before seated writing tasks

Keep Those Hands Busy:

Many children with sensory processing challenges have a need for tactile input, resulting in constant touching of objects, and other classmates. For these kiddos, maintaining an optimal arousal level with regular (and non-distracting) tactile input is important.

  • Place a Velcro strip on, or inside of the child’s desk, or on the edge of his seat
  • Give the child a small bottle of lotion (with a calming scent, such as lavender) to place in his desk, or in his back pack, for those times when he needs to move his hands
  • Experiment with fidgets in a variety of forms: worry stone, paperclips, squeeze ball, necklace fidgets, bracelets, zipper pull fidgets, etc. (For some children, however, these items may be too distracting. If the object is decreasing attention, opt for the sensory input as noted above with Velcro placed on the desk itself.)

Movement Breaks:

All children need frequent breaks from work to get up and stretch and move their bodies. Frequent gross motor breaks help to “wake-up” the body and reset the brain, increasing arousal levels, resulting in improved attention and a calm body

  • Provide simplified yoga routines
  • Try jumping jacks, or marching around the classroom (or at the desk)
  • Try “animal walks,” such as bear walk, crab walk, or frog jumps
  • Recess time with active play including running, jumping and climbing

Reducing Visual and Auditory Stimulus:

For those children who become overwhelmed with too much visual input, or noise in the classroom, try the following strategies to help them maintain attention and focus.

  • Use low light, or natural light as much as possible versus fluorescent lighting
  • Provide a “quiet space” in one corner of the classroom where children can complete work with less distractions (adding beanbags to sit in this space would be a great addition as well)
  • Play quiet, rhythmic music
  • Eliminate clutter on bulletin boards
  • Place a curtain or sheet over open shelves containing games, art materials, toys that may be distracting

Snack Time:

Chewing, biting, or sucking on hard, crunchy items can be very regulating and calming for kids with sensory challenges.

  • Parents can pack chewy food items such as a bagel, or dried fruit to provide great oral proprioceptive input
  • Teachers may want to allow a water bottle with a thick straw to be kept at the desk (adding a little lemon to the water may help arousal levels as well)
  • Parents can pack a wide-mouth straw for eating items such as yogurt and applesauce
  • Provide crunchy fruit and veggie snacks such as apples, carrots and celery

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!

Meet-With-An-Occupational-Therapist

child hates to read

Help! My Child Hates to Read

Reading homework and practice is a constant throughout a child’s educational career from the very beginning when a child is learning to read. Children need to practice reading for a variety of reasons, mainly to improve their own literacy skills, but also to be introduced to new vocabulary and concepts. Obviously, reading practice is important, but it is not always the easiest activity to complete in a child’s day, especially if he or she does not enjoy reading. Try these strategies to improving a child’s motivation to participate in reading activities.

Inspire your child to read with these tips:

  1. Let your child choose what he or she reads: If a child is not interested in reading a certainHelp! My Child Hates to Read book or story, it will only add to the negativity surrounding reading. Take your child to the library and give him or her the opportunity to explore various topics and pick something he or she is interested in. With added interest, comes increased motivation, which will ultimately lead to a more positive reading experience.
  1. EBooks: Try downloading a book on yours or the child’s iPad or computer. With the added flare of electronics, a child may be more motivated to complete his or her reading practice. Be sure to set boundaries with the child that no other activities or games should be completed on the iPad/computer during reading time.
  1. Family Reading Time: It can be difficult to get a child to separate him or herself from the rest of the family and afternoon activities to complete reading. Instead of having an individual expectation for one child, have the entire family sit down for their own respected reading time. This will help your child not feel so left out or discouraged when they are to complete their reading, instead it will be a family activity.
  1. Incentive Chart: Incentive charts work as a great motivational tool by giving the child something to work towards. Give your child a goal (e.g., 10 starts). You child can work towards that goal each time they complete their reading. Once the child earns the goal, they can then receive a motivating reward (e.g., getting a slurpee, a trip to the movie theater, etc.)
  1. Talk with your child: Have a discussion with your child about why he or she hates reading. It may be because it is hard for them. Be knowledgeable of the warning signs for a reading disorder, as your child may require additional support in this area. See the list of warning signs below and consult with your child’s teacher to get a better understanding for your child’s reading abilities:

Warning Signs of a Reading Disorder:

  • Dislike or avoidance of reading
  • Not understanding that words can be segmented (e.g., “cowboy” broken down is “cow” and “boy”).
  • Trouble with sound-letter relationships
  • Difficulty sounding out words
  • Difficulty understanding written and spoken language
  • Difficulty rhyming

Click here for more tips on how to get your child interested in reading.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview 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!

signs a child may need PT at school

Signs at School a Child May Need Physical Therapy

Teachers can be wonderful allies to the healthcare field. They spend up to 8 hours a day observing and helping children. Often times, they are the first to notice concerning signs, and when given the right tools, can direct parents where to go to get their children the help they need. Here a few signs teachers can look out for that would warrant a physical therapy screen.

5 Signs at School a Child May Need Physical Therapy:

  1. Unable to keep up with peers during recess or P.E – This may present as a child whosigns a child may need PT at school doesn’t follow friends onto the jungle gym or pulls themselves out of games of tag. A child would benefit from a physical therapy screen if they are unable to perform a jumping jack or skip forward.
  2. “W”-sits or props onto arm when sitting criss-cross – A child who sits in a “w” position or props onto their arm when sitting on the floor may present with weak core muscles. Weak core muscles result in a poor foundation for other fine motor skills, and may present in sloppy or slow handwriting, poor cutting skills, or decreased independence in self care tasks.
  3. Places both feet onto step when going up and down stairs – A child should be able to go up and down a set of stairs, without holding onto a handrail, by the age of 4. A child who presents difficulty, or immature form, during a stair task, may have lower extremity weakness, impaired balance, or developmental coordination disorder.
  4. Toe-Walking Toe-walking or early heel rise during gait (which may looking like bouncing while walking) can arise from a multitude of impairments including muscle tightness, core weakness, impaired balance, etc. Prolonged toe-walking may also result in any of the above, excessive falls, or muscle contractures.
  5. Poor sitting posture at desk – Poor posture may be a sign of decreased endurance of trunk muscles. Trunk weakness may also result in a poor foundation for fine motor skills, resulting in poor handwriting, decreased grasping ability, or decreased independence in self care tasks.

Click here to view our gross motor milestones infographic!

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview 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!

Girl with painted hands

School is Out: Crafts for the Summer!

The weather is warm and children (and teachers) are getting antsy.  This could only mean one thing…SCHOOL IS OUT FOR SUMMER!  Here are some ideas for crafts for the summer that can be created and enjoyed outside.

Beaded Wind Chimes

Supplies:

  • Paper cup
  • Pipe cleaner
  • String or Yarn
  • Big beads
  • Small bells
  • Metal washer
  • Drinking straws
  • Poster paint or acrylic paint
  • Paint brushes
  • Scissors
  • Hole punch

Steps:

1)     Trim a paper cup to a height of approximately 2 to 3 inches.

2)     Punch 4 evenly-spaced holes around the cup’s mouth. Punch a small hole at the center of the paper cup base.

3)     Paint the paper cup with poster paint and make your own designs.  *Use acrylic paint if the surface of your paper cup is glossy or waxy.

4)     Cut 4 equal lengths of string about 12 in. long. Cut a 5th string that is 14 in. long—this will be the pendulum.

5)     Tie a small bell at the end of 4 of the strings.Girl with painted hands

6)     Cut drinking straws into 1-inch long pieces.

7)     String beads and drinking straws through each of the 4 strings. Leave 1.5 to 2 inches at the top of each string.

8)     Attach the beaded strings to the painted paper cup through the punched-out holes.

9)     To make the pendulum:

— Trim a pipe cleaner to 6 in. and make a loop on one end.

— Tie one end of the 5th string through the loop on the pipe cleaner. Attach a metal washer on the other end of the string.

10)  Attach the pendulum by inserting the end of the pipe cleaner through the hole at the center of the paper cup. Pull all the way through, the loop on the pipe cleaner serves as a stopper and as the wind chime’s handle.

11)  Check if the metal button or washer is at the same level as the bells.

12)  Hang outside and let the breeze work its magic!

Paper Plate Frisbees

Supplies:

  • 4 paper plates
  • Markers, crayons, or paint (will need paint brushes)
  • Scissors
  • Clear shipping tape

Steps:

1)     Place both plates right side up, as if you were going to put food on them. Cover them with clear shipping tape, allowing the excess tape to overlap, but do not fold it over.

2)     Use the scissors to cut off the excess around the plate.

3)     Turn the plates upside down and use markers or crayons to decorate as you wish.

4)     Place both plates together so that the decorated sides are facing out. Holding the plates together, cut a circle out of the center of each plate.

5)     Place both plates, decorated side facing up, onto the work surface. Using the clear shipping tape, cover the decorated side, over lapping the center circle. Fold the edges over through the center circle and trim the edges of the outside of the plate.

6)     Place the two plates together, decorative side facing outward, and tape all of the edges together.

Bubble Painting

Supplies:

  • Paint—tempera (liquid or powder)
  • Liquid Dishwashing soap
  • Drinking straw
  • Paper—construction or copy
  • Large shallow dish (2-3)

 

Steps:

1)     Pour a quarter cup liquid dishwashing detergent into a shallow dish. If you use powdered tempera paint, mix a small amount of water with the paint. (If you want to have a variety of colors, use multiple shallow dishes for each color)

2)     Add the paint mixture or liquid tempera to the dishwashing liquid until the color is very dark.

3)     Place one end of a straw into the mixture, and blow until the bubbles are almost flowing over the edge of the dish.

4)     Gently place a piece of paper on top of the bubbles and hold it in place until several bubbles have popped.

5)     Continue this process with different colors, blowing more bubbles as needed.

*This technique is wonderful for making home-made greeting cards!!

Mix together the paint and some washing up liquid in the tray. Add some water until it is runny enough to blow bubbles. Use the drinking straw to blow into the paint to make bubbles.

Gently place the paper on top of the bubbles. When the bubbles pop remove the paper and leave to dry.






Child getting tutored

What Makes A Good Tutor?

It is quite common for a child in elementary school and junior high school to have an academic tutor. Parents often ask us what we recommend for a tutor. What characteristics, what training is needed, etc. It is impossible to give a patented answer for these questions. The characteristics and qualities of the tutor really must be dependent upon the concerns presented by the child.

If a child presents with a learning disability such as dyslexia, it is vital that the tutor have specialized training in an intervention for that issue. Remedial support to keep the child ‘afloat’ in class simply will not cut it. If the tutor indicates that they utilize a specialized approach to tutoring, parents should always ask the individual if they are certified in that approach. The certification will at least provide the bare minimum standards that the individual received quality training.

If the child does not present a learning disability but is struggling with learning concepts and material in the classroom, it would be recommended that he or she work with a tutor that actually knows the curricula. The first place the parents should turn is the school. Many times teachers within the school provide outside tutoring or at least the school can provide a list of tutors that they would recommend.

If the main concern is a nightly battle between the parents and the child, I have made the recommendation of hiring a high school student to come and spend an hour or so a day with the child to help with homework. This way the stress of battling with your child is taken away.

Packed tutoring programs may be beneficial for retention of skill sets. These might prove best to be implemented over the summer.

Overall, the type of tutoring and amount of intervention needed truly depends on the child as well as what the concern and need for intervention is.







The Importance of Sleep in Adolescence

Sleep is vital for everyone.  Many children and adolescents do not get enough sleep on a nightly basis.  Research has demonstrated that there are some major concerns with an adolescent’s social and academic behavior when he or she does not get enough sleep.

There have been several studies examining later school start days in which the adolescents are able to get more sleep due to later morning awakenings and the positive results with their academic and behavioral functioning (Beebe, 2011).

These studies indicated that these adolescents who are able to attain more sleep demonstrate the following:

  • Less subjective and physiological sleepiness
  • Improved high school enrollment stability
  • Better attendance among the least stable students
  • Less tardiness
  • Fewer automobile accidents
  • Fewer sick days

Anytime an adolescent exhibits concerns with academic, social, emotional, or behavioral functioning, it is always recommended to assess that individual’s amount and quality of sleep.  Click here to read more on how a lack of sleep affects children.

If you have concerns about your teen’s sleep, contact our neuropsychology department for more information.

Reference: Beebe, D. (2011).  A brief primer on sleep for pediatric and clinical neuropsychologists.  Child Neuropsychology.

5 Ways to Help Your Child “Kick-Off” a Conversation

Many people look forward to fall for the start of football season and back-to-school; however, it can also be an intimidating time for children who struggle with social interaction with peers.  For some kids, talking with friends comes naturally.  Other kids need some help.  If your child finds it difficult to strike up a conversation with friends, encourage her to take the following steps to “kick-off” a discussion with peers that will set the foundation for wonderful friendships in the school year to come.

5 ways to help your child “kick-off” a conversation:

Ask “Get-to-know-you” Questions:

  • What’s your name?
  • What grade are you in?
  • Do you like sports?
  • Do you have brothers/sisters/pets?

Discuss Seasonal Topics:

  • Ask about summer break/vacations/camps
  • Discuss favorite fall football teams

Talk About News Events:

  • Sports games
  • Presidential election
  • “Did you hear about…?”

Share Stories from the Summer:

  • A good book you are reading/read
  • A movie you saw Read more

Conquer the Back-to-School Blues

Summer is winding down, and school is fast approaching.  While this time of year brings excitement, it also triggers stressors in parents and children alike. Children wonder so many things: What classroom will they be in? Who will be in their class? How will their teacher handle their idiosyncrasies? Parents also have their own set of questions regarding their children’s return to school. Follow the tips below to help ease the whole family into the new routine of school and to help everyone conquer the back-to-school blues.

Steps to Conquer the Back-to-School Blues:

  • List the positives of each possible classroom assignment and teacher. The mere mention of your child’s classroom placement may cause him, and you as parents, concern. Instead of worrying about it, come up with a list with your child about the positives of each classroom option. Be creative and help your child explore the small (but potentially positive) details of being in every classroom available to him. For example, one classroom may be closer to the washroom, or one might have a door to the playground. Listing the positives of each potential teacher/teacher’s aide is also recommended. This can help put you and your child at ease by recognizing that there are great things about any classroom possibility.
  • Remember that there are opportunities to see friends outside of the classroom. When the class list is posted and you and your child find out that he may not have many friends in his classroom, remind him that he can see his friends before and after school, at lunch, at recess, and in elective-type classes.  Also, if there are children of concern in your child’s classroom, it is also helpful to remember that there will be some opportunities throughout the day to mingle with other kids. Listing the positives of some, or all, of the kids in your child’s class is also recommended here. This will prepare your child for the school year and for how he can get along with the peers in his classroom. Read more