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How To Avoid Anxiety As School Ends

The school year is in winding down and classes are becoming less structured on lessons and more focused on summer, end-of-the-year anxious childparties, and outdoor days. This time can be very exciting and fun, however it may also feel chaotic, unpredictable, and even sad for some children; children who are uncomfortable with change, children who have had a very successful school year and may anticipate a new school year with upsets, and children who may be switching schools for varying reasons.

The following are tips to help prepare your child for the inevitable end-of-the-school-year:

  1. Let your child know that it is OKAY that he/she feels this way, and that you understand. Normalizing and validating their feelings about the uncertain time ahead will hopefully take away any additional unpleasant emotions they are feeling, such as embarrassed or ashamed of themselves for Read more

8 Tips to Ease Homework Time Stress

For many families of middle and high school students, evening time becomes a stress-filled time for everyone. This is due to the fact homework stressthat tired and over-scheduled kids fight to focus to complete their homework. Fortunately, this time can become much more relaxed and productive with a few tweaks to routines and tips to help students to manage their time and work better.

8 Tips to Ease Homework Time Stress:

  1. Start with goals: Prior to making any changes to a homework routine that is not working, sit down with your child to identify their goals around their homework time.  Do they need to create more time?  Focus more effectively?  Remove distractions?  Get started earlier?  A meaningful plan can then be created from these goals with all family members on board.
  2. Create a dedicated space:  All too often, kids complete their homework with a host of distractions nearby: T.V., Internet, phones or other family members doing other things other than work.  Homework is best completed in a quiet space that is free of all distractions.  If the Internet is needed for research, this should be done during a specific time set aside for this purpose. Phones and televisions should be off.
  3. Create a plan: Before tackling any homework assignment, kids should set up a schedule that includes what assignments need to be completed and an estimate of how long each assignment should take to complete. These assignments should then be ordered according to their due date and difficulty level.
  4. Break down big assignments: When creating the homework plan for the evening, it is important to also take into consideration of any long term assignments that have been given. Divide these assignments into several (3-10, depending on the assignment) parts to complete over the course of the time until the assignment is due. Then, the big project is easily absorbed into the week, instead of being a shock the day before it’s due.
  5. Take regular breaks: Kids are unable to focus for longer than 45-50 minutes at a stretch. Plan 10-minute breaks into each hour of homework. The best breaks include some physical movement and/or fresh air.
  6. Keep track of paper: Students should keep assignments and notes for each class in a separate folder or section of a notebook. After completing each assignment at home, papers should go directly back into the appropriate folder.
  7. Identify circadian rhythms: Is your early bird trying to complete homework at 10:00 p.m.? Is your night owl frantically trying to finish homework the morning before school? Work with your child’s natural cycles in order to determine the best homework time for them, given other commitments. An early bird may benefit from rising an hour earlier to get work completed.  A night owl may focus best getting starting after dinner.
  8. Study Smart: Kids learn in many different ways. For example, take a look at Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence Theory in order to identify the way your child learns best. Tailor study time to their strengths. For example, interpersonal learners prefer to interact while learning, therefore, quizzing aloud and studying in groups would suit them well.
If homework time continues to be a struggle for your family, contact one of our Academic Specialists at North Shore Pediatric Therapy. Our Academic Specialists can create a homework time plan specific to your child and family’s needs.


When Should You Hold Your Child Back A Grade?

Many parents are often worried and cautious about their child’s transition from kindergarten to first grade. There are unanswered kindergarten kidsquestions and concerns that the child faces. Oftentimes it may prove beneficial for the child to repeat kindergarten and have another year to develop pre-academic and social skills.

Questions that need to be kept in mind when deciding about holding the child back or moving him or her forward include:

  1. How is your child doing with learning basic academic skills? Is he or she learning all letters, letter sounds, numbers, etc? Is this an area that would need further guidance and assistance?
  2. How is the child doing socially and emotionally? Is your child able to transition readily from the house to the school environment? Does your child have friends and engage in appropriate play with others? How does your child deal with changes in routine?
  3. When is your child’s birthday? If it is a late birthday, holding him or her back might not be that major since he or she will not be much older than the rest of the class.
  4. What are the kindergarten teacher’s thoughts? She has the best opportunity to provide insight about your child’s learning styles and social functioning in comparison to same age peers.
  5. What are your thoughts as parent? Always remember that at the end of the day, you are your child’s best advocate.

Holding a child back in kindergarten is not the worst thing to possibly happen. The child has another year to mature and develop. In addition, the child is able to receive additional intervention and services in order to catch up with peers and ensure that first grade will be the utmost success. Remember, pay now or pay later. If things are pointing to next year being tough and him or her not being ready, don’t rush. It’s great to be mature for your grade.

Why does my Therapist want to observe my Child at School?

There are many benefits for therapists that are permitted to observe their clients in the classroom. These observations, when schoolappropriate, are beneficial not only to the therapist, but to the teacher, family and child as well. These observations provide the therapist with additional insight into your child’s school day, as well as promote collaboration with teachers; constant and open communication within your child’s “team” (including their doctors, therapists, teacher, etc.) is vital to his/her success in reaching his or her goals.

Below are 5 reasons to why an in-school observation is important to help your child reach his or her full potential in the classroom:

  1. By observing a child in the school environment, a therapist can make recommendations and modifications specific to that child in his or her classroom environment. Important environmental factors include classroom set-up, structure, size and possible distractions (such as noise or visual distractions). For example, should the student have his or her seat located in a more optimal area? Is there something that is distracting the child, such as a certain poster?
  2. Provide realistic and practical recommendations. Without seeing the child’s classroom, it may be difficult for a therapist to provide recommendations that are feasible for each student and teacher to follow. For example, for middle school students, it would be important to know the distance from his/her locker to the homeroom class or how much time they have between classes to get from one class to another. For an elementary student, learning about the classroom “jobs” can be important for the therapist to know.
  3. Update and create treatment plans and goals for therapy. Not only can your therapist provide the classroom teacher with recommendations for their classroom, but by being able to observe a child in their own classroom environment, a therapist can appropriately update treatment plans and goals to optimize your child’s success in the classroom.
  4. Collaboration between your therapist and teacher is a very important part of the therapeutic process, especially when your child is having a difficult time within the classroom. By meeting the teacher in-person and other staff members within the building, a relationship and “team” is formed with the shared interest of helping your child succeed.
  5. Visiting a classroom provides a therapist with an opportune time to advocate for their students as well as provide information to teachers regarding their students and the challenges that the students may be facing, which can make the learning and school process difficult.

Following a school visit, therapists will provide the parent with feedback, including observations of their child’s functioning in the classroom and a list of recommendations. For more information on school observations, please consult your child’s therapist to discuss if an observation is deemed necessary and appropriate.

5 Ways To Prevent Meltdowns After School

Oftentimes, after-school hours and times of transition can be extremely difficult for children, especially for children with sensory processing disorder (SPD)boy tantrum. Children may often perform well throughout the school day, but then quickly meltdown after they get home. Meltdowns occur because the child will often take in a high amount of sensory experiences (e.g. noisy lunchroom) and has many demands placed on him/her throughout the school day. Once the school day is finished, the child is usually exhausted upon arriving at home, therefore, it is vital for parents to overly-prepare their children for what is expected of them after school (e.g. extracurricular activities, homework, bath time, relaxation time, and bedtime) so that the entire family can have a more positive end to the school and work day.

5 Ways To Prevent Meltdowns After School:

  1. Over exaggerate expectations:  It may feel silly at first, but it is extremely beneficial to talk aloud with your child about
    what is expected of him/her and what the day’s schedule will look like. This becomes even more important during the weekends when there is not as much structure within the day. Overall, children crave rules, directions, structure and routines, therefore, it is crucial for parents to be clear and consistent and provide fair and obtainable expectations for their children.
  2. Picture/visual schedule:  These tools can be incredibly helpful for younger children and/or those children who are particularly visual learners.  Picture/visual schedules help the child see what the schedule is (e.g. first snack, then homework, and last television time).  Similarly, when one of the tasks is completed, the child can put an “X” through the task or remove it from the schedule (e.g. if it is Velcro). This provides the child with independence and a feeling of accomplishment.  Ideally, this prevents the parents from having to ‘nag’ the child too frequently.
  3. Timer:  Both visual timers and auditory timers can provide a child with structure and with a reasonable goal to work towards (e.g. We’re going to practice your spelling words for 15 minutes and when the timer goes off, you can take a 5-minute movement break before moving onto the next piece of homework).  A timer helps the child know that there is an end in sight.  Similarly, for older children, a timer can help them to become more independent with time management.
  4. Calendar/Assignment notebook:  These tools can help promote responsibility and time management. In addition, they can also help  provide a visual cue.  Similarly, these tools can serve as a ‘to-do’ list and it can be a great motivator to cross something off of the ‘to-do’ list as it provides a sense of accomplishment and completion.  Try making it a habit to look over your child’s calendar/assignment notebook with him/her each morning. This will help both of you stay on the same page and so that you may successfully plan ahead together.  Ideally, this will instill good habits for the child down the road as well.
  5. Write a note:  Who doesn’t love receiving a thoughtful note or card?  Try leaving your child some encouragement throughout his/her week (e.g. Before her big math test tomorrow, leave her a note the morning before, near her spot at the breakfast table.  Remind your child that you know he/she has a big test tomorrow and that you are happy to help her study tonight. In addition, remind her to just take one day at a time and encourage him/her to just try her best). Having a positive support system can  help your child feel less pressure and less stress, even during difficult times.
Overall, structure and over-communication are the keys to your child’s reduction in meltdowns after getting home from a long school day.   Keep in mind that even adults crave structure and consistency throughout the day.  Feel free to ask your child which one of the strategies above would be most helpful for him/her- children are often more aware and knowledgeable than we usually give them credit for. In fact, they will most likely have input as to what works best for their body!  Please reach out to an occupational therapist or behavior therapist if you require more individualized ideas for your own child regarding after-school meltdowns.

How to Help with Homework

Homework time is one of the most difficult parts of a parent and child’s day, especially if your child has difficulty with the tasks Homework Helprequested of them. We are often asked how to give the help needed without “doing homework” for him/her. We understand, , that as a parent, you want your child to succeed in school; however, you don’t want to fight a battle every night watching your child struggle.

5 tips to make homework time a little easier:

  1. Remove all distractions: turn off electronics, clear the desk/table of extraneous items and provide enough light. It might also be helpful to provide a snack and ask them to use to restroom shortly before starting homework to minimize disruptions.
  2. Create a schedule: determine how much homework your child needs to complete that night. Allow your child to choose which activity he/she wishes to complete first, next and last. Choices are a great option to allow your child to retain some control during required activities. If a break is necessary mid-way through an activity, schedule that activity as well with a time allotment (e.g., “Okay, after your spelling words, you can have five minutes with your action figures before we start the math problems”). If your child would prefer a visual schedule, pictures can be utilized for the schedule instead of a written one.
  3. Make it fun: the best part about kids is that, in their world, everything is funny. Try practicing spelling words in funny voices. Use goofy items to count math problems. Practice handwriting with homemade mad-libs. Make up jokes and creative plays to practice new lessons. Emotions are contagious – if your child sees you having fun, they will too.
  4. Providing help: Children should never fail more than they succeed. In fact, they should succeed almost every time. If not, do what you can to make the task easier. Pick one aspect/goal for your child to focus on and you do the rest until they have mastered the task. For example, your child is required to write 10 sentences using new vocabulary words and both writing and sentence construction is very difficult for your child. Have him/her form ten sentences using a vocabulary word and have him/her say them aloud while YOU write them down. Once you have written the sentences, your child can copy your sentences by practicing their nice handwriting without the stress of making up a sentence. This will ultimately make homework time less stressful and boost a child’s sense of success and accomplishment, which are crucial to mental well-being.
  5. Use resources: Schools and libraries often have resources to provide suggestions for completing homework.

Remember, homework is an important tool that allows your child to keep up with their peers in the classroom; it should not be so time-consuming and difficult that it ultimately impacts you or your child’s home life and anxiety levels. If you have any questions, concerns or desire suggestions, feel free to contact us.

Warning Signs of a Learning Disability

Prevalence rates of Learning Disabilities have an average range of 2-10%. While we aware of the negative impact that learning learning disability girldisabilities may have on achievement, when identified early, your child can be given the opportunity to meet their potential.

Below are 7 signs that may suggest that further evaluation may be needed:

  1. Uneven delays in development that persist to school age
  2. Inconsistency in your child’s performance and retaining of information
  3. Your child seems to need extra time to process information, learn concepts and complete work.
  4. You notice an increasing, strong dislike for school
  5. Your child routinely avoids academic tasks
  6. There is a sudden drop in achievement or a consistent pattern of under-achievement
  7. You recognize a change from your child’s typical behavior or mood presentation (e.g. opposition, anger, sadness, anxiety, inattention or negative self-statements)

It is important to know that children with learning disabilities are not lazy. The opposite is more often the case; they are highly motivated and want to learn.

What can you do if you suspect learning difficulties?

  • Bring your concerns to your child’s teacher. Develop a plan that will implement interventions and monitor your child’s response.
  • If problems persist, request that an evaluation to be conducted. This evaluation can be done through the school, but it may take several months to complete. Parents may wish to seek a private evaluation for faster results.
  • Closely monitor the progress your child is making with any strategies that are put into place.
  • A final and very important point is to provide opportunities for your child to be successful everyday. This will help them feel a sense of mastery and achievement that all children require.

1.Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition, Text Revision. (2000). American Psychiatric Association: Washington, D.C.

5 Tips to Help With Social Concerns Associated With ADHD

Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) often present concerns interacting with peers and maintaining ADHD boysappropriate social relationships.  These children often present appropriate social skill sets; however, issues with inattention and impulsiveness directly impact their ability to execute these skills on a regular basis.

Below are five strategies to help improve the social interaction of these children:

  1. Keep social situations limited to one or two peers as opposed to having them interact with a large group in which the child will likely become easily distracted.
  2. Try to modify the environment in which the social interaction is going to happen.  Situations in which there are many distractions will likely set the child up for an uncomfortable situation.
  3. If the parent or teacher is in close proximity of the interaction, attempt to actively intervene in situations in which the child is not engaging with peers appropriately.
  4. Before the social interaction occurs, remind the child  about the importance of taking turns, eye contact, personal space, etc.
  5. If the interaction occurred at a friend’s house, follow-up with the other parent afterwards and discuss the interaction.  Use the feedback as a means of providing insight to the child about what was positive about the interaction and what he or she will need to improve upon in the future.

Many children with attention and impulsive behaviors exhibit social interaction issues.  They have a difficult time regulating personal space and picking up nuances in social interactions.  Above are some basic tips that parents and teachers should implement in order to help improve their child’s social relations.  If the child continues to struggle with social interaction, it is recommended that he or she work with a behaviorally-trained social worker as an individual or in a group format to help develop the child’s social skills.

For more on ADHD, click here

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Executive Functioning Basics

Executive functions (EF) are a fancy way to explain our everyday problem-solving strategies. EF are self-regulated behaviors that we executive functioning girlneed in order to plan, execute and maintain activities.

Observable Executive Functioning behaviors include:

  • Initiation
  • Organization
  • Transitioning
  • Inhibition
  • Goal-setting
  • Monitoring own behavior
  • Planning
  • Sequencing information
  • Self-control

Complications in any one of these areas may create difficulties in a child’s school as well as life at home. It is not uncommon for many children to have issues in EF at some point. In fact, it is the “norm” and it is related to the child’s developing brain. EF skills begin to emerge at an early school age and continue to develop into the early 20’s. In some cases, altering the environment is all that is needed in order to help children that are weaker in these skills.

Classroom accommodations for Executive Functioning:

  • Use a visual schedule on the wall or the child’s desk to reduce difficulties with transitions
  • Break-up assignments into smaller tasks in order to help with initiation and organization of tasks
  • Develop time lines for longer-term assignments
  • Utilize check lists as well as planners in order to stay organized and set appropriate goals
  • Perform a weekly clean-up of the child’s desk and locker to keep belongings organized
  • Provide specific feedback when the child demonstrates positive use of a skill

Home accommodations for Executive Functioning:

  • A visual or written schedule can be just as effective and necessary in the home environment
  • Set and enforce routines around daily activities (e.g., getting ready in the morning, homework, bedtime, etc.)
  • Weekly organizing of book bag and work area
  • Teach goal-setting behaviors by developing a plan to work towards a desired goal (e.g., special activity, material possession, etc.)
  • Model self-calming strategies and have the child practice these strategies
  • Develop independence in daily activities by labeling drawers and encourage independent follow through
  • Provide specific positive feedback for demonstration and effort

For an Executive Functioning checklist and more on EF, click here!

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Top 10 Sensory Tools for the Classroom

Below is a list of the top 10 Sensory Tools that can help regulate a child in the weighted vestClassroom:

  1. Weighted materials– These come in many forms, including belts, vests, blankets, animals and pads! These provide proprioceptive input without becoming distracting to the other students.
  2. Seat cushion– Seat cushions are generally filled with air and have a textured surface in order to provide many sensory outlets for your students without requiring them to leave their chair! The child feels the movement of the cushion as well as the texture. At the same time, the cushions are helping your child build their core strength to improve postural stability.
  3. Hand fidgets- Does your student have busy hands or seek out touch? A hand fidget is a great tool to provide that sensory input so that the student may better direct their attention to the classroom lesson or activity.
  4. Resistive foot band for chairs– Tie a resistive band around the front legs of a chair. The students may push on it with their feet to get the proprioception input that they are seeking without having to leave their chair or interrupt the class.
  5. “Helper Box”– Fill a box with books, papers or anything heavy. Have your students run an “errand” with the box to get in some needed heavy work and movement into their day!
  6. Pillow chairsCreate large pillows or purchase bean bag chairs to serve as comfortable places to take a break from the postural control needed to stay in their chair!
  7. Sound reducing headphones/ear plugs– Use these for students with auditory sensitivities when you anticipate that your classroom will become loud or when entering a loud environment (such as the lunch room).
  8. Touch box– Fill a box with rice or beans for students to dig through with their hands to provide tactile input. Another option is to fill a box with several types of materials for students to explore, such as felt and cotton.
  9. Resistive hand materials-Resistive putty, play dough or clay are all great tools to strengthen and keep hands busy!
  10. Chewy snacks or oral chew sticks– For those kids who seek proprioceptive or tactile input orally, allow them to chew on gum, eat something chewy/crunchy or provide a durable chew stick.

For more information on any of these products, please feel free to contact one of our experts!

For more on Sensory Processing Disorder, click here

 

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