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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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5 Major Differences between an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and 504 Plan

Your child has been identified to be falling behind in school in some way. Perhaps they are scoring below expected levels on iep and 504achievement tests or maybe they are exhibiting symptoms of inattention or become easily distracted. These symptoms may be keeping them from learning up to their potential. In another case, they may have an identified medical or emotional disorder that impacts them academically. Children can have a number of challenges that may impact them in the school environment. What can be done about these challenges? There are two formal plans that can be implemented: Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan. Below are five differences between the two plans:

IEP versus 504 Plan:

  1. An IEP is for children who qualify for special education services. To qualify, your child must have a documented learning disability, developmental delay, speech impairment or significant behavioral disturbance. Special education is education that offers an individualized learning format (e.g., small group, pull out, one-on-one). In contrast, a 504 Plan does not include special education services. Instead, a 504 Plan involves classroom accommodations, such as behavioral modification and environmental supports.
  2. An IEP requires a formal evaluation process as well as a multi-person team meeting to construct. A 504 Plan is less formal and usually involves a meeting with the parents and teacher(s). Both plans are documented and recorded.
  3. An IEP outlines specific, measurable goals for each child. These goals are monitored to ensure appropriate gains. A 504 Plan does not contain explicit goals.
  4. An IEP requires more regularly occurring reviews of progress, approximately every 3 months. A 504 Plan is usually reviewed at the beginning of each school year.
  5. A 504 Plan does not cost the school or district any additional money to provide. On the other hand, an IEP requires school funds to construct and execute.

To watch a webinar called: Getting the Most out of an I.E.P, click here.

 

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Properly Packing Your Child’s Back Pack To Avoid Back Injuries

Pencils, pens, wide ruled paper, markers, crayons, folders, journal, daily planner, three-ring binders, stapler, staples, glue, tape and heavy back packerasers. Don’t forget to throw in the latest and greatest lunch box as well text books. Here are a few tips to help protect your child’s body from the abundance of goodies that they are carting too and from school each day:

Packing a Back Pack:

  • Your child’s backpack should not weigh more than approximately 10% of their body weight.
  • The heaviest items that your child carries should be packed closest to their back.
  • Arrange books and other school tools in a way in which they are not able to slide around in the backpack.
  • Notice the items that your child takes to and from school each day. Could your child leave some items at school in their cubby or locker?
  • To prevent a back pack from becoming too heavy or tightly packed, your child can carry a book in their arms.
  • If your child’s book bag is still too heavy or bulky after incorporating these strategies, consider using a book bag on wheels if your child’s school allows it.

Wearing a Back Pack:

  • Ensure that the weight of your child’s back pack is evenly distributed to both shoulders.
  • When choosing a back pack, select one with well-padded shoulder straps.
  • Ensure that the back pack fits snugly on your child’s back. If a waist strap is available, encourage your child to secure it while wearing their back pack.
  • Adjust the shoulder straps so that the back pack rests in the curve of their lower back.
  • Choose the right back pack for your child’s age and size as well as one with enough room for all of their school supplies.

As a parent, you should routinely look for signs, including aching backs and shoulders, tingling arms, weakened muscles and a stooped posture that may result from a back pack that is too heavy or ineffectively packed. For additional tips, speak with a North Shore Pediatric Therapy Occupational Therapist.

*Back Pack Strategies for Parents and Students. The American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc.
Retrieved from http://www.aota.org/DocumentVault/Backpack/44388.aspx

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Signs That Your Child May Need Occupational Therapy

Young Girl Writing in Her Exercise Book in the ClassroomAt school, you or your child’s teacher may be noticing difficulties in your child’s school performance. Although you may not be able to see your child work in the classroom, there are some things that you can look for outside of school that  suggest your child could benefit from occupational therapy services.

  1. Difficulty Focusing – If your child is having trouble focusing on her homework, it may be a sign that she’s also having trouble focusing in class. If she gets distracted by noises or people moving about at home, she might also have difficulty paying attention at school and may not be getting the most out of her education.
  2. Difficulty Starting Homework – Your child may have trouble with task initiation if she needs help from you to start her homework or if she   can’t start without having someone present.  Occupational therapists (OT), can help your child work on task initiation so she can be independent with her schoolwork.
  3. Math Problems Don’t Line Up – If your child is consistently getting the wrong answers with math problems, it may be because she has a hard time lining up the numbers correctly. This may be an issue with organization or spatial organization.
  4. Typing Difficulties – Does your child have trouble remembering where the letters are on the keyboard, moving her fingers, typing quickly (in comparison to her peers), or staying error-free when typing? These are all components of manual dexterity and visual memory, which occupational therapists can help improve.
  5. Handwriting Issues – If your child has a hard time writing quickly and neatly, reverses letters, doesn’t form letters correctly, adds too little or too much space between words, or confuses upper and lower case letters, she may need OT to improve her handwriting skills.
  6. Messy Backpack or Folders – This may be a sign that your child has decreased organizational skills, which can affect her ability to complete the correct homework each day.
  7. Forgotten Homework – Your child may benefit from using a planner or calendar system to help keep track of when her homework and projects are due, as well as dates of tests and quizzes. An occupational therapist can help assess her organization and planning deficits and find specific strategies to help her manage her homework.
  8. Lack of Time Management – Does your child have difficulty scheduling her time? Does she spend the majority of her time on leisure activities, while not leaving enough time for homework and getting to bed at a decent hour? If your child is in middle school or older, she should be able to manage her time with little help from her parents.
  9. Poor Fine Motor Skills and Coordination – If your child has difficulty holding a pencil correctly, erasing completely, cutting, folding, or coloring, this may be an indication that your child could benefit from OT. Read our blog addressing daily activities for fine motor strength

These are just a few of the things that may indicate your child could benefit from occupational therapy. Occupational therapists can work on fine motor skills and handwriting, time management, manual dexterity, organization, spatial relationships, memory, and more. By improving these skills, your child will have a greater chance of succeeding in school!

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Executive Functioning Tricks for High School Students

High school students are often faced with ever-increasing demands for organizational skills, planning longer-term school projects andhighschool boy managing busy daily schedules. When there are challenges in meeting these demands, the student’s performance and confidence may be negatively affected. Because this developmental stage is focused on increasing autonomy, the goal is to equip your teenager with strategies that they can carry out independently and internalize as they continue to mature. The best way to do this is to have them practice in their everyday life as well as receive consistent feedback from the adults around them. In addition, giving the teen opportunities to say what is working for them and what is not provides them with a sense of control and teaches essential self-monitoring skills. Below are strategies for some of the biggest challenges that your teen may be facing.

Tips for getting teens started on tasks:

  • Develop a schedule with start times
  • Use prompts that will remind the teen (e.g., written plan/schedule and/or use of timers, alarms)
  • Adults can reinforce the use of these strategies by offering positive feedback

Tips for planning and organizing:

  • Develop time lines for long-term projects
  • Explicitly teach the problem-solving process (i.e., identify goal, identify possible strategies, select the best one, develop sequential steps and gather what is needed, begin, monitor, and modify as necessary). Model this process a few times and have the teen carry out the process while verbalizing the steps
  • Create a specific and protected “study time” every day that focuses on planning and prioritizing assignments
  • Have the teen make use of a planner to track assignments, due dates and study time
  • Parents and teachers can monitor the effectiveness of these strategies and modify them as necessary

Tips for decreasing impulsiveness:

  • Teach the teen self-monitoring strategies to check work for careless mistakes
  • Have the teen develop internal self-talk that reminds them to stop and think prior to responding
  • Reinforce the teen when careful and conscientious behavior is observed

Tips for working memory:

  • Teach the teen how to preview new material for greater comprehension
  • Daily practice and review of information
  • Encourage active listening skills (e.g., asking questions) and playing with the material in meaningful ways

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Teaching Your Child How to Spell

The ability to spell is a critical component for children to have in order to be successful in school and beyond.  The following ideas willgirl spelling help you teach your emergent reader to be a great speller:

Make Connections:

Spelling is best-learned in context. Several contexts can be provided for effective spelling instruction, such as word groupings and subject context.

First, spelling can be taught using the word grouping, also known as the word study method. This method teaches kids to make discoveries that involve patterns in words. For example, when studying words that begin with a hard ‘c’ or hard ‘k’ sound, children will discover that words that begin with a hard ‘c’ sound are usually followed by ‘a’, ‘u’ or ‘o’ (cat, cut, cot) and letters that start with a hard ‘k’ sound are often followed by ‘e’ or ‘I’ (key, kit). Children are then able to use the generalizations that they discover to spell more effectively.

Subject context can also help with teaching spelling. Is your child interested in trains? Gather a list of spelling words from a lesson on trains that will delight your child. Does your child have a favorite story? Focus on spelling words that are drawn from the story. When children are familiar with the words and have seen them in action in a favorite story or subject, they will be able to absorb the correct spelling more effectively.

Focus on All Sounds:

The ability to break down letters into their smallest sound or phoneme is also critical for spelling success. As you read with your child, be sure to teach all sounds the letters make including short and long vowel sounds, all consonant sounds, blends (bl, cl, tr, gr…), digraphs (th, ch…) and diphthongs (ow, ay…).  When children know these sounds, they will be able to break down words in order to spell.

Get Creative with Words During Play Time:

Aside from direct spelling instruction, the best way to help your child to become a strong speller is to encourage creativity and play with words during their free time. Have your child write a letter to Santa or to a far away relative during the holiday season. Create plays or short stories together and ‘publish’ them by adding a colorful cover. Use finger paints or iPad apps, such as “Elmo ABC’s” to encourage tracing, which is a fun way to reinforce letter sequence.

In general, spelling is best taught through a context of reading strategies and through experiences. The more integrated the spelling lesson is, the better. Have fun spelling, reading and playing with your child this holiday season!

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Works cited:
http://childdevelopmentinfo.com/learning/spelling.shtml
www.readingrockets.org/article/80/
www.specialized.about.com/od/literacy/a/spell.htm

3 Coping Strategies to Help your Stressful Teen | Pediatric Therapy Tv

In today’s Webisode, a pediatric social worker provides some useful tips to help a stressful teen.

If you haven’t already, check out our previous episode with Ali, discussing depression in children

In this video you will learn:

  • The first steps to take when helping a stressful teen
  • How to approach a stressful teen
  • Specific strategies to best help your teen overcome verbal or nonverbal stress

Keeping Up Behavior Goals at Home and at School

You have already taken the first positive step to developing a set of behavior goals for your child; however, as it is true with many of life’s most boy yellingimportant projects, follow-up is equally important as the initial step.

This blog offers suggestions relating to meeting those behavior goals you have set for your child by using three basic techniques:

  • Making Tracking Behavior Fun
  • Using Public Posting as a Motivator
  • Involving your child in the process of tracking behavior.

Making Tracking Behavior

The task of tracking behavior is much more effective (and pleasant) when you and your child cooperate as a team.  For instance, allowing your child to participate in making or decorating their behavior goal chart may make the process more fun.  Sit down with your child with a poster board and crafts materials to come up with the chart as a team!

Using Public Posting as a Motivator

It is important to understand that public posting should be used to motivate, rather than punish your child.  For that reason, using a reward-based system, such as giving gold star stickers, is a great way to get results. It also allows your child to see their progress he has made.

Involving Your Child in the Process of Tracking Behavior

Children respond best to behavior goal programs when they are involved in the data tracking.  Whichever system you are using, be sure to involve your child in the data tracking element.  For example, if you are using a chart in which behaviors are tracked with a tally system, allow your child to make the tally marks and be sure that they understand what the marks signify.  By doing this, they will be more involved in the process of tracking behavior and they will better understand the goals they are trying to achieve!

Get Teachers involved in Tracking Behavior

Consistency is crucial when it comes to reaching behavioral goals.  This implies that the behaviors need to be tracked and addressed at school as well as at home.  Teachers are a great resource that can help your child reach behavioral goals. Open a dialogue with them and do not be afraid to discuss any behavioral issues that you are trying to address.  Goal-based programs are much more successful when all of the child’s caretakers are on the same page!

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3 Signs of Childhood Depression | Pediatric Therapy Tv

In today’s Webisode, a licensed social worker gives us 3 signs to look out for when it comes to childhood depression.

Click here to read our popular blog outlining all symptoms and treatment of Childhood Depression

In this video you will learn:

  • What can cause a child to become depressed
  • Indications of depression in children

Video Transcription:

Announcer: From Chicago’s leading experts in pediatrics, to a worldwide audience, this is Pediatric Therapy TV, where we provide experience and innovation to maximize your child’s potential. Now, your host, here’s Robyn.

Robyn: Hello, and welcome to Pediatric Therapy TV. I’m your host, Robyn Ackerman, and I’m sitting here today with Ali Wein, a licensed professional social worker. Ali, can you give us three things to look out for inchildhood depression?

Ali: Absolutely. The main thing we really want to look for is any sort of deviation from typical behavior. So the first thing we want to note, are there any changes in eating or sleeping patterns? If your child usually wakes up really early in the morning and they fall asleep really early at night, and all of a sudden they’re having a harder time falling asleep at night and they’re requiring more hours of sleep per evening, this might be indicative of something greater going on underlyingly.

Additionally, any changes in the eating habits. Are they eating more? Are they eating less? Are they rapidly gaining and/or losing weight? Things that aren’t just sporadic, but you’re noticing changes in patterns of behavior. Another thing we want to look for is disinterest in previously enjoyed activities. So if your child really loves soccer and can’t wait for Tuesdays when they get to wake up in the morning and practice with their soccer team, all of a sudden they’re crying. They don’t want to go. They’re coming up with excuses because they just don’t want to go to soccer. That might be indicative of something else going on as well.

Finally, we also want to pay attention to any sort of change in personality, mood, and affect, affect being the way that we present ourselves. So if your child is typically really easygoing, calm, relaxed, and now all of a sudden they’re having trouble communicating, maybe, they’re a little bit more spaced out and more inattentive, they’re more easily to get angry and have outbursts, this might also be indicative of childhood depression.

Robyn: All right. Thank you so much for letting us know those three signs. Thank you to our viewers, and remember, keep on blossoming.

Announcer: This has been Pediatric Therapy TV, where we bring peace of mind to your family with the best in educational programming. To subscribe to our broadcast, read our blogs, or learn more, visit our website at learnmore.me. That’s learnmore.me.

10 Signs at School Suggesting a Student May Benefit from Physical Therapy

Children develop and improve their gross motor skills significantly during their early school years, between three and ten years of age. A lot of gross motor development occurs at school while playing at recess or doing activities in gym class. School offers the opportunity to recognize if a child needs extra assistance from a physical therapist in expanding or improving their gross motor skills.

Physical therapist treats child

Here are some tips for teachers that will help determine if a child would benefit from physical therapy:

  1. The child prefers to sit and play instead of run or participate in gross motor activities during recess or gym class.
  2. The child has difficulty jumping, skipping, or galloping when compared to their peers.
  3. The child has an atypical gait pattern (for example, they walk on their toes or they are “knock-kneed”)
  4. The child prefers to w-sit (with their knees bent, feet by their bottom, and bottom on the floor) instead of crossed-legged on the floor.
  5. The child frequently trips, falls, or bumps into objects.
  6. When walking up and down the stairs, the child does not alternate their feet, instead placing both feet on each step.
  7. The child is unable to kick a soccer ball.
  8. The child is unable to catch or throw a playground ball.
  9. The child runs significantly slower than his peers or has difficulty running for more than one minute.
  10. The child complains of pain or tightness in their ankles, knees, hips, or back.

If you see any of these characteristics in children at school, they may benefit from a physical therapy evaluation. Without fully developed gross motor skills, a child is going to have difficulties keeping up with their peers during recess or gym class. It will also affect their ability to participate in gross motor games and sports. Also, it is important to note that many children will exhibit the above behaviors and may or may not require physical therapy (PT) intervention therefore it is important to consult with a PT first.