Tag Archives: parenting

Supporting Children with Sensory Disorders while Traveling

By: Kelly Nesbitt, MOT, OTR/L, Occupational Therapist

When a child with sensory processing disorder goes on vacation, it may be difficult for their bodies to go into that “relax and restore” mode. Children with sensory processing disorders are constantly “battling” with their environment in many of the following ways:

  • Every sound is too loud and hurts their ears
  • Smells are abrasive and can cause them to gag or vomit
  • New tactile sensations send them into a panic
  • Changes in their normal routine can make them extremely anxious
  • New sights and movement in their environment can startle them

The following are some tips that may help support a child with sensory issues during a summer vacation so they may have a relaxing experience.

Visual Schedules

An example of a visual schedule.

If your child benefits from knowing what to expect in the day, it may be useful to set up a visual schedule revolving around your vacation. This can include the steps you will need to complete going through the airport. (Travelers Aid Chicago has resources to make a visual schedule specific to O’Hare airport).

Some children may also just benefit from going over what to expect on their vacation. You can help them prepare by saying, “We are going to the airport and this is what to expect…”  or “We will be on vacation for 4 days. During those days we can do these activities…”

Long Car Rides

3 kids in the car, reading a map, eating and wearing headphones.

Children that are constantly on the move may find it extremely difficult to sit still during long car rides to their vacation destination. Often times kids who are always “on the go” benefit from heavy work activities that involve pushing, pulling, and carrying. These activities give input to the joints and muscles which can be very regulating. Here are a few heavy work ideas specifically for car rides: 

Squigs are toys that can keep children busy on long car rides.
  • Squigs on the windows: I suggest this for children who need something to keep their hands busy with push and pull component to get heavy work. These small plastic suction cups stick perfectly to car windows and to each other. Children can build and make a picture with them on the windows 
  • Pop TubesThese toys also provide an opportunity for children to push and pull when you are cooped up in the car.
  • Animal walk breaks at rest stops: Just as you need to get out and stretch your legs during a long ride, your child with sensory difficulties will need this break too! At rest stops, take advantage of the opportunity to move by doing silly activities that promote heavy work: walking like a bear, jumping like a kangaroo, playing on a playground if the rest stop has one. 

What to Pack

Girl sitting in a suitcase

Here’s a list of sensory supports that may help your child while you are on vacation. Make sure to consult your occupational therapist about which items may be most beneficial for your child.

Girl wearing headphones.
  • Noise cancelling headphones: Some children benefit from wearing headphones if they are easily overwhelmed by the loud noises of crowds. Noise canceling headphones can range anywhere from $20 to upwards of $200. These might be handy for kids that would get overwhelmed by crowds, traveling on an airplane, or seeing a firework show on the 4th of July. 
  • Comfort item: Bringing a stuffed animal or blanket that your child finds soothing may be beneficial for when they become anxious or overwhelmed while on vacation. You could even add soothing aromatherapy scents such as vanilla, lavender, or chamomile to these comfort items for an extra sensory “treat.” (Always make sure your child tolerates and likes the scent prior to adding it to their comfort item. If the smell is too bothersome to them, they may not want to be around it anymore!) 
  • Weighted blanket or stuffed animal:  Some children with sensory processing difficulties find compression comforting. A weighted blanket or stuffed animal may provide some calming input and tell their body to relax. Weighted items are now available at most stores or online. Click here to read more about the benefits of weighted blankets.
  • Fidgets:  These are small items that kids can fiddle with in their hands to keep them busy and focused when they may feel overwhelmed. Fidgets can be bracelets, putty, pop tubes, etc. 
  • Identification bracelets: Sometimes when a child is overwhelmed, they may run away from the group. Because of this, it may be a good idea to make a bracelet with your phone number on it so that you can be reached in case of an emergency. Options include beads with numbers on them, temporary tattoos that you can specially order with your phone number on it. There are even cute “Disney-themed” buttons and tattoos with emergency contact information that you can specially order. Here are some examples of number bracelets and  temporary tattoos or you can design your own ID bracelet

The Benefit of Breaks

Children are working very hard to stay regulated and calm when they are being bombarded with all this new sensory input that comes with a vacation. They may just need a little break. It is absolutely okay to take some time in your hotel room or find a quiet spot for your child to regroup. Sometimes just a quiet room with a preferred toy or sensory tool is just the break that your child needs in order to enjoy the rest of their vacation.  

You can help your child create a “calm down corner” in your hotel room or wherever you are staying. This spot does not need to be complicated – it can be a little corner of the room with pillows, blankets, and some of the items previously listed in “What to Pack.”

This can be their special area in which they can retreat to take a break if they become overwhelmed and enjoy a moment away from whatever input is overwhelming them.

This is not a punitive space to send them to when they are behaving badly or being uncooperative. This is a calm space that you can offer them a break in or they can elect to go to when needed. Just as you may go sit by the pool after a busy day on vacation to relax and recharge, your child with sensory processing difficulties may need their own unique space to do the same.

Unexpected Meltdowns

Girl who is upset hugs her mom.

Children with sensory processing difficulties can have meltdowns when they get too overwhelmed by the sensory input in their surroundings and/or if they become too fatigued. As well prepared as you may be, you can’t anticipate or prepare for every meltdown.

If your child has a meltdown while on vacation, first try to figure out what elicited the meltdown and remove them from the input that is too overwhelming for them. It may be helpful to go through all 5 senses: Was there a smell, sound, touch, sight, taste that they experienced that caused them to react? Were they in a loud, busy crowd for too long? Did the plan change too suddenly and without warning?  

Once you have removed them from whatever caused the meltdown (as best as you can), give them input to help calm them down. For some children, they like compression from big hugs or weighted blankets. Other children need to put on their noise cancelling headphones and have some quiet time. 

Sometimes children with sensory processing difficulties can meltdown because they are so tired from holding themselves together for so long in a new environment. As a clinician, I have an understanding of the experience, and know it must be exhausting to be bothered by what most people consider “normal” input, such as the sounds of people talking, the feel of your clothes on your body, or the smell of the pool on vacation.

It’s important for parents to understand that their child with a sensory processing disorder is expending a lot of energy processing input from their surroundings. They may need more patience and understanding when they are having a tough time with changes outside their normal routine. It may be helpful for parents to help children label when they are becoming agitated, by saying “It looks like you are not comfortable right now, can we take a break?”  

Summer vacation should be an opportunity for everyone in your family to rest and recharge. If you need help brainstorming what activities/preparations would be best for your child this summer, consult your occupational therapist for more insight into your child’s unique sensory needs.  

Read our previous blog on How to Plan a Sensory Friendly and Accessible Vacation

For more information about Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley and our Occupational Therapy services, visit: https://www.easterseals.com/dfv/our-programs/medical-rehabilitation/occupational-therapy.html .

6 Strategies to Prepare for Your Child’s IEP Team Meeting

By: Kimberly Lechner, Ph.D.

About the Author: Kimberly Lechner is a School Psychologist, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, and former special education administrator. She currently runs a private practice in Wheaton called Kids First Collaborative where she provides psychoeducational evaluations, clinical counseling, and special education advocacy. Her daughter receives services at Easterseals. 

Boy getting off of school bus

It’s May, and IEP season is in full swing! As parents, we work so hard to support our children’s development, and we are so deeply invested in our children’s success at home and at school. We are thoughtful about how we collaborate with members of our kids’ school teams. We support our children’s teachers, and we hope that they recognize and value our voices as parents. Still, when it comes to the IEP process, we sometimes feel like outsiders among a team of educators who are making important decisions for our child.

As a school psychologist and former special education administrator, I’ve facilitated countless IEP meetings. However, as a parent of a child who receives special services, I am amazed by how overwhelming the IEP process can feel. As you prepare for your child’s upcoming IEP meeting, consider the following strategies to support effective and meaningful collaboration with your school team.

6 Strategies to Prepare for Your Child’s IEP Team Meeting

  • Proactive communication matters

Schedule a conference call with your child’s teacher or case manager to touch on any anticipated concerns in advance.

  • Request that teachers consult with outside providers in advance

This can include private tutors, therapists, physicians, or other individuals who may have valuable input. Be sure that release of information documents are signed for all parties. If necessary, ask private team members to provide a written statement regarding their impressions of your child and their recommendations for the team.

  • Review your child’s current IEP

Pay close attention to the following areas:

  1. accommodations and modifications
  2. special education and related services
  3. goals

Is your child’s IEP currently meeting his or her needs? Has your child made expected progress toward goals? Are there areas of functioning that are not meaningfully addressed in the IEP?

  • Request a draft of the proposed new IEP goals.

School districts often prepare draft goals in advance, and parents should have an opportunity to consider draft goals prior to the IEP meeting. Note that determinations around eligibility, services, and placement are ONLY made in the context of the IEP team meeting and are not determined or drafted in advance.

Review your child’s draft goals in advance. Are the goals appropriately ambitious for your child? Do you understand how your child’s progress toward goals will be measured throughout the school year? Consider sharing any questions or concerns regarding draft goals in advance with your child’s team.

  • Request copies of any evaluations of your child conducted by school team members.

You may also request any local data that will be used to support decision making (i.e. progress monitoring data and results of any district wide assessments).

  • Write your own parent input statement.

Every IEP document includes a space for “parent educational concerns.” IEP facilitators ask parents to articulate their concerns at each IEP meeting. However, parents often respond with something general such as, “We want our child to be successful in school.” Although this simple statement is important, it might not fully express your goals for your child nor might it clearly articulate your concerns. Your perspectives are better understood when you have an opportunity to thoughtfully consider your family’s concerns and provide input in written form.

My husband and I recently attended our daughter’s reevaluation and annual review meeting, and I’m still processing all that transpired. I’ve yet to make it through an IEP meeting without a tear or two (or even an ugly cry), but I’m so very thankful to share that my tears have primarily come from a place of gratitude.

I see each IEP meeting as an opportunity to celebrate the progress my daughter has made and to reflect on the wonderful therapists and teachers who have helped our daughter grow and thrive. Our Easterseals therapists have played an incredible role in our journey, and so have the amazing teachers, therapists, and administrators from our school district. When I reflect on our recent IEP meeting, what resonates most is the love and support we felt from each and every member of our daughter’s team. I am also struck by the significant commitment of time, energy, and resources that went into preparing for this meeting. I can honestly say that our family experienced what TRUE collaboration looks like, both before and during this IEP meeting, and I am so very grateful for the professionals who made that possible.

As an advocate, I have the privilege of walking alongside families who are seeking that same level of collaboration, commitment, and support from their school teams. I typically find that both educators and families are interested in developing genuinely collaborative relationships. Nevertheless, disagreements do occur, and teams sometimes need to thoughtfully examine their assumptions and reengage in a truly child-centered problem-solving process.  I believe firmly in the power of parent engagement, and I know that children do best when families play a central role in their education.

Our Parent Liaisons at Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley have firsthand experience with IEP meetings and are available to answer questions or provide resources on the topic. For more information, visit: https://www.easterseals.com/dfv/explore-resources/for-caregivers/iep-help.html

Pretend Play Activities

By: Laura Bueche MOT OTR/L

26_Jack and Kathleen

Pretend play is an important piece of development. It promotes social skills, cognitive flexibility, imagination, language, and helps kids process the world around them. When your child participates in pretend play, they are learning the social and emotional roles of life in a fun, hands-on manner. It can stimulate creativity and help them grow to be more comfortable with themselves and the role they play in their everyday lives.

Included below is a list of potential pretend play scenarios to get your creative parent ideas flowing:

Doctor: This is a great pretend game to teach your kids about responsibility, while encouraging them to be proud of “taking care” of someone else!

Kitchen/restaurant/coffee shop/ ice cream shop: This is a great way to help your children learn about food and nutrition, and get them interested in what goes in their bodies and how it fuels their energy.

Grocery store: Another fun way to help them learn about nutrition, while also helping them improve math skills by counting and setting prices for different items being “sold”.

Animal shop/vet: A fun hands-on approach to learn about animals and the important role they play in many peoples lives

Airport: This is a great way to help children understand the different means of transportation and travel people utilize, especially if they have never gone anywhere far from home

Beach vacation: Similar to playing airport, this can help kids understand about travel and the vast and different climates many people live in, especially if your family does not live near a beach.

Brownie Miliana2.jpg

Baby bath time/ feeding baby/ baby diaper/ baby bed time:

Similar to playing Doctor, this is a great way for kids to foster an interest in responsibility and taking care of others, while also boosting their confidence in discovering their helpful abilities!

Camping adventure: This is a way to improve kids outdoor skills, while teaching them about nature and the environment they live in.

Pirate treasure map adventure: This is a fun way to get kids creativity flowing and help them learn about adventures they can take and create in their mind

Haunted house: This can be as scary or safe as your child is comfortable with, and can allow them to explore and set boundaries in their mind for what makes him/her comfortable

Dress up/fashion show:

dress up

This is a fun way to let kids try on a new role for size, and to help give them the experience of “walking in other peoples shoes”

Police man/woman: Similar to playing dress up, this gives kids the impression of what kind of jobs people in their community hold

Gardening/ making mud soup/ building sand castles: A very hands-on way to explore nature and learn about the plants and trees they see everyday

Making toy/Lego cities: This allows kids to be totally free-spirited in constructing what they think a fun space to live/play in would be.LEGO Run Pre-Party 029.JPG

Making puppets/puppet theater: This is a healthy and fun way for kids to express their emotions and feelings, while also allowing them to explore new emotions they may not be familiarized with yet.

Firefighter: Identical to playing police officer, this allows children to try out the role of what a firefighter does for their community.

Pretty mixed race girl and Caucasian boy pretending to be superh

Super hero/ defeat bad guys and save good guys:

This helps kids understand right from wrong and the values you as a family have, while also helping them feel good about the choices they make.

Tea party: This is a fun way for kids to make up their own rules and find out what it means to be “in charge” of a dining situation

Post office: Kids can learn about roles in their community and better understand a job they see people enact daily.

Car washplaying carwash.jpgPerfect for a summer day, playing car wash can show your kids real life chores in a positive way, while also making for a fun water activity.

Fishing boat: This is a great way to get your kids to explore nature in their minds, as well as understand a fun hobby many people enjoy.

Santa’s work shop: If you and your family celebrate Christmas, this is a wonderful way to introduce the holiday to your children and help them understand the tradition of Santa Clause and what that means to your family.

Farmer: Similar to playing police officer or firefighter, this can help children understand a job people either in or out of their community hold, while also helping them develop a healthy relationship with food and animals.

 

Doll house: This is a great way to get your children interested in how a household runs and the work it takes to sustain a healthy lifestyle, as well as be a fun outlet for them to get creative and cultivate different personalities and traits for each doll.

23a_Brady_and_Cooper_CoulterRace track/ train tracks:

Similar to playing airport, this helps demonstrate to children the different means of transportation available to them, as well as foster a desire to explore and travel

Many of these pretend activities/games include props, but always feel free to encourage your children to use their imagination and create props in their mind or with another item in your house, especially if the props are not readily available to you.

From one mom to another: Early Intervention tips

By: Laura Van Zandt, MS, OTR/L

Having a newborn baby can be just as equally thrilling as it can be equally exhausting. Adjusting back to home life can be overwhelming at times as you are healing and beginning to learn all about your new bundle of joy. Understanding that all newborn babies are very different from each other, here are five tips that I found helpful as both a new mom and pediatric occupational therapist:

  1. First and foremost remember to breathe and smile. This time of your life is both wonderful and stressful. Deep breathing has been proven to be very beneficial. The many benefits include a reduction in stress and blood pressure. Deep breathing releases natural “free-good” hormones in our body. Learning a few techniques and tuning into your body for just a few moments can help. If you can force a smile on your face. A smile can be enough sometimes to turn any situation into something to find humor within.

    will2
    Try calming breaths while giving your infant a massage.
  2. Use your tribe and forget as much as possible about modesty. Your tribe, or your support team, doesn’t care what you look like or that you haven’t showered in several days. They love you for who you are and not anything else. Those first weeks can be challenging, especially if you have a children with medical needs. Let them help so you can a little rest to keep yourself going strong.
  3. Talk to yourself. It might feel funny at first but it can help. It doesn’t matter what you say. I often find myself talking about anything and everything- the plan for the day, what is happening right now, about my son’s family, etc. The added benefit of talking to yourself is your child also gets to hear your voice.
  4. Try to develop routines early. It’s really hard the first weeks adjusting and even thinking about routines. I’m not even sure most newborns have routines aside from eat, sleep, and diaper changes; however, if you can try to establish some routines it will help your sanity and also help your newborn develop. For my little one, we try to follow a little routine of eat, quiet alert/play if he stays awake, and sleep. I try to use similar songs and even sing the same song over and over when he is trying to sleep. You can even plan to take a stroller walk around the block the same time every day. Having routines help signal to our bodies a sense of calmness and can provide a little bit of organization when things are crazy.
  5. baby sleeping on white cotton
    Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

    Sensory strategies can be your best friend. Some ideas include the use of auditory input such as white noise, talking softly, or singing, movement and swings, and deep pressure or swaddling. It was crazy what a little bit of white noise did for my son. It was enough to calm and quiet him. Now I use it at bedtime to help him get back into a deeper sleep. I use one with a timer so it doesn’t run continuously. I also talk a lot to my son. It was amazing how fast he learned to recognize my voice and respond to a calm voice, if he wasn’t too upset. I was never someone who spoke aloud but now I found myself telling him all kinds of things. I think the soft melody of my voice must have some calming property for him. Also deep pressure and movement can help a newborn in those early months. When a newborn enters this world they are in a position called physiological flexion which they slowly work out of over the next month or two. Swaddling provides physical boundaries much like the womb which allows your child to feel secure. When they wiggle within the swaddle believe it or not they are learning very early about where their body is in relation to this great big world they entered. Along with swaddling you can also try massage. Infant massage has shown to be a wonderful bonding time for newborns are their parents. Movement is the next sensory strategy. I was very lucky my son loved his swing from the very beginning. I don’t know if this had anything to do with how much I moved around on my job, but back and forth movement is one of the best ways to help calm a child. Rocking chairs and swings can be your best friend.

If you find this newborn phase to be very difficult or think you child may not be reaching his/her milestones, talk with your pediatrician and schedule an evaluation. Many parents find physical, speech, occupational or nutritional therapy for short or long periods provide much needed support and growth for their infants. Learn more at eastersealsdfvr.org. 

 

 

Back to School…. Yay or Nay?

By: Sharon Pike, Parent Liaison

As the first day of school is fast approaching I am hearing two camps of parents.  The ones that are counting the days till the bus comes with the routine of school that brings a sense of normalcy and structure to their homes.  The other camp, is the one that are holding onto summer with all their might, dreading the routine and busyness that the school year promises.

Marita Blanken_4 cropped MG_9142BWhichever camp you’re in, know you’re not alone! Either way it’s time to shift gears and focus your energy on getting everyone ready for earlier bedtimes and wake ups, school lunches and getting out the door in time to catch the bus.

By now you’ve learned who your new teachers are so the kids know it’s coming. No one wants to send their child off to school frazzled so I recommend getting as organized as possible.
How to prepare your child

  • Move bedtime back and set alarms for earlier wake ups.
  • Start having the kids pick out their outfits the night before so everything is together in one spot for quick dressing.  If a schedule in your child’s room helps, make one that outlines the morning routine.
  • Have them help make lunch the night before so it’s all ready to go in the morning.

Preparations with the school before the first day

  • Review your child’s IEP especially the accommodations page so you can go to school and ask that things are in place before the first day of school. You don’t want to wait for the sensory diet items or special chairs to be available weeks later.
  • If your child has medical issues and things changed over the summer, ask to schedule with the school nurse to review any changes.
  • cammy can.pngCreate a one page at a glance about your child in a nut shell.  So, everyone from the principal, school secretary, janitor and lunch ladies understands your child’s unique needs and abilities.

Then hang on, as the first couple of weeks might be difficult. While there may be a few bumps to work out, before you know it will be October  and a nice routine will be established.

For help with your child’s IEP or other back to school assistance, contact our parent liaisons and visit our web resources at: http://www.easterseals.com/dfv/explore-resources/for-caregivers/iep-help.html 

Another great resource for back to school tips is from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

 

 

 

Myths and Facts About Raising Bilingual Children

By: Jessica Drake-Simmons, M.S. CCC-SLP

There are many misconceptions about raising bilingual children.  Many well-meaning professionals can perpetuate myths that scare parents away from speaking to their children in their native language.  However, research supports the many benefits of being bilingual.  Let’s disprove some of these perpetuated myths:

MYTH: Parents should primarily speak English to their children regardless of their native language.

01_Lucas_VasquezFACT: Parents should be supported to speak in the language they feel most comfortable.  Speaking their primary language will provide the most complex language models.  If a parent is learning English himself, he will not provide rich vocabulary and grammar models.  The child will be exposed to simpler linguistic models than if the parent spoke to the child in their stronger language.  Providing a more complex model in the stronger language is more beneficial to the child than reducing to just speaking English.

MYTH: Raising my child bilingual will cause a delay in language development.

FACT:  Children all over the world learn more than one language without developing speech or language problems. Bilingual children develop language skills just as other children do. If a child has a speech or language disorder it will show up in both languages.  However, these problems are not caused by learning two languages.

MYTH: Raising my child bilingual will cause him to suffer academically.

FACT:  Research indicates that being bilingual makes your brain healthier and more actively engaged.  It leads to better executive functioning skills, enables one to learn more languages easily and have more job opportunities in the future.

MYTH: My child will feel different than his classmates if he speaks another language.

FACT: Your family’s heritage and culture is a valuable part of who your child is.  Keeping him connected to your community and feeling secure in his identity will give him more self-confidence.

MYTH:  I shouldn’t expose my child to my family’s native language because he has a language disorder.

FACT:  It is a common misperception that when a child has a language disorder, its better to reduce to one language.   It may seem counterintuitive to continue to expose the child to two languages but the evidence does not indicate that bilingualism will impede a child’s English language learning growth.  If it is important to the family, they should feel supported in their decision to raise their child with two languages.

MYTH: I should only speak English to my child until he starts school so that he is ready academically.

FACT: The younger a child is, the easier it is for them to learn a language.  The most effective ways to raise bilingual children are:

Successive language learners: Speak to your child exclusively in your family’s native language. Developing a strong foundation in the first language will pave the way for developing the second language of English.

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Simultaneous language learners: Use two languages from the start.  Some families choose to have one parent speak their native language and the other parent speak English.  Some families choose to speak a given language on certain days of the week or certain times of the day.

If you are concerned about your child’s language or other development, take our free online developmental screening tool for children birth to age five. The Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ) will showcase your child’s developmental milestones while uncovering any potential delays. Learn more at askeasterseals.org. 

Executive Functioning Skills: CO-OP Model Expanded

By: Laura Van Zandt, OTR/L

Recently I wrote a blog on how to develop and strengthen executive function skills using the CO-OP (GoalPlanDoCheck) model. I thought I’d take a moment and expand on a very important foundational skill.

“Do with me and not for me”

So often we have great intentions and we do for our children. This isn’t a bad thing; we want our children to succeed. It’s hard to see them struggling. When we do for our children we neglect one very important step in developing their executive function skills. We accidentally take away their ability to plan, prioritize, problem solve, manage their space/time/materials, and reflect.

If we do not expect our children to be an “active participant” in his or her life, then we take away the many opportunities to learn the daily life skills needed for adulthood and the ability for learning how to tackle and master challenges. Involving your child in daily activities and encouraging them to be an active participant builds a strong sense of competency and positive self-esteem. It helps provide the confidence that your child can do many things and learn to ask for assistance when things go wrong.

Getting your child involved doesn’t have to be an elaborate process. Take whatever you are currently doing for your child and give him/her a simple job with the task. If the child is used to doing “nothing” start very small. Any job, regardless of how small (e.g. hold the pillow and place it on the bed while you make the bed, put one or two dishes into the dishwasher, drop a few articles of clothes in the washer, raise his arms to put his shirt on, etc.) is a start.

The best therapeutic opportunities are often right in front of you. There are endless activities (e.g. cooking, laundry, shopping, bathing, etc.) that make up your day.  You can use all your little interactions for many opportunities to develop executive function skills. By taking a little more time, you can  get your child involved around the house. Instead of just doing, slow down and ask for help. You might find your child enjoys helping and you may even start making some new memories together!

Basi Family

By doing with your child, you have the opportunity to break down the task so your child can be successful. In the process your child then starts to learn that a goal (e.g. making a bed) has many steps to the plan (e.g. put on the fitted sheet, do opposite corners, put on the sheet, put on the duvet/comforter, hold open the pillow case and put in the pillow, place the pillows on the bed). When we do the goal sometimes we work with a team (e.g. you and your child) and sometimes we need to adjust our plan (e.g. having them help this time) and sometimes we check throughout the process (e.g. did we get all the pillows?). You should celebrate with your child by “doing it together” with praise, giving high fives, and other gestures of companionship that you and your child share together. In turn, your child feels productive and competent; driving a desire to learn more. Over time your child learns to feel “good” about doing, and the typical daily challenges that are now a major struggle start to melt away. The child becomes more eager to learn, rather than driven to avoid.

I briefly used GoalPlanDoCheck but let’s use the concept in two better examples. Let’s use the first example for getting your children ready for school and let’s use the second example to model tools you use to help yourself get ready. Both ways involve your children.

1) Helping Your Child Get Ready in the Morning

Goal– While first getting your child up in the morning, tell them “It’s time to get ready so our goal is for you to be at school on time.” Use the word goal so your child knows that is GettingReadyforSchoolyour expectation.

Plan– Talk to your child about the steps. “First we need to go the bathroom so we can wash your face and brush your teeth. This usually helps wake you up so you can focus on getting dressed all by yourself. When you are getting dressed all by yourself, mom and dad will be downstairs making your breakfast. You need to eat your breakfast and then grab your lunch so we can get you to school. Don’t forget to double check your backpack and make sure you have everything you need for school or any after school activities.”

Depending on your child and the age of your child, you might simplify the plan. You might use visuals to help your child remember the plan. There are tons of different strategies that can worked within each child’s individual plan that are tailored to his or her specific needs and specific interests to ensure motivation. Depending on your child you might also need to use incentives to help with motivation and time management.

Do– Divide and conquer. Depending on your child’s age, he or she would not be expected to do all the pieces of the plan.

Check– Keep talking to your child. “Did we get everything? Are we on time? What helped us stay on time? What were time robbers?”

2) Modeling Tools You Use to Get Ready in the Morning

Children learn through modeling. This is a great way to begin introducing your child to this concept as well as teach through modeling different strategies.

Goal– While first getting up in the morning and working with your child, talk aloud to them. Talking aloud is not something that comes naturally and must be practiced; however, talking aloud is a great strategy for modeling the development of executive function skills. Tell them “It’s time to get ready so our goal is for you to be at school on time.” Use the word goal so your child knows that is your expectation.

Plan– Talk to your child about the steps; however, instead of listing the steps like we did in the first example, we are going to focus on you and tools that you use. This is important for kids who just seem disorganized, can’t get their arousal level just right, and just need help. Modeling is great to let them know we all use a variety of tools and that tools can be helpful. Here is an example of a conversation you might have while getting ready with your child:

“It’s time to get ready so our goal is for you to be at school on time. I don’t know about you, but mom is feeling really tired today. I have to get up earlier than you so that I can help you get ready. Do you know what helps me wake up so I can focus on getting ready? I start my morning with a shower. Sometimes the feel of the water on my skin wakes me up. Let’s try washing your face since we don’t have time for a shower.”

Notice how in this example, you discussed with your child a tool you use (shower) and provided them with an option to try. This is a great way to model. There are lots of other dialogues you can have with your child to model tools. This was just one example.

Do– Looks the same as in the first example; however, depending on the tool you may or may not be modeling. Do in the example above was telling your child and then providing your child with an example to do together.

Check– Remains the same. In this stage, we are actively involving our child to think and problem solve.

Have fun with it and know that you are working on developing and strengthening your child’s executive function skills. Executive function skills are developmental and must be taught. When working with your child, you are setting a path toward greater independence. Start simple and build gradually.

If your child is not used to doing much, start with a couple of activities a day. Pick a time of the day when you are not feeling rushed and your child is not feeling stressed. This will give you practice in how to guide, assist, and engage your child. Once it starts to feel natural, expand the “we-dos” into many daily activities. Do them together, giving him/her a little part to play, and gradually expanding his/her role to build more competence.

You are an important part in the development of your child. The more you can help your child think about what they do and why, the more they will be able to use that thinking in any problem solving situation. As my other blog concluded, the overall goal is to teach your child how to work through a problem using a planned approach instead of acting impulsively.

To learn more about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley’s occupational therapy services visit: http://www.easterseals.com/dfv/our-programs/medical-rehabilitation/occupational-therapy.html. 

Executive Function Skills: CO-OP Model

By: Laura Van Zandt, OTR/L

GOALPLANDOCHECK.

Executive functioning skills seems like the new ‘buzz’ word for therapists and parents working with children of all ages. Executive functioning skills include the ability to pay attention, recall a series of information, manage your time, be flexible, self-monitor for your emotions and impulses, initiate tasks, problem solve, persist as well as plan, organize, and sequence. One of our former speech therapists, Jennifer Tripoli, wrote a nice blog in August 2014 which you can refer to for more information regarding the definition of executive function skills.

One strategy that I like to teach children is a concept from the Cognitive Orientation to Occupational Performance or CO-OP model by Helene Polatajko and Angela Mandich called GOALPLANDOCHECK.

The CO-OP model is a “client-centered, performance based, problem solving approach that enables skill acquisition through a process of strategy use and guided discovery.” Occupational performance is what we do and how we do things throughout our day. Cognitive orientation implies that what we do and how we do things involve a cognitive process. The approach is designed to guide individuals to independently discover and develop cognitive strategies to meet their goals. That sounds like a lot of executive functioning skill development to me!

The use of self-talk is key with GOALPLANDOCHECK. When we require children to walk us through their plan and teach us their steps by talking aloud, they engablogge in more effective approaches to learning.

When teaching children, we start with the GOAL. We teach the child to understand the word GOAL as being something we are working towards completing. One strategy that has been helpful for visualizing the end GOAL is the concept of “future glasses.” Have the child wear funny glasses or simply make your hands in the shape of glasses. Then close your eyes and visualize the completed GOAL and what it might look like when completed.

The word PLAN implies there are a series of steps we need to do in order to meet our GOAL. To me the PLAN is critical for developing our problem solving skills.

Next we DO our goal.

Finally, we CHECK. The CHECK is really important for developing and strengthening our meta-cognitive skills. It is very important to understand how we can do better next time based on what we did today. CHECK gives the opportunity for feedback control by finding and correcting a mistake before the plan is final. It allows for incorporating flexibility and the ability to shift strategies when the current plan is not working.

KevinThis process helps children strengthen their executive function skills in the areas of working memory to pull from previous experiences, planning and prioritizing steps involved, persisting to achieve goals, and reflecting back by checking in with the plan to see if it was successful. If not, make alterations in order to be successful, eliminate time robbers to help with impulse control, and manage their time. Remember, initially it is about the practice and not the end result. It is okay to make mistakes. We all learn from mistakes.

Parents and family are an important part of the CO-OP approach. The effectiveness of the intervention is greatly increased when everyone is involved. Parents and family help the
individual child to acquire and practice these skills. It also helps them to transfer and generalize the learned strategies into everyday life. By providing explanations as well as guidance and asking questions at an appropriate developmental level, we provide just enough support necessary for the child to be successful. The more you can help children think about what they do and why, the more they will be able to use that thinking in any problem solving situation. The overall goal is to teach a child how to work through a problem using a planned approach instead of acting impulsively.

To learn more about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley’s occupational therapy services visit: http://www.easterseals.com/dfv/our-programs/medical-rehabilitation/occupational-therapy.html. 

Get Your Little One Walking

By: Bridget Hobbs PT, DPT

A child’s first year of life is so full of milestones… first smiles, first solid foods, and the first time s/he sits up on his/her own.  As the first year is coming to a close, many parents desire to see their little one taking their first steps around the time of their first birthday.  The typical window for children taking their first steps is anytime between 9 and 15 months, which is a big spectrum of time.

Below are some things that parents or caregivers can do with their child to help them get walking when they are showing signs that they are ready.

  • Set a good foundation for your baby. Walking involves strength from the entire body, not just the legs.  Believe it or not, creeping on hands and knees is an important milestone to achieve before walking.  Also, climbing over obstacles, such as couch cushions or parents’ legs is another good way to help build a solid core, or base for walking.  You can also help build strength in the core, arms and legs by teaching your child to crawl up steps. Try placing a favorite toy on the landing as motivation.
  • 01_Lucas_Vasquez2After a child learns to pull up and stand at the couch or coffee table, place toys away from their body so that the child has to rotate their body away from the support surface to reach for the toy. This technique will not only help build important rotator muscles in their trunk but will also gradually encourage them to stand with less support.
  • Once your child is standing supported holding onto furniture, have them practice little squat to stand movements. For example, motivate your child by placing a stacking ring at the height of their knees. While supporting them at their waist, encourage them to bend at their knees and hips to pick up the ring and then stand back up to help them place the ring on the stacking toy.
  • When your child is pulling up to stand, cruising side to side along furniture and starting to experiment with standing on their own, they are likely ready to start taking some steps. Hold onto one end of a hula hoop or small ring and encourage your child to hold onto the other side. While facing your child, encourage them to take a few steps while holding onto the ring for support.  You can also use a motivator, such as walking to pop bubbles or to grasp a puff snack as encouragement to get your child to talk some steps.
  • Weighing down a push toy, such as a small shopping cart or ride on toy will provide them the support they need to take forward steps. Often times these toys will move too fast, causing a child to face-plant forward if they are not weighted down, so place a gallon of milk or carton of orange juice in the shopping cart or ride on toy to help with this.

02_Josephine_Huard.jpg_waterIf your child is not showing any signs of pre-walking skills, such as pulling up to stand, walking along furniture or walking with hand held assist, and they are at the age when many of their peers are starting to walk, it’s always good to talk to your pediatrician about possible reasons why they are late to walking.

To learn more about  Physical Therapy and play-based therapy services at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley, visit our website.

 

Back to Sleep: Tummy to Play

By: Cassidy McCoy, PT

The Back to Sleep campaign rolled out in 1994 as an initiative to decrease the risk of SID, or sudden infant death syndrome. While this campaign has been successful in decreasing the incidence of SIDS, most people forget to finish the full sentence. Back to Sleep, Tummy to Play!

Placing your infant on their back during sleep times is safe practice, having your infant on their belly while they are awake (and being monitored) is very important for development.

Tummy time can promote:

  • Strong muscles in the trunk, arms and back, including strong neck muscles resulting in good head control
  • Development of appropriate spinal extension and rotation, which are both pre-requisites for walking
  • Initiation of exploring one’s environment, starting with vision and leading to reaching out for objects, rolling and eventually crawling

If a child remains on their back for a majority of their day it can lead to complications such as torticollosis, plagiocephaly or brachicephaly.  These issues can lead to developmental delay, including asymmetries with crawling and walking.

What if my child hates being placed on their tummy?

TakeThreePhotography_05202010-123
Photo from Take Three Photography

Use some technique to make it a little easier for them!

  • You lay in a recline or semi-reclined position and place your child on your chest. Being in a reclined position eliminates some of the resistance of gravity, making it easier for your child to lift their head. This can also be used as great bonding time with your infant.
  • Have your infant lay over a boppy pillow, so the pillow is under their chest with their arms and shoulders in front. This position is similar to having them lay on your chest, decreasing the resistance of gravity.

Making tummy time fun!                  

The more time your child spends on their tummy the more they will enjoy it.

  • Get down on their level! Position yourself to be in line with your child’s eye site
  • Place different toys on the floor that are motivating for your infant to play with, such as music toys or light up toys. The toys can be placed to either side of your infant’s head or directly in front of them.
  • Babies love looking at themselves! If you have a mirror or a toy with a mirror attached, place it on the floor in a position where they can see themselves.
  • Make sure you have enough space for your baby to explore. It starts with just lifting the head and will progress to turning 180 degrees on their bellies to crawling!

For more information on Physical Therapy and play-based therapy services at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley, visit our website: http://www.easterseals.com/dfv/our-programs/medical-rehabilitation/physical-therapy.html