Tag Archives: school

Back to School Organization

By: Laura Van Zandt, MS, OTR/L

With many of our children returning back to school, I thought this would be a good time to review some strategies to help with school organization. Kids need organization skills in order to function during their school day as well as to get their homework done efficiently at home. If your child struggles with a messy desk, overstuffed backpack, keeping homework and classroom assignments organized, or lost and missing parent/teacher communication slips then hopefully you can find some tips and tricks in this blog. Remember every child is different and what works well for you or another child may not necessarily work well for your own child.backpack

  • Most importantly develop routines and stick to them as closely as possible. Some children might benefit from additional support to help learn the routine such as checklists, picture schedules, and/or social stories. Younger children might also benefit from turning the routine into a fun song.
  • Create backpack organization systems. Look for backpacks that offer multiple compartments to denote separate spaces. A backpack with at least two compartments is highly recommended. Use a zippered pouch (clear is the best) for pencils, erasers, calculators, etc. in the backpack.
    1. Please check out my previous post on backpack safety.
  • Place a laminated checklist clipped to your child’s backpack zipper that lists what needs to be brought home each day. This one from Understood.org is great. 
  • Go through the backpack on a regular basis with your child until he/she gets the hang of keeping it organized. Gradually give your child more responsibility and continue to check in even when you have turned in all the responsibility to your child.
  • Create a simple schoolwork folder system. A simple 2 pocket folder often works best. Use a bright sticker to place on one side for “KEEP AT HOME” and another bright sticker for the opposite pocket for “BRING BACK”. If your children are older, you can create a color coded system that corresponds to each class. Books and notebooks can use prefabricated book covers or you can use colored paper to create book covers in a variety of colors.
folder
Picture from caffeinatedconclusions.blogspot
  • Depending on the age of your child you might start to create a really good binder system. The best ones have a locking rig. Some binders have a clear plastic cover which can be used to create large labels on the outside for different subjects (if you are using a different binder for each subject) or you can use it to hold assignment sheets.
    1. If you are going to start a binder system, then you should invest in a few more organization assistants. Things like subject dividers, a zippered pencil pouch, sheet protectors, two pocket three-hold punched folders, and a portable three-hold punch are really helpful. You can organize each subject section the same. Label each subject divider tab and then include an empty sheet protector immediately behind for important handouts. Behind the sheet protector you can include a folder which follows the same simple schoolwork folder system idea above.
    2. A different option could also be to continue to use the subject divers, zippered pencil pouch, sheet protectors, two pocket three-hold punched folders, and a portable three-hold punch; however, instead of using the simple schoolwork folder system idea above with the two pocket folders, you can create one global folder that is in front of the binder where your child put homework for each class in front. At the end of the day, when at home, you can then sit with your child and help organize their homework when completed back into each individual subject folder.

pencil org..jpg

  • Some children might do also better with an accordion file based system. One suggestion for organized would be using the front section to keep your child’s homework planner or global two-pocket folder homework folder. Each additional pocket would be labelled with the different subjects and might include a separate pad of paper for that subject. I like to avoid loose sheets of paper as much as possible with an accordion system as I find they tend to slide down.
  • Create an organization system for lockers. Some children like to create a container system where they use separate containers for different belongings which are labeled with pictures on the outside to know what goes inside each bin. You can also add a picture to the locker for a visual cue for where each item belongs which the locker to further help keep things organized. Shelves are also helpful to better divide the space.
    1. lockerTo help you and your child determine the most logical and efficient way to organize the locker and backpack, here are some helpful questions (source: The Organized Student)
    2. What is your child’s schedule like? If the schedule is consistent, you can probably just separate the locker into two sections, morning and afternoon. If it changes every day, you might want to organize differently
    3. What extracurricular activities does your child participate in and what supplies/equipment is needed?
    4. Does your child keep supplies and equipment in a locker at school or do they travel back/forth between school and home on a regular basis?
    5. How many books is your child required to keep track of throughout the day
    6. Does your child’s school offer a second set of textbooks on loan?
    7. What type of storage and accessories does the locker already contain?
    8. Does your child have time to go back to his/her locker between classes?

 

  • Create a homework station at home. Include all necessary school supplies such as pencils, pens, crayons, markers, glue, scissors, paper, etc. You can use everyday items (mason jars, muffin tin) to help organize items. Containers available at any office/home good are great ways to help organize. You can attach labels made from a label marker or also just use post-its and adhere using clear tape. Every item has its own place and it is easy to spot. Ask your child’s school if it is possible to get a second set of textbooks to eliminate the need to bring books back and forth between school and home. Mark off spaces for items like books and pencil box using painter’s tape. If your child is older, you might think about creating a “desktop file box” which is described in a lot more detailed in The Organized Student book.

 

  • Help your child learn to breakdown assignments into manageable chunks. One example includes folding worksheets into sections that can be completed before moving onto the next section.
  • Invest in some telling time systems. It is often helpful to breakdown into the concept of telling time, daily time, weekly time, and monthly time. I prefer to use analog’s watches or timers for this as you can see the passage of time which is missing from digital systems. When first learning to tell time and gauge time, create from fun activities to experiment with by guessing how long it will take and then compare guess to actual. It might be useful to have several timers. One for the global amount of time your child/you think he/she needs to complete the assignments and an individual one to break down individual assignments into manageable chunks and to add a spot for a quick break. If you can find an analog clock that also allows for a quick glance to see the time digitally, that might also help.clock
  • Finally, if you have read any of our previous posts on executive functions or attended our executive function client group, then you might be familiar with the group Cognitive Connections. They developed an app that allows users to create a time marker to get ready for work, a timer marker to check in during work, and a marker when the work is planned to end. There are tones activities when the time reaches each marker. This could also be a good choice for some children.
  • The key to any organization system is be flexible to your child’s unique organizational style and needs as well as be consistent and offer check-ins until your child has mastered the system. Even when your child has mastered the system, continue to offer periodic support.References and Helpful Resources:
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Comparing School & Clinic Speech Services

By: Valerie Heneghan, M.A. CCC-SLP/L
Speech Department Manager

 As a speech-language pathologist who has worked both in school-based and clinical settings, I am often asked questions about the difference between these two settings. Overall, they work together! I’ll explain more.

School-based setting

Qualifications

girls on desk looking at notebook
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Schools have entrance and exit criteria for qualifying children for speech services derived by their district or state. Using formal assessment protocols, children may need to demonstrate a deficit of a pre-set standard deviation before they are eligible for services.  There is usually a wide range of differences from district to district, so it is difficult to predict qualification criteria prior to the evaluation.

Services:

School services can treat children with language, articulation, pragmatic (i.e., social), and voice/fluency disorders to make educational progress. These services may be delivered in a variety of ways including one-on-one, group setting, or push-in to the classroom.

A Clinic-based setting (like at Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley)

Qualifications

Clinics typically do not have pre-set qualification criteria as they are not regulated by state or governing bodies.  Clinicians will qualify children for services based on clinical judgement using both formal and informal assessment procedures. Coverage for these services however may be dependent on the child’s insurance and/or may be an out of pocket expense.

Services

speech therapist.jpgClinics may be able to provide more specialized, intensive, or varied skilled services based on functional and/or medical necessity. Often these services are delivered on a one-on-one setting in the clinic, however additional options may be available.

Easterseals

At Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley , we offer a variety of service delivery models including: one-on-one therapy, community base therapy (groups), co-treatment with multiple services, tele-therapy services in addition to providing services in our clinic, homes, and through our daycare setting.

We deliver a wide range of speech-language services cultivated by upholding ongoing continued education/ certifications, state of the art equipment, and collaboration with multidisciplinary teams.  Our speech-language services work to strengthen children’s communication and feeding skills so that they can participate fully in daily activities and achieve success.

Our speech-language therapy services address functional communication, language expression/comprehension, pragmatics, speech-sound production, voice, fluency, oral motor, and feeding skills. Areas of specialization include but are not limited to the following:

  1. The Voice Box: A Motor Speech Lab, focuses on improving articulation, voice and resonance skills through cutting edge and innovative technology.
  2. Oralfacial Myology addresses disorders of the muscles and functions of the mouth and face. These may address tongue thrust, dental malocclusions, breathing, speech, swallowing, and chewing.
  3. Feeding services seek to ensure safety and adequate consumption of a varied diet. Treatment may address feeding issues related towards chronic diseases or syndromes, disorders of oral motor structure or development, growth disorders, failure to thrive or obesity, tube feedings, food allergies and sensitivities, gastrointestinal disorders, neurological conditions, constipation, diarrhea, sensory-related or Autism Spectrum Disorder-related feeding difficulties.

Voice Box Photo 3Our services continue to expand to meet the needs of the current populations that we serve.  Additional initiatives that we have been growing this year include: tongue/lip ties, auditory processing, and Spell-Links for improving spelling and reading comprehension.

I see value in both school and clinical settings!  I often encourage families that I work with, to consider both options based on the needs of the child.  Our therapists work with other disciplines like our Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Audiology or Nutrition teams. We make sure to consult and involve all medical professionals and school therapists that work with a child, to  review goals and achieve maximal outcomes. To learn more about Speech-Language services at Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley visit http://www.easterseals.com/dfv/our-programs/medical-rehabilitation/speech-language-therapy.html.

Routines and Why They Can Help

By: Laura Van Zandt, MS, OTR/L

Routines are very important for all children, but they can be particularly important for children with developmental delays. Routines help provide a sense of certainty and security for children by offering them a predictable pattern that allows them to know what to expect, which will result in less frustration as well as fewer tantrums or meltdowns.

Certain routines are almost universal, such as morning and bedtime routines, but others may exist for specific circumstances or stages of life, such as your family’s weekend morning or school or summer routine.

A great place to start a routine is having a set bedtime. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children ages 3-5 should get 10-13 hours of sleep a day (including naps) and children ages 6-12 should get 9-12 hours of sleep each night. The benefits of getting enough sleep are numerous and include mental/physical health, attention, memory, learning, behavior, and more. The AAP also recommends no screen time 30 minutes prior to bed, no electronics in children’s bedrooms, and having a set bedtime routine.

Setting up a bedtime routine:

Ryan - web
Photo from Take Three Photography

Bedtime routines can be anything you want them to be, as long as they are familiar and predictable. For my infant son, he takes a bath every other day. After his bath (or mom and dad quiet playtime on non-bath days), he gets a nice massage and we read a couple goodnight books. When he shows us signs of being tired, we turn off the bedside lamp, swaddle, and turn on the white noise machine.

This routine is something I hope to keep as he gets older. For an older child, you can do a similar routine but you will need to add in time for personal hygiene and perhaps next day activities such as pick out your clothes, pack your backpack, etc. You can use a similar routine for naps, except they would just be shorter.

Aside from bedtime, morning routines, can also be beneficial. Some families have different weekday and weekend morning routines, but other children may need to have one routine that stays the same regardless of the day.

Mealtime can also present an important routine. An easy place to start is to try to have meals around the same time each day. I know this isn’t always possible- but getting as close to a specific time each day can be beneficial and having everyone sit together to eat.

Additionally, having chores to do in family routines helps children develop a sense of responsibility and some basic skills, like the ability to manage time. These are skills children can use for later in life that you can begin at a young age. One great example is singing the “clean up” song when it’s time to finish an activity and move onto something different.

“Clean up clean up
everybody everywhere.
Clean up clean up
everybody do your share.

Clean up clean up
everybody everywhere.
Clean up clean up
everybody do your share.”

Routines can also be great for teaching personal hygiene. Ever heard a parent sing the ABC song while their child washes their hands? This is just one great example.

Here are some tips if you are looking to introduce routines into your daily life:

  1. Only change one part of the day at a time.

2. Come up with your basic non-negotiables and then give your children some                    choices (bedtime stories together or separate?).

3. Make a poster with the routine, including photos in the right order, to allow for              self-monitoring. In a good routine, everyone understands their roles, knows what              they need to do and sees their roles as reasonable and fair.blog_visual

4. Follow the same routine every single day for at least one month, after which it will         become habit and your older kids should be able to keep themselves on schedule for         the easy routines.

Establishing routines has lots of great benefits that can help both you and your child develop scheduling abilities, and increase the likelihood that your family will have a smooth day.

For more information on Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley, visit 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.

 

 

 

Helping Children Understand and Process Emotions

By: Laura Van Zandt, OTR/L

One of my favorite resources as a pediatric occupational therapist to help kids begin to understand and process emotions as well as come up with strategies for self-regulation is the Zones of Regulation curriculum developed by Leah Kuypers. The Zones of Regulation helps teach kids how to self-regulate and deal with everyday strong emotions or unexpected emotions for different social environments.

zones-of-regulation

The zones can be compared to traffic signs. When we see a green light, one is ‘good to go’ and can keep proceeding forward without making any changes. A yellow light, on the other hand, means to be aware or take caution. Sometimes we can keep going and other times we need to make a change. A red light (or stop sign) means stop. Often the behavior we are demonstrating is unexpected. The blue zone is most often compared to the rest area sign where you go to rest or re-energize.

 

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Photo by Christine Carroll

When teaching children to begin using the Zones of Regulation, I tend to follow three stages of learning.

  • In stage one, the child learns how to identify the terminology and sort emotions according to the physiological features of each specific zones
    • Examples:
    • Frowning, yawning, crying = blue;
    • Happy, calm, focused= green
    • Upset, butterflies in stomach, Heart beating fast = yellow;
    • Yelling, body feels tenses = red).
    • In this stage, there is a lot of detective work and identifying features of body language. I like to use a variety of pictures, books, and movie clips when possible to help during stage one.
  • In stage two, children start to learn strategies to adjust their zone and help them manage their internal emotional feelings. Children learn a variety of sensory motor strategies (e.g. swinging, taking deep breaths, walking, squeezing something) as well as cognitive behavioral strategies (e.g. expected versus unexpected, size of the problem, inner critic versus inner coach, stop/opt/go).
  • In stage three, children are more independent and are beginning to select appropriate tools to help with self-regulation. Depending on the child’s age, supports might still be in place such as visuals for choosing appropriate tools.

It is important to remember that ALL of the zones are expected to occur at one time or another. At some point we may feel tired in the Blue Zone, calm in the Green Zone, worried in the Yellow Zone, and possibly furious or elated in the Red Zone.

The Zones of Regulation focuses on teaching children how to manage their zone based on the environment and the people around them. The Zones of Regulation was designed to support people in managing all the feelings they experience, without passing judgment on what people are feeling or how they are behaving.

Leah suggests four main points to keep in mind with beginning to use the Zones of Regulation with any child:

  1. It is natural to experience all of the Zones; there is no bad zone.
  2. Our Zone is defined by the feelings and internal states we experience on the inside.
  3. Our behavior is a byproduct of how we manage our Zone; therefore, consequences should not be tied to a Zone.
  4. The context we are in helps us figure out how to manage our Zone so our behavior meets the demands of the social environment, and in doing so we are able to achieve the tasks we are trying to accomplish and/or the social goals we’ve set for ourselves in that situation.

Here are some additional tips to help kids develop their emotional intelligence and emotional self-regulation:

  1. Provide as much stability and consistency as possible. Consistent limit-setting, clear household rules, and predictable routines help children know what to expect. This is turns help them feel calmer and more secure.
  2. Model, model, model. We cannot do this enough. How we react and deal with emotions will establish the foundation for how those around us will also respond. We usually don’t have a choice in what we feel, but we always have a choice about how we choose to act regarding our feelings. Children learn from us. When we yell, they learn to yell. If we remain calm and speak respectfully, they learn to do the same. Every time you model in front of your child how to respond to an emotion, your child is learning.
  3. Connect. Spend time everyday unplugging and connecting with your child. Young children first learn how to regulate by being soothed by their parents. When you notice your child getting dysregulated, the most important thing you can do is try to reconnect.
  4. Name it and Accept It. Calling attention to your child’s feelings helps them understand what is going on inside them and learn that it isn’t okay to feel different emotions. Your child will know that someone understands, which might make him or her feel a little better.

The Zones of Regulation was designed to be used with students in early elementary through adulthood. Where relevant, the curriculum offers activities within the lesson plans for younger students. The Zones of Regulation was turned into a curriculum and published by Social Thinking in 2011, titled The Zones of Regulation: A Curriculum Designed to Foster Self-Regulation and Emotional Control. Since that time Leah Kuypers has expanded it into two apps, The Zones of Regulation and The Zones of Regulation: Exploring Emotions.

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. 

What is Occupational Therapy?

By: Laura Van Zandt, OTR/L

I’ve been an occupational therapist for seven years and it’s taken a long time to perfect the answer to the question “What is OT?” from people I just met. Today, I think I finally have a good answer.

To begin, occupational therapists see individuals across their lifespan and in a variety of different settings. We work closely with medical staff, parents, and educators. Typically there is some underlying problem that has initiated a meeting with an occupational therapist.

Depending on their training, there are a number of different approaches an OT may take to solve the problem.  One approach is the “Person, Environment, Occupation” (PEO) model. The PEO model (Law et al., 1996) is a well-known and established conceptual model of practice within occupational therapy. It offers a foundation for guiding assessment and intervention across all practice settings and client populations.
peos
This model of practice helps an OT consider the whole child…their roles, activities, where their performance may need help, areas of strength, and more. Since I work with children, I am going to define the person as a child. The environments are the places a child interacts (e.g. home, school, community) and the occupations are the things he/she does in those places (e.g. get dressed, feed themselves, learn to write/color/draw, play). It is an occupational therapist’s job to evaluate a child and determine what makes it hard for those occupations in all his/her environments. It could be strength, sensory, visual, etc. or a combination of all those areas. It could also require a team approach, short term services, or long term services.

Let’s look at an overview of the assessment process with a simple case study to make it easier to understand:

ASSESSMENT PROCESS (Person, Environment, Occupation)

Referral: A 7-year-old is referred by a doctor for occupational therapy services based on her parents’ concerns with difficulty sitting still at home and completing homework tasks. She also has difficulty focusing and getting ready for the morning.

Occupational Roles:
An OT would consider the child’s role as both a developing child, sibling, daughter, student, and friend. What is preventing her from participating fully in those roles? We would also consider the family’s values, interests and daily roles. We try to look at the client’s pattern of engagement in occupations (i.e. getting ready) and how they changed over time.

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Photo by Marita Blanken

In the example above, we would consider the entire family. This child has many roles. She is not only a child of a two parent working family, but she is also a sibling with a younger brother. She is also a first-grade student. In further conversations, we discover she also participates in gymnastics after school. In order to best support this child and her family, we would need to consider each of those roles and how they contribute to the overall profile of this child.

Occupational Performance Areas:
Then we consider the areas of occupational performance (e.g. activities of daily living, instrumental activities of daily living, rest and sleep, education, play and leisure, and social participation).

In the example above, this child is possibly presenting concerns with activities of daily living. Specifically, we might look at her ability to dress herself and completing grooming/hygiene tasks. Her mother, also mentions the child is having difficulties with staying focused and managing her assignments in school. Is this also impacting her social participation both at home, school and community where she does gymnastics?

Occupational Performance Components:
What components need to be addressed that may explain underlying difficulties?

Body Structure and Function – This may include muscle tone, range of motion, posture and alignment, postural control, strength, joint stability, endurance, fine motor skills, manipulation and dexterity, gross motor skills, coordination, bilateral coordination, etc. We may also evaluate her nutrition, respiration and gastrointestinal background to make referrals.

Sensory motor – This may include a child’s under or over responsiveness to touch, movement, sight, sound, taste and smell as well as their visual perceptual skills and body awareness. This may also include a child’s behavioral responses to activities.

Cognitive – This may include perceiving, understanding concepts, learning, and executive function skills (initiating, planning, organizing, sustaining, sequencing, flexibility, problem solving, managing emotions, etc.). We may make referrals to further understand the role cognition plays in your child’s abilities.

Social-Emotional – This may include self-regulation, self-esteem, as well as inner drive and motivation to participate in activities. It could also include the ability to relate to other children and adults.

TakeThreePhotography_05202010-102In the example referral above, we would need to determine what areas of occupational performance are making it difficult for her to participate to the best of her abilities. We could evaluate her strength by having her climb to see how she manages her body in space and uses her arms to support her body weight. We might also look at her core strength to see if she is weak and if that is causing her to feel unstable while sitting which impacts focus (e.g. if she is having to concentrate hard on keeping her body upright to be able to use her eyes and hands, then it will be hard for her to also concentrate on math facts).

We will also look at her hand skills. There might be concerns with weakness, grasp, manipulation, etc. that make it hard for her to use writing tools to complete tasks.

We can create a sensory profile, by asking questions, having a parent fill out questionnaires, and observing a child during activities. We would use our background in sensory integration too during our observations. For example, perhaps the feeling of clothing is too irritable to this child and she is having trouble focusing because she is needs to move to readjust how her clothing feels on her skin. We can evaluate vision to determine if we need to make a referral to another doctor. By planning some activities to do together, we can look at how her sequencing and planning behavior.

Finally, occupational therapists are mindful of the social-emotional development of children and how difficult things impact his/her daily function. We might ask the parent further questions if we notice that she is getting frustrated easily during a task and has trouble managing her frustration.

There are many hats that an OT wears in this therapeutic relationship….another adult, parent, teacher, friend, etc. When we begin, we often know very little about each other. However, we work together and figure out plans that best help a family address their wants for their child. In the process, we may not know all the answers yet and it may take time to figure them out. That is one of the hard parts of an OT’s job but also a fun aspect too. Wearing these different hats while at the core serving as an occupational therapist, is what I love about my job. 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. 

A Checklist for this Year’s IEP

By: Sharon Pike, Family Services Parent Liaison

As one of the Parent Liaisons at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley, I have experienced many years of not only my own children’s IEP’s, but countless families from our centers.   Here are some strategies that have helped our families feel like a true member of the team and confident that this year’s IEP is a well written plan that will meet their child’s needs.

Prepare for the meeting

  1. Make a list of your child’s strengths and needs. Bring it with you to review during the meeting to insure they are covering things that are important to your child’s success in school. Think about and write down strategies that work at home and with your private therapist to share with the staff.
  2. Know what the law requires. Section 614 of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) sets out the process and elements of what needs to be explored to develop and revise and IEP.  States and local school districts add their own policies on top of what is required under the federal law. That being said it doesn’t mean you need to know the letter of the law.   Bottom line… the more you know and understand the easier the process is.
  3. Never attend this meeting alone. It’s important that you and your spouse attend if possible.  If not then ask a grandparent or a friend. Their role is to be support for you and another set of ears!  Often at these meetings we can get stuck on something one member of the staff said and miss important information.  Make sure you inform the school that you are bringing someone with.
  4. Start the meeting with a positive statement about your child even if you’ve had a difficult period there is ALWAYS something positive to say… he has the best smile, she is caring and kind, he loves other children!
  5. When talking to the team, focus on your child’s needs and NOT your wants! Take the I out of IEP. Avoid, I want him to work on, I want her to be in this class, I think she needs….  Rephrase everything. He needs to have these supports in order to be successful. She needs to have sensory break before being expected to do table top activities, as it helps her focus.  The goal of special education is to meet the child’s needs, not the needs of us parents.
  6. Placement is not the first decision. This is determined after the team has decided what services and supports are needed.  This is hard; as it is often the first thing you want to know!
  7. 01_Mason EsquivelTrust your gut. If a piece of the IEP doesn’t feel right, and you can’t reach an agreement with the school, make sure it is documented that you do not agree.  Remember, just because you disagree doesn’t mean it will be changed.  The whole team has to agree to change it.  But I always say, ask for the moon and hope for the stars!
  8. Think about your child’s future! Aim HIGH.  Don’t wait until high school to start planning for what your child can do as an adult.  Every skill your child achieves in elementary school will help him or her be an independent adult.
  9. Establish a clear and reasonable communication plan with the school and your child’s teacher. Stick to the plan.  You and the school are partners in your child’s development and learning.
  10. Remember the IEP is a fluid document and can be amended at any time by requesting another IEP meeting.

After the IEP meeting

Pat yourself on the back for another successful IEP under your belt.

Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley Family Services provide information, education and support that address the concerns and stressors which may accompany having a child with special needs.  Our parent liaisons are highly trained parents of children with special needs.  They provide parents and caregivers with support from the unique perspective of someone “who has been there” in both informal one-on-one and group settings. For more resources and information click here.

Lighten the Load!

By: Laura Bueche, OT

We hope you have had a happy and easy transition back to school! As school ramps up so does your child’s homework. This means heavier and heavier backpacks are being lugged to and from school. We want to make sure you and your kids avoid injury and pain by giving you tips of how to properly pack, lift and carry a backpack.

The American Occupational Therapy Association has named September 16th National School Backpack Awareness Day to help educate parents, educators, and kids on the dangers of heavy or improperly worn bags.lightenup2005

How do we make things better?

Follow these tips on how to make you and your child’s backpack safer this school year:

  • 08_Kai_JudyIt is recommended that a loaded backpack should never weight more than 10% of the student’s total body weight (for a student weighing 100 pounds, this means that the backpack should weight no more than 10 pounds).(2)
  • Load heaviest items closest to the child’s back
  • Arrange books and materials so they won’t slide around in the backpack.
  • Check what your child carries to school and brings home. Make sure the items are necessary for the day’s activities.
  • Distribute weight evenly by using both straps. Wearing a pack slung over one shoulder can cause a child to lean to one side, curving the spine and causing pain or discomfort.
  • Select a pack with well-padded shoulder straps. Shoulders and necks have many blood vessels and nerves that can cause pain and tingling in the neck, arms, and hands when too much pressure is applied.
  • Adjust the shoulder straps so that the pack fits snugly on the child’s back. A pack that hangs loosely from the back can pull the child backwards and strain muscles.
  • Wear the waist belt if the backpack has one. This helps distribute the pack’s weight more evenly.
  • The bottom of the pack should rest in the curve of the lower back. It should never rest more than four inches below the child’s waistline.
  • School backpacks come in different sizes for different ages. Choose the right size pack for your child as well as one with enough room for necessary school items.

For more information about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley please visit EasterSealsDFVR.org.

  1. S. Consumer Product Safety Commission National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) Database (2007.) Numbers quoted are the estimated figures.
  2. Hu, J., Jacobs, K., & Pencina, M. (Submitted for publication). Backpack usage and self-reported musculoskeletal discomfort in university students.

6 Tips for a Smooth Transition Back to School

By: Laura Van Zandt, OTR/L

School is right around the corner if it isn’t already here for many of you. With school starting again, gone are the lazy days of summer and once again the hustle and bustle of getting you kids out the door and getting them to do their homework is resuming. Whether your child is just starting school or is nearing the end of his/her K-12 educational career, here are some tips to help ease the transition back to school. You won’t be able to avoid the business at the beginning of your day, but you can try to ease the morning stress to make the day go smoother.

1. Decide when you have to get up. It will be much easier to decide what time your child needs to go to bed if you know what time they have to get up in the morning. Most experts agree children need between 9 and 10 hours of sleep each night to be at their best. If you know your child must be up at 6 a.m. in order to be ready for school by 7:30 a.m., you would want your child to begin getting ready for bed around 7:30 p.m.

You may want to explain to your child the importance of a good night’s sleep. Getting enough sleep is important for the body to heal itself and allow ourselves to have enough energy to stay awake during the day. It also helps us focus and be less cranky when we have to do tasks we are not particularly interested.

2. Call a family meeting and decide who will be responsible for which tasks each morning. For example, dad will make sure the kids are dressed and their teeth are brushed while mom will take care of breakfast and lunches. Don’t forget to assign these tasks or similar tasks to your children too! This will not only help ease the stress of the morning but it will also help develop their executive function skills which will help serve your child well throughout all grade levels in school. For developmentally appropriate ideas for your children click here.

3. Draw up a schedule or start a family calendar. Designate a spot if possible within your home that is consistent for the family calendar. The family spot can also be used to help make returning back from school easier. If you have young children include photos or illustrations representing the task they need to do. Clipboards are an excellent resource for individual family members to have to list his/her own chores.

Family calendars help to keep things organized
Family calendars help to keep things organized.

4. Do what you can the night before. The more you do before you go to bed, the less frantic you are likely to feel in the morning cramming in as much as possible.

  • Run the dishes overnight (bonuses this sometimes can save money!) or run the dryer to have clean clothes. Lay out tomorrow’s clothing.
  • Maintain a steady supply of quick breakfast foods for this days when it just happens and you are running late. Kid’s growing bodies and developing brains need regular refueling. When kids skip breakfast, they don’t get what they need to perform their best.
  • Hang complete outfits together in your closet or put outfits in bins to quickly grab. Keep your children’s matching shirts and pants in the same drawer or on the same hanger so they can find them easily without help.
  • Gather everything that you will take with you the next day and assemble them in one place near the door your exit from in the morning.
  • Teach your children to get everything ready for the next day before they got to bed. Make lunches, distribute lunch money, and pack backpacks. Take a picture of a completed backpack and attach to a luggage tag so all your child has to do is “match the picture” to make sure everything is included.
  • “Match the Picture” is a concept taught by Sarah Ward where the adult can take a picture of the desired end product and assists the child in breaking down the steps to create both a written and visual to match when completing a goal. This concept can be very helpful in eliminating the need to “nag” your child though every step as well as support independence.

5. Ease the transition back from a full day of school to home by allowing your children a break to move and be active. Go for quality, not quantity with after school programs. Your child will benefit most from one or two activities that are fun, reinforce social development, and teach new skills. Remember children need movement. After sitting for an extended period of time during a school day, giving your kids an opportunity to need can be extremely beneficial.

Regular movement has been shown to increase focus in children of all ages. Movement also helps all children regulate (i.e. adjust their energy) and lower rates of behavioral problems. Research shows that physical exercise influences the central dopaminergic, noradrenergic, and serotonergic systems. Together those systems help manage our mood, appetite, sleep, learning, as well as alertness, focus, and motivation.

Ideas for active play might include tossing a ball/back and forth with a peer, playing tag outside, going for a bike ride on the sidewalk, exploring how your body moves by climbing/cartwheeling/summersaulting/etc., or just taking a short walk. Other active play ideas include exploring different textures or drawing with sidewalk chalk. Here is a link to some fantastic indoor play ideas.

6. Set up a time and place for homework. Having a set place to study and complete homework helps send the signal to your children that learning is important. As much as possible, try to make yourself available during homework time….even if that means you still might be cooking dinner or doing the laundry.

One example of a homework station.
One example of a homework station.

Wherever your homework station is in your house and whatever your homework station looks like in your house, make sure you have all the essentials readily available. This will help avoid time robbers (e.g. getting up to find stuff) and help eliminate any headaches over missing supplies. Pinterest has many great ideas for creating a homework station. Right now the bargain bin section in Target also has great supplies for organization. Purchasing a tri-fold poster at Staples is another fantastic idea to eliminate visual clutter and help your child focus.

For more information about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley please visit EasterSealsDFVR.org.

Back to School

If the mass of commercials hasn’t told you that it’s time to go back to school, the Easter Seals blog will. It’s time for pencils, notebooks, and glue! As exciting as the start of school can be, it can be nerve-wracking also. Any kid has a right to be nervous but a child with special needs has several more reasons to be nervous. Children with special needs may encounter some unique challenges as they go back to school because of their invisible or visible disabilities. Dennise Goldberg, Special Education Advisor has ten tips for parents who have children going back to school with special needs.

  1. Talk with your kid about school and get them excited.
  2. Go school shopping with your child. This helps your child feel a part of the process of the transition of going back to school.
  3.  If a family member is not driving your child to school, get them excited about the school bus or the mode of transportation they will be using.
  4. Summer is over…begin a new routine! Preferably, this should include an earlier bed time.
  5. Know grade level standards so you can talk to your child about what they will be learning. If your child’s education is modified, know the differences so that you know the differences.
  6. Provide a copy of your child’s IEP to your new teacher.
  7. It may be a good idea to have a copy of the IEP on the first day of school. The school is overwhelmed with the new school year, why not help them out?
  8. If your IEP meeting is scheduled earlier in the year, make sure school assessments are done in a timely manner.
  9. Schedule a parent teacher conference to establish a relationship with the teacher and so your teacher feels comfortable with your child’s needs.
  10.   “Create a service log of your child’s services so that you can track compliance and periodically ask the School for their logs to double check accuracy. Always remember that you have a legally binding contract with the School District and if your child does not receive their services, you have a right to ask for replacement hours” (specialeducationadvisor.com).

Personally, I think communication is crucial with the teacher, parent, and student. If communication lines are open, the school year will go smoothly. You will learn things from each other and become a team!