Tantrum or Meltdown? How to tell, and what to do.

One of the most frequently asked questions we get about child behavior is whether a child is engaging in a tantrum or having a “meltdown.” Do you know the difference, or the unique response each one requires?

Most people view tantrums as behavior that a young child engages in to get what they want, to manipulate the situation, or to otherwise gain attention from adults. These are behavioral outbursts to avoid bedtime, get an extra dessert or delay finishing homework.

On the other hand, the word “meltdown” has come to refer to behavior that is characteristically out of control, highly emotional, and often prompted by external factors such as sensory information (loud sounds, overwhelming environment, etc). A child on the spectrum might experience a meltdown after hearing a loud siren or experiencing a negative texture, for example.

How we define these behaviors reflects our perspective toward these behaviors. At STEPS for Kids we emphasize an empathic approach to understanding the child and teaching the necessary skills to reduce BOTH tantrums and meltdowns.

Here are some quick tips to understanding and managing these most challenging behaviors. Download the PDF version here.

Tantrum or Meltdown How To Tell

Creative Outdoor Play – In the Community

As exciting as your own backyard can be, every now and then we need to be a bit more creative about our child’s outdoor play time. We did some digging to find the best local options for inventive ways to get outside and give your child great ways to play and grow.

Kids enjoying camp at Kendall County’s Natural Beginnings

Kendall County Forest Preserve offers a nature based preschool. Natural Beginnings Early Childhood program meets at Hoover Forest Preserve in Yorkville and serves children from 3 – 6 years of age. Over the course of nine months, children explore the world around them through various nature-based themes. Click the link to find out more about this unique program for youngsters.

Interested in connecting with animals? Therapeutic horseback riding is a great way to get your child outdoors and support developmental skills. Our community has several options available, including:

The Yorkville Park District offers a wide variety of Summer Camps for school-aged children. From Pre-K Adventures Camp, where little ones enjoy games, crafts and play along different themes each week, to fishing, tennis, soccer and more for active kids, discover local options to break up the long summer break.

If you’re not sure where to start with building play into your summer, our therapy services can help children play and explore the great outdoors! Contact STEPS today for a free evaluation and more information on our Social Skills Groups.

Help Your Child Enjoy Outdoor Play

We recently posted about how great playing outside is for your child’s development. Ideally, kids would be outside playing for three hours every day! But that can be a difficult task, especially if your child had sensory processing issues or other needs.

For some children the wind is too much to bear, or the sunlight is too bright. For some, the noise is too loud to enjoy the outdoors. Others struggle with knowing how to play, or lack social skills for positive group play.

To help these children benefit from outdoor play, try these strategies that address the various ways kids struggle:

  • Have your child wear a hat with a brim or sunglasses
  • Use noise cancelling headphones; wear earmuffs or a headband over the ears
  • Let your child choose the clothing for outdoors, including long sleeves or a jacket even when it’s warm outside. Better to be comfy and happy than fashionable!
  • Make outdoor play a part of your child’s daily routine. Prepare your child with social stories or books that talk about what to expect when outdoors.
  • Make a plan for what you will do together outdoors. Have your child help choose outdoor activities for the day.
  • Start slow, and build time gradually. It doesn’t have to be three hours all at once. Allow the time to add up over the course of the day. Even 10 minutes at a time is better than no time at all!
  • Model outdoor play by playing with your child and facilitating social interactions with other children.
  • Be available to support as needed based on your child’s skill level, while stepping back to provide your child space for practicing skills on their own.
  • Make outdoor time a time to build relationships. Have a picnic, read a book, explore your neighborhood, meet new friends. Enjoy each other as well as the outdoors!

There’s so much fun to be had outside! With a little extra attention, you and your child can create enjoyable outdoor play experiences that both support their development and make great good-weather memories.

Want to be sure your child has the skills and support they need to enjoy summer? Contact STEPS today for an evaluation, or consider joining our Social Skills Groups.

Kids benefit from 3 hours of outdoor play

Summer is here! Kids need to play hard to develop skills and grow strong physically, mentally, and emotionally. Now is the perfect time to take the play outdoors, where kids can get the movement, sensory experiences, and social interactions to support development in a positive and healthy way.

Angela Hanscom, occupational therapist and founder of TimberNook Camps, suggests that all children should be playing outside for 3 hours a day. Ms. Hanscom recently authored the book Balanced adn Barefoot, spelling out exactly how and why development benefits from this time.

She recommends that this time to play be unrestricted, with limited parental involvement (depending on the child’s age and abilities). Benefits of outdoor play include physical strengthening, motor coordination and balance, problem solving, creativity, self-regulation and emotional expression, and social interaction.

I’ve compiled some of Ms. Hanscom’s tips for how to work this outside time into your child’s day.

  • Identify the fears or concerns that cause us to limit a child’s outdoor time. Confront those fears by teaching the child the skills needed, such as how to watch for traffic, or providing tools such as walkie-talkies for communication.
  • Consider hosting other children for a half or full day, instead of just an hour or two. Children need time to develop friendships and explore play schemes!
  • Provide children with “loose parts” for play outside. Things like kitchenware, buckets, trays, boxes, or other “junkyard finds” that can be used, explored, and repurposed in play.
  • Allow for age appropriate risk taking in play, which facilitates increased self-awareness, body awareness, problem solving, and creativity in children. A scraped knee isn’t a bad thing!
  • Encourage outdoor play from a very young age. Babies and toddlers need sensory experiences like sitting on the grass, hearing a variety of sounds, and responding to visual input.
    • By the age of 8 or 9, typical children are ready to be off on their own in the neighborhood. Decrease supervision as children gain skills to foster independence and confidence.

Want to know more, or curious where your child should be in outdoor play development? Contact STEPS today for an evaluation or conversation, and consider joining our Social Skills Groups.

You can read Angela Hanscom’s book Balanced and Barefoot, too. Learn more here.

School Or Clinic Therapy: What’s the Difference?

Many children with special needs qualify for therapy services in the school. Parents sometimes think that these services are enough to meet their child’s needs and do not pursue options for clinic based therapies which might greatly enhance their children’s development. Some children are struggling at home but don’t qualify for therapy services in the school. Parents may assume that their child wouldn’t benefit from therapy in a clinic setting or don’t know that this option is available. It’s important to know the difference between therapy services provided in different settings.

School Based Therapy:

  • Is provided as a related service to support the child’s participation in and ability to benefit from educational programs.
  • Is required by law to be a part of the child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) when deemed appropriate by the educational team.
  • Is limited to the needs identified by the educational team and only addresses needs that impact educational performance or participation.
  • Is not provided if the child is not demonstrating a need in the school setting that requires specific therapy interventions.
  • Is subject to the limitations of service identified by the IEP and requires a team meeting to make changes, such as increasing therapy time.
  • Only occurs during school hours; often limited by school calendar and staff shortages.

Clinic Based Therapy:

  • Can be provided for any child who has demonstrated need for therapy support services.
  • Is provided in the clinic with options for home and community based services
  • Addresses the needs of the child in the context of the family, identifying strengths and supporting access to community resources.
  • Is usually covered under medical insurance plans or can be paid for privately without limitations placed by insurance providers.
  • Can be scheduled with frequency and duration most appropriate for the child’s needs with flexibility for modifying the plan as needed.
  • Clinic therapists collaborate with the schools when child is receiving both types of services, thus enhancing treatment outcomes in all settings.

Whether a child is currently receiving school based therapies or has been found not eligible for services in the school setting, clinic based therapy may be a good choice for supporting development.  If you have questions about the difference between therapy services please contact our office for more information or to discuss your child’s therapy needs.

Tips for IEP Review Time

It’s that time of year when we look forward to the coming of warmer weather and signs of spring.  For some, it’s that time of year for the annual IEP review,  which you may not be looking forward to.  Meeting with school staff, hearing updates on progress and reviewing the written plan can be a daunting process for parents. Here are a few tips to help you navigate through it and be sure your child’s needs are being met.

 Mother and child drawing together1.  Prior to the meeting, review your child’s progress over the last 6 months to a year.  Make notes about skills he’s improved in and what skills need to be addressed.  Not sure about skills? Just look at performance and behaviors.  Is homework easier to complete, with less crying or frustration? Is her handwriting more legible? Does he seem happier heading off to school or are mornings difficult at home because he doesn’t want to go?  Write these things down and bring the list, good and bad, to the meeting.

2.  If you notice positive changes and improvements, tell the staff!  Parents often head into a school meeting armed and ready to fight for their child’s needs and rightly so. You are going to spend a lot of time at this meeting working on problems.  Try to identify an area where your child is doing well and has shown improvements. Educational staff want to hear about your child’s strengths, too. They also want to know when their efforts are working.  Notice that a teacher has spent extra time with him to advance reading skills? Tell them you appreciate that effort.

3.   If there are many issues on your mind, choose one or two to focus on for this meeting.   Sometimes a child’s needs are many. Where to start is overwhelming and it’s difficult to address all the needs at once. It can be more productive to focus on the most crucial need first which can then indirectly address other needs.  Look at your list (see #1) and decide which area is of most concern to you. This allows the team to focus on solutions for the problem that will have the greatest impact on you, your child and your family.  Issues not addressed at this meeting can be tackled at another time.

4.  Take notes or bring a scribe along with you.   It’s always important that you write down your understanding of what is agreed on at the meeting.  Listen to the reports being presented and make notes of your questions for later.  Ask for clarification of actions to be taken or follow up needed and write down the responses.  If it is too much for you to take notes while listening and talking, bring along someone who will be able to do that for you.   There is always a lot of information offered up at an IEP review, especially if it happens to be a three year re-evaluation.  Taking notes means you don’t have to try to remember all that is said and will help you organize your thoughts later.

5.  Ask questions, share your ideas.  You are a part of your child’s educational team. While it often seems like a room full of people telling you all about your child, the IEP process is a team event and that team includes you, the parent.  Your role is not just to receive the information from the staff but to give them information that will help them help your child.  By sharing your concerns and helping them understand your child you help the teachers and support staff better meed your child’s needs.  By asking questions about school performance you may find a way to do things better at home.

6.  Make a connection with one or two members of your child’s team.  Sometimes a child’s team may include just a few people but sometimes there are as many as 10 professionals and paraprofessionals supporting your child’s needs.  While it is hard to be in regular contact with everyone, you can reach out to one or two people who may have the best connection with your child or who are in a position to help the most.  This may be the classroom teacher but may also include the special education case coordinator, the speech therapist, OT or social worker (or other staff member) depending on your child’s needs. As a parent you will have a sense of who connects with your child, that staff person who really understands.  Reach out to this person and stay in contact with them after the meeting.  They can help you advocate for your child to the whole team.

 

 

Winter/Spring Social Skills Groups now open!

Enrollment is now open for  social skills groups! For children from 5-10 years old, Social STEPS for Kids will meet for 4 weeks, February 21 through March 14th followed by a 6 week session from April 4 through May 9th.   Led by a speech-language pathologist, this group is a great way to help your child build confidence and skills for social interactions. Check out the details then contact us to enroll your child today!

Social STEPS for Kids Group A: For ages 5-7years

Session 1A: Saturdays, 10:00-11:00 am; February 21 through March 14, 2015

Session 2A: Saturdays, 10:00-1100 am; April 4 through May 9, 2015

Group B: For ages 8-10 years

Session 1B: Saturdays, 11:00-12:00 am; February 21 through March 14, 2015

Session 2B: Saturdays, 11:00-12:00 am; April 4 through May 9, 2015

Cost per 4 week session 1A or 1B :  $120

Cost per 6 week session 2A or 2B: $180

Please note: Social Skills groups are not billable to insurance. Payment is due in full prior to the first session. No refunds on individual missed sessions or after the date of first session. STEPS for Kids reserves the right to reschedule sessions missed due to therapists’ absence or other extenuating circumstances.  

Groups will be led by Amy McDowell, MS, CCC-SLP/L. Amy has experience in clinic, home and school settings, providing both individual and group therapy to children from infants to adolescents. Amy uses play based therapy to facilitate speech and language skills development. She recognizes the individual differences of each child and tailors her approach to best meet each child’s needs within the group setting.

To register for a social skills group, please contact our office at 630-552-9890 or email us at info@rightstepsforkids.com with the subject line “social skills”.

Catch the last Sensory Friendly Films for 2014!

STEPS for Kids and the NCG Cinema Yorkville are pleased to present the last of our Sensory Friendly Films for this year. Take a break from your holiday rush to enjoy a movie that the whole family can enjoy!  Catch Big Hero 6 on Saturday November 29 and Penguins of Madagascar on December 13.

Sensory Friendly Films are shown in a regular movie theater with the sound turned down and lights turned up so no one is bothered by the sensory experience. Everyone is welcome to wiggle around, dance or sing along.  It’s like being in your own living room with the excitement of the big screen!

Saturday November 29th come out to NCG Cinema Yorkville to see Disney’s latest animated feature, Big Hero 6. This movie explores the special bond that forms between Baymax, an oversized inflatable robot, and prodigy Hiro Hamada as they join forces with a group of friends to form a band of high tech heroes called Big Hero 6.

Saturday December 13th you can enjoy the new Penguins of Madagascar. Discover the secrets of the greatest and most hilarious birds in global espionage as they join forces with an undercover agency to help save the world from destruction!

You can join us for these great movies shown Sensory Friendly style at:

NCG Cinema Yorkville, 1505 N. Bridge St. Yorkville, IL 60560

Movies start at 10:00 am.  Cost is $6 per person and concessions are available at special group discount prices with free refills on drinks and popcorn!

Enjoy the show!

 

Sensory Awareness Month: Resources and Support

October is Sensory Awareness Month! A great time to share information and advocate for those with sensory differences and sensory processing disorders which complicate participation in daily activities.  If you are looking for information on sensory processing you can follow our blog right here and follow us on Pinterest.  Here are five other places on the internet to find helpful information:

1) Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation:  This is the premier research and treatment center founded and directed by Lucy Jane Miller, PhD, OTR.   The SPD Foundation and the STAR Center offer cutting edge information and support for parents and children coping with SPD.  Explore the latest research, take a webinar or learn more about signs and symptoms of SPD.

2) The Spiral Foundation:  Another great research and learning center with a focus on educating the community and advocating for people coping with SPD and its impact on daily life.

3) Raising A Sensory Smart Child:  The book authored by Lindsey Biel, OTR/L provides comprehensive information on what SPD is and ways to manage SPD in a variety of settings.

4) Angie Voss, OTR, author of Understanding Your Child’s Sensory Signalsprovides resources, tips and information to help with better meeting your child’s needs from a sensory perspective.

5)  Sensory Processing Disorder Parent Support website offers a parent’s perspective and lots of tips, strategies and equipment suggestions to guide you through the journey of parenting a child with SPD.

While virtual sites and support are wonderful, sometimes we all need a little more face to face support.  In response to our community, STEPS for Kids is pleased to announce our new SPD Parent & Caregiver Support Group that will be meeting at our Yorkville clinic on Tuesday October 28, 2014 from 7:30 pm until 9:00 pm.   The meeting will be facilitated by STEPS for Kids owner/director, Debra Johnson, MS, OTR/L.  The first meeting will be organized around establishing the needs of our community and setting up regular monthly meetings for supporting parents, caregivers,  children and families affected by SPD and related conditions.

No registration is required for this event but seats are limited.                                          Please call us at 630-552-9890 to reserve your seat today!   You can contact our office with questions or sign up for our newsletter to stay informed about events.

We hope you can join us for our first Parent & Caregiver Support Group and look forward to seeing both new and familiar faces!

NEW: SPD Parent & Caregiver Support Group

STEPS for Kids will be hosting the first Parent & Caregiver Support Group on Tuesday October 28, 2014, from 7:30 pm to 9:00 pm.  The group will meet at our clinic in Yorkville and will be a source of support and education for parents and caregivers who are interested in knowing more about SPD and related conditions.

Our first meeting will include an overview of SPD and behavioral issues related to sensory disorders.  We will take time to get to know one another and gather information to help shape the focus of the group so that it meets the needs of those attending.  Facilitated by Debra Johnson, MS, OTR/L, the group will offer an opportunity to connect with others who face similar challenges everyday while learning new skills and strategies to make everyday life easier.

This support group is designed for parents, grandparents, extended family members, foster parents/guardians, teachers and daycare providers.  All who are interested and invested in the care of a child coping with the impact of sensory processing disorder are invited to attend.  The group will be meeting the last Tuesday of each month.  We look forward to providing on-going support for our community members.

There is no registration required to attend but seats are limited. Please contact the office by phone (630-552-9890) or email to let us know if you are planning on attending so we can reserve a seat for you.

SPD Parent & Caregiver Support Group

Tuesday October 28, 2014           7:30 pm until 9:00 pm

STEPS for Kids, Inc  1555 Sycamore Rd. Yorkville, IL  60560  P: 630-552-9890