Social distancing this year has not been without its repercussions. As parents, it’s actually one of our biggest challenges. The social-emotional struggles have taken a toll on people of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds. Family dynamics are strained as people cope with a myriad of traumatic experiences this year.
For children and teens specifically, a lack of regular structure and social engagement has lead to decreased innovative ideas, or even finding motivation to engage in school work. Anxiety, depression, are increasing due to an increased time on screens. Many children and teens may be grieving lost opportunities, such as: graduations, school activities, or play dates. If spirits have been low, or you have experienced more conflict with your child during this time, neuropsychologist, Rada West, PhD, provides tactics that you can use at home to implement, to improve morale and relationships.
The first way to support your children at home is to address feelings of isolation.
Devote undivided attention to your child every day.
Be present and attuned.
Create structure that work for both parents and children
Model the behavior you expect from your children.
Fostering a safe space at home, between you and your child, can alleviate feelings of loneliness and anxiety, which encourages greater engagement among family members. Creating a space between you and your children that is open, supportive, and actively engaged is crucial when other social interaction is limited. Spending quality time together, actively listening, and keeping a structured day, contribute to a family truly being a unit. Remember that it begins with you: whatever you would like to see in your children you must model for them first.
Even in a supportive family environment, resistance may still occur when it comes to setting boundaries with social media and personal devices. Dr. West encourages parents to work together, with their children, to find fair solutions for acceptable media or device use. She says, “It’s important to work together as a unit and come to an agreement as to what is reasonable. They have their needs to socially engage over social media. But check in with them with a perspective of curiosity rather than attacking them. Come with a curious mind and engage with them; having open engagement with them about social media etiquette is crucial.”
Discussing internet safety regularly is important, as well as respectfully checking in on their devices. Parents can also use screen management apps for their child’s device to set safe boundaries.
While social distancing is a challenge, your parental support can be the respite your child needs to face it.
Stay tuned for a video from Dr. Rada West, this week!
Tactile sensory input is a key factor in helping children concentrate. Some children find it difficult to sit still or focus without additional sensory input. When they are not getting enough stimulation, children often resort to finding their own stimulation. This might look like: bouncing in their seat, leaving their task unfinished, or acting out.
The sensory bags below are meant to provide the tactile stimulation a child needs to simultaneously harness their focus on another task. Triton’s Occupational t=Therapist, Sonia Rubillo MSOT, OTR/L explains, “Allowing students to use non-distracting sensory items during instruction can help improve self-regulation skills and attention to task. The squishy feeling of the bag may provide the child with increased tactile input to better orient himself to the environment.”
These colorful bags are not only a practical tool, but they require your child to use his or her executive functioning to assemble. Your child can practice following the directions and measuring the ingredients, as well as have a beautiful craft to enjoy this season and beyond.
1 quart-sized zipper bag
3-5 leaves varied in color
½ cup vegetable oil
Watercolors or dye (your choice)
Measure out ½ cup of vegetable oil and pour into the bag.
Meanwhile, add 2-3 teaspoons of water to a small bowl and mix with a few drops of watercolor or dye.
Slowly pour the water mixture into the bag.
Add the leaves and glitter to the bag.
Gently seal the bag, making sure there is no air left inside.
Fold the top of the bag over and seal with clear tape to ensure it doesn’t leak.
Your child can keep this bag with him or her when doing a non-preferred activity, such as homework, or even take it to school. Keeping tools like this on hand can be just as important for your child’s productivity as other essential materials they use every day.
To combat regression, becoming an active member of your child’s IEP team is essential. Parents have always been an integral part of progress monitoring for their child, and staying connected to your child’s teacher and case manager is even more critical during distance learning—especially if there are concerns with regression or stagnation. Christy Scadden, an advocate at Pacific Coast Advocates, shares a step by step process for how parents can be an active member of their child’s team.
1. Get organized – Review your child’s current IEP. Important areas for tracking regression or progress are present levels, baselines on goals, and their last progress report on goals.
(Best Practice tip: note the annual/triennial dates on your calendar. IEP meetings must be held by those dates.)
2. Create a log
Track your observations on how your child is doing relating to the identified areas of need from his/her IEP and access to school/distance learning).
Track how the IEP is being implemented. Include services your child is receiving (when and from whom) and how they are accessing and interacting with remote therapy. (Note approaches/technology used and which are working or not working.)
(Best Practice tip: this tracking log is just for you, so create whatever works best—notepad, calendar, digital notes, spreadsheets, etc.)
3. Communicate regularly, via email, to your child’s case manager and/or teacher.
Weekly or bi-monthly (or immediately with a timely concern).
Discuss your observations, questions, trends, and concerns.
(Best Practice tip: Regular communications gives them the opportunity to respond immediately with solutions.)
4. What if that isn’t enough?
Are your emails being ignored, is nothing changing, are new strategies not working?
Request a 30-day IEP meeting. In writing (email), to your child’s case manager.
Bring a bulleted list of your concerns to discuss with the team. Make sure your concerns are recorded in your own words (your list).
You can record the meeting with 24-hour written notice (email).
(Best Practice tip: The meeting must be held within 30 calendar days of your written request—with exception of school holidays 5 days or longer).
As a parent,you are a crucial advocate for your child. But remember, schools are still responsible for your child’s learning, progress, and access to their education. You are there to iron out the wrinkles.
As a parent, you may have noticed changes in your child’s academic performance this year. If so, you are not alone. While regression after summer vacation is expected, our children have experienced widespread regression due to distance learning. This “Covid slide” has affected students of all ages and all abilities, although it is particularly serious for students with special needs. Without addressing these academic losses, children can fall even further behind. If you’re wondering if your child has regressed, or have been concerned for some time, we are offering a coaching course for you to identify regression in your child objectively.
As a parent, you are your child’s primary advocate. Some parents may unintentionally miss a child’s need for support, particularly if (s)he is well-behaved or compliant. A child may not be able to advocate for themselves, and needs keen eyes from an outsider to see that he or she is struggling.
Our parent course is the first step in identifying a potential need. We want to walk hand in hand with you and your family to meet your child where (s)he is at. Take the first step by registering for our regression course here.
October is ADHD Awareness Month, and we would like to zone in on attention. Whether your child has a diagnosis or is just a wiggle worm, we want to share tips for parents to apply in their homes to help their kiddos pay attention. Author and ADHD coach, Roxanne Fouche, shares her recommendations from 25 years of experience working with individuals with attention disorders.
Helping a child pay attention involves finding a somatic outlet for their energy that allows their attention to stay on the task at hand.
The most important accommodation to allow for is movement breaks. These should happen often! Fouche reminds us, “Working in front of a computer all day is not natural for anybody. It’s particularly difficult for wiggly people who need to move in order to think.” She recommends a child get up to get a drink, go up and down stairs if possible, do jumping jacks, or go outside. Movement breaks are essential to anyone’s productivity and well-being, particularly a child’s.
Seating accommodations that provide resistance can help reel the mind in while the body has something to employ itself. Try placing resistance bands over the front legs of a chair, and your child can kick his or her legs between the bands for stimulation. If a standard chair is under-stimulating for your child, other seating arrangements include a wobble chair or a weighted medicine ball that requires using core strength to sit still.
Handheld fidgets (in one hand only) are another accommodation that is highly versatile. Fidgets must be beneficial for the child, but not disruptive to others, so quiet fidgets are best. These can be pens with a rubber bubble at the top, silly putty, or an artist’s eraser. Many gadgets are made specifically for fidgeting–the options are endless. Even chewing gum during a test is an oral fidget that helps with concentration.
If your child needs additional and perhaps more personal support with attention, an attention coach can help him or her manage the expectation of their current environment. “When there is a large enough gap between what a person is capable of and the level of executive functioning that is required of them, a coach can give personalized strategies, tools, and habits to serve them,” Fouche says. Children who struggle with self-efficacy, avoidance, procrastination, and memory, can benefit from coaching.
Fouche reminds us that online schooling is hard for everybody. It requires a tremendous amount of self-regulation and organization that does not come easily. These tips are not only helpful for children diagnosed with ADHD, but can be beneficial for children of any abilities (not to mention parents!). A good technique can benefit everyone.
Does your child jump from activity to activity without finishing any of them? It’s hard to learn when you can’t pay attention…
Let’s take a look at areas where attention is needed and some factors that can help increase your child’s ability to attend.
Getting your child to pay attention to schoolwork, a task, or even directions can sometimes or often be a challenge. The challenge may be even more trying if your child has an attention disorder. Everyday tasks that are unavoidable may present a constant struggle.
Is your child struggling with any of the following areas that require attention?
Listening to instructions
Whether or not a diagnosis is present, helping children attend to a task or a conversation is an essential skill, though it doesn’t always come naturally. Many different factors play a role in a child’s ability to focus. Factors such as nutrition, getting sufficient sleep and physical activity can really have an effect on your child’s capacity to attend. Healthy lifestyle habits will help your child manage symptoms.
Emotional stress is a major inhibitor of concentration. Consider the family or school stress your child may be experiencing, and the comfort and reassurance he or she may need.
You can learn quick tips for supporting attention by our Student Representative here. For a deeper look, please view Triton’s parent course on ATTENTION for tips you can implement into your child’s routine.
How often are these emotional reactions happening in your interactions with your child, or among their siblings and peers?
You may be asking yourself what is typical and what’s not. While a broken pencil lead may be fixed without a second thought with some children, for others it may lead to tears or refusing to complete homework. A misplaced belonging may cause a state of panic, or being asked to share a toy may cause a fit of anger. These stress triggers are inevitable, but their overreactions can magnify stress in parents and caregivers.
There is good news! Self-regulation is a crucial skill that can be taught and honed in each individual child. As parents, recognizing the difference between a misbehavior and a stress behavior is key. Stressors require expending energy to maintain our internal systems.
These stressors can come from several domains:
The more triggers that fire, the more fatigued the mind becomes, making an overreaction more likely.
While we may try to teach a child to regulate his behavior, true self-regulation happens in the brain. When we experience stress, the connection between the lower part of the brain responsible for self-preservation, and the upper part of the brain responsible for executive functioning, diminishes. An overreaction occurs. Learn more about this process here.
Self-regulation begins with emotional self-awareness. This is a skill which children can be taught so they may recognize and respond to all types of stress appropriately. Your child can be given the tools to deal with life’s stressors and triggers. We are here to get you over those speed bumps. Join us for a parent coaching session to discover new possibilities. In addition, you can get tips on how to handle overreaction by our Speech and Language Director in this video.
If your student is experiencing signs of regression, there’s help. Our team of professionals, along with our dedicated Parent Representative, are geared up to face regression head on! Give us a call or click this simple form and a Parent Representative will offer support today.
Handwriting is one of the “occupations” an occupational therapist works on with children of all ages. Handwriting continues to be a large part of a child’s school day, even with the changes in technology. Children are asked to write in journals, complete writing assignments, and participate in art projects that involve writing descriptions. They use handwriting to communicate (in writing) to their friends, parents, and teachers. Test taking often requires legible handwriting, as well.
Many children struggle and fight with handwriting, also termed dysgraphia. Dysgraphia can be affected by a child’s pencil grasp, pencil pressure, speed of handwriting, overall control of the pencil, alignment of letters, letter formation, sizing of the letter, spacing between or within words, and the memory of how to start the letter in the correct place.
Difficulty with handwriting can impact self esteem. For example, they may observe their peers handing in their work faster than them or they may get marked off on spelling tests because the teacher cannot read their handwriting.
At Triton Support Services, we specialize in helping children with improving their ability to have legible handwriting for the school and home environment. We utilize a neuro kinesthetic, sensory and motor approach to help children reach their highest potential and increase their self esteem.
Some Signs and Symptoms of Dysgraphia
Cramping of fingers while writing short entries
Odd wrist, arm, body, or paper orientations such as bending an arm into an L shape
Mixed uppercase and lowercase letters
Inconsistent form and size of letters, or unfinished letters
Misuse of lines and margins
Inefficient speed of copying
Inattentiveness over details when writing
Frequent need of verbal cues
Referring heavily on vision to write
Handwriting abilities that may interfere with spelling and written composition
Having a hard time translating ideas to writing, sometimes using the wrong words altogether
Unfortunately, there’s no cure to dysgraphia. But occupational therapy, at-home exercises and accommodations at school can make a big difference. If you have noticed symptoms of dysgraphia in your child, consult a psychologist today for diagnosis. Help your kid in dealing with this learning disability and inform his/her preschool teachers also to ensure that everyone is on the same page.
The COVID-19 pandemic has parents dealing with education regression.
We’re working with parents, empowering them in the center of our distance learning model, by providing navigation tips to empower growth. Help is needed to assist parents through these times. Here’s a shocking statement about regression in general: what does this mean for Special Education?
The issue is that children have been out of school since spring. That prolonged period in social isolation can have critical impact on education. Regression is real. The education implication during the pandemic was actually given a hashtag: #covidslide!
This week, Katerina Violante, Director of Programs at Triton Support Services, is offering a tip to help identify signs and symptoms of regression. This is what she said:
This feels HARD. Being a teacher and parent, and working to preventing regression, is a big job.
Here’s what you can do:
1. Take a deep breath and take a step back.
2. Start identifying the trends that lead to shutting down or task avoidance.
3. Track the data.
4. Create preventative strategies or front-loading solutions.
Look for stress triggers in your environment, like aspects of working from home & student doing distance learning. Discover learning for yourself and for your child because no matter the level or ability, everyone is a learner. Implement a coaching session for additional support.
To take a deeper look into regression, register for our parent course here.
Triton Providers are experts… but they’ve never been through a pandemic. As a parent, you may be struggling through this time, especially if your child has special needs. We are witnessing communities coming together, such as ARTC San Diego, to provide solutions. Parents, schools and healthcare providers are creating new opportunities together, to navigate through challenges.
Here’s what our providers want to share with parents!
From our Education Team: Distance learning may create new challenges to learning for your child. Maintaining a quiet workspace, lack of consistent social interaction, and perhaps a cessation of special needs support, can cause extra stress within families. With the start of a new school year continuing distance learning, as well as summer break, regression in children’s skills and knowledge is not uncommon.
Triton Support Services is offering an engaging, multidisciplinary environment where your child can come to continue the rigorous education and support they need to thrive. Our Learning Matters Coaching Pods are small groups (up to five students) that meet three days a week for a half-day to get support with distance learning. Pods not only provide the crucial peer interaction they need, but also guided social skills groups run by our on site OT and SLP providers.
If you are desiring a learning environment for your child that provides relief from the at-home setting, our Coaching Pods are here for you and your child. We are in this together.
From our Occupational Therapy Team: The shift in traditional schooling due to the COVID-19 pandemic is a very overwhelming transition for most students. It is especially difficult for special education students that rely so heavily on a structured environment. Major disruptions in everyday schedules are considered a “traumatic” event for special education students, which has ultimately resulted in regression in all aspects of childhood development. More specifically, a large decline has been observed in social communication and self- regulation skills. Students need an outlet to stop the gears of regression and establish a new environment that promotes these specific skill sets. The Learning Matters Coaching Pods at Triton
Support Services serves as that new environment to promote social and academic success.
From an Occupational Therapy perspective, the Person, Environment, and Occupation (PEO) Model recognizes the need to promote successful transitions in times of uncertainty. Distance learning greatly affects the environment aspect since students now have to adjust to learning within their home. The Learning Matters Coaching Pods provides students a safe and structured environment that promotes optimal learning through continuous professional support and environmental modifications. Visual schedules are created for each individual student so the student is aware of daily expectations. In addition, movement breaks and a variety of seating options (i.e. yoga ball seat, wiggle seat, mat) are incorporated into those schedules to increase attention to tasks. The implementation of these seemingly simple ideas make the world of difference in regards to academic participation.
The Learning Matters Coaching Pods helps rewind the regression clock by focusing on self-regulation skills which are highly influenced by transitions and the environment. Sensory diets are incorporated into each student’s daily schedule with options to use a variety of our materials or equipment. Students are also encouraged to self-reflect on their thoughts, feelings, and emotions through our special “Zones of Regulation” wall in the Occupational Therapy room. The emphasis on identifying individual self needs directly impacts student performance by managing stress, processing sensory input, and promoting positive interpersonal communication. At Triton Support Services, we understand balancing all of these crucial skills are difficult to manage through distance learning and hope to provide relief through our services.
From our Speech & Language Team: The events that occurred following the World Health Organization’s declaration of a pandemic immediately put a halt on everyone’s lives. Traveling was banned, stay at home orders were put in place, and locations of public gatherings were shut down. Unfortunately with this sudden turn of events, schools were greatly impacted, completely altering each students’ learning process, and leaving parents questioning how their children were going to continue their education.
Many parents suddenly had to help facilitate their child’s learning remotely (either online or via homeschooling). For many parents, this can be an overwhelming and daunting experience, especially if they continue to work. One solution that seems to work well for both parents and students is learning pods. From the perspective of a speech-language pathologist, these learning pods enable students to access their academic environment, while social distancing, with the added bonus of not feeling alone and isolated. At Triton Support Services, learning pods allow for a small group (3-4) of similar aged students to access their education separately in a collaborative manner, with the facilitation of an educational specialist.
When taking part in learning pods, students also have the opportunity to participate in small social skills groups facilitated by speech-language pathologists and occupational therapists. The social skills groups focus on the fundamentals of social interaction while also playing games and having fun. Students participating in these groups gain lifelong skills allowing them to interact confidently and positively with others by gaining skills in anger management, initiating/maintaining conversations, understanding emotions, reading body language, etc. While participating in these social skills groups, speech language pathologists and occupational therapists are able to work with the students in small groups and/or one-on-one in order to help identify any speech, language, and/or motor deficits that may require further evaluation.
Our mission is to provide an integrated educational and therapeutic care platform for children, while providing support and coaching for their families. We use a team approach to provide efficient and effective services, helping special needs children to thrive.