Wednesday, November 15, 2017

IEP Meeting: Be Prepared

Individualized Education Program (IEP) Meeting: Be Prepared

This is an opportunity for school personnel and parents to communicate. As the parent it is important to do your homework and be prepared. 

An IEP meeting can be a positive experience if everyone is able to communicate clearly. Here are things to do before an IEP meeting:

Monday, June 26, 2017

How to Support Your Child’s IEP Goals Over the Summer

If your child has an IEP, but not able to or eligible to attend a summer learning program, you might feel nervous about how they will maintain progress made during the school year. You can help reinforce their goals at home. Here’s how: 

Review the IEP
The first step in preparing a summer learning plan is to re-read your child’s IEP. Be aware that some goals are designed to be worked on at school, therefore not all of your child's goals can be worked on at home.

Identify Summer-Friendly Goals
When your child’s IEP team creates goals, its focus is on skills to help your child succeed in school.
For example, your child’s IEP may say, “Will increase reading accuracy and fluency to a first-grade level." School may use a specialized reading program, but it is likely you are not trained to use that program. Instead, ask the teaching staff if there are books you can practice with at home or an appropriate summer reading list. 

Your child may also have goals that are not strictly academic. They may be working on social-emotional skills or functional goals. For example, one of her goals might be, “Will identify and manage feelings (anxiety, stress) on a daily basis." You can support this goal by following your child's behavior intervention plan. It will have a description of how the teachers worked with them at school on this goal. You can use the same approach.

Skills You Can Work On
Your child’s IEP can help remind you of the bigger goals they are working toward. In many cases, it may make sense to focus on specific steps toward those goals. Think of each goal as sitting at the top of a ladder. There are many rungs your child has to climb to get there. Each rung is a skill they need to learn to get to the next one. 

Sometimes an IEP plan can break goals into smaller steps or skills already. If your child’s plan does not, check their progress report or ask the teacher to help you list the skills that make up each goal.

Plan Your Summer Program
As you start getting ready for summer, make sure you get the support you and your child need. Here are some guidelines: 

Meet with your child’s teacher and service providers a few weeks before the end of the school year. They can help you get a sense of the current skill level and which skills are most important to work on over the summer.

Share goals with summer programs. If your child will be attending camp or summer school, take time to meet with the director before the program begins. Share the goals you are working on. Ask what opportunities your child might have to practice those skills and how they might be able to help provide support. 

Be realistic about what you can accomplish. Tackling too much can be counterproductive. Make a list of the top things you want to work on over the summer. And be specific. 

Find creative ways to work on skills. You can support your child’s learning in all sorts of ways. Take a field trip to a local science museum. Help practice fractions and measurement while you cook together. You can even work on social skills and money management by having them order and pay at a restaurant. 

Don't forget to schedule down time and have fun!  

Monday, June 19, 2017

Child Therapy Naperville

For Immediate Release

Naperville, IL, June 2017 - Kids and families experience a lot of stress nowadays. We constantly hear about the issues that preschoolers through high schoolers are having. There is frequent news about bullying, friend and peer issues, tantrums or acting out behaviors, anxiety, self-esteem or divorce in families. Many parents look for professional help with these issues. 

"As far as we know, Child Therapy Naperville is currently the only local counseling practice that specializes exclusively in helping children and parents. Many parents say they find us when they are looking for a specialist, especially one that can even help really young kids," says Dr. Denise Duval, Founder and Clinical Director, Child Therapy Chicago & Naperville. 

Dr. Duval's practice has been helping kids and parents in her Chicago Lakeview office for almost 15 years and she is now pleased to open a downtown Naperville office at 29 S. Webster St. Parents can call or email to schedule time for a free phone consultation with Dr. Duval. 

For more details about Child Therapy Naperville or a free phone consultation, please call Denise Duval, PhD at (773) 880-1485 or email

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Summer Family Routines

Summer is a break from the normal school year activities, but don’t let that stop you from maintaining some structure for your children and family unit. It is important to remember to have family learning and bonding time. Follow these ideas to keep your children and family on track, build family rituals, and try new ways of reaching goals.

Read – Many of us read to our children, but things can sometimes get in the way. Summer is the perfect time to get back to reading regularly to your children. Let every family member contribute ideas to a “book bucket list” and select them together. Designate a time of night when you and your children will read together.

Family Meeting – If you don’t already have regular family meetings, summer is an excellent time to start or to get back on track. Family meetings should be routine, not the go to when someone is in trouble. Try pairing the meeting with a special ritual, such as milk and cookies. Start with questions such as; What happened this week? What is coming up next week? What is something wonderful someone did for you? What is something wonderful you did for someone? What are your concerns?

Dinner – Take advantage of having a little more sunlight in your day and try some new fun dinner rituals. Have your children help add to the menu or help you cook. This routine encourages family meals where everyone is engaged and present, as well as teaching simple cooking skills.

Calendar – Time flies in the summer! Each member of your family may have special things they would like to do over the summer. Sometimes, the only way to make sure something happens is to schedule it. Sit down with your family at the start of the season and make a summer bucket list. Make a plan for when these activities will happen and place them on a physical wall calendar where everyone in the family can see it. 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Summer Schedule

Creating a summer schedule is important to maintaining structure for your children, as well as building the opportunity to add more fun to your day. It may help to consider these tips when putting your summer schedule in place.

Plan daily activities. These can include exercise, chores, outdoor play, educational activities/crafts, relaxation, hobbies, reading, pool time, trip to the park, board game night and free time.

Draft a schedule. After putting together a list of your activities, draft a schedule that will flow and follow your typical routines. You can customize your schedule any way you would like. Try to follow a specific schedule more than one day a week to set structure and balance.

Example Schedule:
9am - Breakfast
10am - Chores
10:30am - Reading
12pm - Lunch
1pm - Educational activity
2pm - Hobbies
3pm - Exercise/outdoor play
5:30pm - Dinner
6:30pm - Family time

Free Time. Don’t forget to schedule in free time. When there are plenty of fun activities and outings, it can be easy to fill up your time. Free time gives everyone the opportunity to work on something they have an interest in or just some quality down time to recharge the batteries. 

Monday, June 5, 2017

The Transition from School to Summer

As we all prepare for the end of another school year, let's not forget that the transition into summer can be difficult for young children. It is important to think about the following tips to build a successful transition into the summer months. 

Stick to a Schedule
All the hustle and bustle of end-of-year parties and activities can make your child overtired and overstimulated. Keep their bedtime steady so they are not heading to school exhausted, and do not be afraid to turn down an invitation. Set a limit for how many events you are willing to do each week. Keeping to your regular schedule will help reduce tantrums and overtired outbursts.

Maintain Friendships
Summer vacation is a great time to create family memories, but your child may be worried about not seeing the friends they have made at school. Your child will appreciate it if you can arrange for them to have some play dates.

Summer also provides an opportunity to make some new friends. You may have enrolled your child in a camp to encourage these social interactions, but keep in mind that it is like starting school all over again. Make sure to tour the camp during an open house before school ends. Meet a few of the counselors and children who will be attending so your child will recognize friendly faces. If that is not possible, sit with your child and look at pictures of the grounds and staff on the camp website.

Think About Your Language
It is exciting and fun to look forward to what is next for your child, whether that is kindergarten or first grade. However, talking about a new school year could make create some anxiety and uneasiness. It is months away, so slow down the talk about how they are going to be a "big first-grader." If they tell you they are nervous about next year, don't brush it off by saying, "You'll be fine!" Instead, listen to their feelings and remind them of other new situations in which they were anxious and how they handled it. 

Inspire Education
Before school ends, ask your child about their favorite classroom activities. Think about ways you can re-create them at home. Engage your child in what they are interested in. Involve them in active play and learning. This is the best way to inspire what they have been learning about all year.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Social Emotional Development: First 9 Months

Social Emotional Development: Ages 0-3 months, 3-6 months and 6-9 months

Babies start to develop relationships with the people around them right from birth, but the process of learning to communicate, share, and interact with others takes many years to develop. Developing the ability to control your emotions and behavior is also a long process. Children will continue to develop their social-emotional skills well into their teenage years, or even young adulthood.

The following are some of the typical developmental milestones for children 0-3 months of age:
  • See clearly within 13 inches from her face
  • Be comforted by a familiar adult
  • Respond positively to touch
  • Quiet when picked up
  • Listen to voices
  • Smile and show pleasure in response to social stimulation
The following are some of the typical developmental milestones for children 3-6 months of age:
  • Give warm smiles and laughs
  • Recognize faces
  • Cry when upset and seek comfort
  • Show excitement by waving arms and legs
  • Notice a difference between two people based on the way they look, sound, or feel
  • Smile at self in the mirror
  • Enjoy looking at other babies
  • Pay attention to own name
  • Laugh aloud
The following are some of the typical developmental milestones for children 6-9 months of age:
  • Express several different clear emotions
  • Play games like Peek-a-boo
  • Show displeasure at the loss of a toy
  • Respond to you when you talk or make gestures
  • Start to understand your different emotions (i.e. your baby might frown when you speak in an angry tone of voice)
  • Show more comfort around familiar people, and anxiety around strangers
  • Possibly comfort self by sucking thumb, or holding a special toy or blanket
Red Flags:
  • Not responding to sounds
  • Not smiling or responding to you the way you expect
  • Avoids close contact or cuddling
  • Is inconsolable at night
  • Cannot seem to self-soothe or calm self
  • Your child has no interest in games like peek-a-boo
If you notice any of these by the time your baby is 8-9 months old, you may want to talk to your doctor or another health professional such as a mental health clinician, a speech-language pathologist, or an occupational therapist.

Read our other article on the first year of development.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Impulse Control and Social Skills

Impulse Control and Social Skills

Now that we have discussed what impulse control is and how a child may struggle with their own impulsivity, it is important to draw a connection to the different aspects that can be affected by having good vs. poor impulse control.

One of the major areas that can be affected by impulse control is socialization. Social skills are very important skills for a child to practice on a daily basis. They influence a child’s ability to develop interpersonal relationships with others, follow “hidden rules” of life, feel a sense of belonging and commonality amongst their peers, and not put them in a position to be victimized for inappropriate or “unexpected” behaviors. Children that struggle with impulsivity also tend to struggle with social skills and making friends. Therefore it is essential that we teach our children about impulse control and how it relates to socializing in an expected way.  How can we do that?

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Therapy Dogs: The Power of Animals

I recently got my dog licensed as a therapy dog and it has been a very exciting new journey for the both of us. Even though it has only been a few short months, I have already been able to experience the true power that animals (specifically dogs) can have on people. Working with children and adolescents who struggle with a wide range of issues each day has given me the opportunity to utilize animal assisted therapy with my own dog.

Animal assisted therapy (AAT) is a type of therapy that involves animals as a form of treatment. The goal of AAT is to improve a patient's social, emotional, or cognitive functioning.

Sometimes just the sight of a dog can lift someone’s mood. Recent studies have shown that a correlation was acknowledged between the human /dog bond and the emotional health of humans.

Studies have shown that a person holding or petting an animal will cause a lowering of blood pressure, the release of strain and tension, and can draw out a person from loneliness and depression. 

Other emotional disorders that can greatly benefit from therapy dogs include: 
  • PTSD, 
  • ADHD, 
  • Autism, 
  • Anxiety
  • Depression 
Working with grief / loss and improving communication skills are also added benefits.

In my own experience, my dog serves just a few simple purposes. He doesn’t have to jump through hoops or weave in and out of cones. He simply has to be present and ready to give and receive love from others. It is the magic of conducting therapy with dogs. Their simple presence can calm someone, give comfort and even a sense of peace. 

It can allow a child (or any client) to express emotions through the dog, increase endorphins and provide a feeling of unconditional love. 

It has truly been an eye-opening experience for me already. The amount of smiles that my dog brings to people’s faces on a daily basis is priceless and I look forward to the many more opportunities that come our way as we continue this journey together.

Shawna Paplaski, LCPC

Sunday, April 2, 2017

What is Impulse Control?

What is Impulse Control?

Lately, I have been working with a number of children who struggle in a variety of settings with their "impulse control." But what does this really mean? What does it look like if a child is struggling with it? And how is that control gained back?