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Tips for Parents: Preparing Children with Developmental Issues for School

August 9, 2017 12:00 PM with Dr. Evora Brent

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All parents and children experience a mix of nerves and excitement for back-to-school time, but for children who are also dealing with developmental issues, delays and impairments related to cognitive, language and motor skills, as well as their parents, there are many additional steps that can make this time of year very stressful. How can you prepare before the school year comes around? Join Dr. Evora Brent, Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrician at NorthShore, for a chat during which she will answer your questions and provide tips for preparing your child for school and working throughout the year, as well as resources for parents regarding support and education.

Kathryn (Moderator) - 12:00 PM:
Our chat is now open. You can submit your questions at any time during our chat.

Evora Brent (Northshore) - 12:02 PM:
Hello everyone. Let's chat

  Ahime (Chicago, IL) - 12:03 PM:
How do I prepare my Autistic twins When they get rejected from other peers that don't or can't accept them because of their disabilities? As a parent how do I protect them from their Social emotions interfering in their Academic learning?
Evora Brent
Instilling resilience in any Child can be tough. However these are common tips first make sure they identify something that they do well. Even in situations that aren't going as planned you can identify something that the child said well if they have enough language and are of the age where they can identify what went well in any situation that's even better. I would start there

  Damaris (Evanston, IL) - 12:06 PM:
My daughter will begin 5th grade this month. She has been going to the same school with the same friends since Kinder. Since the beginning of 4th grade, she's gotten more anxiety when going to school, although she loves it and has many friends. What can I do to lessen her anxiety every morning before dropping her off. She's never been bullied, but is very shy. Once she's in school, she's ok; it's just the getting to school; her emotions flare up and she gets upset.
Evora Brent
We call this school avoidance. This can because by many things from bullying which you mentioned, learning challenges or even due the idea of the "unknown". I would first try to find out her 'motivators' in school. Does she like a particular activity, peer or teacher? If so use that to your advantage. Either way it is important that you do not allow her to miss school as this would only reinforce her school avoidance

  Veronica (Evanston, IL) - 12:11 PM:
Can behavior therapy work as a source of treatment for ADHD?
Evora Brent
Absolutely! Even if medication is used, behavior techniques should be part of the plan. This may be as simple (but important) as praising efforts towards goals like completing a task, improved organization or remembering to turn in your homework. It can include incentive systems as well like sticker charts to behavior contracts for older children. If anxiety or depression is thought to coexist then more formal therapy like counseling maybe warranted. There are many variations of behavior therapy.

  Jen (Northbrook, IL) - 12:17 PM:
My son is hyperactive, very much in the mornings. It can be so hard getting him fed and ready on time. Any tips?
Evora Brent
My suggestions would largely depend on you child's age and the circumstances surrounding the morning time routine. Such as what does he do instead, how do you or have you in past responded to lack of his cooperation and even questions regarding the quality (and quantity)of his sleep the night prior. It may be worth scheduling an appointment to discuss specific details.

  SB (Evanston, IL) - 12:23 PM:
My daughter has been working with a therapist to overcome her dyslexia - she's going to start middle school and I'm worried the new environment might make it harder for her. Are there any good strategies I can teach her for when she gets overwhelmed?
Evora Brent
Middle school can be a tough transition for any child. In your daughter's case she can explore getting accommodations through a 504 Plan. Some accommodations include things frequent breaks (although the time allowed to switch between classes may be enough time to allow her to reset. She can also try mindfulness techniques like visualizing something calming, slow deep breaths or stretching.

  New Mom (IL) - 12:29 PM:
Hi, My child isn't old enough for school yet - I just was curious if it's recommended that children who are hearing impaired work with a therapist in school. I know it's a ways away, but I'm worried about how his social skills will develop when I'm not there...
Evora Brent
Hi New Mom. Congratulations! The answer depends on the level of impairment from the hearing loss. Hearing impairment is one of the several classifications that allow a child to receive an IEP (individualized education program). In as such IEP services may include access to a speech therapist or allow for use of devices like FM units. If it is more thefrar if possible exclusion sociallyat school that concerns you then there are approaches to decrease that likelihood (ex. Lunch time social group or identifying a peer as a "social buddy".

Evora Brent (Northshore) - 12:38 PM:
Please excuse the typos by the way. I ended up having to use my phone instead of a computer! Resilience right?

  Kayla (Evanston, IL) - 12:38 PM:
My daughter (age 7) has a comfort blanket at home - is it okay to give her a comfort item for school? If so, what can I give her that might be comforting like a blanket, but not so big?
Evora Brent
You could allow her to bring a smaller piece of the comfort blanket or try swapping it out with something less noticeable especially as she gets older. You could allow her to wear something of yours with a story of how this use to bring you comfort (it does not have to be a true item of yours or valuable). For example a rubber bracelet might suffice

  J (Chicago, IL) - 12:43 PM:
My son has been learning to deal with his explosive anger. He's in elementary now, and I'm wondering how this behavior might change as he hits puberty, and what I can do to help him cope.
Evora Brent
Thanks for sharing your concern. In general it is not uncommon for anger to worsen during puberty with the influx of hormones and parent-teen vs peer group battles that are innately part of this stage. Nonetheless it can be helpful for his anger to be evaluated by his pediatrician first who can make any further appropriate referrals which may even include counseling.

  Pat (Skokie, IL) - 12:49 PM:
I think the idea of starting school is upsetting my child more than things like doing work or making friends. Is there anything I can do (maybe with his teacher) that might make things less anxious ?
Evora Brent
Definitely. Again sometimes it's just the idea of the "unknown". So help him 'know' school. Some schools host open houses so that the new environment can be explored. Closer to the start of school you learn who your child's teacher and/or classmates may be and therefore make introductions before the added stressor of a new start to school. Going back to the school time routines (bedtime, wake up time) a week or more beforehand can also help. Finally get him excited about starting school by having be part of the preparation like picking out his backpack, school supplies or even what he will have breakfast (or lunch) the day of.

  Lara (Evanston, IL) - 12:57 PM:
Do you have some tips for parents sending their first off to school (with attention issues)? I'm not even sure what staff members to talk with; so overwhelming. Do I need any kind of notes from our pediatrician?
Evora Brent
This is a tough question since it to depends on the level of impairment (actual ADHD vs attention difficulties), your concern as a parent (i.e. Do you wish to disclose any difficulties before the year starts ,etc. it is worth seeking the advice of your pediatrician

Kathryn (Moderator) - 1:00 PM:
This will be the end of our chat. Thank you for your questions, and thank you Dr. Brent for working through technical difficulties! To learn more or speak to a specialist like Dr. Brent, you can contact the Department of Pediatrics

Evora Brent (Northshore) - 1:01 PM:
Thank you all for submitting such insightful questions. I hope you have found this parent chat helpful.
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