Employee Spotlight: Kelly Scafidi

What do you love most about being a social worker?

I love being able to help families navigate through difficult situations and stressful times, while providing comfort, support, and education about their child.

What is your favorite children’s book?

As a child it was Corduroy by Don Freeman, but now it’s Oh, The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss and The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister.

What do you enjoy most about living in Chicago?

I love that Chicago has something for everyone. For me, it’s the summer season- filled with long days of warm weather and sunshine. I like to take advantage of those days by spending them at the dog beach.

What is your favorite childhood memory?

Spending my summers at my family’s cottage in Wisconsin on the lake.

Mountain or beach vacation?

Both, one vacation is never enough!
Share a proud “therapy moment” with one of your clients.
There are so many wonderful moments that can happen during each and every therapy session. A favorite memory was watching a client who was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, initiate a social, play interaction with a new therapist.

What is your hometown?

Chicago, Norwood Park.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I like to be active, by running, biking, or practicing yoga. I enjoy traveling to new countries and learning about different cultures. When I’m not working, I usually enjoy spending time with my family and friends.

What is your favorite therapy toy?

Myself: I like to be as creative as possible and use songs, silly gestures, and whatever toys the child already has.

Share a fun fact about yourself!

I used to play the piano and Irish dance.

Kelly Scafidi, MSW, LCSW, DT
Licensed Clinical Social Worker
Developmental Therapist

Sensational September: Family-Friendly Events This Month!

Family Festival: Swedish American Museum

Time:September 7th, 11am-4pm

Location:5201 N Ashland Ave

Cost:Free

About:This year marks the 50thanniversary of Swedish-American Buzz Aldrin landing on the moon. The festival will honor him and his culture, and will include face painting, crafts, games, raffles, and Swedish food. Some items will have a fee, but most is free!

Low-Sensory Early Exploration: Museum of Science and Industry

Time:September 8th, 8:30am-12pm

Location: 5700 S Lake Shore Dr

Cost:Free, preregistration required

About:The museum will offer the featured exhibits with additional accommodations for sensory needs: having fewer crowds and designated quiet spaces. It includes access to Farm Tech, the Idea Factory, and Circus exhibits.

Minecraft Party

Time:September 14th, 5:30pm-8pm

Location:Power Up Tech Academy, 2867 N Clybourn Ave

Cost:$25

About:An opportunity for kids ages 7-12 to meet other players and play on either private or public servers. The event includes supervision during the playing time.

Fall Fest: Lincoln Park Zoo

Time:Beginning September 27th

Location:2001 N Clark St

Cost: Free entry, attractions require tickets

About:A festival for the whole family, with attractions including a corn maze, a pumpkin patch, professional pumpkin carvers, animal chats, a Ferris wheel, and bounce houses.

Kristen McManus, MOT, OTR/L

Occupational Therapist

Photo Credit: Jugendweihebb via Pixabay

Employee Spotlight- Becky Clark

  • What do you love most about being a Developmental Therapist?

I love how Developmental Therapy allows me to look at the big picture to see how all the various areas of development and environment affect the others. I also enjoy the focus on a child’s social and emotional development in that bigger picture.

  • What is your favorite children’s book?

When I was a young child, it was The Berenstains’ B Bookby Stan and Jan Berenstain, much to my parents’ chagrin. Now in my sessions, I love using Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?by Bill Martin Jr. I guess there is a bear-theme in my reading choices!

  • What do you enjoy most about living in Chicago?

I enjoy Chicago’s diversity the most. It’s one of its richest assest. I also love how Chicago incorporates nature and green spaces into the cityscape.

  • What is your favorite childhood memory?

I went to a summer camp for many years in North Carolina, and each summer was a blast, but I especially remember the summers I went backpacking on the Appalachian Trail. I picked wild blueberries, pet wild ponies, and enjoyed gorgeous views.

  • Mountain or beach vacation?

Mountains, hands down!

  • Share a proud “therapy moment” with one of your clients.

I had a client diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and he had been working for months on regulating his body enough to engage with others in the room. I walked in one session and knelt down to say hello and he calmly walked to me, let me take his hands, then he kissed my forehead. It was the sweetest “hello!”

  • What is your hometown?

Archdale, North Carolina

  • What do you like to do in your free time?

I work once or twice a month at the Chicago Children’s Museum and enjoy working with different populations and ages. When I’m not working, I’m going for walks to my neighborhood beach or hanging out with family and friends.

  • Fun fact about yourself?

I have been to three continents other than North America: Europe, Africa, and Oceania. I would love to see a couple more!

  • Favorite therapy toy?

Songs and books!

Becky Clark, MS, DT
Developmental Therapist

Let’s Play! The Stepping Stones to Verbal Communicators

If you are a parent of a toddler receiving speech and language therapy, you may have noticed your child’s therapist playing games such as peak-a-boo, and wondered to yourself, “What do these games have to do with learning to talk?” While learning to talk is of course the ultimate goal in speech and language therapy, there are actually many skills a child needs to develop before they are ready to start talking. Some of these skills include joint attention, turn-taking, and responding to people and their environment, among others. One of the best ways to support acquisition of these pre-linguistic skills is to engage in social games with your child.

What are social games and why are the important?

Social games are people-based in that they are interactive games between you and your child rather than the use of toys. Examples include peek-a-boo, songs with corresponding actions, hide and seek, tickles, etc. Engaging in social games with your child will help to develop their interaction, communication, and social skills. Through social games, children learn to pay attention to others, anticipate what will happen next, and imitate actions. Additionally, through these games children learn important skills such as how to take turns and connect with others. These pre-linguistic skills are the foundation of verbal language. For example, a child who has difficulty using joint attention, which is shared attention with another person, will not have as many opportunities to learn about their environment from the people around them. Additionally, a child who is not using turn-taking will have difficulty understanding the back and forth nature of conversation. Through acquisition of these pre-linguistic skills a child becomes ready for communication and verbal language use.

How to play and what to look for?

You will want to engage in social games repeatedly so that your child learns the routine. For example, if you play peak-a-boo with your child play it over and over again and look for your child learning the game. You may notice that they have learned the game once they start to smile or laugh in anticipation of you saying, “boo!” Over time, you might see your child’s initiation skills emerging when they cover their eyes with their hands or cover themselves up with a blanket to request playing a peek-a-boo game with you. Eventually, you can try to pause after “peak-a…” and see if your child can fill in the word, “boo!” Once your child has learned the routine they will be able to anticipate what is going to happen next.

When thinking about your child’s language development it is important to remember that there are many steps that come before talking and children must master pre-linguistic skills before they can be successful with verbal language. So, when think you are just “playing” remember that you are actually teaching your child foundational skills to become an active learner and communicator!

Questions or concerns?

If you have questions or concerns about the importance of social games and your child’s language development, please contact us at info@playworkschicago.com or 773-332-9439.

Claire Hacker MS, CCC-SLP
Speech Language Pathologist

Photo Credit: from Pixabay

Come Check Out Our New PlayWorks Therapy Clinic!

We have finally settled into our new clinic and are loving the additional space! Here is a sneak peek into the PlayWorks Therapy community!

Brittany Hill, MS, MSW, LCSW, DT
Director of Social Work Services
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Questions or concerns?

If you have questions or concerns about your child’s development, please contact us at info@playworkschicago.com or 773-332-9439.

Awesome August: Events the Whole Family Will Love!

Make the most of summer in the city with these family-friendly events and activities!

Wiggleworms

Time: Friday, August 2ndfrom 10:00am-11:45am

Location: Lake Stage in Polk Bros Park, Navy Pier, 600 E Grand Ave, Chicago, 60611

Cost: Free and open to the public!

About: Come play along as Wiggleworms, the Old Town School of Folk Music’s celebrated early childhood music program, welcomes young children and their families to the world of music. Children sing, dance, learn finger plays and story songs, and explore rhythm instruments especially designed for little hands. Geared toward children ages newborn through four years.

Chicago Children’s Museum Free Day

Time: Sunday, August 4thfrom 10:00am-5:00pm

Location: Chicago Children’s Museum, 700 E Grand Ave, Chicago, 60611

Cost: Free admission for children under 15 years of age

About: Explore the exhibits at the Chicago Children’s Museum with free admission for all children under 15 years of age on the first Sunday of the month.

Family Yoga

Time: Saturday, August 10thfrom 10:00am-11:00am

Location: Unity Park, 2636 N Kimball Ave, Chicago, 60647

Cost: Free!

About: Join in for a fun flow that will focus on breath, movement, and family. Yoga is taught using dance, story-telling, partner poses, and having fun together! All ages and levels welcome.

Air and Water Show

Date and time: Saturday, August 17th – Sunday, August 18thfrom 10:00am-3:00pm both days

Location: Officially located at North Avenue Beach, 1600 N Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, 60613, but viewable along the lakefront from Fullerton Ave to Oak Street

Cost: Free!

About: Watch the talented pilots of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels and the Royal Air Force Red Arrows as they perform impressive stunts to wow the crowd.

Caitlin Chociej, MS, OTR/L
Occupational Therapist

Photo Credit: Yulianto Pointier via Pexels

Min, Mod, and Max Cues: What does it all mean?

 

When a child begins therapeutic services, long-term and short-term goals or objectives are developed as a way to guide therapy and gauge progress. If your child is already partaking in speech, occupational, physical, or developmental therapy, you’ve probably seen the words “minimal,” “moderate,” or “maximal cues” written in his or her goals. Amongst sometimes “wordy” goals, it can be difficult to interpret meaning of the specific objective, let alone understand what exactly a “cue” means.

What is a cue?
When helping a child reach his or her therapeutic goals, a “cue” is simply something that is going to aid in that child’s success. When I am providing speech therapy to a child, my goal is ALWAYS for that child to be successful; however, the number and type of cues that child needs to be reach his or her goal may vary. Think of a cue as a hint; as a child becomes familiar with the goal, he or she is going to need less “hints” to be successful and, thus, will become more independent. As a child progresses in therapy, the quantity of cues required for a child to effectively complete an objective will decrease. This is one way that therapists gauge a child’s progress.

What types of cues are there?
Generally speaking, many therapists use tactile, visual, or verbal cues in therapy tasks. Each category of cues has several variations:

Tactile cues: Tactile cues are used when a therapist uses physical touch to guide a child towards successful completion of a therapy objective. In speech therapy, this may be demonstrated by gently touching under a child’s chin in an attempt to help produce the /k/ or /g/ sound, or gently tapping a child’s hand to help him or her produce the correct number of syllables in a word. In occupational or physical therapy, the therapist may tap a child’s arm/leg to remind a child to use that specific body part.

Visual cues: Visual cues are used when a therapist provides a visual reminder that helps the child complete his or her task. In speech therapy, this may be as simple as drawing a snake to remind a child to use his “snake” sound to produce /s/; the therapist may tap the picture if the child omits this sound. Gestural cues are a specific type of visual cue; when targeting this same sound, the therapist may run her finger down her arm to demonstrate the long, fluid motion of /s/. Have you ever used a sticky note to remind you to complete a specific task? That’s an everyday example of a visual cue!

Verbal cues: Verbal cues are used when a therapist provides a verbal reminder that helps the child complete his or her task. Using the same /s/ example as outlined above, the therapist may say, “don’t forget your snake sound!” One specific example of a verbal cue is called a phonemic cue. If a child is working on asking for “more,” the therapist may cue the child by vocalizing “mmm.” A carrier phrase is another form of a verbal cue. Instead of using the phonemic cue, “mmm,” the therapist may say, “I want ____” to encourage the child to finish the phrase. A verbal model may be provided if verbal cues are simply not enough at that time; in this example, the therapist may model the word, “more” before handing the child the desired item.

What does “min,” “mod,” “max” mean?
Now that you have a better understanding of the types of cues used in therapy, what does “min,” “mod,” and “max” mean?

“Min,” “mod,” and “max,” stand for minimal, moderate, and maximal. When developing goals, therapists determine how much cuing a child realistically needs to reach his or her goals. Ideally, the level of cuing necessary decreases as a child participates in therapy. While the criteria of minimal, moderate, and maximal is fairly subjective, many therapists determine that minimal cues are used approximately 25 percent of the time, moderate cues are used approximately 50 percent of the time, and maximal cues are used approximately 75 to 100 percent of the time. Therapists may also report using “faded” cues, which means a child may have required moderate cues as the session started, but required minimal cues as the sessions progressed.

Can I “cue” my child at home?
Of course you can! In fact, you’re probably already cuing your child and you may not even realize it. When your child is about to do something undesirable, do you ever catch yourself counting, “one, two, three…?” You just gave your child a verbal cue, which helped him or her to reflect on his or her behavior and (ideally) change it accordingly. If your child is currently receiving therapeutic services, ask his or her therapist for ideas to best cue him or her to reach his or her goals.

Questions or concerns?
If you have questions or concerns about your child’s therapeutic goals, please don’t hesitate to ask his or her clinician for more information. If you have questions or concerns about your child’s development, please contact us at info@playworkschicago.com or 773-332-9439.

Sarah Lydon, MA, CCC-SLP
Speech-Language Pathologist

Photo Credit: Heriberto Herreravia via freeimages.com

Teaching Mindfulness to Kids

As an increasing number of adults explore the practice and benefits of mindfulness, you may begin to wonder if this technique can benefit kids as well.

The simple answer?

ABSOLUTELY!

But how do we teach our kids to practice mindfulness in a way that is both age-appropriate and effective? Let’s start by reviewing what mindfulness is, and then take a look at some tips for teaching mindfulness to kids.

Mindfulness: What is it and why is it helpful?

Mindfulness is most often defined as one’s personal awareness of present feelings, thoughts, experiences, and environment. It is a mental state in which a person becomes purposefully conscious of what is happening both inside and outside of his/her body at any given moment. This state of awareness involves acceptance and is free from judgment. Mindfulness is the practice of recognizing what is happening right now, without labeling thoughts as “right” or “wrong” and without trying to change anything. Numerous studies find the benefits of mindfulness to include a decrease in stress, depression, and anxiety as well as an increase in focus, attention, and self-regulation. Performing a mindfulness exercise will not only bring about a sense of calm in one specific moment but will also better prepare your body and mind to react more calmly in future moments of stress. With regular practice, mindfulness can eventually lead to improved coping skills and an overall increased sense of daily contentment.

Tips for teaching mindfulness to kids

  1. Model mindfulness
    • As a parent, you are your child’s best teacher! By committing to the practice of mindfulness yourself, you will not only help your child to learn these new skills, you will also begin to feel the benefits within your own life.
  2. Practice mindful breathing
    • One of the best ways to begin exploring mindfulness (for adults and children) is to practice mindful breathing. Find a quiet space to sit with your child and take a few moments to just pay attention to your breath. Set an expectation that together you will take five big breaths and you will both try very hard to pay attention only to those breaths. Help bring your child’s awareness to his/her breathing with questions such as: Where can you feel it? Does it make any sound? What parts of your body move when you breathe?
  3. Take a mindful walk
    • Just as with the breathing exercise, it will be helpful to set expectations before taking part in this practice. Tell your child you will take a walk together and during this walk you are going to pay close attention to what you see, what you hear, and what you feel. You can even turn this into a game to make it more fun: “Let’s see how many birds we hear while we are walking today!”To help your child focus during this practice, talk as you walk: “What do you see? What do you hear? What do you feel?”It is also helpful to draw your child’s attention specifically to things you notice. “I hear a dog barking. I feel the wind blowing on my arms. I see three ants walking on the sidewalk.” As you walk, try not to linger too much on any particular feeling or sensation. Identify what you notice, pause, and then move on.
  4. Stay simple
    • Be sure to practice mindfulness at a level appropriate for your individual child. Young children will benefit from language that is more familiar than “mindful” or “conscious.” Instead you can use words such as “listen,” “look,” or “notice.” The focus of this practice is not on the specific language used but on the awareness in a particular moment. Start with simple words and as your child grows (in both age and mindfulness knowledge) you can start to add in more complex language.
  5. Make mindfulness part of your routine
    • Set aside a set amount of time each day to practice mindfulness with your child. You can start by setting the goal to practice mindfulness for 5 minutes each day—adding this time before or after something that is already part of your daily routine. Perhaps mindfulness can become part of your bedtime routine, or maybe it is something you can try every day before dinner. Remember: mindfulness is not just a tool to be used in times of stress. It is most beneficial when incorporated regularly throughout your family’s daily routine. Practice until it becomes habit!

More resources

Check out this website (Guided Meditation for Children) for some freeguided meditations for children and more information on mindfulness!

Questions or concerns?

If you have questions or concerns about your mindfulness or your child’s development, please contact us at info@playworkschicago.com or 773-332-9439.

Stephanie Wroblewski, LCSW
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Reference: Wedge, M. (2018, September 18). 7 Ways Mindfulness can Help Children’s Brains. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/

Photo Credit: khamkhor via pixabay.com

Join In! July Activities for Families

Get out and enjoy the city this July with the following fun activities for the whole family!

Chicago Children’s Museum Free Day:

Time: July 7th10:00am-5:00pm.

Location: Chicago Children’s Museum 700 E Grand Ave, Chicago, 60611

Cost: Admission is free for children under 15.

About: Check out the sights of the Chicago Children’s Museum with free admission for all children under 15 years old on the first Sunday of the month.

 

Play Days at the Farm:

Time:Every Tuesday and Saturday 10:00am-12:00pm.

Location: Lincoln Park Zoo 2001 N Clark St, Chicago, 60614

Cost: Free!

About: Children ages 1-5 and their caregivers join Play Assistants at the Farm-in-the-Zoo for a variety of nature-based activities.

 

Family Night: Mini Golf Build and Play:

Time:July 11th5:30pm-7:30pm

Location: Chicago Public Library (Lincoln Belmont Location) 1659 W. Melrose Street
Chicago, 60657

Cost: Free!

About: Help design, build, and play on a miniature golf course! Best for children 8 years and older, but younger children are welcome with adult help.

 

Family Swim Nights:

Time: July 19th, 20th, 26th, and 27th 6:30pm-8:00pm.

Location: Goldfish Swim School 2630 W Bradly Rd, Chicago, 60618

Cost: $10 per child, with a family maximum of $30.

About: Get the whole family swimming together! Register online beginning at 10:00am on the day of the event.

 

Natalie Machado, MS, OTR/L
Occupational Therapist

Photo Credit: William Stadler from FreeImages

Employee Spotlight: Jill Teitelbaum, MS, CF-SLP

What do you love most about working at PlayWorks Therapy?

My favorite thing about working at PlayWorks Therapy is having the opportunity to collaborate with our amazing team of therapists. I can go to any one of them with any question I may have, whether it be clinical or personal.

What is your favorite children’s book?

Where the Sidewalk Endsby Shel Silverstein

What do you enjoy most about living in Chicago?

My favorite things about Chicago include the Lake & River Architecture Tour (I’ve done it five times), the improv comedy, the food, and the few precious months of summer.

What is your favorite childhood memory?

It’s hard to choose just one, but a memory that vividly sticks out in my mind is the Mr. Softee ice cream truck pulling up to my aunt and uncle’s house on the fourth of July.

Share a proud “therapy moment” with one of your clients.

When a little client of mine found her voice and audibly laughed for the first time since her brain surgery nearly one year prior.

What is your hometown?

Bethesda, Maryland

What do you like to do in your free time?

When I’m not working, I love binging Netflix originals, going for a long run along the Chicago Lakefront Trail, or exploring new neighborhoods in the Chicago area.

Fun fact about yourself?

As part of my final project in American Sign Language class, I learned how to sign the entirety of Justin Bieber’s, “What Do You Mean.”

Favorite therapy toy?

Bubbles are super motivating for kiddos and can be modified depending on the child’s skill level! They can be a great way to target functional requests (more, please, again, etc.), body parts (on belly, on nose, etc.), prepositions (up, down, etc.), following directions (clap, stomp, etc.) and more!