Teletherapy 101: What to Expect and Common Questions

PlayWorks Therapy Inc. is committed to ensuring your child receives quality services during this time of uncertainty and have transitioned to all online teletherapy sessions. We are looking forward to this virtual experience with you!

What is Teletherapy?

Teletherapy, also referred to as telehealth, is a type of therapy provided by your child’s therapist online through video chat, much like FaceTime, Skype, or Gchat. Although teletherapy is a new offering at PlayWorks Therapy, it is a model of therapy that has been used and researched in the field for several years. PlayWorks Therapy is remaining current with best practice and continuing to provide evidence-based therapy through this mode of therapy.

What can I expect from a Teletherapy appointment?

Depending on the type of therapy your child receives, the structure of the therapy session may differ slightly than the in-person appointments. The session itself may consist of the therapist reviewing goals and techniques with caregivers as well as assisting in choosing appropriate toys, games, and materials to target those goals. The therapist would then provide recommendations for how to use each material, including specific prompts to use throughout the activities. We realize that your child may not be as engaged or motivated to sit in front of a video so we require a parent or caregiver to be present or nearby for the majority of the session.

Will this really be a productive mode of therapy for my child?

Many providers have been using teletherapy as their primary mode of therapy over several years with success. Because the structure may look different than usual the in-person appointments, our expectation of what makes a “productive” or “successful” session may also change. Your child’s goals may shift slightly in this period but just know that every and any interaction your child has with their therapist informs their continued work. With a strong partnership, both the therapist and caregivers can use techniques with the child to reach targeted goals.

Won’t it be awkward that my child and the therapist are in different rooms?

At first, some children do find it slightly awkward or uncomfortable to work with therapists virtually. Below are strategies we recommend trying to increase your child’s comfort level with this new type of appointment:

  • Find a space that works for you and your child. This does not need to be the quietest or cleanest room in your home; however, be mindful of the visual distractions (e.g. toys, games) in the room as this may affect your child’s attention. We recommend that you choose a favorite place or comfortable space you usually spend time in as this may help your child with the transition.
  • Help your child settle in by allowing them to have a favorite toy or other comforting object with them.
  • With supervision, allow your child understand the technology by gently touching the screen and exploring the different functions, provided by the therapist.
  • Check in with others in your home to see if they want to be present or out of view for the session and ultimately let your child know who will be with them.

I’m not great with technology. Will this be challenging to set up?

In most cases, your teletherapy appointment will take place on a website or app platform. Your therapist will communicate with you about your child’s specific platform, and whether or not to download an app, based on what type of therapy they receive. Your therapist will then send you a confirmation email with the link and any other information you will need to access the appointment. It will be as simple as opening your email and selecting the link! You will then be directly connected to your therapist’s video chat.

I am in the appointment, but now I am experiencing a problem with the connection.

Below are technology tips to help you get the most of your therapy sessions:

  • Be sure to switch on audio and video settings at the start of the session.
  • Confirm a plan with your therapist in case the connection is abruptly ended.
  • Check the use of additional devices. Streaming or heavy use on another device at the same time as your session may slow your connection and video quality.
  • Having multiple tabs open on your device may also impact video quality.
  • If possible, try not to sit in front of a bright window or light.
  • Let your therapist know if you cannot see or hear them clearly – we want you to get the most of your session!

Questions or concerns?

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

Amanda Deligiannis, MSW, LSW
Licensed Social Worker

Photo Credit: GSCSNJ via photopin.com

Chill-dren: Calming Strategies For Your Child At Home

Picture this: You’ve had a long day at work, reprimanded by your boss and had a disagreement with that one co-worker who always gets under your skin. All you can think of is how much you want to get home! You already have in mind exactly what will help you let the stress of the day go.

Children and Stress

Although our children do not have bosses or coworkers, they do experience daily stress and share your feelings of wanting time to relax. The only thing is, they often do not know exactly what will help them de-stress and calm down in the moment. You can help your child by having a conversation about quiet activities they enjoy and items or experiences that make them feel better when they are upset. Discussing and practicing their calming strategies while they are feeling happy and relaxed will be important so your child knows how to use them during frustrating moments. Below are ideas to get you and your child started with their own relaxation routine.

Calming Ideas for Children

  1. Calm Down Corner
  • Different from a time-out spot, the calm down corner is a place your child can go when they are feeling overwhelmed or stressed. It can be any spot around the house that they always have access to and can leave set up. Encourage your child to put blankets, pillows, and anything comfortable to cuddle with. Let them know that this is their special spot they can come to whenever they need a break.
  1. Deep Breaths
  • Deep breaths are a great tool for calming because once your child masters them at home, they can use them anywhere! Together with your child, practice taking three to five slow, controlled breaths. You can prompt your child to pretend their body is balloon and to watch their midsection fill up while they inhale, and see it deflate while they exhale. Modeling with your own body is a great way to show them exactly how their air should move and sound when they breathe.
  1. Yoga
  1. Calm down kit
  • The calm down kit is a bucket or bin full of items and pictures that is easily accessible to your child when they are feeling upset. It might include crayons and paper, something to squeeze, play-doh, snacks, bubbles, stickers, a book, and/or a feelings chart. You can also fill it with pictures of any of the ideas above!

What else can I do?

If your child is demonstrating continued difficulty calming themselves at home, consider contacting our office, as our social workers can provide your family with helpful tools and supports to help your child move from angry, sad, and/or scared back to the loving, happy child you know them to be.

Questions or concerns?

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

Amanda Deligiannis, MSW, LSW
Licensed Social Worker
Photo Credit: Photo by Anissa Thompson from FreeImages

Employee Spotlight: Stephanie Wroblewski, MSW, LCSW

What do you love most about working for PlayWorks Therapy?

My favorite thing about working at PlayWorks is the welcoming environment. I love that the clinic was created in a way to promote collaboration and connection between families, staff, and therapists. Every time I walk into the clinic, I feel like I am entering the center of a special community, where everyone is focused and committed towards enhancing the lives of all children.

What is your favorite children’s book?

Instead of choosing just one book I will have to choose a series, and that is Junie B. Jones! I still remember reading my first Junie B. Jones book (when I was in early elementary school), and instantly falling in love with her character. As a child I was eager to purchase the latest book in the series, and I was constantly reading (and re-reading) each and every one.

What do you enjoy most about living in Chicago?

It is hard for me to choose just one thing I enjoy most about living in Chicago, but when I think of how much I love this city, the first thing that comes to mind is the lake. Through all seasons, I really enjoy walking/biking down the lakeshore path, waking up early to enjoy a sunrise over the water, or just taking in the beautiful waters and seemingly endless horizon.

What is your favorite childhood memory?

Again I will choose a “series” of memories instead of just choosing one: my family’s yearly vacation to Wisconsin Dells. Each summer my entire family (grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.) drives to Wisconsin Dells to spend a week together enjoying picnics, bonfires, and all sorts of summertime activities. The tradition began a few years before I was born and continues to this day, even as our family has nearly tripled in size!

Would you rather a mountain or beach vacation?

Mountains. I will definitely choose mountains over the beach every time! I love the feel of the crisp mountain air and the panoramic views from the top of a high peak.

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

There are so many successes I am lucky enough to experience with my clients, both big and small, and I think it is very important to acknowledge and celebrate each and every one. A few weeks ago one of the young boys I work with was having a difficult time leaving the sensory gym in order to return to our therapy room and resume work for the day. Before I was even able to suggest some strategies he can use to calm down he stopped shouting, took a big deep breath, and told me exactly how he was feeling. This was the first time this particular child independently used a calming strategy in my presence, and I was so proud of him for doing so!

What is your hometown?

I grew up in Western Springs, Illinois.

What do you like to do in your free time?

My absolute favorite thing to do in my free time is travel! I also love to read, spend time with my family, and do just about anything outside.

What is your favorite therapy toy?

Currently my favorite therapy toy is Mr. Potato Head. I love how this toy allows for endless possibilities when it comes to creativity and expression.

Share a fun fact about yourself.

I have a goofy and energetic English bulldog named Filomena.

Stephanie Wroblewski, LCSW
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

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

Increasing Participation in Daily Routines

Establishing routines in your child’s life are crucial in that they help to create expectations and predictability. However, certain routines can often be difficult to follow when considering a parent’s work schedule and child’s behavior at particular times of the day. Children often feel as though they experience a loss of control when being asked to constantly “do this and that.” Parents-don’t panic! Try implementing these small tricks at home and school, which have been shown to increase your child’s participation and motivation to engage in routines!

How can routines help my child?

Routines are created to help your child understand what he/she should be expected to do throughout the day. Routines are important in a variety of settings, including the home and school. It is the parents’ and teachers’ duties to enforce these routines on a daily basis, which can include specific activities as well as consistent responses that reinforce participation. For example, if a child is expected to sit for circle time and he/she is having difficulties, it is crucial that the teacher responds in a consistent way in order for the child to understand that circle time is the next step and the child is expected to participate.

What if my child has difficulties following routines?

If your child is having difficulties following specific routines at home or school, creating a visual schedule of the specific steps in that routine can help to increase your child’s motivation and control of the situation. For example, if your child demonstrates resistance towards the morning routine, follow these simple steps to create a visual schedule:

  1. Take pictures of your child engaging in each step of the routine (e.g. waking up, getting dressed, eating breakfast, etc.)
  2. Place the pictures vertically on paper, numbering each step to help the child understand what needs to be done first/last.
  3. Allow the child to mark each step once completed. Ask your child how he/she wants to mark the steps (e.g. putting a sticker next to the completed step). Laminating the schedule is a fun way in which your child can “X” off the steps and then erase for the next day.
  4. Use this schedule every day for at least two weeks, which will allow for sufficient time to understand whether it is making an impact or not. It is important that all caregivers use the chart with your child in order to build consistency. 

How do these visual schedules actually help?

Visual schedules serve many purposes for children and caregivers. First, the pictures on the schedules allow children to see themselves in action, which adds an extra fun factor. Secondly, the schedule allows children to have increased control, in that they are able to mark off each completed step. Lastly, the schedule serves as reminders to the caregivers as to what the child has done and what he/she needs to further complete. It is also helpful for caregivers to add in an incentive if the child is able to complete all steps included in a routine (e.g. giving your child extra play time before leaving for school).

Questions or concerns?

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

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

Photo Credit: Openclipart-Vectors via Pixabay

Let’s Talk About Feelings!

As children grow and learn to navigate their worlds, their experiences will be coupled with a variety of feelings. When children are unable to express themselves, it may result in increased frustration and aggressive behaviors. Talking about feelings can be difficult for children, as for many adults, and it is our jobs as caregivers to help facilitate children’s process of expression.

Which feelings should I focus on with my child?

For either younger children who do not have the language to label their feelings or older children who do not understand their feelings, it is helpful to focus on the common emotions of happy, sad, mad, and scared. These four feelings are considered to be baseline and can be used in helping your child better describe and understand their specific experiences.

How can I practice these with my child?

In order to increase your child’s understanding of these feelings, it would be beneficial to create a feelings chart. This can be a fun art project that you do with your child! First, take pictures of your child making a happy, sad, mad, and scared face. If your child is having trouble making these faces, bring out a mirror and practice doing them together. Then, put the four pictures onto a paper and label the feelings underneath each picture. Keep the chart in sight throughout the day, such as posting it on the refrigerator or cabinet. Practice using the chart by asking your child how he/she feels throughout the day. If your child is unable to voice the feeling, have him/her point to the picture. It is important that caregivers acknowledge and praise the child for his/her efforts, such as responding, “You are telling me that you are mad. Thank you for telling me.” Caregivers are also encouraged to remind the child that feeling sad, mad, and scared is not wrong so your child feels comfortable continuing to accurately express himself/herself. With continued practice with the chart, your child will begin to move towards increased self-expression.

Can this be helpful at school too?

This feeling chart can be used in any setting! It is recommended that the child use this chart in the environment that poses the most difficulties. For example, if your child is having difficulties with feeling expression while interacting with his/her classroom peers, the teacher can use the chart to help your child better communicate (via words or pointing) feelings. Increased expression of emotions can also result in more appropriate social behaviors, as your child will have more confidence using his/her words.

Questions or concerns?

If you have questions or concerns about your child’s emotional recognition and identification, please contact us at info@playworkschicago.com or 773-332-9439. Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Brittany Hill, MS, MSW, LCSW, DT
Developmental Therapist
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Photo Credit: https://kids.lovetoknow.com/feelings-chart-children

Social Work: Destigmatized and Unfiltered

When you first hear that a social worker is going to be making weekly home visits, what is the first thing that comes to mind? DCFS? Domestic violence? Child abuse? There are many misconceptions about what social work actuallyisand what social workers actually do.This blog will help provide some information to understand the differences between what social work is and how it can help.

What is social work?

The term social work can be a very broad and general term, so what do social worker’s actually do? They help people in need. Social workers work in a variety of settings including hospitals, nursing homes, and schools. As a pediatric therapist, sessions can occur in any and all types of environments that are best suited to address your child’s goals of the session.

Early Intervention:

Most Early Intervention social work sessions occur in the home and a social worker will work collaboratively with the family to target specific goals for the sessions. A social worker can facilitate and locate resources as needed within the community, such as food pantries and daycares. Sessions can focus on specific challenging behaviors/daily routines that your child may be struggling with. A social worker will provide parent education and implement strategies when working with challenging behaviors. Counseling services are frequently provided to all families and referrals are made as needed.

Private Therapy:

Social workers directly work with your child and family to focus on any area that your child is experiencing difficulty with i.e., difficulty in school, aggressive behaviors, emotional regulation, and mental health concerns. Social workers also provide counseling services to address topics of grief and loss, difficulty with family transitions, and facing peer pressure. Families are active participants in the child’s therapy through interventions and strategies that are learned and implemented at home.

How can social work help my child?

Social work services help children and families by providing education and interventions specific to each family. Working with a social worker can help create essential age-appropriate disciplinary techniques and establish boundaries within the home. Increasing your child’s social-emotional and regulation skills will help children communicate and become cognizant of their thoughts, feelings, and actions. Counseling services create a safe environment for your child to express their feelings while understanding how to self-regulate through everyday stressors.

Questions or concerns?

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

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

Photo Credit:Andrew Branch via StockSnap.io

“I don’t like it when they yell at me”: Deescalation and the Calm Response

“I don’t like it when they yell at me.”

I often hear this phrase when working with children. Imagine you have driven into a busy intersection before your turn and another driver starts yelling and honking loudly. It would be easy to become defensive and ready to argue with the other driver. This could also be a natural response for a resistant child who is yelled at by mom or dad. Yelling seems to be an easy fix to an immediate problem when we feel tired or overwhelmed, but it will often make your child more upset.

It has been said that a gentle answer will deescalate anger. Often, an angry person can be calmed down by a simple, quiet, and empathetic response. He or she will be more likely to communicate and resolve the issue that is causing them to feel angry or frustrated. When your child is upset, don’t match their level of emotion. Try to remain calm and clear headed. Use quiet, kind words to help them relax to a point where they are able to express their thoughts and feelings. Your child will feel respected and understood, even if they cannot have their way.

As always, consistency is the key to any discipline process. It is important to set boundaries with your child and this may take time as you develop a habit of calm communication. If your child has become accustomed to yelling, he or she may no longer respond to it. Don’t give in to harsher words or a higher volume. With patient work and loving communication, you and your child can enjoy living in a yell-free home!

If you have questions related to determining strategies for responding to behavioral challenges, please contact one of our pediatric social workers.

Laura Mauriello, MS, LCSW, DT

Creating a Routine for your Toddler’s Bedtime

By Marissa Palmer, MSW, LSW, DT

bedtime

Who needs a bedtime routine?

After a full day of playdates, climbing on furniture, sloppy mealtimes, and energetic chatting, who needs help to fall asleep? The answer is everyone. You’ve probably created a routine for yourself without realizing it. Do you typically brush your teeth, check Facebook one last time, watch a favorite show, and kiss your partner goodnight? Knowing what to expect allows your body to relax and prepare for a successful night of sleep. Let’s create a routine for your child as well!

How do I construct a bedtime routine?

1.) Think about what you already do with your child at night. Do you typically have bath time, read a book, brush teeth, or sing a song?

2.) Jot down 4-5 ideas of activities you’d like to include in your schedule.

3.) Reflect on your child’s current bedtime. Does he start rubbing his eyes at 8:00pm? Is he staying up until 10:30pm while jumping on his bed? Start the routine approximately 30 minutes before your ideal bedtime. If you want lights out at 8:00pm, begin at 7:30pm. Please refer to the sleep chart for the appropriate amount of evening sleep for your toddler.

Learn more about your child's needs based on their age group at www.Parents.com

Learn more about your child’s needs based on their age group at www.Parents.com

4.) Choose 3 or 4 of the activities you wrote down and put them in an order that makes sense for you and your family, along with what time you would like it to occur. For example:

7:30pm: Bathtime
7:45pm: Brush teeth
7:50pm: Read a book
7:58pm: Sing the bedtime song

5.) Document your schedule, place it somewhere visible, and follow the routine!

I did it! Anything else I should know?

Consistency is key. By sticking to the routine, your child will quickly learn the schedule and begin to thrive at his or her own bedtime! Children are comforted by boundaries and consistent expectations. The more you follow your own schedule, the more successful it will be.

Imitate nature in your own home. Keep the lights dimmed, the sounds soothing, and electronics to a minimum. Lights from phones, televisions, and computer screens have been shown to disrupt sleep in children and adults.

If you continue to struggle with your child’s sleep, consult your child’s pediatrician or contact the team of Social Workers at Playworks Therapy, Inc.