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  1. As a parent of a special needs child, I look forward to the periods of platitude. Every developmental stage is an uphill climb that seems to take forever. So when my child hits a plateau and can thrive in an age-appropriate developmental stage, I relish in the peace that comes with it. I have learned to relax during these periods until it’s time for the next developmental growth challenge. Well, during the spring of 2021 when we had finally settled into our “new normal” and were thriving in a pandemic world, BOOM! I started to notice my usual rule-following, kind-hearted son becoming more irritable out of the blue. And when I say "out of the blue," I mean over things that were never an issue for him in the past. He seemed more tired than usual, he was more sensitive to touch, and even though he has a speech delay, he is verbal — but he really did not want to talk at all. [Related: Raising a Black autistic boy in America] My husband, his teachers, and his therapists all saw this dramatic change in him. For weeks, I chalked it up to the time change. He has always had a hard time adjusting to the bi-annual time changes, especially when we spring forward, so I just assumed this particular year was just a bit harder for him. After weeks of dealing with his attitude, I finally spoke to his pediatrician. She referred me to an endocrinologist. After blood tests and an exam, the endocrinologist looked at me and said, “Well mom, the hormone fairy has asked him to the dance, and he has accepted." He is only 11, My baby is growing up, What does this mean? and Oh no, it’s time for the sex talk, were all the thoughts running through my head. I pulled myself together enough to ask her, "What does puberty look like in a child with autism?” She told me it is different for each child; however most will be more sensory-defensive during this time. She asked me to close my eyes and imagine what it would feel like to feel every single hair growing on my body, what would it feel like to feel the lump of an adam’s apple forming in my throat, and to feel all of the aches as the muscles grow and form in my body. She explained that this is what my son is feeling on a magnified level. This completely explained his change in behavior and his new sensitivity. [Related: Tips for your next IEP meeting from a special-ed attorney] Armed with the knowledge of what was happening, my husband and I immediately put a plan of action in place. The first thing we did was communicate this information to his teachers and therapists. This allowed them to make adjustments in their support. It helped him to continue to be successful and get the most out of school and therapy. Second, we talked to him about what was going on with his body. We discussed the physical and the mental changes that were happening. What stood out to me most was that once we assured him everything he was feeling was “normal,” his irritability lessened by 50 percent. I realized the unknown of what was happening was half of the stress he was feeling. We also asked him to tell us what things he thought would help him cope. He said exercise. Lightbulb moment! My son is a swimmer, and pre-pandemic he was in the pool for three 2-hour sessions per week. This gave his body good sensory work out. Since the pandemic he had been only able to do one 45-minute session per week. His body and brain needed a workout to cope and process all the changes that were happening. Since our son had done Tae Kwon Do in the past and enjoyed it, we picked that up twice a week. It took a few weeks, but we finally started seeing our son return to his rule-following, kind-hearted, non-irritable self. Lastly, we told him to come to us with any questions or thoughts he had about what was going in with his body. We told him nothing was off limits. We also prepared ourselves to be ready and open to answer any questions and have uncomfortable conversations. This part is ongoing, and things come up day by day. However, we have built a deeper level of trust that will be helpful as we enter the teen years. What I have learned on this journey is to start researching and talking to your doctors about puberty when your child is 10 years old. Prepare yourself and be open to questions and conversations. Honestly, if puberty was on my radar, I would have had a preparatory conversation with my son at 10 years old. I would have told him in a very clinical way what changes he may see in his body, and to let me know when it starts happening. Trust what you know about your child. If they have sensory issues, prepare for them to feel body changes on a deeper level, and think of activities they enjoy that can help their bodies cope with the feelings. Be patient, give them grace, and assure them that all the strange things they are feeling are normal and okay. Lastly, as a parent of a special needs child, remember our journey is a marathon: Breathe and give yourself a break. You are doing great!
  2. As parents it is hard to imagine our kids as adults, especially if your child is developmentally different. Will they go to college, trade school or get a job? Are there employment opportunities and, if so, what type? Will they be able to live independently? The panelists on this webinar can help you prepare for the many different options for your child so they can live the most fulfilling life possible. PEERS Chicago will discuss their social coaching program for young adults and Urban Autism Solutions will present their residences, transition academy and farm solution program. We will also learn about Elmhurst University's Learning and Success Academy and Anixter Center will discuss their pathway to college and employment programs. Our esteemed panel consists of: Diane Gould, CEO & Owner, PEERS Chicago, Heather Tarczan, Executive Director, Urban Autism Solutions, Tim Ahlberg, Assistant Director of Admissions, Elmhurst University ELSA and Dina Donohue-Chase, Vice President of Growth & Innovation, Anixter Center
  3. NPN Tareema

    What is ABA?

    until
    Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) can be an effective therapy for kids on the autism spectrum. For parents wondering how ABA works and whether it's right for their child, this live session will offer straightforward information and an opportunity to ask questions at the end. Speaker Rose McLean, pediatric physical therapist and owner of Chicago Pediatric Therapy and Wellness Center, will address: - The philosophy behind ABA therapy - Types of behaviors ABA can address - How to incorporate ABA into your child's schedule - How a child's progress is measured - And much more! Like all of NPN's developmental differences programming, this webinar is free and open to the public! About the speaker: Rose McLean has been specializing in pediatrics since 2004. Upon graduating from Northwestern University with her doctorate in physical therapy, she began her career at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. In the creation of the Chicago Pediatric Therapy & Wellness Center, she not only wanted families to have a center where multi-disciplinary communication and therapist collaboration for each child was a priority, but she also wanted recreational and educational programs available for families to access outside of their one-on-one therapy sessions.
  4. until
    We're meeting in person this month! Woo-hoo! However, masks are required. It’s a night to be supported, to ask questions and share resources, and to be with other parents who get what it’s like to deal with special challenges for their kids. Parents of kids with all types of developmental differences welcome (sensory processing disorder, autism, ADD/ADHD, PDD-NOS, mixed receptive-expressive language disorder, Down syndrome, physical disabilities, medical issues, etc.). Parents/family only, please (no therapists, students or business owners). Feel free to bring drinks or snacks you'd like to share!
  5. until
    Get the support and resources your child needs at our IN-PERSON fair NPN will follow all IDPH and City of Chicago COVID guidelines. Check back for the latest updates. If your child has a physical, developmental or intellectual challenge, NPN's 11th Annual Developmental Differences Resource Fair can help. Our free fair puts you in touch with school options, therapy providers and more resources that will encourage your child to reach his or her highest potential. Your child does not need to have a diagnosis for you to benefit from the resources offered at this fair. Parents with concerns about their child's development due to COVID regression will find help here. Parents can chat with speech, occupational, physical and ABA therapy providers; schools; fun extracurricular options; and more at the exhibitor booths. Plus, get advice and strategies you can use immediately at free expert-led sessions. Exhibit Hall Hours 1:00 - 4:00pm List of Exhibitors Sessions - These in-person sessions will be recorded. RSVP today to receive a link to the live recordings after the event. 12:00 - 1:00pm IEP Questions & Answers with Mo Buti Mo Buti M.Ed-BD, M.Ed-ADMIN, QIDP, is an advocate and instructional expert who is devoted to supporting individuals and families affected by autism and other disabilities. Providing guidance and support to navigate the school district’s complex systems, she assists parents with every stage of the IEP process. This session will start with a short presentation from Mo, and then open up to questions from the audience. Prior to attending this session, we strongly encourage parents to watch our previously recorded session, IEP 101. Find more free IEP-related sessions in NPN's Video Library. One attendee at this session will win a free IEP evaluation session with Mo! Must be present to win. 3:15 - 3:45pm Paying for Services through Grants and Government Programs Kimi Matsumura is the founder and CEO of Chicago Autism Network, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to helping families find and afford effective autism therapy and supports. Kimi will speak about Health Insurance Premium Payment grants (HIPP), Priority of Urgency of Need for Services (PUNS), Supplemental Security Insurance for Children (SSI), local private grants, national private grants, and Medicaid. Attendees at this session will be able to sign up to receive Kimi's detailed slides to reference after the event. 4:00 - 5:00pm From Recreation to Competition: Enrichment Opportunities for Your Child Chicago has so many enrichment opportunities for your child and in this session you will hear from some of the best. Learn how your child can become a competitive or performing participant, or simply have fun. Our esteemed presenters are: Sam Mauceri, Director of Education & Access Programs, Chicago Children's Theatre Blair Sarkiss, Master Instructor, HMD Academy Chicago Tae Kwon Do Eileen Guinane, Special Olympics Administrator, Chicago Park District Special Recreation and Special Olympics Catherine Attfield, Studio Manager, Intrigue Dance & Performance Arts Center John Fitzpatrick, Owner and Head Coach, Chicago Blue Dolphins Laura Fillenwarth, Executive Director, Kids Enjoy Exercise Now (KEEN) Chicago This panel is presented to you by Chicago Children's Theatre and HMD Academy Chicago Tae Kwon Do MUST-KNOW INFO When: Saturday, May 7 12pm–5pm (exhibit hall hours are 1:00 - 4:00) Where: UIC Student Center East, 750 S. Halsted St., Chicago Who: Open to the public! Registration required. This event is designed for adults but we understand that arranging childcare can be difficult. Parents attending with children will not be turned away. Cost: FREE. $25 donation recommended. Donate here. NPN is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. We rely on your financial support to bring free resources like this to Chicago families. Covid precautions: NPN will follow all IDPH and City of Chicago Covid guidelines. As the guidelines change periodically, check back for updates. Interested in exhibiting or advertising opportunities? Find out more HERE. Questions? Email Events Manager Elizabeth Gourio at egourio@npnparents.org. By registering for this event, you agree that NPN may share your name and email address with our presenting sponsors.
  6. Have you noticed a regression in your child—behaviorally, developmentally or socially—since the start of the pandemic? You're far from alone. Join NPN for a webinar on how to detect and manage COVID regression, whether you have a child with special needs or a typically developing child in the crucial development years of 2–5 In this discussion, you will hear from behavioral specialists, speech and language pathologists, occupational therapists, and psychologists about the typical signs that your child may be experiencing developmental regression due to the pandemic. You will also learn about the strategies professionals are using, services that are available, and what activities you can do in the home to combat COVID-19 regression. Our esteemed panel consists of: Dr. Shay McManus, Neuropsychologist, Eyas Landing, Dr. Chrisna M. Perry, PhD, Founder & Director, Comprehensive Learning Services, Lorell Marin, Founder, CEO & Therapist, LEEP Forward, Nicole Cissell, Clinical Director, BGF Children's Therapy, and Jason Wetherbee, Director of Clinical Services & Program Development, EB Pediatric Resources We appreciate our Supporting sponsors, Comprehensive Learning Services and LEEP Forward A special thank you to our Presenting Sponsor, Eyas Landing
  7. NPN Tareema

    COVID Regression and What to Do About It

    until
    Have you noticed a regression in your child—behaviorally, developmentally or socially—since the start of the pandemic? You're far from alone. Join NPN for a webinar on how to detect and manage COVID regression, whether you have a child with special needs or a typically developing child in the crucial development years of 2–5. In this discussion, you will hear from behavioral specialists, speech and language pathologists, occupational therapists, and psychologists about the typical signs that your child may be experiencing developmental regression due to the pandemic. You will also learn about the strategies professionals are using, services that are available, and what activities you can do in the home to combat COVID-19 regression. Our esteemed panel consists of: Dr. Shay McManus, Neuropsychologist, Eyas Landing Dr. Chrisna M. Perry, PhD, Founder & Director, Comprehensive Learning Services Lorell Marin, Founder, CEO & Therapist, LEEP Forward Nicole Cissell, Clinical Director, BGF Children's Therapy Jason Wetherbee, Director of Clinical Services & Program Development, EB Pediatric Resources Special thanks to our Presenting Sponsor, Eyas Landing Thank you to our Supporting Sponsors, Comprehensive Learning Services and LEEP Forward By registering for this event, you agree that NPN may share your name and email address with our presenting sponsors.

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