Tips to Integrate Children with Autism into Day Camp

Camp should be a fun summer experience that all kids can enjoy.  Sending your child to summer camp with new peopleautism and a new routine can be a scary thought for most kids.  The difficulty of this transition is much more pronounced for kids with autism.  There are ways to make this transition easier on kids with autism, so they don’t miss out on this fun, childhood experience.

Tips to transition to a camp setting for kids with autism:

  • Meet the counselors, staff and new teachers before the program begins.
  • Let the counselors, staff and new teachers know to what your child best responds, for example, first/then sentences, praise, or certain words.
  • Explain any “triggers” that may cause your child with autism to have a tantrum.
  • Take a tour of the facilities with your child before you send him for his first day.
  • Show your child a schedule of what his day will look like at camp so he is not surprised.
  • Read your child a social story about camp, following directions, and making friends. Read more

3 Uses for a Body Sock in Pediatric Occupational Therapy

A body sock is a therapeutic modality used in many occupational therapy (OT) sessions to address a variety of skills. ThePortrait of little blonde brown-eyed girl in bed thin, Lycra material covers the child’s body, except for the head, in a similar way to a sleeping bag. The Lycra material provides deep proprioceptive input to assist with self-regulation. This tool can help facilitate many skills for children of all ages.

Therapeutic Uses for a Body Sock:

  1. Self-Regulation-The proprioceptive input facilitated by the body sock provides deep pressure to the child’s entire body. This input is very calming and can assist with regulation of the child’s arousal level.
  2. Endurance-Due to the resistant nature of the body sock, the child will naturally work on his strength and endurance while completing activities wearing the sock. Have your child complete different activities such as board games, reading or yoga poses while wearing the body sock. Read more

Bed Time Strategies for Children with Sensory Processing Disorder

Bed time can be a difficult time for any child.  It can be even more of a struggle for a child with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).   

Bed time strategies for child with SPD

Throughout the day, all children engage in various activities that excite them, including interacting with peers, playing on the playground and fighting with siblings.  It can be a challenge to calm kids down from a daytime of activity. This can be even more of a challenge for a child with SPD.

 As adults, we are able to engage in various tasks to relax our bodies after a busy day.  Children with SPD need the same input, but they are not cognitively aware of their body’s needs.  For example, if an adult has a stressful day, he or she may drink a hot cup of tea, read, or place a hot towel on their face as self-calming techniques.  A child that had a rough day may act out or refuse to go to bed because he or she doesn’t understand what his or her body needs. 

The following strategies can help your child with SPD calm down and improve the process of getting to sleep:

  • Have a Strict Nightly Routine– Completing a predictable bedtime routine decreases anxiety, gives your child control and establishes healthy habits.   A visual schedule of the routine can assist the little ones with understanding the steps.
  • Incorporate Rocking- Typically, slow linear (back and forth), vestibular movement creates a calming effect.  Rocking in a rocking chair or swing is a great activity to help your child wind down.
  • Enjoy Bath Time– Warm water is calming.Incorporating a nice, warm bath at night not only provides your child with calming sensory input, it also provides an opportunity for you and your child to bond over bath play time.  This special, nightly, one-on-one time will also ease the minds of children who may worry about separating from their parents.
  • Read a Favorite Book-Reading your child’s book of choice provides your child with some control.  It is also another great way to relax mind and body.
  • Avoid Excitatory ActivitiesAvoid engaging in alerting activities before bedtime, as this might make it difficult for your child to calm his or her system down and go to bed. Spinning and jumping movements are excitatory and alerting.  In regards to proprioceptive input or heavy work, light touch, such as tickling, is excitatory and alerting.  
  • Avoid Screen Time-Create a rule:  1-2 hours before bedtime no electronics or TV.  This will promote a smoother transition into quiet time.

If your child with SPD needs help with bed time, or if you need more information on Sensory Processing Disorder, contact one of our pediatric occupational therapists today, or download our free SPD infographic.

Navigating Early Speech & Language Milestones: What to Expect Between Ages 2 and 3

Parents often wonder if their child’s skills are developing typically.  Between gross motor skills, fine motor skills, speech-language skills, social-emotional functioning, and overall growth, there is a lot of information to track!  In fact, it might feel overwhelming.  It is important for parents to remember that every child develops at his or her own rate, with some skills emerging faster and other skills taking more time.  When considering your child’s development, referring to developmental milestones can be an excellent guide.

In Part 1 of this blog, we reviewed speech and language milestones to expect during the first year of your baby’s life.  In Part 2, we reviewed communication milestones you might expect to see between ages 1 and 2.  Part 3 of this series will discuss what to expect from your child’s communication between ages 2 and 3.  If you feel concerned about your child’s development in this area, seek help from a licensed speech therapist right away.  A trained therapist will give you accurate information, ease your worries, and give your child any help they might need.  Read more

The Impact of Nutrition on ADHD

For families dealing with ADHD, nutrition concerns or questions may arise. Although there is not clear evidence for diet modifications that can treat the cause of ADHD, there are nutritional guidelines that can affect symptoms and accompanying behaviors.

The Following are Some Nutritional Considerations for Children with ADHD:Nutrition and ADHD

  • Meal Patterning: There is a reason why there are traditionally 3 meals a day. During the day, our body’s physiology requires periods of being fed followed by periods of activity (physical and/or mental). In order to best fuel physical and mental tasks, we need to ensure regular, balanced meals for our kids. This means no skipping breakfast or dinner. Snacks should also be scheduled and finite. Grazing all day can decrease appetite for more nutritious foods at mealtimes and can lead to overeating less nutritious snack foods. Proper meal patterning also helps keep energy stable throughout the day.    
  • Protein, Fiber, and Healthy Fats: These three nutrition components are key to balancing blood sugar. Our brain and red blood cells use glucose as primary fuel, so it is important to keep that fuel running steady without peaks and valleys that affect energy and mood. Protein, fiber, and fat all slow gastric emptying compared to a meal of simple carbs, which means sugar is digested and absorbed into the blood stream at a slower rate. Also, protein food sources are building blocks for neurotransmitters involved in all brain signaling. And finally, healthy fats like omega-3s are used for developing brain and other nervous system tissues.
  • Reduce Refined Sugar (and anything else that you notice exacerbates problem behaviors): Refined sugar tends to provide quick, drastic bursts of energy when consumed alone and/or in large quantities. Often following the energy burst is a crash, since the sugar is quickly used up from the bloodstream and so is the energy. For kids, a little sugar can go a long way since their systems are smaller. Consider things like cereals, sweet beverages, and of course candy and desserts. Try to avoid keeping sugary foods and drinks in the house.
  • Side Effects from Medication: Some ADHD medications have a side effect of decreasing appetite. I have worked with kids on these medications who report they “forget to eat” because their appetite is so impacted. This can lead to weight loss, or in some cases, weight gain because the kids end up overeating junk food later in the day. To remedy this, act as a meal and snack advocate for your kid. Make sure you put the food in front of them and encourage them to eat, since they may not seek it out themselves. It may be easier for them to drink something nutritious like a smoothie, or eat a nutrient-dense bar such as a Clif Bar or Larabar when they don’t have much of an appetite.
  • Compulsive Decisions: Depending on how your child responds to ADHD treatment, he or she may still struggle with compulsive behaviors. When presented with junk food, they might go overboard, or they might seek out unhealthy food. Try to educate your kids as much as possible about the importance of nutrition in settings where they are not faced with snap decisions. That way, they will hopefully remember to make good decisions. Be a role model for them by stocking the house with healthy options and eating the way you hope for them to eat.

For more nutrition guidance related to ADHD, click here to make an appointment with one of our registered dietitians or call 877-486-4140.


How To Avoid Anxiety As School Ends

The school year is in winding down and classes are becoming less structured on lessons and more focused on summer, end-of-the-year anxious childparties, and outdoor days. This time can be very exciting and fun, however it may also feel chaotic, unpredictable, and even sad for some children; children who are uncomfortable with change, children who have had a very successful school year and may anticipate a new school year with upsets, and children who may be switching schools for varying reasons.

The following are tips to help prepare your child for the inevitable end-of-the-school-year:

  1. Let your child know that it is OKAY that he/she feels this way, and that you understand. Normalizing and validating their feelings about the uncertain time ahead will hopefully take away any additional unpleasant emotions they are feeling, such as embarrassed or ashamed of themselves for Read more

Types of Shoes that Will Discourage Toe Walking

Some children may walk on their toes nearly 100% for no apparent reason. This is known as idiopathic (the reason for it is unknown) toe walking. toe walker shoesIdiopathic toe walking may result in muscle shortening in the calf muscles. In turn, it will continue to promote toe walking. Many cases of toe walking require intervention from a professional; however there are still some things at home that you can do in order to help decrease the frequency of toe walking. One such thing is the type of shoe you purchase for your child.

Below is a list of shoes that can help reduce your child’s desire to walk on his or her toes:

  • Flat shoes: Avoid putting your child in wedge shoes or shoes with any sort of heel. These types of shoes place the foot in a position where the calf muscles are in a shortened position, which can result in them becoming tighter and facilitate more toe walking.
  • Squeaky shoes: There are some footwear brands that design shoes with squeakers in the heels. Every time your child walks down on their heels, they will hear the squeak. These shoes can be a lot of fun for kids (although they may not be as much fun for parents!). 
  • Shoes with high backs: There are some gym shoes that are designed to have a higher backing compared to other shoes. If a child is wearing these shoes and is walking on his or her toes, the shoe back will press up against the Achilles tendon, which can be uncomfortable for the child. Since these shoes make it uncomfortable for a child to toe walk, these shoes help facilitate walking on flat feet.
  • Light up shoes: Shoes that light up often have the lights towards the back of the shoe by the heel. If a child appropriately walks with feet flat on the ground, the lights will light up more than if the child walks up on toes.

While all of these options can be helpful in discouraging toe walking, your child may continue to walk on his or her toes. If your child toe walks the majority of the time and is over 2 years old, it would be beneficial to speak with your pediatrician and physical therapist to determine if further intervention is needed.

Click here to watch part 1 of the 2 minute Toe Walkers Webisode 

Click here to watch part 2 of the 2 minute Toe Walkers Webisode 

8 Tips for Flying with a Child with Sensory Processing Disorder

Taking a flight with kids is hard enough!  Flying with a child with Sensory Integration takes special planning!  Sensory Processing Disorder/Sensory Integration (SPD) occurs when Child on plane with SPDthe nervous system has difficulty regulating, processing, and interpreting information from one or more of the senses.  Different children perceive and process sensory information differently. Some children find loud noises scary, while others like to bang objects and search for interesting ways to create noise. Similarly, some children may only tolerate certain fabrics or textures for clothing, while others may enjoy rolling around in grass, sand, or on the carpet. All children and adults have different sensory preferences, and while most adults have learned to adapt to their specific needs, some children need guidance in processing sensory information to reach their full potential.

8 Tips for Flying with a Child with SPD:

  1. Bring noise canceling headphones.
  2. Make sure your child has slept and is well fed prior to the flight so he or she is regulated.
  3. Be prepared with food and water during the flight, especially if the flight is long.
  4. Bring a heavy object to help calm your child.  Examples include a book, laptop, or a weighted blanket or vest.
  5. Try to schedule your flight during nap time or at night if your child is able to sleep comfortably on planes.  If the flight is during the day, try and have your child run around and use his or her energy before the flight.
  6. Gum chewing or sucking on a lollipop may be helpful to help regulate your child.
  7. Have activities ready for the plane. It can be a good time to practice fine motor skills.
  8. Create a visual schedule for your child.  Include everything from driving to the airport, waiting in the terminal, taking off, eating snacks to landing and  getting luggage.  This way your child will be prepared and feel less anxious about what to expect.

If you would like more tips  and information on Sensory Processing Disorder, click here

How To Make a Weighted Animal

Here at North Shore Pediatric Therapy, we utilize weighted objects for a countless number of activities. They can be used as a self-regulation strategy, providing deep proprioceptive input to your child’s muscles and joints.  Various weighted materials, including vests, belts, blankets, wrist-weights and ankle-weights, are utilized in the clinic multiple times throughout the sock puppetsday. For all of you crafty parents, as well as those who (like me) are “creatively challenged,” below are some DIY instructions to follow so that you can create your very own, personalized weighted animal.

4 Steps To Create Your Very Own Weighted Animal:

Step 1: Find an old knee-high sock. You can choose a sock that is your child’s favorite color or has their favorite cartoon characters on it.
Step 2: Fill the sock with a grainy material, such as rice or sand. Put enough rice in your sock so it is four-fifths of the way full. Tie the open end of the sock closed. There should be enough rice in the sock so when it is draped across your child’s shoulders, it droops down onto their chest. This activity has the added benefit of incorporating direction-following and tactile play into your daily routine.
Step 3: Finally, decorate the sock with “googley eyes” and markers. The sky is the limit as far as whether your sock animal has polka-dots, stripes, zig-zags or checkers.
Step 4: Kick back and relax with your very own personalized weighted animal.

These strategies can be utilized when your child is feeling frustrated or having a difficult time organizing their thoughts. Your child’s weighted animal can also be used for strengthening. When at home, have your child carry the animal around the house or encourage them to sustain various Yoga poses while holding their animal friend. The added resistance while sustaining these poses will only help build muscle strength and improve motor planning. Whether your weighted animal is used as a self-regulation strategy or a strengthening tool, it is up to you and your child’s interests. In either case, creating the animal is a wonderful craft to save for a rainy day and a great way to get the whole family involved. Make one, make two or make a whole zoo of weighted animals. Your child’s new friend is sure to be a hit and cherished companion for years to come.

Fragile X Syndrome

Fragile X Syndrome is one of the most common forms of inherited intellectual disability in children.  This condition arises by a mutation in a single gene on the X chromosome.  Both males and females can have Fragile X; however, as males have only one X chromosome, they are usually affected more severely and show poorer functioning.

Physical Features Associated with Children who have Fragile X:fragile x syndrome

  • Long faces and prominent ears
  • Flat feet
  • Flexible joints and low muscle tone
  • Large body size
  • Soft skin

Cognitive Features Associated with Children who have Fragile X:

  • Median IQ in moderate impaired range for males
  • Median IQ in low average range for females
  • Articulation and speech difficulties
  • Pragmatic (Social) language difficulties
    • Understanding idioms and non-literal languag
    • Inferring meaning from contex
    • Echolalia (repeating what others state)
  • Poor motor movements
  • Difficulties with visual spatial functioning
  • Poor mathematics and abstract reasoning
  • Difficulties with executive functioning
  • Difficulties with socialization

Research has demonstrated that children with Fragile X Syndrome often benefit from a multi-faceted treatment approach which might include:

  • Sign language if there are significant deficits with language functioning
  • Minimization of visual and auditory distractions in the classroom
  • Academic intervention focused on an individual level versus a group level
  • Stimulant medication for difficulties with attention
  • Speech/language therapy for language development
  • Occupational Therapy for motor and visual spatial development.

To find out more how your child may benefit from treatment, click here to contact us.