6 Ways Aquatic Therapy Can Help Your Child

Aquatic therapy is a wonderful activity for children and adults of all ages. If your child likes the bath and is motivated by water, aquatic therapy is aqua therapygreat way to build their skills and confidence.

Below are 6 ways that aquatic therapy can help your child reach their full potential:

1. Gains in range of motion:

After an injury, such as a broken leg or an ankle sprain, joint movement is often limited by swelling or decreased strength to muscles. Aquatic therapy pools are generally set to a comfortable 80-90 degrees, which is warmer then a normal pool. Using the warm temperature of the water, joints will be able to be more flexible and stretch to new limits.

2. Increased strength:

Once proper range of motion is achieved at a joint, proper strengthening is needed in order for the muscle to perform well at its new length. Using the principle of resistance, muscles are able to gain strength by performing simple actions in the water, such as lifting a leg to the side of the body.

3. Achievement of gross motor milestones:

Children have an easier time completing gross motor milestones, such as rolling, walking and jumping in the water secondary to buoyancy principles. For example, a child with cerebral palsy may learn to roll in the water with the assist of a therapist and the buoyancy of the water. Once the nervous and musculoskeletal system in the child’s body learn how to roll in the water, it will be easier to learn on a mat table in the clinic and then transfer to rolling in bed at home.

4. Increased tactile input:

For kids with sensory processing disorders, the water can provide the deep pressure input that they crave. This deep pressure and overall increased tactile input will help a child who has difficulty processing sensory input transfer into a more organized, calm child.

5. Helps with breath support:

For kids with speech issues, aquatic therapy can be very helpful. By using techniques such as holding their breath under water, deep breathing and by raising their arms up and bringing them down with the resistance of water can all help with proper breath support for speaking.

6. Better social interaction:

Completing gross motor activities can often help to decrease social anxiety. Often times, jumping into the water or swimming across the length of the pool can encourage speaking in children who have anxiety. Kids can also learn a swimming stroke from watching each other, share toys and participate in fun games together in the pool setting.

Aquatic therapy can be a great way to help your child reach their full potential. Not only can it help with gross motor skills, but can also help with speech and social interaction. So, if your child is motivated by the water, encourage them to jump on in!

Have aquatic games you would like to share? Leave us a comment and let us know!

Bossy Girls: How To Manage Your Daughter’s “Diva-ness”

Bossiness can be perceived in different ways. Some people see it as being rude and controlling. While others view it as an bossy girlindividual knowing what they want and standing up for it. No matter how it is viewed, most parents do not want their children to be bossy. Many parents fear that their children will lose friends if they are bossy and absorbed only in themselves.

3 suggestions to help you manage your bossy daughter:

1. Talk About It.

Help your daughter understand what it means to be a good friend. Provide situations in which she has been a good friend by cooperating, appropriately playing, and making decisions with her friends. Also, discuss situations in which she has not been a good friend by acting bossy and controlling situations.

Help her realize that being bossy and controlling is not okay and have her identify more appropriate ways to interact with her friends. For example, stress the importance of listening to her friends and sharing and taking turns on what they want to do. Cooperation is another skill that can be taught, as well as teaching her to make suggestions and provide choices rather than just being demanding.

2. Practice.

After you discussed more appropriate ways for your daughter to play and interact with her friends, you should role-play different scenarios. Provide different situations in which she can either be a cooperative friend or a bossy friend. Have your daughter explain what she would do in the different situations. Throughout these role-playing exercises, provide your daughter guidance and feedback.

3. In the Moment.

When your daughter is playing with her friends, you want to be able to catch her in the moment. When she is appropriately playing with her friends and being a good friend, provide praise for these nice interactions. If you observe her being bossy, pull her aside and let her know that she is being bossy and not being a good friend and explain why.

Instead of calling your daughter out in front of her friends, it is best to talk to her in a different room or even whisper in her ear. If she continues the behavior after you bring it to her attention, give her a time-out. Let her know that when she is ready to be a good friend she can go back to playing with her friends. While in time-out, you can have her write an apology letter to her friends or after the time-out, you can have her verbally apologize to her friends.

If your daughter gives attitude toward you, let her know that the way she is acting is not okay and have her restate what she said in a nicer tone/manner. If she continues to be bossy or rude do not grant her request until she can make the request in an appropriate manner.

Sugar Not to Blame for ADHD

Sugar has been hypothesized for years as being a major culprit in the rise of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

In fact, this notion was so popular and accepted that it was actually paired as the correct answer to the statement, “The major cause of hyperactivity in North America” on the Kid with junk foodtelevision show Jeopardy in January of 1987 (Barkley, 2000). It is surprising that such claims have been made and still held onto today even though not a single scientific study has supported them.

Why people blame ADHD in children on sugar:

Why do parents and many practitioners hold on to such claims then? Why is the idea that sugar will make you hyper so popular? One suggestion has been postulated by two psychologists from the University of Kentucky in a study published in 1994 is the power of psychological suggestion.

In this study, the authors created a condition in which the mothers of several boys who rated their children as being “sugar sensitive” were instructed that their child was either given a drink with sugar or a sugar free drink; when in fact none of the children were given any sugar in the drinks. The mothers were then asked to rate their child’s behavior after they were given the drink.

Results indicated that the mothers who thought their children had ingested a sugary drink rated their children as being more hyperactive.

The mothers were also:

  • More critical of their physical activities
  • Maintained closer physical proximity to their children
  • Talked more frequently to the children then the parents who thought the child consumed the sugar free drink.

What this study indicates as pointed out by Barkley (2000) is that “what parents believe about a dietary cause of hyperactivity (e.g. sugar) not only can bias their reports but also can change the way the parents treat their children.”

Causes of ADHD:

So, sugar does not cause ADHD, but what does?

What numerous research articles have indicated is that both genetic and environmental factors produce the cluster of symptoms that make up the condition. What is known is that genetics has(have) the largest factor in the expression of ADHD. Research has indicated that up to 80% of the variance in the expression of ADHD symptoms is directly related to genetics (Marks, Trampush, & Chacko, 2010).

Beyond genetics, research has demonstrated the importance of two major neurotransmitters in the expression of the condition: dopamine and norepinephrine. Thus, it comes as no surprise that majority of stimulant and non-stimulant pharmacological interventions for ADHD target these two neurotransmitters.

Overall, much hype has been made regarding the impact that sugar has on the expression of ADHD; specifically many individuals hold the notion that sugar increases hyperactivity. Not a single empirical research study has supported that notion. What research has supported is that the cause of the disorder is the same cause of the majority of mental health disorders; a combination of genetics and the environment.

How to Prepare a Child for a Visit to the Dentist

Going to the dentist, whether for the first time or the tenth time, can be an intimidating event for both children and their parents-especially children with sensory processing disorders. Children and parents usually have a lot of questions about what is going to happen at the appointment.Kid visiting the dentist

Parents wonder: Will my child have a meltdown? Have we been brushing his teeth enough? Will my child have cavities?

Children wonder: Why do I have to go to the dentist? Will it hurt? What will is smell like? Will it be loud? How long will it take? Do I get a prize at the end?

Below are some simple tips to try out the next time a dentist appointment is approaching, so that everyone has a worry-free experience.

5 Simple Tips to prepare your child for a dentist appointment:

1. Make sure to talk to your child ahead of time. Let them know which day they will be going to the dentist and tell them some of the events that may occur (e.g. sit in a special chair, clean their teeth with toothpaste, look in their mouth with a small mirror and other silver tools).

2. Talk about their 5 senses. Let your child know what noises they may hear with their ears, see with their eyes, taste with their mouth, touch with their hands or mouth, or smell with their nose (e.g. bright lights above their chair so that the dentist can see all of their teeth; cold water from a little hose to rinse out their mouth).

3. Drive past the dentist office a day or two prior to the appointment so that your child can see where they will be going. Talk about landmarks nearby, especially if they have been to that area before or have a special interest in something nearby (e.g. “There is the grocery store we go to each week to buy our food” or “there is the post office where all of our letters go”).

4. Have your child mark off the days on the calendar or create a countdown on a wipe-off board one week prior to the appointment. This will give your child a visual cue and help them to take an active part in the upcoming appointment. Click here for more information about the benefits of visual calendars.

5. Make your child comfortable.  Allow your child to bring 1 comfort item with them (e.g. small stuffed animal/blanket, squeeze toy or favorite car etc).

Feel free to share some of your Dentist Tips with us by leaving a comment below!

Teaching Turn Taking

While sitting at the park you begin to wonder why it appears to be so effortless for other kids to enjoy playing and interacting together when your child has a difficult time with what seems to be such an easy activity. Relax, we have all Kids taking turnsbeen there.

Teaching turn taking is a challenge for all kids and is even more difficult for kids on the autism spectrum. I say it is difficult but NOT impossible!

Strategies to help your child engage in turn taking activities:

Rule-based games:

There are several types of activities that involve turn taking. Rule based games are simply just board games. This is probably one of the easiest games to use to teach turn taking. It is important to teach your child the rules of the game and more importantly the outcome of the game. Since these games are predictable, children tend to understand it better because there are no surprises and they know the expectation.

You can also adapt these types of games depending on your child. If your child has difficulty with fine motor skills, you may choose different game pieces to use. There are several Iphone/Ipad applications called TurnTaker that helps prompt your child to know that it is their turn. Rule based games are also a great tool to help facilitate reciprocal conversation and appropriate use language.

Pretend Play:

Another easy way to teach language to all children is through the use of pretend play. During this time, most kids take on different roles and use these roles to develop a theme. It will provide your child with multiple opportunities to use the language that they are acquiring. It also gives them control over what happens next.

Once a “script” has been developed, it is important for you to begin to change parts of the script or involve others.

Cooperative Activities:

This is most commonly seen at schools or homes with other peers/siblings. I like to teach this by having two or three children working on the same project, such as a painting-but only allowing them access to one or two paintbrushes. This forces the children to ask each other for the brushes. You can also teach this by giving each child a puzzle to complete, but giving the pieces to another friend in which they have to ask each other for. If your child is non-verbal, you can teach them to point or use PECS pictures to mand for the pieces.

Tips for turn-taking activities:

  1. Make sure to use social stories whenever possible. Social stories are dialogues that are easy for the child to read and follow. It should be short, detailed, and specific.
  2. Modeling. You can use yourself or other peers to model the correct behavior.
  3. Visuals. Use visuals to help your child understand what is expected of him/her. It can also be used to help teach the rules of the game. Example: If playing Guess Who, you can make a picture prompting them with questions to ask (picture of boy and girl, brown hair vs. blonde hair etc).

Feel free to leave a comment with your turn-taking strategies and stories.

How Lack of Sleep Affects Your Child

Many parents struggle with issues related to getting their children to sleep and helping them to stay asleep. I have probably been asked the question “How much sleep does my child need?” more than any other question in my career. Parents are frequently more aware of the impact of their child’s sleep onSleepy Child their own functioning when they find themselves awake for the third night or more in a row trying to deal with onset or maintenance insomnia in their little ones. Adults are quick to perceive the daytime fatigue, poor mood and declining cognitive skills in themselves following poor sleep.

Typically, daytime fatigue is a less commonly reported side effect in young children following decrease sleep. More common complaints include hyperactivity, behavioral problems and subtle learning difficulties. In fact, studies have shown consistently that children who sleep one hour or more less than their required total sleep time each night have twice the rates of ADHD, three times the rate language and spatial deficits and significantly lower scores on measures of sustained attention.

Why sleep is critical to kids:

One of the reasons sleep is so critical to the developing brain is that this is a period where many hormones, such as human growth hormone, are released. Disruptions in sleep cycles can lead to inadequate hormone regulation, which has enormous impacts on
development. In addition, REM sleep, which is critical for consolidation of new learning, makes up a higher percentage of total sleep time and deficits in this area can impact learning and school performance. Sleep is not simple a passive, restful process, but rather a period of the lifecycle devoted to ensuring adequate development.

Total amount of sleep children need:

While the individual needs of a child can vary, total sleep time (including naps):

• First year is 13-14 hours per day

• Ages 3-8 require about 10-12 hours

• Adolescence, around 9-10 hours.

In fact, though adolescents experience a “phase shift” (they stay up later and want to sleep in later) during their teens, their need for sleep varies only slightly from younger children and the rates of daytime fatigue due to decreased sleep become more apparent. In fact, in a large scale study, high school students reported the greatest fatigue in classes before 10:00am and their grades in these classes (regardless of the subject) where significantly lower in 55% of the students. In addition, 25% reported falling asleep in class the previous week.

Reasons why your child may be staying up late:

With the increasing data on long-term deficits in cognitive and behavioral performance in young children with inadequate sleep and correlational data of declining grades in sleep deprived teens, one would think that more emphasis would be placed on ensuring healthy sleep habits in children. However, the data suggests otherwise.

• Increased homework

• Demanding parental work schedules

• After-school activities have lead to later nights for many children.

• Conditions such as sleep disordered breathing, some allergy medications, restless limbs

• Poor sleep habits

Most, if not all sleep problems are treatable with good routines and habits, addressing underlying causes of sleep disruption and environmental changes. If your child has problems getting to sleep, staying asleep, arising too early or snoring, please contact a specialist. These are not problems to be ignored or taken lightly.

Facebook, Twitter, Texting: Are They Bad For Language Development?

The impact of social media on children is quite the hot topic these days! There is a lot of talk about what impact social media has on a child’s language development and many arguments support both sides. Some people believe that social media better helps develop a child’s language Baby Using A Laptopfunctioning, while others report that it does more harm than good.

In my opinion, the use of social media, either via the internet or text messaging, will not cause a regression in social and communication skills. In fact, I think that there are ways in which social media can actually aid in the development of these skills. Can such modes of communication actually help foster language development? I do not know; however, it is my belief that such interaction cannot harm a child’s language development.

Communication Practice

Let’s start by answering the question, “What is communication?” or rather “What is the purpose of communication?” We use communication to exchange information or ideas with other people. Language, on the other hand, is the means by which we engage in communication. Language begins to develop early on in life through interactions with people and the environment. Children learn and practice their communication skills with their family and peers; however, they also learn and practice their skills when utilizing different forms of social media. Computers and cell phones are inherently engaging to children. Once a child becomes motivated to complete a task, the child is able to engage in communication with peers. If children send instant messages, they still practice the reciprocity necessary to having a conversation. This form of communication can help a reserved or shy child develop confidence while simultaneously developing the rules necessary for social interaction.

Limitations

On the flip side, communicating through social media does not allow children to recognize non-verbal cues that are often required to fully interpret a message. For example, sarcasm is often identified based on tone of voice. If one person can’t hear what the other person said or if he can’t see the other person’s facial expression, the message may be misinterpreted. Also, because texting and instant messaging do not require an immediate response, you may lose some of the reciprocity that is essential to having a conversation.

Use in Moderation

The use of social media in this day and age is inevitable. Although its use may be helpful to the development of communication and language, it’s crucial that children are NOT solely reliant on such means of communication. Therefore, it is important to monitor how much time your children use social media. They should not be spending all of their time doing something that may not help their language development. Children still need the opportunity to engage in personal interactions in order to develop socially.

Note from the Author: This blog is not based on research or statistics, but rather on my own observations, interpretation, and experience.

Encouraging Mealtime Success for Children with Feeding Difficulties

For most people, eating is an enjoyable experience. Summer picnics, holiday feasts, and family gatherings are often highly anticipated events. However, for children with feeding difficulties, eating can be a stressful time. Children with sensory defensiveness may completely avoid certain textures or flavors of foods, and families become overwhelmed with how to deal with an overly “picky eater”. If your child presents with significant challenges when eating, it is best to seek help from a licensed Speech-Language Pathologist or Occupational Therapist. However, here are some simple tips that you can try to encourage mealtime success with your little one:

Tips For Mealtime SuccessYoung Boy Eating Noodles

  • The environment is critical when eating. If you are stressed at the start of a meal, your child can pick up on that. Try not to rush them through the meal, rather take your time and view mealtime as an opportunity to bond with your child.
  • Make sure your child is not walking around when eating. While some kids like to graze, encourage your child to remain seated at the table during meals. Also, keep an eye on their posture. If your child is slouching, prop him or her up to 90 degrees when sitting if possible.
  • Minimize distraction. While some kids may actually eat better with the TV on, try to eliminate this. You do not want your child to become excessively dependent upon technology and distracters during meals.
  • Allow them to have some space. If your child has a small table that they like to sit at, occasionally allow them to have some time to themselves when eating. The added pressure of eating at a large dinner table with the rest of the family can be overwhelming to a child with feeding difficulties.
  • Ditch the “Don’t play with your food” mentality. All kids should be able to explore what is in front of them, so allow them to play. If they are not given an opportunity to investigate new foods, they are not going to be as willing to try them.
  • Watch portion sizes. If you have a young child or toddler, make sure that the pieces you give them are appropriately sized. If they can self-feed, make sure that they are not overstuffing their little mouths.
  • Allow them to get messy. While it may not be ideal for mom and dad, this is important for your child. Don’t worry about wiping their hands and face after each bite, as you can always clean up after the meal.
  • Give them choices. Offer children more than one option of a non-preferred food at meals (broccoli and zucchini, for example) and let them choose which one will stay on their plate during the meal. This helps to give them some autonomy, while you still maintain control.
  • Do not force them to eat! While eating is ultimately the goal, kids first have to be able to tolerate, interact, smell, touch and taste the foods. If you force the issue too early, prepare for a battle later on!
  • Make minor changes slowly. No one likes to eat the same thing everyday, so vary the types of foods that your child will eat. If your child insists on eating only spiral pasta with cheese sauce for dinner, consider first changing the shape of the pasta, then ultimately varying the type of sauce.
  • Let your child help you prepare the meals. Kids love to help out in the kitchen, so expose them to all of the wonderful and healthy foods that we eat. Talk about all of the different properties of each food (color, texture, origin, etc.) to increase your child’s interest in a variety of foods.
  • Relax!!! Do not focus so much on the quantity your child is consuming at each meal. Trying to count how many bites or ounces they have taken in will stress you out. Rather, the emphasis should be on bonding and spending time together as a family. If however you notice that your child seems to be eating less at each meal, keep an eye on this pattern and seek help as appropriate.

 

Keep Play Safe and Fun in the Summer Heat and Sun

With the hot and humid Chicago summer we have been having these past few weeks, it is important to be mindful of how well your children’s bodies can handle the heat. Children are still playing outdoor sports and finishing up their leagues before school starts, and some camps may still be in session. Many older children have already begun practice for fall sports. When your children are spending hours outdoors during the day, keep in mind these safety tips:Young T-Ball Player Running

Safety Tips for Sports And Activities in the Heat

  • Drink plenty of fluids at least an hour before vigorous physical activity, as well as during and after the activity. Drinking too much water right before the activity may cause muscle cramps. Drinking very cold beverages may also cause cramps, so let the drink sit out for a few minutes after taking it out from the refrigerator.
  • Sports beverages are great, as they can help replace the salts and minerals lost when sweating.
  • Allow children to pace themselves with physical activities. Start out slowly and pick up the pace gradually so as to avoid muscle cramps. Avoid overexertion.
  • Be weary of signs of heat exhaustion (heavy sweating, muscle cramps, weakness, headaches, nausea or vomiting, dizziness and paleness).
  • If possible, stay inside in the midday when the sun is the hottest and strongest, and try to schedule sports activities in the mornings and evenings.
  • Stay in the cool shade as much as possible when outside.
  • Wear sunscreen.

Play outside safely, and have fun!

5 Back To School Backpack Tips

School is just around the corner and back-to-school shopping is in full swing! One of the most important items to buy your child is a well-fitted backpack that will ensure proper posture and comfort. Backpacks that are too heavy, too low-fitting or worn just over one shoulder can hinder a child’s spinal alignment and cause muscle strains. It is not uncommon for backpacks to cause acquired scoliosis.

5 tips to keep in mind when buying your child their new backpack

  1. Make sure to choose a backpack that has two shoulder straps. This way, weight is distributed evenly between both sides of the body. One-shoulder packs may be stylish, but can lead to spinal curvature if packed too heavy.Blue Child's Backpack
  2. A backpack should fit snugly on the lower back and should never lay below 4 inches below the waist. This way, shoulder and back muscles are not strained and a child will be able to maintain correct posture when standing and walking. A child should be able to stand up straight and not round their back or shoulders when carrying their backpack.
  3. According to the American Occupational Therapy Association, a backpack should weigh no more then 15% of the child’s body weight. For example, a child weighing 100 pounds should not wear a backpack weighing more then 15 pounds.
  4. If the backpack is too heavy for the student, roller-bags are a good option. Make sure to check with school faculty to see if these are allowed within your child’s school. A heavier item, such as a large textbook, can be held in an arm instead of on the back if the backpack is too overloaded.
  5. Try to lead heavier items toward the back so that weight is evenly distributed. If certain items are not needed for the day, leave them at home to lessen the weight of the backpack.