The “Container Baby” Lifestyle

“Container Baby” is a relatively new term used in pediatrics to describe a baby that spends a majority of her time in some sort of enclosed space. These ‘containers’ can include car seats, bouncy swings, vibrating chairs, bumbo seats or other devices that ‘contain’ a baby’s movement. They can be used for any number of reasons, whether it be for safety or to give mom a few free minutes to cook dinner or fold laundry.

How “Containing” Your Baby Can Delay Motor Development:

Some babies spend many of their waking hours in a containing device and don’t get enough floor time to play. Floor time, where a baby is either placed on his tummy or back to play, is extremely important to help with strengthening his neck, back, tummy, arm and leg muscles. Floor time allows a child to explore her environment and provides essential sensory input, including tactile and visual information, that helps with development.

Plagiocephaly or Flatness of the Head:

Another direct cause of the “container baby” lifestyle is the increasing occurrence of plagiocephaly, or flatness of the head. Babies who are contained in the same position are at risk for developing flatness to one part of their head, which can lead to cosmetic deformities, facial asymmetry and torticollis, or the tightening of one side of the neck. Plagiocephaly often begins in-utero, Read more

Low Muscle Tone | What Does Hypotonia Mean?

In the pediatric therapy world, a diagnosis of “low tone” or “hypotonia” is often given. But what exactly does this diagnosis mean? Muscle tone is the term for the resting length of muscles in the body ( i.e. before a contraction). With low muscle tone, the resting length of the muscles is greater than average and causes hyperextension at the joints, or what some refer to as “double jointedness.” (However, the term double jointed is misleading, as a person doesn’t actually have two joints, just increased muscle length and therefore increased flexibility at the joint).

Signs of Hypotonia in Children:

How can you tell if you or your child has low muscle tone? As stated above, individuals with low tone muscles often have increased flexibility at many joints. The muscles may feel soft and squishy, and because they have increased resting length it literally takes longer for the muscles to contract. Therefore, the individual may seem slow to get going or even lazy, but there truly may be a physiological reason behind it.

Also, because it requires more energy to get the muscles moving, these individuals may be reluctant to move, or conversely, they may move more because sitting still is exhausting and uncomfortable. Read more

Help Your Child Develop the “Crossing the Midline” Skill

What is “crossing the midline”?

By the age of 3 or 4 years old, a child should have mastered the bilateral skill (using both sides of the body together) called “crossing the midline”. This is the ability to move one hand, foot, or eye into the space of the other hand, foot or eye. We cross midline when we scratch an elbow, cross our ankles, and read left to right. Crossing the midline of your body helps build pathways in the brain and is an important prerequisite skill required for the appropriate development of various motor and cognitive skills. Children who have difficultly crossing the body’s midline often have trouble with skills such as reading, writing, completing self care skills and participating in sports & physical activities. These skills require a type of coordination that comes from experience with “cross-lateral motion,” which is movement involving the left arm and right leg, or the right arm and left leg at the same time. 

Establishing a “worker hand” and a “helper hand” is a sign that the brain is maturating and lateralization is occurring, and is strongly correlated with the ability to cross the midline. Both sides of the brain need to talk to each other for the “worker hand” and the “helper hand” to work together and compliment each other. Coordinating both sides of the body can be difficult for the child who avoids crossing midline. Often, these children have not yet established a hand preference, sometimes using their left and sometimes using their right to draw, color, write, eat, and throw.

Affects on children who do not develop the bilateral skill:

Furthermore, when a child has difficulty crossing midline, it can affect his/her ability to read. While the child is moving his/her eyes from left to right across the page, the eyes will stop at midline to blink and refocus; however, when this happens, the child will very frequently lose his/her place on the line and become confused as to where they left off. It also affects handwriting, as diagonal lines cross the midline, and the child may need to stop in the middle of the page to switch hands when writing from left to right. Many self care and daily living skills require crossing midline. For example, perfecting the skill of putting socks or shoes on requires one hand to cross over to the other side of the body.

Children who have difficulty crossing midline may appear ambidextrous because they are often observed using both hands, but they actually have a hidden neuroprocessing issue. Both sides of their brains are not communicating, resulting in decreased coordination, decreased motor control of movements and difficulties achieving higher level skills. Often, these children end up with two unskilled hands.

Activities to help develop the ability to cross the midline:

To help develop efficient crossing of the midline, provide children with a variety of two-handed (bilateral) activities. Try some of the below activities to help build more pathways in the brain and to develop the ability to cross the midline, improve coordination, and improve overall functional performance on a daily basis.

Right brain/left brain teasers-

a. Pop bubbles with only one hand (they will have to reach across their body to pop the bubbles floating on the opposite side).

b. Reach for bean bags, balls, stuffed animals, or other objects across midline, then throwing at a target.

c. Draw large figure eights (the infinity sign or an 8 turned on its side) on paper, on the floor with a finger, in the air with a finger, or drive a matchbox car around a figure eight pattern.

d. Let the child play with sand, scooping sand from one side of the body and putting it into a bucket on the opposite side of the body without switching hands.

e. Let the child pretend to drive a car with a ball in his/her hands to use as a steering wheel and encourage the crossing of his/her arms as he/she turns the ‘steering wheel’ OR to make this similar in style to most of the others—pretend to drive a car with a ball in both hands to use as a steering wheel and cross both arms while turning the “steering wheel”.

f. Play flashlight tag. In a dimmed room, lie on your backs and have the child follow your flashlight beam projected on the wall with his own flashlight.

g. Touch the opposite elbow and knee.

h. Cross one foot over the other while walking sideways.

i. Do “grapevine” walks.

j. Knee slap walk- Walk around raising each knee while touching/slapping it with the opposite hand (or elbow). Change it to a skip while touching the opposite knee as it comes up.

k. Windmill-stand with feet spread apart and arms extended out to the sides. Bend over at waist and tap right hand to left foot. Stand back up and then bend and tap left hand to right foot.

l. Point your left finger out and put your right thumb up. Switch them, and switch, and switch, and switch…

m. Hold your nose, then cross the other hand over and grab your opposite ear. Slap your thighs and switch your hands…switch, slap, switch, slap…

n. Write your name in the air while rotating your foot in a circle clockwise.

o. Wash the car and make sure the arms cross midline while scrubbing.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonDeerfieldLincolnwoodGlenviewLake BluffDes PlainesHinsdale and Mequon! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140!

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10 Tips to Getting Your Family on the Right Fitness Track!!

Spring break is here, flowers are blooming and summer is just around the corner! Kids are itching to get out of the house and spring is a great season to increase their activity levels. Obesity is an increasing epidemic in America and children are quickly becoming a part of this crisis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 percent of children (over 9 million) 6-19 years old are overweight or obese—a number that has tripled since 1980. A great way to get your children in shape in time for summer is to have the whole family involved (and even your pets!).Family Fitness

Below are some fun ideas to help your family spring into fitness:

1) Get some fun party music going in the house and have a “dancing hour” dancing with your kids to their favorite tunes.

2) If you have a dog, include your children in the daily dog-walking. Challenge them to see if they can out-run their canine in a backyard race. Read more

Developmental Skills While Playing With Cars

Pediatric therapy sessions typically involve a lot of play time! Why? Children learn about their world through play and child playing with car imitation of adults, and play is much more motivating than sitting at a table completing worksheets. When a child plays with a car, here are a few of the skill areas that are targeted:

Cognition while playing with cars:

• Experiencing cause and effect relationships, such as when a car drops down a ramp

• Labeling basic parts of a car

Fine Motor or Hand Skills while playing with cars:

• Strengthing hand-eye coordination skills and improving hand dexterity while building a toy car. Consider building a visual model for your child to copy

• Improving hand coordination and hand dexterity while repairing a car using toy tools. Facilitate this by placing your hand on the child’s and physically moving his hands if necessary

• Practice using both hands simultaneously while turning a steering wheel Read more

Strategies to Improve Homework Success

boy doing home workAfter a busy day, the last thing you want to do is fight with your child about finishing his homework. Turning in an assignment or performing successfully on a test should feel like a great accomplishment for you and your child, not a constant battle. Every child prefers different organizational and environmental strategies to help him focus and stay on task; and different strategies may work in different days depending on the child.

Homework Seating Tips:

• Exercise ball: By replacing a typical chair with an exercise ball, the child automatically receives more input to their body. He is now required to keep his feet flat on the floor, his shoulders down and relaxed, and his trunk erect with his muscles constantly firing as he keeps hjs body in an upright position. This extra input gives him increased attention and focus during fine motor and tabletop activities.

**Note: Exercise balls used as a chair are not appropriate for children who have poor postural control and weak core muscles, as this will cause them to focus on keeping their body stabilized on top of the ball, as well as on the task at hand. This may lead to rushed or sloppy work because their attention is on the exercise ball, noton their homework. Talk with an OT or PT if you have questions about the best seating for your child. Read more

Tummy Time and Infants

Tummy time is an essential activity beginning in the first month of a baby’s life. It is a way to develop strength and coordination and to give your little one a head start in gross motor development. tummy time

In 1992, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that healthy babies should be put to sleep on their backs. This resulted in a dramatic decrease in sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and made many parents anxious about placing babies on their tummy at all. The American Academy of Pediatrics then launched the “Back to Sleep-Tummy to Play” campaign, which reminded parents that good gross motor development starts with putting babies on their tummy during supervised play time.

Below are some tips to introduce your infant to tummy time:

• Place the infant on your chest and encourage head lifting by using eye contact and singing to your baby. The higher you sit up, the easier it will be for your baby to push up.

• Get down on the floor yourself with your baby or use a small mirror in front of them to get your baby to interact with the environment at eye level.

• A rolled-up towel placed under the baby’s chest or a boppy pillow can be used to help shift weight from the upper body to encourage head lifting.

• As the baby gets older, playing airplane in different positions, such as over your legs or supporting the baby by holding on to their abdomen and hips, helps to strengthen the back, neck and shoulder muscles.

Tummy time is a very important step during a baby’s first year of life. Although healthy babies should be placed on their back to sleep, placing a baby on his tummy to play a few times a day is recommended.

Occasionally, babies will become fussy when placed on their tummy, so parents should increase the intervals the child in on their tummy to play and utilize the tips above to make tummy time fun. When gradually encouraged, most babies will learn to enjoy tummy time and will reap the benefits of better head control, arm and back strength and fine motor and sensory development.

Children who skip the crawling milestone and go directly to walking can have problems with their coordination, weight shifting during walking, and with fine motor skills. Healthy gross motor development begins early on in a baby’s life, and tummy time is an essential way to provide total body strength and coordination.

Click here to watch a 2 minute webisode about Tummy Time

 

 

 

10 Tips To Get Your Students To Sit Quietly In Class/Circle Time

Girl Sitting LearningIt can be hard to get children to sit still in circle time or at a desk. Ideally, we can take the time to see why a child may be having trouble. For those that are young, fidgety or distracted, we need to know they are not doing it to bother us, and we need to have strategies to help them be more attentive. Remember, some children can sit still longer than others. Others children need to fidget or move because their nervous systems just are made that way.

Here are some ideas and strategies for assisting restless kids:

#1-Use a visual cue. For example, if the teacher is reading Spot, the children can hold beanbags, and every time the teacher says Spot’s name, the children have to toss the beanbag into the bucket. This keeps him attentive!

#2-Use carpet squares or bean bag chairs. Space the kids out so they are not on top of each other!

#3-Some kids can not sit unsupported (and unless you are super strong in your core, you can’t, either!). Make sure you identify these kids, and lean them against the wall, let them lie down, or give them a chair with feet on the ground.!

#4-Have the kids stand up, sit down, get involved with the story, and listen for some name or place in the story to stay attentive.

#5-Use a checklist so that kids follow and check off as things are said or done.

#6-Use multi-sensory teaching strategies. March around while doing multiplication tables, have the children stand up while speaking, and develop fun routines during the day to that will get the kids moving around. Read more

Arts and Craft Ideas To Improve Fine and Gross Motor Skills

toddler coloringToddlers learn about their world by using their senses, manipulating objects and experimenting.  Toddlerhood is marked by an explosion of development in all areas, including fine motor skills, or “hand skills”.  One fun way to promote fine motor skills every day (and on Valentine’s Day in particular) is through crafts!

Here is a short, craft-friendly guide to fine motor milestones:

  • Scribbling and making horizontal or vertical lines – 2 years old
  • Squeezing out glue – 2 years old (though squeezing out an appropriate amount of glue is a skill that will not develop until much later!)
  • Snipping with scissors – 2 ½ years old (with constant supervision!)
  • Drawing circles and a rough cross – 3 years old
  • Stringing large beads – 3 years old
  • Cutting on a line – 3 ½ years old

Unless you are hoping for updated living room walls, your toddler will need constant supervision, direction and demonstration throughout all of these projects.  When these tasks are completed, everyone’s heart will be warmed when you see your child beaming with pride at what has been created.

A few fun and simple craft projects to try with your toddler this Valentine’s Day:

  • Make a valentine for family members, classmates, or neighbors.  Young toddlers will be satisfied with simple tools such as finger paints or crayons.  Older children may want to add glitter, stamps, or stickers. Read more

Is Toe Walking Normal?

child on tiptoe.It is not uncommon for toddlers to walk on their toes or on the balls of their feet. This practice is often referred to as toe walking, a hereditary condition that may be seen when a child is learning how to walk. It is considered appropriate until the age of two, but if your child continues to toe walk beyond this point, it is important to have him/her evaluated by a physical or occupational therapist.

Toe walking is a common sensory-seeking behavior – children receive intense proprioceptive input to the calf muscle in their legs when they do it. This intensified input helps them to better prepare their bodies for play and learning. However, toe walking may be a sign of other sensory integrative difficulties and should be evaluated by an occupational therapist if accompanied by other symptoms (e.g. decreased eye contact, decreased coordination, or difficulty with gross or fine motor activities).

If your child toe walks occasionally, it may be a sign of a sensory issue. However, a child who consistently toe walks may eventually develop shortened Achilles Tendons (also known as tight heel cords) and should be evaluated by a physical therapist.

Toe walking may be considered appropriate if:

• Your child is just learning to walk

• Your child is under the age of two years old

• Your child can walk with normal gait when you ask them to

Seek professional help for Toe Walking when:

• Your child toe walks past the age of two years old

• Your child toe walks the majority of the time

• Your child demonstrates decreased eye contact, decreased coordination, or difficulty with gross or fine motor activities