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

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

The Oprah Winfrey and Sensory Processing Disorder Controversy

There has been a loud voice from many people who advocate for sensory processing disorder (SPD) after a segment on the Oprah Show which aired on Friday February 18th, about a seven year old boy with multiple mental health diagnoses, one including sensory processing disorder.  http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/Children-Dealing-with-Violent-Rage/1

What The Oprah Show and SPD Commotion Was All About: Oprah Show

Many advocates have voiced concern that sensory processing disorder has been misrepresented on the show, leading viewers to believe that a child with SPD is violent, aggressive and gets pleasure from events that may cause pain for others. I do not believe this was the intention of the family or the show, but it still may have been perceived as such.

The explanation from Oprah’s summary on her website states SPD is “a condition which alters the way one processes stimuli- sound, touch, smell- from the world”. The mother does explain that Zach has a combination of hypersensitivity and hyposensitivity and that he would do things like throw his body on the ground and would get pleasure and laugh when other children would be hurt. His mother also explains that sounds, light and clothing bother him.

Why Sensory Processing Disorder Advocates Were Upset With The Oprah Episode:

I understand the focus of the episode is about this young boy’s tragic story and his family’s struggles through their journey, not to focus on defining sensory processing disorder because let’s face it, SPD can not be simply summed up in one sentence, but this is such a simple explanation for such a complex diagnosis. There was no explanation of which diagnosis affected the boy in which ways, what diagnosis medication was given for, the different patterns of SPD or how it may present differently in each child that has SPD. The show also does not mention that SPD can affect movement, social skills, posture, participation in daily activities, fine motor skills, attention or even school performance. SPD may affect one or two areas of one child’s life or just about every aspect of someone’s life including their entire family’s dynamic. There was no discussion of how SPD is treated or what treatment consists of.

I think it’s great that the not-so-well known disorder is getting national recognition on a well-trusted show such as Oprah, even though it may have been brief and unclear. However, like I mentioned above, this was not, nor should have been, the focus of the show. The many responses to the episode just demonstrate a need for continual advocacy and education for sensory processing disorder. My hope is that SPD will be more accurately represented and understood in the future, as more media coverage completes stories on those affected by the disorder.

For more information on Sensory Processing Disorder Click Here

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I would love to hear your opinion on the show!

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

When To Screen Children For Autism And Other Pervasive Developmental Disorders

Popular media is now teeming with stories about the dramatic rise in autism. Several celebrities have spoken publicly and advocated for increased research on assessment methods and treatment options. Parents are now more keenly aware of even minor deviations in their child’s developmental milestones, and they worry that these delays could be the first signs of a debilitating life-long disorder.

With all of the increased attention being paid to autism, many families wonder how to make sense of the myriad checklists and screening tools available online. In addition, parents struggle to decide if their child’s repetitive behaviors and singular fascination with toys and movies are age-appropriate.

The worry is not just paranoia – researchers have repeatedly concluded that early intervention leads to optimal outcomes for children with autism and other pervasive developmental disorders. To determine whether or not to call your pediatrician, you can look at the key variables that clinicians use in assessing autism..Below are some factors we look for when evaluating a young child (2 to 4 years old).

6 Factors To Look For When Exploring A Possible Autism Diagnosis

1. Shared Interest

Children will begin to develop this skill at around 10 to 12 months of age. Essentially, shared interest is the child’s strong desire to share emotional feelings with others. After this age, when children are confronted with novel and exciting stimuli (bubbles, balloons, etc.) they frequently look from the stimuli to their parents and back. While seeming to be a simple action, this reflects a child’s social connection to their parent and desire to engage them. The absence of this reaction is reason for concern. Read more

Vaccines and Autism: Science or Hoax?

Boy getting vaccineThe controversy surrounding the relationship of common childhood vaccines and autism has been raging for nearly two decades. However, the debate is comprised of about 10% science and 90% politics and media exposure. In the wake of the most recent revelation that Andrew Wakefield, MD, the original author of the 1998 article linking autism to MMR vaccinations falsified medical history on nearly all of the patients that comprised his study http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/01/05/autism.vaccines/index.html, many families are left to wonder if they can really trust any medical advice. The impact of Wakefield’s article has done egregious harm to the general health of children worldwide. While the article was ultimately retracted by the publishing journal and Wakefield himself was stripped of his medical license in May of 2010, many countries noticed a precipitous drop in childhood vaccinations in the past decade. Surges of measles outbreaks rose in the aftermath and the CDC reported that 90% of the outbreaks in th US of measles were in children not vaccinated.

In addition to the impact on general medical care for children, popular media sources were quick to raise concerns about the safety of childhood vaccines and the preservatives used in them. With the most recent revelation that the original data may have been fabricated, many parents wonder if there is any way to make a reasonable decision about vaccinations.

The Relationship Between Vaccines and Autism

There is some science that families can draw upon. Large scale epidemiology studies are available that shed light into the relationship of vaccines and autism. In my own practice, I tend to rely upon studies that track live births over long periods of time in several geographic regions. For example, the city of Yokohama, Japan decided to terminate their MMR vaccine program that ran from 1988 to 1993 and institute an alternative program. With the new system, the rates of vaccinations fell to under 2% of the population between 1993 and 1998. This rapid change provided an ideal model to study the rates of autism since essentially the MMR vaccination rate dropped to nothing. Results from the study indicated that autism rates rose dramatically during the 1993 to 1998 time frame and could obviously not be attributed to MMR vaccines (Honda, Shimizu & Rutter, 2005). Studies conducted in Denmark (Madsen et al., 2002) and the UK (Smeeth et al., 2004) also demonstrated no relationship between autism rates and MMR vaccinations. 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

Top 9 Tips For Over-Stimulating Holidays

The holiday season can be a very fun and exciting time, but it can also be overwhelming for some of us and for our kids.  When a child becomes over-stimulated during the holidays, it can lead to stress, anxiety, or behaviors that can make this special time with family and friends difficult.  Here are some tips to help make the holidays more enjoyable. 

  • Make a visual schedule of the events to take place and go over it with your child prior to leaving the house.  This way,  they can better prepare themselves for parties and events.
  • Try to keep their mealtime and bedtime routine as normal as possible. Read more

Developmental & Fun Holiday Gift List For All Ages!

Holiday gift giving can be tricky to juggle when providing educational toys that also happen to be fun for your children. Here is a list of suggestions that is seperated by Ages, Sensory Considerations and Fine and Gross Motor Skill Development.  girl with gifts

Holiday Toys for Infants (0-1yr)

Gross Motor:

“Tummy time” offers strengthening of the back, core and neck muscles that are critical to a baby’s development. There are many tummy time mats on the market to help this important position be a part of your everyday routine,

Tummy time play mats; $14.99 – $24.99

Fine Motor:

Babies enjoy exploring environments that are filled with music, colors, lights and a variety of textures. Cause and effects toys are great for developing fine motor skills as well as eye-hand coordination such as,

Fisher-Price Little Superstar Classical Stacker (6mos & up); $13.99

Sensory:

Providing infants with teethers and rattles of a variety of shapes, sounds and textures will assist in their exploration of their environment as well as help sooth those teeth coming in. Read more