Activities to Help A Child with Low Tone

Muscle tone refers to the amount of tension present in a muscle. This is different than muscle strength, Low Tonewhich refers to the amount of power a muscle can generate. Low muscle tone means that the muscles are slow to activate and initiate movement, and have decreased endurance for sustaining contractions. A child with low tone may appear weak, floppy, and have poor posture.

If your child has low tone, here are some activities you can try at home:

  1. Yoga poses – Practice a variety of yoga poses each day. Superman pose and plank are good for developing core and upper extremity strength.
  2. Animal walks – Encourage your child to use animal walks around the house. These include bear walking, crab walking, and wheelbarrow walking.
  3. Lying on the belly – Whenever your child is playing a game on the floor, encourage them to play while lying on their stomach. This will support the development of back and neck strength.
  4. Carrying heavy items – Have your child help out around the house by carrying items that are heavy (but not too heavy!) such as a bag of groceries, a basket of laundry, or a watering pot. If it is too challenging for them to carry these items, try having them push them around the house instead.
  5. Climbing and swinging – Any activity that requires the child to lift both feet off the ground at the same time will help develop their core strength. This can include climbing a knotted rope or hanging by their arms from a trapeze swing while kicking a ball.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

Meet-With-An-Occupational-Therapist

The Do’s and Don’ts of Play: A Parent’s Guide to Helping Your Child Develop Better Peer Interactions

Imagine that you go to work in the morning and spend your entire day not knowing how to navigate thePlay Skills parameters of your workplace. You’re unsure of your job description, title, and workplace culture….and no one will give you any answers. By the end of the day, you feel utterly exhausted merely as a result of attempting to navigate a world with no structure or boundaries. Now, imagine you’re a child.  This is how children with limited play skills might feel as they are expected to respond to situations for which they don’t have the skillset each time they come in contact with a peer.

Play is the single most important mechanism children utilize to learn about their universe.  Play provides a framework to explain imaginative and real events in a child’s world. It allows them to learn about independence, manners, and character, as well as build confidence and practice new skills. Yet, some children have difficulty learning how to properly navigate these interactions.

The good news? You can help.

Play at Any Age

Play skills are developed in a progression.  Although there are times in which a child may fluctuate between all levels of play, the following indicates the age-appropriate development of peer interactions.

Solitary play (ages 0-2): Child is completely captivated with play and does not seem to notice other children.

  • Learns through trial and error
  • Copies other children and adults
  • Looks at other children playing but does not join in the play
  • Likes playing with adults as well as by himself/herself

Onlooker play (2-2 ½): Child is interested in other children’s play but does not join in. He/she may ask questions.

Parallel play (2 ½- 3):   Child shares the same space with peers but doesn’t actively engage with them.

  • Begins to use symbols in his play, such as using a stick as a sword
  • Starts to show some reasoning skills… may still learn by trial and error.
  • Copies other children and adults’ behaviors and language

Associative play (3-4): Child is interested in pursuing social interactions with peers while they play.

  • Shows more reasoning skills
  • Begins to ask “why” and “how” questions
  • Plays imaginatively, for instance, dress-up

Cooperative play (4+): Children play in groups of two or more with a common goal in mind; they often adopt roles and act as a group.

  • Shows understanding and uses reason related to experience
  • Begins to understand simple rules in games
  • Plays cooperatively, taking turns

Should I Be Concerned About My Child’s Play Skills?

Typical play:

  • Spontaneous
  • Flexible: child can add onto others’ play schemas*, play story** can change throughout, child does not become distraught if a peer/parent adds their ideas
  • Creative
  • Voluntary
  • Internally Reinforcing
  • Functional
  • Age-Appropriate

Atypical or Disordered Play:

  • Ritualistic: child engages with toy in the same order/manner, every time he/she plays with toy
  • Difficulty with Generalizations: child has difficulty accepting new patterns or rules, attempts to utilize one general rule for all similar events (i.e. “I know the youngest person goes first in Sorry, so I expect that the youngest person goes first in all games.”)
  • Non-functional
  • Repetitive: child performs the same action repetitively with a toy that doesn’t suit its purpose, ie. flipping, stacking, ordering items or repeats the same phrase over & over again while engaging
  • Limited Interests: child frequently finds a way to steer play story to a few favorite interests
  • Rigid: may accept when parents and peers join his/her play schema, but only by child’s rules and with his/her interests
  • Difficulty “bouncing back” from unexpected events in play: may recoil when a peer introduces a dinosaur, for example, when child expected story to progress in a certain direction. May become upset at changes or quit altogether
  • Avoids eye contact, or eye contact may be fleeting
  • Often requires prompting for basic communication, i.e. saying hello when approached by peer
  • Often includes non-reciprocal language: response frequently does not match question
  • Difficult for child to enter into an already-developed play scheme: two peers are pretending to be firemen, third child wants to join but can only talk about/pretend to be a doctor

*Play schema: diagrammatic presentation; a structured framework or plan 

**Play story: the story that is told through the play schema

Parent How-To Guide

If your child has underdeveloped play skills, here are some ways to assist in his/her development to encourage parallel, associative, and cooperative play:

  1. Provide Opportunities
  • Allow your child time for free play with same-aged peers
    • Don’t “helicopter” parent during free play, but provide modeling if necessary
    • Provide plenty of materials to encourage imaginary play, i.e. dress-up clothes, pretend food, cash register
    • Encourage symbolic play: child engages in imaginary play with an item and calls it something else, i.e. uses a banana as a telephone
  1. Model Feelings & Behavior to Encourage Problem-Solving
  • Provide your child with words to explain feelings
    • “Jimmy, it looks like you’re sad because Sally isn’t sharing her toy with you. Let’s tell Sally how you’re feeling together.”
    • If your child is old enough, encourage him to use the words himself. “Jimmy, you can say, ‘Sally, I am sad because I want to play with that toy too.’”
    • Starting your modeling sentences with the phrase “you can say…” is a very powerful way to neutrally provide your child with the words he/she may not know how to express
  • Provide your child with options for independent problem-solving
    • “Jimmy, do you want to wait until Sally is done with the toy or ask her if she can share it with you?”
    • This allows the child to choose between 2 options and learn to find solutions independently
  1. Set Expectations. Especially if your child demonstrates rigid behavior!
  • Be sure to set expectations before engaging in task
    • “Jimmy, we are going to the playground. At the playground, I expect you to play properly with friends. That means sharing the equipment, speaking nicely, and waiting your turn.”
  1. Give Positive Reinforcement
  • Encourage proper behavior and play skills by offering both natural consequences and praise.
    • Consequence, stated before engaging in task: “Jimmy, if you don’t follow the rules we discussed at the playground, we will need to go home immediately.”
    • Praise, stated after task is completed: “Jimmy, way to go! You followed all the rules by taking your turn and speaking nicely to your new friends. I’m proud of you.”

Seek Outside Help

If your child doesn’t seem to improve with these at-home tips, seek the assistance of an occupational or developmental therapist for hands-on support for both you and your child.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

References:

  • Parten, M. (1933). Social play among preschool children. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 28, 136-147.
  • http://www.child-development-guide.com/stages-of-play-during-child-development.html
  • http://brighttots.com/teaching_playskills.html
  • http://www.erinoakkids.ca/ErinoakKids/media/EOK_Documents/Autism_Resources/Teaching-Play-Skills.pdf
  • http://childdevelopmentinfo.com/child-development/play-work-of-children/pl2/

Meet-With-An-Occupational-Therapist

Top Sensory Strategies for Use in the Classroom

Promoting your child’s success at school can be a challenging task, particularly for parents of childrenSensory Strategies with sensory processing difficulties. Communication between parents, teachers and school personnel is critical for establishing a safe, supportive and enriching environment. Children with sensory integration difficulties may have enormous problems in the classroom, not because of a lack of intelligence or willingness to learn, but rather resulting from difficulty coping with a neurologic system that isn’t organizing and responding appropriately to a variety of sensory stimulation from the external world.

A well- organized sensory system is important for everything a child does, especially when it comes to maintaining focus and attention in the environment of a classroom. While the child with sensory integration difficulties can benefit from a sensory-smart classroom, so can every child. All children benefit from a calm, distraction free classroom where they can feel more in control, and in turn, improve their schoolwork and social skills.

The following is a compilation of sensory strategies for use in the classroom to promote the learning potential of every child, including those with sensory processing challenges:

Provide “Heavy Work” Opportunities:

Heavy work gives necessary input to the child’s body, helping him develop an improved body awareness and regulating his system. Allow the child to take responsibility in the classroom by completing specific “jobs.”

  • Carry books to the library, or to another teacher
  • Hand out papers to the class
  • Watering plants in the classroom
  • Push/pull heavy items in the classroom, i.e., chairs, boxes, class supplies
  • Erase the board
  • Empty wastebaskets or recycling

Seating Modifications:

Providing movement opportunities on the child’s seat, or at his desk is a great way to provide necessary sensory input many children crave, while also helping to increase their attention during stationary, table top tasks.

  • Tie a Theraband around the front legs of the child’s chair
  • Provide a wiggle seat to place on the chair surface
  • Allow time for “chair push-ups,” especially before seated writing tasks

Keep Those Hands Busy:

Many children with sensory processing challenges have a need for tactile input, resulting in constant touching of objects, and other classmates. For these kiddos, maintaining an optimal arousal level with regular (and non-distracting) tactile input is important.

  • Place a Velcro strip on, or inside of the child’s desk, or on the edge of his seat
  • Give the child a small bottle of lotion (with a calming scent, such as lavender) to place in his desk, or in his back pack, for those times when he needs to move his hands
  • Experiment with fidgets in a variety of forms: worry stone, paperclips, squeeze ball, necklace fidgets, bracelets, zipper pull fidgets, etc. (For some children, however, these items may be too distracting. If the object is decreasing attention, opt for the sensory input as noted above with Velcro placed on the desk itself.)

Movement Breaks:

All children need frequent breaks from work to get up and stretch and move their bodies. Frequent gross motor breaks help to “wake-up” the body and reset the brain, increasing arousal levels, resulting in improved attention and a calm body

  • Provide simplified yoga routines
  • Try jumping jacks, or marching around the classroom (or at the desk)
  • Try “animal walks,” such as bear walk, crab walk, or frog jumps
  • Recess time with active play including running, jumping and climbing

Reducing Visual and Auditory Stimulus:

For those children who become overwhelmed with too much visual input, or noise in the classroom, try the following strategies to help them maintain attention and focus.

  • Use low light, or natural light as much as possible versus fluorescent lighting
  • Provide a “quiet space” in one corner of the classroom where children can complete work with less distractions (adding beanbags to sit in this space would be a great addition as well)
  • Play quiet, rhythmic music
  • Eliminate clutter on bulletin boards
  • Place a curtain or sheet over open shelves containing games, art materials, toys that may be distracting

Snack Time:

Chewing, biting, or sucking on hard, crunchy items can be very regulating and calming for kids with sensory challenges.

  • Parents can pack chewy food items such as a bagel, or dried fruit to provide great oral proprioceptive input
  • Teachers may want to allow a water bottle with a thick straw to be kept at the desk (adding a little lemon to the water may help arousal levels as well)
  • Parents can pack a wide-mouth straw for eating items such as yogurt and applesauce
  • Provide crunchy fruit and veggie snacks such as apples, carrots and celery

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

Meet-With-An-Occupational-Therapist

How to Motivate the Unorganized Child

Executive functioning challenges can often be overlooked as children are otherwise labeled as lazy or Unorganized Childunmotivated. If a child has difficulties with executive functioning he or she may present with behaviors of avoidance, emotional outbursts, or not even acknowledging the task at hand. This is probably because they are feeling overwhelmed and do not have the foundational skills needed to problem solve through organizational tasks. Helping your child to develop these skills can support their independent success and can increase future task initiation toward personal organization.

What Can Parents Do to Help an Unorganized Child?

Support them, assist in their growth of skills, and praise any small triumph! The general idea is to have the child learn the problem solving skills required to think through tasks that are seemingly overwhelming. First you always, ALWAYS start small, then tackle bigger projects as they can manage. Then as they make achievements, don’t forget to recognize their hard work! Praise moments of follow through and self-initiated tasks with recognition and/or rewards.

5 Tips to Help Organize Their Life:

  1. Establish a place to write it all down- daily planners and a family calendar are great tools to keep track of their time.
  2. Introduce Responsibility- Create a Chore chart and a To-Do list as a family. Don’t forget to keep their age and time needed for completion of these activities in mind when choosing the appropriate task(s).
  3. Acknowledge that the time is ticking- Visual timers are great for those children who tend to take more time than necessary on simple tasks. Timers can also help to keep a child focused and engaged in the activity.
  4. Create a place for all items to have a specific home- Designate places for items and stick to it. Growing up with the golden rule  ‘Always place an item back in its original place, in its same or better condition’ may help keep the house cleaner. Utilizing organizational tools, such as visual prompts (numbering, color coding) and charts can help too.
  5. Check in- They will need a little help! Have the children show you their completed work, planner, clean space, etc. Make them feel accomplished and help them problem solve solutions to existing problems.

5 Activity Ideas to Facilitate their Organizational Skills:

  1. Tackle a junk drawer, pantry shelf, or game closet- Have them help a parent problem solve through the organization of a messy place. Starting in a small place is key so there are no overwhelming moments too big for the child. Have the child think through the task with the parent facilitating only when needed.
  2. Cook with your child- A successful meal requires significant planning, working memory, organization, and time management.  See how much they can lead the cooking activity and help when needed. This can be fun for the child while having a great learning experience!
  3. Have them set up the family’s calendar for the next week or month- Give them the tools to place all of the activities on the calendar and check their work when done. Have the child help recognize and problem solve through time conflicts.
  4. Create an annual family night with board games- Board games are great for independent thinking and problem solving. Their success within a board game can greatly depend on their ability to organize themselves and materials within the game.
  5. Assist with putting together new things- Following written or verbal directions can be very difficult. With supervision and help, have the child responsible for constructing and/or setting up new purchased items.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

Meet-With-An-Occupational-Therapist

Horrible Haircuts and Terrible Toothpaste: Helping Your Child With Sensory Processing Disorder Tolerate Hygiene

Children of all ages often find basic hygiene tasks boring, annoying, and tedious. Who wants to brush their teeth when they can go play outside? While it can be difficult to get any child to perform these tasks, it is exponentially more difficult for a child with Sensory Processing Disorder.  Sensory Processing Disorder

What is Sensory Processing Disorder?

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) involves atypical processing and integration of incoming sensory information. A child with SPD may have difficulty processing any of the five senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell). They also may have difficulty processing the two “hidden senses,” proprioception (processing input from muscles and joints) and vestibular processing (processing input regarding movement and head position). Children with difficulty modulating incoming sensory input often have strong sensitivities to certain sensations, which can interfere with their ability to participate in age-appropriate activities.

Why Do Children with Sensory Processing Disorder Struggle with Hygiene?

Many children, especially those with tactile and auditory processing difficulties, have difficulty with hygiene and grooming. Engaging in these activities with children with SPD can often feel like a fight. This is because children with sensory sensitivities often go into “fight or flight” mode when presented with aversive sensations. While the buzz of an electric trimmer, the cold metal of a nail clipper, or sticky soap that just won’t seem to rinse off may not be your favorite, for a child with SPD if may feel like walking the plank!

How Can I Help My Child?

The good news is there are many strategies to help your child with SPD tolerate hygiene tasks with fewer outbursts. Below are a few steps involved in creating a grooming routine that works for you and your family.

Step 1: Figure out what your child is afraid of.

It is very important to determine which particular sensations are the problem. If your child is old enough, you can ask him or her about which specific sensations he or she dislikes or fears. This may also help you find some quick and easy solutions; perhaps the smell of the particular brand of soap or taste of toothpaste is the culprit.

If your child is too young or does not have the self-awareness or communication skills to discuss hygiene tasks, it will be your job to figure out what is bothering him or her. Think of yourself as a “sensory detective” and examine your child during these tasks. Does she pull away at the touch of a brush? Does he cower at the sound of the hair dryer? Observing your child and spending some time analyzing what bothers him or her will get you closer to finding a solution!

Step 2: Change your routine based on their particular sensory sensitivities:

If your child has tactile (touch) processing difficulties or sensitivities:
– Engage in deep touch pressure activities before and after the hygiene task. By providing deep touch pressure to a child’s body, he or she becomes less sensitive to undesired “light touch” inputs. There are many ways to provide deep touch pressure: firm massage to the limbs, upper back, and head; use a therapeutic body brush if you have been trained by an occupational therapist to use one; apply firm pressure on a large pillow or blanket to give your child’s body “squishes.” And don’t forget- tight hugs are a highly underrated mechanism for deep touch pressure!

– Provide pressure during the task. Try applying more pressure to the head when brushing hair. Utilize a weighted or heavy blanket on your child’s lap during a hair or nail trim. Have your child wear a compression shirt or compression vest during activities.

– Consider temperature. If a cold nail clipper feels sterile and uninviting, warm it up. If the faucet is normally on cold when your child washes hands, add some hot water and give a few minutes to warm up. Temperature can make a huge difference!

– Consider purchasing an electric toothbrush. For some children with tactile sensitivities, vibration can be a very regulating sensation. If you are unsure how your child will respond, experiment with a vibrating oral massager (e.g. Z-Vibe, Jiggler) before investing in a pricy electric toothbrush.

If your child has auditory (sound) processing difficulties:
– Warn the child before your turn the device on. This allows the child to mentally prepare for a hair dryer, electric toothbrush, or razor to turn on.

– Allow the child to wear headphones, if it does not interfere with the activity.

Step 3: Build a consistent grooming routine.

Children with SPD rely on routines to help them make sense of the world. The more your child can expect and rely on a familiar routine, the calmer he or she will be.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

Meet-With-An-Occupational-Therapist

Teaching A Child Ownership of Their Home Routine

Routines are an important part of everyone’s daily life, but they are especially important for children. Routines allow a child to have a sense of control over their environment and learn responsibility. Routines can help improve regulation, transitions, and decrease stress and anxiety surrounded by change and uncertainty. Blog-Home-Routine-Main-Landscape

Children learn to become emotionally ready for what is to come next when a routine is established. Routines allow for a child to learn in comfortable and safe boundaries and gain satisfaction and confidence in learning these routines independently. But with today’s busy lifestyle, family routines are changing on a daily basis which can impact the child’s ability to become independent and successful with their home routine.

Below are some tips to help improve your child’s confidence and success in their home routine:

Create a visual schedule

Depending on your child’s age, you can use pictures or written words to outline your home routine. Break the routine down in to easy steps for your child to follow. You can also have your child check off each step once completed to give your child a sense of accomplishment. This also allows your child to visually see their success, which will help provide motivation.

Be consistent

This is key! Don’t give up after a few failed attempts. Your child needs to know what to do at what time of day in order to learn the routine and become successful independently.

Be positive and provide rewards

Do not reprimand your child. This will increase the chances that your child will lose motivation and not complete their routine. Mistakes and bad behavior will occur, but reinforce only the positive things they do throughout completing the routine. As they become more confident and successful in their routine, you can begin to fade out the rewards.

Model the routine

Show your child the correct way to do each step of the routine and assist them if need be. Many children are visual learners and will learn by doing. With practice, they will become more independent in each step.

Provide choice within the routine

Allow your child to choose parts of the routine. For example, which shampoo or toothpaste they want to use. This will give your child a sense of control during the routine and motivate them to complete the tasks given.

Prepare the night before

Pack backpacks, lay out clothes, make lunches, etc. Involve your child in the preparation and tell your child what is expected of them the next day so they can begin to mentally prepare.

Build in extra time

When first learning to complete routines independently, your child may require additional time to get through the routine. As we all know, practice makes perfect, so make sure you plan enough time to allow for mistakes.

If your child has difficulty with completing their home routines successfully and independently, seek guidance of an occupational therapist.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

Meet-With-An-Occupational-Therapist

Biting, Hitting and Pushing: Bad Behavior or Sensory Processing Disorder?

As a pediatric occupational therapist, I often have teachers and parents ask me if a child’s sensory Blog-Bad-Behavior-or-SPD-Main-Landscapeprocessing is causing them to behave badly in school. In kindergarten especially, we often see “bad behavior” manifest in many ways: kicking or hitting peers, biting friends, spitting, or yelling at others. In some cases, the child’s sensory system may be to blame. In others, bad behavior could be contributed to the child seeking out attention, or avoiding work or non-preferred play. Read below to help identify and understand the difference between the two.

Sensory Processing:

When a child’s nervous system cannot respond logically to incoming sensory input (such as loud talking in the cafeteria), the result may cause the child to appear disorganized, clumsy, or disobedient. Oftentimes, children who are seeking out movement (vestibular input) or body position (proprioceptive input) are often the children who crave bear hugs or body squeezes. These are the climbers, the explorers, and the daredevils as they are attempting to seek out extra information from the environment to feel more organized. When they are not given these opportunities, they may resort to inefficient ways to help seek out information which may manifest into tackling, hitting or biting friends. When these children are given ways to regulate efficiently, such as 10 minutes of heavy work activities on the playground, or intense proprioceptive or vestibular input before sitting down at the table to complete the day’s activities, they are much better able to respond and attend to the activities.

Behavior:

Behavior, which can be defined as the way in which one acts or conducts oneself, especially toward others, often is the result of a conglomeration of events. For example, a child’s bad behavior may be a response to a negative sensory experience, or it may be the child’s way of receiving more attention from parents, teachers and friends, or it may be both. A child with sensory concerns who often tackles peers or siblings may be attempting to receive feedback from the environment. However, it’s also possible he is looking for ways to get attention from others in his environment. When this is the case, it is important to follow up with a strategic plan. Experts recommend attempting to ignore the behavior as much as possible (not overreacting to the situation, ensuring the child follows through on the task required of them no matter what behavior they are exhibiting, ignoring disrespectful behavior and not responding until the child appropriately requests for help). Rewarding good behavior via a positive reinforcement chart, acknowledgement of a job well done, and praise for completing the task at hand are all examples of ways to reward good behavior.

There is no easy solution for recognizing the difference between bad behavior and sensory processing disorder. Oftentimes, parents and teachers may need to take each event on a case-by-case basis to determine whether or not the breakdown occurred as a result of a sensory processing difficulty. To help decipher the difference between the two, I recommend keeping track of the specific behaviors in a journal to help identify any triggers or common events that provoke the child and cause the disruption.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

Meet-With-An-Occupational-Therapist

Best Apps to Reinforce Occupational Therapy Concepts

Within our day and age, technology can be used in many ways to facilitate daily functional skills. In regards to occupational therapy, there are many apps that can be used to facilitate and reinforce occupational therapy concepts at home with your child. The following apps are great for facilitating listening skills, transitions, attending to tasks, self-regulation, body awareness and handwriting skills. Blog-Occupational-Therapy-Concepts-Main-Portrait

These apps are easy to use and can be used anywhere and at any time to reinforce occupational therapy concepts:

Metronome App

  • Importance and benefits of using a metronome:
    • Help develop and improve rhythm
    • Improves listening skills
    • Facilitates the ability to attend over an extended period of time.
  • Population:
    • Any child with difficulties following directions, attention, and rhythm.

ASD Tools

  • Importance and benefits:
    • Helps with transitioning from one activity to another, attending to specific tasks, as well as, following directions.
  • Features:
    • Visual schedule
    • First-then visual
    • Timer with a visual
    • Reward system
  • Population:

Brainworks

  • Importance and benefits:
    • Great and easy way to develop activities for a sensory diet.
  • Features:
    • Organizes all the activities into what would be best for your child.
    • Provides 130 sensory activities with pictures and descriptions.
    • Provides activities that can be completed at home, school, in the community, or at a table or desk.
    • Allows you to choose whether your child is feeling “just right, slow and sluggish, fast and stressed, or fast and hyper”- a list of sensory activities will be provided based on how the child is feeling.
  • Population:

Handwriting Without Tears: Wet-Dry-Try

  • Importance and benefits:
    • Great app that allows children to practice handwriting.
    • Provides multisensory ways to practice correct letter formation.
  • Features:
    • Capital/lower case letters, and numbers on a chalkboard with double lines.
    • Has a left-handed setting.
    • Reports errors for extra guidance.
  • Population:
    • Helpful for children with poor handwriting skills including letter formation and sizing.

Zones of Regulation App

  • Importance and benefits:
    • Great app for developing self-regulation strategies.
    • Helps children develop skills to assist in regulating their bodies, emotions, and behaviors.
    • Helps children acknowledge how they feel and acquire the skills to create strategies to cope with their emotions.
  • Features:
    • Mini games to help facilitate learning the zones of regulation and develop strategies to facilitate emotional control and self-regulation.
  • Population:
    • Helpful for children who have difficulty with emotional control and self-regulation.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

Meet-With-An-Occupational-Therapist

Fine Motor Skills: Ideas for At-Home Improvement

Fine motor coordination is the capacity of the small muscles of the upper body to allow for controlled movements of the fingers and hands. They include the ability to hold a writing utensil, eat with a fork, open containers, and fasten clothing. These small movements correspond with larger muscles such as the shoulder girdle, back, and core to provide stability for gross motor functioning and with the eyes for hand-eye coordination. Weaknesses in fine motor skills are often the result of poor hand strength and poor motor coordination.

Does My Child Need to Improve His/Her Fine Motor Skills?

For a comprehensive list of fine motor development red flags, please view my previous post, Fine Motor Skills: Is your Child Lagging Behind?

Why Should I Seek Therapy if I Notice Difficulties with Fine Motor Skills? 

  • To improve ability in and persistence with fine motor tasks
  • Increase school readiness
  • To help your child complete self-care tasks, such as buttons and zippers
  • To avoid disengagement in an academic environment due to difficulties completing fine motor activities (e.g. writing, cutting, drawing)
  • To help maintain and develop a positive sense of well-being
  • To ensure that your child doesn’t fall behind their peers in handwriting development

A Word About the Tripod Grasp

The “tripod grasp” is the way we occupational therapists describe what the fingers look like as they hold a pencil or other small utensil. Like a triangle, or a tripod, the thumb, index, and middle fingers work together to maneuver the pencil, clothespin, fork, etc. Mastering this grasp indicates a mature manner of utilizing those small hand muscles. Most kiddos have learned to utilize this grasp by the age of 5 or 6.mightyhands2

Fine Motor Toolkit

As a pediatric occupational therapist, parents continuously request ideas for easy activities to do at
home. Recently, one of my families requested ideas for the car ride to school. Introducing….the Mighty Hands kit! This bin is a fine motor development dream (from an occupational therapy standpoint), AND it’s fun! Tailor it to what you’ve got on hand, show your child how to use the items inside, place it in your home (or even your car!), and let your kiddo go to town. You can thank me later.

What’s Inside the Mighty Hands Kit and What Do I Have My Child Do with This Stuff?

Theraputty: Hide small beads in the putty to use pincer grasp to dig them out, play tug-of-war, pull and twist, but don’t use the table to help! Medium-soft (red) and Medium (green) grade.

fine-motor-theraputty

Theraputty

Clothing fasteners: Practice fastening clothing items such as buttons, zippers and laces for increased finger dexterity and independence!

Screw-top jars: Screw-top and push-top jars filled with small items such as coins, marbles, pom poms, cotton balls, small toys such as these dinosaurs. I hold all of my Mighty Hands items in jars or Tupperware for additional fine motor practice!

Play-Doh: Roll, pound, squeeze, press, pinch!

Locks puzzle: Practice opening various types of locks – a great way to strengthen fingers!

Spoons: Practice scooping small items and transferring them from jar to jar.

fine-motor-spoon

Spoon and pom poms.

Playing cards: Kept in a sandwich-sized plastic bag. Practice shuffling cards and deal them one by one.

Kiddie Tweezers: Use thumb and first two fingers to squeeze objects and transfer them to a container. Great for hand strength and coordination!

Magnetic Mini Games: Great for pincer grasp (the use of the thumb and forefinger)!

Cardstock: Kept in freezer-sized plastic bag. Tear paper into small pieces (one hand turning away from body, one hand turning toward body) using tripod grasp with thumbs at the top of the paper.

Q-Tips: Hold the Q-tip in the middle, dip either end into two different colors of paint, rotate Q-tip in hand to create fun art – make sure to use dominant hand only!

Screwdriver With Nuts & Bolts: Hold the screwdriver with dominant hand and the set with the non-dominant hand to practice turning nuts and bolts.

fine-motor-tweezers

Tweezers

Bank: Encourage your child to hold three coins in his/her hand with the ring and pinky fingers while pushing a coin through the slot one at a time without dropping the other coins.

Craft/Jewelry Sorting Case: Label individual segments 1-15. Have your child hold a few small pom poms in his/her hand (again, using the ring and pinky fingers) while placing them into the container one by one by moving a single pom pom up to the fingertips each time. Or, use the tweezers to sort!

Scissors: Draw straight lines across 4×6” scraps of paper and cut in half.

Clothespins: Clothespins can be used for a series of great activities that facilitate the tripod grasp, strength, and coordination. Be sure to use the pads of the thumb and forefinger.

Tennis Ball Container & Pipe Cleaners: Punch holes in the top of the container and use the dominant hand to push the pipe cleaners into the hole while stabilizing the container with the non-dominant hand.

fine-motor-tennis

Tennis ball container and pipe cleaners.

Tennis ball With Horizontal Slit: Squeeze ball open with one hand (tennis ball resting in palm) while removing small objects from its “mouth” with the other hand.

Pegboard: Stretch bands across pegs to increase hand strength and coordination.

Squigz: Adhere these toys to a wall, door, or refrigerator and pull off! It’s trickier than one might think!

Additional Activities for Around the House

Chores can be a great way to practice fine motor development – and help out mom and dad around the house! Have your child help you put away silverware, turn the door handle and lock the door when leaving the house, unscrew jars and containers while cleaning out the refrigerator, pull weeds, pour laundry detergent, refill soap bottles (be sure to have your child open and close the lid!), and close Ziploc bags.

How Will These Activities Help?

All of the items in my toolkit are designed to strengthen small hand & forearm muscles as well as improve in-hand manipulation, finger isolation and dexterity, and fine motor coordination. As your child’s fine motor skills improve, you will begin to notice an improvement in his/her larger (gross motor) movement, trunk stability, and hand-eye coordination as well. It’s a win-win-win! As always, be sure to consult with an occupational therapist to ensure proper follow-through of fine motor activities and for a more tailored plan.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

Meet-With-An-Occupational-Therapist
Resources:

http://www.childdevelopment.com.au/areas-of-concern/fine-motor-skills/92

Fine Motor Skills: Is Your Child Lagging Behind?

Fine motor coordination is the capacity of the small muscles of the upper body to allow Blog-fine-motor-skills-Main-Portraitfor controlled movements of the fingers and hands. They include the ability to hold a writing utensil, eat with a fork, open containers, and fasten clothing. These small movements correspond with larger muscles such as the shoulder girdle, back, and core to provide stability for gross motor functioning and with the eyes for hand-eye coordination. Weaknesses in fine motor skills are often the result of poor hand strength and poor motor coordination.

Red Flags for School-Aged Children

As a former Kindergarten teacher, at the start of each school year, I received a group of children with an assortment of fine motor skill-sets. Because children have such different preschool experiences, their skills will vary based on the activities to which they have been exposed. If a child has had the opportunity to practice cutting with scissors, for example, he or she will likely be able to accomplish snipping a piece of paper by 2.5 years old. Fine motor development occurs at an irregular pace, but follows a step-by-step progression and builds onto previously acquired skills.

By the approximate ages listed below, your child should be able to demonstrate these fine motor skills:

2 to 2.5 Years

  • Puts on and takes off socks and shoes
  • Can use a spoon by himself, keeping it upright
  • Draws a vertical line when given a visual example or after an adult demonstrates
  • Holds crayon with fingers, not fist

2.5 to 3 Years

  • Builds a tower of blocks
  • Draws horizontal & vertical lines when given a visual example or after an adult demonstrates
  • Unscrews a lid from a jar
  • Snips paper with scissors
  • Able to string large beads
  • Drinks from an open cup with two hands, may spill occasionally

3 to 3.5 Years

  • Can get himself dressed & undressed independently, still needs help with buttons, may confuse front/back of clothes and right/left shoe
  • Draws a circle when given a visual example or after an adult demonstrates
  • Can feed himself solid foods with little to no spilling, using a spoon or fork
  • Drinks from an open cup with one hand
  • Cuts 8×11” paper in half with scissors

3.5 to 4 Years

  • Can pour water from a half-filled pitcher
  • Able to string small beads
  • Uses a “tripod” grasp (thumb and tips of first two fingers) to draw, but moves forearm and wrist as a unit
  • Uses fork or spoon to scoop food away from self and maneuver to mouth without using other hand to help food onto fork/spoon

4 to 4.5 Years

  • Maneuvers scissors to cut both straight and curved lines
  • Manages zippers and snaps independently, buttons and unbuttons with minimal assistance
  • Draws and copies a square and a cross
  • Uses a “tripod” grasp (thumb and tips of first two fingers) to draw, but begins to move hand independently from forearm
  • Writes first name with or without visual example

4.5 to 5 Years

  • Can feed himself soup with little to no spilling
  • Folds paper in half with edges meeting
  • Puts key in a lock and opens it

5 to 6 Years

  • Can get dressed completely independently, including buttons and snaps, able to tie shoelaces
  • Cuts square, triangle, circle, and simple pictures with scissors
  • Draws and copies a diagonal line and a triangle
  • Uses a knife to spread food items
  • Consistently uses “tripod” grasp to write, draw, and hold feeding utensils while moving hand independently from forearm
  • Colors inside the lines
  • Writes first name without a visual example, last name may be written with visual
  • Handedness well established

By age 7, children are usually adept at most fine motor skills, but refinement continues into late childhood. If you notice your young child demonstrating difficulties in the above “red flag” areas, it may be time to consult with an occupational therapist. For at-home ideas to improve hand strength and fine motor abilities, read my other blog, Fine Motor Skills: Ideas for At-Home Improvement.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

Meet-With-An-Occupational-Therapist
Resources:

Beery, K.E., & Beery, N.A. (2006). The Beery-Buktenica Developmental Test of Visual Motor Integration. Minneapolis: NSC Pearson

Folio, M.R., & Fewell, R.R. (2000). Peabody Developmental Motor Scales, 2nd Ed. Austin: Pro-Ed.

Retherford, K.S. (1996). Normal Development: A Database of Communication and Related Behaviors. Greenville, SC: Super Duper Publications