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what to expect in an occupational therapy evaluation

What To Expect In A Pediatric Occupational Therapy Evaluation

Whether your child has already been referred to an occupational therapist (OT) or you’re simply wondering if this would be a helpful route, there are a few things to know going into an occupational therapy evaluation. Occupational therapists are concerned about an individual’s level of participation in daily activities that are important to him or her. For many children and their families, this means that an OT will be curious about a child’s skills related to self-help, play, peer relationships, academics, and self–regulation. An occupational therapist will want to know what is important to you and set attainable goals that reflect priorities of the child and the family. Not all practitioners will gather this information exactly the same way but the general components of an Occupational Therapy evaluation will include background and developmental information, interview with parents or caregivers, assessment and observations directly with the child, and finally a comprehensive report that summarizes information gathered and sets goals for therapy based on those results.

Background and Developmental Information

Many therapists will request information on birth and developmental history prior to meeting for the first time. If youwhat to expact in an occupational therapy evaluation are able to provide other records that you believe would be helpful, such as reports from previous assessments, teacher summaries, or other pertinent medical history, include these in the evaluation process to generate a complete picture.

Caregiver Interview

Interview with the parent or primary caregiver is an extremely important component of the evaluation process. No one knows your child better than you. The information you provide is vital for identifying priorities and setting realistic goals that will make a difference in your child’s life. The occupational therapist will guide the conversation by asking about your main concerns and what you hope to accomplish through occupational therapy. Depending on the issues you identify, she will want to know more about your child’s adaptive behavior habits such as level of independence with self-care, skill level with fine and gross motor tasks, social and play skills, self-regulation abilities, and executive functioning. The information you provide will allow the therapist to choose the most appropriate assessment tools in the next portion of the evaluation.

Assessment and Observation with the Child

Once the OT has gathered necessary information from you, she will spend time with your child. This time is focused on building rapport, utilizing standardized assessments to identify developmental skill levels, and completing clinical observations that inform her of your child’s motor and sensory development, self-regulation abilities, and executive functioning skills. Specific skills that may be assessed include:

  • Visual motor and visual perceptual skills
  • Fine motor development related to dexterity, strength, grasp efficiency, range of motion, and bilateral use (how well the hands work together)
  • Gross motor strength, endurance, and coordination
  • Motor planning abilities
  • Self-help skills related to dressing, grooming, and feeding
  • Executive functioning skills related to attention, organization, flexibility, etc.
  • Self-regulation (how a child calms themselves or adapts to their environment)
  • Sensory processing abilities (how a child processes what he sees, hears, feels, etc. and produces an appropriate response)

Evaluation Report

The final piece of the evaluation process is reviewing the report, which summarizes all information gathered, the clinical impressions of the therapist, and treatment goals that address identified concerns while utilizing a child and family’s strengths. Often this report will also include general recommendations and a time frame for the treatment plan before a reassessment is warranted.

NSPT offers occupational therapy services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview 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!

the best handwriting apps

Handwriting: There’s An App For That!

In this day and age, there really is an app for everything! So why not use technology for educational purposes, especially for the fine motor skill of handwriting? Believe it or not, handwriting development begins as early as 12 months of age, as your child begins to first scribble with markers or crayons. Further development of handwriting occurs with an emphasis on fine motor control and precision, along with the development of a functional pencil grasp. With advances in technology, there are now fun, interactive methods to promote handwriting skills.  The letters are presented to children with various colors, sounds, animals, and even rewards. Remember, apps are a great supplement to handwriting, but be sure to keep using a multi-sensory approach. Read on for four current Handwriting apps used by your occupational therapist.

 Occupational Therapist Approved Handwriting Apps:the best handwriting apps

Ready to Print

$7.99 google play store

$9.99 iTunes store

A fine motor app created by an OT. The app assists in the development of fine motor skills, including fine motor precision, visual motor tracking skills, visual-perceptual skills and fine motor skills. The app progresses through activities that develop handwriting, including tracing, drawing paths, developing pinch, matching connecting dots, and ultimately writing upper and lower case letters! A great app for building skills that lead to handwriting.

Writing Wizard

Free demo google play store

$4.99 iTunes store

A colorful, customizable letter tracing app! The app provides children with a multisensory approach, using colors and sound effects throughout the tasks. It also provides your child with a reward system for completing each letter. The app itself also allows for extended customization, allowing you to enter words or even names for your child to trace.

Touch and Write

$2.99 iTunes store

Help the monster eat his cupcakes! The tracing app provides your child develop letter formation skills by controlling his fine motor movements. The app asks that your child stay within the boundaries of the guided path, moving the monster with their finger to collect the cupcakes along the correct path. Trace upper and lower case letter in consecutive order, numbers, and words.

 

Handwriting Without Tears: Wet-Dry-Try Suite for Capitals, Numbers, and Lowercase

$6.99 iTunes store

The well-known academic writing protocol became an app. The app follows HWT structure, teaching your child to start his letters at the top and write them fluidly. You can follow the app through the traditional sequence of letters in the HWT program in which letters are taught by similarity in formation, or complete letter learning in sequential order. This is a great app if your child is already learning the program and would like more practice or for a new writer having a little bit of difficulty.

Want to read about more handwriting apps? Click here! Are you concerned about your child’s handwriting? Schedule a consultation with one of our occupational therapists.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview 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! 

 

Bingo

BINGO! New Twists on a Classic Game

BINGO! What’s the first image that comes to mind when you hear the word? Senior night at the community center? What if I told you the images that come to my mind are all from my childhood? That’s right. Bingo is also for kids. There are lots of great options out there for playing Bingo as a family, and I’ve even got a few new ideas to put a new twist on this old favorite. But hey, while I’m at it, let’s re-invent some other classics too!

Fun Ways to Play Bingo:Bingo! Fun twists on a classic game

Travel Bingo: Going on a family road trip or long flight? Use a handy template to create your own travel Bingo game. Come up with a random list of things you’ll see along the way (stop signs, a certain letter, a license plate from another state, etc.) and use it to create your own Bingo cards. This is a great game that the whole family can play together (except the driver! Keep your eyes on the road!) and will enhance your kids’ observation skills.

            *Insider Tip – You can also use pictures to make Bingo exciting for younger kids too!

Educational Bingo: Struggling to learn letters, math, colors, shapes, etc? There are lots of great educational Bingo sets out there, but you can always make your own too. Create your own set of cards for a game that will make learning fun.

Puzzle Piece Bingo: This alternative I discovered quickly became a favorite when I worked in a daycare. This is a great option for younger kids who may not get the whole Bingo concept yet, or who need to work on fine motor skills. Take several board style puzzles (these are the ones that have a sturdy backboard that the puzzle pieces snap into). Ask each child to select one of the puzzles, then have them dump all the pieces into the Bingo Bin or Bingo Bag (You can make this as simple or as creative as you’d like. In daycare we just dumped all the pieces into an empty box). Have each child sit with their puzzle board in front of them. Hold up one piece at a time, and tell them to raise their hand or call out a silly word if they think the piece is from their puzzle. Go through pieces one at a time until the first child finishes their puzzle. BINGO! Hooray! Great Job!

The Tray Game: Okay, so maybe this one was never a classic, but you may have played something like it at a shower once. This game is great for teaching observation and memory skills. Take a tray or flat surface, and fill it with tiny random objects (race car, tooth pick, thread, button, coin, etc.). Put the tray where everyone can look at it and set a timer (anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes depending on ages and attention spans). Then remove the tray from the room and have everyone write or say as many objects as they remember. The one who remembers the most wins! (This is also great for teams!)

Photo Scavenger Hunt: Kids love scavenger hunts, but they usually result in big bags of junk that need to be sorted and put away or just get thrown out. That’s why photo scavenger hunts are so great! Kids love the adventure and discovery, and taking pictures themselves will be the icing on the cake! To play, create a list in advance for teams to search for. Give each team a camera (disposable are the cheapest and lowest risk, but kids can’t see how their pictures turned out. For instant gratification use a digital camera or old school Polaroid camera, but ask adults to take charge of the camera when not in use). You can set points for especially tricky things to find, and get everyone involved in the pictures too. (A picture of two team members hugging, everyone jumping off a curb, etc.) At the end of the hunt display the pictures where everyone can see them. Give awards for biggest smile, Goofiest silly face, most finger-free photos, etc.

*Insider Tip: For a fun day out and an opportunity to teach kids to pay-it-forward make your list all about helping the community. Make your list all about small things they can do to help others – like picking up some trash, helping someone unload groceries, etc. (For more great ideas, check out my blog on teaching kids to pay it forward.)

I hope you and your family enjoy these new game ideas. Please comment below to let me know what your family like best, and share your other great ideas. Have Fun!

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview 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!

holiday gifts: toys to promote age appropriate developmental skills

Holiday Gifts: Toys to Promote Age-Appropriate Developmental Skills

As the holiday season approaches us, so starts the mad dash to buy everyone’s wish-list toys. Toy stores will provide you with a plethora of options from electronic gadgets to doll sets. But remember, toys can also help to improve skills, confidence and overall development! Before you go running to the stores, let’s stop and examine the toys that promote developmental skills from an occupational therapy perspective.

4 Toys for Fine Motor Development:holiday gifts: toys to promote age appropriate developmental skills

  1. Automoblox – Suitable for children 2+ years, Automoblox allow your child to explore their creative side! The interchangeable wheels, rims, tops, and bumpers promote manipulation skills.
  2. Tinker Toys – For ages 3+, this building set offers hundreds of options for creation as your child uses not only their fine motor skills, but their visual motor skills as well!
  3. Pop Beads – Pop them in and pop them out! These beads promote fine motor precision as your child becomes a jewelry designer. In addition, the resistive aspect of the Pop Beads improves fine motor strength.
  4. Spirograph – Your childhood comes back to life as you watch your child create beautiful circular patterns. As popular as ever, the Spirograph’s interlocking gears promote fine motor precision and control. Suitable for ages 5+.

4 Toys for Gross Motor Development:

  1. Rody Inflatable Hopping Horse– For children ages 3-5, this updated hippity-hop encourages posture and balance.
  2. Cat in the Hat I Can Do That Game– Can you tip toe around the Trick-a-ma-stick while balancing a cake on your head? I bet you can! This silly multi-player game encourages gross motor development through various animal walks and balancing activities. Great for ages 4-8.
  3. ALEX toys, Monkey Balance Board – This adorable board is great to practice balance skills, weight-shifting and leg strength. The durable wood is great for indoors and out, so this board will last you well into the next winter season! Great for little feet ages 3+.
  4. Skip-It – This 90’s game is still skipping strong! The Skip-It encourages gross motor coordination, balance, and encourages a child to separate the sides of their body, increasing body awareness skills.

4 Toys for Sensory Play Development:

  1. Lakeshore Scented Dough– Can your child tell the difference between the cherry and the grape? This dough encourages olfactory development as your child kneads, pinches and sculpts the dough into shapes and characters.
  2. Wonderworld Sensory Blocks– These little blocks, designed for children ages 18 months and older, encourage visual, auditory and tactile discrimination skills.
  3. Touchy Feely– A Marbles the Brain Store game, it encourages tactile discrimination for texture, shape, and temperatures.
  4. Melissa and Doug Deluxe Band Set – A mom-approved band for your child to star in! A great way for your child to control the amount of auditory stimulation in their environment and be exposed to various sounds!

4 toys for Executive Functioning Skill Development:

  1. Sequence for Kids– A family-friendly game for ages 3-6, this game is great for attention, problem solving, and as the title suggests, Sequencing skills! The best part, if you love it, you can buy the adult version as well!
  2. Busy Town Eye Found It – Richard Scarry’s beloved children’s book comes to life in an eye-spy inspired game. Race through Busy Town looking for hidden pictures promoting attention, cooperation and visual motor skills! Great for a group of kids ages 3+.
  3. Rush Hour – Help the red car get out of a traffic jam! For your older child (ages 8+), this game promotes problem-solving skills, sequencing, attention and organization.
  4. Simon Swipe– Follow the color pattern and focus on strengthening your attention, sequencing and memory skills! This game is great for solo play or to play with a friend! (ages 8+)

 

These are toys your kids will enjoy now, and they build skills that will last a lifetime! Happy holiday shopping from North Shore Pediatric Therapy!


prepping your child for kindegarten

On the Way…Prepping Your Child for Kindergarten

 

 

 

School is just around the corner, and some kiddos will be starting their journey into formal education as they head off to Kindergarten. Here are some tips to prepare your child…and yourself for this important milestone.

Why is it important to prepare your child for Kindergarten?

It is important that your child is prepared for this transition so they can have positive interactions when learning and participating in the classroom as well as to build their self-esteem and motivation.

What are common “readiness” skills?

While every school may have their own checklist or assessments, there are some basics skills that most Kindergarten teachers will look for including the following:

Self Help Skills

  • Child is able to be independent (eating, using restroom, clean up)
  • Able to ask for help, when appropriate
  • Can follow one-step and two-step directions

Social/Emotional Skills

  • Shares with others
  • Takes turns
  • Good listener
  • Able to work independently or in small groups
  • Plays/cooperates with others
  • Able to separate from Caregiver

Gross (large) Motor Skills

  • Runs, jumps
  • Able to bounce, kick, and throw a ball
  • Able to participate in small games
  • Can stand on one foot

Fine (small) Motor Skills

Math, Language, and Literacy Skills

  • Able to count to 10
  • Recognizes 10 or more letters, especially those in own name
  • Speaks in sentences of 5+ words
  • Speech is understandable to adults
  • Identifies and names basic shapes
  • Listens attentively and can respond to stories/books
  • Recognizes rhyming words and can put words together that rhyme

How can you help your child be ready for Kindergarten?

Here are some tips to help your child be the best they can be when heading off to Kindergarten:

  • Talk about what will happen in school—what will be the new routine?
  • Arrange a visit to the school and travel the route from home to school (especially if they will be on a bus).
  • Encourage play—independently and with other children.
  • Read, Read, Read—ask questions about the book (what may happen, what they learned), and have them identify colors, shapes, letters
  • Have child practice coloring, writing, and using scissors—“practice makes perfect!”
  • Talk with your child—ask them open-ended questions and have them reciprocate.
  • Use daily activities to point out words, numbers and help child formulate sentences of 5+ words.
  • Encourage independence in your child by having them do simple chores (ex: make bed, help set table/clean up at mealtimes, help with pets in household).

***Most importantly caregivers…be careful not to transmit any anxieties or sadness you may have when your “baby” goes off to school. Children can easily pick up on the emotions of adults, so wait until the bus is out of sight, or the car door closes and THEN pull out the tissues!!




Holiday Toy-Gifting Guide to Promote Gross Motor Skills

It’s the holiday season yet again. In this time of family, friends, foods, and traditions, many little minds are thinking about new toys.   This is the perfect opportunity for parents and family members to stock up on games and toys to facilitate their children’s development.  While some older children might have wish-lists to be fulfilled, there are plenty of toys outside of the latest trend that will help promote growth in children of all ages. As any therapist knows, a toy can be a powerful tool to promote developmental gains, particularly in children who are a little behind their peers.  Below are some toys that help kids strengthen their big muscle groups and attain gross motor skills, without making play seem like work.

Learning Tables

A learning table is a great investment if you have an infant. It will grow alongside your baby and help her attain valuable gross motor skills such as body control in tummy time, cross-body reaching, independent sitting, cruising, standing, and weight-shifting, all while promoting her upper body and cognitive growth.  Early learners can keep busy with the lights, sounds, and activities; the height of the tables adjusts so that babies from 6 to 36 months can play in various positions. Babies will be challenged throughout each step of their development and learn about cause and effect. Read more

Apps to Enhance Fine Motor Development, Prewriting, and Writing Skills

Ever hear the saying, “There’s an app for that?” Well there is, and they’re a great way to tap into your child’s motivation while developing fine motor skills and handwriting.  Look at the chart below for exciting, kid-friendly apps!

Apps for developing fine motor skills and handwriting:

Name Function Description Price
Dexteria-Fine Motor Skill DevelopmentDexteria Jr. -Fine Motor Development -Handwriting-Strength-Coordination and Control

-Dexterity

-Set of therapeutic hand exercises including letter tracing, pinching, taping, etc.-Tracking feature makes it easy to note progress $3.99
Letter Tracer -Pre-writing/Handwriting skills-Letter identification and formation-Finger Isolation

-Fine motor coordination and control

-Learn shapes, signs, and sounds of lower and upper case alphabet-Learn number formation  $0.99
Lego Creationary -Motor planning-Visual perception-Finger isolation -Match lego designs to a picture-Great single and multi-player game Free
Paper Toss -Motor planning-Visual perception- Hand-eye coordination

-Finger isolation

-Bilateral Coordination

-Stimulate crumpling a piece of paper and tossing it into a trash can.-Levels of difficulty-Single finger flick control Free
Bugs and Buttons -Fine motor precision-Finger Isolation-Pattern Formation

-Distal Manipulation

-18 games and activities  covering a variety of learning skills including counting, sorting, pinching, letters, etc. $2.99
Draw Animals -Fine motor control-Finger Isolation-Visual Scanning

-Letter and Number Identification

-Fine motor coordination

-Following a pattern and verbal directions to recreate a picture. Free
LetterReflex -Motor Planning-Right and Left Discrimination-Visual Perception

-Distal Manipulation

-Finger Isolation

-Bilateral Coordination

-Sequencing

-Helps with letter reversal problems and letter discrimination skills $1.99

Co-author: Kelley Balmer

Multi-Sensory Activities to Practice Pre-Writing Shapes

Mastery of the pre-writing shapes is an essential part of a child’s development towards efficient handwriting.

Pre-writing shapes include the following (in order of development):

Pre-writing shape

Approximate age of development

Horizontal lines 2 years
Vertical lines 2.5 years
Circle 3 years
Cross 3.5-4 years
Square 4 years
Diagonal line 4.5 years
Triangle 5 years

Activities to promote appropriate development of pre-writing shapes:

  • Play with Shaving Cream: Cover a surface with shaving cream, and have your child use her index finger to imitate, copy, trace or draw the pre-writing shapes. Try this activity on a vertical plane to add an extra challenge to this activity. For example, write on a mirror or on a tile wall while in the bathtub. By working on a vertical plane, your child uses her shoulder to stabilize the arm movements, creating extra strengthening and increased stability of the arm and shoulder.
  • Finger Paint: Finger painting can be done on a table, easel, or by taping paper to the wall. Have your child cover the paper with paint and then use her fingers to imitate, copy, trace or draw the pre-writing shapes.
  • Use Sand or Rice: Pour a small amount of sand on a table or a plate and have your child create these shapes with her fingers.
  • Use a Chalk Board: Use chalk to create the pre-writing shapes, then use a wet paint brush to trace them. This creates two opportunities to practice! This can be also done without a paintbrush. Instead, dip your child’s finger in water, and then trace the shapes.
  • Play with Play Dough: Use little fingers to mold play dough into various shapes. This can be done by copying a shape, either on top of a shape (imitation) or by memory. This activity also provides an opportunity to address fine motor coordination and strength; have your child pull, pinch, or roll the dough for an extra challenge. A fork and knife can also be used to manipulate the dough while simultaneously addressing feeding skills.

Once the pre-writing shapes are mastered, these same strategies can be used to practice letters! Using a multi-sensory approach to pre-writing shapes increases your child’s awareness, memory and motor learning to learn and maintain these skills. If your child continues to have difficulty with these shapes, please contact a certified occupational therapist.

How to Use Theraputty to Develop Hand Strength

You may have seen your child’s occupational therapist (OT) using a tool that looks like a chunk of clay during your child’s therapy sessions and wondered, “What is that?!” This tool, called theraputty, is a resistant play dough that works on strengthening the small muscles of the hands and fingers. Theraputty can be used in a variety of ways to improve hand strength, while also being highly motivating for children.

Ways to Use Theraputty to Develop Hand Strength:

  • Hide marbles or buttons in the putty, and have your child go on a treasure hunt to find the items.
  • After your child finds the objects in the putty, have him hide them in the putty and give the putty to a sibling to go on a treasure hunt.
  • Hide coins in the putty. What your child finds, he can keep! Read more

5 Ways to Help Your Pre-Writer Develop Her Pencil Grasp

Your child is constantly growing, learning, and developing motor skills that she will use later in life.  One of thesedeveloping pencil grasp important motor skills is her pencil grasp.  By the time your child is three and half, she should have developed the skills necessary to hold her pencil with her thumb and the pad of her index finger.  Below you will find 5 ways to help her develop this skill.

5 Tips for Helping Your Pre-Writer Develop Her Pencil Grip:

  1. Employ “The Alligator”: Have your child make her hand into an alligator’s mouth, as if her fingers and thumb form the teeth and lips.  This “puppet-like” shape will help your child to grab onto a pencil, crayon, or marker using the pads of her fingers.  Instruct your child to place the marker in the alligator’s teeth and to keep the alligator’s mouth (web space) open.
  2. Use Stickers:  Place 2 stickers near the tip of your child’s markers.  These stickers will serve as a visual cue for your child when she is picking up the marker.  This additional cue may help her to remember where to put her fingers and to use her thumb and pointer finger together.
  3. Keep Supplies Her Size:  Give your child various small supplies, such as short pencils (much like the ones you find at the mini-golf course), broken crayons, or short markers.  Since your child’s hands are much smaller than your own, giving them supplies that are just their size will make it easier for them to use a more refined grasp.
  4. Use Lacing Cards: Engaging your pre-writer in activities that don’t involve a pencil or paper can also help her to develop her grasping skills.  Pick up some lacing cards (you can also use cardboard and a hole puncher to make your own).  Encourage your child to hold a shoe-lace with her thumb and pad of index finger as she weaves it in and out of the holes.  This activity helps to develop her visual-motor skills that are so important for writing. Read more

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