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Swim Your Way To A Stronger Body

Summer is quickly approaching, and swimming pools can be used for much more than tanning and floating! Get those muscles and joints working with these simple games that you can play with common pool toys.

The following activities target strength, endurance, body awareness, trunk control, breath control and motor planning. As always, make sure safety is your first priority:

1. Noodle Races: sit on foam noodles, using your arms to pull yourself across the length of the pool .

**Try a variety of movements with your arms such as front crawls, breast strokes, and doggy paddling to incorporate different reaching and pulling methods. You can also sit on a tube or raft rather than a noodle to play this game!

2. Noodle Volleyball/Basketball: sit on foam noodles, passing a beach ball back and forth or aiming for a hoop.

**Try to keep the ball in the air without hitting the water for as long as possible. This is a great challenge that incorporates hand-eye coordination. Read more

W-Sitting And Your Child’s Growth

W-sitting is a position that is too commonly used by children when seated on the ground. In this position, a child sits on their bottom, with knees bent, feet tucked under, and legs splayed out to each side in a “W” configuration. Because this position is so common, most adults do not realize that use of this position can have negative ramifications on a child’s growth and development. 

Negative Effects of W-Sitting:

The reality is that this position can cause orthopedic problems, delay development of postural control and stability, and delay development of refined motor skills. For these reasons, its use is strongly discouraged.

Excessive use of a w-sit during the growing years puts undue stress on the hip abductors, hamstrings, internal rotators and heel cords, leading to the possibility of orthopedic problems in the future. “W-sitting” can lead to hip dislocation, and for children with pre-existing orthopedic conditions, these conditions can worsen when major muscle groups are placed in shortened positions. The muscles begin to tighten, and this can lead to a permanent shortening of the muscle, which can affect coordination, balance, and development of motor skills.

The w-sit widens a child’s base of support, resulting in less need for weight shifting, postural control and stability as they are playing, moving and reaching than in other seated positions. In addition to resulting in decreased trunk control, the w-sit does not require as much trunk rotation, which helps develop midline crossing and separation of the two sides of the body needed for bilateral coordination. Good trunk control and stability, midline crossing and bilateral coordination are needed to develop refined motor skills and hand dominance.

How to Prevent W-sitting:

It is best to prevent children from developing this habit. However, we all know children who have already established this as a preferred seated position. When possible, anticipate and catch it before you see your child move into a w-sit. If and when you do see your child in a “W”, consistently encourage her to adjust to a different position by saying, “Fix your legs.”

Consistency is key. Make sure children know what some of their other options are so they can choose an alternative. Functional seated positions that will allow the child to develop trunk control and mature movement patterns include “tailor sit” (also called “criss-cross”), “long sit” and “side sit”. It is important for parents to teach and encourage alternate seated positions at home, and teachers to teach and encourage their students to use alternate seated positions at school. This encouragement will have positive effects on a child’s growth and development of foundational skills.

When playing with a child on the floor, hold his knees and feet together when kneeling or crawling – it is impossible to get into a w-sit from there. The child will either sit to one side, or sit back on his feet, and from there he can be helped to sit over to one side. Try to encourage sitting over both the right and left sides to promote bilateral development. Using various patterns of movements and positions demand trunk rotation and lateral weight shifting.

If a child is unable to sit alone in any position other than a “W”, talk with an occupational therapist about supportive seating or alternative positions such as prone and side-lying. Sitting against the couch while playing may be one alternative, as well as using a small table and chair. A therapist will have many other ideas based on each individual child.

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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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

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

 

 

 

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

Taking Off The Training Wheels

Trainig WheelsWarm weather is finally here and it’s a great time to gear up the family for bike riding.  Here are a few tips that will help ease the transition to a two-wheeler.

  1. First, make sure that the child’s bike is in good condition with properly inflated tires, working brakes, and that the seat is low enough that the child can stand on the ground when the bike is not in motion.
  2. A well adjusted helmet is essential for safety and some children may need elbow and knee pads for extra comfort and protection.
  3. The “run behind” method– where the parent follows the child holding underneath the bike seat to help them balance– is a proven technique for beginning the 2-wheeler process.
  4. Plenty of praise is essential and will keep your child motivated.
  5. The best way to teach your child to bike ride and enjoy overall fitness is to lead by example so plan some family bike riding outings today!

I would love to hear your Two Wheeler Success stories!