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Getting Ready For Fall by Teaching Your Child to Dress a Coat

By: Maureen Karwowski, OT

As the leaves begin to turn, it will soon be time to break out those sweaters and coats. This is a great time for your child to practice dressing their coat independently.

As an occupational therapist, I am always looking for ways to help my clients reach their maximum independence. As children become more independent, they develop more confidence and are more likely to try other challenges as well. For my clients that have fine motor difficulties, practicing dressing skills is a natural and routine way to help them develop their fine motor abilities.  Independence with dressing occurs one step at a time, so we can start with dressing a coat as the first step.

Once a child is able to stand securely, or sit securely if they have postural difficulties, it is a good time to start. Here is the “over the head” method that I would start with:

  1. Place the coat on the floor or a low table
  2. Lay the coat flat with the inside facing up
  3. Stand facing the top or collar of the coat
  4. Bend over and place the arms in the sleeves
  5. Lift the entire coat up and overhead
  6. When the arms come down you are all set!

Zipping up a coat requires more precise fine motor skills and strength. I would start by having the child zip up the coat once you have engaged the zipper. When assisting your child with any fasteners, always stand behind them to give them perspective on how their hands should work. You can use a zipper pull to make it easier for your child to grasp the zipper. A quick online search yields many cute options, but you can also use a key ring that you have at home. A magnetic zipper is also a nice alternative while your child is working on manipulating a zipper. Several clothing companies offer this.

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It is important to assist your child, while not jumping in too soon. Be sure to leave extra time, and focus on one step at a time. Once they are independent with this, then you can focus on promoting another dressing task. Good luck and stay warm!

To learn more about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley occupational therapy services, visit eastersealsdfvr.org.

Nutrition Therapy

Help children receive the nutritional therapy they need!

By: Cindy Baranoski, MS, RDN, LDN – Pediatric Nutrition Therapist

Excellent nutrition is one of the most basic requirements for a child to grow and thrive. A study published by Pediatrics found that diagnosis-specific, structured approaches to nutrition issues among children with developmental disabilities significantly improved energy consumption and nutritional status. Yet, nutrition disorders and compromised nutritional status are very frequent among children with developmental disabilities. fun-with-food-054

Research shows that as many as 90% of children with a developmental disorder have at least one nutrition risk indicator. Nutrition problems can include failure to thrive, obesity, poor feeding skills, sensory disorders, and gastrointestinal disorders, to name only a few. Individuals with special needs are also more likely to develop co-existing medical conditions that require nutrition interventions.

Thanks to two significant grants from Hanover Township Mental Health Board and Special Kids Foundation, Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley can now offer nutrition services for children, regardless of insurance, in areas currently underserved immediately north and west of DuPage County. This includes full financial support for those uninsured, underinsured or on Medicaid; and partial support for those in Early Intervention or with insurance. Children who qualify will receive a nutrition evaluation and follow up nutrition therapy as needed.

Qualifications for children (birth to 21 years of age) to receive this service include:

  • Eligible medical diagnosis or identified eating concern  AND

Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley Nutrition Therapy provides care that is difficult to find elsewhere in a community or medical setting. Training and specialties include assisting children with improved oral and digestive tolerance, modifications to help improve growth,  adjusting diet for improved variety, volume and complexity of foods and fluids, balancing the diet of those with food allergies or sensitivities, help with transitioning (off of or onto) a tube feeding, and homemade blenderized formula and diet modifications.
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Evaluations are performed at the Center, in the family’s home or community setting. Our goal is to provide optimal nutrition care to children with developmental disabilities through an inter-disciplinary approach, addressing their nutrition risks and disorders and helping them to lead healthier lives.

Please refer parents, other specialists or anyone else with questions about the program to our Nutrition Therapy intake coordinator, Mary Beth Scholtes, who can be reached at 630-261-6287 and mscholtes@eastersealsdfvr.org.

Learn more about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley nutritional therapy and feeding clinic at www.eastersealsdfvr.org.

maggie_5

New Models of Patient Care

liuBy Dr. Ingrid Liu, D.O.

Who can keep track of all this? How are the independently insured going to get medical care?

Doctors are not happy and neither are patients. I have colleagues that have decided to stop patient care completely, changing to new careers in consulting, research, entering early retirement (if that’s an option), or any number of non medical options.

Unfortunately there are only so many hours in a day and insurance plans only pay so much for each office visit (no matter how much premiums cost or how much doctors beg and plead). A physician has to see on average 30 patients/day in order to succeed. This therefore translates to 10-15 minutes per patient in a 8 hour day. This, as we know, is not good for either the physician or the patient.

When physicians spend more time with each patient, we get to know them each individually and thoroughly, allowing for better decisions and treatment plans as well as guidance on preventive measures.

wellcomemdPrimary care physicians are changing their practices to offer patients options.  I am a family medicine physician and I switched my practice to a membership model 2 years ago. This has been called concierge medicine but I prefer to call it old fashioned medical care in today’s healthcare system. By limiting the number of patients under my care, I am not only able to address more questions from the patients, but my office staff also assists with coordinating care from specialists. We also assist in navigating this complicated insurance maze.

Because the health insurance policies are so complicated, another model that now exists is called Direct Primary Care, or DPC. This type of practice charges a small membership fee and does not accept any health insurance contracts, charging patients a set fee for services, similar to a menu at a restaurant or items at the auto repair shop. There are only a few of these practices nationwide but are growing in numbers.

Especially in this election year, health care reform continues to be a hot topic and I’m not writing to express my point of view other than that change needs to happen and is happening. There is growing concern over a shortage of primary care physicians. Please ask your family physician or pediatrician how he/she is doing. You may be surprised to hear the answer. I know the question would be welcomed and appreciated (as long as there’s time during the appointment to ask it)!

Editor’s Note:
Dr. Liu has provided family medical care for thousands of patients of all ages over two decades. She is board-certified in family practice and licensed without restrictions. She currently serves on the board of Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley and is also a member of the Illinois Academy of Family Practice Committee on Mental Health. Dr. Liu is proficient in all aspects of primary care, but holds special interests in women’s health and travel medicine. http://www.wellcomemd.com/. Learn more about her practice in the video below.

communication

Occupational Therapist Recommended iPad Apps

By: Laura Bueche, MOT OTR/L

No one can deny the powers of the iPad. The back lit animations, sound effects and interactive games make apps a great tool for kids to learn. Kids and adults are drawn to the technology?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends limiting the amount of screen time a child has to “high-quality content.” They recommend children and teens should engage with entertainment media for no more than one or two hours per day and that television and other entertainment media should be avoided for infants and children under age 2.

But what games or content are high-quality? As a pediatric occupational therapist, I use iPad apps during therapy as a therapeutic tool to help kid’s develop skills.  Below are my favorite quality iPad apps.

Fine Motor Skills

Dexteria

 

Dexteria By: Binary Labs, Inc.
Price: $3.99

Dexteria turns your iOS device into a therapeutic tool that improves fine motor skills and handwriting readiness in children and adults.

dexteria jr

Dexteria Jr. By: BinaryLabs, Inc.
Price: $2.99

Set of hand and finger exercises to develop fine motor skills and handwriting readiness. The activities are specially designed for kids age 2-6.

dottodot

Dot to Dot Numbers and Letters Lite By: Apps in My Pocket Ltd By Apps in My Pocket Ltd
Price: Free

Trace through dot-to-dot puzzles for visual motor skills and visual tracking.

bugsandbuttons

Bugs and Buttons By: Little Bit Studio, LLC.
Price: $2.99

18 mini-games and activities that make learning fun. Count colorful buttons, recycle with marching ants or dainty ladybugs, recognize letters, solve bug mazes, and more!

 

Letter and Number Formation

letter&number2 letter&number

Letter School By: Letterschool Enabling Learning B.V.
Price: $4.99

Play to learn how to write all letters of the alphabet: abc – xyz and the numbers 1-10 with LetterSchool.

letterworkbook

Letter Workbook Home Edition By: BigCleaverLearning
Price: Free

Letter Workbook is an interactive educational app which teaches toddlers and children how to form and write letters. Through the simple, interactive guide children will learn how to write their ABC, improve vocabulary and have fun along the way!

myfirst number trace

My First Number Trace By: Neutre
Price: $1.99

Easy tracing for little fingers. Trace letters 1-10.

iwritewords

iWriteWords By: gdiplus
Price: $2.99

iWriteWords teaches your child handwriting while playing a fun and entertaining game.

 

Visual Perception

littlethings

Little Things By: KLICKTOCK
Price: $2.99

An innovative seek and find game. Search colorful collages built from thousands of little things. Randomized searches ensure a different game each time you play.

rushhour

Rush Hour Free By: Thinkfun Inc.
Price: Free

The original sliding block Traffic Jam puzzle, works on visual perception, problem solving, and attention.

 

visual attention
Visual Attention Therapy By: Tactus Therapy Solutions Ltd. Price: $9.99

Visual Attention Therapy helps brain injury and stroke survivors, as well as struggling students, to improve scanning abilities. It also helps rehab professionals to assess for neglect and provide more efficient and effective therapy for attention deficits.


Cause and Effect Apps

peekaboo

Peekaboo Forrest, Barn, or Fridge By: Night & Day Studios, Inc.
Price: $1.99

If you see something moving, tap on it to find out who it is!

ilovefireworks

Ilovefireworks lite By: Fireworks Games

Price: Free

Create beautiful fireworks display by easy tap operation! Touch on the screen, you immediately see breath taking fireworks in 3D graphics and real sounds.

touchofmusic

Touch of Music By: gamegou

Price: Free

Enjoy the freedom to play songs at your own beat while never missing a note.

 

Self Care Skills 

idohygiene

IdoHygiene By: C.E.T – THE CENTER FOR EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY
Price: Free

Learn the most common personal hygiene daily activities (teeth brushing, shampooing , hand washing, toilet training, taking a shower , public bathroom, etc.)

t-rex

T-Rex Toothbrush Timer By: PCAppDev Limited
Price: $0.99

Encourage your kids to brush their own teeth properly by following Dino brush his teeth!!

To learn more about Occupational Therapy at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley visit eastersealsdfvr.org.

Family Support Services - William D'Arcy

Gross Motor Play- Why Some Kids Won’t Participate

By Laura Znajda, PT, C/NDT
Manager of Community Based Therapy and Continuing Education

Summer is the ideal time for outdoor play, and children who love to run and climb are in their element. But children with very mild developmental challenges– or even no diagnosed problem at all— can have a great deal of difficulty learning new motor skills and keeping up with their peers on the playground.  Some children are mistakenly thought to be “clumsy” or “lazy” when they don’t try the advanced motor skills other children their age are mastering.

Physical and occupational therapists sometimes receive referrals to work with these children to strengthen their bodies so that they can gain skills more easily and keep up with their peers.  However, there is more to motor skills than just strength.  Pediatric therapists must analyze a child’s performance and consider all factors that might be impacting their success:Hannah_T

Flexibility
:  We all need normal range of motion in our joints to perform daily tasks, but outdoor play can require extreme ranges of movement as kids stretch their limbs to make that great play of the game or to access new parts of a play gym.  A restriction in range of motion at the hip or shoulder might make climbing the slide ladder difficult.  A neck range limitation could make it challenging for a child to scan the playing field for a teammate that is open for a pass.

Motor Planning:  Paraphrased from Jean Ayres, PhD, motor planning is defined as the act of planning movements inside the brain to complete a series of actions in the proper sequence.  Before a child even starts to move, the sequence of action is planned out in the brain.  When the child lacks experience with a particular skill, like pumping herself on a swing or hitting a ball with a bat, she might hesitate in order to give her brain time to make a plan for this novel task.  Typically, the time it takes to get started will decrease as the task becomes more familiar, but for some children this motor planning component does not come naturally and needs assistance.

Emmett_T.jpgBalance:  Children need to be able to balance on one leg long enough to lift the other leg to a raised surface or to kick a ball.  Even more importantly, they need dynamic balance—that is, control of their bodies while they are moving and balanced on one limb in order to reach out to the side to catch a baseball or make a soccer save.  A child with balance difficulties will seek out stable objects to hold when he has to lift a foot for any length of time or will avoid these activities altogether.

Coordination:    According to CanChild, a research center at McMaster University that organizes clinical  research concerning children with developmental conditions, coordination is a sequence of muscular actions or body movements occurring in a purposeful, orderly fashion (smooth and efficient).  We often think of coordination as the ability to use both sides of the body at the same time.  We need coordination to make the same movements with both arms and legs when we do exercises like jumping jacks.  And we need coordination to do different things with each body part, but all at the same time, such as dribbling a basketball while walking or running.  A child with coordination difficulties might need these advanced motor skills to be taught in a more graded manner before she can master them.Robbie_T.jpg

Motivation:  It might seem obvious that a child must be interested and motivated in an activity in order to be successful with it, however this important component of motor skill performance is sometimes overlooked.  Although research is inconclusive as to exactly how many repetitions are needed, we do know that a new skill requires at least hundreds of repetitions in order to become proficient.   If a child is not motivated to play a particular sport, he will not have the determination to practice a skill over and over and will not see the success that comes from that critical repetition.

Finally, strength is important. Just as necessary as all of these motor skill components; but not the only factor to consider when a child is hesitant or unsuccessful with outdoor play.

Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley therapists are expanding their ability to get to the bottom of why children don’t participate in outdoor play and develop new strategies to help them through a continuing education course taught by Lezlie Adler, OTR/L, C/NDT and Jane Styer-Acevedo, PT, DPT, C/NDT on September 22-23, 2016 at our Villa Park center.  Registration is open to all therapists at:  http://www.eastersealsdfvr.org/ce

References

Can Child, Institute for Applied Health Sciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada L8S 1C7  www.canchild.ca

Ayres, A. Jean, Sensory Integration and the Child, Western Psychological Services, 2005.

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A Checklist for this Year’s IEP

By: Sharon Pike, Family Services Parent Liaison

As one of the Parent Liaisons at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley, I have experienced many years of not only my own children’s IEP’s, but countless families from our centers.   Here are some strategies that have helped our families feel like a true member of the team and confident that this year’s IEP is a well written plan that will meet their child’s needs.

Prepare for the meeting

  1. Make a list of your child’s strengths and needs. Bring it with you to review during the meeting to insure they are covering things that are important to your child’s success in school. Think about and write down strategies that work at home and with your private therapist to share with the staff.
  2. Know what the law requires. Section 614 of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) sets out the process and elements of what needs to be explored to develop and revise and IEP.  States and local school districts add their own policies on top of what is required under the federal law. That being said it doesn’t mean you need to know the letter of the law.   Bottom line… the more you know and understand the easier the process is.
  3. Never attend this meeting alone. It’s important that you and your spouse attend if possible.  If not then ask a grandparent or a friend. Their role is to be support for you and another set of ears!  Often at these meetings we can get stuck on something one member of the staff said and miss important information.  Make sure you inform the school that you are bringing someone with.
  4. Start the meeting with a positive statement about your child even if you’ve had a difficult period there is ALWAYS something positive to say… he has the best smile, she is caring and kind, he loves other children!
  5. When talking to the team, focus on your child’s needs and NOT your wants! Take the I out of IEP. Avoid, I want him to work on, I want her to be in this class, I think she needs….  Rephrase everything. He needs to have these supports in order to be successful. She needs to have sensory break before being expected to do table top activities, as it helps her focus.  The goal of special education is to meet the child’s needs, not the needs of us parents.
  6. Placement is not the first decision. This is determined after the team has decided what services and supports are needed.  This is hard; as it is often the first thing you want to know!
  7. 01_Mason EsquivelTrust your gut. If a piece of the IEP doesn’t feel right, and you can’t reach an agreement with the school, make sure it is documented that you do not agree.  Remember, just because you disagree doesn’t mean it will be changed.  The whole team has to agree to change it.  But I always say, ask for the moon and hope for the stars!
  8. Think about your child’s future! Aim HIGH.  Don’t wait until high school to start planning for what your child can do as an adult.  Every skill your child achieves in elementary school will help him or her be an independent adult.
  9. Establish a clear and reasonable communication plan with the school and your child’s teacher. Stick to the plan.  You and the school are partners in your child’s development and learning.
  10. Remember the IEP is a fluid document and can be amended at any time by requesting another IEP meeting.

After the IEP meeting

Pat yourself on the back for another successful IEP under your belt.

Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley Family Services provide information, education and support that address the concerns and stressors which may accompany having a child with special needs.  Our parent liaisons are highly trained parents of children with special needs.  They provide parents and caregivers with support from the unique perspective of someone “who has been there” in both informal one-on-one and group settings. For more resources and information click here.

sippy cup

Beyond the Sippy Cup

By: Jennifer Tripoli, M.S., CCC-SLP

I often get asked the question “Should my child use a sippy cup?” It’s a difficult question to answer. Sippy cups were initially invented in the 1980s by a mechanical engineer who was sick and tired of cleaning up his son’s juice mess around the house. He uniquely devised a prototype for the no spill mechanism and just like that problem solved! He eventually sold his patent to Playtex ® and the rest is history as this became the go to type of cup for babies learning to transfer from bottle to cup.

I am sure you probably see tons and tons of children walking around the mall, playing at the park, and in the car with their sippy cups. This is the era of “to go” cups. Everyone, including adults bring their drinks (coffee, tea, water) to their next destination. I understand the convenience of sippy cups for parents and quite frankly I get it, but hopefully I can convince you to try out some other convenient cups that will support your child’s oral motor and speech development.

So why are they really SO bad?

  • Promote immature tongue movement pattern or suckle
    • Sippy cups promote an anterior-posterior tongue movement pattern, similar to the way an infant extracts liquid from a bottle or breast (suckle pattern). We want to begin to promote a more upward and backward swallow pattern for infants and toddlers by way of an open cup or straw cup. Sippy cups promote a suckle pattern especially with continued use.
  • Promote inappropriate tongue position for swallowing
    • The spout on the sippy cup can anchor the tongue tip down during swallowing. The only way for the tongue to move is forward. During a mature swallow pattern the tongue tip elevates to the area behind the upper teeth (alveolar ridge) as the tongue moves upward and backward.
  • Promote speech sound errors
    • Continued and overuse of sippy cups (and pacifiers!) promote the tongue to rest forward in the mouth. This inappropriate resting tongue position can directly impact your child’s ability to produce certain sounds. For example, a child may produce the ‘th’ sound (a frontal produced sound) in for an ‘s’ sound (‘tho’ for ‘so’). It is important to note that not all children who use sippy cups will have speech sound errors. My thought is though let’s set our children up for success by using developmentally appropriate cups!
  • Poor dental development and Dental Caries
    • Sippy cups can cause cavities and tooth decay. If your child is sipping on fruit drinks, milk, or any other sugary drinks, sugar can be left on their teeth which will cause the enamel to erode away. Sippy cups (and pacifiers!) can also cause misshaped oral cavities and affect resting tongue position.
  • Risk of Injury
    • In my research on sippy cups, I came across a study proving sippy cups can be dangerous?! Who would have thought?! A study conducted in 2012 by Dr. Sarah Keim at Nationwide’s Children Hospital in Columbus, Ohio stated every 4 hours a child in the U.S. is rushed to the hospital due to an injury from a sippy cup, bottle, or pacifier. Dr. Keim stated this likely occurs due to the child learning to walk. As they are learning to walk, they trip and fall often. If they have a bottle, pacifier, or sippy cup in their mouth they can injure themselves.

So what’s the alternative?

  • Open cups
    • Many parents think I am crazy when I suggest an open cup for a young child. Yes, it may seem a bit ambitious, but an important step in the development of good oral motor and feeding skills! When children drink from an open cup they are developing a more mature swallow pattern. A smaller open cup (with a smaller rim) will allow your child to have better motor control of the liquid. You can first try giving your child an open cup to practice without liquid (place a preferred pureed on the rim of the cup) or you can use thickened liquid in the cup for a slower flow.
  • Straw Cups
    • It may take your child some time to learn how to extract liquid from a straw, but be patient and the skill should develop! When choosing a straw cup choose a straw that is thin versus thick. Also make sure the straw is not too long. It is possible for young children to drink from a straw cup with a suckle pattern. Some children are able to extract liquid from the straw by placing the straw under their tongue. To avoid this, you can slowly cut the straw ¼ inch at a time until the straw is short enough that the child cannot place his/her tongue underneath it.

Here are a few of my favorite open cups and straw cups!

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To learn more about development milestones and speech-language therapy services, visit eastersealsdfvr.org.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Down Syndrome Enters a New Era

By: Dr. Peter Smith, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, University of Chicago

Editor’s Note: Through a partnership with the University of Chicago, developmental- behavioral pediatrician, Dr. Smith leads a new Neurodevelopmental Disability Clinic at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley which provides support for children with Down Syndrome, ADHD or Autism, disabilities that may include complex medical and emotional issues.

Dr. Smith also leads Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley’s multi-disciplinary team including an occupational therapist, speech-language pathologist, developmental therapist, audiologist and parent liaison in the Medical Diagnostic Clinic. This clinic specializes in early diagnosis of young children.

Current Processes Are Not Working

Individuals with Down syndrome (DS) are living longer and healthier lives than ever.  There is consensus that complete information needs to be offered to all parents of children with Down syndrome (both pre- and postnatal) regarding the current experiences, health outcomes, lifespans, and quality of life for individuals with DS.  DS represents a dramatic “success story” and the lives of individuals with Down syndrome are improving in every way measurable.  Unfortunately, this good news is too often not being shared with new and expectant families.  Doctors are not prepared for this task and parents report frustration with the process.

Maggie_1.jpgOn the Cusp of Potentially “Game Changing” Therapies

In addition to the dramatic changes that have already occurred, DS as a clinical and research arena is on the cusp of developing even newer therapies that have the potential to improve cognitive outcomes.  Multiple research teams have protocols already enrolling study subjects.  For example, the team at the Jerome Lejeune Institute in Paris has an active study underway  that employs a combination of folic acid and thyroid hormone, targeting infants and primarily measuring cognitive performance during and after therapy.  Their preliminary work has shown significant promise and preliminary results might be released later this year.  Because of their early successes, there are ongoing efforts to mount a similar study here in the United States.  The NIH has recognized this new era and has launched an international registry (see https://dsconnect.nih.gov ).  However, this “breaking news” has not been widely disseminated.  Many worry that recruitment to these studies could be diminished due to the lack of awareness by primary care providers and the general public, which would slow the progress of the studies.

01_Lucas_Vasquez.jpgA Growing Number of States Have Addressed the Issue: Including Illinois

Because of the lack of general knowledge of both the dramatic improvements in the lives of individuals with DS and the emerging clinical trials in DS, a coalition lead (of course) by family support organizations has emerged.  They have initiated a new “information rights” movement that includes clinicians, policymakers, legislators, and researchers that has worked to enact new state laws addressing the problem of misinformation.  The first to successfully pass legislation was Massachusetts: in 2012, a coalition helped to pass a state law, mandating that clinicians provide accurate information and Referral to parent support organizations.  Most recently, Illinois, passed unanimous legislation in 2015, which proves that this is truly a bipartisan issue.

To learn more about our specialty clinics including the Medical Diagnostic Clinic, visit eastersealsdfvr.org.

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A New Perspective about the Playground

By: Bridget Hobbs, PT

Summer is finally here and your little ones are asking to go to the park.  So, pack a few snacks, slather on the sunscreen and take advantage of this free way to build confidence, make friends and gain gross motor skills at the same time.

Children learn best through play-based experiences and exploring the playground is great way for children to refine their gross and fine motor skills.  Here are a couple ideas for parents and caregivers to engage their children at the park in order to build not only bonding and fun, but to also build muscle strength, endurance and gross motor skills.

Here are some new or different ideas to incorporate to your little one’s playground fun:

Playground-28.jpgClimbing up the slide

As a child, you were likely told to just go down the slide.  Of course if there are children waiting to go down the slide, climbing up it is not a good idea.  However, if the park isn’t crowded, help your child bear walk (on hands and feet with bottom in the air) up the slide.  Doing this builds great core strength as well as cross-body coordination skills.

Using the dividers as balance beams

Playground-20.jpgThere are often railroad-tie type of dividers that divide the grass from the wood chips/foam surface under the playground equipment.  Challenge your child to go across these as they would a balance beam.  They can experiment with going forward, backward, side-stepping and even doing toe taps to the ground each step.  This activity helps with control of leg and core muscles as well as coordination skills that your child will use in gym class and on sports teams in the future.

Use hills to your advantage

If you participated in track or cross-country in high school, you know that training on hills was a vital component to the big picture of a race.  Make hills fun for your little one by rolling down them like a log to help with development of the vestibular system.  You can also really challenge them by bear walking or crab walking up or down the hill.

Don’t avoid the climbing wall

Playground-45.jpgChildren as young as toddlers can enjoy the climbing wall with help of their parents.  Even if you have to support their body, children learn motor planning and sequencing by deciding where to best place their hands and feet to navigate the wall.   A bonus is that the small muscles in the hand are strengthened by grasping the holds, which can lead to improved ability to write and play ball sports in the future.

There is a lot of research that clearly links play with brain development, motor and social skills.  Playgrounds provide different textures, sensory experiences and motor planning opportunities for children to help build their development.  So, think outside the box the next time you are at the park with your child and try to incorporate these different ways to assist with their development.

For more information on physical therapy and play based therapy services at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley visit our website.

*Above images by Molly Gardner Media

 

Photo by Courtney Penzato

Just Breathe

 

By: Jessica Drake-Simmons M.S. CCC-SLP

The popularity of using breathing exercises with children is on the rise.  And, with good reason, because they work! When we focus on breathing fully and deeply, we move out of our sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) and into our parasympathetic nervous system (relaxation and receptivity).  Breathing exercises are effective for the frustrated 4-year-old, the anxious teenager, the overwhelmed parent and the stressed out teacher.  There are an abundance of fascinating studies that have found that our body posture, facial expression and breathing, send messages to our brains about how we are feeling.  Therefore, we can take control of our feelings by doing something different with our bodies.

Research has found that something as simple as mindful breathing can have the following benefits:

  1. Increase our focus
  2. Promote instant feelings of calmness
  3. Regulate our mood
  4. Increase our confidence
  5. Increase our joy

Some families find it helpful to have mindful breathing integrated into their regular routines.  For example, every time they are sitting in the car or at every trip to the bathroom they will participate in a simple breathing exercise.  Taking a few minutes at the beginning of an activity can also be an effective way to get a child in a calm, ready to learn state or to reduce stress in anxiety provoking situations.  Breathing exercises can also be an effective way of curbing a looming behavioral meltdown.

When teaching a child a breathing exercise, choose a time when the child is ready to learn.  If a child is in an anxious or frustrated state, he will have difficulty processing the directions.   Make the learning fun and multi-modal.

breathe blog
Image from theyogakids.com

Use a real object, picture or imaginative visualization to teach a breathing exercise.  I may show my little friend a stuffed bunny and ask:  “Do you know how bunnies breathe!?  A bunny takes 3 quick sniffs through its nose and then blows one deep breath through its nose.  I wonder if you could breathe like a bunny?” or “Imagine you had a balloon!  What color would your balloon be?  Let’s take a biiiiiiiig breath through our nose and blow the air out of our mouth into our balloon.  Wow, you made your balloon sooo big with those 3 big breaths!”

Here are my favorite, kid friendly, breathing exercises.

breathe blog 2

For more information on Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley visit our website.