Monthly Archives: April 2014

The Benefits of Exercise in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Blog by Bridget Hobbs, PT, DPT

1 in 68. Most of us have heard this statistic in the news recently. The latest research from the CDC indicates that this is the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders, or ASD, in America’s youth. Because April is Autism Awareness Month, I wanted to shed some light on a topic that often may be overlooked, which is how physical activity can have such a positive influence on the quality of life in children with ASD.

Autism Diagnostic Clinic 2 - Richard Howe

According to Curtin et al., 16% of children ages 6-19 are overweight, whereas the prevalence of being overweight among children with ASD is increased to 19% with an additional 35.7% at risk for being overweight.1 Being overweight can put these children at risk for gastrointestinal issues, diabetes, cardiovascular and joint problems. Physical activity not only encourages a healthy lifestyle, but also assists with providing children with ASD social, emotional and behavioral benefits as well.

When children with ASD participate in team sports, whether through their school park district or special-rec association, they are part of a larger entity. Team sports can do wonders for a child’s self-esteem, ability to communicate with peers and overall sense of well-being.

Swimming and aquatic therapy are great means of exercise for children with ASD. In a study conducted by Yilmaz et al, after 10 weeks of swimming training, the balance, speed, agility, power, hand grip, upper and lower extremity muscle strength, flexibility and cardiorespiratory endurance increased. Also after the hydrotherapy, the amount of repetitive stereotyped movement patterns (spinning, swinging and delayed echolalia) decreased.2

We cannot forget that kids on the autism spectrum are still kids. They like to run, jump, swim and shoot baskets just like typically developing kids. Often these skills need to be broken down so that children with ASD are able to understand how to complete a task. For example, when teaching a child with ASD how to play hopscotch, start by doing side to side jumps, then adding bringing feet together and apart in a jump, followed by helping the child to draw the hopscotch course and finally, demonstration from another peer can help the child understand how the skill is performed.

Physical activity for children with ASD can sometimes be more challenging because of other issues such as low muscle tone, poor motor planning, behavioral issues and decreased attention. However, when encouraged properly and in the right setting, children with ASD can really flourish physically, emotionally and mentally with the addition of more physical activity in their lives. Physical activity should be used as a fun, engaging, supplement to a child’s therapeutic daily activities.

References

1 Curtin, Bandini, Perrin, Tybor, Must (2005). Prevalence of overweight in children and adolescents with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism spectrum disorders: a chart review. BMC Pediatr 2005: 5:48

2 Yilmaz, Yanardag, Birkan and Bumin (2004). Effects of Swimming Training on Physical Fitness and Water Orientation in Autism. Pediatrics International, 46, 624-626.
http://www.autismspeaks.org

About the Author

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Bridget Hobbs, PT, DPT, is a licensed physical therapist with a passion for working with kids with special needs. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Biomedical Sciences from Marquette University and then continued at Marquette to receive her clinical doctorate in Physical Therapy in 2006. Bridget started her physical therapy career working with adults who had orthopedic, cardiac and neurological injuries. In 2009, she began working in the pediatric realm and has found her home in this setting. Areas of interest for Bridget include treating children with torticollis, orthopedic injuries, autism, gross motor delays and neuro-muscular disorders. Bridget has advanced training in aquatic therapy, respiratory treatment, treatment of torticollis, gait and working with premature infants. She looks forward to using her experience and passion for kids to translate to great therapy with your child.

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7 Ways Occupational Therapy Helps Young Children

Did you know that April is Occupational Therapy (OT) month? The primary occupation of childhood is to grow, learn and play allowing the child to live life to their fullest potential. OT focuses on developing motor skills, sensory processing abilities, coordination, peer interaction, play and self-care skills to participate in daily life activities. Here at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley, we offer a comprehensive evaluation and customized treatment plans.

Occupational Therapy - Courtney Penzato

Occupational therapists evaluate children’s development and provide intervention to improve skills and/or modify environments when concerns arise about a child’s functional performance.* Some examples include:

1. Developing upper body and fine motor control to play, complete daily living tasks and school skills;
2. helping a child learn to attend and follow multi-step tasks;
3. helping a child develop the ability to complete self-care activities independently, such as dressing and grooming;
4. helping a child learn to cope with disappointment or failure;
5. helping a child to process sensory information including sound, vision, movement and touch;
6. building skills for sharing, taking turns, and playing with peers; and
7. helping a child develop the ability to use toys and materials in both traditional and creative manners.*

Our OT department is a team of dynamic, committed, licensed and experienced professionals. With over 200 total years of experience in the department, the therapists offer the depth of knowledge and range of certifications to assist children with autism or physical challenges at any level of involvement. Because each child’s needs are different, we create an individualized treatment plan based on parent concerns and the most current treatment approaches.

The staff holds certifications and advanced training in sensory integration, Neurodevelopmental Treatment (NDT), Baby Treatment, and the PLAY approach. Other areas of training include social skills training, TEACCH, Kinesio taping, Neuromuscular Electric Stimulation (NMES), Aquatic Therapy, Handwriting Without Tears, therapeutic listening, interactive metronome as well as Constraint Induced Movement Therapy and Bi-Manual Therapy. We believe effectiveness begins with a strong relationship between the child, caregiver and therapist. We offer continuity of care and passionate staff commitment to help meet your child’s needs. Our Occupational Therapists are leaders in the field providing courses, consulting and mentoring locally, nationally and internationally.
Getting started is easy! Contact our intake coordinator at 630.282.2022 to ask questions or schedule an appointment. Or, visit us online at EasterSealsDFVR.org for program details.

*Content Source: The American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc. at http://www.aota.org/-/media/Corporate/Files/AboutOT/Professionals/WhatIsOT/CY/Fact-Sheets/Children%20and%20Youth%20fact%20sheet.pdf.

Why Reading Real Books as Opposed to E-books is Beneficial for Your Child

21_Jake V

Blog by Bridget Hobbs

With the number of smart phones, tablets and e-readers on the rise, children are being exposed to electronic technology early and often in life. However, I am writing this blog in an effort to convince parents that reading tangible, real books where you can manually turn the pages is so much more beneficial for your child then reading on an electronic device.

The American Academy of Pediatrics states that “studies have shown that excessive media use can lead to attention problems, school difficulties, sleep and eating disorders, and obesity. In addition, the Internet and cell phones can provide platforms for illicit and risky behaviors.” The American Academy of Pediatrics goes on to state that television and other entertainment media should be avoided for infants and children under the age of 2, and for children and teens limited to no more then 1-2 hours per day.

What is better than bonding with your child reading a book on a comfy rocking chair? When you read to your child, s/he learns important speech concepts like when to use different tones of voice, reading fast/slow at different parts of the book, and simply how to pronounce new words they may have not heard before. A tablet or ipad often reads words at the same pace, in a monochromatic voice, so children do not get the benefits of using different aspects of language. Also, when you read to your child, you are often asking questions like “do you see the bear?” or “what do you think happens next?” These concepts are important for children to learn conversation building, and again, are not offered via electronic readers.

We all know that distractibility skyrockets when using tablets or smart phones, for both children and adults. When reading on these types of devices, children often want to switch apps quickly, to get to something else. Reading ‘real’ books helps children learn to focus, increase their attention span as well as their imagination.

A child’s brain grows and develops rapidly, especially in the first few years. Books offer a tangible, sensory experience that electronics simply cannot offer. Often books for younger children offer different textures of: furry, rough and smooth so children learn by feel.
Believe it or not, there are also a lot of motor benefits to reading. Children learn to develop a pinch grip by gripping the pages and turning it. They also develop a sense of reciprocal coordination when turning a page right to left as well as a sense of midline.

Surely there is a convenience for tablets and smart phones on long car rides, airplane trips, or in a doctor’s office waiting room. However, for the day to day reading, do your child a favor and stick to ‘real’ books. They will love the bonding and interaction that they will get with you and you will see the results! There are already many tablets replacing books in school aged children, and your kids will definitely learn to ‘swipe, tap, and scroll’ when they hit school aged. For younger children, try to reap the benefits of going old-school, picking out your child’s favorite copy of Goodnight Moon or The Cat In the Hat and help them learn to love to read!

About the Author

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Bridget Hobbs, PT, DPT, is a licensed physical therapist with a passion for working with kids with special needs. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Biomedical Sciences from Marquette University and then continued at Marquette to receive her clinical doctorate in Physical Therapy in 2006. Bridget started her physical therapy career working with adults who had orthopedic, cardiac and neurological injuries. In 2009, she began working in the pediatric realm and has found her home in this setting. Areas of interest for Bridget include treating children with torticollis, orthopedic injuries, autism, gross motor delays and neuro-muscular disorders. Bridget has advanced training in aquatic therapy, respiratory treatment, treatment of torticollis, gait and working with premature infants. She looks forward to using her experience and passion for kids to translate to great therapy with your child.