Tag Archives: activities

Pilates for Kids

By: Laura Znajda, PT, C/NDT

A study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine last month ranked United States children among the least fit in the world—the US ranked 47th out of 50 countries in physical fitness of our children!   With a sedentary lifestyle linked to heart disease, diabetes, and obesity, it is more important than ever to get our children moving and instill healthy behaviors that will last a lifetime.  It’s been shown that children whose parents exercise regularly are more likely to exercise and be active as adults.  Exercising together is fun and more motivating for both parents and their kids.

A good physical fitness program includes a variety of exercise and movement activities.  Pilates is just one of many exercise methods that is gaining popularity among adults, and with its focus on core strength, stability, and body awareness, this exercise method can be used with kids too–and with great benefits.  And since many Pilates exercises use body or limb weight for resistance strengthening,  little to no equipment is needed.  So  grab a piece of floor and perhaps an exercise ball, and have fun while being active with your kids!

Pilates Bridge is an exercise that strengthens gluteal (buttock) muscles and hamstrings, while providing a stretch to flexor muscles across the front of the hips.  It requires core muscles to work together, leading to good posture and balance for all future dancers, gymnasts and sports enthusiasts. To make it fun for kids, help them place feet (and lower legs if more support is needed) on an exercise ball and lift hips and spine off the floor.  Weight should be on the shoulders and feet.  You can stabilize the ball if needed, or have the child wedge the ball in a corner before starting.

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Swimming Exercise strengthens extensor muscles of the back, hips, thighs and calves that kids need for running and jumping.   Lying flat on the tummy, have the child lift one arm at a time, keeping the legs straight and long.  As the child gets stronger, cue him to lift one or both legs off the floor , always keeping them stretched as long as possible.

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Younger children might need help stabilizing one arm against the floor while they lift the other.  Make it fun by pretending to be an alligator chomping on his dinner or reaching for small objects.

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Pilates Leg Circles are hard for many adults, and even harder for young kids who lack abdominal strength to stabilize the trunk while moving their legs above their body.  But working on the starting position for this exercise will help kids learn to engage abdominal muscles prior to moving their legs when climbing or kicking a ball. Ask the child to lie on his back and lift his feet above his body (hips at a 90 degree angle).  Make it fun by placing small bean bag animals on his feet or ask him to squeeze the animals between his feet.pilatesblog2

Plank strengthens core muscles that are critical for a stable, balanced body, whether your child likes to exercise on the playground or by playing a competitive sport.  The key with plank is to only hold the pose for as long as you can keep good form.

Give your child the support of an exercise ball to start, bringing her forward onto her hands.  Keep the ball positioned under the hips if needed; move it to the lower legs as the child gets stronger.  She should be able to keep her tummy lifted and the back straight (not arched or sagging).  As soon as the trunk starts to lose its form, take a rest and try again after a minute or two.  Make it fun by singing a song while holding the plank position.

Proof that Pilates exercise can be used by everyone, many Pilates moves have been adapted for use in rehabilitation.  Pilates is used to rehabilitate orthopedic injuries in adults as well as to strengthen and improve body awareness for children with neuromuscular disorders.

Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley therapists are expanding their knowledge of using Pilates in therapy with a continuing education course taught by Sara Koveleski Kraut, DPT,  on January 21-22, 2017.  The course is open for registration by adult and pediatric therapists at eastersealsdfvr.org/ce.

Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley is also a teaching center that provides innovative continuing education courses that promote therapeutic excellence for speech and language pathologists, physical and occupational therapists, educators and other professionals.  To be added to the course email list, please email us.

 

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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.

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

 

Getting Back to the Basics this 4th of July

By: Kelly Lopresti, Director of Child Development, The Lily Garden Child Care Center

The warm summer weather is perfect for a Fourth of July celebration that incorporates easy patriotic activities. Think back to your own childhood outdoor experiences in the summer months with nights playing kick the can and flashlight tag.  4thWe can show our kids how to have a great 4th of July celebration by adding a few throw back activities from our youth.  Below is a list of list of easy activities that will keep kids busy, laughing and having a ton of fun during your holiday weekend.

Potato Sack Race: Bring back the classic potato sack race for your Fourth of July party. All you’ll need is a handful of bags (even old pillow cases will work) and a group of people. Line up the bagged participants and send them on their way laughing toward the finish line.

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Fun with the Brady Bunch kids.

Fun Tip: Choose festive bags, such as red, white, and blue pillow cases, or decorate your own potato sacks with the image of the flag or the Statue of Liberty.

IMG_1410Spoon Race: We named this Fourth of July game for one of our nation’s founding fathers, and it’s sure to be a hit. It’s the Abraham Lincoln Spoon Race.

  1. Divide the kids into two teams and designate a starting point and finish line.
  2. At the starting point, place a bowl of pennies and two spoons or ladles (one for each team); at the finish line, place two empty bowls (one for each team).
  3. One at a time one person from each team must fill the spoon with as many pennies as possible and then race to the finish line to discard them into the team bowl.
  4. Here’s the catch: Any dropped pennies must be picked up and returned to the spoon, and the player must return to the starting point. The first team to transfer all the pennies to the bowl at the finish line wins.
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Photo from Oriental Trading

American Flag Relay: Fill two large plastic buckets or bins with sand and insert small American flags. Use the same number of flags as participants.

  1. Designate a starting point and a finish line, placing the buckets at the finish line.
  2. Split the kids into two teams and have them form two lines at the starting point.
  3. On your “Go,” the first person in each line races to the bucket, grabs a flag, and marches back (for safety reasons, don’t allow children to run with the flags).
  4. The next person in line cannot go until the previous person has returned with his or her flag.
  5. The first team to capture all of its flags wins.

 

Other ideas:

  • Bike Decorating contest: Get the streamers and balloons ready and start decorating.
  • Hula Hoop Contest: Grab some Hula Hoops and a few wiggly participants to get the contest started. The person who can continue to hula the longest wins.
  • Baseball Throwing Contest: Incorporate America’s favorite pastime in your 4th of July celebration. The person who can throw a baseball the farthest wins. This game is best played at a park with an adult marking the distance each time.
  • Tug-of-War Contest: Create two teams to tug on opposing sides of a rope. Make three knots in the middle of the rope and a line on the ground between the teams. The team who tugs the furthest knot across the line wins
  • kiteFly a Kite: Let your patriotic spirit fly high into the sky this July Fourth. Make and decorate kites as a family and fly them in the backyard or at a park.
  • Baseball: Baseball is widely considered the all-American sport, which makes it a perfect Fourth of July game. Designate team captains and mark bases with bags of sand or painted twigs.
  • Patriotic Scavenger Hunt: For a festive and fun July Fourth game, send players on a scavenger hunt around the neighborhood. Include patriotic items on the list, such as red, white, and blue items; a nickel, in honor of Thomas Jefferson, who drafted the Declaration of Independence; and mini American flags.

For more ideas for a fun 4th of July weekend visit:

To learn more about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley’s Lily Garden Child Care Center visit eastersealslilygarden.org.

A Super Sensory Summer

By: Laura Bueche MOT OTR/L

Summertime is the best time for some creative sensory play outside. Your child will have a blast learning and exploring with these sensory summer activities that won’t break the bank.

IDEAS TO INSPIRE YOUR LITTLE SPROUT

Garden Party!

Fill a tub with soil. Hide plastic bugs, coins, or dinosaurs.
Use shovels or hands to find the treasures.

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Paint pots, plant seeds and watch them grow.
Overturn rocks to search for bugs and worms… or play with fake worms. Recipe here.

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Photo Credit: Learning4kids.net

Is real mud a difficult texture for your little one?  Start with “ghost mud”.
Recipe here

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Photo Credit: TreeHouseTV.com

Make a Splash with these Water Activities

Water Fun!

Fill a tub with water beads and ocean animals for an awesome, hands-on aquarium.

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Freeze toy animals, foam puzzle pieces, or pretend jewelry in ice. Have your kiddos use squeeze bottles, and eye droppers of warm water to get them out. Instructions here.

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Photo Credit: LittleBinsForLittlehands.com

Green gross swamp sensory table. Recipe here.

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Photo Credit: NoTimeForFlashCards.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shaving Cream Car wash. Recipe here.

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Photo Credit: TreeHouseTV.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s go to the Beach!

Feel the sand between your toes with these fun tactile activities.

Sand Slime. It’s ooey, it’s gooey…and sandy? Recipe: Here

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Photo Credit: GrowingAJeweledRose.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drawing letters in the sand, a perfect pairing of visual motor and tactile. Recipe here.

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Photo Credit: AnyGivenMoment.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kinetic Sand…semi sticky, and super moldable sand. Get it here.

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Good old sand box play…because nothing beats the classic, pale and shovel.

For more summer sensory ideas, or ways to adapt these activities to your child’s needs and goals, ask your occupational therapist at Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley. For more information about occupational therapy visit our website.

Have a great summer!

 

Using visual schedules: A Guide for Parents

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

Using visual schedules allows your child to see what is going to be happening in their day and the order of events.  Visual schedules can be customized to meet the needs of each child.  Getting started with a visual schedule can seem overwhelming, so this blog will help you recognize if your child would benefit from a visual schedule with ideas on how to get started.

7 Benefits of visual schedules:

  1. Provides structure and predictability:  Visual schedules prepare a child for what is coming up, which can reduce anxiety. 
  2. Eases transitions: Visual schedules are helpful in easing transitions from one activity to the next.
  3. Reinforce verbal instructions: Most children process visual information better than auditory information.  Words disappear after we say them and the visuals give language a lasting component. 
  4. Supports literacy development- Consistent exposure to written words can enforce reading of sight-words and provide an opportunity to practice reading through decoding.   
  5. Supports development of executive functioning: Visual schedules enforce planning, sequencing, completing tasks independently and the natural consequences of time management.
  6. Supports conversation skills: Many childrenn have difficulty recalling and retelling previous events.  Providing the visual framework of the schedule can help kids answer open-ended questions like: “What did you do today?” or “What was your favorite activity?”
  7. Helps caregivers:  Having a plan in place can be calming for adults.  Creating a schedule helps the caregiver prepare for the day and use time effectively.

Decide on the format

Visual schedules come in all shapes and forms.  When selecting a visual schedule format, consider which would be most functional for you to use, along with what would be most beneficial for your child.  Some schedule forms take more preparation while schedules like line drawn images or written words can be done quickly and on the fly. 

  Here are some different types of visual schedules:

all+picApps on phone/tablet   Tangible pictures with Velcro Line drawing images  Written words

Decide on the length The length of the schedule will be based on your son or daughter’s needs and abilities. Some children may be able to use a whole day schedule while others will be overwhelmed by this amount of information and will need to see just one or two items at a time.

First/Then-This can be an effective format to introduce visual schedules without overwhelming the child with too much information.  It can assist a child in getting through the non-preferred first activity by seeing that next, she will get a preferred choice.

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Part of the day with more specific activities                                              Monthly Calendar

 

 

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Whole day with more general activities

It is beneficial to include your child as part of the process of creating the schedule.  The slowed down, one step at a time, verbal explanations paired with visuals helps the child understand and prepare for upcoming activities.  It can also be a nice opportunity for the child to have some autonomy and make choices about what their day will look like. Don’t feel that making a schedule means that you have to rigidly follow it.  Life is unpredictable and having a change in plans is something that we all have to adapt to.  The visual schedule can be a great tool to teach your kids about flexibility.

Learn more about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley resources here: https://eastersealsdfvr.org/.

How Sensitive is Too Sensitive?

By Maureen Karwowski, OT

I am sure that I am not the only person to buy a wool sweater that I thought looked great.  I bought this sweater despite the fact that it might be a bit itchy.  The first cold morning of the year I decide it is time to wear this sweater, and it feels okay, but not greatAs the day progresses, I am more and more aware of the feeling of my new sweater.  After a long day of working, and a brutal commute home, my skin is crawling.  This sweater is intolerable.  For many of the children that I work with as an occupational therapist who have sensory processing difficulties, this experience may be familiar to them.   

Sensory processing challenges occur when a child has difficulty interpreting  and responding to the sensory experiences in daily life.   It is estimated that 1 of 20 children are impacted by a sensory processing deficit (Ahn, Miller, Milberger, McIntosh, 2004).   When I assess a child who has a suspected sensory processing difficulty, I look at 3 areas:

  • sensory regulation
  • sensory modulation
  • sensory discrimination

In my last blog, I discussed sensory regulation.  It is generally understood that sensory regulation is the ability to keep ourselves at the optimal activity and alertness level for the situation.  For instance, being able to sit through a meal or story time at the library all requires a child to be regulated.   We all have tricks to keep us “regulated”.  Drinking coffee, chewing gum, or working out are just a few examples of how adults naturally regulate themselves.

Sensory modulation impacts a child’s ability to function at home, in the community and at school.  Sensory modulation refers to how sensitive a person is to different touches, sounds, sights, smells or movement. 17b_Riley_and_Reasan_Wazniki_b

As I described my sweater experience, this may be similar to how some children respond to a variety of clothing.  The seams of jeans, or the texture of socks may be very hard for some children to tolerate.  We encounter textures every day, all day and for most of us, we are hardly aware of them.  For others textures such as soap suds, food textures, glue, hand sanitizer, t-shirts with writing on them, and band aids are just a few textures that can be troublesome.

Many children with sensory processing disorders can have extreme challenges in busy environments such as a family party, the school cafeteria, or even McDonald Land.  The sensory input in these situations is immense.  Noise levels are higher and unpredictable.  Large spaces, or crowded spaces can be very hard for children who are sensitive to visual experiences.  Novel foods have new smells, tastes and textures.  All of these experiences can cause an over-reaction.  Some children react by getting so revved up that they can lose control.  Other children cling to their parents or cover their ears.  Some children avoid these situations entirely.    For most children, climbing ladders, and spinning on a merry-go round at the park are delightful.  Others prefer to keep their feet on the ground as movement can be very scary and uncomfortable for them.

On the other side of the coin are the children who are under-reactive to sensory input.  These children often seek intense input in order to register it, and to feel calm.  For instance, a child may be bouncing up and down in their seat at the dinner table without even realizing that they are moving at all.  Another child may seek intense “rough and tumble” play at inappropri26_Jack and Kathleenate times, climb or jump on furniture despite being asked to stop repeatedly.  These children may have difficulty judging how hard to touch someone or something which can impact them socially.

We can all identify some sensory “quirks” that we have.  I know that the sound of Styrofoam makes me cringe.  My co-worker cannot stand the smell of my peppermint tea (crazy right?).  We all have things that are “triggers” for us, certain noises, textures or smells.  When a child has enough of these “triggers” that it is interfering with their ability to learn at school, socialize with other children, and function at home, an evaluation by an Occupational Therapist may be appropriate.

The good news is that a skilled OT can work with you and your child to help them with these sensory issues.  The key is a comprehensive evaluation, using parent interview, observations of your child, and a standardized assessment.  Once that is complete, treatment sessions are typically enjoyable for your child while they are working towards their goals.  You can work with your child’s OT to problem solve the sensory situations that are challenging at home, and when in the community.

For more information about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley and Occupational Therapy please visit EasterSealsDFVR.org.

10 Ideas for Practicing Speech

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

I recently had a shoulder injury and was prescribed a long list of exercises to do multiple times a day.  True confession: I was not the best patient.  The exercises were time consuming and pretty boring.  Being in the shoes of the uncooperative, slowly progressing patient made me reflect on what I could do as the practitioner who may be guilty of occasionally recommending time consuming and boring home practice.  My best advice for working on speech is:  incorporate it into a routine as part of your day and Make it FUN!

When working with kids with articulation disorders, phonological disorders or apraxia of speech, I like to balance repetitive, structured practice with functional, meaningful words.  Here are 10 fun and easy ideas for practicing speech at home:

  1. Beat the timer: This is one of my favorite games for getting A LOT of repetitions quickly!  I like to use a visual timer which can come in the form of an app like Time Timer Time Timer or a sand timer from an old board game.   The visual timer lets the child see time passing and acts as a great motivator.  If you don’t have a visual timer—any timer will do!  Set a goal of how many words the child will say correctly before the time runs out.  I like to set this as an almost unobtainable goal so that it is a fun challenge and perhaps something that has to be attempted 2 or 3 times before we succeed.

smart timer timer

  1. Story time: Have the child find his targeted sound in a story. He can repeat the word or fill-in-the-blank of your sentence as you read to practice his targeted sound.
  2. Driving in the car: Practicing speech words in the car can be a great way to use this time more purposely. You can leave a sheet of pictures or flash cards in the car.  If your child were to produce their target words each time they got in the car they could get SO MANY repetitions throughout the day!
  3. Playing a sport: There are many different ways that you could incorporate speech practice while playing a sport but here are a few of my favorites:
  • Basketball- Set up different places to shoot with a targeted word attached to each place. Have your child say the word a given number of times before they can shoot.  You can play this game like HORSE to create a fun element of competition.
  • Soccer- each time a goal is scored against your child he has to say a set number of words.
  • Playing catch- have your child say a targeted word every time they throw a ball.
  1. Meaningful Words: Create a list of your child’s favorite foods, activities, toys and important people. Identify which of these words contain your child’s targeted sound.  You can have your child practice these words in drill or in meaningful opportunities.  These words are a good bridge for generalizing correct production of a sound into natural, spontaneous speech.
  2. Board games– When playing board games, I like to make a list a list of the words we are saying related to the board game that contains the targeted sounds. As the game progresses, I focus on having the child accurately (or to the best of his ability) produce the meaningful, targeted words.  I also make the child produce a given number of words before they take their turn.
  3. Silly stories– This is one of my recent favorites! I will give a child a sheet of pictures that contain his targeted speech sound.  The first person selects a picture and starts a story using the target Speech-Language Therapy - Cara Pagelsword.  The next person repeats the first sentence and then builds onto the story by selecting a different picture and creating a sentence.  I cannot even begin to tell you the funny and crazy stories that some of my little munchkins have come up with! Not only is this a fun activity to target speech production but it also develops language skills, sharing an imagination, memory and sequencing.
  4. Talking Activity-For a child who is at the level of generalizing his speech sounds into conversation, any talking activity can be a great time to work on speech! When a child is at the level of generalization, I don’t like to correct all of the time because I don’t want the child to get the message that how they are saying something is more important than what they have to say.  I recommend designating specific times or activities to monitor speech production. These could be activities like: telling you about his day, reading a book, playing I Spy, describing pictures, or playing a game.
  5. Brushing teeth– This is a routine activity that children do 2 times a day and can be a perfect time to spend a few minutes targeting speech goals. Being in front of the mirror and having the child watch their mouth movements can be very beneficial!
  6. Follow your child’s lead: So many of the kids I work with have brains that are far superior to mine in terms or creativity.  Kids can come up with the greatest games using the simplest of materials.  So try giving your child the opportunity to develop their own creative ideas and games while working on their speech.

For more information about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley please visit EasterSealsDFVR.org.

One Step

Jamie Bodden Austin, M.S. CCC/SLP-L- Assistive Technology Speech and Language Pathologist
Learning a language is a journey – be it a a first language, a foreign language, a light tech symbols systems (e.g. PODD Communication Books) or a high technology voice output system (e.g. Proloquo2Go on an iPad, NOVA chat 10 or Tobii Dynavox). It begins with one step. A baby hears words for the first year said by all of their family members. The family members repeat these words, use gestures, point to things, say single words over and over words such as “Daddy”, “Up”, “Uh oh”. They focus on favorite words (e.g. “doggie” and ‘Swing”), familiar words (e.g. “bottle”, “night-night”), greetings (e.g. “Hello”) and comments (e.g. “uh oh”). After one year, the first word, a single word is spoken by the baby. When learning a foreign language, the teacher speaks single words, uses gestures and points to items. She focuses on favorite words, greetings, comments and familiar eyemaxvocabulary first.
The same is applied when learning any AAC system. It is another language. Did you know that baby hears 4,000-6,000 words per day for the first year, before they say their first word? This repetition of modeling of language is just as important through a Augmentative and Alternative communication (ACC) device. This can be formally called: Aided Language Stimulation, Partner–Augmented Input, Natural Aided Language or Aided Language Modeling. This means that all of the people in a child’s environment communicate using the AAC communication system. When we support someone to learn to use an AAC device, we talk with the device throughout the day ourselves. We can think about saying favorite words, familiar words, greetings and comments. While doing this we can use gestures, point to things and say single words with the AAC system. By having all of your family/friends involved in saying messages using the AAC system you create a language rich environment, in your child’s language. This language becomes another language in your home that you all speak.

aac The trick is that you and your family are also learning the AAC system. However, every journey begins with a single step. Like a baby learning to speak and like a person learning a foreign language, focus only on one word or one page of vocabulary at a time. The more you talk with the device with this one page or one word, the more your child will hear, see and follow your lead. You can start with a favorite activity, a greeting or with a few favorite actions. Next, find another page to focus on, such as position words, names, questions or places. You can’t learn the device in one day, but the more single words you find, you will see your own AAC vocabulary grow. Your one step is going to be the biggest step of your child’s AAC journey.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Lao-tzu

For more information about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley please visit EasterSealsDFVR.org.

Interactive Metronome

By: Laura Van Zandt, OTR/L

Did you know that our brains have an “internal clock” that keeps time? This timing is critical for attention, executive functions, speech and language, social skills, reading and other academic skills, motor control and coordination, sensory processing and integration, as well as many other areas common to childhood development.

Interactive metronome is an evidence-based, intensive computer centered assessment and training tool that can help improve timing, rhythm, and synchronization in the brain. Interactive metronome is used around the globe in hospitals, pediatric and adult clinics, school, and homes.  It can be used to improve a child’s processing abilities that affect attention, motor planning, sensory processing, and sequencing. Children who have been diagnosed with ADHD/ADD, Apraxia/Dyspraxia, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Brain Injury, Auditory Processing Disorder, Cerebral Palsy, Dyslexia, Language-Learning Disorders, Non-Verbal Learning Disorders, Sensory Processing Disorder, Stuttering, and much more can all benefit.

The goals of Interactive Metronome include:

  • Improve independence with activities of daily living
  • Improve physical endurance and stamina for performance in sports and leisure activities
  • Improve overall whole body coordination
  • Improve focus and attention for longer periods of time related to daily function and filtering out internal as well as external distractions
  • Improve academic function performance and ability to follow directions
  • Improve self-esteem and social skills
  • Improve behavior and impulsivity

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Interactive Metronome is available through Easter Seals DuPage Occupational, Physical, and Speech Therapy Departments. The therapists at Easter Seals use this program to tailor a treatment plan specific to the child’s needs and family priorities. Interactive Metronome challenges the child to precisely match a rhythmic beat, which can be customized to your child’s unique learning style and challenges, with synchronized hands and feet exercises. Feedback is then is given auditorally or visually based on the child’s goals that tell the child how close they are within milliseconds to the reference tone. This feedback guides the child to attend and problem solve how to stay to the beat for improving their timing and overall coordination.

During Interactive Metronome, the child treatment activities can be customized based on your individual child’s areas of needs. Exercises can include working on crossing midline for integrating both sides of the body together, improving standing balance for strengthening and endurance, improving both upper and lower extremity range of motion for reach and gait, improving impulse control by ignoring specific stimuli, improving attention to increasing longer and more complex exercises, improving working memory  by recalling a series of exercises to shift between with either upper extremities, lower extremities or both, as well as improving coordination tasks with all extremities. The goals of Interactive Metronome are vast and largely customization.

If your child if already enrolled in therapy, talk to your therapist about this exciting new opportunity! If you are not currently enrolled in therapy, discuss this with your pediatrician and obtain a script for a discipline specific evaluation and treatment.

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“Interactive Metronome helps me coordinate things. It helps me get better going to the speed of things and getting used to more things. I feel proud of myself and all of my great work and effort. I even ask my parents if they can order it for me.”

More information can be obtained from www.interactivemetronome.com. For more information about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley please visit EasterSealsDFVR.org.