Occupational Therapy

Sensory Strategies for the Holidays

Holidays are a fun and exciting time of the year. Holidays can also be a stressful time of the year for both children and their parents. Children with deficits with sensory processing may have more difficulty with maintaining appropriate modulation which may lead to being overwhelmed and having more melt-downs. Keeping in mind the following strategies can help families get though the holiday season with less frustration.

·       Put up Holiday decorations slowly over time. Allow your child to be part of the process of decorating so that she does not get overwhelmed with the lights, sounds, or changes in furniture set up.

·       If you take your child shopping with you, try to avoid shopping at crowded or busy times. Shopping ahead of time or online might be appropriate alternatives.

·       Educate extended family members about your child’s difficulties with sensory processing and let them know if there are any changes and adaptations that you will be making to traditional Holiday get togethers.

·       When going to outings that may be overwhelming take your child’s comfort items and familiar toys for him to play with.

·       Let your child know ahead of time what activities are scheduled. Let them know what the activity is, when it will take place, and what to expect. If possible, it may be beneficial to create a social story with pictures from previous years if possible to share with your child before an event.

·       Try to stay on your normal routine: Try to be consistent with wake-up times, nap times, meal times, and bed times. Try to keep the same bedtime routine allowing time for your child to calm down before bed.

·       Allow for extra rest and nap times if needed. Schedule in times for your child to have down time from scheduled activities in a quieter place.

·       When going to family meals: allow for your child to eat at their typical meal time. Bring food that your child will usually eat and allow them to eat the familiar foods.

·       When going to relatives/friends’ houses for get togethers it may be helpful to talk to the host a head of time to see if there is a separate place for your child to go to calm down if needed or to warm up to transition to environment.

·       Dress your child in comfortable and familiar clothes. Allow the child to wear his favorite pants with a Holiday shirt, looks for clothes in the same fabric that they are used to wearing. For Holiday outfits, allow the child to wear the outfits before a holiday gathering.

·       Be flexible on your expectations for traditional holiday activities. Allow for your child to stand near Santa or give him a high-5 instead of having your child sit on Santa’s lap for a photo. Let a child open only one or two gifts at a get-together and take the remaining gifts home to open at a later time.

Staying flexible and making small adaptations can help you and your child have a more enjoyable Holiday season. For more information about sensory processing and development milestones please visit our website at: www.abcpediatrictherapy.com

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How to Have a Sensory Friendly Halloween

Kids LOVE Halloween…between dressing up, the decorations, parties, and of course the candy…what’s not to love? But let’s be honest, Halloween is definitely not the most sensory friendly holiday.  For kids with sensory processing disorder, it can be a literal nightmare.  From the itchy costumes, flashing lights, loud noises, and unexpected scares, the night of Trick-or-Treat can be really overwhelming for you and your child.  Below are 6 ways to have a sensory friendly Halloween this year!

  1. The costume…perhaps the most important step that you can control! Some costumes are scratchy, come with face paint that can be sticky or slimy, masks that smell funny, or other head pieces, that can just be painful for kids with sensory issues.  Take your child with you to the store to feel the costume and gage their reaction when they touch the costume.  That will give you a good idea if they’d be able to tolerate it for a whole evening or not.  You could also have them wear some of their most comfortable clothes under their costumes.  Or focus on using some of their own clothing to make a unique costume, keep it simple like a cowboy or a cat!  When in doubt, do a trial run a few days before to ensure their comfort…you’ll appreciate it later when you have avoided a meltdown.
  2. Practice, practice, practice! Set-up time for you and your family to practice Halloween etiquette. First start with your own home, where things are most familiar.  Work on ringing the door bell, what to say/how to respond, and how to take the candy…that way they know what to expect and can learn the routine. Next practice at a family or friends house, where things are familiar.  It’s much easier to practice on a familiar face than a stranger.
  3. Plan your Trick-or- Treat route ahead of time. Try to Trick-or-Treat at neighbors who know you and your kids if possible. It is always easier to go to familiar places with familiar people.  And you will also feel comfortable asking them questions like: what kind of decorations they have in their yard. Or they will not get offended if your kiddo is getting overstimulated and does not say “thank you” or respond appropriately to a question.
  4. Plan your time accordingly. Going Trick-or-Treating earlier in the night can be helpful, as it is often less crowded initially. Your child may benefit from a picture schedule, timer, or checklist so they know what to expect!  Incorporating “break” times in which they can go back to the house or into your car, can help sensory overload.  Be aware of your child’s warning signs that they might be getting overstimulated.
  5. Go to smaller events…Trunk-or-Treats, mall, and/or church events are becoming increasingly popular, especially for parents who work, thus limiting the time families can go Trick-or-Treating. These events tend to be for kids of all ages, so it could limit the number of scary masks or decorations you encounter. This will greatly reduce the amount of transitions for you to navigate as well!  These events can get crowded, so be sure to call ahead, to see what times tend to be less busy or how many people they are expecting.
  6. Make your own Halloween Traditions. When all is said and done, there is no rule saying you have to participate in any of these activities.  If they are too much, it’s simply too much! Take it in stride and create your own Halloween traditions, by making it a pizza or game night, do your child’s favorite activity, or have a special Mommy or Daddy only date every year to make the holiday special in another way.

I hope these recommendations help you and your child have a happy and safe Halloween!  Be sure to visit our website for other fun tips and information www.abcpediatrictherapy.com

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Therapy- Medical Model vs. Educational Model – Which Is Best For My Child?

 

Medical Model

In the medical model, an occupational, physical, or speech therapist performs evaluations and treatments in a clinical setting after being referred by a doctor. These evaluations and treatments often mimic a child’s natural play environment.  Therapists look at the whole child, and their ability to function in all aspects of daily life. Goals are focused toward the child’s home and community function, as opposed to their function at school.  However, the interventions at school and in the clinic may go hand in hand. For instance, if a child needs to improve balance and strength in order to get to downstairs at their school, they will also need to improve balance and strength to climb up the stairs at home to get to their bedroom. 

 

ABC Pediatric Therapy Network (www.abcpediatrictherapy.com) has six locations throughout the Cincinnati and Dayton areas that present children with the challenges of their home and community environment.  All locations have a full-size jungle gym, trampoline, and foam pit in the large gym setting. For example, the foam pit can be used in therapeutic ways to help a child to gain motor planning through building block towers, and to gain coordination, trunk strength and upper extremity strength through swinging. As treatment is completed on the equipment, children are able to gain confidence in themselves, which will carry over to the playground and school. This will allow the children to better interact with peers in the classroom and playground.

 

In the clinical setting, therapists interact not only with the child, but also with the child’s primary caregiver, and siblings.  Family dynamics are taken into consideration when forming a treatment plan that is realistic to the child and family as a whole.  Families are an active participant in therapy sessions, and help form goals that would be beneficial to the child’s function throughout the day. ABC Pediatric Therapy Network also understands the importance of peer interaction and encourages patients to interact with each other during treatment.  This allows children to build social skills such as initiating conversations, turn taking, and sharing. Children will often play games together to work on social skills including conversational skills, and appropriate responses to winning and losing.

Occupational, physical, and speech therapists working in a clinical setting offer direct, individualized treatment to their patients.  At ABC Pediatric Therapy Network, therapists are part of a unique multidisciplinary team. This is a major benefit to the patients because skills that are being targeted during one therapy can be enforced during the other therapies.  For instance, if the speech therapist is working toward a goal of a child using three-word requests, the physical therapist can augment his or her treatment by having the child use a three-word request prior to carrying out the activity (i.e. “kick the ball”).

 

 

School-based therapy uses an educational model that focuses on academic performance, and is governed by IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). In the educational model, children with disabilities benefit from evaluations and treatments in a setting that is in their natural environment with their peer group. This model of pediatric therapy also focuses on a multidisciplinary approach to the therapy assessment, planning, and intervention.  A multidisciplinary team includes the parents, teacher, special education teacher, and therapists. The team must be in agreement in order to implement an Individualized Education Plan.  In order to receive therapy services at school, a child’s functional performance must be impaired to the extent that it interferes with the child’s functioning at school. Each district has strict standards for qualifying children for an Individualized Education Plan. The emphasis of treatment is on function at school and goals are related to the educational program.  The therapy intervention may be direct, indirect, or on a consultation basis.  Therapy is often in a group setting rather than an individual one-on-one session.

Therapists also make significant contributions to school programs by identifying environmental barriers and planning for accessibility modifications.  They adapt classrooms to provide the optimal learning environment for children with special needs, help promote acceptance of students with disabilities, adapt recreational activities, and contribute to the development of safety procedures for emergency evacuation of students with disabilities.  Occupational therapists may help include modifications and accommodations in the classroom including sensory seating, break areas, or specialized fine motor tools. Speech therapists may help in making visuals including communication picture books, break cards, or visual schedules to help ease transitions and communication in the school environment.

In the end, it all about progress.  Is your child making the progress you want to see?  If so, fantastic!  Do not change a thing!  If not, look for additional help to ensure your child reaches his/her maximum potential.  Delays in development can effect self esteem, the ability to make friend and academic performance.  Let’s work together to help every child to succeed!

 

If you have questions about next steps for your child, please go to www.abcpediatrictherapy.com or give us a call at 513-755-6600.

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Teaching a Child How to Dress and Undress Themselves

By 12 months, your child should be able to pull shoes off, assist with putting shirt on, and take hat on/off.

By 22 months, your child should be able to zip and unzip a large zipper.

By 24 months, your child should be able to remove an unfastened shirt.

By 26 months, your child should be able to unbutton large buttons and pull down pants with assistance.

By 28 months, your child should be able to pull pants up with assistance.

By 30 months, your child should be able to put shoes on with little assistance.

By 3 years, your child should be able to dress/undress upper body with supervision, without fasteners, buttons large front buttons, and independently pull down pants.

By 3 years 6 months, your child should be able to button 3-4 buttons in a series, zip/unzip, and separate jacket, put on mittens, and snap clothing in front.

By 4 years, your child should be able to pull up pants, put socks on correctly, and put shirt on correctly.

By 5 years, your child should begin tying knots in preparation for shoe tying.

By 6, your child should be able to tie his/her shoes independently.

Make teaching self-care fun! Melissa and Doug make a puzzle with basic life skills to work on buttons, zippers, and tying knots that children love to use. Look for clothes at home or at yard sales that have large buttons and zippers for your kiddos to practice on as well. To model the task, sit behind the child with your hands in front of him/her while holding the practice material. Also, practice closures in front of your child first, rather than on the body. Once that is mastered, practice with the shirt or pants on. It is also easier to start buttoning buttons at the bottom rather than the top when on self.

To practice the skill of buttoning, you can also use a piggy bank or any toy where you have to put round objects in slots. Even lacing cards or activities where you have to pull/push will help advance this skill.

Undressing is usually easier than dressing so work on undressing skills first. Play dress up with bigger clothes. Play dressing games, such as doing an obstacle course or using picture cards.

When working on taking shoes/socks off, make sure your child is able to reach his/her feet and maintain a stable position. If s/he is having difficulty with this, sit on the last step at the bottom of a stair case and cross one ankle over the opposite knee. Master taking off socks and shoes first before moving to putting shoes and socks on. Shoes and socks that are slightly larger for a child will be easier to learn.

Once a child is able to take shoes on/off independently, s/he is able to begin learning to tie knots. It may be fun to practice on shoe tying boards/shoes such as this Melissa and Doug activity. You can also make your own with different colored laces to practice.

These are the 7 steps of tying shoes:

  1. Make an X
  2. Go through the first bunny hole.
  3. Tie the knot tight.
  4. Make 1 bunny ear.
  5. Wrap the other string around the ear.
  6. Go through the second bunny hole.
  7. Tie it tight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Artwork reproduced with permission of Melissa & Doug.

If your child is having trouble learning to dress or undress themselves, reach out to an Occupational Therapist at ABC Pediatric Therapy Network for help.  Visit our website at https://www.abcpediatrictherapy.com for more developmental tips to help your child.  Mastering skills like shoe tying will help improve your child’s self esteem and confidence.

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