Category Archives: Motor Skills

Gross motor, fine motor, visual motor, core stability and motor skills to reach developmental milestones.

Benefits of Yoga for Children in Occupational Therapy

Last year at this time, my husband, then 2-year old and I visited Copenhagen, Denmark for 9-days. Not a holiday. I attended Sonia Sumar’s course, Yoga for the Special Child. It was my first course after becoming a mum and first time away from my son for the entire day. He had fun with his dad, and I had fun doing yoga, meditation (well, trying) and relaxation everyday. It felt like a retreat. 🙂

Sonia Sumar is an amazing teacher with lots of personal wisdom to share. I have never taken a course that wasn’t offered by an Occupational, Physical or Speech Therapist. I had no idea I was going to learn about chanting, meditation, and lots of life lessons from Sonia versus just yoga (body) exercises. It has been as good for me as it has for my son and kids I work with.

A year later, I regularly do my own yoga routine learned in the course and have felt stronger, healthier and more energetic overall. The kids and my 3-year old love it too.

There are so many benefits to yoga but some of them are:

-calming and grounding

-chanting helps with calming, joint attention and engagement, auditory processing

-breathing alongside movements encourages children to breathe while moving (many children who are weak tend to hold their breath while doing motor tasks as they are using their diaphragm, a breathing muscle, to hold their body versus to breathe)

– builds an emotional connection between yogi and student

-yoga poses build core strength, body and spatial awareness, balance and motor planning skills

-yoga flow – a sequence of yoga poses that connect from one to another – build rhythm and timing, fluidity of movements and sequencing skills

-incorporates of breath and movement of eyes whilst doing the yoga poses

-kids learn how to calm and find a ‘quiet space’

-deep relaxation – it’s amazing how many of us can’t still our bodies or minds to relax. I’m still working on this myself and it’s a tough one.

For more information, check out:

Yoga for the special child

For those who are in or near London, check out the work of MahaDevi Yoga Centre

You can also learn more from the Yoga for the Special Child Book

Om Shanti Shanti. (Peace peace peace)

 

OT for Babies – Never Too Young

Parents are often surprized I work with babies. I usually hear ‘aren’t they too young’ or ‘what do you do with a baby?’

Babies are always learning new skills and reaching new developmental milestones. As everybody says, they do mostly feed, poop and sleep, but they also, move, play and interact. These skills all develop from birth onwards.  An OT experienced in working with babies can evaluate which foundational areas the baby is struggling with and how to improve them

Here are three scenarios:

1) When a baby struggles with feeding, we would assess their tolerance for touch with their body and in their mouth, oral motor skills in their mouth for nursing or eating foods, muscle control in their core / neck / shoulders, and their body alignment and positioning for feeding.  See more here.

2) If a baby has a flat spot on their head or turns their head to one side (plagiocephaly or torticollis), we assess their core strength, body awareness on the weaker side, motor planning, eye movements, jaw alignment and oral motor skills, which muscle groups are weak or tight, tolerance for movement and motor skills using both sides of their body.

3) Another common scenario is when the child is described as a ‘lazy baby.’  Usually there’s a reason for this.  They may be sensitive or fearful of movement, have difficulty figuring out how to move their body, or have weak body strength and stamina.  Sometimes the baby could have a lower state of arousal and need more sensory input (touch, muscle / joint and / or movement input) to rev up their engines the so they feel the urge to move and play.

When we explore deeper, there are underlying areas we can develop. And as babies are changing and growing so fast thanks to brain plasticity, they have amazing potential to progress at a faster rate. Early intervention helps.

Babies whom I treat usually may have:
-Plagiocephaly (flatness on head)
-Torticollis (turn or bend their head to one side)
-Avoid moving to one side of their body
-Don’t use one arm or leg
-Dislike being on their tummy
-Have difficulties with breastfeeding or transitioning to foods
-Appear colicky or are described as a fussy baby
-Sensitive to sounds or being moved
-Not meeting motor milestones
-Feet tend to turn outwards
-Born prematurely so need extra help to catch up
-Have diagnoses such as Down’s syndrome, Cerebral palsy, Hemiplegia or other genetic syndromes

If you have any concerns about your babies’ development, feel free to contact me to have a chat and discuss further.

For more information:
Sensory and motor developmental milestones month by month by Pathways Awareness:

http://pathways.org/milestones/

What does a baby OT assessment with me look like?

http://ot4kids.co.uk/baby-evaluations-never-too-early

Infant red flags for sensory processing difficulties

http://ot4kids.co.uk/babies-early-signs-how-do-you-know

Baby Owned Movements

Baby Owned Movements

My son crawled at 9 months, sat at nearly 10 months, and walked at 16 months. According to developmental charts, his sitting and walking are considered to be within the later range of ‘normal.’  Charts indicate that babies sit at six months when placed in sitting by an adult.  The baby does not own that movement of sitting by being able to move in and out of positions. Most are actually stuck in sitting and struggle to get ‘unstuck.’

When treating babies, my main goal is for them to figure out and plan how to move their own bodies in and out of rolling, sitting, crawling, standing and walking. For example, to stand, the baby must be able to get onto hands and knees and push off the floor into standing. To cruise along the sofa, they need to crawl up to the sofa to pull themselves up and then cruise.  I do not put babies in positions that they cannot get into themselves. There are so many benefits to this including:

1) Baby uses their own muscle strength to get into a position versus being forced to hold a position that their body can’t handle which can lead to muscle strain or locking joints for stability.

2) Develops body and spatial awareness. As the child uses their own body (muscle and joint) sense to get in and out of positions, they develop an innate body awareness and sense of space around them. This is much safer as the child can get their own body not only in the position but ‘unstuck’ to get out of it. When placed in a physical position by an adult, they aren’t required to use their own body sense to move.

3) Develops motor planning skills – the baby has to come up with the idea to move, plan how to move their bodies, and then make the move. These skills are so important for motor planning and the beginning to problem-solving, sequencing, and figuring out how to do new things – all skills children need for pretend play, being independent and school projects.

4) Increases balance – by completing movements actively themselves, balance and confidence improves. Active movement develops ones movement sense and stability more than passive sensory input.  The movement system has strong links to one’s ability to calm and self-soothe, be alert and focused and much more so it’s a good one to strengthen.

In my professional and personal experience, I find that children who can move in and out of positions on their own versus being placed in positions are more safe and stable, have better posture and are less slumped over, more flexibility and variation in their motor skills, less sensitive or fearful of being moved, and are comfortable getting in and out of different positions.

As a paediatric OT, I will use sensory processing, Neurodevelopmental, myofascial, socio-emotional or play-based strategies to help the child develop the skills they need to be flexible and functional in their motor skills so they own their own movements, and can be more safe and independent in their play.

Here are some other interesting reads on this subject:

http://mamaot.com/2013/07/14/to-sit-or-not-to-sit-developing-functional-sitting-skills-in-babies/

http://www.janetlansbury.com/2012/04/sitting-babies-up-the-downside/

http://www.janetlansbury.com/2009/12/dont-stand-me-up/

http://www.janetlansbury.com/2011/03/9-reasons-not-to-walk-babies/

Babies – Early Signs: How do you know?

Does my baby need Occupational Therapy?

People often wonder how soon can you tell a baby requires early intervention therapies. I thought I’d share a little bit based on my experience with my own son and babies I treat as well as common red flags from other parents.  I hope it will help others.

First of all, parents just know!  They have a gutt instinct and are always right. Sometimes as a mum, I know it’s hard to follow your own gutt especially when others around you say it’s too early or your child will grow out of it. Please know that as a parent, you know your child best.

Secondly, babies’ main daily living activities are to move, sleep, feed, and poop. Usually, if these areas are a challenge, you will have an idea that they need some support.

For my son, I knew as soon as he was born and we were moved into the maternity ward. He was the only baby constantly crying, he had a hard time with breast feeding – struggling to nurse more on one side, startled at every sound that went by, only wanted to be on his tummy being very uncomfortable on his back, had too great head control for a newborn, and was unable to fall asleep.  Everybody, including strangers on the street, always commented on his head control (which was too good for his age because of tightness) and how alert he was (due to being in an over-stimulated state of arousal).

Babies benefit from Occupational Therapy when the following red flags are present: 

Sensory processing

– doesn’t mould their body to you when held, hates baby massage

– arches back, lifts head as a newborn (newborns should be able to turn their head and clear their airway but not hold up their head yet)

– only sleeps or soothes with intense movement input

– needs to be held all of the time

– startles to sounds easily, appears on edge or in distress, doesn’t like busy places

– very alert (as in sensitive to all sounds, sights, movements)

– difficulty sleeping, takes hours to fall asleep

– unable to tolerate sitting in car seat or stroller

– difficulty with car rides

– becomes upset when laid down on their back for diaper and clothing changes

– described as ‘colicky,’ upset or unable to settle

– doesn’t move and prefers sedentary play

– does not interact or make eye contact with parents

Motor

– only wants to lay on stomach and cannot tolerate laying on back (due to strong back muscles, weak flexors, and overall imbalance of muscles on front and back of body)

-arches body backwards

– flat spot on head, turns head more toward one side

– uses one side of body more than other side – babies do not have a hand preference or sidedness

– delayed motor milestones

– moves to one side only such as rolls or comes up to sit via one side

– tightness in limbs during dressing, diaper changes, or bathing – parents may feel arms are stiff to get into sleeves, or legs do not open for diaper changes

– motor milestones are a bit delayed

– doesn’t move, described as ‘lazy’

Feeding

– nurses better on one side or unable to nurse on both sides

– pulls away from breast

– difficulty figuring out how to latch on during breast feeding

– takes excessive time to nurse

– difficulty drinking from the bottle, liquid pooling out at sides

– drools on one side of mouth, smiles a bit wonky

– difficulty transitioning to foods, refuses to eat

– does not put toys in mouth for exploration

These are just some examples. If you have any concerns about your child’s development, please see an occupational therapist right away. Do not wait and see. Start early, there’s so much to do from the beginning versus when the child starts school and skills become ingrained. Babies are like sponges due to brain plasticity. Its really so encouraging to see how quickly they respond with the right support and early intervention.

OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY ASSESSMENT – What’s it all about?

Parents often wonder what’s involved in an occupational therapy assessment?  This really varies amongst Occupational Therapists based on our experience and interests, what the parents want  the child’s individual needs.  In my practice, this is how it generally goes.

 

PHONE CALL:

Initially, parents call and we have a phone conversation where they tell me about their child, their concerns and reason for an occupational therapy assessment. I prefer to talk about any sensitive topics during this time versus discuss in front of children, particularly older kids.  We then determine whether or not an assessment is necessary.

 

INFORMATION AND DATA COLLECTION:

Next, I send parents information regarding scheduling, what the assessment entails, and any questionnaires to complete. For children who are in school or have other therapists and support team members, I attempt to get as much baseline information I can prior to the assessment such as:

Birth history and medical history

Report cards

Drawings or handwriting samples

Photos of younger children in various positions to give me an idea of their motor skills

Reports from other therapists including educational psychologists, consultants, and speech therapists.

Completed questionnaires or sensory profiles by parents and school.

 

ASSESSMENT:

The actual assessment varies based on each child and their needs. No two children are alike.

For the first part of the assessment, I usually chat with the child and parent to get to know each other. During this time, the child often explores the clinic and engages in free play while I make initial observations of how they move, interact, and play. For older children, I ask about their hobbies and interests, how they find school, and what they’d like to do. Both parents and children are involved in this discussion as appropriate.

We then complete formal and informal tasks (standardized testing and clinical observations) to assess the following as it applies to the child:

-*****Child’s STRENGTHS.  This is so important as we will want to continue and encourage these in the child and also, use this to build on areas that need help. We are not trying to change the child but want to embrace them for who they are.

-Sensory processing: tactile processing, body and spatial awareness, balance, motor planning, organizational skills, does the child avoid or seek sensory inputs, how do they play with and figure out new toys

-Gross motor skills (head control, trunk control, body alignment, core strength, movement patterns)

-Shoulder and pelvic girdle stability, joint stability, upper and lower extremity strength and coordination, endurance

-Postural control, bilateral integration, rhythm / timing / coordination of movements

-Fine motor skills (reach, grasp, release, object manipulation, in-hand manipulation, 2-handed use, hand preference / dominance), eye-hand coordination

-Self-help and self-care skills

-Visual motor and perceptual skills, visual processing (eye tracking, motility, convergence / divergence, how both eyes are working together)

-Auditory processing, following directions, attention and focus

-Sensory regulation, how the child transitions, manages multi sensory input, copes with daily challenges and demands, attends and focuses during self- and adult directed tasks.

-Social skills – how the child initiates interactions, joint play / reciprocal interactions, recognizes their own feelings and how to manage them

-Organizational skills and executive functions for child’s age

-Consider adaptations, strategies, sensory supports for home or school

-Provide ideas of useful and meaningful sports, extra curricular activities and games are provided according to the child’s individual needs

 

Throughout the assessment, parents are involved and present. I provide suggestions of exercises and activities to try at home. We will try some exercises and activities together.

 

Summary and recommendations: Towards the end, we review findings of the assessment, prioritize concerns of parent and child, discuss home exercises, and come up with a plan of what to do and how to work together with the child’s home and school team.

Based upon the child and parents, the initial assessment can take from 1-2 hours.

Finding an Occupational Therapist or Health Professional

As a mum of a little guy who has needed some extra help, I know it’s hard finding the right support for your child.  Parents often ask me how to find a good occupational therapist and make sense of their qualifications.  Here are my suggestions from both personal and professional experience:

1)   ****FOLLOW YOUR GUT*****:   You will have a feeling by talking to a therapist whether they are right for you.  Personally, I prefer to talk via phone to potential therapists for my child versus emailing or texting as it has given me a good feel for them.  Also, by watching my child interact with the therapist and see how comfortable they are, I just know! 🙂

2)  BASIC REGISTRATION:

In the UK, occupational therapists must be registered with the Health Professions Council.

In the US, occupational therapists are registered with the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy.

3)    ADVANCED CERTIFICATIONS:

Pediatric occupational therapists can go for many higher level intense accreditations based on their special interests.  Personally, my treatments and assessments became much more thorough and effective after undergoing these certifications, resulting in faster progress.  Two main certifications to look for are:

-Sensory Integration – In the UK, there are a series of four courses offered through the Sensory Integration Network.  In the US, these courses may be offered by either Western Psychological Services or Sensory Integration International.  Have a look here to learn more.   It can take years to complete the coursework and all the requirements to pass and become certified in Sensory Integration.

-NDT (Neuro-Developmental Treatment) Certification also known as Bobath Approach.  This is an 8-week course for children with Cerebral Palsy or any motor impairment.  For me, the course was a labour of love & rather intensive.  Therapists often make some sort of life compromise to complete the certification such as temporarily moving to the town where the course is being held, or leaving their families for long periods of time.  For therapists who are NDT certified in the US, this requires a continuous process of updating information via ongoing continuing education and professional development.  You can learn more here

Personally, I moved to Chicago to complete my coursework and had a brilliant time exploring the city and enjoying stuffed pizza whilst studying during every other spare moment. 🙂

– NDTA Advanced Baby Course – 2 to 3 weeks – This certificate course can only be taken after the 8-week course above and is an add-on to specialize further into baby treatment.  I took mine in what felt like the boonies, Allentown PA, however it was completely worthwhile to have spent this time with baby guru, Lois Bly.

4)    CONTINUING PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT – I would look to see that the therapist takes ongoing continuing education courses in a variety of areas.  I list most of my CPD on my ‘About Me’ section under CV for others to see how I stay current.

5)    EXPERIENCE:  What’s their experience?  How long?  Where?  What population do they work with?

6)    SPECIAL INTERESTS:   Do their special interests relate to your child’s needs?  E.G. Baby treatment, pediatrics, splinting, kinesio taping, seating and wheelchairs, assistive technology, home modifications, oral motor / feeding therapy, listening therapies, yoga, brain gym and so much more.

7)  LISTENS TO YOU:  I find it encouraging when our team members listen to and involve us.  After all, parents know their child best.

8)  CREATIVITY:  Fancy clinic equipment is great however I have seen great therapists do so much while working in a shoebox or with very little.  Creativity goes a long way.

9)  COST – Personally, I have found it so worthwhile to have fewer sessions with a more skilled therapist versus more sessions with less skilled ones.  It’s important to look at the therapist’s credentials, approach and personality to find a good fit.

 

Holiday Presents

When I moved from NYC to London, half my boxes must have been full of toys and books!  Whenever I see a new toy shop I must see what’s inside. Usually, I love the old classic toys mostly in thrift shops or on eBay now.

Occupational therapists love toys, activity analysis, figuring out what skills toys are working on, or how to adapt them to suit a child’s individual sesorimotor needs while offering just the right challenge.  We also love finding interesting ways to use these games such as via an obstacle course, combined with therapy ball exercises, or from various gross motor positions. Talk to your OT to learn how best to adapt games to address your child’s goals.

I often use games from my childhood. 🙂 How many of you remember playing thumb war, French skipping, throwing balls against the wall, playing Jax, or making cootie catchers and cats cradle.

For birthdays and holidays, parents will often ask me for gift ideas that will address their child’s areas of need and that they will find fun. I love doing this. It’s like making a secret special super wish list for the child.

I have now created an Amazon store open to everybody.  Toys and equipment are broken down by age group into the following categories with my anecdotes:

Sensory Processing
Gross Motor
Motor Planning
Fine Motor
Visual Motor and Perceptual
Prewriting

I receive a little something should you buy from my store.  All proceeds will be used for charity or therapy toys for those in need.

Have a look. I’d love to hear if you have any favourites.

http://ot4kids.co.uk/therapy-toys-shop

 

Babies and Strokes

It’s Hemiplegia Awareness Week!

Oftentimes people associate strokes with the elderly.  Kids have strokes too, most often from a brain bleed / hemorrhage either while in the womb, at birth, or afterwards which causes tightness and difficulty using one side of their body, also known as Hemiplegia.
Red flags common for children with a stroke are:
-Inability or difficulty  using one side of body – the baby may hold their arm tightly at their side, fist their hands, or predominantly use one side.
-Early hand preference – Please know that babies are never right- or left- handed, they should not yet have any hand or foot preference.  If they do, it’s important to see a neurologist and be assessed by an OT and / or PT.
-Difficulty feeding, slurry speech,asymmetric facial features such as droopiness on one side of face or a crooked smil
-Stiffness in arms or legs while dressing or bathing
-Reaches with only one arm, head tilts to one side, body bends or cures to one side like a banana
-Delayed milestones
-Seizures
-Abnormal eye movements
-Extreme sleepiness, lethargy

 

I often hear health professionals say a baby with hemiplegia doesn’t need Occupational Therapy till they’re older and using utensils. This is a myth! Babies use their arms from the very beginning to self-soothe, find the breast for feeds, randomly move their body and then to reach for their parent’s face, bring their hands together, put toys in their mouth, push up on their arms or grab their feet. All these developmental experiences require core stability, strength, coordination, sensory awareness and more.  It is NEVER TOO EARLY.  An occupational therapist experienced with babies can help achieve these skills. This is so important because each skill creates a foundational building block for more advanced skills.

 

Infancy is the best time to intensely work with babes with neurologic impairments for several reasons:
1) Brain neural plasticity allows the best chance for change by developing new  neuronal maps and pathways for increased function
2) Develop good alignment and movement patterns from the very start so the baby can learn to roll to both sides, sit straight, crawl, walk with good balance, point, and clap their hands. Then the baby doesn’t need to compensate and only use their unaffected side.
3) Reduce chances of muscles becoming increasingly stiff over time
4) Collaborate closely with parents on handling techniques to encourage bilateral movements and incorporate exercises in a fun way into daily routines

 

The following treatments can help:
1) Baby massage – it’s calming, builds body awareness, and decreases tightness.
2) Neurodevelopmental Treatment / Bobath trained therapist.  Note that some have advanced training for babies which is a bonus.
4) Developmental play approach using therapeutic exercises to achieve milestones, ESP reaping the benefits of rolling and crawling
5) Kinesio taping, splints, orthotics, suits or compression garments to promote good alignment, posture and movement
6) Adapting daily activities and games
7) Sports and hobbies such as swimming, horse riding, gymnastics, yog
8) Baby wearing for many reasons including it’s comforting after a traumatic birth, provides deep pressure and boundaries for body awareness, movement input helps balance and is calming, and better able to promote body alignment.
9) Parent support groups – HemiHelp and HemiChat in the UK.

 

HemiHelp has a fact sheet and video to raise awareness about Hemiplegia here:

Homemade Sensory Equipment

 

**Disclaimer:  All content on this website is my professional opinion and for your information only.  It is by no means a substitute for medical or individualized input from an Occupational Therapist. 

I often encourage parents to use what they have at home for sensory input activities and obstacle courses.   There are many inexpensive items that may be used.  Here are some of my favourites.  Pease obtain input from your  OT of how to use these to help your child. Supervision is necessary for safety.

 

1)  Therapy Ball for trunk exercises, ball massages, throwing and catching games, or cross pattern brain gym activities.

 

2) Sofa Cushions and Pillows can be used as stepping stones, piles to jump and crash onto, or to crawl over for babies to older children.  For example, here are some fun stepping stones made from scrap cardboard. http://wendyjanelle.blogspot.co.uk/2010/05/sensory-steps.html

 

3) Crash Pads for gross motor or sensory input, or as part of a quiet, calming space.  You can make a crash pad by filling a duvet or quilt cover with pillows, blankets or scrap pieces of foam.  Use it to relax in, do homework or read a book, crawl or roll over, walk and climb over to improve balance, or hide objects under.

 

4) Boxes have endless potential. We know babies rather play with a box than toys. 🙂 Use different sizes for climbing in and out of. Open the box flaps to become a tunnel to crawl through.  Lay on a box and use it as a sled. Prop a huge moving box against a sofa and voila, you have a slide. A tight box filled with pillows can be used as a calming spot. For little ones, fill a box with balls or other textures for a sensory bin. Boxes can be used in lots of fun ways as an addition to your sensory tables.
Sand and Water Tables Blog

http://tomsensori.blogspot.co.uk/

Pre school play link

http://pre-schoolplay.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/sensory-table-cover.html

 

5) Mattress or an air mattress can be used to jump on, crawl over, or prop up against the bed or sofa for a slide or a mountain to climb up.

 

6) Blanket swings for smaller, lighter children.

 

7) Step ladder for climbing practice to develop strength, bilateral coordination and motor planning.

 

8) Suspended Balls – You can either tie a string to a beach ball or place a tennis ball in panty hose and then hang it for lots of fun target practice.

 

9) Tires – Save those old car tires at your next car service. They can be used to sit or stand on, walk around or to step in and out of.

 

10) Plank of Wood as a balance beam. Alternatively fold a bath towel or blanket in the shape of a balance beam or put long strips of masking tape or string on the ground to walk on.

http://movingsmartblog.blogspot.co.uk/2011/08/smart-steps-walk-line.html

 

Have a look at these 2 blog posts for lovely ideas:

http://wecandoallthings.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/parents-guide-to-diy-therapy-equipment.html

http://www.thegoodneighborhood.com/2012/06/20/a-place-of-joy-pulling-off-a-pop-up-playground-on-buffalos-east-side/

 

For those of you with carpentry and DIY skills, here are some projects I also hope to make…..well, some day. 🙂

 

Woven Wrap Hammock Swing (All you need is a wrap and a coffee table or bunk bed)
Tire Rocker

http://barefootnparadise.blogspot.co.uk/2011/10/tire-rocker-and-see-saw.html

http://www.crumbbums.com/?p=1934

 

Balance Beam

 

Balance Board

Backpack Awareness Day 2012

Kids schlep around huge backpacks these days so its not surprising that: 

-64% students from 11-15 years report back pain
-55% students carry backpacks more than the recommended 10% of their body weight
-how you wear a backpack can negatively affect your health

 

Backpack Wearing Guidelines: 
1) Straps should be worn on both shoulders
2) backpack should weigh no more than 10% of the child’s body weight
3) place heavier items closer to the back or on bottom of bag
4) Height of backpack should be 2-inches below shoulder to waist level
5) Use padded shoulder straps, hip belt as well as a chest strap

 

Here are some Backpack Strategies for Parents and Students by the American Occupational Therapy Association
Listen to Karen Jacobs share tips on choosing and packing a backpack.
 

Kinesio Taping for Babies and Children

There’s a lot of buzz about that coloured tape now with Wimbledon and the Olympics approaching.  I am a certified Kinesio® Taping practitioner and have been using it to improve children’s body alignment, movement patterns, and muscle activation for motor skills development since 2003.  Being quite accident prone myself, I personally use it on myself for relief and to get up and moving again.

I have used taping for babies to older children, and have found it to be a fantastic adjunct to my Occupational Therapy sessions. It has been so helpful to have an understanding about development, children’s motor skills, and specifically, little bodies and then apply kinesio tape accordingly.  I have often used kinesio taping for babies who are struggling to reach their milesontes, and young children with hemiplegia, Erb’s Palsy, Down’s syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, and general low muscle tone although it can be used for any motor impairments.

Taping is a skill and must be applied correctly according to the child’s desired goals.  It is important to have Kinesio Taping done by somebody who has been properly trained, particularly for pediatrics.

For more, please see www.ot4kids.co.uk/kinesio-taping.

Last year, I wrote an article for PediaStaff which can be viewed here:

http://www.pediastaff.com/resources-a-look-at-kinesio®-taping-featured-may-26-2011

 

PARENT BLOGS-It’s always helpful to hear how other parents have found a treatment technique. Have a look at these blog posts.

Erb’s Palsy-

http://jadonsjourney2009.blogspot.co.uk/2010/10/kinesio-taping-success.html

 

Down’s Syndrome-

http://jendawnscowgirlup.blogspot.co.uk/2011/10/31-for-21-day-20-kicking-it-olympic.html

http://teal915.blogspot.co.uk/2011/10/kinesio-tape-for-baby-with-down.html

 

Cerebral Palsy-

http://cerebralpalsybaby.blogspot.co.uk/2006/05/kinesio-tape.html

http://cerebralpalsybaby.blogspot.co.uk/2006/05/kinesio-photos.html

http://www.octamom.com/2009/04/kinesiotape-baby.html

 

Parents’ Feedback about Kinesio Taping-

https://www.facebook.com/MommiesofMiracles/posts/344423925624665

 

ARTICLES:

Tales of the Tape – pediatric case studies

http://physical-therapy.advanceweb.com/Features/Articles/Tales-of-the-Tape.aspx

 

Uses of Athletic Tape-

http://physical-therapy.advanceweb.com/Features/Articles/New-Uses-for-Athletic-Taping.aspx

 

Taping in an Acute Pediatric Setting-

http://tapingbase.net/sites/default/files/level_4___pilot_study_investigating_the_effects_of_kinesio_taping_in_an_acute_pediatric_rehabilitation_setting._0.pdf

 

Taping for Abdominal Muscles-

http://www.advancemed.co.il/userfiles/file/kinesio/research/kinesio-taping-for-abdominal-muscl.pdf

 

Treatment of Brachial Plexus Injury using Kinesio Tape and Exercise –

http://informahealthcare.com/doi/abs/10.3109/09593980903578872

 

For very good articles with pictures on Kinesio® Taping for children with Brachial Plexus Injuries, check out the Outreach Magazine Spring 2005 Issue, Pages 8-10, as well as Outreach Magazine Fall / Winter 2005, Pages 8-9.

 

Write On!

I commonly get referrals for children with handwriting difficulties between 5-7 years old.

There are so many factors to consider when assessing a child who struggles with handwriting. Here are just a few:
1.  Core strength – Can the child sit upright long enough to do writing in class? Do they tire easily? How do they manage with gross motor and physical activities at recess or P.E.?
A child must have a strong core to sit in their seat and to support their arms for writing.

2.  Shoulder stability and arm strength – Imagine the shoulder to be like a hinge to hold a frame. It must be strong to support what hangs off it (i.e. the hand). Chances are if the shoulders are weak or unstable, it can’t support the hands.  This causes the child to tire easily and have poor grasp on their writing utensil.
http://movingsmartblog.blogspot.co.uk/2011/05/m-is-for-monkeybars-getting-ready-for.html

3.  Visual motor and perceptual skills – Does the child use the muscles of their eyes to visually track objects? Do both eyes work well together? Does the child spatially organise parts to draw a picture such as a house or a person? This is necessary on a finer level to form letters.
http://www.aota.org/Pubs/OTP/2011-OTP/OTP-082211.aspx?FT=.pdf

4.  Fine motor skills – Are the child’s thumb and fingers strong enough to grasp and coordinate the pencil? Do they have isolated control of fingers or use their whole hand to manipulate their writing utensil?

5.  Body and spatial awareness – Is the child aware of front/back, right/left, top/bottom on their own bodies, when given directions, or to draw and write?  These skills are first developed with gross motor skills, on the playground, when building forts from sofa cushions and dining room chairs, playing with blocks and then forming letters.

6.  Balance, midline crossing and bilateral integration – Can the child balance in their chair or when sitting on the floor at circle time? Oftentimes a child may slump over the table or have difficulty sitting still at circle time due to core weakness and poor balance.  Have they developed a hand dominance? To do this the child must comfortably be able to turn their body and cross midline without losing their balance? And lastly, do they use both hands to play, get dressed, open / close bags, cut, or hold the paper while writing.

7.  Motor planning and sequencing – Can the child follow a sequence, problem-solve, do a multi-step task?
http://www.apraxia-kids.org/site/apps/nlnet/content3.aspx?c=chKMI0PIIsE&b=788449&ct=464199

8.  Attention, auditory processing, and more.

Could we help these kids earlier before starting school? ABSOLUTELY!
Here are some difficulties children who struggle with handwriting often have when younger:

-Disliked tummy time
-Short or no crawling period
-Described as ‘lazy’ and lacking desire to move
-Delayed infant milestones
-Cautious with movement and climbing activities

-Avoided manipulative or constructive play (blocks, Legos)

-Difficulty with hand actions to nursery rhymes

Handwriting is very complicated.  There are early red flags and children do benefit most from receiving therapy input early.  It’s never too early or too late, however earlier the better.  If children have the chance for early intervention, they can focus their energies at school on attention, learning, and playing with friends.

Sensory Processing – Early Warning Signs for Babies

In my practice I work with many children with sensory processing difficulties that are identified during their school years.  These children may struggle with concentrating in class, coping with transitions or changes, or playing with peers.  They can be clumsy, have difficulty holding a pencil or writing, awkward with their movements, or be either withdrawn or aggressive.  Oftentimes, they are very bright and as a result, their sensory processing difficulties are misunderstood.  Usually, warning signs were present as babies however parents were told to ‘wait and see,’ ‘your child will grow out of it’ or that their child is misbehaving.

Early signs of sensory processing difficulties I have seen amongst babies include:

  • Hates tummy time, prefers to sit or stand
  • Plays while sitting still versus moving around and exploring their environment
  • Tend to get ‘stuck’ with their movements, delayed milestones (e.g. rolling, crawling, clapping hands, waving)
  • Cautious with movement, dislike being laid down or moved
  • Fussy or irritable babies, cry easily sometimes for no known reason
  • Not a ‘cuddly’ baby, resists being held
  • Struggle to settle down or going to sleep
  • Difficulty with nursing, transitioning to other textures
  • Startles easily to loud sounds, distracted, avoids eye contact
  • Very easy going, described as a ‘lazy baby’, don’t know they’re in the room

These difficulties indicate that a child’s central nervous system is struggling to process sensory information.  It is a neurological problem that can impact on their movements and development, learning, and social-emotional skills.

Here’s a nice article that discusses the early warning signs of Sensory Processing Disorder amongst infants.

Due to the plasticity of a young child’s brain, there is hope and good potential for progress and improvement with Early Intervention.  If you are concerned about these early warning signs, seek advice from an Occupational Therapist who specializes in working with infants and younger children, particularly those with sensory processing difficulties.  It is never too early or never too late to get help.

Look here for links and books about sensory processing.

Homemade Occupational Therapy Toys

Isn’t it amazing that kids often love to play with what’s simply laying around the house versus a fancy toy?  I often find that babies and toddlers prefer to play with a cardboard box or kitchen towel roll instead of the flashing, music-making, popping-up toy.   🙂

I love homemade toys for two reasons:

1)    Recycle, Reuse, Renew!  It’s great for the environment.  Save those kitchen towel rolls, cardboard boxes, and empty water bottles to make fun toys or do interesting crafts.

2)    For children with sensory and motor impairments, it’s oftentimes easier to make a toy that is just right for their motor abilities and coordination.  For example, if a child who has limited fine motor skills, you can use larger objects such as making a giant pegboard with water bottles.   To add a sensory component, make a textured board with different sponges, fabrics and materials. Using objects found at home, you can make a toy that’s just the right size, shape, or texture to suit a child’s motor, sensory and cognitive skills.

A couple of my favourite resources for homemade toy ideas are:

1)   http://ohiodeafblind.org/assets/files/files/milestone_packets/0_2/hold_everything.pdf

Personal favourites are the ball board, curler board and eggs in a can.

2)    The Recycling Occupational Therapist – Check out her Facebook page or YouTube videos for ideas for homemade toys.

Go buy some stick-back Velcro, magnetic tape, and start saving those cardboard boxes and empty plastic bottles.  Have fun!

Treating the Cause, Not the Diagnosis

Lilly, a baby gorilla, gets Occupational Therapy! Trainers noticed she had a weak grasp for climbing and self-feeding, her left side lagged behind, and she struggled to latch on while nursing. Medical experts found nothing. Disney switched their emphasis from diagnosis to quality of life.

I found this to be such a great story with good reminders for health professionals and parents:
1) Paying attention to normal developmental milestones is very important. If concerned that a child is struggling to meet milestones, it’s important to get an evaluation.
2) The earlier we detect a problem, the sooner we can help and the easier to correct or minimize. Early Intervention is critical.
3) Treating the cause not the diagnosis – I treat many children who have no diagnosis. We identify the child’s strengths and areas of difficulty, and then determine why are those areas a challenge. For example, a child may have a weak grip for many reasons. Perhaps they have weak core strength and can’t hold themselves up. Are their shoulders loose or stiff causing them to have difficulty lifting their arms to reach? Or does the child lack sensation of their body parts related to each other? Do they have limited eye-hand coordination so that tasks requiring a precise grasp and dexterity are challenging? Labels don’t matter— As Occupational Therapists, we assess the cause of actual areas of difficulty versus the diagnosis.

It’s fantastic that Lilly’s caretakers follow through with her home programs twice a day and are encouraged by her good progress. Hooray!

Sensory Processing and Babies

1 in 20 children have sensory processing difficulties!   Clearly, this is very common and impacts on childrens’ behaviour, motor skills development, learning and confidence.

As an Occupational Therapist, I specialize in treating infants and younger children.  I’m often asked ‘what can you do with a baby’ or how do you know a baby has sensory processing difficulties?

Meet Ryder from Pathways Awareness’ newest video!  🙂

Ryder’s sensory processing difficulties were noted at FIVE months of age.  He had difficulty lifting his head, hardly moved, tired easily, and was anxious during new situations.  He was overwhelmed by sensory input leading to sensory overload.  Later on, this also impacted on his ability to communicate with peers, play with other children, and keep up with his motor milestones.

With Early Intervention therapies (OT, PT, and SALT) and a home program from very early on, Ryder showed improvements in his coordination, behaviour, confidence and ability to organize and respond to sensory information.  He was able to be in group settings, keep up with peers, multi-task, and have fun with age appropriate activities.  Hooray for Ryder.

Another great video by Pathways Awareness.  I admire their efforts in advocating for early detection and Early Intervention as well as raise awareness about sensory processing.

Sleep Problems and Sensory Regulation for Babies

Whose mood and behaviour isn’t affected by their sleep? We are generally much happier and focused after a good night’s sleep. For some, it takes ages to fall sleep while others zonk out right away. Myself, I can’t exercise before going to bed as I’m too awake. However, I have friends who say exercise helps them sleep faster and deeper.

Many babies I work with, particularly those born prematurely, also have sleep problems. Parents will try any and all strategies to help soothe their baby to sleep. Rocking, nursing, heartbeat sounds, swaddling, bathing before bedtime. Parents themselves are exhausted. Oftentimes, these babies are labeled as ‘colicky’ which technically refers to when a baby has abdominal discomfort however ‘colicky’ now seems to be overused to suggest a ‘fussy’ baby.

***It is critical to rule out gastrointestinal problems, food allergies, reflux, sleep apnea, ear infections, and medical issues.

Sleep is a regulatory process where a baby learns how to change and monitor their arousal level to self-soothe and fall asleep. Babies and young children with sleep difficulties likely have sensory processing or regulation difficulties. A baby who is HYPERsensitive to sensory inputs will have difficulty soothing or regulating themselves to sleep. This baby may not tolerate sucking on their hands to self-soothe or being rocked, and may wake up to the quietest of sounds. They are in sensory overload. On the contrary, a baby who is HYPOsensitive or seeks out sensory inputs may only be able to fall asleep after they’ve been swaddled tightly, bounced up and down, and patted firmly on their back. They need more sensory information to help them regulate their arousal level for sleeping.

When babies are unable to figure out how to soothe themselves they become fussy and irritable, more commonly described as ‘colicky.’ As this article says, there is no such thing as “just” a fussy baby.

A baby needs to regulate their arousal and sensory information for sleep. An OT can help parents sort out what sensory strategies to support sleep. According to Maria Anzalone, an occupational therapist from the States, “either way, they’re (babies are) out of sync.” They need to learn to regulate their arousal, sensations and emotions, and relationships. All of this impacts upon their sleep.

This is not something that parents should feel guilty about!

When a baby has sleep problems, it is important to also consider whether they may have sensory processing or regulation difficulties. An Occupational Therapist who specializes in treating infants can help to determine the baby’s sensory profile, which soothing strategies can help regulation based on the individual child’s needs.

Prematurity Resources

ot4kids is now on FB where I’m sharing information and resources to support families and professionals re: children with developmental delays.  Do come on over. 🙂

I had planned to put up this post for National Premature Awareness Day on 17th November.  Oh dear, it’s already December.

As an Occupational Therapist, I screen, follow-up and treat premature babies due to their risk of developmental delays as a means of prevention and Early Intervention.  This allows me to work closely with parents and provide therapy input early to prevent problems from escalating.

In this post, I wanted to share some of my favourite resources for premature babies. However, please keep in mind that as every premature baby is different and has varied needs, this does not replace the advice provided by their medical professional.  Also, an OT or PT experienced with babies is better able to provide individual advice and support geared toward individual children and families

March of Dimes has an excellent interactive program called “Understand Your Premature Infant” to help others recognize a premature babies’ signals and understand how they respond to their world.

Baby First has a nice article on promoting motor development for babies born prematurely following their NICU stay.  These are general guidelines regarding positioning and recognizing the baby’s cues.

CDC has a developmental chart where you can track a child’s movement, social-emotional, fine motor, cognitive, hearing and visual milestones from 3 months to 5 years of age.  These milestones can offer important clues regarding a child’s development.  Be sure to adjust for a premature baby’s age, however parents should follow their gut, they are the expert on their child.

Premature babies are also at-risk of having sensory processing difficulties due to having an immature nervous system.  Check out Sense-Ablebaby for more information as well as this article on sensory stimulation and premature babies.

Here is an article written by myself regarding ‘red flags’ that can indicate a delay amongst babies and toddlers.

***Premature babies should be screened early on to determine whether there are possible motor, neurological, sensory processing, orthopaedic, or cognitive delays. It is never too early to start therapy input.  Early Intervention is key!

First Signs-Early detection and intervention for Autism

I often work with parents who are concerned that their baby or child is not making eye contact, struggling to meet their motor and learning milestones, or doesn’t respond to their name.  Oftentimes, the wonder whether the child has Autism.

First Signs is a wonderful organization dedicated to educating parents and professionals about early signs of autism and the importance of Early Intervention.

They have great pages on:

  • Red Flags
  • Hallmark milestones from birth to three years
  • How to share your concerns with your doctor?
  • Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment

I love how they emphasize that paediatricians should better screen children during routine visits and the importance of partnership between parents and healthcare providers.  Parents know their child best and have a gut instinct when there is a problem.  It’s our job as healthcare providers to listen carefully to what parents are saying and make a proactive action plan. Rather than wait-and-see, let’s act early and make the most of a child’s early years when they are constantly learning and growing.  Let’s use prevention versus trying to remediate a problem later.  It’s never to early and Early Intervention is key.

Plagiocephaly-more than just a flat head?

Sadly, plagiocephaly (flat-head syndrome) is often dismissed as being just a cosmetic issue or one that babies will outgrow.  Finally, studies done at the Children’s Institute in Seattle, Washington, US, show that there may be an association between plagiocephaly and developmental delay.

In this study led by Matthew Speltz, PhD, 472 babies between 4-12 months were screened for cognitive and motor development. Half of these babies had been diagnosed with plagiocephaly from Seattle Childrens Hospital’s Craniofacial Centre and the other half were a “normal” control group.

It was discovered that babies with some degree of plagiocephaly were more likely to perform worse on the Bayley Scales of Infant Development III than the control group.

These findings indicate that there may be an association between plagiocephaly and developmental delay or that children with existing motor problems are at risk of developing flatter heads due to lack of movement.

I find that babies with plagiocephaly often have other underlying problems such as:

  • low muscle tone
  • poor strength and coordination
  • sensory processing, movement sensitivities
  • motor planning
  • organizational skills
  • poor regulation
  • …….and more

Research shows the following babies can be at-risk of developing plagiocephaly:

  • those born prematurely
  • multiple births
  • torticollis (tight neck muscles on one side)
  • developmental delay
  • certain syndromes
  • eye muscle problems.

****Babies with Plagiocephaly should be screened early on to determine whether there are possible motor, cognitive, neurological, orthopaedic, or cognitive delays. Definitely worthwhile catching a problem early!