Advanced Pediatric Therapies

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Is Your Child at Risk for Depression?

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A recent report on NBC News shared that there are more than 300,000 depressed kids in the United States.  This is an overwhelming number for sure, but there is more to the story.  When thinking of depression, most people think sadness and “the blues.”  While this is sometimes true when talking about kids with depression, it can also be true that kids exhibit other signs which are less readily identified as such.  For example,  irritability may be the first sign of both anxiety and depression in younger kids.  Is your toddler throwing a long tantrum?  1-2 % of toddlers aged 2-5 are depressed.  Depression that goes untreated in younger kids can lead to depression in older kids, too.

Of American kids aged 3-17, 15 million will have a diagnosable mental health disorder during a given year.  Of those, only 20% will receive treatment.  That means 1 in 5 have a perhaps hidden mental health disorder but 2/3 will go untreated.  These diagnoses, as related by the Centers for Disease Control, include anxiety, depression, ADHD and unspecified behavior problems.

Of course, your adolescent can be moody.  This is a hallmark of their age.  However, the tendency to develop a major depression or even bipolar disorder doubles from ages 13-18.  And more than half of all mental health disorders begin by age 14.  In teens, the long term statistics indicate that depression, particularly in girls, is getting worse. This is even more of a reason to keep an eye on your child and report to your pediatrician if you are concerned.  Read the article from NBC News, they will be doing a yearlong investigation into the topic and have provided statistics and hopeful treatments.

For now, signs of depression in kids include difficulty planning/organizing, difficulty concentrating, body language that indicates sadness, forgetfulness, easily hurt feelings, isolation from peers, distractability, complaints of feeling sick/not going to school, crying and forgetting assignments.

For adolescents, symptoms include sulking, self deprecating comments, theft, truancy, sexual activity, alcohol or drug use, isolation, defiance, pessimistic ideas and suicidal thoughts.  

If you have questions or concerns, please speak to your OT or health care provider as soon as possible.  There are treatments that can help!

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October is Sensory Awareness Month!

The STAR Institute for Sensory Processing Disorder has launched a campaign for Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) awareness this month.  SPD tends to get lumped into autism because kids with autism often have sensory processing problems, but not everyone who has SPD has autism.  This distinction is very important in getting SPD recognized as a disorder all on it’s own.  You can help out by talking to your friends, your pediatrician or posting a link on your social media.  It can be hard to explain, but the STAR Institute’s website is very helpful for you to use and a great place to refer others.  Get the word out this month!

 

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The Benefits of Swimming for your Child

Swimming is a great activity any time of year, but summer seems the best time to introduce your child into a great hobby, sport or adventure in the water.  When we says “swimming,” it doesn’t mean that your child has to be doing the breast stroke, or any stroke at all.  It means your child is immersing him or herself in water and playing!

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If you child has been fearful of swimming in the past, consider the environment in which they were scared.  Was it an indoor pool with lots of echoes and noise?  Was it a lake with a slimy bottom?  Was the water too cold?  If so, maybe take them to a warmer pool on a day when it’s less crowded.  For kids who are easily overstimulated, a weekend at a water park may not be the best introduction.  Do your research on the pool where you want your child to take lessons.  Do they have an instructor who is familiar with kids with special needs and/or sensory processing disorder?  Are private lessons available?

On the other hand, some kids are water babies from the start.  They love the water but all kids need to be monitored for safety.  No matter where your child starts, there are a number of benefits to swimming for our kids.

  1.  Calming.  Water provides 30% more pressure to our bodies than living on dry land.  We know that pressure provides calming to our active nervous systems.  You will notice a difference in your child after they do some active swimming, particularly underwater (more pressure).  They are more calm and more organized.
  2. Stimulates vestibular sense.  When you are diving into water, doing flips underwater or doing various strokes, your head is in different positions.  Combined with the deep pressure, these two systems work to achieve better balance and overall body awareness.
  3. Strength.  Because of the pressure in water, there is resistance provided against your body which thereby increases your strength as you work against it. Because being in the water is so much fun, kids barely even notice the additional challenge.
  4. Improves gross motor skills.  Being in water lessens the effects of gravity.  For this reason, it’s easier to stand on one leg or jump or do any activity with more coordination than on dry land.  It builds confidence in kids for whom these things are difficult.
  5. Improves motor planning.  There are so many pool toy and accessory options for kids in a pool or lake setting.  How many ways can your child use a noodle?  Or a kickboard? Finding new uses engages and uses motor planning skills.

Kids should be encouraged to make active use of the pool, and avoid passive activities like the “lazy river” for these benefits to take shape.  (Of course, at the end of a long day, it’s pretty nice!)  And please refer to your local and state laws around use of life jackets for safety.

Now go out and enjoy the water!

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For a list of local pools run by Parks and Recreation in Vancouver, please visit this site.

Jeanne

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Get Outside!

Every summer, I’m asked to compile a list of outdoor activities for families.  Our service model changes over the summer from weekly visits to intensives.  During that time, we encourage families to get outside to play and to MOVE!  There are so many fun games and activities to choose from.  Here is just a partial list:

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For the little ones:

  1.  Crawl around with your mason jar and find some cool bugs and leaves.
  2. Dig in the dirt, use a shovel and get messy!
  3. Play in the sandbox, making sure to have buckets and cups to lift the sand.
  4. Water the plants with heavy buckets of water.
  5. Use an old sprayer to mist the plants or “paint” a brick wall.
  6. Dig up some rocks that you can then paint.
  7. Put some rags in a bucket of water.  Make a chalkboard target on an outside wall.  Throw!!
  8. Climb a tree.
  9. Help Dad wash the car.
  10. Take the dog for a walk, the more pulling the better!
  11. Play tug o’ war.
  12. Go on a nature scavenger hunt.
  13. Jump rope.
  14. Stack rocks and make a sculpture garden.
  15. Make a mud pie.
  16. Run through the sprinkler, then spin through the sprinkler, then jump through the sprinkler, get creative!
  17. Blow bubbles outside and watch them fly away.

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For older kids:

  1. Set up a zip line in the back yard.
  2. A slack line is also great for older kids.
  3. Ride your bike around the neighborhood, try to balance on a chalkboard line in the street.
  4. Go for a swim.
  5. Power wash the back deck. Take some before and after photos.
  6. Hang wet clothes outside on the line.  Or hang artwork, or photos. Host an art show.
  7. Go skateboarding or scootering around the neighborhood.
  8. Play bocce ball in the yard with friends.
  9. Play hopscotch or foursquare in the driveway.
  10. Bring fresh flowers or veggies to a friend.
  11. Deliver newspapers.
  12. With supervision, climb a ladder and wipe some windows.
  13. Play some kickball!  Or volleyball!  Or tennis!
  14. Set up a tent (by themselves) and sleep in it in the backyard.
  15. Do a potato sack race.

Give us some of your own ideas!

Jeanne

Update:  If you have younger kids, check out these cool articles from PBS Kids on Sneaking in Learning over the summer and Best Free Apps to get kids outside.

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Are Temper Tantrums and Sensory Meltdowns the Same Thing?

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Does this look familiar?

I read a great article recently about sensory meltdowns and it was a great reminder to talk to the parents we work with about a dynamic that can very easily be misinterpreted.  So what is a “temper tantrum?”  Most of the time,  temper tantrum is easily recognizable in toddlers and maybe even teenagers!  Your child is not getting their way, or what they want and they pitch a fit, screaming and crying.  They can roll around on the floor, sometimes even hitting their heads against a wall in the extreme.  A temper tantrum is often being characterized by a child being told “no.”

In contrast, a sensory meltdown could better be described as a “release,” or overflow of emotion as a result of being exposed to a sensory input that feels unpleasant or even intolerable.  In the article, the mom describes her 9 year old daughter as holding it together then crying in the car after cheerleading practice became intolerably loud.  Of course, when your child is younger and can’t tell you what the upsetting force was, it gets trickier.  If you see a meltdown coming on, you can ask yourself or your child a few questions, based on your knowledge of them and what sets them off:

  • Is it too bright in here?  Do you need your sunglasses?
  • Do we need to leave?
  • Does your body feel funny?
  • Are you uncomfortable?

Assure them you are there to help.  However, once your child is in a meltdown, they are already experiencing “fight or flight.”  This means that their nervous system has gotten involved, and you are less likely to be able to intervene. At that point, you can:

  • Talk as little as possible.
  • Give them space to breathe, cry, whatever they need to do.  This is what the mom inherently knows to do in the article.
  • Remove them from adverse environment.
  • Plan for next time!  Make a “retreat” in your home:  a quiet space with noise cancelling headphones, quiet music, dim lights and away from anything unpleasant. Maybe some gum, a quiet toy but no screens.

 

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OT Favorites you can DIY!

We often get requests from families for equipment that we use in the clinic.  When we refer them to equipment suppliers, they are often unable to afford the high price tag.  Here are some items we often use in the clinic that you can make at home (disclaimer: these have not been made by the therapists here, these are moms who are handy and want to share how they fabricated their own equipment).

THERAPY SWING:

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This swing was fabricated by a mom who has a blog about her child with autism.  It looks pretty simple to make.  Let us know if you give it a try!  Find the link here.

CRASH PAD:

Sensory hack for kids: how to make a DIY no sew crash mat using items from around the house from And Next Comes L

This mom explains how to make your own crash pad like we have in our gym.  I love her ideas for getting the kids involved.  Find the link here.

BODY SOCK:

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How about this cool body sock?  We have a couple here but if you have seen them, they are a fun way to incorporate heavy work into playtime.  This mom shows you how to turn a piece of lycra into your child’s very own body sock!  Fun!  Find the link here.

PRESSURE VEST:

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This mom made a pressure vest for her daughter.  If your therapist has recommended a pressure vest at any time, this may work for you.  We would like you to talk to your therapist before you make one so you know prescriptively exactly what your child would benefit from.  But if you can make it yourself, that would be great!  Find the link here.

STRETCHY RESISTANCE BANDS:

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This mom made stretchy resistance bands for her kids to help with heavy work play for her kiddos.  This is something that would be really fun for siblings.  Find the link here.

WEIGHTED BLANKET:

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This mom used polyfil to make a weighted blanket.  There are lots of links out there for making your own weighted blankets.  Etsy sells some too.  This seems like it would be good because of the individual pillows holding it all together.  Find the link here.

STRETCHY SHEET:

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So many of our kids have trouble quieting their bodies to go to sleep at night.  Sometimes  a super stretchy sheet can help.  This mom made one using stretchy material.  Seems pretty easy!  Find the link here.

If you have made something you would like to share, please do so below in the comments section or share with your OT.  Also if you try any of these, let us know!

 

 

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APT Hosts NDT Course

Despite slippery roads and kids home for an unexpected snow day, the course went off without a hitch.  Our course instructors were Gail Ritchie and Brenda Lindsay.

NDT stands for Neuro-developmental treamtment.  From the website:  NDT is a holistic and interdisciplinary clinical practice model informed by current and evolving research that emphasizes individualized therapeutic handling based on movement analysis for habilitation and rehabilitation of individuals with neurological pathophysiology.

Gail Ritchie is an occupational therapist who became an NDTA instructor in 1996.  Her career, spanning 25 years, focuses on supporting children and their families.  Brenda is skilled in a variety of areas including sensory processing disorder, but her focus is to also increase awareness of development and and facilitation of movement through handling in particular for children with autism.

Brenda Lindsay is a physical therapist who was certified in NDT in 1993 and went on to become an instructor in 2010.  Both she and Gail have extensive clinical experience in pediatrics and the autism population.  Both saw a need to bring developmental treatment into autism treatment and created the course to educate therapists about its powerful effects on this particular group of kids.

Members of the OT and PT community gathered over a couple snowy and icy days to take in their knowledge and observe treatment.  All of us came away with a better understanding and appreciation of NDT-based treatment with the kids we serve.  It was a fantastic course.

 

 

 

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Happy New Year!

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Advocate for Recess!

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“RECESS!!”
I remember being in school and the teacher calling this out to us in the lunchroom or class.  It meant (hooray!) it was time to get outside and get all our wiggles out.  Recess means a break from having to sit in one place, use our brains intensely and not having to listen closely to a teacher.  It meant fun, movement and a sort of freedom from the monotony of the school day.  What we didn’t know at the time was that our brains and bodies needed a reset button.  Recess was not a reward, but rather a reserved time just like art, math or lunch.  In our current test-driven educational environment, not only is recess in jeopardy, but it’s value has been called into question.  Recess is not a privilege for kids who are well behaved or get good grades.  Research has shown it to be essential to your child’s development.

Recess in recent years has been limited and even cancelled.  Schools are feeling stress to improve kids’ grades and test scores and the more time spent in the classroom, in their opinion, the better.  Leading educators have been calling this into question more and more in recent years, citing many studies that say that by doing so, we are putting the health of kids at risk.

Research has yet to prove that removing recess with raise test scores, but the following benefits have been proven for kids.  Kids who have recess:

  • Are less fidgety and more on task
  • Have improved memory and more focused attention
  • Develop more brain connections
  • Learn negotiation skills
  • Exercise leadership, teach games, take turns, and learn to resolve conflicts

The American Academy of Pediatrics put out a policy statement in 2013 advocating for the “Crucial Role of Recess” in the development of children.  It is required reading for parents and educators alike.  The paper discusses the cognitive, physical and social benefits of recess in great detail.  In addition, it states that the removal of recess should NEVER be used as punishment.

What can you as a parent do?  The excellent website Peaceful Playgrounds provides handouts, guides and presentations which are easy to download and offer lots of other resources too.  Together, we can take back recess!

Jeanne

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from an article I wrote for kidsmoveandtalk.com.
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Use Sensory Strategies to Make Mornings Less Hectic

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