Advanced Pediatric Therapies

Kid-Powered

Slow Processing Speed: What it is, and What it isn’t

Slow processing speed is a condition in which a child has trouble keeping up with classroom learning.  The speed at which the material is presented is too fast for them to adequately integrate.  A child with slow processing speed may have problems following directions in an accurate and timely manner, be frustrated with classroom assignments/homework and may take an inordinately long time to complete tasks like picking out clothes, cleaning their room or finding a toy.

girl drawing on brown wooden table

Photo by Jena Backus on Pexels.com

Slow processing speed in and of itself is not a learning disability.  However, it contributes to problems in existing learning disabilities such as auditory processing disorder, ADD and dyslexia.  Slow processing speed can give rise to difficulty initiating tasks/projects, staying focused on the project and also being able to adjust their effort during the project.  For these reasons, it also impacts executive functioning skills.

Kids who are slow processors are often mistaken for not being smart, but it is their ability to take in information at a reasonable pace that is the problem, not their intelligence.  In the classroom, they have difficulty completing multi-step assignments, writing long papers, completing projects within an allotted time, listening and taking notes.  They may become emotionally overwhelmed and anxious with too much going on at once as they are unable to slow down their environment.

If you suspect that your child has slow processing speed, speak to your child’s teacher to see if they have noticed the same problems you have.  You might decide together to have your child tested at the school to see if accommodations can help (such as shorter tests and tests that aren’t timed).

In the meantime, give your child extra time to complete tasks and answer questions.  See if that helps alleviate some frustration.  If you have other children, anticipate that your child with slow processing speed may need an earlier wake up time, earlier warnings for transitions and more time to do chores.  They may need things repeated over and over again, which may be frustrating for you, but it is helpful to them.  The most important thing is that teachers and caregivers are aware of the problem.

Check out this slow processing speed fact sheet on Understood.org.  There is research going on as to why this happens in the brain, but there is no reason why kids with slow processing speed can’t learn, go to college and have successful careers and relationships.

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Spring Fever: Fun Outdoor Learning

Spring is here!  Check out these fun ideas for outdoor learning and play, now that we can finally get outside.  The article appeared from Rasmussen College.

Engaging Outdoor Learning Activities for Kids

outdoor learning activities for kidsYour three-year-old is literally bouncing off the walls, your kindergartener is running the stairs like he has a personal trainer and you’re just wishing you could steal some of their energy for yourself. One thing is for sure: if they stay cooped up in the living room much longer, it’s going to be declared an official disaster zone.What’s the solution? Round them up and head outside! Not only will it give your furniture a relief but the great outdoors holds countless learning opportunities for your kids.We enlisted various experts to provide some examples of outdoor learning activities to help get you started. Try these skill-builders for preschool-aged kids to help your little ones burn off energy while achieving developmental milestones.

10 Fun outdoor learning activities for kids

1. Texture scavenger hunt

How it works: Place nature objects with different textures in several brown lunch bags. You could put a pinecone in one, a stick in another and a stone in a third. Have your kids close their eyes and feel each object. Then send them outside to find a similar texture. As they find matching objects, introduce texture words like pointy, bumpy and smooth.

How it promotes learning: All of those new words will expand your little ones’ vocabulary. Discriminating between different textures also supports fine-motor skills like coloring and writing, according to pediatric occupational therapist Christie Kiley.

2. Beach volleyball

How it works: Playing volleyball with an inflatable beach ball is another worthwhile activity, says Cara Koscinski, pediatric therapist and author of The Pocket Occupational Therapist. You can also simply throw the ball high in the air for your kids to catch if they are too young to play an organized game. Challenge them to count how many times they can clap before catching it! (Hint: If they have trouble gripping the ball, simply deflate it a bit.)

How it promotes learning: You can probably guess that this game teaches counting and social interaction skills. Koscinski explains that catching a ball using both hands also teaches bilateral integration, a necessary skill for learning tasks such as cutting, buttoning and tying shoes.

3. Pulling weeds

How it works: Yep, this is just what it sounds like! Believe it or not, your little ones can help with the gardening and learn at the same time—it’s a win-win!

How it promotes learning: All that digging and pulling is great for sensory exploration as well as building hand and finger strength, explains Kiley.

4. Pool noodle obstacle course

How it works: Get creative with pool noodles and design an obstacle course. Lay them on the ground, cut them in half, attach them to a fence or hang them from a branch. Challenge your kids to jump over them, limbo under them, crawl around them or walk on them like a balance beam.

How it promotes learning: Getting up and moving helps kids build core muscle strength. Koscinksi explains that this will later be used for completing school tasks seated at the desk.

5. Nature hike

How it works: Nature offers plenty of discoveries for kids. Help them explore by encouraging them to find certain types of leaves, bugs, rocks and flowers.

How it promotes learning: A nature hike encourages observation skills, fine-motor skills, hand-eye coordination and the use of the five senses in exploring, according to Barbara Harvey, author of Journeys Through Parenthood and executive director of Parents, Teachers, and Advocates.

6. Critter quest

How it works: Miriam Manela is the owner of Thrive Occupational Therapy and recommends this activity in her book The Parent-Child Dance. As the “critter,” you slowly inch your way around the yard while narrating your movements. You might say, “I’m climbing up the swing set. What letter does ‘swing’ start with?” Try to work in new words like climb, reverse and descend. Your kids are the “trackers.” It’s their job to follow you with their eyes and think about your questions.

How it promotes learning: Critter Quest improves eye movement and tracking, plus it can be used to strengthen vocabulary, letter recognition and phonetics.

7. Chalk jump

How it works: Koscinski suggests using sidewalk chalk to write numbers and letters in different colors. Then ask kids to jump on the number, letter or color that’s called out.

How it promotes learning: This activity helps develop gross-motor skills, counting skills and letter, number and color recognition.

8. Simon says dance party

How it works: Head outside with some music and host a dance party. Give short instructions for nature-based dance moves, like “wiggle like a worm,” “twist like a leaf” and “flap your arms like a bird.”

How it promotes learning: Kids get to practice following simple instructions while being active. Kiley adds that the dance actions help them develop body awareness, coordination and balance.

9. Hula hoop hop

How it works: Line up several hula hoops and have kids hop into the middle of each hoop with both feet, explains Koscinski. Make it a bit more challenging by encouraging them to hop into one hoop with their right foot and the next hoop with their left.

How it promotes learning: All that hopping builds gross-motor coordination skills, which are necessary for sports and bike riding.

10. Flower artists

How it works: Gather your young artists and some paint (watercolors or liquid tempera) near a flowerbed. Watch them create their newest masterpiece!

How it promotes learning: Kids will hone their observation skills and learn about colors. Kiley recommends offering paintbrushes with a built-in grip to promote a mature grasp.

Let the fun begin

These 10 outdoor learning activities will have you having fun with your rug rats in no time. They won’t even realize you’re teaching them new skills instead of watching them tear up the house.

Your search for educational opportunities for children might be a sign you should be doing this for a living.Learn more about other signs you should be teaching preschool!

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Back to Basics: Why Play Matters

Welcome back to the blog!  We’ve been on vacation-hope you had a great summer!

Time for a reminder of what play is really all about.

Time for a reminder of what play is really all about.

As occupational therapists, we believe that work is the job of childhood.  Okay, not the 9-5, clock in-clock out type drudgery they you may be used to thinking of as work.  Play is the primary occupation of kids and as such, it is where they go to learn, make friends, grow and adapt.

Play helps your child learn about the world around them.  Have you ever gotten your child a present only for them to be more enchanted with the wrapping paper and how it sounds when you crinkle it?  Ever taken them to an awesome playground and all they want to do is play with the rocks?  This type of play demonstrates the innate curiosity kids have for the world around them, and their inner drive to discover how it all works.  By engaging in this type of play, they figure things out like:  how big is it?  how does it feel?  will it interact with me?  what made it?

How cool is that?

Play helps kids learn about themselves and their bodies.  Just by throwing or kicking a ball, kids can learn so much about how their bodies work and how to make themselves or other things move.  They learn how tall or short they are, how strong they are and what they are capable of doing.  Mirrors are a great way for kids to learn about their bodies, but so is movement, which is the focus of most of the play you see at APT.

Play helps kids learn about other kids.  By playing with other kids, your child is able to learn a great deal about socializing, cooperating, compromising, and predicting the behavior of others.  It’s how your kids make friends.  When your child plays with other kids, they learn the value of being part of a team or partnership.  Kids learn even when engaged in parallel play (play alongside another child) and they begin to understand what type of play partner they prefer (quiet, busy, etc.).

Play develops muscles and subsequently coordination, endurance and a host of other physical skills.  By moving their bodies, kids build stronger muscles.  Have you tried doing the monkey bars lately?  That is hard work!  Muscles give joints feedback when they are used and give your child a developing sense of where their body is in space.

Playtime provides relief from boredom, sadness and anxiety.  Research suggests that simply getting your kids outside to play is an effective way to stave off depression and anxiety in today’s high pressure world.  Once the skill to get outside is learned, they are more likely to go there to help themselves when they are feeling a little blue.

As OT’s, it’s our work to help your child most effectively engage in play.  Maybe your child is low tone and has a hard time with physical challenges.  Or maybe they avoid other kids on the playground.  Maybe they get too wild and scare other kids away.  Ask your OT about what we can do to help your child get the most out of playtime.

above image courtesy of New York Times

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