Friday, May 25, 2012

10 Signs A Child Needs Occupational Therapy

Signs Classroom Teachers Should Look For

by ANNE SCHMIDT on MAY 21, 2012

kids at circle time laying

A teacher’s job can become very hectic when trying to help each child with their own specific challenges. An occupational therapist (ot) can be an excellent resource and adjunct to helping students overcome challenges and excel in the classroom. Here are a few tips to help a teacher identify if a child could benefit from an occupational therapy evaluation and treatment. (This is by no means a complete list of behaviors or challenges in the classroom that an OT can help with.)


  1. The child is a bystander or observer on the playground and rarely tries out the equipment independently.
  2. The child has poor posture while sitting in a chair at the table and during situations of unsupported sitting, for example, during circle time the child is observed to roll or move around a lot on the floor.
  3. The child has a difficult time walking in line or being close to other children. The child appears to be irritated by touch from other people but frequently touches things themselves.
  4. The child frequently chooses the same familiar game or activity and avoids learning new motor activities or games.
  5. The child avoids fine motor activities. They have difficulty manipulating small objects, using scissors, demonstrate an abnormal pencil grip, or their hand tires easily during fine motor tasks. The child may press too hard or too light on the paper when writing.
  6. The child seems to have more difficulty than peers putting on their coat, putting on and tying shoes, and buttoning.
  7. The child has trouble putting together puzzles or finding a specific object in the classroom.
  8. The child frequently runs into things in the classroom, falls to the floor, or purposely crashes into things or people.
  9. The child has more trouble than their peers writing in their assignment notebook, keeping their desk and folders organized, and turning in assignments on time.
  10. The child takes excessive risks and frequently demonstrates decreased safety awareness.
If you see any of these behaviors or characteristics in the kids you know, every-day life may be more difficult to get through for them than for other children, and is going to affect their success in school. Help these kids by seeking out an occupational therapist for techniques and strategies to improve their academic success and overall daily performance. Also, it is important to note that many children will exhibit the above behaviors and may or may not require Occupational Therapy (OT) intervention therefore it is important to consult with an OT first.

    Thursday, May 10, 2012

    What Is Sensory Processing Disorder?

    How To Diagnose Children With Sensory Issues

    | Posted: 05/10/2012 2:40 pm  Updated: 05/10/2012 2:40 pm              

    Written by Beth Arky.

    This story is part of Speak Up for Kids, an annual public education program held during National Children's Mental Health Awareness Week (May 6-12, 2012).

    Sensory Issues        

    It usually happens in the preschool years. You notice that your toddler seems to have an unusual aversion to noise or light. A teacher observes that, compared to other kids her age, your daughter is clumsy and has difficulty with fine motor skills like wielding a pencil. You've noticed that she is very, very picky about shoes, which are often deemed too tight, and clothes that are “too scratchy.”

    More baffling -- and alarming -- to parents are their children’s meltdowns over things like their faces getting splashed or being dressed. Or a child might crash into walls (and people), touch everything or put inedible items, including rocks and paint, into his mouth.

    These behaviors are all signs of problems with what’s known as sensory processing, found in children who have difficulty integrating information from their senses. In its extreme form, when it interferes seriously with a child's functioning, it's called Sensory Processing Disorder, or SPD, although it's not recognized by the psychiatrists' bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.

    Sensory issues are associated with autism because they are common in children and adults on the autism spectrum, though most children with SPD are not on the spectrum. They can also be found in those with ADHD, OCD and other developmental delays -- or with no other diagnosis at all. In fact, a 2009 study suggests that one in every six children has sensory issues that impede their daily functioning, socialization and learning.

    What parents often notice first is odd behavior and wild, inexplicable mood swings. For instance, a first-grader may do fine in a quiet setting with a calm adult. But place that child in a grocery store filled with an overload of visual and auditory stimulation and you might have the makings of an extreme meltdown.

    "These kids' tantrums are so intense, so prolonged, so impossible to stop once they've started, you just can't ignore it," notes Nancy Peske, whose son Cole, now 13, was diagnosed at 3 with SPD and developmental delays. Peske is coauthor with occupational therapist Lindsey Biel, who worked with Cole, of "Raising a Sensory Smart Child."

    Another response to being overwhelmed is to flee. If a child dashes out across the playground or parking lot, oblivious to the danger, Peske says that's a big red flag that he may be heading away from something upsetting, which may not be apparent to the rest of us, or toward an environment or sensation that will calm his system. This "fight-or-flight response is why someone with SPD will shut down, escape the situation quickly, or become aggressive when in sensory overload," she says. "They're actually having a neurological 'panic' response to everyday sensations the rest of us take for granted."

    Children, teens and adults with SPD experience either over-sensitivity (hypersensitivity) or under-sensitivity (hyposensitivity) to an impairing or overwhelming degree. The theory behind SPD is based on the work of occupational therapist Dr. A. Jean Ayres. In the 1970s, Dr. Ayres introduced the idea that certain people's brains can't do what most people take for granted: process all the information coming in through seven -- not the traditional five -- senses to provide a clear picture of what's happening both internally and externally.

    Along with touch, hearing, taste, smell and sight, Dr. Ayres added the "internal" senses of body awareness (proprioceptive) and movement (vestibular). When the brain can't synthesize all this information coming in simultaneously, "It's like a traffic jam in your head," Peske says, "with conflicting signals quickly coming from all directions, so that you don't know how to make sense of it all."

    What are these two "extra" senses in Dr. Ayres' work?

    Proprioceptive receptors are located in the joints and ligaments, allowing for motor control and posture. The proprioceptive system tells the brain where the body is in relation to other objects and how to move. Those who are hyposensitive crave input; they love jumping, bumping and crashing activities, as well as deep pressure such as that provided by tight bear hugs. If they're hypersensitive, they have difficulty understanding where their body is in relation to other objects and may bump into things and appear clumsy; because they have trouble sensing the amount of force they're applying, they may rip the paper when erasing, pinch too hard or slam objects down.

    The vestibular receptors, located in the inner ear; tell the brain where the body is in space by providing the information related to movement and head position. These are key elements of balance and coordination, among other things. Those with hyposensitivity are in constant motion; crave fast, spinning and/or intense movement; and love being tossed in the air and jumping on furniture and trampolines. Those who are hypersensitive may be fearful of activities that require good balance, including climbing on playground equipment, riding a bike, or balancing on one foot, especially with eyes closed. They, too, may appear clumsy.

    To help parents determine if their child's behavior indicates possible SPD, Peske and Biel have created a detailed sensory checklist that covers responses to all types of input, from walking barefoot to smelling objects that aren't food, as well as questions involving fine and gross motor function, such as using scissors (fine) and catching a ball (gross). The SPD Foundation also offers a litany of "red flags." The list for infants and toddlers includes a resistance to cuddling, to the point of arching away when held, which may be attributed to feeling actual pain when being touched. By preschool, over-stimulated children's anxiety may lead to frequent or long temper tantrums. Grade-schoolers who are hyposensitive may display "negative behaviors" including what looks like hyperactivity, when in fact they're seeking input.

    Peske sums up the way sensory issues can affect kids this way: "If you're a child who is oversensitive to certain sensations, you are not only likely to be anxious or irritable, even angry or fearful, you're likely to be called 'picky' and 'oversensitive.' If you rush away because you're anxious or you're over-stimulated and not using your executive function well because your body has such a powerful need to get away, you're 'impulsive.' If you have trouble with planning and executing your movements due to poor body awareness and poor organization in the motor areas of the brain, you're 'clumsy.' Because you're distracted by your sensory issues and trying to make sense of it all, you may be developmentally delayed in some ways, making you a bit 'immature' or young for your age."

    Amid this confusion, there may be relief for more than a few parents in recognizing what may be causing otherwise inexplicable behavior -- and in the potential for kids to get help in the form of specialized occupational therapy and what are called sensory gyms.

    "When I describe sensory issues to parents whose kids have it," Peske says, "the usual reaction is 'Oh, my gosh, that's it!' They've been trying to put a finger on 'it' for many months, even years! The sense of relief that they finally know what 'it' is is humongous."

    Sensory Processing Disorder and the DSM V

    Last Chance to Influence the DSM Decision

    Wednesday, May 2, 2012

    20 Fun Ways to Get Children Moving
    17th February, 2012

    From Head Start Body Start National Center for Physical Development and Outdoor Play

    Physical activity is not just good for their bodies — for young children it is an important component of early brain development and learning. When adults model and teach the importance of physical activity, young children are more likely to adopt a lifetime of healthful practices and behaviors.

    And how do we do that?  Through active play, of course! 

    20 Fun Ways to Get Children Moving:

    1. Practice spelling out the alphabet with your arms, using big motions. Then, try it with your feet!
    2. Have a wheeled toy rodeo! Get out the wagons, push toys and tricycles and set up rodeo events — like weaving through cones and following chalk pathways.
    3. Slide down a hill on a big piece of cardboard or push and pull friends around while they sit in a cardboard box.
    4. Break out the pool noodles and play “Bumper Cars” — hold one end of the pool noodle in each hand, forming a U shape in front of you. Move around the track, bumping into other “cars”. Once cars bump, they have to jump five times before they can start again.
    5. Add some hay bales to your play space. Not only do these look great, but the children can work together to move them around the play space. They will love having something new to climb over, sit on, jump off and more.
    6. Play Throwing and/or Kicking Golf! Using either throwing over hand, under hand, or kicking – pick a target (i.e., mailbox, a tree, a light pole, the corner of the house); you can either share a ball or each have your own ball. The goal is to take turns throwing or kicking the ball toward the target just like in golf. Use different locomotor movements to travel to the object each time. Keep track of the number of kicks/throws it takes to the target.
    7. Spread paper plates on the ground. Pretend they are rocks in a stream. Get from one side to the other without stepping in the stream.
    8. Work on moving in different ways. Go outside and practice walking, running, galloping, skipping, jumping and hopping.
    9. Time to march! Pretend to have your favorite instrument and march as you play. Can someone guess what instrument you are playing? Bring real instruments outside and march in a band with friends.
    10. Rainbow Run- talk about the colors of the rainbow as you name colors, run & touch 3 things that are that color.
    11. Go for a walk. Breath in the air as you swing your arms and hold your head high. First go in straight lines, then curvy lines, and then try walking backwards.
    12. Get outside and practice running. When you are running work on pumping your arms front and back and moving in a straight line.
    13. Set up an obstacle course using things to jump over, go around, and even under. See how fast you can do it.
    14. Find an open space and work on rolling in different ways…long, straight body and a curled up small body. Rolling down a hill is fun!
    15. Blow bubbles outdoors. Chase and catch the bubble before it pops. If it’s winter, you may even be able to freeze the bubbles!
    16. Pretend you are at a zoo. Identify an animal. then move and make sounds like that animal. ROAR!
    17. Pretend to be a growing flower. First you are a tiny seed in the ground and then grow into a big flower.
    18. Pretend to be a balloon – first without air, being blown up, floating around, and then being popped.
    19. Act like the weather! Use your body to pretend to be different types of weather. Rain, wind, thunder, snow…get creative.
    20. Pretend to move like different foods- melt like a popsicle or pop like popcorn

    Whatever you do, have fun and let the children see that you enjoy moving, too! Unplugged, creative and active play is the cornerstone of a happy, healthy childhood.

    Get silly and get going: it’s good for your body, mind and spirit!