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Developmental Coordination Disorder and it’s impact on child development

Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) also known as dyspraxia, is a neurodevelopmental disorder which can impact a child's ability to learn motor skills and execute smooth coordinated motor movements impacting fine and gross motor coordination, balance and postural control as well as sensorimotor coordination. The challenges with this disorder can significantly impact daily life, school performance and participation in leisure activities. Persistence of these challenges can continue into late childhood and teen years affecting physical health, mental health and quality of life. Other terminologies that have been used over the years to describe DCD are clumsy child syndrome, developmental apraxia, perceptual motor dysfunction, motor learning difficulty, sensory integration disorder, and disorder of motor and perception. One out of twenty children present with this disorder and it can significantly impact a child's daily life. This disorder has been identified to co-exist with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia, dysgraphia, anxiety, autism spectrum disorder and learning disabilities. However it can also stand alone as a diagnosis. What are the signs or DCD? Delays in achieving motor milestones such as sitting, crawling or walking. Persistent clumsiness such as bumping into furniture or dropping objects. Difficulty catching a ball or participating in sports. Difficulty participating in fine motor tasks such as buttoning, using utensils or manipulating objects. Poor or slow handwriting If you suspect your child is exhibiting signs of Developmental Coordination Disorder, the first step is to contact your child's pediatrician, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician, a pediatric neuropyschologist or a child psychiatrist. Your physician will complete a full assessment of your child and discuss your concerns. There are specific diagnostic criteria listed in the DSM V that are necessary to receive the diagnosis of DCD. My child has a diagnosis of DCD. What do I do next? Your physician can give you a prescription to receive outpatient, in home or telehealth occupational therapy services. Occupational therapy can evaluate and treat the many skills and life [...]

By |April 24, 2023|

Using the Art of Co-regulation to Create Calm and Healthy Emotions in Children.

Have you ever noticed when you spend time with a person who is anxious and complains a lot, that you become anxious too. Your heart starts to race and your skin becomes hot. You begin to enter into a fight or flight response. Imagine you are sitting in the audience of a comedy show, where every one around you is laughing and happy. How do you feel? Energetic and your mood is elevated. Now think about how you feel when you are holding a calm sleeping baby animal on your lap. They are quietly breathing and cuddling with you. Your heart rate and breathing slows down. You feel calm and content. This is co-regulation. Co-regulation is the transfer of energy and emotions from one living thing to another. The people you spend your time with can change your physiological state just by being in their presence. So how can this carryover to children? As children grow and develop they spend time co-regulating with the adults and children around them. Every day is a new life experience and the understanding of the world around them has not matured yet. This is even true for teens and young adults. Despite the expectation we have of children and teens to behave a certain way, developmentally they do not yet have the self-awareness to fully regulate energy and emotions on their own. And if we place expectations on them that they are not developmentally ready for, it can lead to negative behaviors. Children who have experienced trauma, have developmental disorders, mental illness or neurodiverse populations have an even harder time regulating their emotions and energy level. They process information from their environment differently than typically developing children. The behavior of a child is a form of communication. It tells us what is happening internally and how they are experiencing the world. The first step in helping children manage their emotions and energy level is [...]

By |April 24, 2023|

Creating the “Just Right Challenge” for Children with Challenging Behaviors

When a young child is presented with a new task or skill that they perceive as too hard, they can often demonstrate negative behaviors such as ignoring, tantrums, escape, aggressions or avoidance. Even if they have the physical capability to perform the task, their perception of trying something new can create anxiety or fear. When the child demonstrates these negative behaviors, it takes the adult's focus off the demand of the task and redirects their focus to the behavior, so that the child does not have to complete it. It is common for parents and other caregivers to stop presenting that task or activity in order to "avoid a trigger." This compounds into teaching children that the negative behavior gets them what they wanted, which was to escape the activity that was presented to them. As children get older and stronger, these reinforced negative behaviors can become dangerous to themselves and to others. Presenting new activities and tasks is inevitable as children get older. Avoidance of introducing new skills leads to a delay in acquiring the skills needed for school, leisure, play and self-help tasks. Early intervention with therapy is so important to help children develop the skills they need in order to be successful and to decrease these negative responses to new skills. Many children have challenges with motor coordination, planning motor movements, visual perceptual difficulties, low muscle tone and sensory processing difficulties that can impact their ability to easily learn new skills. Occupational therapists work to breakdown new tasks into smaller steps or simplify activities so that children can be successful. This creates confidence for the child and trust in the teacher, parent or therapist who is presenting the new skill. Creating trusting relationships with children and having an awareness of the child's abilities can help the create the “just right challenge.” Here are 5 strategies parents and teachers can use when teaching a new skill or task [...]

By |April 24, 2023|

Is your child ready for Kindergarten?

Kindergarten is a huge milestone in a child's life. So many new experiences when school begins. Are your child's skills ready for all the new expectations of Kindergarten? Kindergarten no longer consists of playtime and crafts as it did when I was a child MANY years ago. Now 5 year olds are learning to read, write, sit for longer periods of time, and complete self help skills such as buttoning and managing lunchboxes independently. With larger class sizes and cuts in funding to hire paraprofessionals for classrooms, children need to be more independent than ever when they enter school. Kindergarten is often the school year when children with learning disabilities, sensory processing disorder, ADHD, and other developmental delays begin to be identified. Before Kindergarten, developmental milestones are focused on a child's ability to speak, socialize, play with toys and participate in motor skills such as climbing at the playground or riding a tricycle. Children take these prerequisite skills and then apply them to academic activities in school. Identifying children early with developmental delays can help them to keep up with their peers by providing the support and interventions they need early on. Early intervention can help to prevent frustrations and early negative perceptions of going to school. The Summer before Kindergarten is a great time to work on skills in a fun and playful way to prepare your little one for school. Pinterest has many great activities for kids of all ages such as crafts and games to work on motor skills. Below is a checklist of recommended skills your child should have entering Kindergarten. As you work with your child to prepare them for school, complete the activities on the checklist. Challenges with some of these activities can help you to identify if your child may benefit from developmental services such as Occupational Therapy.   The skills listed above are just a small sample of the abilities an occupational [...]

By |April 24, 2023|

What are “Sensory Issues” and Does My Child Need Occupational Therapy?

Parents often ask me "do you work on "sensory"? I think my child may have sensory issues." Having the diagnosis of true Sensory Processing Disorder versus "sensory issues" can be very confusing for parents. "Sensory" seems to be the new buzz word lately for any child who is having trouble focusing, staying still or regulating their emotions. So then the question is, will occupational therapy solve these concerns. The sensory system of a child continues to develop and mature on average up to the age of 8. Young children need to move and explore their environment in order to learn how to process sensory information. Our society is expecting children to regulate their emotions, stay still for long periods of time and focus on learning long before they are physically and developmentally ready to do so. Development occurs in a sequence and when development is forced forward many skills and experiences are missed. We all have sensory preferences. Even as adults we like certain textures, foods, music, etc. Some preferences are stronger than others. If a child is having difficulty calming themself when they become upset, using sensory tools can be helpful but it isn't actual "treatment" for Sensory Processing Disorder. As humans we all benefit from sensory strategies for calming. Some people light candles or smell essential oils. Massages and warm baths are calming. The question we need to ask before making a referral for therapy or treatment, "Is the child having difficulty processing sensory information internally (hunger, sleep, toileting, movement, energy level) or within the environment (taste, touch, sound, visual, smell)?" and "Are these processing difficulties impacting their ability to develop skills or affecting their ability to participate in their daily activities?" If you reported yes to any of the above questions then an occupational therapy evaluation will be beneficial. Below is an example of some signs to look for in a child who may be struggling with [...]

By |April 24, 2023|

Crawling and Tummy Time is not just for Babies! How to support your child’s strength and development

When we hear the words tummy time and crawling we think of babies who are not walking yet. These are definitely necessary activities that ALL babies should be doing (even if some people say it's not). The list of benefits for tummy time and crawling on the development of sensory and motor skills is very very long!!! These two activities help to develop tactile sensation, visual skills, upper body strength, core/abdominal strength and integration of the reflexes, to name just a few benefits. But if your child did not or was not able to participate in these activities as a baby for whatever reason, it is not too late to start now! Even as a preschooler or young child children can be positioned on their belly for coloring or playing games. At first your child may fatigue quickly and need breaks, however it can improve their upper body strength for play and posture for sitting in a chair. Playing games that require being on the hands and knees or weight bearing through the hands, such as the game of twister or crawling through a tunnel, can help to improve a child's core strength and upper body strength. Strong core and upper body strength will support a child's handwriting skills and ability to manipulate objects. There are many reasons why a child may have difficulty with maintaining or assuming the positions for tummy time and crawling including low muscle tone, developmental disabilities or the medically fragile. A pediatric occupational therapist can perform an evaluation of your child's strength and motor skills to determine whether they would benefit from therapy and can suggest specific activities tailored to your child's individual needs.     Below are some activities that incorporate tummy time and crawling into your child's play routine: Coloring or playing a board game on the tummy Laying on a kick board in the pool Going down a slide on the tummy [...]

By |April 24, 2023|
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