ABA therapy

Fort Myers ABA Therapy Helps Target Toilet Training

Learning how to use the toilet is a pivotal skill for every child, and one’s “readiness” can widely vary. ABA therapy can help children with autism and other delays master the potty with positive reinforcement.

Toilet training is all too often a frustrating and sometimes tearful experience for many families and children. Parents understand it’s a critical milestone that allows their child to participate in so many activities with reduced risk of negative consequences like as social stigma, poor personal hygiene and discomfort.

Recognize that many typically-developing children struggle with this. A child with autism spectrum disorder is going to have even more difficulties due to challenges with language and communication, sensory processing, motor planning, social skills/ social thinking and behavioral control. It will take more time – and that’s Ok. But with a solid, consistent plan, it will happen. 

speech disorders

Researchers: Speech Disorders Examined Through Songbirds

A new study on the way songbirds learn to sing has piqued researchers’ interest for what it might teach us about how humans learn to talk – and more specifically, about how to tackle certain speech disorders.

Children who struggle with communication development may be diagnosed with language and speech disorders if they are unable to vocalize words or understand what is being said to them. Some common childhood speech disorders include:

  • Articulation disorder. This is when children have trouble making certain sounds correctly.
  • Apraxia of speech. This is when the motor programming system for speech production is affected, making speech difficult (specifically, sequencing and forming sounds).
  • Fragile X syndrome. This is a genetic disorder most common among boys with intellectual disabilities or autism or Down syndrome. It can be mild or severe, and is associated with repetition of words or phrases, difficulties with speech pragmatics and cluttered speech.
  • Stuttering. This is when there are involuntary repetitions, interruptions or hesitation of speech.

This new research by biologists at UCLA, published in the journal eLife, may shed some insight into what causes certain speech disorders and how to resolve them. It involved examining how songbirds learn to sing (their way of communicating with one another), and how certain genetic factors might hinder that process.

Physical therapy

Physical Therapy Targets Gross Motor Delays That Spur Other Problems

A child who struggles to explore their environment on the same level of their peers due to a gross motor delay may struggle on other fronts too, including cognitive development and behavioral challenges.

Recently, the journal Physical Therapy published a study determining that gross motor delays were associated with problem daytime behaviors and quality of life issues for children with autism spectrum disorder. Researchers examined cross-sectional, retrospective data of more than 3,200 children between the ages of 2 and 6 diagnosed with ASD. They found that children who struggled more with gross motor skills had more daytime problem behaviors. So when the goal is targeting problem behaviors for children with ASD, researchers concluded it’s important not to overlook the possible need for physical therapy.

Children with a wide range of conditions and diagnoses may have gross motor delays, which are those skills involving the large muscles of the arms, legs and torso. Gross motor skill delays might become apparent when a child is learning to crawl, sit, walk, run, throw a ball or balance. All kids reach developmental milestones at varying increments, but those who are far behind can benefit from physical therapy to help them catch up.

Gross motor skill delays can be linked to any number of conditions – or may exist independently of anything else. Untreated, these delays can impact your child’s ability to reach their full potential. 

occupational therapists

Why Our FOCUS Speech and Occupational Therapists LOVE Puppets

Power to the puppets!

For children with a range of difficulties and disabilities, our speech and occupational therapists in Fort Myers have seen striking benefits in working with puppets during our sessions with kids. Puppets, first and foremost, are fun (who doesn’t love Sesame Street?). But they can also help us engage children in ways they might otherwise struggle, namely in peer-to-peer and child-to-adult interactions. They can also help kids better understand certain functional roles and responsibilities in everyday life.

Puppets can be an entertaining yet powerful visual to help us illustrate action-word vocabulary or spatial concepts. As speech and occupational therapists, we can use puppets to help teach the rules of conversation, general social interaction and causal connections. A puppet might “forget” they shouldn’t interrupt or talk so loudly or push to the front of the line. Puppets can be frustrated, sad or angry about something, and it allows the child to explore those complicated feelings and situations without being overwhelmed  – because puppets are inherently silly too. They also tend to be more effective than a two-dimensional picture because they rely on visual, audible and tactile senses.