Articles by Year: 2020
There are many established benefits to giving children regular household chores. From an occupational therapy perspective, this holds especially true for children with special needs.
Some of the known upsides include:
- Establishing routine. Having chores on a set schedule can help reduce anxiety, improve focus and even avoid meltdowns. Many kids on the autism spectrum, for example, feel more secure when they know what to expect next. Chores assigned at the same time each day or day of the week or after certain activities can make for smoother transitions. Visual schedules can help with this too.
- Teaching valuable life skills. This includes learning the task itself but also responsibility. Children with developmental delays and other conditions may need more practice with certain things and sometimes modifications are necessary, but never assume they can’t just because of their diagnosis. Talk to your occupational therapist if you have questions.
- Contributing to the family. No matter what a child’s abilities, there are always ways to help out. It also gives children confidence and a sense of accomplishment.
- Development of fine and gross motor skills and sensory integration. Chores require use of either big muscle groups (gross motor skills) or careful hand-eye coordination and finger manipulation (fine motor skills). These are things our Fort Myers occupational therapy team is probably working on with your child. Chores are a good way to practice and reinforce those skills.
In our many years of collective experience as speech-language pathologists, our FOCUS team has amassed lots tools to help us address children’s speech and language problems. We have loads of interactive games, cool crafts, brightly-colored books, fun toys and the technology that made us one of the first providers of online speech therapy for kids in Fort Myers (even prior to the pandemic). We also glean a lot of insight working with other professionals in a multi-disciplinary clinic.
But the most powerful tool we have? Parents!
Parent involvement in a child’s speech therapy is so, so important. Those who are committed to our process and make efforts to use our strategies at home are going to see their children make more significant, faster strides. That’s our personal experience, but there’s a lot of research to back us up on this.
We get it, though: Easier said than done. Parents these days are pulled in a thousand directions at once. This is only compounded if your child has been diagnosed with a developmental delay or disorder. There are appointments for doctors, specialists, therapies and school programs – on top of the everyday demands of work and other commitments.
It can be very tempting to simply rely on your speech therapy team to”fix” the speech problems. It’s true that we do (as we sometimes joke) “have ways of making you talk.” We bring to the table proven clinical strategies to help improve your child’s communication skills. But at the end of the day, parents are the rock star reinforcements.
Parents of children disabilities can quickly find themselves immersed in a dizzying world of various doctors, therapies, medications and treatment. The thought of their child spending several days a week – for years – in speech, occupational, physical and ABA therapies is frankly overwhelming. So we do understand the temptation of quick-fix, non-medical services that promise to “get your child talking” or “catch your child up” with just a month or so of intensive programming.
Call them hype or scams – but they don’t work.
In fact, some do more harm than good. They waste precious time and valuable resources – which can be especially damaging when you’re encouraged to interrupt or leave the routine of traditional, physician-recommended therapies.
“Parents of children with special needs will go to the ends of the Earth to get their child the additional help they need,” said Jennifer Voltz-Ronco, owner and founder of FOCUS Therapy in Fort Myers. What we don’t want to see is parents being taken advantage of. In fact, we care so much about these kids that we will even help parents investigate other treatment options and share information about and with other medical providers if that’s the direction parents want to go. But it pains us to see parents blindly signing up for ‘treatment’ from centers that make big promises, but objectively just don’t compare to what we’re offering in terms of quality and effectiveness.”
Proprioception is a medical term that refers to the body’s ability to sense itself. It is the sense that allows us to perceive the location, movement and action of our own body parts and their relation to external objects and forces around us. Our FOCUS physical therapists usually explain it with a simpler term: Body awareness.
Proprioception is what enables us to judge how we move and position our limbs, how much force to use and how best to balance. An example might be one’s ability to kick a ball or walk without looking at your feet, move a spoon to your mouth without looking at it or touch your nose even though your eyes are closed. It’s closely tied to our ability to control our movements, and it’s guided by the body’s receptors (skin, joints, muscles) that connect to the brain via the nervous system. Vision can play a role in proprioception, but it’s not inherently necessary. In fact, some evidence suggests it’s already present in newborns.
Many things can impact proprioception. Drinking alcohol is one example. (That’s why one of the standard field sobriety tests involves testing the ability to touch your nose while you’re standing on a single foot.) Some injuries and certain medical conditions can impact it too. Our physical therapists at FOCUS have treated many kids whose parents and caregivers report them to be “clumsy,” “uncoordinated” or “sensory seeking.” They might report their child is pressing too hard on the paper when writing or unable to apply the right amount of pressure for tasks like brushing their teeth or hair.
Often what these kids are experiencing is proprioceptive dysfunction.
Worrying about your child’s safety is something with which all parents are familiar. If your child is typically-developing, these concerns usually lessen as he or she gets older, becomes more mature and gains better judgment and safety intuition. However, children with autism and other special needs may be delayed in acquiring the skills necessary to navigate unsafe situations – if they are able to acquire them at all. That doesn’t mean there is nothing we can do. There are many ways that parents, caretakers, teachers and public safety officials can work together to create safer environments for children and adults with autism – both for individuals and on a broader scale. It is also something we can work on with our young patients in occupational therapy and ABA therapy at FOCUS.
Safety skills are life skills – and they are important. However, there is no single approach to safety that is going to work for every single child on the autism spectrum – because every person on the spectrum is different. Plus, some safety issues might be present throughout a person’s life, some might build over time, some may fade and others could become more complex. Like any other life skill, safety skills will take time, effort and different approaches to master. That’s why we advise early intervention with therapy and frequent practice.
Out of an abundance of caution for our patients, families and staff in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, FOCUS Therapy of Fort Myers will be closing effective TOMORROW (March 17th) until further notice at the direction of Florida public health officials.
We are working to contact each of our families individually and inform them of possible teletherapy options.
Teletherapy is currently covered by the following insurance companies:
We are also offering teletherapy at a reduced rate of $85 for those whose insurance does not cover (it is normally $100).
though we may be able to offer a reduced rate for those whose insurance does not cover this service.
If you have any questions, you can still reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also reach out to your child’s individual therapists if you have their contact information.
More information about COVID-19 is available from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
We hope our FOCUS families continue to stay healthy and well, and that we’ll be seeing you again soon.
Learning to read is not simply about gaining knowledge. Literacy (which is not just reading but writing, speaking and listening too) touches everything we do, from finding our way around to learning new things to staying informed. It’s one of the core ways in which all of us engage, communicate and connect. When a child has reading difficulties, it can result in anxiety, frustration, social isolation and even depression. One longitudinal study of 4,000 students found that kids who don’t read proficiently by third grade are four times more likely than proficient readers to drop out of high school. Pediatric occupational therapists work to support child literacy and help kids who are struggling to learn how to read.
Literacy often begins at or even before birth. Many kids are exposed to books and stories before they even know what to do with them. Sometimes for children with disabilities, it’s tougher because their early years are filled with doctor appointments, day care issues, therapies and other challenges. This is beyond the family’s control, but it unfortunately leaves less opportunity for literacy development.
Our Fort Myers occupational therapists at FOCUS work with many children who have a broad range of challenges that can interfere with learning to read and other aspects of literacy. It could be fine motor skill problems that impact one’s ability to manipulate a book. It could be a visual processing difficulty where the child has trouble tracking pictures or letters in a story. It might be auditory processing difficulty, where a child struggles to process and understand what he hears. They may have attention problems that make it hard to sit long enough in a lap to read a book. It could also be sensory issues like tactile defensiveness that make it arduous to interact with printed materials or writing utensils.
The way we address it in our OT sessions is first to break down these challenges into bite-sized pieces that can be addressed in smaller steps. From there, we turn our attention to finding what interests the child. Then we incorporate activities and tools that will help strengthen their abilities.
At FOCUS Therapy, we’re always looking for creative ways to teach our patients life skills by making speech, occupational, physical and ABA therapy fun and engaging. The new FOCUS Kids Store is yet another example of how FOCUS Therapy is looking outside the box to achieve this.
The brainchild of our Therapist Manager, Lisa Shogren, The FOCUS Kids Store offers an array of toys, games, puzzles, books, bracelets and more.
Patients can “pay” for items of their choice using FOCUS Bucks. FOCUS Bucks are earned by achieving certain therapy goals as well as completing a task from our list of chores. Each chore is tiered by price. Some examples of chores include:
- Refilling snack containers (once weekly – take note of any snacks we’re low on, inform our office staff if we are low so more can be ordered) – $5
- Paper shredding (twice monthly – gather any paper that needs to be shredded from all of the four offices at FOCUS Therapy, shred the paper and change the bag as needed) – $10
- Party Planner (once monthly – pick a theme and choose a day, make decorations and a list of food to be brought, design signs and display them to let everyone know) – $20
- Office closing sign creator (pick from one of the upcoming holidays FOCUS Therapy is closed, create a sign, laminate it, give to the front office staff so they can be hung the week before the holiday). – $1 per sign creation, $0.50 each to hang
FOCUS Families: Let’s talk coronavirus.
Also known as COVID-19, the coronavirus spreads between people who are in close contact (defined as within 6 ft). It can also spread by touching surfaces contaminated with droplets of the virus and then touching one’s face, mouth, nose or eyes.
FOCUS Therapy is taking several measures to address the concerns related to the coronavirus.
All children develop at their own pace and in their own way, each displaying their own strengths. This is as true for speech and language development as it is for anything else. But while the traditional wisdom when it came to late talkers was to simply wait-and-see, medical professionals are increasingly urge parents to have their kids evaluated sooner than later. Our Fort Myers speech therapists encourage the same, knowing that while some kids really are late bloomers, a language problem becomes more difficult to correct the longer you wait.
Sometimes, this message can get a bit muddied when reports of some studies, such as one published by The American Academy of Pediatrics, are reported under headlines such as, “Late Talkers Do Fine as They Grow Up.” This ends up giving many parents a false sense of assurance. That study tended to show little to no lasting behavior or emotional problems associated with late-talking toddlers by age 5. However, it didn’t assess the language outcomes, so it’s a leap to say those kids went on to be “fine.”
Somewhere between 70 percent and 80 percent of toddlers who talk late will outgrow that language delay – but only if it is an expressive language delay (difficulties with verbal and written expression). Those with receptive language delays (understanding what is being said to them) may have a more difficult time. What our speech therapists want parents to bear in mind is that while many toddlers will outgrow a language delay, 20 percent to 30 percent will not – unless they have access to early intervention like speech therapy.