Articles by Month: September 2021
For children with Down syndrome, physical activity and exercise can be inherently more challenging. However, our Fort Myers physical therapy team members recognize the huge role that exercise can play in reducing – and in some cases substantially improving – the many adverse health conditions associated with Down syndrome. Ultimately, exercise can boost a child’s functional ability, which helps them to be more independent.
But why start with babies? Because we already know that children with Down syndrome are going to have certain physical challenges. For instance, many have poor muscle tone (formally known as hypotonia). Some parents will describe this as the quality of being “sort of floppy,” and you’ll notice early on, they have trouble keeping up their neck or controlling their head for any significant stretch – even when other kids their age have mastered this. The earlier we start working on things like core strength, flexibility, and gross motor skills, the more progress they’ll make and the less difficult it’s going to be for them later on.
That said, it’s very important that you only start these exercises with your child after checking with your physical therapy provider and/or pediatrician. Some activities may need to be tailored to meet your child’s specific needs and abilities.
Change is an inevitable part of life. But for children on the autism spectrum, transitions can be TOUGH. Our Fort Myers ABA therapists have strategies to help make this easier. One of those is a countdown.
But first, it’s important to understand the why of transition triggers.
What makes transitions so difficult? For a lot of kids, it’s because transitioning from one activity or focus to another can seem sudden. It can also mean leaving an activity that is preferred for one less preferred. Plus, many kids on the spectrum have an inherent need for predictability. Not knowing what is coming next can also set off one’s anxiety, elicit big emotions, and trigger a seemingly outsized response.
As ABA therapists, we are always studying the ABC’s of behavior. That is Antecedent (what comes before the behavior), Behavior (what exactly is the behavior) and Consequence (how is the behavior reinforced). In altering big reactions to transitions, we can alter the antecedent, teach replacement behaviors and reinforce with positive consequences when kids transition calmly.
The idea is to prepare the individual before the transition occurs and support them during the transition.
Autism is a neurological condition characterized, in part, by restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities. Someone with autism may insist on adhering to the same routines and rituals – and any attempt at changing the slightest element can set off a major meltdown. But the fact is: We live in an ever-changing world. As Fort Myers occupational therapists, one of our primary goals when treating children with autism spectrum disorder is to teach them flexibility.
Flexibility is the quality of being easily bent but not broken. It’s not a natural skill for any of us. Think about your reactions when events take a sudden, unexpected (and unwanted) turn. But the ability to be flexible is what allows us to move on from the big emotions of that and continue with the task or the rest of the day.
Change is just an inherent part of the world we’re in. Lots of kids with autism struggle with this – and often for seemingly very minor things. Helping them learn to get themselves “unstuck” is critical for functioning in daily life.
If you ask any parent of young kids whether they’re game for a product that is affordable, reduces spills and messes, and is super convenient, of course you’re going to hear: Yes, Please! Unfortunately, convenience for parents isn’t always what’s best for children. Case-in-point: The sippy cup. Speech therapists who study feeding and swallowing development and speech-language development will tell you: You really should ditch the sippy.
It’s really made more for parents than for kids. Someone got tired of their toddler spilling all Tang on the carpet and the rest is history. Sippy cups are marketed to parents as a necessity. But our Fort Myers speech therapists will beg to differ.
Some things to consider:
- Overuse of the hard sippy cup spout impedes swallowing development. During the baby’s first year, he or she will primarily use a front-to-back tongue movement to pass liquids and soft solids to the back of their mouth so they can swallow them. Speech therapists call this pattern suckle-swallow. But by the time they get to be about 12 months, their swallow pattern will mature. The tip of the tongue will rise to the bumpy, gum line ridge (where you make the /d/ sound) and begin using wave-like motions. This is what allows them to swallow a greater variety of textured foods. If your child is drinking solely from a sippy cup or bottle, this development milestone can be delayed.
- “Paci-mouth.” Yes, this refers to the damage that can be caused by overuse of a pacifier, but something similar can occur with sippy cups. If the tongue isn’t able to go up during swallowing, it will generally come to rest in a forward position in the mouth. This can potentially impede speech-language development. If your child only uses a sippy cup very occasionally, this likely won’t be a problem. But for lots of kids, sippy cups are constant companions. Speech-language skills can be stunted for kids who don’t get past that suckle-swallow pattern by the time they’re 1.
- Facial development delays. There is a muscle in the face called the genioglossus. Heavy use of a sippy cup can impede its development, which can lead to mouth-breathing. Mouth-breathing is associated with slowed facial development.