Articles by: focustherapy
Attention FOCUS Families: Effective immediately and until further notice, the FOCUS Therapy waiting room will be closed.
We are updating our pickup and drop-off procedures in response to parent concern and the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Florida.
Rather than entering the facility to check-in and pick up, we ask that parents and patients remain in their vehicles.
Upon arrival, parents should text the FOCUS Office cell phone – (239) 322-2810 – and provide the patient’s name, therapist’s name and make/model of the vehicle. Your therapist will then come out to the vehicle to retrieve your child. When your child’s therapy session is finished, your FOCUS therapist will escort your child to your vehicle in the parking lot.
Closing our waiting room for the time being is an action we take out of an abundance of caution in addition to numerous existing precautions and vigorous cleaning policies.
Many of the children we treat at FOCUS have some sensory processing issues. These are difficulties organizing and responding to information that is “read” through the senses. Some kids are undersensitive (sensory seeking), some are oversensitive (sensory avoiding) – and some are both, depending on the sense and stimuli. When a child has trouble managing sensory input, it can have a significant impact on learning and everyday life. One of the things our Fort Myers occupational therapists frequently recommend to help children with sensory processing issues is called “heavy work.”
Heavy work is a strategy we use in therapy and recommend to parents to target a sense called proprioception, with the ultimate aim of:
- Improving attention and focus.
- Decreasing defensiveness.
- Helping to calm/regulate.
Heavy work can actually benefit all children, not just those with sensory processing difficulty. Our occupational therapists have found it especially helpful to have kids do heavy work just before or at the very beginning of our sessions.
The end of this school year looked a lot different for many kids. When it came to distance learning, children with special needs and their families faced significant challenges. We expect many children have experienced some degree of regression, but it’s likely especially true for children on the autism spectrum. This was one of the reasons it was so important for our Fort Myers ABA therapy team to reopen our doors as soon as possible once it was safe in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. We know how vital these services are to so many children and families. Now, we are actively working to make up on lost ground, in many cases focusing on skills that will help our FOCUS patients prepare for what may be a difficult transition back to school in the fall.
Although many of our ABA therapy patients are in individualized programs that involve 20-to-40-hours-a-week of 1:1 support with a registered behavior technician (RBT), it’s important to underscore the fact that the ultimate goal is usually to reduce that level of support as the patient grows increasingly independent. With consistent, early intervention therapy and the right amount of planning, the use of ABA principles can help kids successfully transition into a more typical classroom.
The principles and practices our Fort Myers ABA therapy team implements can reinforce the sort of behaviors that will help your child with autism thrive in school – whether that’s this fall or sometime later in the future.
Toe walking is a pattern of walking wherein a child walks on the balls of their feet, with no contact between their heels and the ground. As our Fort Myers physical therapy team can explain, it’s common among children who are learning to walk, but most kids outgrow it after age 2, when they assume the typical heel-to-toe gait.
However, when toe walking persists beyond that, it could be a sign of an underlying medical condition, such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy or a spinal cord abnormality. (Children with autism spectrum disorder and related conditions often toe walk more frequently, but there isn’t any direct link between the two conditions. There is some speculation that it’s related to sensory issues.) Sometimes, the causes are idiopathic, meaning we don’t know why it happens.
In any case, regardless of the cause, toe walking can result in complications. Children who spend a lot of time on their toes can develop stiffness, tightening and pain in their Achilles tendon and calf. In turn, this can lead to poor range of motion in the ankle, which is going to have a snowball effect. This can be treated by our Fort Myers physical therapy and occupational therapy teams.
Speech impairment is a common challenge for children with Down syndrome. This is one of the many issues our Fort Myers speech therapists address for our Down syndrome patients at FOCUS Therapy. We encourage any parent whose child has been recently diagnosed to contact our office to set up an evaluation for speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy and possibly ABA therapy. The earlier we are able to intervene, the better the long-term progress and prognosis.
Speech is the ability one has to vocally communicate by articulating sounds and using language.
To understand why children with Down syndrome struggle in this regard – and how we can help treat it – we first need to break down some of the observable symptom clusters affecting multiple body systems that are common among children with this diagnosis.
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.