communication milestones

ASHA Communication Milestones From Birth to Age 5

sensory-friendly Halloween party in Fort Myers

FOCUS POCUS Sensory-Friendly Halloween Party is TODAY!!

Celebrate gourd times! FOCUS Therapy’s 4th annual FOCUS POCUS sensory-friendly Halloween Party – complete with costumes, trick-or-treat, games, and fun prizes – is TODAY!

Our therapists are decorating each room of our clinic with a different theme. Join us at our Fort Myers clinic on Royal Gulf Circle from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Patients, siblings, friends, and local community members welcome!

sensory-friendly Halloween Fort Myers

Don’t Miss Our 4th Annual FOCUS POCUS Sensory-Friendly Trick-or-Treat!

Let’s get this party start-led! FOCUS Therapy is hosting its 4th annual FOCUS POCUS event – complete with costumes, trick-or-treat, games, and fun prizes! Our therapists are decorating each room of our clinic with a different theme. Join us for a sensory-friendly trick-or-treat and Halloween party in Fort Myers!

FOCUS POCUS will be 1 week from today, on Thursday, Oct. 26th, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at our clinic on Royal Gulf Circle. Patients, siblings, friends, and local community members welcome!

executive functioning skills for kids

Improving Executive Functioning Skills for Kids is Often a Top Therapy Goal

As our Fort Myers pediatric therapists can explain, improving executive functioning skills for kids is one of the most common goals listed in our patients’ plans of care. That’s because these skills play a crucial role in a child’s overall development and success in various areas of life, including academics, social interactions, and daily functioning.

What Are Executive Functioning Skills for Kids?

Executive functioning refers to a set of cognitive processes that allow individuals to manage their thoughts, behaviors, and emotions to achieve goals. It’s not a single skill. Rather, it’s a set of skills that together allow a person to:

  • Focus, pay attention, and remember
  • Plan
  • Prioritize
  • Work toward goals
  • Self-regulate behaviors & emotions
  • Adapt to new & unexpected circumstances
  • Engage in abstract thinking & planning

Executive functions in childhood are inherently a challenge. They start developing in that very first year of life, but they aren’t fully formed until adulthood. They’re meant to be worked at, and they won’t happen overnight or at the same time for every kid.

That said, successfully mastering age-appropriate executive function is often tougher for kids with conditions like autism, down syndrome, language delays, learning disabilities, etc. You’ll notice when they struggle with things like tantrums, impulse control, staying organized at school, remembering instructions, managing their time, etc.

How Speech, OT, and ABA Therapy Can Help

Executive functioning skills for kids aren’t usually developed in a neat, linear progression. Some skills they’ll pick up faster, others will take longer – with variability often dependent on the child’s unique stresses, family stresses, and educational opportunities.

Early intervention therapies like speech therapy, occupational therapy, and occupational therapy can be game-changers in helping kids who struggle with executive functioning to catch up with other kids their age. The sooner we can start, the more malleable a child’s brain – and the greater success we’ll have.

We provide assessments and individualized plans of care, based on the child’s individual abilities and goals. We help families devise structured routines and schedules – which provides a measure of predictability that helps kids develop skills like time management. Therapists are trained to break down tasks into smaller, more manageable tasks that helps kids learn how to master each one individually and sequentially – ultimately improving organization skills. Visual supports like calendars, checklists, and schedules give kids a way to “see” the task and the time allotment. In turn, this helps them stay calm, organized, and efficient. Play-based interventions can improve memory, social skills, and behavior self-regulation as well – all part of executive functioning skills.

If your child is struggling with executive functioning skills, our pediatric therapists at FOCUS Therapy in Fort Myers can help.

Additional Resources:

Executive function in children: Why it matters and how to help, Dec. 16, 2020, By Johanna Calderon, PhD, Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School

More Blog Entries:

Why Occupational & Speech Therapists in Fort Myers Teach Kids Inferencing, Aug. 31, 2023, Fort Myers Speech Therapy Blog

child speech sound development

Concerned About Child Speech Sound Development? See if Your Child’s On Track

Most kids develop the ability to move and speak in a fairly predictable pattern. Although it’s true that child speech sound development can vary, we use “speech sound norms” based on the most common development patterns within a certain peer group to determine whether a child’s speech skills are on track.

(Note, the chart above is specifically for native English speakers. Children who are multi-lingual may develop some of these sounds at different ages than what’s shown here – but it’s still a good idea to consult with a Fort Myers speech therapist for kids if you have any concerns.)

Monitoring child speech sound development is important to ensure they’re reaching age-appropriate milestones. If they are not, early intervention speech therapy may be warranted.

Sometimes parents who note a speech sound or language delay with their kid are tempted to “wait and see” – partly because it can sometimes sound cute but partly to determine whether it actually pans out to be a problem. We don’t recommend this – and not just because this is our area of practice. The reason is that a “wait-and-see” approach can lead to compounding developmental issues, such as reading/literacy difficulty, social struggles, and behavior trouble. The sooner you seek treatment, the faster they can catch up to where they need to be.

The reason early intervention speech therapy for child speech sound development is highly effective is because the younger the child, the more flexible and adaptable their brains are. That makes it easier for them to learn and develop new speech patterns. Getting ahead of speech-language delays in the early stages is usually much easier than trying to chase up/correct patterns that have already become ingrained.

Our Fort Myers speech therapists for kids develop tailored strategies and exercises that meet each child’s specific needs, with the ultimate goal of gradually improving their speech sound development. We also provide parents with tools, tips, and tactics to carry over these lessons at home. These further reinforcements help kids more expeditiously master these key communication skills.

FOCUS offers pediatric speech therapy in Fort Myers and throughout Southwest Florida. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.

Additional Resources:

Beyond Baby Talk, The Ultimate Guide to Language Development for Parents, By Kenn Apel, PhD, CCC-SLP, and Julie J. Masterson, PhD, CCC-SLP, Random House

More Blog Entries:

Why Occupational & Speech Therapists in Fort Myers Teach Kids Inferencing, Aug. 31, 2023, Fort Myers Speech Therapist Blog

Fort Myers occupational therapist attention & listening

Fort Myers Occupational Therapy Tips for Maximum Attention & Listening

Is your child always “buzzing” off-the-walls? To maximize attention & listening, try these Fort Myers occupational therapy tips. They can be especially helpful for kids who are neurodivergent, language delayed, or diagnosed with conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

So often when we’re exasperated because our child “won’t listen,” we assume it’s because they’re being willfully defiant. However, as our Fort Myers occupational therapy team can explain, a child might HEAR you, but with conditions like ADHD, there are fundamental barriers to paying attention and language processing.

A child first needs to know that you even want their full attention. As adults, it’s our job to clearly communicate that we want them to really listen and respond to us in this moment. This is why saying their full name, ensuring you’re making eye contact, maybe touching their shoulder, or even getting on their level is helpful. Then you can clearly state that you want them to give you their full attention.

If the issue is language processing (understanding what is being said to them), it can often look like “not listening” or “misbehaving” or “not playing nicely.” That’s not at all their intention – they just aren’t as quickly processing and responding to what’s been communicated with the fast-paced back-and-forth communication flow we’ve come to expect as typical for other kids their age.

If you aren’t sure whether they’re truly understanding what you’ve communicated, start by simply asking them if they did – and have them repeat your message back to you as they understand it. Our Fort Myers occupational therapy professionals often find that just this simple step can be so eye-opening in terms of allowing us to see what a child is actually absorbing from the auditory language input they’re receiving.

We find that for a lot of kids with ADHD and language delays/disorders, visual schedules, stories, or reminders can be incredibly helpful.

Our pediatric occupational therapists can provide FOCUS parents and caregivers with a plethora of tips and strategies – specific to your child – that will help set them up for success and ease your frustrations about them “not listening.”

FOCUS offers pediatric speech, occupational, physical, and ABA therapy in Fort Myers and throughout Southwest Florida. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.

Additional Resources:

ADHD and Behavior Problems, By Caroline Miller/Dave Anderson, PhD, Child Mind Institute

More Blog Entries:

Why Occupational & Speech Therapists in Fort Myers Teach Kids Inferencing, Aug. 31, 2023, Fort Myers Occupational Therapist for Kids Blog

Fort Myers ABA therapy

Top Fort Myers ABA Therapy Misconceptions

As Fort Myers ABA therapy practitioners, we have been confronted with so many misconceptions about this treatment. We’re passionate about this work because we see the phenomenal difference it makes in the lives of these kids, their families, and their communities – but we’re also enthusiastic when it comes to explaining this value.

Part of the reason ABA therapy tends to be misunderstood is because it’s a relatively new form of therapy (at least when compared to speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy). It is an evidence-based therapy, with many strategies tried-and-tested over the course of nearly 100 years. But it wasn’t until the 1970s and 1980s that it truly started to take off – with the rapid rise in childhood autism rates.

Another source of common misconceptions is the fact that in the very early days, practice was sometimes based on a limited understanding of behaviorism – and thus tended to be overly-rigid and even punitive. This didn’t yield the best outcomes – which is why it’s no longer practiced that way. As our Fort Myers ABA therapy team can wholeheartedly attest, it has truly evolved so much since then. We encourage parent/caregiver questions about our therapy approach and philosophy – which is always child-centered, individualized, and leans heavily on positive reinforcement-based strategies.

Lastly, ABA therapy isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. There’s flexibility in how behavior therapy is implemented, depending on the therapist’s training, the specific goals set, and the individual needs/abilities of the child. It’s all evidence-based, but with access to a range of different approaches, we’re assured there’s almost always a verified alternative if a particular strategy isn’t working. That means we can meet the child where they’re at, instead of trying to force round pegs into square holes.

Knowing where some of these ABA therapy misunderstandings arise helps us counter with facts and direct insight from those actually conducting therapy – and feedback from parents & families whose children are receiving it.

FOCUS offers ABA Therapy and ADOS testing in Fort Myers and throughout Southwest Florida. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.

Additional Resources:

The Evidence-Based Practice of Applied Behavior Analysis, May 2014, The Behavior Analyst

More Blog Entries:

5 Steps to ABA Therapy in South Florida, May 24, 2022, FOCUS Therapy Fort Myers Blog

Fort Myers ABA therapy for kids with autism

How Do I Know if Fort Myers ABA Therapy is Right for My Child?

As Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) who provide Fort Myers ABA therapy, we understand the importance of carefully considering whether this type of intensive intervention therapy is the right fit for your child.

Because the practice of ABA (short for Applied Behavioral Analysis) is relatively new compared to other therapeutic interventions like speech therapy or occupational therapy (it emerged in the 1970s), it’s still the subject of some controversy. But there is a reason so many highly-educated and experienced pediatric specialists who work with children with autism and other neurological disorders and disabilities on a daily basis continue to refer so many of their young patients to it. Quite simply: It works.

There is a mountain of evidence that establishes the clinical effectiveness of ABA, particularly for kids on the autism spectrum. It is recognized as an evidence-based practice. That means that all the strategies we implement in our Fort Myers ABA therapy sessions are supported by ongoing evidence.

At its core, ABA is about improving communication and effectively reinforcing expected behaviors so that a child is able to safely and successfully navigate everyday situations – from self-grooming to social interactions to classroom rules.

If you’re considering whether Fort Myers ABA therapy is right for your child, these are the steps you’ll take:

  1. Assessment and Diagnosis: The first step is to have your child assessed by a qualified professional for a potential autism diagnosis. This assessment will help you understand the specific areas of need and the challenges your child faces. ADOS testing is the most widely-used – and it’s something FOCUS offers.
  2. Functional Assessment: BCBA will conduct a functional behavior assessment to understand the reasons behind challenging behaviors and develop targeted interventions. If your child struggles with behaviors that impact their daily life, ABA therapy can help address these challenges.
  3. Verify Insurance Coverage. If your child has a medically qualifying diagnosis for which ABA therapy is an approved treatment, your insurance may provide coverage. At FOCUS, we are advocates for our patients and will go to bat for our patients if they’re facing resistance from insurers to cover medically-approved therapies. (If this continues to be an obstacle, we do have self-pay options, as well as Behavior Consulting services that could at least be a starting point.)
  4. Commitment to the process. ABA therapy is grounded in evidence-based practices that have proven to be effective in treating individuals with autism (and sometimes other conditions, like Down Syndrome). We aim for a family-centered approach, and prioritize improvements in communication, social skills, and adaptive behaviors. But it only works if families are committed to the process – not only showing up to each scheduled therapy session, but also to carrying over these lessons at home and in the community. This always leads to the best long-term results.

If you’re unsure about whether you want to initiate these services, you might consider Behavior Consulting (as previously mentioned) or committing to it for at least a trial period of 4-6 months. See how your child responds, whether they positively engage with the therapist, if they’re comfortable with the clinic/staffers, and whether they’re making some measure of progress.

The benefits of ABA therapy are many, but progress never happens overnight. And every child is unique, so there’s never a one-size-fits-all approach that will work for everyone. But we’re committed to figuring out what DOES work – for each and every one of our patients. We don’t want anything holding them back in life!

If you have questions about our Fort Myers ABA therapy services and would like to schedule a time to meet with our team and/or tour the facility, please reach out to our team at FOCUS Therapy!

FOCUS offers pediatric speech therapy in Fort Myers and throughout Southwest Florida. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.

Additional Resources:

Debunking 7 Common Myths About ABA Therapy, Aug. 29, 2022, Pepperdine University, Graduate School of Education & Psychology

More Blog Entries:

FOCUS Therapy Now Offers Behavior Consulting for Southwest Florida Kids, May 24, 2023, FOCUS Therapy Blog

Fort Myers speech therapists & occupational therapists teach inferencing

Why Occupational & Speech Therapists in Fort Myers Teach Kids Inferencing

Inferencing is often thought of as a “school skill.” But as our occupational & speech therapists in Fort Myers can explain, it’s one that starts to develop long before kindergarten and has far more applications than a language arts class.

In fact, we use inferences so frequently, we often don’t realize we’re even doing it.

Inferencing is a form of logical deduction wherein we make logical guesses about “why” or “how” or “what happens next” – based on available evidence and previous knowledge/experience. It’s more about what is not being said. It’s used all the time – when we’re reading a book (“Is she telling the truth?”), when we’re driving (“what will the guy in the blue Honda do next?”), when we’re talking with a friend (“why do they look so sad?”), or when we’re shopping (“Will Jenny eat these kind of crackers?”).

As pediatric occupational & speech therapists in Fort Myers, we recognize that kids need to be able to u understand the unspoken connection between statements, as well as the meaning behind it all. Children with conditions like autism tend to struggle with “reading between the lines” and understanding concepts beyond what is literal and tangible. By explicitly teaching and reinforcing inference-making in our therapy sessions, we help them with goals like reading comprehension, reading engagement, and overall improved metacognitive thinking.

FOCUS offers pediatric occupational & speech therapy in Fort Myers and throughout Southwest Florida. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.

Additional Resources:

Explaining Reading Comprehension in Children With Developmental Language Disorder: The Importance of Elaborative Inferencing, Oct. 26, 2018, Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research

More Blog Entries:

Screen Time Speech Delays = Higher Speech Therapy Fort Myers Demand, Aug. 24, 2023, Southwest Florida Speech Therapy Blog

FOCUS Therapy will reopen

Update: FOCUS Therapy to Re-Open Thursday, Aug. 31st

In following the lead of the Lee County School District, FOCUS Therapy will resume in-clinic sessions with our patients on Thursday, Aug. 31st.

Weather-related concerns due to Hurricane Idalia are no longer pertinent to our area in Fort Myers / Southwest Florida.

We continue to pray for the safety & well-being of everyone in the path of the storm. 💚