FOCUS Therapy

FOCUS Therapy Closure 9/27 and 9/28 Due to Hurricane Ian

FOCUS Therapy

FOCUS Therapy Closed 9/27 Due to Hurricane Ian

FOCUS Therapy ABA therapy

ABA Therapy & Occupational Therapy Helps Kids Self-Regulate Big Emotions

FOCUS Fort Myers ABA and Occupational Therapists on Expressing Feelings vs. Energy on the Autism Spectrum

As our FOCUS Fort Myers ABA and occupational therapists can explain, lots of kids with autism and ADHD have difficulty recognizing or describing their emotions. There’s actually a name for this: Alexithymia.

It’s not a medical condition in its own right, but lots of neurodivergent people describe it as very real, characterized by substantial and continued difficulty with emotional awareness. It was detailed in a recent study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

Some neurodivergent people who experience alexithymia say that it’s easier to discuss feelings as levels of energy, which can seem a bit more tangible than emotions.

Our FOCUS Fort Myers ABA therapists and occupational therapists recently came across a resource created by the therapy consultants at AutismLevelUp.com that describes the various energy levels, and it inspired us to create our own visuals/explainer.

This idea of identifying energies versus feelings closely relates to the Zones of Regulation that our therapy team uses frequently. (i.e., Blue Zone 🔵 = Sad, Tired, Bored, Sluggish; Red Zone 🔴 = Mad/Angry, Scared, Out-of-Control; Yellow Zone 🟡= Frustrated, Worried, Wiggly, Silly, Excited; Green Zone 🟢= Happy, Calm, Focused, Relaxed).

Every person may have their own unique manifestations of these various zones or energy levels (i.e., one may become hyperactive when they are overly-tired – perhaps because they’re overstimulated).

The bottom line is that any time we can help kids better identify their feelings and/or energy level, the better able we are to help them learn the most effective self-regulation strategies.

Self regulation plays a key role in relationships, well-being and overall success in life. People who are able to manage their emotions and control their behavior are more prepared to manage stress, deal with conflict and achieve their goals.

FOCUS Fort Myers ABA therapy
FOCUS Fort Myers occupational therapy
FOCUS Fort Myers aba therapy

If you have questions about the Zones of Regulation, identifying energy levels, or setting self-regulation goals for your child with autism and/or ADHD, our FOCUS Fort Myers ABA therapists and occupational therapists are here to help.

FOCUS Fort Myers offers ABA therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, feeding/swallowing therapy, and physical therapy to kids throughout Southwest Florida. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.

Additional Resources:

Alexithymia and Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Complex Relationship, July 17, 2018, Frontiers in Psychology

More Blog Entries:

FOCUS Therapy Only Schedules Evaluations if We Have Space to Treat Your Child, Aug. 1, 2022, FOCUS Fort Myers Therapy Blog

play based therapy FOCUS

All Therapy at FOCUS is Play-Based Therapy

At FOCUS, all of our Fort Myers therapies are play-based therapy.

Of course, play can be a lot of fun for as adults too – but the real reason we use a play-based therapy model in our speech, occupational, physical, and ABA therapy sessions is simply because: It works.

Study after study shows that when we engage kids in a play-based model of therapy, they’re going to be more engaged, excited about therapy – and they’re going to better remember the skills we’re trying to teach them.

“We never say, ‘Ok let’s go back and do some therapy,'” explains FOCUS Therapy Owner/Founder Jennifer Voltz-Ronco. “No, we say, ‘Hey, are you ready to go play?’ Kids don’t even realize they’re doing ‘work’ – and that makes it more enjoyable – and ultimately more effective.”

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

Additional Resources:

Planning a Play-Based Therapy Session, Sept. 2, 2013, By Meredith Poore Harold, ASHA Wire

More Blog Entries:

FOCUS Therapy Take on New CDC Developmental Milestones Guidelines, Aug. 1, 2022, Fort Myers Play-Based Therapy Blog

FOCUS Therapy evaluations

Why FOCUS Asks Parents to Stay in the Waiting Room During Evals, Sessions

FOCUS Therapy in Fort Myers conducts a range of in-depth evaluations for children who have been referred for speech, occupational, physical, or ABA therapies as well as ADOS testing. During our evaluations and therapy sessions, we rarely allow families to directly participate – but we have evidence-based reasons for our position.

During evaluations, we want to ensure every child receives an assessment that is as accurate as possible because that is what is going to allow us to:

  • Determine whether the child needs therapy.
  • Calculate the frequency/level of therapy that might be recommended.
  • Make a strong case to the relevant insurer(s) about the medical necessity of the therapy.

Parents, when present in the room during FOCUS evaluations, can unwittingly stand in the way of those goals. Why? Mainly because children rely on their caregivers when things get tough – to help them, to comfort them, to make it better. When a child is struggling in a certain area, such as communication or independence with self-care skills, our clinicians need to independently observe the particulars.

Parent input is a key aspect of our evaluations, but we need to see for ourselves, too. Jennifer Voltz-Ronco, MS-CCC/SLP and FOCUS Therapy Owner/Founder, explained that when a child is accompanied by a parent during the direct observation portion of the assessment, parents often interfere without intending to do so or even realizing it.FOCUS Therapy

“For example, in speech evaluations, parents might talk to the child or give clues to help their child ‘get the right answer’,” Voltz-Ronco explained. “We might ask the child to point to an object out of an array of 3-4 items by saying, ‘Show me the cup.’ Standardized testing requires that we be very specific in how we present these items – and with the requirement that we wait. And while we wait, we’re looking to see how long it takes them to process the directive and what they do. Will they look at us to see if we’re looking at the object? Will they point to it or make a face if they’re unsure? They might associate a cup to mealtime and instead point to a cookie. If the child looks to our face to get a clue, that would indicate social awareness and joint attention – key pre-linguistic communication skills. If there is a delay in their response, there may be an auditory processing issue. If they grab the first thing in reach, they may have impulsivity issues. Watching a child while they’re thinking tells us so much. But parents in the room might think the evaluator presumes the child doesn’t know the answer, so they interject. They say to the child, ‘You know what a cup is, like the blue sippie cup you have at home.’ Unfortunately, what that does is give the child numerous opportunities to hear the word, ‘cup,’ and in many standardized tests, we aren’t allowed to repeat the word or give a description or synonym. So with that, we lose the opportunity to see what we needed to see, and must in turn score the response incorrectly – which impacts the overall results.”

She went on to explain that often the key responses FOCUS therapists are looking for aren’t necessarily what an untrained observer may presume.

What’s more, some children can become what we call “prompt dependent.” That means the child looks to the parent to prompt them (to take an action, answer a question, etc.) – even if they don’t necessarily need the prompt. Many of our team members are parents ourselves, so we wholeheartedly understand how difficult it is to wait for your child to “do it themselves.” It is actually instinctual to intervene when we see or sense our child needs help. But during these evaluations, this intervention – however slight – can actually prove more of a hindrance when what we’re seeking are accurate results.

We DO Want Parents Involved in Their Child’s Therapy Journey

Although it is important for parents to remain outside the room during evaluations, this does not mean we lack transparency or that we don’t want parents involved at all in the therapy process. In fact, we get the best results from therapy when parents are fully engaged!

But we discourage direct engagement during the evaluation process and therapy sessions because we want to ensure our findings are accurate and that your child gets the true level of support they need.

While we want parents to be involved in consultation, goal-setting, education, and carryover, we strongly advise parents against sitting in during therapy sessions for the following reasons:

FOCUS Therapy

FOCUS Therapy Hires Therapists Who Genuinely Care

At FOCUS Therapy, we care that are therapists are skilled and knowledgeable about what they do – but also, that they genuinely care.

Pediatric speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and ABA therapy – these are not fields you enter because they are easy or yield automatic results. They require therapists, children, and parents collaborating – day after day, week after week, month after month, and sometimes year after year – committed to helping kids develop key skills that will help them move, communicate, engage, and thrive. Achieving independence takes effort and commitment and patience – and therapists who truly care about these kids and their families.

FOCUS Therapy actively seeks to hire the kind of pediatric therapists whose love for their work and helping children shines in everything they do. It’s that passion and enthusiasm that not only make every session feel like “play time,” but help these kids reach their goals. And ultimately – that’s what it’s all about! We don’t want anything holding them back in life.

FOCUS offers pediatric speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and ABA therapy at two clinics in Fort Myers. We also offer teletherapy services to children throughout Florida. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.

Fort Myers occupational therapy

Snow in Fort Myers? Check Out This Cool Occupational Therapy Activity!

South Florida may not have real snow like our northern neighbors (though there was that one time back in 1977), but this cool occupational therapy activity for kids is just as fun – no scarves or mittens required!

Making fake snow is an excellent tactile activity that’s great for helping our pediatric OT patients practice important life skills. Kids can help with the scooping, measuring, pouring, and mixing ingredients – all of which helps with reach, grasp, and wrist rotation. It’s also great sensory engagement that can be tailored to help with critical thinking, social skills, and communication.

We opted to try it in a couple of our recent OT teletherapy sessions, but it’s easily replicated at our Fort Myers therapy clinics. We encourage parents to try it out at home for maximum carryover of important skills.

The cheap, easy-to-find ingredients needed for this faux snow craft are:

  • Baking soda
  • White hair conditioner
  • A bowl or bin
  • Some tin foil or newspaper to lay down (if you’re doing the project indoors)

Directions: Simply mix about 3 cups of baking soda with about 1/2 cup of white hair conditioner until it’s firm. (If you don’t have that much of either ingredient, just make sure you’re using quite a bit more of the dry baking soda than wet hair conditioner.) You can use a spoon or spatula, but we opted for the extra sensory input of mixing it by hand.

Fort Myers occupational therapyNote that measurements don’t need to be exact. In fact, it might even help your child exercise their executive function skills if you don’t exactly measure it all out.

“Let your child problem-solve by determining if they need to add more wet or dry ingredients to the batch,” said FOCUS Occupational Therapist Krystle Lopez. “You’ll know the snow is mixed correctly when you can pick it up and form snowballs. It will even be cool to the touch – just like real snow!”

It will last a while too if you put it in a sealed bag or bin.

Be prepared for a bit of mess – but a ton of fun!

How Making Fake Snow Helps With Pediatric Occupational Therapy Goals

online occupational therapy Florida“It’s amazing how many skills can be targeted just with this simple ‘play’ activity,” Lopez said. “And I love that it’s something simple parents can do at home as well.”

FOCUS Therapy

FOCUS Therapy Holiday Theme Days – Wear Your PJs & Christmas Gear!

FOCUS Therapy holiday pajama drive

FOCUS Therapy Hosting Holiday PJ Drive for SWFL Kids in Foster Care

The holidays can be an especially lonely time for the estimated 19,000 kids in Florida’s foster care system. Many of these children are without not only their parents, but also siblings, extended family, and most material possessions. FOCUS Therapy is hoping we can come together to help offer them a small measure of comfort this season: Cozy, holiday-themed pajamas.

Lots of other wonderful organizations locally do holiday gift drives, so we thought we’d do something a little different: Give these kids something comfy to snuggle up in.FOCUS Therapy foster care pj drive

We’re asking for donations of brand new, soft, holiday-themed pajama sets. Donations are welcomed for boys and girls of all ages & sizes. Statistically, the average age of a child in foster care is 8, and there are slightly more boys than girls.

We’ll be collecting these PJs at our two FOCUS Therapy locations, at Royal Gulf Circle and Interstate Commerce Drive.

Foster care is the temporary placement of children and youth with families outside their own home due to abuse, neglect, or other circumstances. The goal is to provide a stable, nurturing environment in a time of crisis until they can be reunited with their parents or extended family members. Many children in foster care arrive to their temporary placements with little more than the clothes they’re wearing.

To learn more about the Florida foster care system or becoming a foster parent, visit the Florida Department of Children & Families at https://www.myflfamilies.com/service-programs/foster-care/.

If you have questions about donations or FOCUS Therapy in general, call our office at (239) 313-5049.