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.
“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:
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.
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.
“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
It’s feeling festive here at FOCUS Therapy! Come to the clinic Tuesday, 12/21/21, rocking your favorite jammies. On Wednesday, 12/22/21, come wearing your Santa hats, your red & green & your jingle bells!
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.
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.
At FOCUS Therapy, you’ll never hear us say, “Let’s go back and do some therapy.” We say, “Let’s go play!”
Research has shown time and again that for therapists who work with kids, play-based therapy approaches are truly the most effective. Play is how children learn to understand and use language, regulate emotions, and bridge symbols and thoughts into actions.
Whether we’re working on speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy or ABA therapy, we first find out what kids are most interested in. Then we use that to teach them the skills they’re going to need in life – to talk, move, listen, and participate.
To those on the outside looking in, it may appear we’re “just playing.” But each sessions is tailored for each child, targeting their unique goals. We love what we do, and have so much fun doing it – but the main reason we use the play-based approach is because: It works!
To learn more about our services or to schedule testing or an appointment, call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.
FOCUS Therapy families are invited to join us TONIGHT for the 2nd annual FOCUS POCUS Trunk-or-Treat event! We’ll be in the parking lot at our Colonial Boulevard location (4997 Royal Gulf Circle, Fort Myers) from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Bring your brothers, sisters, and best buddies & see all your favorite FOCUS Therapy staffers, therapists, and friends for a frightfully fun time! We’ll have games, prizes, decked-out trunks, trick-or-treat & more! Can’t wait to see all your boo-tiful faces!
Join us! Thursday, Oct. 28th from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at our Colonial Boulevard location for our 2nd Annual FOCUS POCUS Trunk-or-Treat! Wear your most spook-tacular costumes and see all your favorite FOCUS Therapy staffers and therapists for games, prizes, and trick-or-treat! We can’t wait to see all your boo-tiful faces!
Big news, FOCUS Family: FOCUS Therapy is opening a second location in Fort Myers!
Our new FOCUS Therapy location, conveniently situated near FGCU, Gulf Coast Town Center and Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW), will allow us to expand our vital services (speech, occupational, physical & ABA therapies and ADOS testing) to hundreds more children in one of the fastest-growing communities in the country.
The new FOCUS Gulf Coast Office, located at 9961 Interstate Commerce Dr., Unit 150 & 160, will officially open its doors Aug. 9, 2021. This new facility will allow us the capacity to ultimately onboard an additional 20 therapists and treat 200 more children than our existing patient list. We’ve hired 10 new therapists to start, and will bring on more as we grow throughout the next year.
“Opening this new site is both extremely exciting and deeply humbling,” said FOCUS Owner/Founder Jennifer Voltz-Ronco. “I set out to fill a critical need in this community 10 years ago, at a time when there weren’t enough clinics providing pediatric therapy in Southwest Florida. There still aren’t. As the population in our area continues to grow at a rapid speed, the demand for quality therapy has expanded at an even faster clip. This brings us one step closer to ensuring all children in Southwest Florida have access to the therapy services they need to succeed.”
At our existing location on Royal Gulf Circle off Colonial Boulevard, we have a waitlist of 160 children. Similar waitlists are reported at other pediatric therapy clinics throughout Southwest Florida.
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, roughly 9 percent of kids in the U.S. have a speech sound disorder. Further, about 5 percent of kids have a noticeable speech disorder by 1st grade. Now consider that in 2020, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported approximately 1 in 54 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). That’s 1 in 34 boys and 1 in 144 girls, with diagnoses being reliably made as early as 18 months. There is a mountain of clinical evidence showing these kids can thrive – but only with access to intensive, early intervention therapies (speech therapy, occupational therapy and applied behavior analysis).
Whether we’re talking about a speech delay, down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, brain injury or other condition, the more assistance a child receives early on, the better their odds of school readiness, social engagement, academic success and long-term independence. That’s because neuropathways for young children are still developing, and young minds are little sponges for new knowledge. This ability of the brain to change, rewire, relearn and strengthen key connections is called neuroplasticity. It’s especially agile during early childhood, and that’s why we’re so adamant in preaching early intervention. It’s also why we couldn’t delay any longer in opening a second FOCUS Therapy clinic location.
“Children cannot wait for services this important,” Voltz-Ronco said. “This new Gulf Coast location of FOCUS Therapy is going to allow us to reach more kids in this community – and faster – benefiting not just themselves, but their families, the schools and our entire community as a whole.”
FOCUS offers pediatric speech therapy, occupational therapy, ABA therapy, physical therapy and ADOS testing in Fort Myers. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.
More Blog Entries:
Therapy Isn’t a Quick-Fix – Why You Should Still Follow Our Course Until Successful, May 7, 2020, FOCUS Therapy Fort Myers Blog
Why FOCUS Therapy Celebrates With “Therapy Graduation” Ceremonies, Sept. 5, 2020, FOCUS Therapy Fort Myers Blog
FOCUS Therapy ABA Talks
At FOCUS Therapy, we offer speech, occupational, physical, and ABA therapy. For that last one, "ABA" stands for "Applied Behavioral Analysis." It also sometimes goes by the name, "behavior therapy." It involves the study of behavior and ways it is reinforced. ABA therapy is considered the gold standard for treatment of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other conditions that make it difficult to communicate and behave in ways that are expected.
The concept of what ABA therapy is and how it works is often unfamiliar to families who first seek our services on the basis of a physician referral. In an effort to help parents and families better understand ABA and how it works, Dr. Dean Funk, M.D./B.S. Biological Science and the rest of our FOCUS Therapy ABA team have created a series of in-depth videos we hope will better explain it all.
Insight is provided by invaluable members of our FOCUS Therapy ABA team, including Ignacio Fernandez, BCBA.
Watch the videos below!