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.
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.
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The symptoms of sensory processing disorder may depend substantially on the type of sense that is impacted, how it’s impacted, and the severity experienced by each individual.
Sensory processing disorder occurs in each of our sensory systems:
A person might have just one sensory system that is affected, or they could have all eight, with various different subtypes. That’s why our FOCUS Fort Myers occupational therapists drive home the message that each child with SPD needs to be individually assessed – and treatment for every child is going to look different.
Those with sensory processing disorders have difficulty interpreting the sensory input they get. They might feel overwhelmed by sensory information – or they might crave it. They might seem to be untuned to the sensory input or feelings of others. They might be described as “clumsy,” “awkward” or “delayed.”
Here, we explain the main SPD subtypes.
Sensory Modulation Disorder
Sensory modulation disorder is when a person has trouble regulating their responses to sensory stimuli. There are three types of sensory modulation disorder:
- Sensory over-responsiveness. This is when a person may respond too soon, for too long, or too much to a type of sensory stimuli that most people find pretty tolerable or normal.
- Sensory under-responsiveness. This is when a person might be unaware of certain sensory stimulation. They might have a delayed response to it, or their responses could be muted or with less intensity than most people might show.
- Sensory seeking. This is when someone may be compelled to seek out sensory stimulation, but once they do, they may be ultimately unsatisfied or it only results in disorganization. At the very least, it may be seen as socially problematic.
Sensory Discrimination Disorder
The second type of SPD is sensory discrimination disorder. This is when a child may have difficulty interpreting the subtle qualities of people, places, objects, or environments. This can include:
- Auditory discrimination disorder. This would be trouble interpreting auditory/heard stimuli.
- Visual discrimination disorder. Trouble determining or interpreting visual stimuli.
- Tactile discrimination disorder. Trouble interpreting stimuli that is felt or touched.
- Vestibular discrimination disorder. This is trouble determining or interpreting stimuli that is experienced through movement of the body against gravity or through space.
- Proprioceptive discrimination disorder. This is difficulty determining or interpreting sensory stimuli experienced through joints and muscles.
- Gustatory discrimination disorder. This is when someone has trouble interpreting or determining sensory stimuli that is tasted.
- Olfactory discrimination disorder. Trouble interpreting/determining smelled stimuli.
- Interoception. Trouble interpreting internal organ stimulation. (They may not feel the need to use the toilet or they might have frequent stomachaches.)
Sensory-Based Motor Disorder
Sensory-based motor disorder is when one has trouble with motor coordination, balance, and performing skilled motor tasks.
- Postural disorder. Someone with postural disorder would have a skewed perception of their body position. Therefore, they’d struggle with poorly-developed patterns of movements that depend on stability of the core. They would appear to be weak or have poor endurance.
- Dyspraxia. This is when the person would have trouble thinking of, planning, or carrying out skilled movements – especially new movements they aren’t familiar with.
FOCUS Therapy Treats Kids With Sensory Processing Disorder
If your child struggles with any type of SPD, our skilled team of occupational therapists can help!
FOCUS offers pediatric occupational therapy in Fort Myers and throughout Southwest Florida. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.
What is Sensory Processing Disorder? March 31, 2022, By Janice Rodden, ADDitude Magazine
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Evaluations are an important step in the process of securing speech, occupational, physical, and/or ABA therapy for your child. But parents and caregivers should be wary of facilities that offer these evaluations while lacking capacity to immediately treat the child.
FOCUS Therapy Owner/Founder Jennifer Voltz-Ronco explains that unless her team is being called on for a second opinion of an initial evaluation, they refrain from conducting formal assessments if unable to promptly provide treatment once the evaluation is complete.
“A standardized assessment is only a snapshot in time during the child’s development,” Voltz-Ronco said. “It’s like taking a picture of a child now, and then expecting it not to change in a few months. … If your child cannot access therapy within 1 or 2 months of that evaluation, the results are no longer going to be accurate. Kids develop new skills every few months. But the longer the child goes without therapy, the more significant that standard score comparison/discrepancy to same-age peers is going to be.”
Beyond this, families who rely on insurance to cover the cost of these evaluations (and they aren’t cheap) should be aware that insurers typically only cover one evaluation every six months or so. Even though clinics can utilize standardized assessments administered by another, it’s not ideal.
“Your child gets the most benefit when the team that directly observed your child’s abilities and deficits are the ones who ultimately formulate a plan of care and follow through with treatment,” Voltz-Ronco said. “In my opinion, it’s unethical for a clinic to profit from an evaluation that reveals a child is delayed or needs intervention – without providing that help.”
Types of Pediatric Evaluations FOCUS Therapy Offers
Children are usually referred to FOCUS Therapy and other therapy specialists by their primary care physician. Evaluations are typically ordered when a child is showing some developmental deficit, such as not sitting up or crawling, not talking or making regular eye contact, or red flags for a possible cognitive deficit. They could also be diagnosed with a condition that we can pretty well say for certain is going to require some combination of therapy services (such as cerebral palsy, down syndrome, vision impairments or hearing deficits).
Depending on the child’s condition and identified areas of concern, qualified therapists will be scheduled to conduct age-appropriate assessments to determine the need for therapy intervention services.
The specifics of the evaluation may vary, but they are generally going to include:
- A look at case history, including medical status, education, socioeconomic, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds, and information from other providers.
- Child and/or parent interview.
- Review of the child’s auditory, visual, motor, and cognitive status.
- Standardized and non-standardized assessments of specific aspects of speech, non-spoken language, swallowing function, cognitive communication, etc.
- Assessment of self-care and/or self-awareness.
- Skilled observation. This is where we keenly observe an accurately record a child’s abilities and behaviors.
There are several different types of standardized tests (including the ADOS test for autism screening, which FOCUS Therapy also provides).
“If a parent wants a second or third opinion after their child has been evaluated by a school or another provider, that’s one thing,” Voltz-Ronco. “But they’re most likely going to pay for that out-of-pocket – and they’re going to understand the purpose upfront. But if parents are looking for action, to get the ball rolling on the therapy interventions that a child needs, then the clinic conducting the assessment should be able to provide that.”
Not all of them do. Therefore, it’s incumbent on parents to ask the question before scheduling the assessment.
“We’ve gotten calls from parents of children who were evaluated other clinics, only to be told after the fact that the clinic did not have the ability to treat their child,” Voltz-Ronco said. “They were told to just call around and see what other clinics may be able to use the report generated from their assessment. That, to me, is not ethical.
“It’s a situation where parents need to be aware of this issue, and make sure they are asking the question upfront: ‘If I schedule this assessment and my child needs treatment, do you have the capacity to provide that treatment?’ If not, I would advise parents to move on and find a place with the capacity and willingness to do both.”
FOCUS offers ADOS testing and other standardized assessments in Fort Myers and throughout Southwest Florida for children who may need speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, or ABA therapy. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.
Assessment and Evaluation of Speech-Language Disorders in Schools, American Speech-Language Hearing Association
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Our Fort Myers occupational therapists often refer to play as the occupation of children. It may look on the surface as if all we do at our clinic is have fun. (And we DO have TONS of fun here!) But what we’re really doing is bolstering child development through play, which has proven to be the most effective way to teach children critical life skills in early intervention.
“There’s a reason our pediatric therapists never approach a session with a child saying, ‘Ok, let’s go do some therapy,'” explained FOCUS Therapy Owner/Founder Jennifer Voltz-Ronco. “No, we say, ‘Let’s go play!’ Because we know that creating a fun, safe, upbeat environment is going to make them want to participate, want to take the next step, want to learn the new skill. Ultimately, that’s where we make the most gains. Those are the lessons that are going to stick.”
Here, we offer some basics on how child development is promoted by simple activities that involve play.
FOCUS offers pediatric speech therapy in Fort Myers and throughout Southwest Florida. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.
Play in Early Childhood: The Role of Play in Any Setting, Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University
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Are you concerned your baby isn’t meeting their developmental milestones for sitting, standing, walking, and balance? It’s important to discuss your concerns with a pediatrician, as they may need a referral for physical therapy and/or occupational therapy.
There are many conditions for which an infant, toddler, or young child may benefit from physical or occupational therapy. What’s important is early intervention. The sooner your child can “catch up” to their same age peers, the fewer challenges they’ll struggle with down the road.
Our pediatric physical therapy and occupational therapy teams help children with both gross motor skills and fine motor skills. If you suspect your child *might* need these interventions, it’s best not to wait and see. Talk to your child’s pediatrician to obtain a referral for a full evaluation, which will provide insight into whether your child is behind developmentally and may benefit from physical and/or occupational therapies.
FOCUS offers physical and occupational therapy to kids in Fort Myers and throughout Southwest Florida. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.
Infant Physical Therapy: What You Need to Know, Therapy & Wellness Connection
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A sensory gym can be summed up in a single phrase: “Putting the FUN in FUNctional!”
If your child is beginning pediatric therapy (speech, occupational, physical, or ABA) at one of our two Fort Myers clinics, you’ve probably noticed some areas decorated with bright walls and packed with an array of Some of the equipment you see might look a lot like what you’ll observe in a playground or actual gym.
Although it may look like a bit of a free-for-all, a sensory gym is strategically designed to provide a structured environment to help children with delays and disabilities work on their sensory, motor, and communication skills.
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
Occupational therapy is a broad discipline. Some parents are confused when they’re referred to “OT” by their child’s pediatrician. After all, the first thing that comes to mind when we think “occupation” is “job.” And kids don’t have jobs… Right?
In fact, children are tasked with a dizzying number of important jobs, spanning far beyond just learning to talk and walk (which in themselves can be pretty daunting milestones, especially for children with certain delays, disorders, and different abilities).
Occupational therapists – particularly those who work in pediatrics (with kids) – are responsible to:
- Identify the developmental/functional deficits with which a child struggles.
- Develop an evidence-based plan of care that specifically outlines the goals for each individual child on a personalized timeline.
- Use each OT session to creatively to help kids “play their way” to achieving those goals.
A pediatric OT session may look a lot like goofing off (another reason the field – and its necessity – are met with confusion). But the play-based approach is deliberate. You know the saying, “Time flies when you’re having fun”? Play is what keeps kids engaged and interested, motivated and willing to push themselves just a bit harder every time. The most effective occupational therapy sessions are those that don’t feel like work at all for the child. This is rooted in mountains of evidence showing that it works.
Bilateral coordination, sometimes referred to as bilateral integration, is a critical developmental skill with which some kids struggle. It involves using both sides of the body together, and can impact both fine and gross motor skills Children who have difficulty with bilateral coordination may be diagnosed solely with developmental coordination disorder, but it’s also closely associated with other conditions such as autism spectrum disorder, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and other developmental delays and disorders.
As Fort Myers pediatric occupational therapists, we recognize there’s been an increasing awareness about what bilateral coordination is as well as what deficits might look like. A reported uptick in bilateral coordination deficits could also be partially attributed to COVID closures, as lots of kids lacked regular exposure to certain activities (PE class, playground time, etc.) that can help build these skills.
How Do I Know If My Child Has Poor Bilateral Coordination?
Some indicators of poor bilateral coordination include:
- Trouble cutting with scissors.
- Struggles with handwriting.
- Difficulty tying shoes.
- Having a hard time dressing themselves (pulling on socks, pants, and shoes).
- Trouble with fasteners, like buttons, zips, or snaps.
- Clumsy movements.
- Trouble catching a ball.
- Awkward clapping.
- Troubling using a bicycle pedal.
Parents should note there are actually three different types of bilateral coordination: Symmetrical, reciprocal and leading/supporting.