If there was ever such a thing as a real-life Santa’s workshop for children with disabilities, it’s probably a bit closer to the equator than the North Pole. At the University of North Florida, pediatric physical therapy students have been partnering with those in the school’s engineering program, pooling their talent to create specialized toys for children with special needs.
The Florida Times-Union reports the pediatric physical therapy students have been working to help develop solutions from battery-powered ride-on cars for children with mobility issues to voice-activated toys for children who need speech therapy to electronic fidget cubes for high school students with autism.
Our FOCUS Fort Myers pediatric physical therapy professionals applaud the UNF Adaptive Toy project, first started in 2014 to help meet the needs for toys for local children with disabilities. The program has already become a model for nearly a half-dozen higher education programs across the country, with professors of electrical engineering and physical therapy at the college leading the way. Since the program was first launched, it has produced 31 cars for children with special needs, and two new toys were added just this year.
The pediatric physical therapy and electrical engineering students are continually working to resolve glitches and dream up ideas for new toys, specifically for children who suffer from disabilities such as cerebral palsy, genetic disorders and spinal muscular atrophy.
Popularity of youth sports has exploded in recent years, and that’s great news for public health. However, it has also meant an uptick in child sports injuries – especially knee injuries like ACL tears. FOCUS Fort Myers physical therapy can help your teen get back on their feet – and hopefully back to their sport – often with a few months of treatment.
The Cleveland Clinic reports it’s not just boys but girls too who are suffering sports injuries, as their participation rates have spiked. The hospital reports male and female injury rates are about the same these days, with 40 percent of all child injuries requiring emergency department treatment now being sports-related, amounting to roughly 4.4 million annually.
Our FOCUS Fort Myers physical therapists know sometimes child sports injuries are worsened when coaches or teammates trivialize them, urging the youth to just play through the pain and stay tough.
Chronic constipation is a crappy problem – one common among all children, but especially prevalent among children special needs. Pediatric physical therapy at FOCUS Fort Myers may help, using exercises to strengthen pelvic muscles and improve posture.
We know this can be an uncomfortable issue to discuss, but if it’s causing your child pain and difficulty on a regular basis, it’s one that requires attention because it’s essential to good health. The Journal of Pediatrics reports constipation among children with autism is associated with increased emergency department visits and inpatient admissions. Depending on the underlying cause, pediatric physical therapy may help alleviate the problem. Occupational therapists, ABA therapists and even speech therapists can also collaborate on solutions.
Constipation involves either the inability to pass stool or problems that make it not as easy or frequent as one would like.
One analysis published in the journal Gastroenterology examined more than 50 school-age children suffering from functional constipation, all of whom were receiving the “standard” treatment for chronic constipation, which included potty training, education and laxatives. Half were randomly chosen to also receive pediatric physical therapy. Six months later, more than 90 percent of the children who got physical therapy no longer suffered from constipation, compared to about 60 percent of those who didn’t get physical therapy.
For scorching summer days, nothing compares to a splash in a cool pool – and Florida has plenty (1.1 million just in private residences alone, according to Florida State University data). For children with special needs and developmental delays, Fort Myers physical therapists know swimming has benefits far beyond simply tempering the heat.
The unique properties of water – the buoyancy, the resistance and all-encompassing nature – are proven to help improve muscle tone and overall strength, balance, posture. coordination, flexibility, motor planning, gross motor skills and sensory regulation.
In fact, physical therapists have developed an entire branch of treatment, known as aquatic therapy, which is know to be especially effective with younger clientele. Physical therapy can be hard work, tough on the joints and muscles. Working in the water serves as a sort of cushion, reducing discomfort and pain and making children less reluctant to fully engage. Also, it’s just fun to be in the water! Although FOCUS Fort Myers does not currently offer aquatic therapy, our physical therapists can offer parents and caregivers tailored exercise ideas to practice with their kids while playing in the pool. (Bonus: They’ll be having so much fun, they won’t even realize they’re “working.”)
A child who struggles to explore their environment on the same level of their peers due to a gross motor delay may struggle on other fronts too, including cognitive development and behavioral challenges.
Recently, the journal Physical Therapy published a study determining that gross motor delays were associated with problem daytime behaviors and quality of life issues for children with autism spectrum disorder. Researchers examined cross-sectional, retrospective data of more than 3,200 children between the ages of 2 and 6 diagnosed with ASD. They found that children who struggled more with gross motor skills had more daytime problem behaviors. So when the goal is targeting problem behaviors for children with ASD, researchers concluded it’s important not to overlook the possible need for physical therapy.
Children with a wide range of conditions and diagnoses may have gross motor delays, which are those skills involving the large muscles of the arms, legs and torso. Gross motor skill delays might become apparent when a child is learning to crawl, sit, walk, run, throw a ball or balance. All kids reach developmental milestones at varying increments, but those who are far behind can benefit from physical therapy to help them catch up.
Gross motor skill delays can be linked to any number of conditions – or may exist independently of anything else. Untreated, these delays can impact your child’s ability to reach their full potential.
Staff Report, FOCUS Therapy
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) are conditions that result in a person whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. The effects can include problems with learning and behavior, as well as issues with muscle tone. At FOCUS in Fort Myers, we know that early diagnosis and early intervention can make a huge difference in a child’s long-term prognosis. Physical therapy is one aspect of that plan.
There is no lab tests that definitively proves a child has fetal alcohol syndrome, and many of its symptoms can reflect conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Federal data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals there are as many as 1.5 infants with FASDs out of every 1,000 live births. One recent study found that 1 in 10 pregnant women reported using alcohol use (at least one drink) at some point during her pregnancy and 1 in 33 reported binge drinking (defined as four or more drinks at a time) in the previous 30 days.
Therapies must be tailored to each individual child because fetal alcohol syndrome can affect children differently. As noted by WebMD, symptoms of the condition may include:
- Learning disabilities
- Trouble with coordination, attention and memory
- Struggle with sleep/ nursing (infants)
- Problems with bones, kidney or heart
These symptoms can worsen if not treated. Although FASDs are not curable, they can be treated and their impact lessened. Those who are diagnosed and treated before the age of 6 show the best outcomes.
Most parents at some point or another question whether their child is properly developing.
“Is that normal?” we ask. “Should I be worried or call someone?”
The need for physical therapy is sometimes obvious, but not always. At FOCUS, our Fort Myers physical therapists for children know a parent’s instincts are usually right. We do offer free screenings to help determine whether we should proceed with an evaluation and possibly services.