Infant physical therapy can be one of the best forms of habilitative and rehabilitative treatment for babies who are delayed, disabled or who have suffered a birth injury or genetic condition. For our smallest patients, physical therapy is typically going to focus on helping babies:
- Learn to balance
- Gain muscle control
- Reach or catch up to important developmental milestones
There is no denying our kids are growing up in uniquely digital age. Our patients at Therapy & Wellness Connection often amaze us with how tech-savvy they are! It’s important as speech therapists and parents that we aren’t just giving them free reign, and instead are finding the right kind of apps that will both motivate kids and help them learn and communicate. That’s why we’re offering some tips on how to find the best speech therapy apps for kids.
Screen time is typically thought of as a passive experience. And it’s true that too much screen time can be harmful for developing minds and bodies – especially if it’s the kind of tech that doesn’t engage or teach. By focusing on speech therapy apps specifically, we can use kids’ motivation for digital rewards while also creating a compelling language-learning experience for them.
The No. 1 rule is that no matter what, the adult is the one controlling access to the device. If kid are busy clacking and swiping and clicking, they probably aren’t going to be communicating. If we’re using technology in a speech therapy setting, we always are the ones holding the device while encouraging them to talk to us and tell us what to do. Doing this gives kids the chance to delve into new learning apps while still learning to use their words to engage and play.
Social skills don’t come easily to many kids with disabilities and delays. But music is a language we can all speak! Music literally moves us and brings people together. It’s uniquely its own kind of therapy, and we love using it in occupational therapy when we’re working on social skills.
At Therapy & Wellness Connection, we offer music therapy because it is a research-based practice in which we use music to actively support people working toward improvement in their health, function and well-being. And it’s so versatile! Music is powerful and a very effective way to help children with special needs meet their occupational therapy goals, including improvement of:
- Motor skills
- Speech & language skills
- Cognition/neural processing skills
- Self-regulation/reducing anxiety
It’s common knowledge in the music community that regular music lessons can help improve academic performance, increase IQ scores and reduce the risk of depression. Still, many parents aren’t aware that music – especially when used in an occupational therapy setting – can help encourage so many important life skills.
Researchers Tout Benefits of Music for Kids With ASD
One recent study specifically had the potential to improve the development of social skills among children with autism spectrum disorder. Further, researchers wanted to know if the effects were long-lasting.
Researchers noted that children with autism often have difficulties with direct social engagement, and that musical activities in the social context can provide them with valuable opportunities for interacting with their peers. They also pointed out prior studies that found even though children on the spectrum have difficulty processing and controlling their emotions, they can identify the rich emotions that are embedded in music as well as any typically-developing child.
Dozens of kids in the study were given pre- and post-music therapy social skills tests. Kids were categorized as having mild to severe autism and social scores that were ranked active to passive. What they found was that social skills was one area of distinct improvement for kids who had undergone musical therapy intervention, and that it was most effective when it was controlled in an occupational therapy setting.
Study authors said the results were encouraging, and called for more research examining the benefits for different age groups, populations, levels of ASD and skill focuses (motor skills, communication skills, etc.).
How We Use Music in Occupational Therapy
Just like a conversation, musical activities usually require body awareness and understanding of nonverbal cues. We can plan lots of fun games and activities around these goals. Specifically for social-pragmatic skills, we can target language objectives, joint attention, eye gaze and cooperative play with games like musical chairs or “musical statutes,” or animal dances.
One we’ve had a lot of fun with is “musical clothes,” where we have a pile of props/costumes in the middle and music is played and each child has to choose one prop/article and quickly don it before the music stops. In summer camps, sometimes we’ll have the kids team up, choose a theme song and create a dance routine with it – with a performance at the end (it’s SO much fun and a great team-building/communication exercise!).
Music can also be used before an occupational therapy session to help prepare the patient emotionally/induce the appropriate amount of arousal (or calming/regulation). It can also be used at the end of a session to help prepare for a transition.
Often in OT, music can be used to help keep kids focused and on-task. Sometimes we’ll listen to a combination of binaural (two-tone frequencies) and classical music, either on headphones or from a speaker. This has been shown to promote alpha brain wave and keep kids calm. For some kids, this music combo or ambient music helps improve dizziness during vestibular training.
If you have questions about occupational therapy or music therapy, our team at Therapy & Wellness Connection can help.
Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides occupational therapy to children in Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights, Akron and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, homeschooling, tutoring, vocational services and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.
Using Music Activities to Teach Social Skills to Children with Autism, April 17, 2018, ASHA
More Blog Entries:
Best Occupational Therapy Board Games for Kids, Oct. 15, 2020, Cleveland Occupational Therapy Blog
Fall is in full swing here in Northeast Ohio, and our Cleveland speech therapists love to tie relevant themes into our sessions to help the lessons stick. Right now, that’s everything autumn: Colorful leaves, crisp air and pumpkins!
Seasonal books give us a chance to target speech goals with themed vocabulary and content.
As parents, one of the best things you can do to help boost your child’s speech and language skills is to read to them every day. (We detailed these benefits in a recent Therapy & Wellness Connection blog.) So here, our speech therapists are offering up our favorite fall-themed books for story time to help with your kids’ speech therapy goals.
Kids love board games. (So do a lot of grownups!) They’re a great way for kids to challenge their mind, practice turn-taking and test out their math skills. We use them a lot in our Northeast Ohio occupational therapy clinic not only because they’re excellent motivators, but they can also help us target things like hand strength, sensory input, bilateral coordination, visual discernment and other fine motor skills.
In short: Board games can make the “work” of occupational therapy a lot more fun! And kids learn better when they’re having fun.
Plus, with so much online schooling, virtual therapy, etc. this year, many parents are encouraging their kids to find other outlets for fun. Board games are a great alternative!
October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month – a fact that sometimes has people asking, “Who ISN’T aware of Down syndrome?”
It’s true that Down syndrome is far and away the most common condition involving chromosomes. It occurs in about 1 in every 691 births, with more than 400,000 people living with Down syndrome in the U.S. today, according to the CDC, and many of us are at least somewhat familiar with it and have probably met at least one person who has it.
The month of awareness started in the 1980s by the National Down Syndrome Society. The express goal was to spread awareness as well as greater understanding about Down syndrome and to promote advocacy and foster inclusion throughout the community.
Speech disorders are fairly common with children diagnosed with cerebral palsy. One study published by Swedish researchers indicated more than half of all kids cerebral palsy have some type of speech problem. Speech therapy can be integral in helping them to effectively communicate and function.
Lots of kids with cerebral palsy have trouble with control over the muscles in their head, neck, throat and face. This can lead to difficulty not only with speech, but also chewing, swallowing and drooling. They can be difficult to understand, which in turn can impact their ability to connect and learn.
Our Brecksville speech therapy team helps children with cerebral palsy improve the control of muscles needed for speech, language, swallowing and interacting.
Stuttering affects more than 3 million Americans, with about 5 percent of all children enduring a period of stuttering that lasts six months or more. As our Ohio speech teletherapy team can explain, about 75 percent of those will recover by the time they reach late childhood – but most get there far faster with early intervention treatment with a speech therapist. About 1 percent of kids end up with a long-term problem, and it’s often because they’ve received no services. Boys are more than twice as likely to suffer from a stutter as girls.
Recently, a study published in the journal Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology analyzed the effectiveness of teletherapy for treatment of stuttering in kids. The interventional study was conducted with patients attending teletherapy speech sessions via Skype. The severity of their stutter was tested before, during and after the study period. What they found was that stuttering severity scores were significantly reduced by about 14 percent and nearly 60 percent reported a “very high” satisfaction with teletherapy speech treatment.
Study authors concluded that tele-speech therapy is an effective way to treat patients who stutter – regardless of their age, gender and educational background.
It’s well-established that racial disparity exists in numerous aspects of U.S. healthcare, with higher rates of illness and infirmity and lower rates of insurance coverage and quality care. Now, our Cleveland ABA therapists have learned of a new study published in the journal Pediatrics that found Black Americans are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at a much later stage than their White counterparts. In turn what this means is they are missing out on essential early intervention treatment that is critical to helping them overcome significant social and academic challenges in life.
Important to note: It’s the parents delaying the diagnosis, according to study authors.
“There’s something going on in the system,” said Dr. Daniel Geschwind, professor of neurology at the University of California and director of the Center for Autism Research and Treatment. In the study, Black parents reportedly noticed something was “not quite right” early on and sought medical help – and had insurance to cover evaluations and treatment. Even so, approximately 4 in 10 had to see a medical provider numerous times before their child received an autism diagnosis. Our ABA therapists know that getting appointments with specialists who can give a diagnosis like that can take well over 6 months each. (And lack of access to the kind of professionals qualified to make an autism diagnosis was specifically listed as one of the factors contributing to delay for about one-third of Black children ultimately diagnosed.)
Occupational therapy helps children when they have difficulties in day-to-day activities in their home, school and community.
It’s a very broad discipline, and many parents who come to Therapy & Wellness Connection have never really heard of it or understand why it’s so helpful for so many kids.
Occupational therapy has always been integral to our clinic, but we’re highlighting it now because the impact of the pandemic has left many kids falling even more behind when it comes to developmental milestones. Maybe they are on track with their speech and language, but they struggle with holding a crayon or pencil correctly. They’re getting ready for preschool, but have a tough time with things like using scissors or tracing lines. They have a very difficult time dressing themselves. Maybe they have no desire to even start potty training – even though it’s well past time.
They may have struggled with these things before schools and daycare centers closed, but now they’ve been home for months, with parents who are overwhelmed and no children their age to help motivate them, make it fun. The good news is these are all things with which occupational therapy can help-and it’s not just for kids with disabilities.