Akron occupational therapists

Akron Occupational Therapists Explain How Exercise Boosts Kids’ Concentration

Attention is a necessary component for children’s development and academic success. But helping kids maintain attention and focus has undoubtedly gotten tougher in recent years. We’re confronted with increased screen time, compelling animations and other constant distractions. It’s especially tough when the child has an additional challenge such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or autism and the task is something non-preferred. As our Akron occupational therapists can explain, one of the best ways to improve attention for an important task or just throughout the day is exercise!

Research over the last 30 years has boosted our understanding of the benefits of exercise, confirming that it:

  • Boosts biological chemicals essential for brain cell growth.
  • Stimulates the birth of new neurons.
  • Mobilizes genes believed to enhance brain plasticity (the brain’s ability to alter neural pathways).
Cleveland ABA therapy

Cleveland ABA Therapy Insight: Helping Your Child Wear a Face Mask

Wearing a mask has become required in many stores, restaurants, public event sites and schools. But complying with these mandates can be very difficult for children with disabilities and/or sensory processing needs. But our Cleveland ABA therapy team knows that doesn’t mean they cannot learn to overcome these aversions, particularly when it is a public health issue.

School districts across Ohio have various degrees of restrictions (some remain closed with only virtual school provided, others give parents the option to participate in virtual or in-person schooling and some are fully open). But just recently, the CDC released a series of guidelines for what it will take to safely re-open schools. As The New York Times reports, “the point of most agreement (among pediatric experts) was requiring masks for everyone: students, teachers, administrators and other staff. All respondents said universal masking was important, and many said it was a simple solution that made the need for other preconditions to opening less essential.”

If your child struggles with mask-wearing, our Cleveland ABA therapy team can help by incorporating it into our sessions, little-by-little, with positive reinforcement. But there are also ways you as a parent can help your child with this as well.

Akron speech therapy

How We Modify Akron Speech Therapy for Kids With Multiple Disabilities

When it comes to speech therapy, our team carefully maps out a plan of care that is specific to each individual. Kids with multiple disabilities are going to need extra consideration and planning. Many of our patients not only struggle to communicate, but they also have:

  • Visual impairments.
  • Hearing impairments.
  • Intellectual impairments.
  • Mobility impairments.

Speech therapy alone can put a lot of goals on a child’s plate. But many of these kids are also recommended for/receive all or some combination of occupational therapy, ABA therapy and physical therapy.

Working With a Collaborative Team

One of the ways Therapy & Wellness Connection is unique in the Northeast Ohio region is that we offer all of these services in one location – and we also offer in-home care, educational services, therapy groups and camps. We understand that parents of children with multiple disabilities are dealing with enough each day as it is. They want the best care for their child, but they are also just trying to get by with day-to-day life. Our goal is to make it as easy as possible on them, while also providing top quality services. The benefit of having a multi-disciplinary team is that we’re all on the same page, working together, collaborating – so parents and caregivers aren’t having to explain the same thing to five different therapists in multiple disciplines.

Our ability to collaborate and get on the same page as providers can influence how successful we are in our strategies for working with children who have numerous disabilities. Because a child isn’t just a mouth or ears or eyes. It is a whole person. We recognize that – and work to address challenges from a holistic perspective.

Modifying Akron Speech Therapy to Meet the Child’s Needs

Our speech therapy team is always looking at ways we can be the most effective. That means we’re never going to use the exact same approach for two different children. (We don’t even always use the same approach for the same child, particularly as they make progress!)

We look carefully at each patient’s level of communication as well as their comorbidities. When we’re preparing our speech therapy sessions, we look at ways we can modify our approach so that we can keep it fun and engaging, but also allow them to actively participate and reach their target goals – even if that is inch-by-inch.

For example:

  • For a child with visual impairments, we would incorporate lots of tactile and auditory input as well as possibly sign language.
  • For a child with auditory impairments, we would incorporate large visual aids and clear signs.
  • For a child with behavioral challenges, we set clear rules and expectations and collaborate with their behavior therapist on the strategies they are using so we can stay consistent across the board.

One thing that doesn’t change is that our efforts are always based on what is going to create the best outcomes for the child.

We invite parents and caregivers of children with multiple disabilities to call us, meet with us, tour our facilities and talk with other parents of patients about their challenges and successes and why they have chosen us to help their child communicate and thrive.

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides speech therapy to children in Akron, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and Cleveland. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email

Additional Resources:

Multiple Disabilities, April 19, 2019, Center for Parent Information and Resources

More Blog Entries:

Top Five Speech Teletherapy Myths, Jan. 10, 2021, Akron Speech Therapy Blog

Akron OT

Sensory Meltdown vs. Tantrum: What’s the Difference? Akron OT Explains

Lots of people think the terms meltdown and tantrum are interchangeable. It’s true they look very much the same when a child is in the midst of one, but the reasons behind them – and how you respond to each – are actually quite different. As an Akron OT (occupational therapist) can explain, knowing the difference between the two can help you react in a way that’s going to best support your child.

What is a Tantrum? 

Tantrums are outbursts that occur when a child is trying to get something they want or need. If you have toddlers or preschoolers, you know temper tantrums are pretty par for the course. However, they tend to taper off as children gain the language necessary to express themselves and the tools needed to self-regulate their emotional responses.

Some children find it’s tough to keep their emotions in check even once they do have the language skills to cope. They get frustrated and angry quickly. They might throw a tantrum if a sibling gets more cereal than they do or if they’re denied a candy bar at the grocery store.

Of course, screaming, yelling and throwing ones’ self on the floor aren’t socially expected or appropriate ways to get what we want, but as an Akron OT or RBT can tell you, the behavior is occurring for a reason. It is serving a functional purpose. Ultimately, the behavior is somehow being reinforced. They have learned that engaging in this behavior has a desired outcome – even if it’s not always a positive one. You may notice some kids will stop in the middle of a tantrum to see if their parent or teacher is looking at them. Tantrums stop either when a child gets what he/she wants OR they are taught that throwing a tantrum will not get them what they want.

What is a Meltdown? 

Meltdowns are different from tantrums because they stem not necessarily for the purpose of a desired outcome, but because of a reaction to feeling overwhelmed. They are very common with children on the autism spectrum when they are receiving too much – or too little – sensory input. Certain textures, sights, sounds, tastes and personal interaction can lead to a kind of sensory overload.

Commotion at a grocery store or the different smells and textures of a non-preferred meal could trigger a meltdown. A sensory meltdown is a reaction of someone who is trying to process too much at once.

Think about it like this: Every person’s tolerance for sensory input is like a pitcher of water. Most of us can control the flow and fill the liquid a little at a time. Those of us with language and emotional coping skills can communicate when the pitcher is getting too full or shut the water off ourselves. A child without these skills – particularly one who is very sensitive to sensory stimuli – may not be able to control the flow before the pitcher gets too full and overflows. This is when one’s “fight or flight” response turns on – and is displayed through running away, yelling, crying or completely shutting down.

How an Akron OT Can Help With Meltdowns

An Akron OT and/or ABA therapist can work with your child to determine the root cause of your child’s outbursts. Is there a function? What is making them feel overwhelmed? We will look carefully at the antecedent (what happens just before the tantrum/meltdown), the behavior (the child’s action) and the consequence (what happens immediately after).

Sometimes, parents reinforce unexpected behaviors without realizing it. For example, if the function of a tantrum is that it allows the child to avoid a non-preferred task, parents may be unintentionally reinforcing that behavior by removing the child from the situation. If a meltdown is set off by sensory overload, we can work on self-regulation, visual schedules and other strategies to give child the tools to better cope.

Sensory meltdowns can sometimes last for hours.

We understand that when you’re child is having a big reaction in a public place, that can be very stressful for you too. But it’s important to understand that often, your child is having a big reaction because it feels like a big problem to them. Acknowledging their feelings is important too.

Ultimately, the best thing long-term is to help children develop self-regulation skills and to practice them yourself. Deep breathing, counting to a certain number and other self-soothing methods can help you respond with both wisdom and patient and reduce the incidence of tantrums and meltdowns.

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides ABA therapy to children in Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights, Akron and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, homeschooling, alternative schooling, virtual therapy and education, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.

Additional Resources:

The 3 Main Differences Between a Sensory Meltdown and a Temper Tantrum, Feb. 12, 2020, By Sa’iyda Shabazz, FamilyEducation.com

More Blog Entries:

What to Look for in a Cleveland Pediatric Occupational Therapist, Dec. 12, 2020, Akron OT Blog

speech teletherapy

Top Five Speech Teletherapy Myths

Speech teletherapy continues to be an important way we deliver speech and language services to clients in Akron, Cleveland, Brecksville and throughout Northeast Ohio. We launched teletherapy services for speech, occupational, ABA and physical therapy in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although government agencies are now beginning to distribute the vaccine, officials stress it’s not over yet and the U.S. is still breaking records for cases and deaths. We have resumed in-person therapies and school courses, but continue to offer teletherapy services as well.

In recent weeks, we’ve encountered some families who are curious about speech teletherapy, especially because they recognize it’s not only convenient and safe. However, they do have some concerns, most based on misconceptions about how it works. Can speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy and ABA therapy really be effective over a screen? We can honestly answer: Yes. 

Numerous studies observing telehealth interventions for kids with autism and other conditions found that speech teletherapy, occupational teletherapy and ABA teletherapy were equally as effective as those provided face-to-face. Recipients of both traditional, in-person therapy and telehealth make significant and similar improvements in their development goals.

As an added bonus, studies of families of young kids with autism found that parent competence and confidence rose significantly, thanks to teletherapy. Of course, we’ve always prioritized parent education and empowerment, but teletherapy offers a unique “window” into our techniques as therapists. This can translate to better carryover across various environments, which can mean faster progress for kids.

Top 5 Teletherapy Misconceptions

  1. My Child is Too Young. Some parents of young kids may understandably be reticent to allow their young child on a laptop or other screen for extended period of time. However, teletherapy isn’t really typical screen time. Teletherapy is all about the interaction. Even if we’re playing a virtual game, the therapist is in control and the goal is to get the child engaged, communicating, conversing. For younger kids especially, we focus a great deal on coaching parents on specialized techniques and activities designed to improve their kids’ skills.
  2. My child doesn’t have a long enough attention span. The reality is teletherapy isn’t all staring at a screen. We design our speech teletherapy sessions for multiple movement breaks and sensory input activities – just like we would an in-person session. We also have so many activities that can be selected just for your child to match his/her learning style and interests to keep them engaged – just as we would in an in-person session.
  3. Teletherapy is not as effective as in-person therapy. This just isn’t true. As we mentioned before, numerous large-sample, longitudinal studies have found occupational, ABA and speech teletherapy can be just as effective as in-person therapy. Kids make the same level of progress. Some kids even make more progress in teletherapy because their parent may be more involved, leading to more consistent carryover. Beyond that, teletherapy gives kids who might not otherwise be able to receive therapy (due to scheduling concerns, distance from clinic or compromised immune systems) access to services they might otherwise forego.
  4. Virtual therapy is too much screen time. Limiting screen time for kids is an admirable and worthwhile goal in this digital age. We applaud it. But again, virtual therapy is not the same as just watching a show or playing a video game. Kids who are participating in speech teletherapy are actively engaging their brains, practicing their social skills and learning new techniques. This is not the kind of static, unhealthy screen time from which you’d want to definitely limit for your kids.
  5. There’s no way to form a truly personal connection over a screen. Parents whose kids have been in therapy will know that it is essential for a child to build a rapport with their therapist. A connection keeps kids engaged, cooperative and learning. This can happen through a screen because we’re still essentially conversing “face-to-face,” and doing so on a regular basis. Sometimes kids feel even more at ease conversing over a screen than in-person, so that can lead to more progress for some.

If you have questions or concerns about speech teletherapy, our team at Therapy & Wellness Connection can help!

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides speech therapy to children in Akron, Brecksville-Broadview Heights and Cleveland. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email

Additional Resources:

The Efficacy of Telehealth-Delivered Speech and Language Intervention for Primary School-Age Children: A Systematic Review, Spring 2017, International Journal of Telerehabilitation

More Blog Entries:
Finding the Best Speech Therapy Apps for Kids, Nov. 10, 2020, Akron Speech Teletherapy Blog
Akron ABA therapists

ABA Therapists Can Help With Autism Food Aversions

Mealtimes are awash in rich sensory experiences, with an array of smells, temperatures, textures, sounds, tastes and interactions. Most people enjoy mealtimes and sharing these experiences with loved ones. But our ABA therapists recognize that for children on the autism spectrum, mealtimes can present significant sensory challenges, leading to stress, sensory overload and meltdowns. Difficulties with communication can pose additional challenges for everyone.

Of course, it’s not uncommon for any child to be picky at times, but kids on the autism spectrum may be highly sensitive not just to something’s flavor, but its texture, shape, smell and color. They may have a strong preference for a very small selection of foods, and might even have an overwhelming need to eat those same foods on the same plate or in the same place at each meal.

You may notice that people with autism sometimes develop their own strategies to limit their sensory input during mealtimes. They may become:

  • Overly selective in their foods.
  • Inflexible in their mealtime routines.
  • Refuse to eat/eat limited amounts.
  • Prone to escape (elope, cover their ears, eyes, nose and/or mouth).
  • Repetitive in their behaviors to self-soothe.
Cleveland speech therapists

Articulation Disorders: An Explainer by Cleveland Speech Therapists

Among the many reasons children are referred to our Cleveland speech therapists are articulation disorders. A child with an articulation disorder has trouble forming speech sounds properly. This is slightly different from phonological disorders, in which a child can produce the correct sounds, but puts them in the wrong place or order.

Both of these are forms of expressive language issues. That is, they pertain to how well a child can communicate with others. This differs from receptive language disorders, wherein a child has trouble understanding what is being communicated with them. Some children struggle with both.

Keep in mind that it’s completely normal for young kids to make speech errors as their language is developing. However, kids with articulation disorders will be tough to understand, even when other kids their age are mostly speaking clearly.

Akron physical therapists

Fun Holiday Gross Motor Skills Activities from our Akron Physical Therapists!

Looking for some ways to warm up and help your littles work out those wiggles? Our Akron physical therapists have lots fun holiday activities that incorporate gross motor skills development.

For those who may be unfamiliar, gross motor skills are the skills that allow kids to do things involving large muscle groups (legs, arms, torso) and complete whole-body movements. Examples are things like jumping jacks, climbing and dancing.

Physical therapy goals will vary from child to child based on their abilities (so check with us if you aren’t sure!) but here are some ideas we hope will keep the whole family moving!

differential reinforcement

ABA Therapy Insight: Differential Reinforcement, Explained

Differential reinforcement is a technique use by our Akron ABA therapy team to reinforce the behavior we want to see while not reinforcing the behavior we want to extinguish. It works well for children on the autism spectrum when applied appropriately and consistently, but it can work well for people of all ages and ability in other ways too.

For instance, let’s say a teacher in an elementary school classroom wants the students to stop shouting out the answers and raise their hands instead. She could admonish every student who calls out, or she might be more effective by not providing those who do with any attention at all. Meanwhile, she reinforces the preferred behavior of raising your hand before speaking by only calling on/praising those students who do so (i.e., “Nice job raising your hand, Tyrone. What’s your answer?”).

A teacher who uses this technique is essentially using the differential reinforcement method that we use in ABA therapy.

Cleveland pediatric occupational therapist

What to Look for in a Cleveland Pediatric Occupational Therapist

Pediatric occupational therapy is a broad discipline focused on helping children gain independence while also strengthening development of sensory motor skills, fine motor skills and visual skills needed to help kids function, socialize and participate in daily life.

Most professionals compelled to the field of occupational therapy have big hearts and desire to help people. When it comes to hiring pediatric occupational therapists, our team at Therapy and Wellness Connection prioritizes compassion and dedication to patient care above all else. Simply put: Every therapist MUST care about these kids. We can provide additional training for those newer to this evidence-based field, but genuine care for each and every client is an imperative.

If you’re searching for a pediatric occupational therapist in Cleveland, we know you have your choice of therapy clinics in Northeast Ohio. As you weigh your options, here are some of our thoughts on what we think makes a great OT.