Cleveland autism diagnosis

5 To-Dos After Cleveland Autism Diagnosis

Cleveland autism diagnosis

A Cleveland autism diagnosis can leave parents reeling – even when it’s something you’ve been expecting as you awaited the results of ADOS testing and other examinations. Sometimes, it can feel like something of a relief. You finally have answers. But there’s also the daunting next question: What now?

Parents face a lot of uncertainties, siblings may not understand (or may have much anxiety if they do), and the child who was diagnosed may not yet understand the implications – but can still sense shifts in emotional tone throughout the home.

Autism, more formally known as Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by difficulties with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and non-verbal communication. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that autism affects 1 in 44 children in the U.S. today. Our dedicated team of speech therapists, ABA therapists, occupational therapists, and educators offers help to families in Cleveland, Brecksville, Broadview Heights, and Akron.

No. 1: Breathe

The very first thing to do after a Cleveland autism diagnosis is BREATHE. Autism is a lifelong condition – and that in itself can feel very intimidating as you contemplate your next steps. But know that in most cases, the symptoms can be managed. Behaviors can be managed with help. Your child can lead a long, healthy, meaningful, successful life.

You have already taken the very hardest step in all of this, which is seeking professional intervention when you recognized something wasn’t quite right. You persisted in pursuing answers – even when you knew the answers might pose challenges you might not feel ready to face. You did this because you love your child.

Now that they have an autism diagnosis, give yourself a few beats to catch your breath, acknowledge your own feelings, and prepare yourself for the next chapter. Your engagement and advocacy will be pivotal to your child’s success, and it’s important that you’re in a good mental/emotional space to do so. Online support groups through Facebook and other social media channels can be especially helpful as you embark on this journey.

No. 2: Explore Early Intervention

The next/first step is to get help. Your options may vary depending on your child’s age. Do not worry that your child may be too young. A child can receive a Cleveland autism diagnosis as young as 18 months, and early intervention therapies are strongly recommended to start before a child turns 3.

In Northeast Ohio, we have a program called Help Me Grow for infants and toddlers birth to age 3 with a medical diagnosis or developmental delay, as well as for families concerned about their child’s development. They help work on things like speech delays, social interaction help with other kids, etc.

Services and specialists may include:

  • occupational therapy
  • speech therapy
  • physical therapy
  • developmental specialist
  • early childhood mental health therapy
  • registered dietician
  • vision and hearing specialists

You may need to obtain a referral to early intervention from your pediatrician or pediatric specialist. In Cuyahoga County, it takes about 45 days from the referral to complete the eligibility, assessment, individual family service plan, and then finally the beginning of early intervention services. There has been something of a backlog since COVID, so it’s a good idea to get this process started as soon as possible.

Cleveland autism resources

No. 3: Start Looking at Private Therapy

Early intervention is provided as a public service. But children with autism can also benefit from private therapy services. In the beginning, the schedule of these services may be intensive, ultimately tapering off as they reach their goals and milestones.

Children with autism are often referred for a combination of therapy services, including:

  • Speech Therapy
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Applied Behavioral Analysis (also known as ABA or behavior therapy)

Therapy & Wellness Connection offers all of these – and more – and insurance covers most if not all of these services if your child has been diagnosed with autism. We can provide these services in-clinic, in-home, and sometimes in school or daycare. Some patients may be eligible to receive some of these services via teletherapy.

The key with these services is consistency. Intensive therapy, particularly early on, can feel a bit overwhelming when it’s 3-4 times a week (longer stretches with ABA therapy), but showing up and being actively engaged in the carryover is important.

If your child is school-age, the school should begin the process of drafting an IEP, or individualized education plan. If you find ultimately that your child’s school and IEP fail to serve their best interests, there are scholarships available to enroll them in private education, with teachers who will teach the way they learn. Therapy & Wellness Connection offers homeschooling and other education services with credentialed special teachers and intervention specialists.

No. 4: Engage With a Social Skills Group

Among the most significant deficits many kids on the autism spectrum face are communication and social skills. They’re going to need as much practice as they can – early and often. And it’s a lot of pressure to just put on a sibling or two. Joining a Cleveland social skills group for kids with autism can help them make significant strides.

We offer several different social skills groups, sorted by age, at our Brecksville clinic. These include:

  • Say-n-Play. This is an awesome group that focuses on social interactions and activities like crafts, songs, games, and books. It helps children with speech-language difficulties, but also following directions and engaging with others in a group setting.
  • OT Group. This focuses on zones of regulation, social interaction, and skills of daily life. We take fun “field trips,” play games, and work on group projects.
  • Thrive Social Center Courses. These include everything from learning social boundaries to getting along with friends to teens & technology, to young adult groups.

This extra support will help prepare kids for real-world scenarios and interactions, helping them make friends, stay safe, and be included.

No. 5: Learn to Listen Without Your Ears.

If your child has received a Cleveland autism diagnosis and is non-verbal or speech-delayed, it can be very frustrating to know what they want, what they don’t want, how you can help, and how to parent them. But just because they aren’t talking doesn’t mean they aren’t communicating. Remember that behavior itself is a form of communication, and kids on the spectrum may be engaging in “unexpected” behaviors to communicate wants, needs, or aversions.

ABA Therapy is extremely helpful in addressing unexpected behaviors and promoting those that are expected and helpful. Speech therapy can help with non-verbal communication, articulation, and social pragmatics. Occupational therapy can help kids tackle critical life skills like self-regulation, measuring the size of a problem, diversifying their diet, self-care, etc.

But in the meantime, recognize that just because they aren’t talking doesn’t mean they don’t have anything to say. You may be your child’s voice for the foreseeable future. It’s important to try your best to engage them at every opportunity, and understand what’s NOT being said.

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides ABA therapy to children in Brecksville-Broadview Heights, Cleveland, Akron, and surrounding communities. 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:

What is Autism? AutismSpeaks.com

More Blog Entries:

Cleveland ABA Therapy Strategies, May 5, 2022, Cleveland Autism Treatment Blog

self regulation

How We Help Kids Learn Self-Regulation

Self-regulation is the ability to manage your own emotions and behavior in a way that matches the demands of a given situation. All of us have had trouble at some time or another checking our emotions when we feel heated or excited. But learning to resist highly-charged emotional responses, calm yourself when you’re upset, adjust your expectations, and handle frustration without an outburst? That’s really a lot to ask of any child in a world that is so unpredictable – but it’s especially tough when a child struggles with a condition like autism, down syndrome, or other disability, disorder, or delay.

Our dedicated occupational therapists, speech therapists, behavior therapists, and educators are committed to helping children practice and master this critical life skill.

Why Do Some Kids Struggle With Self-Regulation? 

Difficulties with self-regulation can be displayed in a number of ways, depending on the child. Some kids will have an instantly major reaction to something with no real  build-up. They sort of “explode,” and aren’t able to inhibit that behavior response. Other kids will allow distress to build up for a time, but can only take it for so long before we see an emotional outburst. Even when those of us on the outside can see it building, we have little notion of how to stop it.

In either case, what we’re talking about is more than a simple tantrum, which every kid goes through, particularly in the toddler stage. Difficulty with self-regulation is a persistent, ongoing issue involving behavior that isn’t developmentally appropriate. It’s one thing for your child to throw a tantrum when they’re 2. It’s another for your child to be regularly melting down at age 5 or older.

What’s critical for us as a therapy team is help kids learn how to safely handle those big emotions, finding ways to adequately express them in a way that is more effective, less disruptive, and safer than a meltdown. Doing so requires we understand the why of the behavior.

In our experience, issues with emotional control are some combination of individual temperament, learned behavior, and the lack of communication/social skills needed to effectively communicate their emotions otherwise. Children with conditions like ADHD, autism, ODD, anxiety, or other conditions, learning to manage emotions is especially challenging and requires more outside help.

Teaching Kids Key Emotional Control Techniques

Learning emotional self-regulation is an important life skill, and some kids need more help to learn it than others.

We typically start by teaching young children to recognize the sensations and feelings in their body, and then putting those feelings into thoughts. How does your head feel? How does your skin feel? How does your heart feel? What is your breath doing? What “zone” of emotion are you in? (This can be color-coordinated for younger kids, with very basic, “red =mad, yellow=silly, blue=sad, green=happy,” etc.) Awareness is critical before change.

Once they master this, we can start teaching them about the “size of a problem.” Keeping it simple, we measure some problems as “big,” some “medium,” and some “small.” Then we talk about how to measure reactions in a similar way – big, medium, or small. When small problems have big reactions, that’s when we have the most trouble. The key is to try getting the size of the reaction to match the size of the problem. When it doesn’t, we ask them to reflect. Repetition on this is key.

Another strategy we use early on is to break challenging activities – the ones we know are going to lead to serious frustration – into smaller, more manageable parts. Our occupational therapists can help create social stories for this too, preparing them for each step and spelling out exactly what is expected of them.

Each time they act out, wait until they’re calm, and then ask: What went wrong? Why? How can we fix it for next time? How can we self-advocate for things we need or want without having a meltdown? This helps to create a pattern of mindfulness and thinking about the impact of their reactions. We also try to regularly remind them that at any point, they can “change the channel” of their emotions, by doing things like taking deep breaths, counting to 10, stretching, or taking a break.

Once they can tie feelings to thoughts, reflect on what went wrong, and advocate for themselves, then we can start working on affirmations and positive self-talk (i.e., “I can do this,” “I am brave,” “I am ok,”) etc.

If self-regulation is a skill with which your child struggles, we can help!

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

Additional Resources:

How Can We Help Kids With Self-Regulation? Child Mind Institute

More Blog Entries:

Brecksville ABA Therapists Offer “Time-Out” Alternatives, Feb. 6, 2022, Cleveland Occupational Therapy Blog

sensory processing disorder

Does My Child Have Sensory Processing Disorder?

Sensory processing disorder is a condition that has gained increasing recognition in recent years, to some extent because it’s often diagnosed with comorbid conditions like autism spectrum disorder and ADHD. However, as our Brecksville occupational therapists can explain, it can be present independent of these conditions. Health officials estimate 1 in 20 U.S. kids – or 6.5 percent – have some sort of sensory processing issues. By some accounts, it’s as high as 8 percent.

Despite its prevalence, there remains some confusing about what it is, what the symptoms are, how it can impact a person’s daily life, and how it’s effectively treated.

Sensory processing disorder, or SPD, is a condition in which the brain has trouble receiving and responding to information delivered through the senses. In addition to trouble processing sensations from touch (tactile), taste (gustatory), sound (auditory), sight (visual), and smell (olfactory), SPD includes sensory integration issues with the proprioceptive and/or vestibular systems. Proprioception is the perception or awareness of the position and movement of the body, while vestibular system is the sensory system that provides us a sense of balance, spatial orientation, and coordination of movement. Deficits with sensory processing can adversely impact a child with learning, movement coordination, reading/writing, behavior and social function.

Interestingly, sensory processing disorder can look different for different people. Some are overly sensitive to their environment. We call this hypersensitivity. Light touches on their skin may feel chaffing or common sounds may be overwhelming or even painful. Alternatively, one may not be sensitive enough to certain stimuli. They might be what we call “sensory-seeking,” or hyposensitive. They seek sensory input that others might think of as strange or even painful.

Like autism, it exists on a spectrum and is typically identified in children, but impacts adults as well. The exact cause is unknown, but research has indicated there is likely a strong genetic component.

Symptoms of Hypersensitivity Among Children With Sensory Processing Disorder

Those who are hypersensitive may have some combination of the following symptoms:

  • Withdrawing when touched
  • Overly sensitive to temperature of objects, water, food, or air
  • Refusal to eat foods of certain textures
  • Dislikes having their hair or face washed, hair cut, fingernails/toenails cut, etc.
  • Overly ticklish
  • Avoids messy play, including glue
  • Overreactive to unexpected touch
  • Overly sensitivity to temperature including air, food, water, or objects
  • Uses too little pressure when coloring or writing
  • Poor posture, poor balance, poor body awareness (sometimes described as clumsy)
  • Inattentive
  • Resists activities like slides, swings, escalators, elevators, etc.
  • Gets car sick or motion sick easily
  • Refuses to participate in gym class or dislikes trying new playground equipment
  • Oversensitivity to light, colors, sounds
  • Hums to block out background noise
  • Easily distracted by background noise
  • Strongly dislikes mixed textures (cereal in milk, chunky soup, etc.)
  • Resists trying any new foods or different textures (extremely picky eating, preferring bland foods)
  • Intolerance to teeth-brushing

Symptoms of Hyposensitivity Among Children With Sensory Processing Disorder

Kids with hyposensitivity may display some combination of the following:

  • High pain tolerance
  • Regularly bumps into others
  • Seeks out tactile sensory input
  • Stuffs food into their mouth
  • Licks items on their own skin
  • Tendency for self-abuse or injury (biting, rubbing, heavy pressure, head-banging, pinching, etc.)
  • Tends not to notice messy hands, face, or runny nose, etc.
  • Fails to recognize others’ need for personal space
  • Needs to touch everything
  • Unintentionally rough with pets, siblings, other kids
  • Trouble with fine motor tasks
  • Craves touch
  • Writes or draws with heavy pressure on the pencil
  • Trouble with fine motor tasks
  • Trouble sleeping unless being held or hugged
  • Can seem aggressive
  • Toe-walks
  • Grinds teeth
  • Chews on toys, pencils, shirt, sleeves, etc.
  • Stomps their feet when walking
  • Seeks out wrestling games
  • Poor balance
  • Constant fidgeting
  • Loves spinning, rocking, etc.
  • Hypermobile (constantly getting up from their desk at school, etc.).
  • Constantly hums
  • Makes silly/inappropriate sounds constantly

How Occupational Therapists Treat Kids With SPD

Lots of these symptoms can mirror other conditions, but as mentioned before, it can be a wholly standalone issue – even though it’s not currently recognized as a distinct medical diagnosis.

Because sensory processing disorder can impact kids in all kinds of ways, our Brecksville occupational therapists work regularly to help them integrate these senses. Treatment depends on the individual’s needs, but the general goal of sensory integration is to challenge the child in a way that is fun and playful so they learn to appropriately respond to sensory stimuli in a way that is considered more helpful/functional.

There are different models of treatment, but one of the most popular is the floor-time method. This involves multiple play sessions in which we start out with the adult following the child’s lead (even if the play isn’t typical). In essence, the therapist “enters the child’s world.” From there, we use the play sessions to create various challenges for the child, pulling the child into what’s known as a “shared world.” The challenges are opportunities for the child to master important skills for thinking, relating, and communicating. These are tailored to the child’s specific needs. For example, if the child is hyposensitive to stimuli, then we’ll be more energetic. If they tend to be hypersensitive, then our approach will be more soothing.

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides occupational therapy to children in Brecksville-Broadview Heights, Cleveland, Akron, and surrounding communities. 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:

Sensory Processing Disorder, Feb. 7, 2021, By Brenda Goodman, MA, WebMD

More Blog Entries:

A Child’s “Occupation” is Play – A Brecksville Occupational Therapy Perspective, Dec. 8, 2021, Northeast Ohio Pediatric Occupational Therapist Blog

Brecksville early intervention

Neuroplasticity and How it Relates to Brecksville Early Intervention Services

If your child has been recommended for Brecksville early intervention services, either due to developmental delays or a diagnosis of a condition like autism, Down syndrome, or cerebral palsy, odds are you’ve heard the term “neuroplasticity.”

That’s a somewhat intimidating word, but the concept is fairly straightforward – and important to understand if you’re considering the value of early intervention services, which are initiated before a child’s 5th birthday, or sooner if possible.

Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change – to relearn, rewire, establish and strengthen important connections. If the brain is injured or developing atypically, neurons can be damaged, altered, or lost. The good news is that the brain can establish new pathways. There is a brief window of time with young children where the brain’s ability to form and reorganize synaptic connections – especially in response to learning or experience – is especially effective. This is called neuroplasticity.

Children’s minds are like little sponges, absorbing everything around them. It’s what gives them the “superpower” of learning the fundamentals of movement, language and basic independence (walking, talking, feeding, etc.) in just a few short years. If a child has a developmental delay or a condition that has made reaching typical developmental milestones challenging, intervening early with services like speech therapy, occupational therapy, ABA therapy, and physical therapy allows us to leverage a child’s natural neuroplasticity to help their brains create and reinforce new neural pathways that allow them to glean new skills, habits, and ways of thinking.

Brecksville occupational therapy

A Child’s “Occupation” is Play – A Brecksville Occupational Therapy Perspective

Those first introduced to the world of early intervention therapy are often confused as to why children would need occupational therapy. After all, kids don’t have “occupations,” right?

Actually, they do!

As our Brecksville occupational therapy practitioners can explain, children’s “occupations” involve the business of growing and developing. That means picking up fine and gross motor skills, learning to communicate and socialize, grasping self-care, feeding, and emotional regulation, and overall navigating the world around them. Play is the means through which kids master their neurological and biological development. Engaging in activities that are both fun and creative helps kids to ultimately become independent adults.

That is why play-based occupational therapy is so effective. As noted by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), it is often through play that kids learn to make sense of and engage with the world around them. Occupational therapists help children who are struggling in certain areas – most frequently with neurological, muscular, and social/communication skills due to a developmental delay, disability or injury/illness. We do this through sensory-rich play that offers opportunities for them to develop/master those skills while also having fun. We never want sessions to feel like work, even if that’s ultimately what they are.

How Brecksville Occupational Therapy Practitioners Use Play-Based Therapy

As occupational therapists, we use play not only to address the child’s goals, but also to help motivate them to challenge themselves.

Some of the ways we work with children during play-based occupational therapy include:

  • Helping to modify toys or the environment so that the child can get just the right of sensory input without being overwhelmed.
  • Recommending to parents activities for play and toys that can offer just the right amount of challenge for a child so that they are learning/working on a skill set, but also still having fun. We can also incorporate play into a variety of exercises that are geared toward helping build on the child’s abilities and strengths.
  • Crafting our sessions around play opportunities that encourage social skills like turn-taking and neurological skills like problem-solving. We’ll take in the unique priorities and routines of your family when formulating strategies you can use to incorporate this kind of play in your everyday life.

Some examples of toys and activities that we frequently use to work on certain skills:

  • Manipulative play with toys like board games, play dough and LEGOs. What we’re looking for here is boosting the child’s dexterity and hand-eye coordination.
  • Sensory-rich play with things like finger paints, magnets, kinetic sand, water toys, balls and beads. Lots of kids we work with struggle with sensory dysregulation. Playing with toys that incorporate sight, sound, tough, smell, and movement helps them work on sensory integration and regulation.
  • Imaginative play with things like dolls, puppets, phones, stuffed animals, etc. Pretend play is an excellent way for kids to practice key social skills.

It’s important that whatever toy or activity we use is appropriate to both the child’s age and maturity level. Toys and activities need not be expensive to be effective. Although our occupational therapists can conduct sessions in the home, at school, or in other settings, one benefit of in-clinic sessions is that we have a wealth of tools and toys within arm’s reach.

Our occupational therapy team works with kids with a broad range of disabilities, delays and challenges. If you’re interested in our play-based occupational therapy services in Brecksville-Broadview Heights, our team would be happy to connect with you!

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – is a pediatric therapy center providing occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy and ABA/behavior therapy to children in Northeast Ohio. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email. Serving Brecksville, Akron, Cleveland and surrounding communities in Northeast Ohio.

Additional Resources:

Learning Through Play, American Occupational Therapy Association

More Blog Entries:

Fun Fall Activities From Our Akron Occupational Therapists, Oct. 8, 2021, Brecksville Occupational Therapy Blog

child developmental regression

Child Developmental Regression & What To Do About It

Child developmental regression is when a child loses certain developmental skills they previously acquired. It might seem as if they’re almost moving backward in their development. This is different from developmental delay, when kids reach certain milestones later than expected or their developmental progress flattens or stalls.

The condition is pretty rare, though it is sometimes associated with a number of diagnoses, each warranting prompt attention and intervention. The good news is that for the more common conditions, treatment can be effective when problems are caught early.

Examples of the conditions most commonly associated with child developmental regression are:

  • Autism spectrum disorder. This condition isn’t always associated with child developmental regression, but as researchers have noted, it is the most frequent condition in which regression is diagnosed. In rare instances, it can be associated with Heller’s Syndrome, also known as child disintegrative disorder (CDD). This is characterized by late onset (age 3 and older) developmental delays, social function, motor skills, and even cognitive function. Children with CDD will develop typically for the first 2 to 10 years before sharply regressing.
  • Neurodegenerative disorders. These include conditions like Rett’s Syndrome and Metachromatic leukodystrophy.
  • Trauma or stress. Traumatic or stressful events can cause some children to regress in some respects or act younger than their age. Examples of this include things like potty accidents, sleep disturbances, decreased independence and behavior disruption.

For this article, we’re focusing primarily on regression as it pertains to autism. It should be noted though that with the other conditions, medications, therapies, and other supports are known to help manage symptoms, prevent complications, and improve life quality.

What We Know About Child Developmental Regression and Autism

Regression with autism appears to occur very rapidly or gradually. In either case, the child struggles to regain skills they’ve lost.

Some researchers have concluded that while regression among some kids with autism can be very real, many instances are more likely a pileup of deficits and missed indicators that finally become unmistakable. Parental reports that classify the onset of autism can often be flawed – not because parents aren’t paying attention to their kids, but because they usually aren’t child developmental experts who even know what to watch for.

In other words, loss of social interest or communication deficits can take place at varying ages and to different degrees – it just becomes more noticeable at certain points. When it happens to kids who are little older, it can appear drastic and sudden. When it happens in kids who are a lot younger, it can seem very subtle.

In the past, doctors used to think that “regressive autism” was a subtype of autism, but the more we learn about the condition, the more those lines have been blurred. One study published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics found as many as 1 in 5 cases of autism involved regression – a rate that has risen as we’ve grown to include more people with unique presentations of autism.

Often, it looks something like this: An 18-month-old who seemed to be developing typically “withdraws suddenly,” ignoring his own name, talking less (to the point of not talking at all), ignoring engagement with other kids to play almost exclusively with inanimate objects, losing previous interests, and appearing to obsessively focus on a few things or activities. This may occur at the same time as the child begins to display behavior characterized as “odd” and repetitive.

Although doctors used to consider “regressive autism” to be its own subset of the condition, physicians increasingly argue that such classifications aren’t as pertinent because most kids with autism lose some skills, and there is a lot of variation on the types of skills they lose, to what degree, and at what age. A study published in the journal Autism in 2016 found that there were a range of onset patterns, with some parents reporting early developmental delays with no skill loss to no delays and then a clear loss of skills. Ultimately, this may tell us something about the onset of the condition, but it doesn’t necessarily change the approach and treatment in helping kids “catch up” in their social, emotional, and communication skills.

Child developmental regression typically occurs among children younger than 3, with the average age being around 21 months. The risk of children losing their developmental skills becomes increasingly unlikely the older they get, but early intervention speech therapy, occupational therapy, and ABA therapy can help them retain what they have and make gains where they’ve fallen behind.

Early Intervention Therapies Can Help Kids Who Have Developmental Regression

When it comes to children with autism, regardless of the onset pattern, waiting for the child to “catch up” on their own simply isn’t going to work.

Our Brecksville speech therapy, occupational therapy, ABA therapy, physical therapy, and special education team work together as a team in formulating an early intervention plan that can help children on the autism spectrum communicate, play, and learn. Our approach is going to be based on the skills they have compared to the skills they should be displaying for a child their age.

Therapy is not a “quick fix” solution. It is a commitment for families, but is well-established as one of the most effective means of treating children who’ve experienced developmental regression attributed to autism.

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

Additional Resources:

Why Act Early if You’re Concerned About Child Development, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

More Blog Entries:

At What Age Should My Child Begin Brecksville Speech Therapy? Oct. 16, 2021, Brecksville Speech Therapist Blog

Brecksville kids social group

Kids Ages 5-12 Social Group in Brecksville

Therapy & Wellness Connection is proud to offer Thrive Social Group sessions for school-age kids 5-12, every Wednesday from 3:30-4:30 p.m. We incorporate creative play, movement & music while teaching important social skills in this therapist-led group.

Our kids’ social group is offered in 6-week sessions for $180 total. The skills your child will learn and the fun they’ll have will be invaluable! Call today to reserve your child’s spot!

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – offers speech, occupational, physical & ABA therapy, as well as social groups, summer camp, day programs, homeschooling, alternative schooling, virtual therapy and education, vocational counseling and more. We’re headquartered in Brecksville, Ohio. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.

Teen & Young Adult Social Group

Teen & Young Adult Social Group in Brecksville

Our teen & young adult social group at Therapy & Wellness Connection in Brecksville is available to teens and young adults to help with key social skills critical for navigating everyday interactions and making friends. A.I.M. is a therapist-led group that is all about accepting our differences and what makes us unique, identifying mindfulness strategies with behavior analysis, and moving forward with strategies of psychological flexibility and making new friends.

Social Group Every Wednesday

Teen and young adult social skills group is held every Wednesday from 4:30-6 p.m. Call or email Therapy & Wellness Connection in Brecksville to sign up today!

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – offers speech, occupational, physical & ABA therapy, as well as social groups, summer camp, day programs, homeschooling, alternative schooling, virtual therapy and education, vocational counseling and more. We’re headquartered in Brecksville, Ohio. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.

Akron occupational therapists

Fun Fall Activities From Our Akron Occupational Therapists

Our Akron occupational therapists are big fans of autumn here in Northeast Ohio – brightly-colored leaves, brisk air, bulbous pumpkins, and crisp apple cider. Plus, there are so many ways we can incorporate season-themed activities into our OT sessions: Crafts, games, and even food!

Here, we’ve rounded up a few of our favorite fall-themed favorites you can do at home with your child for some fun – and extra OT practice!

Construction Paper Trees

This is a craft that helps with a child’s fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, bilateral coordination skills and hand strengthening. You need some fall leaf colored construction paper (think brown, red, yellow, and orange) and maybe a larger poster board if you want to make your trees bigger.

Have your child gather up a few of their favorite fall leaves outside. Then have them trace the leaf on the construction paper before carefully cutting them out. Set them aside and create a trunk made of construction paper. Then glue the trees on top of the trunk and have them sign their name!

Our Akron occupational therapists love this activity because it can be adjusted based on your child’s skill level. They can cut out printed or pre-drawn leaves or just do free-form cutting. Depending on how into it you are, you can even make a giant tree for decoration on their bedroom door or wall. Smaller master pieces will find a great home on the fridge. When they’re finished, make sure to tell them how proud of them you are!

Leaf Letters

This one helps your child practice pre-writing lines and visual motor skills. Just grab a bunch of fall leaves (or acorns, seeds, and other small seasonal stuff). Have them draw one pre-writing line or shape on a piece of paper. Then have them trace that line with a glue stick and then tack on the tiny leaves, seeds, etc. This is great practice for hand-eye coordination too! Any leftover leaves, you can use for an autumn leaves crayon-rubbing craft.

Pumpkin Head

This is a fun game that you and your child can do together, maybe with some fun, fall-themed music in the background. It helps with core strength, balance, and gross motor coordination. Just grab a couple bean bags, mini pumpkin, and a jump rope (or other long, thin string). Simply walking along the “balance beam” (rope) without stepping off can be good for posture and core strength. Add to the fun of it by putting on some fall-themed tunes. If they master that, have them do it carrying a small pumpkin If they pass that one, have them do it with a beanbag on their head. If they can do that too, have them try it while balancing the little pumpkin on their head!

Fall Sensory Bin Scavenger Hunt

Spend some time exploring in nature and make it fun with a scavenger hunt. There are tons of fall scavenger hunt printouts you can find online, but a few ideas of things to look for:

  • Smooth, shiny leaves.
  • Red leaves.
  • Crunchy leaves.
  • Smooth rocks.
  • Jagged-edge rocks.
  • Bumpy pinecones.
  • Bendy twigs.

When you fill your bucket, have a seat and stop to feel all the textures. Draw or trace the objects or turn them into art on a piece of construction paper or cardboard.

Making Apple Sauce

This one is great for executive function, following directions, fine and gross motor skills, proprioceptive input, and upper body strength. Plus it’s just a lot of hands-on, memory-making fun!

If you can start, take your kids apple-picking! Then find your favorite easy apple sauce recipe, and have your kid help step-by-step. (Applesauce stays fresh in the fridge for a week or so and freezes really well too!) Make sure to talk your child through every step of the process, especially if they also struggle with speech-language delays or disorders.

If you’re looking for more ideas on fall-themed OT activities for kids, our Brecksville occupational therapists are happy to help!

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – is a pediatric therapy center providing occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy and ABA therapy to children with special needs in Northeast Ohio. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email. Serving Brecksville, Akron, Cleveland and surrounding communities in Northeast Ohio.

Additional Resources:

Sensory Processing in Children With and Without Autism: A Comparative Study Using the Short Sensory Profile, AOTA

More Blog Entries:

Does My Child Need Occupational Therapy? Sept. 15, 2021, Brecksville Occupational Therapy Blog

Brecksville occupational therapy kids

Does My Child Need Occupational Therapy?

If we’re doing it right, those peering into a pediatric occupational therapy session will think it just looks like, well, playing! But those glimpses can leave a lot of people confused about what exactly occupational therapy is and why it’s needed for kids. Our Brecksville pediatric therapy team is happy to explain.

As noted by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), occupational therapy is a branch of health care that helps people of all ages with physical, sensory, social, or cognitive problems. It’s a broad discipline, but the primary goal is helping people to achieve independence in all areas of life. We look at what barriers are standing in the way of that.

Occupational therapists may work with adults who have suffered from strokes or serious injuries to regain their independence. With children, we are working to help them achieve independence they likely did not have in the first place. We do this by assisting them when they’re struggling with developmental delays, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, social skills, oral motor skills, visual processing, or sensory disorders. Mostly, we work with children who have some marked developmental delays or diagnosed disabilities, but we do sometimes work with kids on one-off (but important) skills – like handwriting – with which they may be struggling.

How Occupational Therapy Can Help Your Child

In examining whether a child needs our Brecksville occupational therapy services, we look at what day-to-day difficulties they are having at home, at school, and in their community. Often, they’re grappling with challenges that don’t affect most typically-developing children (or don’t affect them the same way).

A great occupational therapist will support not only the child but the child’s family too.

Some of the areas in which we can help:

  • Developmental delays. This is when a child is behind other kids their same age in certain areas of development. It’s typically flagged when a child fails to meet certain developmental milestones such as sitting, crawling, walking, learning at an age-appropriate level or failing to develop age-appropriate social and play skills.
  • Fine motor skills. Fine motor skills are essential to so many basic tasks of daily living. These are the sorts of fine movements that are needed to do things like hold a pencil, use scissors, button a shirt, feed yourself, etc. It often involves the fine motor of the fingers, but it can also be issues with the toes, wrists, tongue and lips. If your child has trouble feeding themselves, picking up/holding small objects or avoids things like puzzles and coloring, they might have fine motor skill issues. We can help!

    Gross motor skills. These include the wider movements of body parts like arms, legs, and core. These are the movements that help us control our body. If a child is having difficulty with movement, balance, or strength, an occupational therapist can help them strengthen these skills to improve independence.

    Visual processing. This is the skill that allows us to make use of what we’re seeing. It’s how our brain interprets the information it’s receiving visually. A child with visual processing issues is going to have trouble with things like recognizing letters, shapes, and numbers, finding objects among other objects, visually tracking objects, copying items from the board onto their paper, or ascertaining right from left. An occupational therapist can help.

    Oral motor/oral sensory. This is when the child struggles to control the muscle movements of the face and mouth. You’ll notice this is an issue if your child has excessive drool, chews in the front of their mouth rather than in the back, struggles with drinking from a cup or straw when their peers have no trouble, or is an excessively picky eater. Our occupational therapy team has many tools and strategies we can use to help with these problems.

    Sensory processing. This is how we make sense of information gleaned from our five senses (sight, smell, touch, taste, sound, and hearing). Kids can be either overly-sensitive or under-stimulated by sensory input. Kids with sensory processing issues (particularly common among those on the autism spectrum) may be constantly moving/jumping/bumping/crashing, under-reactive to certain issues, emotionally reactive or have trouble adjusting to change. They may also have a really tough time calming themselves down with they’re upset.

    Social interactions. Humans are social creatures. Our ability to understand social cues and form positive relationships with those around us is central to our ability to function in daily life. If a child has difficulty engaging socially, adapting to new environments, or communicating (delayed language skills or hyper-focused on a single subject), it can impede their ability to function. We have lots of strategies we can teach to help them in these areas.

    Learning difficulties. Sometimes referred to as learning disabilities, these are often related to developmental delays and certain conditions. A child with a learning difficulty may be unable to concentrate or focus, be easily distracted, struggle to follow instructions and complete work, have poor impulse control, or need lots of extra help learning new material.

Bear in mind that all kids are going to develop at their own pace. But if you have concerns about your child falling behind or struggling in certain areas, the earlier we can intervene with occupational therapy, the better the chances they’ll be able to “catch up” to their peers and/or have the greatest shot at independence.

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – is a pediatric therapy center providing occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy and ABA therapy to children with special needs in Northeast Ohio. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email. Serving Brecksville, Akron, Cleveland and surrounding communities in Northeast Ohio.

Additional Resources:

Back to School Resources During COVID-19, AOTA

More Blog Entries:

Occupational Therapy vs. Physical Therapy: What’s the Difference? July 3, 2021, Brecksville Occupational Therapy Blog