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

Down syndrome autism dual diagnosis

Treating Kids With Down Syndrome on the Autism Spectrum

When a child has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism spectrum disorder, therapy and education approaches must be specially tailored to their needs and the way they learn. At Therapy & Wellness Connection, our speech therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and ABA therapists are committed to ensuring that every child is properly diagnosed and receives therapy that is going to help them thrive and reach their full potential.

In the past, it was presumed that autism was fairly rare in people with Down syndrome. We now know that’s not the case. Per the Down Syndrome Resource Foundation, it’s estimated autism is about 10-25 percent more common among people with Down syndrome as it is for the typical population. However, diagnosis of autism typically comes much later in kids with Down syndrome than it does for other kids. According to DSRF, the mean age of an autism diagnosis for a child with Down syndrome was about 14.4 years. It’s been well-established  that the sooner kids receive early intervention treatment for autism, the better their long-term prognoses on several fronts.

There are several reasons for the delay in autism diagnosis for kids with Down syndrome. For one thing, while Down syndrome is almost instantly recognizable (and verifiable with a blood test), autism spectrum disorder is not. It is subjective, based upon observed social communication and behavior patterns.

A delayed diagnosis does put these kids at a disadvantage developmentally, academically, and socially – even compared to kids who only have one of the two disabilities. For example, there is a faulty assumption that all people with Down syndrome are “outgoing” or “charming.” But when a child with Down syndrome also has autism, they may struggle to relate socially, failing to live up to the unrealistic expectations of social strengths. (However, there is some evidence that kids this dual diagnosis may have stronger social skills than those solely diagnosed with autism.)

Parents of children with Down syndrome who are also on the spectrum may at first think they’ve done something wrong, particularly when they notice their child is making fewer strides or exhibiting more behavioral problems compared to other kids with Down syndrome.

Our ABA, occupational, physical, and ABA therapists work with lots of kids who have dual diagnoses of Down syndrome and autism. We can help parents recognize the signs and help them navigate the process to obtain ADOS testing and a diagnosis, which can help open the door to additional services.

Diagnosing Autism in a Child with Down Syndrome

It’s generally accepted that a child with autism will present some combination of the following:

  • Pervasive deficits in social interaction and social communication, not accounted for by general developmental delays.
  • Repetitive, restricted behavior patterns, activities or interests.
  • Hypo- or hyper-reactivity to sensory input.
  • Symptoms present in early childhood.
  • Combined symptoms limit everyday function.

We often hear parents of kids with a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism say they recognized something was different early on, but they couldn’t tell exactly what. This is understandable because many of the characteristics of autism are also routinely observed in kids with Down syndrome – especially the social communication component. Lots of children with Down syndrome have difficulty with expressive language, speech sound production and voice, as well as underlying cognitive deficits. That makes a dual diagnosis tricky!

If you suspect your child might have autism, it’s important to talk to the members of your professional support team, including your pediatrician, speech therapist, ABA therapist, physical therapist, occupational therapist, child psychologist, teachers, etc. Get their input and guidance. Ultimately, an autism diagnosis will be made by a physician or psychiatrist, but having feedback from the other professionals who know your child well can be valuable when presenting your concerns.

Treatment for Kids With a Dual Diagnosis

Many of our pediatric patients at Therapy & Wellness Connection have comorbidities (more than one condition). Those diagnoses can provide access and a road map, but ultimately, our therapies and education services are tailored to the individual child. Kids with both of these conditions often benefit from multiple, early intervention therapies, including speech, occupational, ABA, feeding/swallowing and physical therapy.

If your child has been diagnosed with both autism and Down syndrome or are concerned your child with Down syndrome might be on the spectrum, we can help.

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides ABA therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical 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:

Down Syndrome and Autism Spectrum Disorder Dual Diagnosis: Important Considerations for Speech-Language Pathologists, Dec. 14, 2020, American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology

More Blog Entries:
How Our Brecksville Speech Therapy Helps Children With Autism, July 1, 2021, Brecksville Speech Therapy Blog
Brecksville occupational therapists

Frustration Tolerance: How Our Brecksville Occupational Therapists Help Kids Manage Frustration

Frustration tolerance is the ability to successfully manage feelings of frustration. It’s a tough skill to master, and it’s something with which a lot of kids struggle. As our Cleveland occupational therapists can explain, having low frustration tolerance can make completing even the most basic tasks an uphill battle.

Frustration is an emotional response occurring when something goes wrong or what we desire doesn’t come to fruition. Teaching kids to cope with frustration is essential to helping them become adults who are patient, decisive and capable.

Kids with low frustration may:

  • Get easily upset.
  • Have difficulty accepting or moving on from defeat/not winning at a game.
  • Have trouble solving things easily or right away.
  • Give up easily.
  • Have trouble concentrating (unable to listen to a full story/focus on their school work).
  • Struggle with reduced social skills, uninterested in playing with other kids (which becomes cyclical in other kids’ response to them).

Of course, ups and downs are a normal part of childhood – and of life! Children may experience stress and discomfort when faced with new situations or environments (and the beginning of a new school year is a good time to talk about this!). But parents, caregivers, and occupational therapists can respond with care and understanding, while still teaching them how to appropriately respond to frustrating situations.

behavioral regulation ABA

Study: Behavioral Regulation Difficulties Linked to Sleep Problems Among Kids With Autism

A new study found that difficulty sleeping – a common problem for children on the autism spectrum – is associated with behavioral regulation difficulties later in childhood. This longitudinal study drives home the importance of helping families address the sleep problems kids with autism have as early as possible.

Of course, this isn’t entirely shocking news to our Brecksville ABA therapy and occupational therapy team. It’s been well-established that getting high-quality sleep is key for everyone’s general health. A child who isn’t well-rested (just like any adult) is going to be cranky and more tantrum-prone. Still, the research sheds additional light on how vital it is for doctors and therapists to provide the support and tools to help children with autism struggling with sleep issues. In turn, this may help foster improved behavioral regulation as they get older.

The analysis, published in the journal Sleep and reported Spectrum News, is one of the first studies to look closely at the long-suspected connection between executive function (mental skills that include the ability to manage one’s own behavior to achieve certain goals) and poor sleep quality among children with autism.

Of course, many kids have sleep troubles the first few years of life. These too are associated with lower executive function, but these typically resolve after a few years. Children with autism are known to be more likely to suffer from long-term sleeping problems, which many researchers had previously opined were connected to poor executive function.

This study, which began in 2005, followed 217 children with autism, starting between the ages of 2 and 4 and then again several years later. The children’s executive function, as reported in surveys by parents and teachers, were evaluated four times when they were between the ages of 7 and 12.

What they found was severe sleep troubles were linked with reduced ability to regulate behavior. Interestingly, other types of executive function (ability to order their own thoughts, reflect on them, etc.) didn’t appear to be tied to sleep trouble.

Further, researchers concluded the age at which sleep disturbances occur can make a difference. For instance, kids who struggled to fall asleep between the ages of 2 and 4 didn’t have any behavior regulation issues a handful of years later. But when kids were taking a long time to fall asleep when at the ages of 6 and 7, they showed noticeable behavior regulation issues the following year. As for why this is, study authors opine it may have something to do with the fact that many kids between the ages of 2 and 4 wake up frequently, whereas older kids typically don’t.

It’s important to note the study doesn’t clearly indicate a causal relationship between poor sleep and reduced executive function, though that is what many researchers suspect. It’s probable, though, that executive function is impacted by a variety of factors, sleep patterns included.

Our Brecksville pediatric occupational therapists have several strategies we can share to help your child with autism get a better night’s sleep. These include addressing sensory seeking or avoiding behavior (weighted blankets, looser pajamas, developing bedtime routines and social stories, etc.), managing the child’s physical environment and helping families adjust their schedules to make for smoother transitions.

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, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email

Additional Resources:

Autistic children’s sleep problems linked to behavioral regulation issues, July 5, 2021, Spectrum News

More Blog Entries:

How Occupational Therapy Can Help Treat Children With Sleep Problems, Feb. 15, 2020, Brecksville Occupational Therapy Blog

Brecksville occupational therapy

Occupational Therapy vs. Physical Therapy: What’s the Difference?

Both occupational therapy and physical therapy practitioners are committed to improving lives. But often when parents come to us for services, in some cases recommended for both types of therapy, they aren’t all that clear on the unique role each plays. Physical therapy is generally better understood than occupational therapy, but both are equally vital in helping children with injuries, disabilities and delays reach their full potential.

The fields are quite similar, but they’re also unique in both scope and focus.

What is Occupational Therapy?

It’s probably worth first explaining occupational therapy. The name throws a lot of people off, as if it might have something to do with one’s job. The reality is that our Brecksville occupational therapists assist kids and young adults with a wide range of tasks that “occupy” their life. Many of the kids we work with are far too young for jobs, but offering assistance in finding and maintaining work could be goals for some of our teen or young adult patients.

Occupational therapists can help individuals focus on one major thing or just a few things, but are also dedicated to treating the “whole person.” That means we can help with everything from handwriting to self-care to social interactions to play. Occupational therapists in Ohio must have a master’s degree and be licensed through the state to practice.

What is Physical Therapy? 

These are our movement experts! Physical therapists are committed to helping children with conditions that impede their ability to move and can often offer ways to prevent injury, provide surgery and minimize pain.

Physical therapists in Ohio are required to earn a doctor of physical therapy (DPT) to practice. In addition to studying anatomy, kinesiology and neuroscience, these practitioners also study things like communication, child development and ethics. They too must be licensed through the state.

In What Ways Are Pediatric Occupational and Physical Therapists the Same?

As previously mentioned, both types of practitioners (OTs and PTs) are committed to wellness. Beyond that, both evaluate patients and offer customized plans of care. Treatment plans are monitored routinely for progress and also whether changes are needed.

They also treat many of the same conditions, such as brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, autism, down syndrome, torticollis, reflex integrations, proprioceptive awareness and neurological conditions. Further, both work with caregivers and family members to ensure patients have the support they need to thrive. Although OT and PT practitioners can both work in clinics, hospitals and nursing homes, ours practice in our Brecksville clinic as well as in patient homes and schools.

Both can become certified in specialties like pediatrics.

So What’s the Difference?

The primary difference between physical and occupational therapy practitioners is the scope of what they do. While physical therapists want to help people move better, occupational therapists are more focused on a holistic function that can include social, emotional and work-related scenarios. Whereas the physical therapist would be focused primarily on facilitating movement, the occupational therapist would also be concerned with developing/restoring the ability to complete certain functions.

If your child needs physical therapy, occupational therapy or both, our Brecksville pediatric therapy clinic is a one-stop-shop for both.

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:

Occupational Therapy Versus Physical Therapy, June 22, 2021, Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev, MD, WebMD

More Blog Entries:

When Your Child Can’t Write His Name Yet: Tips From an Akron Occupational Therapist, June 18, 2021, Brecksville Occupational Therapy Blog

Akron occupational therapist handwriting

When Your Child Can’t Write His Name Yet: Tips From an Akron Occupational Therapist

Even though we live in a world where it seems everything these days is typed, mastering legible handwriting is still an important life skill – starting first and foremost with one’s name. If your child has reached the age of 6 and is still unable to write his name, it may be time to consult with an Akron occupational therapist.

It’s true that as a society, we tend to push kids to start writing very early – perhaps even before they’re developmentally ready for the task. Some children are able to do so by age 4, but many typically-developing children won’t put in an honest effort until they’re 5 or so. However, if they’re nearing age 6 and still haven’t made progress on this front, they may need some additional help to get going.

Akron occupational therapist

OTR vs. COTA: Choosing the Best Akron Occupational Therapist for Your Child

April is Occupational Therapy Month. Children who need the assistance of an  Akron occupational therapist may be diagnosed with any number of conditions, from down syndrome to autism spectrum disorder to traumatic injury. The goal of a pediatric occupational therapist is to help kids who struggle with everyday tasks due to poor motor skills. This can include tasks that are a part of learning and functioning well at school, home and recreation – anything from handwriting to walking to zipping their coats to staying on task.

As providers of occupational therapy to children in Akron, Cleveland, Brecksville and Broadview Heights, we are occasionally asked what is the difference between an “OTR” and a “COTA.” These are two different titles you may see after the names of your Akron occupational therapist.

Essentially, it comes down to education and training, though there are also differences in responsibilities too. OT(R) stands for Registered Occupational Therapist. Registration only happens after an occupational therapist passes the state boards following graduate school. It requires at least a 2.5-3-year Master’s or Doctorate degree in occupational therapy.

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).
Akron ADHD occupational therapy

Akron ADHD Occupational Therapy Aids Attention, Eases Anxiety, Improves Behavior

If your child is diagnosed with ADHD, regardless of whether it’s co-occurring with other conditions, occupational therapy has been proven to help in a number of ways. Our Akron ADHD occupational therapy helps children develop the skills necessary to complete everyday tasks. That means:

  • Improving organizational skills
  • Learning to control their hyperactivity;
  • Practicing basic self hygiene and healthy eating;
  • Promoting positive behaviors;
  • Coping with anxiety;
  • Advancing physical coordination/gross motor skills.

We want children to grow to be functionally independent, healthy, happy contributors in their families and greater communities. Akron ADHD occupational therapy over time can help your child develop the life skills to help make this possible.

Cleveland OT kids

Cleveland OT Talk: “Why Would My Child Need Occupational Therapy?”

When a child is referred for Cleveland OT (occupational therapy) services, parents are sometimes a bit bewildered.

“Why would a child need to learn an occupation?”

With other types of pediatric therapy, the name sort of says it all, right?

  • Speech-language therapy Teaching children how to communicate, understand language, articulate, etc.
  • Physical therapy Helping children overcome some type of physical condition, whether orthopedic, neurological, developmental, congenital or musculoskeletal.
  • Behavior therapy (ABA) Assisting kids with conditions like autism spectrum disorder and Down syndrome to learn how to navigate socially significant behaviors.

Occupational therapy is a bit trickier to explain because it’s such a broad discipline. Cleveland OT services at Therapy & Wellness Connection helps children with various needs improve their physical, sensory, cognitive and motor skills, all while boosting their self esteem and pride in accomplishments.