Kindergarten is the new first grade. At least that’s been the conclusion after research the last few years into Ohio kindergarten readiness and standard developmental milestones that public schools expect kids to have by the time they start school.
Our Cleveland occupational therapists and homeschool teachers at Therapy & Wellness Connection are familiar with this research, including a longitudinal study that came out more than a decade ago compared kindergarten readiness standards in 1998 to those in 2010. They found that the standards for entering kindergarten in 2010 were on par with what was expected of first-graders in the 1990s. For example, in 1998, about less than one-third of teachers thought their students should know how to read entering kindergarten. By 2010, that figure jumped to a whopping 80 percent. Researchers expressed astonishment at the magnitude of changes in classroom expectations just in this 20-year window.
Standards for Ohio kindergarten readiness have only continued to climb. It’s one of the reasons our occupational therapists and intervention specialists are such ardent preachers of early intervention therapies if it appears a young child is falling behind developmentally. The sooner developmental delays and issues are addressed, the less farther behind they will continue to fall. They won’t have as much “catching up” to do by the time they reach kindergarten age.
What is Required for Ohio Kindergarten Readiness?
Every year, public school districts are in the Buckeye State are required to administer the Ohio Kindergarten Readiness Assessment Revised (KRA-R) to all first-time kindergarten students at the start of each school year. The test is not traditional pencil and paper, but rather looks at the child’s knowledge and abilities across four areas: Language and Literacy, Mathematics, Physical Well-being and Motor Development, and Social Foundations.
Some of what proctors are assessing:
- Language and Literacy: Make predictions/ask questions about the text of interactive read-alouds after looking at the title, cover, illustrations/photos, graphic aids or texts.
- Math: Count to identify how many objects in a set, compare categories with comparisons vocabular (greater than/less than, same/equal to, etc.).
- Social Skills: Can interact with peers in pretend play, plan and coordinate roles and cooperation.
- Physical Well-Being and Motor Development: Demonstrate locomotor skills with control, coordination, and balance during active play (hopping, jumping, running, etc.)
Your child’s scores on this test are going to determine how ready they are for kindergarten instruction, though it can’t be used to prohibit them from starting. But kids who develop stronger age appropriate behaviors, skill, and knowledge when they start kindergarten are going to be more likely to excel on their academic track.
Developmental Milestones to Pay Attention to as Your Child Approaches Kindergarten
Developmental delays of all ages should be promptly addressed at the time you notice them, some developmental milestones you should pay careful attention to as your child reaches kindergarten age:
- Do they speak clearly? Kids need to have a base-level of communication in order to thrive in kindergarten. They need to be able to articulate their thoughts clearly and be able to understand when others are communicating with them. Not only will this help academically, but will help them to form stronger connections with their peers. If your child is approaching kindergarten and struggles forming sounds or words, seems confused when directions are given, doesn’t ask questions like other kids their age, or otherwise seem delayed, they may need some additional help. Speech-language disorders are pretty common around preschool age, but it’s a good idea to seek a consultation with a speech therapist if this is the case.
- Do they understand questions? It’s important that kids are able to understand how to ask basic who-what-when-where-why questions, and be able to answer them in return.
- Do they recognize their numbers and letters? They don’t necessarily need to have a mastery of the alphabet or be doing algebra, but schools will typically expect them to know how to count to 10 and understand basic math concepts (greater/less than, etc.). And they should be able to recognize most letters and associate sounds with some of them.
- Do they understand the basic concept of time? This is a tough one for a lot of kids, but it’s not really about being able to tell time. Your child should, however, have a basic understanding of before, now, soon, yesterday, tomorrow, later, etc.
- Can they tell a story? They’re not expected to be little Shakespeares, but they should be able to tell simple stories with what most would recognize as a beginning, middle, and end.
- Can they recognize patterns? Can they recognize patterns in shapes, sizes, numbers? This will be important to basic math concepts.
- Do they have basic fine motor skills? They don’t necessarily need to know exactly how to hold a pencil and write when they enter kindergarten, but they should be able to pick up a marker and reliably make marks on the paper. If your child is struggling with these skills, take time to practice with them every day – coloring, using utensils, pouring juice, etc. to help them build up their muscle strength and coordination. (There are TONS of fun crafts too that require fine motor skills that you can incorporate too. The more fun you make it, the faster your child will learn!)
Keep in mind that all kids develop at different rates. If your child hasn’t reached every single milestone, that’s Ok. A little extra practice may go a long way. But if you find they’re still struggling the closer you get to kindergarten age, you may want to talk to your pediatrician about a consultation with a speech therapist and/or occupational therapist to help bolster these skills. We want them ready to take on the world!
Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides speech therapy to children in Akron, Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights 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.
Ohio Kindergarten Readiness Assessment, Ohio Department of Education
More Blog Entries:“
Late Talkers” Who Get Early Intervention Speech Therapy Have Better Long-Term Outcomes, April 13, 2022, Cleveland Speech Therapy & Occupational Therapy Blog
Tactile defensiveness is a term used by our Cleveland occupational therapists to describe hypersensitivity to touch. Those who experience tactile defensiveness say they’re more bothered than others by different textures on their skin. This may extend to different textures of food, fabrics, flooring, certain self-care tasks and showing affection.
Those with touch sensitivities may be extremely averse to certain sensations in a way that impacts their daily lives. They may have much bigger reactions than one would expect to uncomfortable physical sensations. It might manifest in things like refusing to put on certain socks, shirts or underwear. Toothbrushing could be a battle. They may be extremely picky eaters. They may loathe messy play and playing barefoot outside.
Some of this might simply be chalked up to being “quirky.” And of course, all of us have certain aversions or preferences to sensory input. But when we’re talking about tactile defensiveness, we’re talking about hypersensitivity. And with that, there are ways in which tactile defensiveness can impede a child’s health, growth, well-being, development, and personal relationships. This is why our Cleveland occupational therapists intervene with treatment.
We don’t know exactly what causes tactile sensitivity, but it’s extremely common in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). (It can also swing the other way – sensory-seeking rather than sensory-averse. This means they exhibit a low threshold for registering a tactile sense, rather than the low threshold noted in those with tactile defensiveness.)
Why Our Sense of Touch Matters
Our sense of touch is one of the first sensory systems that develops in utero. As our Cleveland occupational therapists can explain, literal libraries of research that shows touch experience between parents/caregivers and babies is critically important for their cognitive, behavioral, motor, and social development. The appropriate tactile and proprioceptive responses are pivotal for achieving developmental milestones like grasping, walking, and social/communication skills.
Tactile defensiveness can interfere with a child’s ability to participate in regular, healthy routines and daily activities.
Whereas someone with “typical” sensory integration might not be keen on having an itchy tag on their t-shirt rubbing up against their neck, it doesn’t ruin their entire day. They’ll probably just get used to it and forget about it. However, a child who has tactile defensiveness may be so impacted by this sensation that they may not be able to carry out the tasks of daily functioning – potentially even having a full-blown meltdown until the tag is removed. And even thereafter, they may need some additional time to truly self-regulate.
We can also see this in areas like eating/feeding. A child who is extremely averse to eating foods of different tastes and textures may ultimately have a poor diet – and failure to thrive – because they’re only eating one or two things.
Lots of kids with tactile defensiveness also have major aversions to self-care tasks like brushing their teeth, combing/cutting their hair, or bathing. But not doing those things isn’t really an option. There may be some adaptations and accommodations that can be made, but kids also need to learn how to overcome some of these aversions to ensure they’re healthy, growing, and on the right track developmentally.
Ways Cleveland Occupational Therapists Help With Sensory Integration
We have lots of strategies to help kids with tactile defensiveness process sensory input, and all of it is tailored to their unique needs and goals.
Some of our tips and tricks:
- Build trust with exposure to certain stimuli being slow and gradual. A child with tactile defensiveness is going to completely melt down if you try to introduce too much at once or make demands that are too high. Yes, we want to challenge the child, but that takes time – going slowly and building trust. Also, we want it to be fun! Sudden, unpredictable changes can cause major anxiety and are ultimately setbacks. We want to set them up for success, so we go at a pace that works for them.
2. Incorporate deep pressure sensory input. This might seem counterintuitive, but lots of kids with tactile defensiveness have a particularly hard time with LIGHT touches. Tickling, brushes against the skin, rain, wind/air conditions, etc. Deep pressure can help calm them, especially if they’re overstimulated. Compression vests can be really helpful. (For bedtime, weighted blankets are great too.)
3. Removing other sensory stimuli. If we’re in a room that’s too loud/crowded or there are lots of visual distractions, it’s going to be really tough to get them to overcome a sensation they’re uncomfortable with. There’s too much else competing for their attention.
4. Make it predictable. We create what we call a visual schedule or visual calendar for when we’re planning on introducing touch experiences that might be challenging. We create a picture chart that shows “first, then, next,” and exactly what we’re going to do. That way, there are no surprises, and they know exactly what is going to come next.
5. Heavy work. These are the kinds of activities that involve pulling and pushing objects that are heavy or create some resistance, which gives them some of that deep pressure impact that can be calming when they’re dealing with challenging sensory input. We’ll do this a lot of times on “break” from messy activities.
In all of these sessions, we think it’s really important for the kids themselves to maintain a degree of control. We give them choices, and control over what we do next, so that they don’t feel so much like this is “work,” but rather play. It also helps build trust between the child and therapist, which helps make the lessons we’re teaching more successful.
Best Sensory Strategies for Handling Tactile Defensiveness, Feb. 2, 2022, By Aditi Srivastava, MOT, PGC, Autism Parenting Magazine
More Blog Entries:
5 To-Dos After Cleveland Autism Diagnosis, May 13, 2022, Cleveland Occupational Therapists Blog
Most people are familiar with the terms fine motor skills and gross motor skills. Fewer understand what motor planning is – or more importantly, why it matters. As our Cleveland occupational therapists can explain, motor planning is a skill that helps us remember and perform the steps that make movement possible.
Motor planning is critical to being able to carry out movements. It’s what we use to know, recall and perform all the little steps that allow us to complete a particular movement or task.
It’s necessary for pretty much all the physical activities in which we engage – from speaking to writing to throwing a ball. Our Cleveland occupational therapists know that a child with motor planning challenges will take longer to learn how to complete physical tasks as well as carry them out. Motor planning is a vital skill that we often target in occupational therapy.
Dining at a restaurant – even as a once-in-a-while treat – is a life skill that our Cleveland occupational therapists are dedicated to helping our clients master.
Eating out at a restaurant when you have a child with special needs can make you feel a bit like a zoo animal. Most people know that children have a tendency to draw attention to themselves at dining establishments. Kids are still learning the appropriate ways to interact and behave in various social settings. That doesn’t mean most people are kind or understanding about it. For a child with disabilities, it can be an even steeper climb (particularly when one has a condition like autism that may not be visually obvious to those outside looking in). One bad experience can leave some families understandably inclined to skip meal outings altogether.
But the earlier and often you address situations like this, the easier they’re going to be for your child as he or she gets older.
The crowds, camaraderie, cranked up stereos and unpredictable seatmates: It’s a major part of why so many love sporting events. Conversely, it’s also the HE reason some will never set foot in these facilities – even if they love the game. For many children and adults diagnosed with sensory processing disorder (SPD) and related conditions, the reality is it’s simply too much sensory overload.
Sports teams have begun deciding to offer these fans a sensory break. Our Cleveland occupational therapists especially applauded the very first of those in the = NBA, the Cleveland Cavalier at Quicken Loans Arena, in 2017.
Our Cleveland occupational therapists realize the number of teams investing in certified sensory rooms will mean more people with SPD to enjoy the same experiences as the rest of us.