Cleveland occupational therapy

Value of Occupational Therapy for Kids Highlighted During the Pandemic

Occupational therapy helps children when they have difficulties in day-to-day activities in their home, school and community.

It’s a very broad discipline, and many parents who come to Therapy & Wellness Connection have never really heard of it or understand why it’s so helpful for so many kids.

Occupational therapy has always been integral to our clinic, but we’re highlighting it now because the impact of the pandemic has left many kids falling even more behind when it comes to developmental milestones. Maybe they are on track with their speech and language, but they struggle with holding a crayon or pencil correctly. They’re getting ready for preschool, but have a tough time with things like using scissors or tracing lines. They have a very difficult time dressing themselves. Maybe they have no desire to even start potty training – even though it’s well past time.

They may have struggled with these things before schools and daycare centers closed, but now they’ve been home for months, with parents who are overwhelmed and no children their age to help motivate them, make it fun. The good news is these are all things with which occupational therapy can help-and it’s not just for kids with disabilities.

Cleveland occupational therapists

What is Motor Planning? Cleveland Occupational Therapists Explain

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.

occupational therapy

Incorporate Occupational Therapy Into Kids’ Chores

Chores have many benefits for kids of all ages and abilities. In addition to help with learning personal responsibility, perseverance, teamwork, improved life skills and self care, chores can be a great way for your child to work on their occupational therapy goals.

Chores can be great for targeting things like:

  • Gross motor skills. These are are abilities that allow children to do things that involve using the large muscles in the torso, arms and legs to complete whole-body movements
  • Fine motor skills. These are the skills that allow coordination between small muscles, like those used for grasping small objects, writing and fastening buttons.
  • Upper body strength. These are skills like shoulder girdle stability, which allows surrounding muscles to support the body structure and allow accurate hand functions.
  • Bilateral coordination. This is the ability to use both sides of the body at the same time in a manner that is controlled and organized.
  • Proprioceptive input. These are the sensations we get from our joints, connective tissues and muscles that allow us to have body awareness.

Therapy & Wellness Connection Teams With Augment Therapy

Therapy and Wellness Connection in Brecksville has teamed with Cleveland-based virtual therapy provider, Augment Therapy to provide our patients with high-quality speech, occupational, ABA and physical therapy online.

Families can set up this service through their television. It uses augmented reality programming (think Pokemon GO) to make exercise and engagement fun. The software is equipped with a camera that can capture not only the child’s image but movements too. These games on screen can be used to help children interact with cartoon characters and other features, allowing them to earn badges for reaching certain goals. physical therapy

It’s a prime tool in any circumstance, but especially effective as social distancing guidelines remain in place. With the tools and software provided by Augment Therapy, we’re able to continue teaching social and emotional regulation and participation in one of our many social skills groups.

Augment Therapy was founded and designed three years ago by Chagrin Falls pediatric physical therapist Lindsay Watson and software developer Stephen Blake. As Watson explained to a reporter from FreshWater Cleveland last year, many of her young physical therapy patients with conditions like cerebral palsy, autism spectrum disorder and Down syndrome were sometimes resistant to repetitive physical therapy exercises.

Inspired by the way Pokemon GO motivated so many kids to become active, she began brainstorming a similar program that could motivate her patients to move, communicate and push themselves to their highest potential.

Supplement to In-Clinic Speech, ABA, Occupational and Physical Therapy

physical therapy
Photo Courtesy of Augment Therapy

Augment Therapy has been valuable  at a time when teletherapy services have become a necessity due to the ongoing pandemic. But long-term, it will be an excellent supplement to our in-clinic and therapy services Therapy and Wellness Connection.

When kids are having fun, they’re motivated to stay the course. Virtual, interactive games can accomplish this. For them, it’s not “doing therapy.” It’s playing a game. Yet it keeps them engaged with the therapist and other children and focused on their goals. Ultimately, allows them to achieve faster results that are more likely to “stick.”

Some of the benefits as outlined by Augment Therapy:

  • Improves adherence. This refers to how closely a child follows the prescribed moves with good frequency and consistency.
  • Use in home and in clinic. It has applications not just for therapists but teachers and parents too.
  • Ease of use. Basically, you just plug in the software and play it. The setup time is minimal.
  • Portable technology. The hardware itself is small, so even if you’re traveling or otherwise not at home, it can still be used.
  • Does not require wearable devices. Lots of our patients have sensory issues, so wearing a technology device isn’t comfortable or practical. The Augment Therapy technology does not require it.
  • Encourages social interaction. It can be played by more than one child at a time, promoting social skills as well as physical movement.
  • Makes therapy and exercising fun! What kid doesn’t love video games? The difference between this and other movement games is that it focuses on engagement as much as movement.

Pilot programs were launched at the Cleveland Clinic and Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. The technology also earned a sponsorship from MetroHealth after securing an award at the Medical Capital Innovation Competition.

Anything that can improve accessibility, participation and progress for children with special needs is something we’re eager to utilize, and we’re excited to offer this new service to our patients.

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

Cleveland-based Augment Therapy is making physical therapy fun for kids via augmented reality, Aug. 24, 2019, By Ilona Westfall, FreshWaterCleveland.com

More Blog Entries:

5 Ways Our Akron Physical Therapy Helps Children With Down Syndrome, Sept. 28, 2019, Cleveland Physical Therapy Blog

virtual learning

Virtual Learning, Therapies Continue at Therapy and Wellness Connection

With Ohio schools closed for the remainder of the school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Therapy and Wellness Connection has continued to provide therapy and virtual learning to children with special needs and learning disabilities in the Cleveland metro area.

Since schools have shuttered, many of these students have lost access to the critical services and programs offered by school districts and some outside providers. These students receive a combination of speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, behavior therapy and community integration services.

Although we very much look forward (when it’s safe) to resuming the daily, in-person interaction that is so vital to students with autism, Down syndrome and other special needs, we are proud to have quickly on-boarded our teletherapy and virtual learning services as well as online social groups and functional fitness courses.

Akron pediatric occupational therapy

Akron Pediatric Occupational Therapy Tip: Boost Kids’ Academics With Exercise

Children of all abilities all over the globe aren’t getting enough exercise. The problem is even greater for children with special needs, who by some research estimates get just 17 minutes of physical activity in school – a day. As Akron pediatric occupational therapy professionals, this is problematic not only from a position of physical health but also of cognitive development and academic success.

Brain Benefits of Physical Activity

It’s our goal during sessions to get kids moving as much as we can, but parents who want to see their children thrive cannot overlook this component. One study published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sports & Exercise found that moderate-to-vigorous physical activity is directly associated with better reading fluency and arithmetic skills.

As reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Physical activity can have an impact on cognitive skills and attitudes and academic behavior, all of which are important components of improved academic performance. These include enhanced concentration and attention as well as improved classroom behavior.”

Cleveland occupational therapy

How Occupational Therapy Can Help Treat Children With Sleep Problems

If your child isn’t sleeping well, it impacts not only their daytime functioning, but that of the family at-large. Children with special needs are at increased risk for sleep disorders and sleep disturbances, which can have a major impact on their mood, behavior, learning, physiology and just generally how well they feel. This can have a profound impact on how well a child functions each day. Occupational therapy can help.

Many people don’t consider that sleep is one of the primary occupations of children until they turn 5. Even after that, it’s critical to healthy growth and development.

According to the Sleep Help Institute, kids under 2 should be receiving anywhere from 14-16 hours of total sleep (including naps) every day. Kids 2-3 should be getting 10-11 hours at night (plus 1-2 hours of nap time). Kids 3-5 should be getting 10-13 hours of sleep with an extra hour of nap time, and kids 5-12 should be getting 10 to 11 hours of sleep each night.

Kids With Special Needs Especially Prone to Sleep Trouble

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that insufficient sleep is a serious public health problem, as it contributes to motor vehicle crashes, work-related accidents and chronic disease. “Sleep inefficiency” is understood to be a lack of restorative sleep, which includes an adequate amount of restorative sleep (meaning all five stages of it).

Childhood sleep problems are more common than you might think. They affect about 25 percent of all preschool children and 43 percent of school-age kids. Children with developmental delays and disorders are even more likely to be referred for sleep studies. One study found that 49 to 89 percent of children on the autism spectrum had trouble sleeping. Same goes for 25 to 50 percent of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and 34 to 86 percent of children with intellectual disabilities.

Akron occupational therapists

All I Want for Christmas is: Sensory Toys! See Akron Occupational Therapists’ Top Picks

If you love a child with autism, ADHD or any condition associated with sensory processing disorder, our Akron occupational therapists have some tips for sensory toy gifts this holiday season.

Child development toys are beginning to dominate the toy industry in general – which is great news. The fact is, ALL kids can benefit from various sensory toys, which focus on stimulating or calming the five main senses – sight, taste, touch, hearing and smell. Some of the best sensory toys for children with special needs also focus on two others: Balance and body awareness.

Benefits of Sensory Toys

Toys are a great way to promote development because children learn best through play. That’s why sensory toys are so effective in:

  • Promoting focus. Sensory toys are a great way to help children hone their concentration skills. A child with difficulty concentrating or a learning disability will spend more time engaged with a sensory toys than they will other tasks, so this helps them build their concentration.
  • Reducing anxiety. Playing with sensory toys can be calming because it can help regulate internal discomfort, whether it stems from boredom, agitation or some other type of agitation.
  • Building fine motor skills. Sensory play that involves exploring their environment by use of pouring, pinching, lacing, etc. can help build these small muscle groups, important for skills like writing, zipping, buttoning or tying.
  • Supporting language. When children play with objects of varying tastes, textures, sounds and colors, we can practice describing each aspect in detail, which helps them develop new ways of talking about the world around them.

Sensory Toy Tips for “Santa”

Many sensory toys are fairly simple by design, and often can be created using common household supplies.

However, if you’re looking to buy something for a special child in your life, we have a few suggestions.

Akron occupational therapists

Jumping Board. Children who love to move, wiggle and jump will love this board, which wobbles when you balance your weigh on it. Our Akron occupational therapists think it’s great for helping kids develop balance skills and overcome fear of heights. (Fold & go trampolines are great for this as well!)

Sensory Hammock Swing. Kids who love pressure, snuggling or swinging will enjoy a hammock swing. Some brands can be used both indoors and outdoors.

Akron occupational therapists

Akron occupational therapists

Sand & Water Play Table. These are great for helping kids develop tactile skills, like pouring, scooping, pinching, stacking, etc. You can fill them with sand, water or just about anything (bubbles, beans, water beads, Play-Doh, playfoam, etc.)

Builder Marble Run. This kind of creative construction helps children build fine motor skills, visual spacial skills, three-dimensional thinking, critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Kids are delighted when they finish & get to watch the marbles wind their way down the track. Some models even play music. Akron occupational therapists

Akron occupational therapists

Chewelry. Jewelry that is chewable (and non-toxic) is a great alternative for kids who tend to stick everything in their mouths. If they’re constantly biting on their pencil, shirt, fingers, etc., these will be much-appreciated.

Headphones. Noise-reducing or noise-canceling headphones can be an excellent way for children overwhelmed with noises to catch a break. They can also be used to stimulate the hearing sense with music or Audible books. Akron occupational therapists

If you have questions about what would be best for a specific child (every child’s sensory diet needs are different!) our Akron occupational therapists are happy to help!

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

Additional Resources:

Why Sensory Play Is Important, Sept. 16, 2019, By Amanda Morin, VeryWellFamily.com

More Blog Entries:

Cleveland OT Talk: “Why Would My Child Need Occupational Therapy? June 19, 2019, Therapy & Wellness Connection Occupational Therapy Blog

Brecksville Occupational Therapy Fitness Class

NEW: Functional Fitness Class by Brecksville Occupational Therapist

The latest class offered at Therapy & Wellness Connection is a functional fitness class by a certified occupational therapist. So many wonderful benefits to this great course – sign up today!

Brecksville occupational therapy

Brecksville occupational therapy