Weighted Blankets and Vests

Weighted Blankets and Vests                     Author: Krista Flack, MS OTR/L

  

You may have heard or seen people using weighted blankets, vests, and pads, and you may be wondering what they are for.  Weighted blankets provide deep pressure, or proprioceptive input, which has a calming effect on the body.  For some kids (and adults!), this can mean improved attention when sitting still is necessary (such as during school), improved sleep, and improved coping during frustrating or difficult situations. 

 

Use of a weighted blanket, vest, or pad is best explained by your child’s occupational therapist that can trial or recommend weight, materials, and guidelines for use.  In general, vests and lap pads should not be more that 5% of a child’s body weight.  For a 50 pound child, this would be 2.5 pounds.  Blankets, because of their increased surface area, can be a little heavier.  I normally recommend a blanket be 10% of a child’s body weight, plus 1 pound.  Again, for a 50 pound child, this would be 6 pounds. 

 

Weighted items can be purchased from various retailers, including on Amazon and Etsy.  Another alternative is to make your own!  There are numerous tutorials out there for making weighted blankets and other items.  I like this tutorial for making a quilt-style weighted blanket.  Favorite pillows or stuffed animals can easily be modified to include added weight.  A neck pillow with the inflatable portion removed makes a great lap or shoulder pad when filled with dry rice, beans, or poly-pellets.  A fishing vest provides options to easily fill pockets with weight to distribute as needed. 

 

If you think a weighted blanket and/or weighted item would help your child, talk to his or her occupational therapist! 

New Habits and Making Changes in the New Year!

Happy New Year!                             Author: Krista Flack, MS OTR/L

 

Whether you are the type to make a New Year’s resolutions or not, most can agree that this time of year inspires us to reflect on areas of our lives that are going the way that we’d like, and areas that could use some improvement.  This time of year often inspires us to make changes and start new habits, or perhaps just motivate us to give a better effort at goals previously set that have been on the back burner in our lives.

One of the best ways to get a new habit to stick is to find a way to incorporate it into a task that is already a part of your daily life and routine.  For example, if your goal is to go for a walk every day, set your walking shoes by your toothbrush, coffeemaker, or something else that is used daily without fail.  Hopefully your shoes won’t be sitting in your kitchen or bathroom for long before it becomes part of the routine and doesn’t need the reminder anymore!

Another strategy is to schedule in your new goal.  If you use a planner, calendar, or other organizer, find a time that make sense and add it in!  If you use something electronic, like a phone app, alarm reminders can help you incorporate your new habit into a routine. 

Some changes can affect the whole family, and for some children, changes in routine can be very difficult to deal with.  Explaining what is changing, and why, can be a helpful step in easing the transition.  Sometimes a warning goes a long way!  If you use a schedule with your child, make sure to explain the new item on the schedule.  Visual schedules can be so helpful for children that struggle with transitions or tolerating change, or that process information they see better than information they hear.  A visual schedule can be referred to numerous times to ease anxiety and give concrete answers to what the day will look like; auditory information can sometimes be too fast, too slow, too loud or quiet, or just too much at once, and can be difficult to process and remember.  If you’re not using a visual schedule and think one might help you, talk to your OT about placing an order for a custom visual schedule through Lowcountry Therapy Center!  For big changes that require more explanation, social stories, role playing, and video modeling can all be used to show and explain what to expect. 

Good luck with those New Year’s resolutions!

Fun Outdoor Activities!

Fun Outdoor Activities!

Gross motor skills are body movements such as walking, running, jumping, throwing, etc. In order to develop gross motor skills we must be able to coordinate our large muscle groups (arms, legs, and core) to work together. Practice and repetition are the best ways to develop and fine tune gross motor skills. In this week’s blog I am going to give you some fun outdoor activities to help develop your child’s gross motor skills.

 

Crab Soccer: Get into the crab position and kick a ball. You can divide up into teams and kick towards a goal or simply just kick it back and forth between one another.

 

Hop Scotch:  Build a hop scotch board outside with side walk chalk or with paper plates. Working on jumping with 1 foot and 2 feet and be sure to alternate between the left and the right.

 

Bubbles and Balloons: You can blow bubbles and have your kids try to pop them all, or blow up several balloons and have them keep them off the floor. Both of these are great ways to improve hand eye coordination.

 

Activity Dice: Create dice out of wood blocks and write a different activity on each side such as hopping on 1 foot, running,  balancing on 1 foot, crab walking, etc. Then make another die with all different numbers. Have them roll both dice and do the activity the set number of times.

 

Walking Balance: Build a balance beam with your child and practice walking different ways such as forward and backward.

 

These are just a few different outdoor gross motor activities that you can try. Below are a few links that have tons of other different ideas.

http://www.earlylearningactivities.com/PDF/og.pdf

http://codenamemama.com/2011/08/11/gross-motor-games/

http://handsonaswegrow.com/

 

 

-Matthew D’Antonio, PT, DPT

Pediatric Physical Therapist

Keeping Busy Over Break

Keeping Busy Over Break                             Author: Krista Flack, MS OTR/L

For most of us, school is out for holiday break, which means routines are out of whack and there’s lots of downtime to fill.  I’m sure holiday festivities will fill some of that time, but the inevitable “I’m bored!” is sure to come up as well.  While the weather can fluctuate quite a bit, and getting outdoor time is always great, here are some great ideas to keep from going stir crazy while staying warm inside over break!

 

  1. Make an indoor scavenger hunt.  Get the creative juices flowing by giving descriptives to search for (something round, something blue, something that you use every day, etc.), or give tricky hints to get your child from one clue to the next until they discover a hidden treasure!
  2. Let your child help cook or bake.  Not only can this be a great way to practice executive functioning (following directions, sequencing, planning, etc.) and motor skills (measuring, pouring, mixing, etc.), but it can be a great sensory experience!  Stirring a mixing bowl of batter or kneading and forming dough can provide tactile and proprioceptive input to regulate the body.
  3. Make an indoor obstacle course.  To include proprioceptive input, take the cushions off the couch for some crashing and fill the laundry baskets for some heavy work.  Incorporate animal walks, bouncing, tumbling, and motor moves like jumping jacks, push-ups, and wheelbarrow walking to stimulate the body and mind!
  4. Look back at our recent blog posts for tons of ideas for crafts and sensory play ideas!
  5. Find indoor outings for some fun away from home.  While Savannah and Charleston have plenty of fun attractions to spend a day at, you don’t have to travel that far.  Check out Ignite the Senses, the Kazoo Factory,the Sandbox , the Island Playground, Jungle Jump, or even just the local fast food restaurants that have play places to burn off some built up energy! 

We hope you find fun and stimulating ways to spend this holiday break.  See you in the new year!

 

Importance of a Home Exercise Program

Importance of a Home Exercise Program

 

Finding the time to complete a home exercise program can be a daunting task and often get put on the back burner, but completing exercises at home is just as important as coming to therapy. It is not feasible for children to come to therapy 4-5 times a week. That is why a program completed at home every day is so important. Whether it is PT, OT, or ST the exercises prescribed are the ones the therapist believes are most beneficial to the child’s progress. While therapy appointments are very critical, being seen only 1-2 times a week is not enough for a patient to make progress and recover quickly.

 

Currently, it is estimated that only 35% of patients are performing their home exercise program regularly. What does this mean for the other 65% of patients? It means that they will unfortunately experience longer plans of care, longer periods of time in pain, limitations in activities of daily living, difficulty in school, slower time returning to function, and greater monetary expenses.

 

U.S. News released an article in August of 2015 outlining 4 ways to stick to a physical therapy home exercise program. These 4 strategies can be used between all disciplines (PT, OT, ST), and are a great tool to help keep you and your child on track. First it is important to find a purpose by creating a goal to work towards. You also need to be honest, and let your therapist know if you did not work on the home program. This way you and the therapist can sit down and figure out why it is not getting done and create a better strategy together. Having the appropriate strategy for what works best for you and your family will help make completing your home exercise program easier. For more tips and tricks visit this website http://health.usnews.com/health-news/patient-advice/articles/2015/08/31/4-ways-to-stick-to-your-physical-therapy-homework

  

-Matthew D’Antonio, PT, DPT

Pediatric Physical Therapist

 

Calming Kits!

Calming Kits!

With the holidays upon us, there is a lot of extra stimulation for our bodies to take in.  Crowded stores, long lines, family gatherings, holiday programs or services, and car rides are just a few examples of situations that can lead to both boredom and over-stimulation, a dangerous combination.  Finding something to keep little minds, bodies, and hands busy while waiting can be tough!  Here are a few ideas to keep on hand!

 

First off, let’s talk storage!  One of my favorite ideas out there is to use pencil cases like these to store each individual activity.  They can be clipped together using binder rings, stored in a binder, or kept individually.  Either way, each activity is contained and easy to transport and find.  A similar option is to store each activity in a small container (like Play-Doh cups), or even in zip-loc bags.  For older kids, using a hard pencil case or old wipe container can contain all items in one place.

 

To improve self-regulation: 

  • Putty – silly putty and other doughs provide heavy work for the hands and fingers, which can have a calming effect.
  • Fidgets – there are so many fidgets out there (many of my favorites can be found here), and your child’s OT can help you decide which ones are best for him or her.  
  • Chewing gum or hard candies – sucking and chewing motions can be calming, as they provide heavy work for the mouth, cheeks, and jaw!
  • Sunglasses, a hat, ear plugs, headphones, or other items that help reduce visual and auditory input when there is so much going on!
  • Bubbles – while some children can become overly excited when bubbles are around, many children respond positively to both the oral motor work (blowing) and the calming visual stimulation provided by bubbles.
  • Calming scents – while some people swear by essential oils and aromatherapy tools, other simply find that certain scents are calming or alerting.  Scented markers, play-doh, and other items can provide just a faint scent, which may be enough to calm an overly excited child.
  • Weighted items, while not as easy to fit in a small space, can be incredibly calming when over-stimulated.  For some, keeping all items in a backpack might provide enough weight when worn by the child.  Weighted blankets, lap pads, and shoulder pads can also be made (or bought).  Talk to your OT about guidelines for weight limits and use. 
  • Last, having note cards or pictures of activities that don’t require equipment but can be calming is a great way to make sure you don’t forget about some useful tools.  Jumping jacks, animal walks (crab walk, bear walk, wheelbarrow walk, etc.), push-ups, and other activities can provide proprioceptive and vestibular input to calm wiggly bodies.

 

To stimulate the mind and pass time (quietly), here are some fun activities to keep on hand.  While these activities do not necessarily have a direct sensory connection (although every activity stimulates some part of our sensory system), they are great at keeping little ones busy: 

  • Manipulatives – Legos, blocks, k’nex, and other similar building items can keep some busy for hours.  For younger ones, even twisting and connecting pipe cleaners can be engaging.  I also love this easy-to-make Velcro popsicle stick or block set!
  • A cookie sheet and magnets can provide entertainment for all ages.  Shapes, letters, and numbers are easy to find at dollar stores and similar places, but also consider sets that are more interactive, like these.  Or, attach a magnet to the back of puzzle pieces to put together!
  • Lacing boards, button strings, and crazy straws with shapes can be a fun way to get some fine motor practice in as well!
  • Crayons, paper, stickers, and other simple art supplies are easy to pack and use.  WaterWow books and similar products can be sure to minimize mess! 

  Author: Krista Flack, MS OTR/L

Do It Yourself Platform Swing

Do It Yourself Platform Swing

Platform swings are a great way to help with sensory integration. Swinging provides essential vestibular movement to help children achieve normal developmental milestones, calming them and letting them have fun. Swinging can help sooth, relax, and unwind the child. The motion of swinging help restores the balance of the vestibular system and help children feel more in balance and be able to concentrate more.

Whether you are super handy or have never held a tool before making a platform swing can be very simple. Here are the plans for a simple platform swing that I found. You will need plywood (cut to the size of your choice), sturdy braided rope, soft material to cover the plywood, eye bolts, and 2 D ring clips. Start by drilling a hole through each corner of the plywood. Make sure to keep the holes about 2-3 inches away from the corners, and make sure the hole is big enough for the rope to fit through. Next thread the rope through knotting at each corner and create an X on the bottom of the swing. Attach the top of each side to the D ring carabiner. Also when hanging the swing in your house make sure it is attached to a think beam and not just a regular joyce using an eye bolt.  Use 2 eye bolts for more back and forth swinging and use 1 eye bolt with a spinner attachment in order to make the swing spin in circles.  Here is the website with the instructions along with some pictures http://asensorylife.com/homemade-platform-swing.html

This is just one example of a platform swing that I have found. There are a ton of different styles using different materials depending on how handy you are. This website has a couple different platform swing ideas along with a few hammock and inner tube swing designs http://ot4kids.co.uk/homemade-swings-part-2-3

-Matthew D’Antonio, DPT

Pediatric Physical Therapist

Sensory Play Recipes

Sensory Play Recipes                      Author: Krista Flack, MS OTR/L

 

In my blog last week I mentioned a couple ideas for making holiday-themed sensory bins.  This week I’m going to expand on that and include a few favorite recipes, along with a few I’ve been wanting to try. 

 

One favorite is Glacier Gak.  This slime is such a fun texture!  While hands get messy in the mixing process, the end result is more similar to Silly Putty.  The ingredients are simple to find (you may have them around the house already), including Borax powder (or in some recipes, liquid starch) and glue.  Here are a few links to variations to the recipe, some that use glitter glue, scents, and even sequins: Santa Slime, Grinch Slime, Holiday Slime, and Slime BallsThis site has even more variations, all with a holiday theme!

 Another fun (and messy!) one is Quicksand Goo.  Using corn starch and water, this recipe is very simple.  Like quicksand, this goo changes thickness depending on how it’s manipulated.  It’s fun to roll into a ball, then watch it melt away as it sits still. 

 

Play snow is fun to make this time of year, especially here in the south where we don’t get to experience the real thing.  This easy recipe uses baking soda and hair conditioner, while this one uses corn starch and baby oil, and this one uses corn starch and shaving cream.  It’s fun to try different recipes and compare the textures.

 

There are endless recipes online for making homemade “play dough.”  Some require baking, some require use of the stove top, and some are just a mixing bowl away from being ready.  The different recipes can result in doughs of varying textures.  The cooked versions tend to last a bit longer for multiple days of play.  With a little searching, you can find edible recipes, scented recipes, and ideas for items to add in for some fun novelty!  If you find a favorite recipe, please share with us! 

For a dry sensory bin addition, follow this easy recipe for dying rice or noodles using vinegar and food coloring, or this recipe using Kool-Aid and rubbing alcohol.  Liquid watercolors can result in more vivid colors, but for simplicity, the food coloring and Kool-Aid methods work just fine!

Holiday Crafts and Games

Holiday Crafts and Games                            Author: Krista Flack, MS OTR/L

 During the holidays, it is easy to become overwhelmed with the stress of it all, and forget to sit back and enjoy it.  It is so great for you and your children to enjoy some holiday-related crafts, games, and traditions, to take the focus off of the stress and make lasting memories.  Below are some ideas I love, although the internet is filled with so many ideas to choose from! 

 

  • Bake cookies or another festive treat.  Not only is this fun (and has a built in yummy reward at the end), but it is a great executive functioning task.  Following directions and sequencing steps is an important part of baking.  Think ahead about the steps that your child can do independently and those that he or she can help you with.  Don’t worry about the end result looking beautiful, just enjoy the activity as a family!
  • Go on a scavenger hunt.  Make or download a list of Christmas related items, and go for a drive searching for them among decorations and lights.
  • Make holiday-themed sensory bins.  Use gift wrap, ribbon, cotton "snow" and other medias to explore and hide treasures in.  Dry noodles and rice can be dyed red and green (or any color!), and there are plenty of ‘slime’ and ‘snow’ recipes out there!
  • Make handprint and footprint art.  Not only is this a great sensory experience and fine motor task, but it is a great way to watch your child’s growth each year, as the prints get bigger and bigger.  These homemade crafts homemade crafts can also make excellent personalized gifts for loved ones.
  • The gift of giving.  Make room for new toys and minimize clutter (which can be visually overstimulating and overwhelming) by donating outgrown or gently used toys. 

 

For even more ideas, check out these blogs:

http://mamaot.com/?s=Christmas

http://www.steampoweredfamily.com/activities/christmas-stem-activities/

http://www.nobiggie.net/25-indoor-winter-activities-for-kids/

December Events

December Events

 

Looking to for a way to celebrate the holiday season with your family? We’ve compiled a list of local events for you! Check it out! 

 Lowcountry Therapy Center will be in BOTH Bluffton and Beaufort parades this Saturday, December 3rd and Sunday, December 4th! Come out to see us and the other floats! See below for more details! If you are interested in having your child walk with us in our float, please call (843) 815-6999 for more information!

Bluffton (event page http://www.bluffton.com/event-calendar/december/ )

 

Beaufort

 

Hilton Head Island (Full list of events = http://www.hiltonhead.com/event-calendar/december/ )

 

Savannah

 

 -Matthew D’Antonio, PT, DPT

Pediatric Physical Therapist

 

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