Lowcountry Autism Foundation

Tomorrow Lowcountry Autism Foundation (LAF) will be holding an event called Ales for Autism. It will take place on Saturday April 21st from 5:00pm – 9:00pm. It will take place at Southern Barrel Brewing Company. Southern Barrel will donate 10% of sales from 5-9pm to LAF. There will also be raffles and a silent auction. Please visit our Facebook page for more event details. 

Lowcountry Autism Foundation (LAF) is located on Hilton Head Island and helps to provide resources for children with autism and their families. All programs and resources are FREE and covered by LAF. Sign up and receive free programs and resources. Below is a list of the different resources and programs offered by LAF.

Family Support Services

This program provides families with multiple resources based on the specific diagnosis a child receives. The program features a one on one relationship with you and a LAF representative. LAF provides information, service coordination, and direct assistance to families affected by autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities. The group meets on the 4th Tuesday of every month from 6-8 in Summerville, SC, and childcare and refreshments are provided. For more information on this program, visit afinc.org. 

Art Therapy

Art therapy is a mental health profession that uses the creative process of art making to improve and enhance the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of individuals. The Art Therapy Program integrates the fields of human development, visual art, and the creative process with models of counseling and psychotherapy. Art therapy is provided with a standard of 10 hours. After the 10 hours the therapist will re-evaluate the child to see if additional sessions are necessary. For more information on this program, visit afinc.org.

These are just a few of the programs and resources available thru the Lowcountry Autism Foundation. For more information on LAF and the programs they offer , visit afinc.org.


April is Occupational Therapy Month

April is Occupational Therapy Month, and we are excited to celebrate this awesome field and the wonderful occupational therapists who promote OT on a daily basis! I’ll start by answering this frequently asked question:

What is occupational therapy?

According to the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), “Occupational therapy is the only profession that helps people across the lifespan to do the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of daily activities (occupations).” A child’s life is made up of many “occupations,” or daily activities, including playing, learning, and socializing. Occupational therapy practitioners work with children and their families to help them succeed in these activities throughout the day. Here are just a few areas of development that OT can help address:

Attention span and arousal level

If a child isn’t interested, fidgets constantly, or simply doesn’t look at what she is doing, she can’t learn effectively. An OT can help you discover what motivates your child and makes his body ready to learn, pay attention and stay focused.

Sensory processing skillsEvery day, our bodies are exposed to sensory input from the external environment (seeing, hearing, touch, smell, and taste) as well as from inside our bodies (movement, balance, and internal body awareness). All this input must be registered by sensory receptors, processed in the brain, and acted upon in an adaptive way in order for a child to function at her best.

Fine motor and gross motor skills

OTs can help children with fine motor skills such as drawing, using scissors, buttoning, and stringing beads by improving the strength, coordination, and dexterity needed to complete these tasks. OTs also work on gross motor skills, such as throwing and catching a ball, coordinating both sides of your body (bilateral integration), and planning and carrying out movements smoothly and efficiently.

Activities of daily living (ADLs)

Children have many ADL tasks to master, and most children love becoming independent with these tasks. OTs help children learn to eat with utensils, get dressed and undressed, use the toilet, and handle grooming and hygiene tasks appropriately for their age.

Visual-perceptual skills

From stacking blocks to doing puzzles, a child must be able to perceive differences and relationships between objects in his environment. An OT can help a child to perceive these relationships in order to better understand the world around him.

Handwriting

Handwriting skills, from writing your name to taking class notes legibly, can be extremely difficult for some children to learn. OTs use a multisensory approach to handwriting, and look at how the child’s fine motor, visual-perceptual, and other skills impact handwriting performance.

Read more about what the role of occupational therapy is when working with children and youth by click here.

Purple Day

Today is Purple Day!  Purple Day is an international grassroots effort dedicated to increasing awareness about epilepsy worldwide. On March 26th annually, people in countries around the world are invited to wear purple and host events in support of epilepsy awareness. Last year, people in dozens of countries on all continents including Antarctica participated in Purple Day!

Did you know?!?!

  • 50 Million people have epilepsy world wide 
  • There are approximately 2.2 million Americans living with epilepsy.
  • It is estimated that 1 in 100  people have epilepsy
  • In 50% of cases the cause is unknown
  • Epilepsy is NOT contagious. Epilepsy is NOT a disease. Epilepsy is NOT a psychological disorder.
  • There is currently no “cure” for epilepsy. However, for 10-15% of people with epilepsy, the surgical removal of the seizure focus – the part of brain where the person’s seizures start – can eliminate all seizure activity. For more than half of people with epilepsy, medication will control their seizures. Additionally, some children will outgrow their epilepsy and some adults may have a spontaneous remission.
  • Not everyone can identify specific events or circumstances that affect seizures, but some are able to recognize definite seizure triggers. 

Some common triggers include:

  • Forgetting to take prescribed seizure medication
  • Lack of sleep
  • Missing meals
  • Stress, excitement, emotional upset
  • Illness or fever
  • Low seizure medication levels
  • Medications other than prescribed seizure medication
  • Flickering lights of computers, television, videos, etc., and sometimes even bright sunlight

First aid for seizures is simple:

  • Stay calm.
  • Time the seizure – Usually there is no need for a trip to the hospital, unless the seizure lasts longer than five minutes (not including the postictal phase), the person has more than one seizure in a row, or if a person is injured, pregnant, or has diabetes.
  • Remove objects that may cause harm - clear the area of sharp or dangerous objects.
  • Do not hold the person down or restrain their movement.
  • Do not put anything in the person’s mouth: it is not possible for someone to swallow their tongue.
  • Turn the person on his or her side as the seizure ends to allow saliva or other fluids to drain away and keep airway clear.
  • Do not offer food or drink until the person is fully alert.
  • Stay with the person until they are fully alert and thinking clearly. Reassure the person when consciousness returns.


Trisomy Awareness Month

During Trisomy Awareness Month in March, the NICHD joins other agencies and organizations in raising awareness about trisomy conditions and the challenges they may pose to individuals and families.

Most people have 23 pairs of chromosomes in most or all of their cells for a total of 46 chromosomes in all. These chromosomes include DNA and other material that provide a blueprint for “building” a person.

Some people have trisomy conditions—those related to having an extra chromosome in most or all of their cells, for a total of 47 chromosomes in all.

An extra chromosome can cause a variety of health problems ranging from mild intellectual and developmental disability (IDD), to severe physical problems.  

The specific health issues of a trisomy condition and how severe those issues are depend on:

  • Which chromosome: An extra copy of some chromosomes is lethal; for example, an embryo with three copies of chromosome 1 will not develop.
  • Whether there is a partial or complete extra chromosome: If cells include only a partial extra chromosome, symptoms are usually milder than if cells have a complete extra chromosome.
  • How many cells have the extra chromosome or partial chromosome: If the extra chromosome is in only a few cells, the symptoms are usually milder than if the extra chromosome is in all or most of cells.
Health conditions and problems associated with trisomy include physical abnormalities, such as extra fingers or toes; physiological issues, such as irregular heartbeat patterns; and problems related to intellectual and developmental functioning.

Most of the time, trisomy conditions are not passed from one generation to the next, but result from a random error that occurs during cell division very early on in development.

Trisomy can occur with any chromosome, but the most well-known syndromes are:

  • Trisomy 21, more commonly known as Down syndrome, occurs in 1 in 691 live births in the United States each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People with Down syndrome usually have mild-to-moderate intellectual and developmental disability (IDD), heart abnormalities, and are at risk for hearing and vision loss and a number of other health conditions. Learn more about Down syndrome on the NICHD Down Syndrome: Condition Information webpage.
  • Trisomy 18, also called Edwards syndrome, occurs in about 1 in 5,000 live births each year in the United States. Infants with Trisomy 18 often have severe IDD, as well as serious heart problems and other life-threatening issues. Learn more about Trisomy 18 at Genetics Home Reference Trisomy 18 webpage.
  • Trisomy 13, also called Patau syndrome, occurs in about 1 in 10,000 to 16,000 live births each year worldwide. Trisomy 13 is associated with more severe IDD and multiple physical problems, including serious heart problems. Learn more about Trisomy 13 on the Genetic Home Reference Trisomy 13 webpage.

Support Organization for Trisomy 18, 13 and Related Disorders, or SOFT, is a non-profit, volunteer organization that has helped families having children with trisomies for over three decades and is recognized as a primary source of information about trisomy 18, 13 and related disorders. SOFT is a network of families and professionals dedicated to providing support and understanding to families involved in the issues and decisions surrounding the diagnosis and care in Trisomy 18, 13 and other related chromosomal disorders.  Support can be provided during prenatal diagnosis, the child’s life and after the child’s passing.  SOFT is committed to respect a family’s personal decision and to the notion of parent-professional relationships.

Resources:

https://www.nichd.nih.gov/news/resources/spotlight/031513-trisomy#more

http://trisomy.org

Krista Flack, MS OTR/L
Pediatric Occupational Therapist

Importance of Core Strength

Core strength refers to the development of the trunk muscles. They help to stabilize and align the trunk, and help the body to maintain proper posture. The core is the center of control for everything else the body does. The muscles associated with core strength include the muscles of the abdomen, pelvis, and back. Poor core strength can cause poor posture which can affect gross motor ad fine motor skills. Poor core strength can also affect breathing and have an effect on speech.

Tummy time is one of the first ways we begin to develop core strength. It allows babies to develop the muscles of the neck and back. It will also prepare the infant for such developmental milestones such as crawling, rolling over, and sitting up independently. For school aged children play is the best way to develop and build core strength. Children with poor core strength tend to slump or lay down when playing with toys, have poor endurance, and a round posture. Below are some great examples of exercises and play activities to build up core strength.

  • Wheelbarrow walking

  • Swinging

  • Sit-ups and superman

  • Riding a bike

  • Various animal walks

  • Sitting criss cross instead of w sitting or lying down

Check out these links for more info on the importance of core strength and some different core strength exercises

https://www.childsplaytherapycenter.com/core-strength-important-child/

http://occupationaltherapy.com.au/importance-core-strength-children/

https://www.ot-mom-learning-activities.com/abdominal-exercises-for-kids.html

http://www.cobbpediatric.com/2016/04/13/core-strengthening-exercises-kids/

http://www.skillsforaction.com/core-strength-stability-children

-Matthew D’Antonio, PT, DPT

Pediatric Physical Therapist

Winter Olympics

The Winter Olympics begin this weekend, and here at Lowcountry Therapy Center, we have fun activities planned for the occasion!  Next week, when you bring your child to therapy, he or she can participate in some Olympic-themed events to earn a medal of their own.  A few of our events include:

  • using scooter boards to race in the “luge” and the “bobsled” competitions

  • being “cross-country skiers” by doing scissor jacks

  • “speed skating” while categorizing sports

  • “figure skating” a figure-8 pattern

  • scoring a “hockey” goal with a bottle cap

  • jumping from one side of the “halfpipe” to the other (or just over an obstacle maybe!)

These activities promote speech, occupational, and physical therapy skills like naming items in a category, comparing and contrasting, oral motor skills, fine motor skills, bilateral integration, ocular motor skills, coordination, strength, and endurance.  Kids learn best through play, so incorporating skills into games is the best way to make it stick!   

You can plan your own Olympic-themed activities with just a quick Pinterest search.  There are numerous Olympics-inspired crafts and games, along with printable worksheets to learn about the history of the games. 

Author: Krista Flack, MS OTR/L, Pediatric Occupational Therapist

New Year’s Resolutions

With a new year comes a new year resolution. One of the most common New Year’s resolutions is adopting a healthier life style. This week I am going to highlight some key points on how to create a healthier life style for you and your child.

Choose my plate is a fantastic resource for learning about nutrition. In order to adopt a healthy life style you need to adopt healthy eating habits. Choose my plate has tons of resources on how to do this. They have tips and tricks for picky eaters and also give ideas for well balanced meals and snacks for kids of all ages. They also have different games, activities, and recipes to help make eating healthier fun and exciting.  Check out the Choose my plate page here and get started on a healthier life style https://www.choosemyplate.gov/children

The second half to adopting a healthier life style is to exercise. It is important to limit a child’s screen time and to encourage a more active life style. If you remember from last week’s blog I talked a lot about gross motor activities. Those are great ways to get kids up and exercising. Walking is another way to get kids moving, and is a great form of exercise.  Here are some other websites with great exercise activities

http://handsonaswegrow.com/gross-motor-activities-preschoolers/

http://www.ot-mom-learning-activities.com/gross-motor-activities.html

http://www.stillplayingschool.com/2015/01/active-fun-games-indoor-kids-gross-motor.html

Like any other change it is going to take time. Small changes should be made over long periods of time. This helps to build a routine and consistency. Changing everything all at once usually leads to too much of a drastic change and often causes people to become frustrated and give up. With a life style change it is important to take little steps and to stick to them.

-Matthew D’Antonio, PT, DPT

Pediatric Physical Therapist

Indoor Activities to Develop Gross Motor Skills

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 indoor 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 inside with pillows, tape, 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

OT Toy Guide

The holiday season always sneaks up on us, as we balance visiting with friends and family, preparing wonderful meals, participating in fun and heartfelt family traditions, and exchanging gifts with loves ones. As children make wish lists for Santa, and friends and family request gift ideas for your young ones, it can be hard to come up with the perfect gifts. When deciding on gifts for my own or other children, I like to consider a few details:

  • Quality over quantity: Rather than having mountains of toys, several of which will be neglected while new favorites are discovered, invest in a few toys that are of high quality, and will last. This also helps to reduce sensory overload, both on Christmas morning and in the days and weeks that follow as you attempt to organize a play area. 
  • Multiple ways to play: Toys are expensive, and children’s skills and interests are always changing. Find a toy that can be played with in multiple ways so that play can develop as your child grows and changes. 
  • Developmentally appropriate: Think about the age of your child, but also consider where they are developmentally. Does your child need more practice with fine motor skills? There are plenty of fun games and toys to develop specific skills. Is he a sensory seeker? Christmas is a great opportunity to give him the tools he needs to self-regulate!

There are some great blogs and resources out there that suggest toys and gifts for children at specific developmental stages and with a variety of special factors in mind. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Mama OT has numerous OT-related lists, like Stocking Stuffers to Help with Pencil Grasp and the Ultimate List of Gifts for Sensory Seekers.
  • Check out Sugar Aunts’ suggestions on Gifts to Promote Scissor Skills and Toys and Tools to Promote Visual Tracking.
  • This guest post gives OT-recommended toy suggestions broken down by age.

When it comes to where to shop, you don’t have to go to a special retailer to find toys for children with special needs (although some of the toys, games, and equipment available at sites like Fun and Function and Special Needs Toys are awesome!). The blogs listed above name numerous ‘mainstream’ toys that can cater to specific needs and skills. One of my absolutely favorite toy companies is Fat Brain Toys, with tons of unique and fun ideas!

For a little extra guidance, check out Toys“R”Us’s Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids. Using this guide, you can search for toys that promote skills development in numerous categories, including auditory, creativity, fine motor, gross motor, language, self-esteem, social skills, tactile, thinking, and visual. The website also includes links for Tips for Toy Buying and Toy Safety Tips.

Another great resource is the National Lekotek Center, a nonprofit organization that provides an array of services to improve the lives of children with special needs through the utilization of toys and play. They publish the AblePlay website, which offers research, ratings, and reviews of toys and products appropriate for children of all abilities, focusing on the developmental areas of physical, sensory, communicative, cognitive, and social/emotional abilities of a child. They also publish this guide for lots of toy ideas!

By Krista Flack, MS OTR/L, Pediatric Occupational Therapist

Holiday Calming Kit

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, lets 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!
By Krista Flack, MS OTR/L, Pediatric Occupational Therapist
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