Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Why is Physical Activity Important for my Child with Autism Spectrum Disorder and How Can Physical Therapy Help?


Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can exhibit motor impairments that include deficits in visual-motor and bilateral coordination, low tone, motor apraxia, toe-walking, and gross motor delays. Children with ASD also have a higher incidence of obesity due to the movement difficulties that they face. 


Physical activity poses a challenge for those on the spectrum due to impaired motor functioning and increased difficulty engaging in a team environment. The CDC recommends 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity for children aged 6-17 including daily aerobic and activities that strengthen muscles 3 days each week, however, encouraging a child for 60 minutes may prove challenging. 


Physical therapists have the ability to improve motor delay impairments and decrease developmental and daily functional obstacles that exist. Physical therapists help treat motor delay problems by improving strength and gross motor skills, stretching tight and underdeveloped musculature,  and increasing stability in weakened musculature. This can help children gain confidence in day-to-day activities and participation in sports. 


Performing physical activity has shown to result in a reduction in stereotypical behaviors such as finger waving, arm slapping, body rocking, toy chewing, hand biting, and head banging with external reinforcement and self-monitoring. Physical activity before classroom time has also shown to have a significant correlation to staying on-task and decreasing disruptive behaviors in the classroom. In addition, there has shown to be a positive correlation between the amount of physical activity and social interaction and sensory skills of those affected by Autism.


Autism Speaks offers strategies to encourage regular physical activity! 


Be on the lookout for Amazing Kidz Therapy exercise groups in the near future led by our physical therapist :) 

By: Karly Zengel, PT, DPT

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Learning to Tie Shoelaces

By: Ashley Akers, M.S. OTR/L


As an occupational therapist who works daily on increasing independence in daily living skills such as dressing, tying shoelaces is a common activity that parents find difficult for their children to learn and master. That makes total sense because tying shoelaces is a complex skill! Tying shoelaces requires fine motor dexterity, bilateral coordination, visual perceptual skills, and hand strength among many other skills.

Below are some activities that can serve as good practice before your child begins learning how to tie their shoes, as these activities incorporate the skills tying shoes requires:

1.      Ripping paper/cards for increased hand strength

2.      Navigating through obstacle courses which helps to understand directionality concepts such as under, over, around, and through

3.      Lacing games, constructional toys, and paper weaving

General tips to make tying shoes as easy as possible:

1. Start by practicing with the shoe or practice board on the table. It is more difficult to complete when the shoe is on.

2. Use two different colored laces.

3. Make sure the laces are long enough and use thicker laces.

4. Put dots on the laces to show your child where to hold the lace.


More information and activity ideas can be found at the link below to address the underlying skills required to master tying shoes!

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Picky Eater Mealtime Strategies

By Rebecca Turner, MA, CCC/SLP 

Mealtime can be frustrating when you have a child who is very picky about the foods that they will eat.  I wanted to share with you some strategies or things you can be doing at home to help with some of those Picky Eating behaviors. 


1.     Schedule meal and snack times -Be consistent with when you eat and limit snacks or juices.  If your child is snacking all day, they won’t be hungry.

2.     Let your child help plan and prepare meals – Children love to feel like they are contributing, and preparation builds an appetite and teaches responsibility.  Even young kids can help with stirring or adding ingredients.

3.     Make Food Fun – Present food in new and exciting ways: pizza with a face out of pepperoni and vegetables, ants on a log, etc. There are also several fun placemats and plates like the one pictured above, that make eating into a game.

4.     Food Play: If your child is very resistant to try a certain food, allowing them to do some food play, where the goal is interacting with the food, not necessarily eating it, may help.  Using carrot sticks to stir soup or use ketchup to ‘paint’ with the broccoli

5.     Offer them choices. Rather than ask, “Do you want broccoli for dinner?” ask “Which would you like for dinner, broccoli or green beans?”  This allows them to have a little bit of control over the food choice.

6.     Tasting plate:  Offer the same foods for the whole family.  Pass it around and let everyone take one or two things to try. Talk about the colors, shapes, and textures on the plate.  The more kids are exposed and understand, the more willing they will be to try. 

7.     Exposure: Keep exposing them to the foods, don’t just try once and stop.  The more familiar they are with seeing the food, the more willing they are to try it. Also, be sure to set realistic expectations.   They won’t eat ½ cup of peas, but if they eat 5 it is a step in the right direction!

A great resource for more information on healthy balanced meals, recipes, and activities for kids and adults is

Friday, July 17, 2020

Articulation Practice with Books

By: Brittany Haller, MS, CCC-SLP

Articulation is defined as “the formation of clear and distinct sounds in speech.” When a child substitutes one speech sound for another, such as “wabbit” for “rabbit,” we can target the correct sound production through speech therapy. Speech-Language Pathologists can work on articulation in a lot of different ways, but one of my favorite ways is by using books. Parents can also use “sound-loaded” books to practice target speech sound production at home.

Sound-loaded books are simply books that have a certain sound in them frequently. When reading these books aloud with your child, you can pause and focus on the words that have their target sounds. Using books for speech practice allows you to not only work on articulation, but to also target language, literacy, and even social skills! It can be a fun, interactive way to learn.

You may be wondering where to start with using sound-loaded books for practicing speech at home. If you haven’t already received a copy of your child’s speech therapy goals, I recommended obtaining a copy to familiarize yourself with which sounds they are working on, as well as what level they are working on (single words, phrases, sentences, etc.) Then, find a book that is loaded with your child’s target speech sounds. I recommend the following source: However, if you search “sound-loaded books for articulation” on the internet, you will find many wonderful resources.

After you have familiarized yourself with your child’s goals and have received your books…HAVE FUN! Don’t be afraid to get silly or creative. You can prompt your child to repeat the target words, talk about the pictures, relate the content to your own experiences, and anything else that helps them practice those correct productions. 

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Yoga and its Therapeutic Benefits

Yoga and its Therapeutic Benefits

By: Ashley Akers M.S. OTR/L

One of my favorite therapeutic activities is yoga! Why? I love that it is easily accessible to families because no materials are required! Yoga also has a wide range of benefits and works on many skills at the same time. To name just a few, yoga works on:

1.      Overall body strengthening, especially with core and postural muscles

2.      Proprioception or body awareness skills

3.      Improving balance and the vestibular system

4.      Crossing midline or reaching across the body to the opposite side- an important skill for so many daily tasks like writing and dressing

5.      Motor planning skills

6.      Self-regulation! Yoga encourages self-awareness and teaches children tools to manage feeling overwhelmed or stressed such as deep breathing and relaxation techniques

Good poses to start with when first working on yoga with your kiddo:

1.      Tree Pose

2.      Downward Dog

3.      Mountain Pose

4.      Child’s Pose

5.      Cat/Cow Pose

**Cosmic Kids Yoga on Youtube is a great channel to start**

Tools to Grow also offers great resources:

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Ready, Set, Play!

Ready, Set, Play!

By: Brittany Haller, MS, CCC-SLP

I couldn’t tell you how many times I have had both children and adults tell me “You’re so lucky to be an SLP! All you do is play all day!” I have to admit that they are not wrong. What people may not realize is how important play is for speech and language development. In fact, there are even developmental milestones for different types of play!

The following link will show you more about the wonderful world of play:

You will see a chart that goes over types of play, descriptions of those types, age norms, and several great examples of each type. With so many great benefits....I say “ready, set, play!”

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

How to Encourage Development of Scissor Skills

How to Encourage Development of Scissor Skills

By: Ashley Akers M.S. OTR/L

Cutting is a foundational activity for children that incorporates so many great skills children need to learn! To name just a few, cutting addresses fine motor strengthening skills, bilateral coordination, sequencing, attention to task, and visual motor skills (eye-hand coordination).

Parents are often surprised when I tell them that cutting skills begin EARLY! Kiddos should be working on snipping paper by age TWO! Yes, 2!  So, how can you encourage the development of scissor skills?

1.      Practice the sequence of opening/closing various items such as tweezers/tongs, squirt bottles, and chip clips.

2.      Tear paper! This is an important prerequisite skill to using scissors.

3.      Always encourage your kiddo to hold their scissors in a “thumbs-up position” i.e your kiddos’ thumb should be in the top, small hole when cutting. (You can make it easier for your kiddo to remember this by placing a sticker on top of the thumb hole).

4.      Before snipping paper, start with snipping Play-Doh!

5.      When kiddos are first learning, using spring-loaded or loop scissors can help decrease their frustration as they provide more assistance and require less strength.

Here is an excellent handout from Super Duper Publications to help you with developing your little one's scissor skills!