Thursday, May 2, 2024

The Importance of Therapy in the Summer

As we approach the end of another school year, we are closer to the Summer time. Right around this time every year I am asked the same question: "Can we take a break from therapy for the Summer?". The answer is always a resounding "NO!". And why you may ask? Let me share with you the reasons that stopping therapy for the Summer should never be an option. 1. Regression: Regression is the loss of skills that one has already learned or mastered. When a child that has not met and consistently demonstrated the mastery of their goals, they are showing that there are still performance areas that are not up the the developmental age level as expected. Without the consistency and frequency of therapy, their skills that are not mastered will begin to regress. Once therapy is resumed the therapist will need to go back to working on skills that they had already started to make improvements on. This most always ends in frustration for the kiddo. 2. Inconsistency of Schedules: Many children thrive on consistency and predictability. When the Summer arrives they are already lacking a major portion of their routine. Taking therapy out of the picture as well will result in increased frustration and dysregulation. Children can have decreased ability to handle disappointment, have increased outbursts, and a harder time calming down once upset. Routines are very important. Therapy is part of their routine. That shouldn't change. 3. Therapy is not school: Therapy plan of cares are designed with the frequency and duration that the medical professional has deemed are required for your child to meet their goals. Consistency is key to this. It must happen weekly and at the correct frequency. Each child will progress at different rates towards their goals, which is why we have individualized treatment plans. On the flip side, each grade for school has a specific cirriculum for each grade that is set to be completed in 10 months. When the school year is over, the idea is that the goals that were set in the cirriculum have been achieved. They give them a break between the grades as their is a definitive break between goals. Therapy goals are developmentally driven and do not have an end until your child reaches their highest level of independence. 4. Resuming will be HARD: Because children thrive on routines, getting back into the routine of therapy and school come the start of a new school year will be HARD!! For all of you. Therapy is not something that you want to have your child resist coming to because there is so much change happening all at the same time. Hopefully this was helpful information! Work with your therapy provider to help work around vacations and camps so your child can benefit from all the things! Happy almost Summer and cheers to a fun summer of therapy!

Thursday, March 28, 2024

What is a Phonological Process?

When a child learns to speak, they often attempt to simplify adult speech into an easier speech pattern. These patterns are referred to as a phonological process. These processes typically occur in the early stages of speech and language development and typically disappear by a certain age. However, when these patterns remain in a child's speech past a certain age, they may need speech therapy to eliminate these speech errors. Examples of Phonological Processes: 1. Final Consonant Deletion: This is the process where a child will leave off the final consonant sound in words. For example, a child might say "ca" instead of "cat" or "do" instead of "dog". This process should be eliminated by the time a child is 3 years old. 2. Cluster Reduction: This is the process where a child attempts to simplify consonant clusters by producing a single consonant. For example, a child might say "pay" instead of "play" or "top" instead of "stop". This process should be eliminated by the time a child is 5 years old. 3. Stopping: This is the process where a child replaces a fricative (/s, z, f, v/) or for a stop consonant (/t, d, b, p/). For example, a child might say "tun" instead of "sun" or "do" instead of "zoo". This process should be eliminated by the time a child is 3 for /s/ and /f/ sounds and 4 for /z, v/ sound 4. Fronting: This is the process where a child replaces a sound that is supposed to be said in the back of the mouth for a sound said in the front of the mouth. For example, a child might say "do" instead of "go" or "tat" for "cat". This process should be eliminated by the time a child is 4 years old. An evaluation by a Speech Language Pathologist may be necessary to assist with diagnosing and treating these phonological processes. By Lindsay Edmonds, CCC, SLP

Facilitating Language in the Home

One of the biggest questions I get as a speech therapist working with younger kids is, “How can I help my child at home?” As a therapist, I almost always have the child take the lead. Follow them around the house and see what they are engaging in. For example, if your child goes to the fridge and points to the fridge you can work on labeling what they are doing or what they want i.e. open, close, milk, juice. We want to make sure we are keeping the phrases short and concise. If a child is currently using one word phrases i.e. “open”. We can say “open” and then slowly expand from there i.e. “open door, open please”. If they are not using any words we can work on giving them options. For example if they go to the fridge and you know they want something to drink we can give them two options, “milk” or “juice”. Say the child points to the milk but does not vocalize it then we would repeat “milk” and then hand them the milk. We want to give the child an opportunity to label if they can, but we don’t want them to get to the point of frustration. Children are like sponges and the more models they are getting in the home, then they will eventually start to use what they are learning independently. Another big question I get as a speech therapist is what toys should I buy for my child? Children are able to play with just about anything in the home! For example you can give them magnets on the fridge and work on language as they play with them. You can work on labeling what the magnets are pictures of (i.e. animals, letters, colors, etc) and work on labeling the actions (i.e. put on, take off, get, give me, etc.) If you chose to buy additional toys for your child, I would focus on toys that do not make sounds or take the batteries out of the toys. By doing this it helps to facilitate a child’s imagination. It will also help children to vocalize more sounds during play i.e. animals sounds: moo, qwack, bah, environmental sounds: vroom, beep, etc.) Christine DeCicco MS CCC-SLP

Thursday, March 21, 2024

What is AAC?

By Andrea Esinhart, CCC, SLP Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) is all the ways a person can communicate besides talking. Augmentative means to add to a person’s speech. Alternative means to be used instead of talking. Some people use AAC for a short period of time. Some people use AAC throughout their life. Did you know that everyone uses AAC? Facial expressions, gestures, body language, texting, emails, writing, and social media are just to name a few. There are many types of AAC systems. Options include no-tech (gestures, eye gaze, body language), low-tech (communication boards, switches, fixed devices, picture exchange), and high-tech (speech-generating devices). Speech-generating devices may include an app on an iPad, tablet, iPhone, or apple watch to communicate. There are many individualized options. Many people use the Total Communication Approach (all communication methods available to them) by combining no-tech, low-tech, and high-tech options. Speech-Language Pathologists help find the right AAC system and help people learn how to use AAC to communicate. Occupational Therapists help people access their technology on the AAC system in regards to vision, eye gaze, mounting, and other technologies for access. Multidisciplinary collaboration important in order to assess the person’s functional skills, preferences, environment, and activities of daily living across different settings. Common questions about AAC - Is my child too young for AAC? – No. Research shows that AAC helps people of all ages. You can use AAC early. There are no thinking skills, test scores, or other milestones needed to be reached before AAC can be introduced. Presume competence (believe your child has the potential to use AAC). - Will AAC stop my child from talking? – No. Research shows that AAC improves verbal output. Many children will verbally imitate the AAC device. Robust AAC systems promote reading and writing development as well.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Occupational Therapy at AKT

Occupational Therapy at AKT begins with the belief that each child that we serve is unique and deserves unique services. This belief is set across all that we do and all that we strive to be. Services begin with a thorough evaluation of each child. The assessment tools are choosen to ensure that the proper areas of concern are being evaluated as well as any possible additional performance areas that may be affecting the child. This can include residual reflexes, fine motor coordination, dexterity, visual motor coordination, sensory processing, ADL skills, visual perception, social skills, cognition, and bilateral coordination. Following the completion of testing, therapists will spend time with the caregiver present to collect information regarding history and present abilities. They will spend time reviewing test results and impressions with the caregiver while providing them with their recommendations for treatment.
Once the evaluation is complete, services can be scheduled. Treatment sessions will look different for each session. This can include the treatment approaches as well as the therapist providing them. AKT strongly believes that children benefit from seeing a variety of therapists. There are several reasons for this. The first is that every therapist has a different set of specialties. By having each therapist provide treatment to a child we can ensure that each expert is assessing the child thru their specialists eyes. Another great reason for utilizing different therapists is to ensure that there is carryover for new skills and not just performed for one therapist alone.
Throughout the course of treatment, therapists will communicate and educate the following with our AKT families: 1. Progress towards goals 2. Work/exercises/activities to be performed at home 3. Discharge planning from services once goals have been mastered Although discharge time can be sad for both our kiddos, therapists, and families, it is such an exciting time to celebrate all the hard work that our kiddos have put in to achieve their maximum potential. It is such a magical time to celebrate! We hate see our kiddos leave us but we love when they visit just to say hi!

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

What is Self Regulation?

What is Self-Regulation? Self-regulation refers to a child’s ability to manage their emotions, behavior, and attention in various situations. As a pediatric occupational therapist, I often witness the crucial role self-regulation plays in a child’s occupational performance, encompassing daily activities like play, learning, and social interactions. Self-regulation encompasses the ability to manage one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in different situations. It involves the capacity to stay focused, control impulses, and adapt to changing circumstances. In the context of a child’s development, self-regulation extends to various domains, including emotional, cognitive, and behavioral regulation. Impact on Function Impaired self-regulation can significantly impact a child’s ability to engage in age-appropriate tasks. For instance, a child with challenges in regulating their emotions may cause a struggle to focus during classroom activities or face difficulties in forming meaningful peer relationships. Occupational performance relies heavily on a child’s capacity to navigate their internal state, adapt to environmental demands, and maintain a balance between arousal levels. In therapy, we utilize various strategies to support the development of a child’s self-regulation skills. These may include sensory integration activities, mindfulness exercises, co-regulation strategies, and structured routines to help children better understand and manage their emotions. Recognizing the importance of self-regulation is fundamental in fostering a child’s overall well-being and enhancing their participation in daily life. By Aja Perry, MS, OTR/L

Friday, January 12, 2024

What is Visual Motor and Why is it Important?


In occupational therapy, we work on many skills vital to a kid’s everyday life, one of those include visual motor skills. Visual motor skills are defined as being able to translate a visual image, or a visual plan, into a motor action - or in other words, taking what we see and turning it into movement in order to complete a task. They are the controlled coordination of the visual system (eyes, head, and neck) and the movement system (muscles, joints, and body parts). Visual motor skills include visual processing, visual perception, and hand-eye coordination, which are all needed for success in school, sports, crafts, games, dressing, or overall day to day life skills that Occupational Therapy addresses here at AKT. 

  Visual Processing is the movement of the eyes and ability to collect information. 

  • Examples of visual processing activities you could try at home include: 

    • Holding a picture up in front of your child with either shapes, words or a picture and having them draw/write what they see 

    • Replicate a picture by building with legos

    • Imitate a block design shown 

    • Use play-dough to form shapes or letter shown 

    • Creating patterns or finishing a pattern 

Visual perception is our ability to make sense of what we see. Visual perceptual skills are essential for everything from navigating our world to reading, writing, and manipulating items. Visual perception is made up of a complex combination of various skills including visual memory, visual closure, form constancy, visual spatial relations, visual discrimination, visual attention, visual sequential memory, and visual figure ground.

  • Examples of visual perceptual activities to try at home include:

    • I Spy Games

    • Where’s Waldo

    • Word searches

    • Memory games

    • Puzzles

Hand-eye coordination is the way a person’s hands and eyesight work together effectively and efficiently which allows us to manipulate and manage objects and items. These motor skills allow us to collect visual information and use it in a motor action. Eye-hand coordination requires fine motor dexterity, strength, shoulder stability, core stability, etc.

  • Examples of eye-hand coordination include:

    • Catching a ball

    • Manipulating pegs into a pegboard (i.e. Lite Bright)

    • Lacing a lacing card

    • Cutting activities 

Visual motor skills are an important part of childhood development and are needed to complete almost any activity. Without visual motor skills, a child couldn't catch a ball, complete a puzzle, or put on their shoes. It can also affect a child’s handwriting and school performance as well. Here at AKT, we work to improve these skills in occupational therapy to help kiddos succeed in their daily activities, at school, in sports and while they work on their hobbies! 

Elizabeth Bowden OTD, OTR/L