Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Core Connection: The Role Core Strength Plays in Fine Motor Skills

When children start Occupational Therapy for difficulty with handwriting and other fine motor tasks, such as buttoning and lacing, we brief the parents about the core activity we did during the session. The typical response we receive is "so are you or when are you going to work on their hands?" This question is quite understandable because we don't easily see the connection between core strength and fine motor tasks.

Picture if you will a piece of yarn with a piece of pipe cleaner attached to it as its arms.  If we were to hold the yarn at the bottom and attempt to hold it up it would just fall over and the pipe cleaner attached to it would fall over also. Even through the pipe cleaner is firmer/stronger than the yarn it could only stay up as much as the yarn would let it and support it.  While my example is an exaggeration, I think you can see my point.  So, the first step to being able to utilize our arms and fingers effectively is to build up the support from the trunk/base forward. 

The weaker the core the more support is needed to remain upright.

The stronger the core the less support is needed.

Signs of a weak core can present itself in various stages and aspects of your child's life, from when they are babies having difficulty crawling or rolling over to difficulty in school.  Their difficulty in school can present itself not just with the legibility of their handwriting or physical coordination but it can also present itself in behavioral difficulties.  Picture a child fatiguing easily having to remain sitting in a straight back chair to complete their class work.  As the day progresses they become more fatigued which can lead to a reduced ability to self-regulate, leading to outbursts… you see where I'm going with this.

There are several ways to detect if your child has a weak core. Have you noticed that your child is always laying his or her head on the table/desk at home or at school or leans on one hand while writing or reading?  Does your child's body appear to be like a noodle by the end of the day, having difficulty remaining upright?  When sitting on the floor does your child sit in a W-sitting position (knees forward with lower legs on the sides looking like a "w"?  Is your child always leaning on you or the furniture when standing? How about their handwriting? Is it neat or sloppy? Do they have difficulty with cutting straight? And these are just a few!  Here is a handy list I found from The Inspired Treehouse> (No affiliation).

You can start today making small changes to help improve core strength in your young one.  Simple changes such as having them cross leg sit (commonly known as criss cross apple sauce) instead of "W." While watching television, make a game out of holding the "superman" pose the longest or have crab walk races during the commercials. You can also kick it up a notch and incorporate exercises such as sit-ups & planks while still keeping it fun. You can access other ideas and resources at our website at  to help with this endeavor.

By Allieson C. Bruce-Woolcock, COTA/L
Amazing Kidz Therapy, PLLC

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

What is Astronaut Training in Therapy?

By Allieson Bruce-Woolcock, COTA

The importance of the vestibular system is often overlooked but it is believed to provide the foundation for all that we do as well as being of vital importance to our survival and our ability to function in daily life. The vestibular system helps us to know where we are in space.  In other words, it gives up information on which way is up or down and our sense of direction.  It also helps our balance, spatial orientation (being able to change location/move in relation to objects around us), and our ability to maintain focus on an object even when we are moving. 

Our vestibular system works in conjunction with our auditory and visual systems to help us understand 3-dimential space.  Through these three systems, our Vestibular-Auditory-Visual Triad, meaning is assigned to the sights and sounds of our world encouraging us to move, explore, and engage with the people, objects, and events around us.

It becomes difficult for our world to make sense when the information being received from our vestibular system along with the sights and sounds in our environment are disconnected. Since movement is a part of everything we do, it is not far-fetched to believe that the vestibular system supports all behavior, our ability to gain skills as well as provide balance/filter the constant flow of sensory information our systems receive.  Without the successful integration of the Vestibular-Auditory-Visual Triad all aspects of behavior (planning, directing, and controlling our actions) can be negatively impacted.

This is where the Astronaut Training Protocol comes in.  It provides a means to connect the Vestibular-Auditory-Visual Triad though rotary movements, audible cues and visual targets.  The rotary movements activate the vestibular systems and is paired with a set of eye movements, saccades and smooth pursuits, prompted by audible cues.  The Astronaut Training Protocol has been proven successful in diagnosis such as Sensory Processing Disorders, ADHD and with individuals having trouble with regulation and visual/ocular motor control.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Another great event planned this year for our 2nd annual Spring Fling --- Daddy/Daughter, Mother/Son Dance. All proceeds to benefit Autism Speaks Walk.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Perfect Present: Part 1

As our children prepare to return to school we know that this means new friends which means a host of things: new play dates, new parents to meet, new names of friends to remember, different interests your child will adopt and new birthday parties to attend.  As a therapist, I am often tapped for different presents that are good for children of different ages.  This will be a multi-part blog with different areas of focus for different age groups to help parents navigate buying different gifts.

This weeks Part 1 will focus on Gross Motor and Coordination skills.  These are the big movements that involve big muscles throughout the body.  For some children, these movements have always come easily and for other children this can be very difficult.  Here are some ideas for presents for different age groups that just may be the right fit!

1. Fisher Price® Bright Beats Smart Touch Play Space
This toy is made to move from infant to toddler years.  It incorporates the use of sound and light to encourage movement in sitting, standing and cruising positions.

2. Balance Beams and Stepping Stone Games

These toys allow for a multitude of uses and encourages creative play while working on balance, coordination and movement.  

3. Twister
Yes, this game is still around and it is great for coordination and motor planning!  Recommended for ages 6 and up.

4. Velcro Ball and Catch Set
This is an inexpensive toy that allows for increased success for children that may have difficulty with the act of catching the ball by allowing a bigger target as well as decreased movement required to catch.

5. Scooters

For older kiddos this is great for coordination, balance and core strengthening.  The simpler the better on scooters as they can become more difficult the more parts and pieces are added.  Of course, I always recommend a helmet for safety on these!

Sometimes it just takes a different view on different games and toys to show their true value! Have fun shopping!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Preparing for Return to School

Believe it or not here in Florida we are already half way through the Summer...yes, really!  As we approach the beginning of a new school year I am often discussing with parents what they can do to help prepare their child for the return to school.

1. Schedules.  We all do it in the Summer; let our kids stay up late, plan activities that can be over stimulating later than we would normally and relish when they decide to sleep in late!  As you approach the beginning of the school year, I highly recommend a two week prep period for the resumption of their school schedule.  Resume normal bed times and yes (cringe) wake them up when they will need to be up getting ready for school.  Waiting until the first day of school will make for a stressful start for both of you!

2. Take Advantage of the Open House.  Most schools have a day before school resumes that your child is allowed to go to the school and meet their new teacher.  No matter if they are in Kindergarten or 5th grade, this is important for them.  Having them be aware of where their classroom is, who their new teacher will be and see some of the friends that will be in their class will decrease their anxiety the first week.

3. Handwriting. Some kids are too busy being active with camp and sports and Summer activities to sit and write during the Summer.  Yep, completely okay for them to be kids!  However, as they approach the beginning of the school year, you will want them to begin to wake up those hands.  Now, take a deep breath.  This does not have to be the same as homework!  Do FUN writing activities. Write cards, make lists for upcoming activities, do crossword puzzles, play word games like Scattergories.

4. Visual Motor Activities.  Your child will be required to resume projects, art and other activities that will require them to be able to coordinate what they see and how their body reacts. Grab the scissors, paper and glue.  Make pictures, play pictionary, or make some new room decorations.  Family game time is a great way to work on these skills (Cranium happens to be one of my favorite!).

5. Reading.  Your kiddo will be expected to pick up where they left off.  For those that did not have a Summer Reading list time to start back up.  And I recommend this 4 weeks before school is back in session. Bedtime reading is a fun way for you and your child to spend some quiet reading time together.  Comic books are also a neat and fun way to get back in the swing of reading.

So as one parent to another, I will say, the next thing we need to do is prepare ourselves for what the school year will bring...homework, after school activities, checking folders, school projects, and did I mention homework?  I personally feel like I am finally recouping from last years routine.  The better mindset we are in the better prepared we are for helping support our kids.

Good luck momma and papas!  The more prepared you and your child are the easier back to school will be for all of us...even if we really don't want Summer to end!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Picky Eater vs Resistant Eaters

We often hear parents talk about their children being picky eaters.  However, when does it go beyond just picky eating?  There are times that it goes beyond the normal children making a stand, finding their own preferences and being a kid.  There are times that there are physical and neurological reasons that a child may be resistant to eating and meal times.  Occupational Therapists are specially trained to help children overcome some of these issues to allow for increased nutritional intake.

Sensory processing or modulation can play a big role in a child's ability to tolerate certain textures or smells.  If a child has an overactive olfactory sense, smells can seem overpowering, create over sensitive gag reflexes and turn children off to food that has any odor.  Oral tactile defensiveness can create difficulty with tolerating new textures, eating foods with different textures vs one consistency and progress through different stages of food.  Occupational therapists work towards regulating the senses to allow for increased food variety and more pleasant meal time experiences.

Resistance to eating can also come from oral motor weakness.  This means that some muscles around or in the mouth are not strong enough to chew certain foods or chew for long periods of time.  Through different exercises, activities and strategies these muscles can be built up and strengthened to allow for the child to tolerate larger amounts of food as well as food that is more difficult to chew, such as meats.

Many parents that are experiencing the meltdowns, the refusals to eat more than 2 food items for weeks on end and the gagging through every meal = dreaded meal times.  These times should be enjoyable; a time in which the family comes together, sharing their daily events and simply just spending time together.  They can return to this with a little help from your OT friends.  Reach out, make the call, and take back your meal times!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Value of Time

We often find ourselves saying "I can't wait to get to...", "I hope this goes quickly" or "We need to hurry so we can...".  I know these are common phrases around my house.  And our time is precious, right?  It is something that only we are able to place a price tag on.  Now, how do you think your children value it?

Recently, Amazing Kidz Therapy hosted a Daddy/Daughter Mother/Son dance as a way to promote family time while raising money for a great cause.  While we raised money for the cause I saw us raise something else.  The value of the time we spend with our children.  The value our CHILDREN place on that time.

I looked out over the room frequently to a sea of smiling, happy faces; both from the children and the adults.  And it was not because they were getting tasks done on their to do lists or completing chores or finishing a project.  It was not because they were full of treats (although the desserts were amazing!) or they had games to play or they were with their friend (in fact most children did not know any others there).  The reason was simple; it was about the time they got together.  That's it.  They were spending uninterrupted time together, having fun and and making memories.

Trust me, I get it. Life happens and things need to get done.  But I learned a valuable lesson that night: Plan for the just them time.  Shut down the electronics, wait to complete the To Do lists, and just be there for them time.  It does not have to be fancy; it can be 20 minutes in the park, a walk around the block or sitting at the dinner table as a family talking about the day with no phones allowed.  Children value our time more than I believe we do and the satisfaction they receive from getting that time from us...priceless.