Doing Therapeutic Listening? Get These Affordable, Comfortable, Kid-Size Bluetooth Headphones From PURO!

Wirecutter, owned by the New York Times, just did a piece on great gifts. The PURO BT2200 models were featured because they are child-sized NOISE-LIMITING headphones with a BUILT-IN MIC, which is great for virtual school participation.

I am recommending them because they will not destroy your child’s hearing. They max out at 85 decibels. No matter what your kid does with the volume bar on your iPhone, these headphones will save their hearing. You can stream from your iPhone wirelessly from 30 feet. That means it will work with Quickshifts and Modulated auditory/sensory processing treatment programs.

Readers know how effective I believe therapeutic listening can be for kids Quickshifts: A Simple, Successful, and Easy to Use Treatment For Regulation, Attention, and Postural Activation , but using speakers isn’t ideal. Finding headphones that your kid will keep on their head isn’t easy, and nobody wants a fight during a pandemic (or any other time, to be honest).

The new over-ear ear cups are big and soft, making longer listening times easier. They only fit the NEW headphones though, so if you want them, you will have to buy the current model of the BT2200. The new BT2200’s are $85, so you can give the old model to your other kid(s) and use the new one for your kid doing therapeutic listening. The large ear cups are $15. This is a really affordable buy-in for high-quality headphones for sensory treatment at home in the middle of a pandemic. For kids who cannot get in-person treatment, this is one way to make a big difference in their sensory processing without direct contact.

They come with an extended warranty, and since kids throw things, I do recommend buying it. The one-year warranty is good, but the extra coverage means you can breathe a little.

Book Review By An OTR: Life, Disrupted; Getting Real About Chronic Illness in Your Twenties and Thirties

Although I work in pediatrics now, I spent the first 10 years of my career in adult ortho-neuro rehab. This means that I worked with many young adults facing issues from RA, MS, Lupus, spinal cord injuries, and more. They were just getting started with jobs, raising children, and making an adult life, but they had to deal with chronic disorders that impacted every part of daily living. And their needs were different in some ways from the older patients, who developed issues in their 60’s and 70’s or beyond. THEIR children were grown, their careers were often over, they had saved for retirement, etc.

Why am I writing a review on a book about ADULTS? First, many of the kids I treat will grow up to be adults with chronic issues. Their parents may or may not acknowledge this at 3 a.m., when they think about their child’s future with some fear in their hearts. Second, the PARENTS of some of my clients have their own issues. Sometimes the same ones, but sometimes lightning does strike twice, and the child has a different issue or issues from the parent’s own concerns. Either way, people want ideas and the feeling that they aren’t the only ones dealing with these issues.

This book is written by Laurie Edwards, who faces a chronic respiratory illness with a combination of determination and honesty that other adults with chronic illness will find refreshing. She isn’t shy about describing how it has affected her relationships or her ability to look at her future. But the book includes many other stories. Within the book you will meet a college student with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a young mother with another respiratory illness, and others with common and uncommon diagnoses.

Chronic disorders or illnesses can make immediate decisions harder, but they make plans for the future harder as well. I have felt strongly that teens with chronic illnesses need to plan their careers based on more than their talents. The realities of living in the US mean that having health insurance isn’t a given. Having the ability to take paid leave isn’t either. The “gig economy” isn’t kind to people with chronic disorders, and until our country decides to change this, it is important to choose education and training that will allow a person with a chronic illness to obtain good care. It really can be a “life or death” decision.

Ms. Edwards also takes on the decision to bear and/or raise children. Although there aren’t any specific strategies offered, she walks the reader through her process, and the decision-making of other people with chronic illnesses and conditions. One of the great gaps in care, IMHO, is care for mothers with chronic disorders. Raising children is hard work. Hard physical work, hard mental work, hard emotional work. Lots of joy, but lots, and lots, of work. Protecting their health when faced with their child’s needs often means that women sacrifice themselves and do not realize that there are options that reduce risk while being the great moms they want to be.

The lack of useful information from the therapy community is just astounding. We know a great deal that could make life easier, but there isn’t anything available to parents unless they are lucky enough to have generous health care coverage that provides them with therapy sessions. I have found YouTube videos on lifting and carrying kids when you have physical disabilities…none by therapists. We know so much about this topic, but parents seem to have to figure even this simple thing out for themselves. When understanding the principles and their own abilities could make them empowered to plan for each situation as it comes along.

For more information, read Career Planning for Teens with JRA, EDS, and Other Chronic Health Issues and Parents With Disabilities Need The Happiest Toddler on the Block Techniques . To read posts about children that have relevance for adults as well, read Why Joint Protection Solutions for Hypermobility Aren’t Your Granny’s Joint Protection Strategies and When Writing Hurts: The Hypermobile Hand .

Book Review From an OTR: Easy For You To Say Q and A’s for Teens Living with Chronic Illness or Disability

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If you are a teen with JRA, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, MD, paraplegia, or any of the many conditions that create daily challenges in your life, you need to read this book.

If you are the parent of a teen or tween with these medical conditions, you REALLY need to read this book.

Dr. Miriam Kaufman wrote the first edition of this book 25 years ago.  It has been updated and improved, IMHO.  It is honest and direct about issues that matter to teens.  She is specific about drug use, sex, intimate and social relationships, and the challenges of having these problems when you are still learning who you are and what you want in life.  Young adults would probably get a lot out of this book as well.  Sometimes illness and disability make launching yourself as an adult a slow and disconnected process.

What is inside?

Chapters 1 and 2 focus on family life and managing medicine and medical doctors.  Teens are trying to separate but still need and (sometimes) want family involvement as much as they want to grow into the amazing adults they are meant to be.

Chapters 3 and 4 talk about friends, dating, school, and work.  

Chapter 5 addresses alcohol, drugs, and medications.  She isn’t judge-y, and she knows that experimentation is likely with or without information.  She just wants teens to think things through so that they make choices based on more than rumor or whispered stories.

Chapter 6 discusses sexuality.  The teen I have treated care more about this topic than they care about almost any other, except dating and friendships.  Dr. Kaufman is honest, explicit without being insensitive, and hopeful.  No teen wants to hear that a satisfying sex life isn’t possible.  

Chapter 7 addresses recreation, and Chapter 8 discussed transitions into adulthood, including taking responsibility for your own healthcare.

Wait.  There is more.  Much more.

Pages 299-315 are appendices that offer you charts so that you can understand which drugs are known to cause acne, hairiness, decreased sexual desire, erectile problems, gynecomastia, affect birth control pills, and then there are pages and pages of explanations of how street drugs interact with therapeutic drugs.  

If you are a teen male and want to know why you have boobs now, or acne, or why sex is no longer the focus of every other thought…it is in here.  If you want to know how to talk to your parents or your doctor about your unwanted facial hair, or the hair “down there”…it is in here.

If you are a parent, and have no idea what yo say about drug use except “don’t”…this book has your back.

Is this book perfect?  No.  Dr. Kaufman doesn’t know some of the strategies and equipment that rehab therapists can suggest to make the physical aspects of sex easier or more pleasurable, or how to deal with getting around the halls and sitting/walking at school, a job, or in your own bathroom, and the chapter on school and work isn’t detailed enough for me as an OTR.  But she has provided a book that is more helpful than others I have seen, with more details than I knew about drug interactions (both legal and illegal usage) and how some drugs affect the effectiveness of birth control pills.  For her extensive appendices alone, this is a book to read and own.

Should You Use White Noise With Toddlers?

I teach The Happiest Baby on the Block techniques to calm newborns because it is based in science.  The science of neurology and early development.  But babies grow.  The 5 S’s, used all together, really don’t work much past 12 weeks of age.  Nobody is swaddling a 6-month old, or jiggling an 8-month old.

But you can use some of the principles of The Happiest Baby on the Block well past that 12-week mark to make life, and sleep, better for everyone. White noise is one of the S’s that is helpful for toddlers.

I wrote a popular post on white noise Are Babies Addicted to White Noise? Yes….and No  and I haven’t seen any reason to change a word. White noise both triggers the brain to think “time to sleep” and alters the level of alertness in a young children so they can drop into sleep.

For toddlers, white noise has an even more important role:  it muffles the sounds of family activity and scary household sounds.  Toddlers want to stay up to hang out with their parents and siblings.  They are old enough to understand that they go to sleep ALONE, that the party is over until morning.  Toddlers that are exceptionally social find this the hardest.  The other group that struggles is the children who are in daycare and only see their parents and siblings in the later afternoon and evenings.  A few hours of meals and bath simply aren’t enough for them, but they are tired and cranky.  Let the screaming begin….

Toddlers are also old enough to develop some fears.  Noises that they cannot identify may scare them.  Things like closing a squeaky door or running the dryer.  As adults, we don’t find these noises alarming.  Toddlers can and do get scared since their brains are able to conjure up fears from emerging imaginations.  White noise can block them all.

But you have to use the right type of white noise, and at the right volume.  Some toddlers need a stronger sound, not bubbling water in a brook.  They need a hairdryer sound.  Some need the heartbeat sound, but louder. Once a child is asleep, you can always switch to a lower, less intense sound.  Dr. Karp’s white noise album on iTunes has a variety of sounds that can be put on in sequence, or on repeat, to deliver that “just right” level of sensory input.

Think you should use music with singing instead?  Not for sleep.  Just like us, toddlers pay attention to the lyrics.  You might find lullabies that soothe, but they might be too stimulating to keep your toddler sleeping.  We go through sleep cycles, and leaving music on during the light sleep stage could wake them rather than send them back to sleep.

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The Three Stages of Color Recognition in Toddlers and Preschoolers

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Although this is not officially an OT issue, I field questions about when and how to teach color recognition to young children.  Like many of my other posts, I am writing this one so that I have something I can send parents; they can read about the concepts we discuss.  There is so much going on in a session that it is hard for the average parent to retain everything I “throw” out in a 30-45 minute session!

Color recognition doesn’t usually emerge before 14-16 months, and typical children can be struggling to match primary colors for months after that age.  But the progression, delayed or on-time, follows a fairly standard pattern.   Expecting stage 3 responses when your child is still at stage 1 is simply asking for frustration from your child, and creates unnecessary concern for parents.  These stages aren’t seamless, meaning that one day a child will consistently be at stage 2, and the next, they are functioning at stage 1.  This is also normal, because a young child that is ill, tired, distracted, upset or even hungry cannot perform skills consistently.

Color identification generally happens with primary colors first, and progresses to secondary and tertiary colors.  This  means that a child often can distinguish red and blue  before they know purple and gray.  There are children over three that are totally confused about brown, gray and beige…..that is completely normal.

Stage 1:  Your child is able to match colors shown to them without being able to respond to a request for a specific color or to name the color.  You hold up a blue block, and ask your child to give you another block that is the same color.  You may even find one and say “HERE it is!  The same! I found another block!”  Your child clearly looks at a few blocks, and hands you the blue one.

Stage 2:  Your child is able to respond to a request to find a block of a specific color.  You say to your child “Please give me a BLUE block”, and without showing them which block is blue, they find one and give it to you.  This requires receptive language, as a child interprets your words and assigns labels to the objects they are seeing.

Stage 3:  Your child is able to correctly answer the question “What color is this block?”  This level of skill means that they know the names of colors and can state them on demand.  This requires expressive language, and anyone who has learned another language will know the internal Rolodex as you search for the right name for the color you are viewing.

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How The Pandemic is Affecting A Toddler’s Learning: Parents Are Their Child’s Best and First Social Models

The New York Times ran a ridiculous piece today about the effects of the pandemic on early learning.  It had quotes from staff at programs for music class about the amazing motor and cognitive benefits of clapping in time to a song and imitating animal sounds.  It had quotes from parents in wealthy NY suburbs, concerned that not learning turn-taking and social skills in class would affect their children’s performance at preschool.  And of course, it showed stills of music class on Zoom, with toddlers looking at a split screen with the adult singing and the other children visible in little boxes.

Do not fear:  very young children aren’t losing out.  Their social skills won’t be permanently crippled by being at home with their parents.

The parents of typically-developing very young children are the original and best source of socialization and language skills.  There is no substitute.  Parents are MORE than capable of providing the right stuff.

Parents might be missing the benefits of having someone to share the long hours of childcare, and the opportunity to connect with other parents, but very young children under 3 without any developmental delays are able to do just fine without their movement or activity class, AS LONG AS THE ADULT(S) CARING FOR THEM ARE WARM, INTERACTIVE, RESPONSIVE, AND FOCUSED ON THEIR NEEDS.

As a therapist working in Early Intervention programs, my job has been to instruct parents in how to promote development, and how to manage behaviors that arise from delayed development or disabilities.  But it also has been about teaching some parents how to play with children under 3, how to pick out toys that match their current skills, and how to deal with the typical tantrums and defiance that come with the territory.

 Many parents have no idea what to do, and a few, frankly, really don’t want to deal with the sometimes boring and tedious job of caring for and playing with very young children.  I see a fair amount of outsourcing parenting when people can afford to do so.    And I understand it rather than condemn it.  This is real work, and not everyone wants to do it.  For generations, the wealthy have hired people to raise their children, because they could.  Why vilify middle class modern parents for the same thing?  But don’t think that a very young child is missing out on important social skills when they can’t go to music class.  The owners of the class are missing their income.  The babies will be just fine.

Very young children are wonderful, but they require a tremendous amount of energy.    It can be draining, in a way that getting out a project update is not.  Raising children is work.  Hard work.  There aren’t that many professionals willing to state the obvious:  young children take much more than they can give in those very early years.  They can’t converse.  They can’t joke.   They can adore you, but they can’t reciprocate cognitively or socially in the way an adult needs.  Regardless of how much you adore them, it is work.  Rewarding and important work, but hard work.  Done alone in a pandemic, while a partner is focused on earning a living, it can be isolating and exhausting.

Enter infant music classes and Mommy-and-Me groups.

These are terrific for breaking up the long days of childcare and getting adults together, but most 14-month olds don’t socialize with peers.  They don’t have the mental ability to do so.  The adults do.  This has real value for adult mental health, but please don’t lie about who is getting the most out of the class.  Accept that raising very young children is hard work, and make sure that caretaking parents are able to take care of their own needs.

But do not buy the idea that without going to music class, a young toddler is risking a loss of social, emotional, motor, or cognitive skills.  But their parent might be.

Is Your Child Bright or Gifted? Spot the Differences

 

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One of my posts, Why Gifted Children Aren’t Their Teacher’s Favorite Students….  gets a lot of interest.  Parents are surprised that having a gifted child doesn’t reap enthusiasm from the average educator.  The general characteristics of a gifted person (intensity, drive, and complexity) can be downright disruptive in a general classroom.  It often isn’t any easier at home.

So if you are wondering if your child is gifted, and you haven’t started searching for a psychologist to perform the WISC-R yet….here are a few differences between the bright kids and the gifted kids:

  1. Bright kids learn quickly.  Gifted kids can learn lightening fast.  Show a bright kid something new and after 5-8 repetitions, they have it down.  A gifted kid can have it down in 1-2 demonstrations.  They learn new words after hearing you use it once.  They make connections without being shown, because they can process information so well, rather than just remember it.  Think Shirley Temple.  They could teach her a dance routine by simply showing her the steps once.  That is a gifted dancer.
  2. Bright kids are great listeners.  They sit and wait for you to finish.  Then they answer you.  Gifted kids will interrupt with questions, argue points you never saw coming, and have a strong need to examine the materials that you are holding.  They almost want to inhale your props to learn more about them.  They are good guessers, because they make inferences without you having to spell things out.
  3. Bright kids make friends easily.  Gifted kids can struggle to find true peers, and often prefer to be alone so that they can pursue their interests and control the outcome of their play.  A gifted athlete may be competing with children much older, leading to difficulties knowing how to behave with them, and a child that is able to expertly play an instrument or read at an advanced level has to find common ground with peers while having uncommon skills.  The developmental asynchrony of gifted kids often means that they struggle more with social interaction even though their sensitivity and sense of justice makes them very connected to how others are feeling.
  4. Bright kids really ARE a joy to teach.  They have great memories, know how to fill in the blanks, and follow your instructions.  Gifted kids have their own strong passions, and rarely have enough space on a worksheet to fill in their complex answer to a simple question.  They want to express their unique viewpoints, and they see many sides to a situation, so “yes/no” responses don’t really work for them.  Take a gifted kid on vacation, and you could have someone who has no interest at all in going to the beach, or someone who won’t leave the beach because there is still so much more to see.  
  5. Bright kids win awards, get elected for school offices, and are often group leaders.  Gifted kids may or may not accomplish these things.  Their performance may be driven by their desire to explore rather than excel, so they may be accused of not living up to their potential.  Gifted kids will not always be found in the top reading group or in the honor classes.  They aren’t driven by other’s agendas.  Their own internal sense of drive and mastery will prevail.  The perpetually daydreaming or laser-focused gifted child may have an agenda that hides their gifts.  Gifted children can be interested in and talented in many things, and have difficulty staying with one passion long enough for mastery, and they may not care about mastery anyway.  Their passion is the journey.  

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Is It Sensory Treatment…Or Sensory Stimulation? How To Know The Difference

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I have spent the first part of my career in pediatrics convincing parents, teachers, and other therapists that sensory processing is important for development, and that sensory processing disorders are a real “thing”.  I am spending the latter part of my career trying to explain to the same groups that using a sensory-based activity does not constitute sensory treatment.

Why?

Results.  You will not get good results to any treatment if the underlying principles aren’t understood and used correctly.  This requires more than a therapy ball and a brush.  A local school district uses general sensory activities for the whole class, rather than sensory-based treatment for kids with sensory processing disorders.  I get a lot of private practice referrals from this neighborhood.  The district’s refusal to address children’s needs in the classroom, while telling parents that they are “sensory-aware”, is frustrating to everyone, including the therapists in the district.  They don’t seem to stick around…..

Therapy for sensory processing disorders requires an evaluation.  Assessing the problem and identifying a rationale for the related behaviors or functional deficits is essential.  Tossing out a sensory-based activity because it is fun, easy, or has worked for another child is the hallmark of a well-meaning provider that wants to help a child but doesn’t have the training of a licensed therapist.

A good example would be to offer teething toys to a child that chews their shirt.  Sounds like a solid plan:  oral seeking equals oral stimulation.  But wait! What if the child is using oral seeking to address severe sound sensitivity?  Isn’t it better to deal with the cause of the problem rather than the end-point behavior?  You would need an evaluation to know that their greater problem is poor modulation and sensitivity.

Treatment techniques follow a pattern that is based on the brain’s neurological response to sensory input.  I didn’t take courses in neuroscience because I liked looking at brain sections.  I took those courses so that I could understand the structure and function of the brain!

The right intervention (movement, pressure, etc.) uses intensity, duration, specificity of sensory input, location of contact/input, frequency, and timing to achieve results.  This sounds like a lot to consider, and….it is!  The way OTs create a sensory diet isn’t by looking at what worked for another child.  We look at what we observe, what we assess, and what the child’s performance demands are.  Only then can we identify what should be used, how and when it should be used, and how to determine our next steps in treatment.

What about the child selecting the activity that they “sense” they need?

Well, if that were therapy, we would all simply set up equipment and let the child play.  We are THERAPISTS, and we know that seeking input isn’t the same as treating dysregulation, aversion, or poor postural activation.  Of course, we want and need kids to have a say in their sessions.  But the idea that a child’s nervous system knows what it needs?  That is like saying that since I like Doritos, then my body is telling me that I need more fat, processed carbs, and salt.  Not.

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A great treatment that isn’t used at the correct level of frequency or used when it is most needed is going to fail.  So will the right frequency of treatment used vigorously rather than with skilled observation.  Non-therapists can be taught a treatment intervention, but it takes training and experience to create a treatment program.  This is no different from any other type of therapy.  Psychotherapists aren’t just talking to you. Speech therapists aren’t simply teaching you how to pronounce the “r” sound.  If it was that easy, we wouldn’t need licensure, or even a degree.

It would be a lot more fun.  We make it look easy, and that is the art of OT.

I have just explained (some of) the science.

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How to Help Toddlers Prepare to Write

Ian, Lila, and Tom aren’t writing. They are drawing!

Contrary to the ideas of some preschool teachers, most three year olds don’t write their names.  In truth, most young fours don’t either.  I refuse to count the kids who “draw” their names like the photo above.  That isn’t writing.  That is drawing, the same as if I copied my name in Mandarin.  I would be drawing the characters, not writing.  Writing requires that I know the correct start and sequence of strokes.

So…What can you do to help late twos and the threes prepare to write?

The mom of a toddler brother of a private client asked me, and I know this child uses his fist to hold a crayon.  Improving his grasping skills should be one big goal, and there are a bunch of fun toys that can support this.  Read Water Wow: Summer Pre-writing Fun on the Road  and read LEGO Duplo My First Car Creations: Putting Together Cars, Building Hand Coordination for two great toys that kids in this age group will love.

 Another way to prepare a young child for handwriting is to build a child’s skilled use of spoons and forks for self-feeding.  I wrote a post on this  How Using Utensils To Eat Prepares Your Child To Write  , and I don’t think parents always fully understand that offering finger foods isn’t going to build hand skills after age 2, unless your child is very physically delayed.  Once they can pop a chicken nugget into their mouth, finger feeding isn’t building hand control.  It certainly isn’t enhancing grasp!  Getting a child the right utensils seems to be an issue in many homes.  Pre-pandemic, I did live EI sessions, and regularly asked parents to throw out those infant feeding spoons (they have a tiny bowl and a super-long handle) because they DO NOT HELP YOUR CHILD SELF-FEED.  THEY MAKE IT HARDER.  Read Which Spoon Is Best To Teach Grown-Up Grasp?  and Teach Spoon Grip By Making It Fun And Sharing a Laugh With Your Child   to find good utensils that support hand control.

The use of a vertical easel, the kind found in any preschool classroom, can build hand control and prevent the development of an awkward crayon grasp.  Stabilize the paper with clips or tape, because young children will not hold loose paper while coloring.  Using a screen stylus builds finger strength and makes drag-and-drop screen time into a hand exercise.  

Crayola’s PipSqueak markers and their My First Crayons are great choices for pre-writing.  ColorWonder paper and markers will not make a mess.  They will save your MIL’s couch at the same time!

Enhancing bilateral assembly skills will prepare a child for the visual-perceptual and midline awareness needed for handwriting.  I love MagnaTiles and DUPLO blocks, but there are other ways to build.  A great variety of building materials will support a typically-developing child.  Sitting passively in front of a screen will not.  Safety scissors should be offered.  The kind that really work: Lakeshore Scissors for Toddlers That Only Cut the Paper, Not the Toddler

Finally, young children need to see adults and older siblings drawing and writing.  If your older kids are addicted to screens, you will have to be the one coloring and drawing.  During stressful times, this might help you relax as well.

Remote Learning Strategies for Special Needs Students

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Remote learning isn’t easy.  Helping a special needs student navigate it isn’t easy either. Here are some strategies to improve outcomes and reduce everyone’s stress about it:

  • If your child’s OT has created a sensory diet for them, this is the time to use it.  A sensory diet is a series of activities and actions that support the brain’s ability to regulate alertness and emotional arousal. How To Remember to Do A Sensory Diet With Your Child If there every WAS a time to get serious about a sensory diet, it is now.  Your child needs every advantage to stay calm and focus.  If you never drilled down and tried it, ask for a review of the techniques, and don’t be shy about admitting that you don’t use it as often as recommended.  We know you are overwhelmed.  We are too!
  • Your learning environment matters.  Take a look around, and remove distractions.  Remove things that don’t distract you, but could distract your learner.  This may mean that you put up a tension rod and a drape that blocks a window, another room where a sibling is learning, or even the view to the snack cabinet.  It may mean that cheerful signs go down.  It may mean that the room you are using is the wrong room because it is too bright, too warm, too noisy, etc.  Kids with learning differences don’t get motivated by lots of decorations; they get distracted.  Teachers get enthusiastic about decorating their classrooms, but they don’t have sensory processing or learning issues.  Don’t make things harder for your child.
  • Positioning matters.  The chair height and desk/table height will affect your comfort and attention span, so you have to think about how it affects your child.  If your OT is virtual, you can send photos and videos of your set-up and get feedback.  This may not require a purchase.  We can help you use the materials in your home to make your equipment work better.
  • How much sleep is your child getting, and how much rest, play, and fun?  Some kids are way over scheduled, even with COVID, and some aren’t getting a chance to be creative.  Make sure that you have puzzles, art supplies, crafts, and other ways for your child to explore.  You might find that you can throw off some stress by painting or crafting as well.
  • Consider therapeutic listening.  I am using Quickshifts Quickshifts: A Simple, Successful, and Easy to Use Treatment For Regulation, Attention, and Postural Activationwith almost all my private clients, and it is helping them focus on Zoom sessions.  Even parents that were skeptical of this treatment have come on board.  They see the difference it makes!

Why Your Kid Still Needs To Be Able to Write With A Pencil

I just watched a Google tech guy try to explain why digital education is so great. Maybe it is, for older kids and college students, and kids in rural parts of the world.

But for the youngest children, and for kids with special needs of all types, digital instruction has proven to be lacking in so many ways. One of the ways digital instruction is failing kids is that children 2-5 still need to see live demonstration of pre-writing and handwriting. Live, as in a person sitting next to them, not on a screen. At the very least, the adult helping them with their Zoom lesson needs to be demonstrating how to write and draw.

This isn’t because these children have deficits. Learning to write has it’s own natural progression, and when you leave out one of the steps, you risk losing some kids completely. Every time I saw a “writing corner” in a preschool, with a few handouts and a few markers left available, I would cringe. Add in some kids with learning differences, and you have a recipe for…hiring me privately in a couple of years when the child cannot keep up in school or hates writing so much that they refuse all together.

Why?

Because intuition is no way to learn to form letters and numbers. There is a stroke sequence that is based on hand anatomy, which creates letters formed with the least amount of time and effort and with the greatest ease. NO PRESCHOOL CHILD WILL INVENT THIS SEQUENCE BY LOOKING AT A COMPLETED LETTER OR NUMBER.

Children learn to write from observing an adult holding a writing tool, copying their movements, and hearing the verbal cues that teach the sequence and skills that reduce reversals and errors like overstrokes and poor proportion.

Only after this phase can they progress to copying a finished sample and then move on to the most advanced level: independent writing without any sample at all.

By 3.5 years, a child should be able to copy a circle and a vertical cross. These skills prepare them to write beginning letters like “L” , “O”, and “H” at 4- 4.5 years of age. Expecting a 3 year-old to trace lowercase letters, or expecting a 4 year-old to write a sentence is seen when parents expect teachers to know the expected age for pre-writing skills to emerge, and how to develop them.

Thank goodness there are occupational therapists that can help out. The current preschool programs have teachers that aren’t taught anything about hand development, visual-motor development, or how to teach handwriting, and eagerly let struggling kids move onto the next class, in the hope that they will pick up some skills along the way. With hybrid education due to COVID-19, there will be some kids that never learn to write with any skill, unless administrators decide to get OTs as consultants and turn this doomed ship around.

How To Remember to Do A Sensory Diet With Your Child

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A “sensory diet” is the cornerstone of managing a child’s sensory processing issues.  Every therapist knows that without a good home program that only addressing a child’s needs in a session, we aren’t going to see much progress.  Treatment sessions are spent half playing catch-up:  trying to increase postural activation, calming them down, or waking them up to participate .  When a child’s nervous system has the right input, their performance and how great they feel inside…it can blossom.  You can see what their potential really is, and their life gets better.

COVID-19 has halted many children from attending treatment in clinics.  Parents are now trying to do activities through telehealth, and their success is determined by many factors.  As therapists, we know that if we cannot see your child live, the sensory diet becomes even more important.

Sensory diet activities don’t always run smoothly.  Kids are busy, parents are stressed, caregivers aren’t around as much or as often.  Parents are asking “How do I remember to do these activities when I have so much else to do during the day?”

The answer is to build a routine that makes sense and that your child will use without a fight.  

  • Find the right time of day, when your child needs this imput.  Using the same things at the same times each day make them more familiar.  More familiar can mean less of a fight.
  • Find the right place, where you aren’t fighting their desire to see the TV or see kids outside playing.  Use a space that supports, not competes, with your goals.  Some kids don’t do well in bright lights, big spaces, or with competing sensory input.
  • Find the right sequence, in which a challenging activity is preceded by one that helps your child focus and get in a positive state of mind.  Ask your OT if there is a way to put activities in an order than makes sense for modulation.
  • Find the right toy, book, person, or food that makes a sensory diet activity a chance to play with something or someone special.  This may mean enlisting the other parent, a sibling or someone else in your pandemic pod.  It takes a village.

The perfect sensory diet is the one that you will do and your child will use.  Your therapist might suggest an amazing activity, but if you cannot do it, your child resists it, or you don’t have the time for it….it isn’t an amazing activity.  It is a burden, and a chance for you to feel like a failure and your child to act up.

Don’t let that happen.

If you cannot manage the current sensory diet with enough ease, ask for advice.  Ask for new activities, new toy recommendations.  Ask for more of a demonstration, even if you think you risk seeming less than perfect.  We like parents who show interest, and we don’t mind repeating our instructions.

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A Fun Way to Help Kids With Low Tone Stand Up Straight: Stomp-Stomp!

sven-brandsma-gn-I07tTixw-unsplashKids with hypermobility or low tone are often found standing in the most dysfunctional of positions.  Toes pointing in, feet rolled in or out, feet on top of each other: take your pick, because these kids will alternate between these wobbly choices and more!  Read How To Improve Posture In Children With Low Muscle Tone… Without a Fight! and How To Correctly Reposition Your Child’s Legs When They “W-Sit” for some other ideas.  But if you want a quick idea that works to help a child stand up with better control and stability, read on.

Telling a child to “fix your feet” often makes no sense to them, or gets ignored.  Passively repositioning their feet doesn’t teach them anything, and can annoy children who feel that they are being manhandled.

What Can You Do?

Tell Them To “Stomp-Stomp”!

Have the child stomp their feet. Repeat if necessary (or because they want to).   It is simple, you can demonstrate it easily, and most kids grin happily and eagerly copy you.  It is fun to stomp your feet.  It also give kids a chance to move in place, which they often need when socially distancing in a classroom.

Why Does It Work?

Because in order to stomp their feet, they have to bring their attention to their feet, shift their weight from one foot to the other in order to lift their foot up, and their feet almost always end up placed in a more aligned position after stomping.

Many of the goal boxes their PT and your OT have on their list are checked.  Kids don’t feel controlled or criticized.  They are having fun.  Sensory input happens in a fun way, not as an exercise.

Want more help with your child, or help improving treatment plans as a therapist?

I wrote three e-books for you!

The Practical Guide to Toilet Training Your Child With Low Muscle Tone, and the two books in the JointSmart Child series on hypermobility are all valuable resources for parents and therapists.  I wrote them because there is simply nothing out there that provides an explanation for why these symptoms make life so difficult for kids (and parents, and teachers, and even therapists!) and what can be done to make everyday life better.

Learn why low tone and hypermobility both create sensory processing issues, and what kinds of social and emotional issues are understood to accompany hypotonia and hypermobility.  When parents see these issues as complex rather than only about strength and stability, they start to feel more empowered and more positive.

Read more about these books, available for purchase on Amazon and Your Therapy Source,  in A Practical Guide to Helping the Hypermobile School-Age Child Succeed, and The JointSmart Child Series: Parents of Young Hypermobile Children Can Feel More Empowered and Confident Today! as well as The Practical Guide to Toilet Training Your Child With Low Muscle Tone: Potty Training Help Has Arrived!

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Why Joint Protection Solutions for Hypermobility Aren’t Your Granny’s Joint Protection Strategies

I spent almost 10 years working in adult rehab before I transitioned to pediatrics.  I still teach joint protection, but I teach it differently to hypermobile kids and their parents.  Kids rarely have JRA, or joint damage in general.  What they have in spades are serious degrees of hypermobility.  And the methods to use joint protection strategies so that tissue damage is minimized are different:

Joint protection strategies for hypermobility need to be adapted from those for other disorders, in order to obtain the best results and put clients at low risk of accidental injury.

What’s So Different?

  • Hypermobility can create a different type of joint strain than OA or other joint damage, and different types of soft tissue damage.  Understanding the way placing force on hypermobile joints can damage them is essential to understanding how to guide clients correctly.
  • Excess mobility reduces sensory feedback even when pain isn’t a factor, and can create different types of pain that aren’t as common as in RA, OA, or other joint deformities.  It can also diminish the protective function of pain.  Hypermobile people are often not in enough discomfort when they are overextending their joints.  The next day they find out that they overdid it.  Too late!  This isn’t just about the knees and ankles, guys.  I laugh a little bit , and then groan a lot, when I see scholarly articles on proprioceptive loss in hypermobility that focus on only lower extremities.  There are a whole bunch of joints above the waist, and hypermobility affects each and every one of them as well.  Just because you aren’t using them to walk doesn’t mean you don’t need proprioception to use them…..!  I wonder who thinks this is just a lower extremity issue?
  • Hypermobility appears to cause dyspraxia that can “disappear” after a few repetitions, only to reappear after a while or with a new activity.  How can that be?  It can’t.  Praxis doesn’t work like that.  What you are seeing is a lack of sensory feedback that improves partially with repetition, only to be rapidly replaced with a lack of skilled movement from fatigue, or from overuse of force, or from pain.  This is really poorly understood by patients, and even by some therapists, but makes perfect sense when fully explored.
  • Hypermobility is seen in a wide range of clients, including younger, more active people who are trying to accomplish skills that are less common in the over-60’s set that we see for OA.  Different goals lead to different needs for joint protection strategies and solutions.
  • Joint damage isn’t evident until long after ligament damage has been done.  People with hypermobility at every age need to protect ligaments, not just joint surfaces.  This isn’t always explained.
  • Their “normal” was never all that normal.  Folks with RA and OA often have years, even decades, of pain-free life to draw on for motor control.  Hypermobility that has been with a person for their entire life deprives them of any memory of what safe, pain-free movement, should feel like.  They are moving “blind” to a degree.  Incorporate this fact into your treatment.
  • So many people are hypermobile in multiple joints that the simple old saws  like “lift with your legs, not your back”  won’t cut it.  Whatever you learned in your CEU course on arthritis won’t be exactly right. Think out of the box.
  • The reasons for hypermobility have to be accounted for.  Genetic disorders like PWS, Down syndrome, and Heritable Disorders of connective Tissue (HDCTs) bring with them other issues that impact functional movement, like poor skin integrity and autonomic nervous system dysfunction.  Always learn about these before you provide guidance, or you risk harm.  We therapists are in the “do no harm” business, remember?

This fall I may start writing a workbook on addressing the use of joint protection, energy conservation, pacing and task adaptation for hypermobility.  There is certainly nothing out there currently that is useful for either therapists or patients.  If you want or need this book, send me a comment and let me know!!

in the meantime, please read Need a Desk Chair for Your Hypermobile School-Age Child? Check out the Giantex Chair , Hypermobility and Music Lessons: How to Reduce the Pain of Playing and Why Injuries to Hypermobile Joints Hurt Twice

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Better…unless that shoulder and elbow are as hypermobile as that wrist and those MCPs!

Got a Whining Child Under 5? Here Is Why They Whine, And What To Do About It

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A lot of my youngest clients have started to whine.  That cute toddler has turned into a whiny young preschooler.  The pandemic isn’t helping them avoid it, or help their stressed parents handle it.

But I can help both parties.  I cannot make these kids grow up any faster, but understanding many of the reasons why kids under 5  whine and having strategies to manage it (notice I didn’t say “eliminate it”) can help.  Here is why they whine (most of the time) and what parents can do to get this behavior under control:

The Whys:

  1. They got smarter.  Not exactly more manipulative, but smarter about what gets your attention and what sustains it.  They can wear you down, and they can see that they are wearing you down.  Infants can wear you out, but they are oblivious to the effects of their screaming.  Not these guys.  They are taking notes, and taking names.  They know who is the best target for a whine, and who is impervious.
  2. They have more endurance.  You can’t divert their attention as easily as you once could.  No “look at the doggie!” and certainly no “It’s OK sweetie” will work any longer.  They know what they want, realistic or not, and they are gonna hold out for it.  Or make you pay.
  3. They have bigger ideas.  They can imagine more, and see that their productions don’t measure up to yours or their big brother’s results.  That scribble isn’t looking like the firetruck they wanted to draw.  Not nearly.  And they don’t know how to ask for targeted help or even any help sometimes.  This is a source of constant frustration for the most perfectionistic child, and even the most even-tempered.
  4. They still don’t understand physics.  Buildings that collapse, paper that tears, crayons that break.  They haven’t reached the cognitive level where they can anticipate these things, so they have “disasters” all the time.  I imagine if all your laundry turned pink, all your cooking burned, and all your pens broke.  You’s be annoyed too.
  5. They care deeply about what they are making, but their baby sibling doesn’t.  But they can’t anticipate and ensure the safety of their production line.  Babies are always up in their grills, ruining things.  Not because they are trying to; they are exploring, and destruction is a way to explore.  Let the frustration and the whining begin….

What can you do to decrease the whining so you don’t lose your ever-loving mind?

  • Telling them “I don’t understand you when you whine” isn’t likely to work.  You could tell them what you DO want them to do, which is to speak to you calmly.  It could be called an “inside” voice, or a “kind voice”, or any other name for it that your kid understands.  Telling someone what you want them to do works better than telling them you have become deaf.
  • Be amazingly consistent.  Don’t let circumstances rule.  Bake space into your events, so that you can wait out a whiner, and the essential things that need to get done happen with or without their participation.  You can leave the store without buying anything if you have something in the freezer you can serve for dinner, diapers for the baby, and “emergency milk” in the fridge.  Once a child sees that you mean business, they remember it.
  • Come up with something more fun for them to do than whine.  Since they now have bigger ideas but are unable to anticipate every disaster, you can give them methods to stop their LEGO from falling apart, or at least explain why it fell.  Be the solution to their problem in a way that makes problems normal and not a reason to fall apart.
  • Praise them for anything they do that is helpful, kind, or cooperative.  Yes, they should be cleaning up anyway.  But they will still be happy to hear that you liked their efforts.  Praise them to your partner or another sibling when they can hear you but aren’t in front of you.  This is Dr. Karp’s “gossiping” strategy, and it works!
  • Don’t let the baby destroy things, and then tell them they should be more tolerant of it.  Tell the baby not to touch, and tell your older child that they have to move their toy to avoid the baby breaking it, or they have to play with it when the baby naps.  Explain that babies just cannot understand what they are doing is a problem.  They aren’t trying to break things but they do. Make it clear that their toys are a priority for you, and that hitting and whining won’t work, but planning will.  This is my secret weapon.  When a child sees that I am on their side, they are my best buddy.  I won’t put up with aggression, but I will limit the rights of anyone else to attack their precious toy.

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How To Respond to Your Child’s Aggressive or Defiant Acts To Get Results

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Throwing toys.  Screaming “NO!!!!!”  Dumping a plate of food on the floor while they look right at you in defiance. Kids can go from cute to aggressive in the blink of an eye.

Is it annoying?  Sure.  Is it dangerous?  Not all the time.  Should you completely ignore it?  Not unless you’d like to see what real defiance looks like at 10.

But what should you do when your child is really testing your limits and the limits of your rules?

  1. You are allowed (and encouraged) to use a firm “no”.  Not the weak kind, and not a hair-raising screech either.  Lower your voice and look directly at your child.  “No”  clearly tells them they have crossed a line.  Avoid too many words, or weakening the message with explanations of why pulling the cat’s tail is a “no”, or why throwing their car at the flat screen TV is a “no”.  Young kids really have no idea about warranties or parsing cause-and-effect.  “No” is simply “no”.
  2. If they continue the behavior, you don’t have to do that whole “count to three” stuff.  The author of “1-2-3 Magic” states clearly in the book that this technique is intended for children over 2 that can comprehend it.  Under 2, and definitely if they have any language delays, you are making a fool of yourself if you think they can follow the idea.  Set limits and use consequences they can appreciate.
  3. Should you ignore some things?  Absolutely.  If there is no risk of danger, and if you are going to have them scoop their mac and cheese from the floor back onto a plate and into the trash in a few minutes, you can ignore it and try to turn things around.  You never want to teach anyone that bad behavior is the best way to get your attention.
  4. Never ignore physical aggression.  Unless people in your home routinely are allowed to hit each other, why would you accept that from your child?  You don’t hit them back, but you certainly don’t hug them warmly after they have smacked you in the face.  Think I am making this up?  I watch this now on telehealth in therapy sessions, but I used to witness it in person!  With parents that should know better.  After your child has smacked you while holding them, put your child down on the floor and tell them “No hitting” and walk a few feet away for a moment.  That is enough to message to a younger child that violence never is OK.  With an older one, that is an immediate time-out without any discussion.  They know they crossed an immovable line.
  5. Always praise good or good-enough behavior when you see it.  I tell parents that praising breathing out and then in again is OK.  So is sitting for three seconds without screaming, and so it giving me your plate instead of tossing it to the floor.  Very young children don’t see that as overkill.  They are little.  They see any praise as simply praise.  And you have to be positive if you are going to be firm about the defiance.
  6. Offer a better game than defiance.  You may have to buy some new toys.  You may have to be more fun with them than you were before.  You may have to be silly, and sit and play with them for a while.  But you were spending a lot of time with them anyway, dealing with defiance.  So this is a better deal.  When it is more fun to be “good”, most children, most of the time, will choose that.

If you find spending time with young children boring, if you expect them to never be defiant, if you aren’t willing to set limits, if you don’t want to deal with their anger when you stop their actions….you need to think carefully about your own issues.  

Kids aren’t houseplants.  Raising them is work, hard work, and it never ends.  But in the end, teaching them to manage their aggressive impulses without crushing their spirit helps them be the decent humans you want them to be.

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Teach Kids How to Cut With Scissors…The Easy Way

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terrific safe scissors for little hands!

As a pediatric occupational therapist, scissor use is something I assess but also something I teach.  And I teach it early.  I also teach safety early, and teach it with a focus on early success.

What makes it easier to teach children to cut with scissors?

  1. Good timing.  Typically-developing children have the visual-motor skills to start snipping with scissors at 24 months.  YUP; that early.  What they don’t have is safety awareness and the ability to select what they should be using.  To teach scissor skills this early, you have to know about fine motor development, child behavior, learning skills, and have access to the right tools.  If a child is unable to attend to your demonstration, unwilling to tolerate assistance of any kind, or unable to use both hands at midline, then 24 months of age is too soon.
  2. Good tools.  My long-time readers know that I use only one type of scissor until a child is 4 or 5:  Lakeshore Scissors for Toddlers That Only Cut the Paper, Not the Toddler  Nothing derails training like needing a bandage!  In addition to the right scissors, beginning to cut is helped when the paper is a bit stiff.  The cheap printer paper most teachers and even therapists use to make copies of cutting sheets is difficult to cut.  We don’t experience it as difficult, because adults have better graded grasp.  We can control the scissor more easily as well.  Young children do much better with card stock or at least high-quality printer paper.  Try getting the administration to pay for it, though.  But if you want success, use the right tools.  My private clients learn using the Kumon “LET’s Cut Paper” series of books, or “Paper Playtime”.  Read more about these excellent books here: Kumon Learn to Cut Books: Paper Truly Worth Snipping Up   . 
  3. Good demonstration.  Some children watch every move you make.  Others are completely oblivious.  Most are somewhere in the middle.  But learning to cut isn’t intuitive.  Not any more intuitive than changing the air filter in your car is.  Could you learn to do it?  Sure, but it would really help if you could watch someone before you tried it.  I make sure that a child is able to observe me, and being that close to a scissor is another reason to use Lakeshore’s brand of safety scissor.  If a child grabs my hand or my scissor, I might not be happy about it, but the will not be injured.  If they ONLY watch me the first or second time I use a scissor in front of a child, that is just fine.  Some kids are risk-averse, and pushing them to try isn’t smart.  The next time I bring the scissors out, they may be more eager to try to use them, and they will have some information stored away about how they work.
  4. Good experiences.  Learning should be fun.  Play should be fun.  Learning to use scissors should be play, not work.  Make it fun.  I will demonstrate cutting on a page that results in something fun to play with.  The “Let’s Cut Paper” books make some cut things.  Another thing that is fun is cutting pieces of paper that fall to the table.  I am doing telehealth during the pandemic, so I am teaching parents to cut 1/2-inch strips of paper and have kids cut across the paper.  They joy in a child’s face when they snip across the strip is wonderful.  It isn’t the same as snipping on the side of the page.  You need to make it fun, or it isn’t going to work.

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Toilet Training? Your Child Needs the Right Shorts!

 

In my first e-book, The Practical Guide to Toilet Training Your Child With Low Muscle Tone, I wrote almost a full chapter just on clothing management.  If your child needs you to pull clothing on and off, they are NOT fully trained.  And if they have clothes that make it impossible for them to manage, you are holding them back from feeling like a real success.

Target has your back!

Yes, the same place you go for their swimsuits, toilet paper, and hand soap.  Target sells a cheap pair of shorts that children can easily pull down and back up again.  Their Cat and Jack line is pretty inexpensive, which is helpful when you know that you will be going through a few pair of shorts per day due to accidents.  They are soft to the touch for kids with sensory sensitivities, and they do have a drawstring waist if you have one of those kids whose shorts slide off their tush.  But remember that if you knot it, your kid won’t be able to slide their shorts off easily.  Better to buy a smaller size.

I would pair these with a T-shirt that ends close to their natural waist.  A longer top will get in the way during bathroom use.  You want to give your child every chance to have a positive experience, and peeing on your clothing by accident isn’t a positive!

Here is a link to a post on dressing skills: Low Muscle Tone and Dressing: Easy Solutions to Teach Independence

Want more help with your child?  

The Practical Guide….. is available on my website Tranquil Babies as a printable download, and on Amazon as a read-only download.  It is also available on Your Therapy Source individually and bundled with either my book on hypermobility in very young children The JointSmart Child Series: Parents of Young Hypermobile Children Can Feel More Empowered and Confident Today! or as a discounted super-bundle with my book on hypermobility in school-age children included A Practical Guide to Helping the Hypermobile School-Age Child Succeed

Helping Children With Low Muscle Tone Manage Summertime Heat

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I write a version of this post every summer.  Puzzled parents ask me about their child’s sometimes dramatic reactions to playing outside in the heat.  Kids are melting like popsicles, tripping and whining.  Time to explain the way low tone and heat interact to create less safety, less stability, and less cooperation.

Yup, low tone has behavioral consequences.  How to comprehend and manage it is one of the cornerstones of my first book, The Practical Guide to Toilet Training Your Child With Low Muscle Tone.  When parents understand that low muscle tone is more than a motor issue, things start to improve.

Heat has predictable effects on muscles.  That is why people use heating pads on muscle spasms.  But when a child has low tone, heat isn’t helpful.  It makes it even harder to initiate and maintain a muscle contraction.  Ambient heat and internal body heat combine to create problems for kids.

What does a child with low muscle tone look like when they spend time in a very warm environment?

  • They fatigue more rapidly.  They could walk to the ice cream stand but want to be carried back.
  • They feel uncomfortable, but in a way that isn’t “sick”.  It is a combination of sluggish and unsteady.  The younger the child, the less they can express the difference between how they felt inside in the A/C and how they feel outside.
  • They become more stubborn, more contrary, or simply more irritable.  This can happen even if a child is typically the most even-tempered of kids.  Add humidity?  You might be in for a real rollercoaster ride.
  • They are often significantly less safe when they move.  They can have just enough of a delay in their ability to catch themselves when they fall, or fail to place their foot in the right spot climbing a stair.  They can even slide off the chair they are sitting on!

What can parents do?

  • Plan active fun for the cooler times of the day, or at least do active play in the shade.

  • Dress your child in breathable clothing, perhaps even tech clothes with breathable panels or special fabrics.

  • Dress them lightly and in light-colored clothing.

  • Make sure that they are well hydrated at all times.

  • Offer healthy popsicles and cool drinks frequently.

  • Have a cool place to bring your child, so that they can literally “chill out”.

  • Teach them about the effects of heat on low muscle tone so that they can understand and eventually act independently.

Looking for more information on helping children manage low tone?  

I wrote more posts for you to read: Is Your Child With Low Tone “Too Busy” to Make it to the Potty? ,  One Fun Way to Help Kids With Hypotonia Align Their Feet: Stomp-Stomp!  and How To Improve Posture In Children With Low Muscle Tone… Without a Fight!

Need more information?  I wrote three e-books for you!

Look on Amazon.com and Your Therapy Source.com for The Practical Guide to Toilet Training Your Child With Low Muscle Tone,  and both volumes of The JointSmart Child.  Read more about these unique (and very practical) books here:   A Practical Guide to Helping the Hypermobile School-Age Child Succeed and The JointSmart Child Series: Parents of Young Hypermobile Children Can Feel More Empowered and Confident Today!

 

Try “Rainbow Tracing” to Build Pre-Writing Skills With Creativity

delfi-de-la-rua-zolFYH_ygpw-unsplashI am not a huge fan of teaching preschool children to trace strokes.  I am very interested in the use of simple drawing to build pencil control and other pre-writing skills.  But done right, tracing can be fun and useful for both the child and the adult.  Here is one way to use tracing effectively:  Rainbow Tracing.

What is it?  The child traces the same target stroke with at least 3 different colors before moving onto the next stroke.   If needed, the adult can initiate/demonstrate first, and the child can repeat with additional colors.  It isn’t necessary for the child to be incredibly accurate, but they do have to start at the correct spot and attempt to end their stroke at the correct spot.

The target tracing line has to be sufficiently wide and simple enough to allow for reasonable expectation of success.  An example would be that a three year-old is asked to trace a curved line, not a series of diagonals.  The developmental progression assumes that most threes aren’t ready to execute diagonal lines independently.

Why is Rainbow Tracing helpful?  By repeating a traced line, a child receives more practice for stroke control and grasp.  It is colorful, and the colors are the child’s choice.  This allows some creativity and agency in an activity that might otherwise be boring and produce very little motivation in a child.

What about a child who traces over their errors?  If a child’s initial stroke is wildly off the target, they are more likely to re-trace their error.  If the adult knows that this is going to be an issue for this child, they can offer another copy of the same sheet, or the adult can be the first “tracer”.  They could also offer an easier and wider stroke to trace.

What do you do with the results?  Celebrate it, of course!  Kids love to put their drawings in an envelope and mail them.  Scanning them isn’t as exciting to a young child.  They like doing things “old school”.  So do a lot of grandparents and great-grandparents!

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