Expert Advice

Expert Advice, Tips & Affirmations from Pediatric Therapists
  • October is National Dyslexia Awareness Month

    Dyslexia is a learning disability that is commonly known but poorly understood. Most people associate dyslexia with reading letters backwards, but that is only one possible symptom of many.  Generally speaking, dyslexia is a specific learning disability for reading.  It is often characterized by difficulty with word recognition, decoding, or spelling. This can lead to difficulty with reading comprehension and could slow down vocabulary growth resulting in struggles with reading, writing, and sometimes speaking. Against popular belief, dyslexia is not caused by poor instruction, poor intelligence, laziness, or impaired vision. It is a result of a neurological condition and can also be genetic. It is also something which can be overcome with help and support leading most to good reading and writing skills overall.

    It is important to detect dyslexia as early as possible because reading and writing are such an integral part of learning in the classroom. Some signs of dyslexia in young children include having trouble with recognizing letters, matching letters to sounds, learning new words, learning the alphabet or numbers, rhyming words, or remembering word sequences like the days of the week.  Some signs of dyslexia in older children include poor handwriting, reading or writing reversed letters like b or d, mastering spelling rules, following a set of directions, or remembering facts or rules. 

    I hope you find this information helpful. If you feel your child may have multiple signs of dyslexia, you should consult with your doctor about having an occupational therapist or speech therapist conduct an evaluation and create a treatment plan if deemed necessary. Have a playful day!

    Amy Baez, OTR/L, The Smart Play Curator

    Amy Baez is a pediatric occupational therapist, award-winning handwriting author, and founder of Playapy. For more information, visit www.playapy.com or email info@playapy.com.

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  • Finding Balance in Fall

    Fall is a time of year when parents are searching for balance between all the changes in their children’s daily lives. Schedules are shifted around to fit in new activities and driving routes. It also can feel like an unsettling time for children as they adapt as if they are standing on one leg. Although many parents realize that balance is important for emotional well being, they don’t often know how well a child should balance him or herself when actually standing on one leg as compared to figuratively. 

    A simple method to determine good balance in a child is if they can stand on one foot for as many seconds as they are in age.  For example, a child should be able to stand on one foot for at least four seconds if he or she is four years old.  Difficulties with balance could be due to several reasons involving proper function of the eyes, ears, sensory system, muscles, joints, etc. A difference between the two legs can also be a sign of abnormalities that need to be assessed.  Decreased balance skills can go unnoticed and often are attributed to clumsiness but should be taken seriously and not assumed to be just a stage out of which a child will eventually grow.

    I hope you find this tip helpful. If your child is having difficulty with balance skills, you should consult with your doctor about having an occupational therapist or physical therapist conduct an evaluation and create a treatment plan if deemed necessary. Have a playful day!

    Amy Baez, OTR/L, The Smart Play Curator

    Amy Baez is a pediatric occupational therapist, award-winning handwriting author, and founder of Playapy. For more information, visit www.playapy.com or email info@playapy.com.

     

     

     

     

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  • #1 Back-to-School Blunder

    Every year millions of parents and their children head to stores with a list of required supplies for the return back to school.  Every year that list includes a composition notebook.  Despite the wide range of ages, this book is a standard purchase and in my book the #1 Back-to-School Blunder for Kindergarteners. 

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    Young children that are just learning to write and beginning to master their hand skills typically write large.  The lines of a composition book are for small writing and lead to errors in handwriting and poor habits in addition to the confusion it causes children when their other workbooks and worksheets provide large lines and more visual cues.  There, however, is somewhat of a simple solution to help a child.  You can use a marker to create a dashed line to serve as a middle line sandwiched between two solid lines.  This will create a larger space closer to the one-inch height that is more suitable for large printing.  You may want to discuss this with the teacher beforehand and explain your alteration.  image

    I hope you find this tip helpful.  If your child is having difficulty with handwriting skills, you should consult with your doctor about having an occupational therapist conduct an evaluation and create a treatment plan if deemed necessary.  Have a playful day!

    Amy Baez, OTR/L, The Smart Play Curator

    Amy Baez is a pediatric occupational therapist, award-winning handwriting author, and founder of Playapy. For more information, visit www.playapy.com or email info@playapy.com.

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  • Great Exercises for the Great Outdoors

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    June is National Great Outdoors Month.  It also is the start of summer for school children.  Although it is good to give your child a break for the traditional school environment, parents sometimes make the mistake of not encouraging further development of skills over the long days of summer.  When children return to school, the transition can be difficult not only in terms of attention, but also for the tiny muscles of their hands that haven’t worked out in over two months.  You can help your child by providing some fun outdoor activities that also work to improve or maintain the stability of the shoulders, which is needed for good posture and handwriting skills when they return to their desk in the new school year.  When you are outdoors this summer, try these four examples of smart play made simple.

    1. Use Sidewalk Chalk- Draw pictures on the ground pushing the chalk across the rough texture of cement.  This promotes good hand strength as well as drawing and writing skills.
    2. Play Tug of War- Have partners hold onto a rope or belt on opposite ends being careful not to fall.  This increases strength and endurance throughout the hand and up to the shoulders.
    3. Practice Wheelbarrow Walking- This partner activity of children walking on their hands while their feet are raised off the ground can improve coordination and shoulder stability.  Get a group together for a race.
    4. Play Balloon Volleyball- Blow up a balloon and tap it with your fingertips keeping it off the ground as long as possible.  This activity can build endurance, control of the muscles, and reaction time to moving objects.

    If your child is having difficulty with coordination, strength, or endurance, you should consult with your doctor about having an occupational or physical therapist conduct an evaluation and create a treatment plan if deemed necessary.  Have a playful day!

    Amy Baez, OTR/L, The Smart Play Curator

    Amy Baez is a pediatric occupational therapist, award-winning handwriting author, and founder of Playapy. For more information, visit www.playapy.com or email info@playapy.com.

    Continue reading
  • May is Correct Posture Month

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    One of the most common functional limitations that occur in children is poor posture.  We often hear advice given to adults especially with the increased use of technology in the recent decades.  Many parents, however, are often surprised when it is pointed out in their children.  Since May is National Correct Posture Month, here is a list of 5 signs of poor posture and 5 ways to improve it.

    5 Signs of Poor Posture

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    1. Rounded back and shoulders when sitting or walking
    2. Protrusion of the shoulder bones when back is straight
    3. Complaints of pain from massage
    4. Decreased endurance or upper body strength
    5. Inability to maintain good posture upon request

    5 Ways to Improve Posture

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    1. Bring awareness to it and give praise when it is good.
    2. Practice wheelbarrow walking and overhead ball exercises.
    3. Participate in sports like swimming and basketball.
    4. Spend time with back relaxing over a ball or with tummy on floor.
    5. Maintain postures practiced in yoga, tai-chi, and ballet.

    It is important to always lead by example and be aware of your own posture as a parent.  As the saying goes, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, so consider your own history of back problems.  If your child is demonstrating poor posture, you should consult with your doctor about having a physical or occupational therapist conduct an evaluation and create a treatment plan if deemed necessary.  Have a playful day!

    Amy Baez, OTR/L, The Smart Play Curator

    Amy Baez is a pediatric occupational therapist, award-winning handwriting author, and founder of Playapy. For more information, visit www.playapy.com or email info@playapy.com.

    Continue reading
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