Occupational Therapy

  • Why Do Kids Need Occupational Therapy?

    Since March is Women’s History Month and April National Occupational Therapy Month, I would like to take this opportunity to explain my often-misunderstood profession that is more than 90% female.  Occupational therapy (OT) is close to 100 years old in the United States.  It is a holistic health care profession that aims to promote health by enabling individuals to perform meaningful and purposeful activities across the lifespan. Starting in the 1970’s, occupational therapists (OTs) were hired in school settings to provide therapeutic services for children with disabilities to participate in regular school settings.  Nowadays, OTs treat children in various settings including the home to address delays or difficulties involving the occupations of children, which include play, learning, and self-care. Occupational therapists typically evaluate and provide treatment in the areas of cognition, fine motor, functional mobility, social interaction, visual perception, coordination, sensory processing, and activities of daily living such as dressing, feeding, toileting, etc.  OTs often work with children with developmental delays, ADHD, autism, cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome, learning disabilities, prematurity, chromosomal abnormalities, poor handwriting skills, and injuries particularly associated with the hands, shoulders, or brain.  

    If your child is having difficulty with age-appropriate play, learning, and self-care 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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  • Eye Dominance? Yes, It Does Exist!

    Most people do not realize we all have a dominant eye.  Typically it is the same as our dominant hand or foot, but not always.  Eye dominance helps to aid in eye-hand coordination, handwriting, cutting, dressing, and other skills children need to develop properly.  Sometimes a parent may think a child is doing something awkward or wrong when really he or she is using a different eye than expected in certain activities.  It should be noted that having an opposite dominant eye verses hand can cause drawing diagonal lines, shapes, and letters more difficult initially.

    You can check for eye dominance after age three through two simple methods.  The easier way is by having your child look through a small hole like a magnifying glass, toilet paper roll, or a rolled up piece of paper.  Then demonstrate to your child how to look through it, and hand it to him or her.  They should put it up to their dominant eye.  However, sometimes their eyes may not be organized enough, and they may place the tube between the eyes.  If your child is old enough to demonstrate this activity without any physical help, they should at least have a preferred eye.  

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    Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

    The second method is to cut a small one-inch hole in the center of a piece of paper.  Then have your child hold it with the hands on opposing sides and bring it up to the face to look through the hole.  It helps if you demonstrate and say something like, “I can see you!  It’s your turn.  Can you see me?”

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    Remember to consult with your pediatrician for a prescription to see an occupational therapist if your child has visual concerns affecting their learning or play skills.  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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  • Safe & Edible Toys for Tots

    When new parents start to purchase toys, the importance of safety starts to really set in mostly because of choking hazards.  It is common to see warnings on toys that have small parts because typically children under three years old and especially babies are not able to differentiate between edible and inedible objects.  Small children like to mouth objects as a normal part of their exploration and play skills.  This is how they learn and understand concepts like size and textures.  So as parents, you need to be careful and aware of what comes in the reach of a small child.  You also don’t want to completely avoid exposing your children to small things because they also need to develop hand skills for grasping objects and coordinating the use of both hands. 

    Here are some simple activities to practice with a toddler to encourage sensory and fine motor play:

    1. Picking up and holding pieces of dried fruit like apricots.
    2. Sliding chopsticks through strawberries.
    3. Picking out marshmallows from a container of dry pasta spirals.
    4. Stringing cheerios onto a pipe cleaner.
    5. Putting crackers into a small open jar or bottle. 

    Remember to consult with your pediatrician if your child continues to try to eat or mouth inedible objects after age three.  Have a playful day!

    Amy Baez, OTR/L, The Smart Play Curator

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

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  • The Smart Play P.L.A.N.

    Women are known as natural planners.  Many plan their weddings.  Many more plan their pregnancies and create a birth plan.  Yet, not so many have a plan for playtime.  

    As a pediatric occupational therapist, I often meet parents that don’t realize how much is involved in play until they notice a developmental delay.  After all, playing isn’t something that many people think of as being complicated since it’s the backbone of childhood.  However, what if parents approached play with a plan?  Since a plan typically involves achieving a goal, wouldn’t it make sense to make a plan for achieving the milestones of development? But, who has time for that….

    So how do you make smart play simple? I suggest you follow the P.L.A.N.- The Position-Lesson-Action Nexus.  This simple 3-step concept is about creating a connection of thoughts while playing with your child. 

    Position

    In what position is your child’s body?  

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    Changing positions allows for the body to have different opportunities and challenges.  Changing the position of the head can create a different sensory experience.  Putting weight of the hands can create more stability in the joints closer to the core of the body.  You have many options: sitting, standing, kneeling, lying on tummy, lying on back, on a ball, on a swing, on hands and knees, legs crossed, etc.  Learn to explore these options to vary your play time.

    Lesson

    What lesson or skill are you addressing?

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    There are several areas of development that you can address separately or simultaneously. Therapists are trained to do this easily but as parents you can learn to do this as well. Try to think in broad terms.  You have many options: sensory processing, development of hand muscles, thinking skills, strengthening, development of large muscles, balance, visual skills, etc.  Learn to focus on different skills so that you aren’t always working on the same thing.

    Action

    What activity is your child completing?

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    Playing is all about doing something.  This is usually the part that parents find easy.  Give a child a toy and a demonstration and let them figure out what to do with it.  You have many options: painting, building, coloring, drawing, catching, kicking, pointing, locating, exploring, rolling, listening, bouncing, following directions, etc.  Remember to vary play time so that even if you are working on the same skill you are using different toys, games, or materials to keep your child interested.

    Nexus

    This is where the magic happens.

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    When you incorporate the 3 elements listed above into one activity you create the nexus.  Above you see this in action.

    1. Position- lying on her tummy to encourage strengthening, endurance, and weight-bearing on arms, elbows, legs, and hips.

    2. Lesson- development of small muscles of the hand, thinking skills, visual perceptual skills, and development of large muscles.

    3. Activity- building with blocks.

    This connection is where regular play becomes smart play…and it can be just that simple.  

    I hope you find this tip helpful.  

    ~Amy Baez, OTR/L

    Pediatric Occupational Therapist & Founder of Playapy

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