Tag Archives: Child development

Making Food Fun!

5 Playful Ideas to Try When Presenting a New Food to a Child with a Limited Diet

Heather Celkis, OTR/ Capital Area Speech & Occupational Therapy www.capitalareaspeech.com

Making Food Fun!

Making Food Fun!

Reasons Tolerating New Food is Difficult

There are many reasons a child may have difficulty tolerating new foods. These reasons may include but are not limited to difficulty swallowing, difficulty moving the food efficiently within the mouth (oral motor skills), gastrointestinal issues, swallowing difficulties, poor postural control, respiratory difficulties and poor sensory processing. A child who has a very limited diet should be assessed by his or her pediatrician and referred for further testing by a specialist and/or therapy by a professional such as an occupational therapist or speech therapist.  It is important to rule out medical issues that may impact a child’s ability to eat.

Steps to Introducing New Foods

For many children with difficulty with sensory processing and tolerating novelty, the first step to trying a new food is interacting with it, tolerating it on a plate, smelling and playing with it. Yes! We should be encouraging these kids to play with their food!

The following are a few helpful and playful ideas for introducing new foods:

  1. Place just a few bites of food on the plate. If the child has a whole plateful of novel food they may become overwhelmed and feel that they will be pressured to eat all of the food presented.
  2. Use the food to paint a paper plate with sauce. For example, use a piece of broccoli to brush cheese sauce on a plate. Make patterns with the sauce by using the broccoli as a stamp.
  3. Use some familiar foods with a few pieces of novel food and arrange them to make a picture such as a smiley face. Take turns making the face as silly as you can.
  4. Stack the food like blocks then knock them down. Bread cubes, crackers and carrot slices are great for stacking.
  5. Have a pretend tea party and feed the animals and dolls the novel foods. This is a great way to encourage a child to interact with a new food while not expecting them to eat the new food yet.

Children are more likely to try a new food if they are allowed to explore it at their own pace so be patient and above all have fun!

Handwriting

This blog post was written by one of our outstanding occupational therapists.

writing

Occupational Therapists frequently receive referrals to work on handwriting. But why does handwriting matter? Simply put, it’s been an important method of communication for thousands of years, and continues to be important for everyday life. In school, at work, when completing application forms, and planning our days, people often pick up their pens. However, in these times of increasingly advanced technology some people wonder if handwriting is becoming obsolete. In some ways perhaps, but there are many reasons that it shouldn’t. For one thing, the simple act of writing helps with brain development. Increased brain activity occurs whenever we use this complex skill in a way that does not happen when we type. This is because writing involves fine motor skills, spatial skills, eye-hand coordination, memory, and planning. As a child, the development of neural connections through writing is incredibly important. Secondly, studies have shown that when we write things down (think classroom notes, grocery lists, and to-do lists) we are more likely to remember them. Additionally, for purposes of safety, writing can also be important. If for some reason, we become unable to communicate verbally (in incidences of injury, for example) writing can become a primary form of communication.

What does it mean to have “good” handwriting? Generally speaking, it means that the writing is legible, and there are several pieces to the puzzle when it comes to legibility, including motor skills, visual skills, and the combination of the two. Let’s take a look at this through different age groups.

Preschool and Kindergarten

At this age:

  • Kids are playing fine motor games and doing simple eye-hand coordination tasks like drawing pictures, learning to color within the lines of a shape, trace simple lines and shapes, learning to use scissors. By age 5 or 6 they are using one hand predominantly, with the other hand as a helper. In kindergarten they are learning how to write letters and draw more challenging shapes.

Things to look out for:

  • A fisted or otherwise awkward grasp on crayons or markers, from age 3 and up.
  • Difficulty copying simple shapes (lines and circles) or starting to draw features of people and common objects.

What you can work on:

  • To get little hands ready to hold a pencil (down the line), have them pick things up with tweezers, bread tongs, or clothespins; play with finger puppets; fingerpaint with a different color on each finger; play crawling games to help develop the muscles in their hands; and color with small pieces of crayon or chalk (like one-inch long).
  • To get them ready for more precise eye-hand coordination, have them put stickers onto designated spots as part of arts and crafts activities, do simple mazes, string beads with holes of different sizes, and play with constructional toys.
  • To help establish hand dominance, never force them, but have them play with games that involve using both hands together, such as toy nuts and bolts, wind up toys, and grinder or crank toys (like some play-dough toys).

Elementary school

At this stage:

  • Writing becomes an increasingly important skill, and by the upper grades the majority of the child’s work is likely to be handwritten. Kids complete worksheets, journals, answer questions about reading assignments, and later on write paragraphs on notebook paper.

Things to look out for:

  • Difficulty with letter formation, letter size, spacing between letters and words, and letters that float or sink below the baseline.
  • Messy but fast writing; or neat but slow writing.
  • Difficulty learning cursive.
  • Hands getting tired easily.

What to work on:

  • Perceptual tasks such as puzzles, spot-the-differences, and hidden pictures.
  • Precision tasks such as mazes, dot to dots, mirror image drawings, and grid drawings.
  • Adaptations to the type of paper/lines your child is using; adaptations to the pencil/writing tool

Middle school and high school

At this stage:

  • Your kids are taking notes in class, and often have worksheets to complete as well as longer written assignments.

Things to look out for:

  • All of the same signs as in the elementary age group.
  • Teachers and other people having difficulty understanding what the child has written.
  • Avoidance of work.

What you can work on:

  • Talk to an occupational therapist about adaptations that can be made to the tasks, setting, or materials used if writing is posing a significant challenge.
  • Depending on the child’s strengths and needs, it may be helpful to revisit cursive as an alternative to printing.
  • Children should start becoming more proficient with typing at this stage.

If you have concerns about your child’s writing, talk to his or her teachers about school strategies, and consider an occupational therapy screening to find out more information about what can be done to help.

References:

Handwriting Without Tears (2013). Research Review. Retrieved January 23, 2015 from http://www.hwtears.com/files/HWT%20Research%20Review.pdf

Handwriting Without Tears (n.d.). Importance of Handwriting. Retrieved January 23, 2015 from http://www.hwtears.com/hwt/why-it-works/handwriting-standards/importance-handwriting

Konnikova, M. (2014, June 2). What’s lost as handwriting fades. New York Times. Retrieved February 5, 2015 from http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/03/science/whats-lost-as-handwriting-fades.html?_r=0

Mueller, P. A. & Oppenheimer D. M. (2014). The pen is mightier than the keyboard: Advantages of longhand over laptop note taking. Psychological Science, 25(6), 1159-1168.

The University of Stavanger. (2011, January 24). Better learning through handwriting. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 23, 2015 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110119095458.htm

What Does a Speech Pathologist Know About Language and Literacy?

Jamie Putnam, speech language pathologist and owner of Capital Area Speech Therapy, has been providing in-service opportunities to preschool/kindergarten programs around our area. The following is information gathered from Jamie’s lectures.

Speech pathologists are often portrayed as the ones who “fix the sounds”. There is no doubt we spend time working on the “r” sounds, a lisp, or a number of other sounds. Those sounds, however, are only a small percentage of our qualifications. 

What about language and literacy? Are they related? What do speech pathologists know about language and  literacy?

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Language and literacy is a symbiotic relationship. These skills develop together. Research shows  that children who enter school with strong oral language skills learn to read and write easier and excel in school related to their peers who struggle with language skills.

Language disorders are seen in as many as 1 in every 5 children. Research indicates that the majority of children with language disorders will go on to having reading difficulties or disorders. 

What does early language and literacy development look like?

AGE

LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT

LITERACY DEVELOPMENT

12-18 mos.

Rapid language acquisition & word explosion

  • Enjoys books as toys
  • Likes to turn pages
  • Loves predictable stories
  • Points out familiar objects in pictures
  • Likes the same book over and over

18-24 mos.

Rapidly expanding word base and word combinations

  • Chooses books
  • Knows that books go front to back and right side up-will orient a book
  • Loves predictable repetitive stories
  • Will fill in words

24-36 mos.

Awareness of sentence structure and vocabulary continues to explode

  • Will correct adult if story is read differently
  • Will fill in words or attempt to tell story
  • Likes repetition and predictability in stories

3-4 years

Uses complex sentences & understands word structure (tense)

  • Understands that words may be changed and manipulated
  • Rhyming and word play
  • Recognizes name in print
  • Recognizes environmental symbols

4-5 years

Clearly communicates about remote events

  • Simple sound letter correspondence
  • Letters have meaning
  • Experimental writing, spelling, and story telling

There are five predictors of literacy success.

1. Oral Language

2. Alphabet Awareness

3. Phonemic Awareness

4. Concepts About Print

5. Early Writing With Inventive Spelling

A professor in early childhood education describes these predictors in detail in this You Tube video.

 

 

 

 

What Does An Occupational Therapist Do?

Our OTs Miss Farah and Miss Kelsi put together this informative brochure about occupational therapy.
Occupational Therapy Services
Thank you Farah and Kelsi!

What Can OT and a Sensory Gym Do For Your Child?

Occupational Therapy in the Sensory Gym
written by Kelsi Knife, M.S., OTR (Occupational Therapist)
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We are extremely excited about our new sensory gym. It is big, bright, and full of fun equipment! What’s not to love? However, you might be wondering how all of this will help your child meet their occupational therapy goals.
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In therapy, we use the gym equipment to improve the fundamental skills that children need to be successful in their everyday lives. With a little bit of creativity, we can use the same activity to address many, many skill areas! Below, I have given some examples of how the sensory gym can help your child reach their OT goals.
Kelsi and M on swing
Swings: With so many swings to choose from, the therapeutic possibilities are endless! The movement of the swing provides input to the vestibular system, which can be calming or alerting, depending on the child. This can help your child to focus on fine motor activities during therapy. The swings can also be used to build upper body and core strength, improve balance skills, and encourage your child to use both sides of the body in a coordinated manner.

Slide: Like the swings, the slide is wonderful for providing vestibular input. It can also be helpful for children with a fear of heights. Sometimes, we like to change things a little and climb up the slide! This is great for improving full body strength and coordination.

Monkey bars and rings: The monkey bars and rings are great for building upper body strength, endurance, and coordination which are very important skills for fine motor and handwriting development. By having a child pull up their legs while hanging from the bars (to kick over objects, for example) we can also address core strength and, as a result, improve balance and posture.
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Zip line: Like the monkey bars, the zip line is awesome for building strength and endurance in the upper body and core. It also helps us teach children to be aware of and regulate their strength and speed.

Rock wall: The rock wall is perfect for working the entire body at the one time! It also requires your child to think about their end goal and create a plan to achieve it. This really exercises their sequencing and problem solving skills.

Obstacle Courses: By combining several pieces of gym equipment we can create an obstacle course that works on a ton of skills at once! Obstacle courses are also great for teaching your child to plan and sequence motor activities. Participating in this type of activity can really improve your child’s self-esteem and enable them to approach new activities with confidence!

These are just a few of the ways that our sensory gym can benefit your child. We look forward to helping them learn and grow, all while having a blast!

Phonological Processing Skills of Children Adopted Internationally – Research Says…

ResearchTuesdayBooks_201x300
I am joining fellow speech pathologist bloggers in reading and blogging about a recent research related to our field. For more information or to see more research reviews, check out this blog.

I have several amazing friends who have recently adopted or are in the process of adopting children internationally. Over the past couple of years, I have also worked with a few children who have been adopted internationally. For these reasons, I found this study about certain language skills of children adopted internationally to be a great one to review.
Children_reading
Phonological processing skills are very important for oral language and literacy development. Phonological skills include phonological awareness, phonological memory, and rapid naming. Phonological processing skills are referred to as the decoding component of reading. These skills as well as comprehension are essential for reading success.

The children who participated in the study were adopted from China before 25 months of age. The study was performed when the children were between 6 years, 8 months – 9 years, 3 months. They were individually given a formal phonological processing test. Some of the children were receiving speech therapy for articulation or language impairment.

The researchers wanted to find whether children who were adopted internationally had difficulties with phonological processing skills at the school-age when compared with a normative sample of children their age. After formal assessments, the study noted that these children preformed within the average range of scores to the tests’ normative sample.

They also examined whether age at time of adoption had an impact on phonological processing skills at school-age. The results indicated that age at time of adoption was not correlated with reading comprehension or phonological processing skills. It should be noted that this particular study only examined children who had been adopted before 25 months old. Previous studies have found that age of adoption is correlated with later school language skills. These previous studies may have studied a broader age range of adopted children.

Scott, K., Pollock, K., Roberts, J., and Krakow, R. (2013) Phonological Processing Skills of Children Adopted Internationally. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 22, 673-683.

What is Phonological Awareness

letter blocks
Have you heard the term phonological awareness? This term refers to the understanding that language is composed of smaller units including words, syllables, and sounds. Children with good phonological awareness skills are able to hear and manipulate these words and sounds.

Phonological awareness skills are very important for reading success. Speech pathologists work on phonological awareness skills when children have difficulty hearing rhyming words, learning sound/letter recognition, and have difficulty learning to read.

Phonological awareness skills include the following:
-Hearing and producing rhyming words
-Segmenting words in sentences
-Blending, segmenting, and deleting syllables
-Identifying sounds in words
-Blending sounds to make words
-Segmenting sounds in words
-Deleting sounds in words
-Adding sounds in words
-Manipulating sounds in words

Ideas to boost your child’s phonological awareness skills:
-Sing songs or recite nursery rhymes that have rhyming words
-Ask your child to name words that rhyme
-Clap for every word you hear in a sentence or for every syllable you hear in a word
-Ask what sounds he/she hears at the beginning, middle, or end of words (What sound do you hear at the beginning of ‘Saturday’)
-Ask him/her to say a word then say it without a certain sound (Say ‘ball’, now say it without ‘b’)
-Ask him to say a word then change a sound in the word (What would the word ‘cat’ be if you change the ‘c’ to ‘b’)

You can look back to our post on language and literacy here.

SuperDuperInc has easy to read information here

Reading Rockets has good detailed information and more ideas for how parents can help at home too.