The Benefits of Contact Sports: Why Your Kids Should Participate

The football draft just completed and the season is right around the corner. And while it may not seem like it now, summer is almost here. All of this means children are and will be interested in getting out there and participating in organized contact sports. But what about the risks of a concussion or other injury? Blog-Contact Sports-Main-Portrait-01

While the risk of injury will always exist in contact sports, there are also many benefits to sports. Further, much progress has been made regarding awareness, and today, families and coaches have a better understanding of the signs and symptoms of concussions. Many experts agree that the benefits of being active and playing sports outweigh the risks of possible injury.

Benefits of organized contact sports include:

  • Respect: Children learn to listen to and respect teammates, coaches and officials. Also, children learn to follow rules and respect opponents.
  • Teamwork: Organized sports teach children to work with and help teammates in order to achieve a common goal. There is no “I” in team!
  • Discipline: Sports show children that discipline and playing by the rules are valuable assets. Penalties will only set you back!
  • Organization: Participation in organized sports teaches children how to stay organized and responsible. They have to be on time, take care of their equipment, and organize amongst themselves in order to succeed.
  • Protection: Through organized sports, children learn to protect themselves, teammates, and opponents.
  • Confidence: Organized sports improves a child’s self-image and confidence. Moreover, sports teach children that they can improve their performance through hard work and practice, a valuable lesson.

And of course, children benefit from regular exercise and activity. Organized sports increase a child’s physical health and cardiovascular conditioning and decrease the risk of childhood obesity.

Here are some ways you can keep your children safe while they participate in contact sports:

  • Be vocal about safety. Engage coaches, officials, and league organizers in conversations about safe and fair play. Discuss these topics with your children as well.
  • Ensure safe and proper equipment. Depending on the sport, make sure your child is dressed in proper equipment, such as helmets, pads, and proper footwear. Make sure all equipment fits properly in order to maximize safety! Discuss your child’s equipment with coaches and league organizers if you aren’t sure.
  • Be aware of concussion signs and symptoms. Headaches, dizziness, imbalance and nausea are the most frequent indicators of concussions. Unconsciousness is not a requirement!
  • Be aware of concussion treatment guidelines. If a concussion is suspected, stop activity immediately and have the child seen by a doctor as soon as possible. Rest, both physical and mental, are key to recovering from a concussion. That, of course, means a break from physical activity, but it also means a break from school and TV.

With awareness and proper precautions, your child can experience the many benefits of organized contact sports in a safe and fun way!

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Deerfield, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Mequon! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140!

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9 Ways to Make Gym Class Successful for a Child with Sensory Processing Disorder

A class full of students in an open gymnasium can make for a very overwhelming experience for a child with sensory processing disorder. Echoing voices, shoes squeaking on the floor, whistles blowing, the smell of sweat and cleaning agents, bright colors and moving objects are enough to increase anyone’s stress level. Blog Sensory Processing Disorder Gym-Class-Main-Landscape

Throw in the demand to attend to instructions, learn new motor skills, and keep up with your more advanced peers. For a child with sensory processing disorder, this could potentially become a recipe for disaster.

Or, with the right structure and supports put in place, this time can be a regular opportunity for fun, growth, and learning!

Below are 9 suggestions to help children with sensory processing disorder feel successful in gym class and participate to the fullest extent possible:

  1. Provide the child with an out. Let him know that if the experience becomes too overwhelming he can let the teacher know he needs a break. The student could sit outside the room for a moment, take a trip to the restroom, or get a drink of water. Sometimes a brief break is all that’s needed.
  2. Be aware of the student’s particular needs and allow accommodations. If a student is over responsive to noise, allow the student to wear noise-reducing headphones. If a student has tactile defensiveness, avoid putting them on teams with jerseys.
  3. Break down new activities as much as possible. Teach one skill at a time and provide multiple modes of instruction.
  4. When providing instruction, ask students to repeat the rules or act out a scenario. It may be helpful to repeat important points and explain why the rule exists in order to be sure they are understood.
  5. Modify games or exercises as necessary. Students will be at different levels and physical activity can present unique challenges for those with sensory processing disorder. Provide simpler options when possible.
  6. Establish space boundaries. Using visual cues for personal space and working in small groups can relieve anxiety for those with tactile defensiveness. Visual cues may also be helpful in showing students where they should position themselves for games and exercises.
  7. Take extra care to maintain a positive environment. Emphasize the importance of sportsmanship and supportive language.
  8. Avoid bringing attention to a skill the child is having difficulty with in front of his peers. When playing games in large groups, it may be best to avoid placing the responsibility of a key position on students who are already experiencing increased stress.
  9. Provide feedback to parents. Let the student’s parents know what skills you are or will be working on so that the child can get in extra practice at home. This can be a big confidence booster for children and allow them to fully master skills with their peers.

Remember to keep it fun! Gym class is not only important for educating students on specific skill sets, it also lays the foundation for their attitudes towards physical activity in the future.

Recognize that not all students with sensory processing disorder will have the same strengths and difficulties. Meeting a student where they’re at and finding their particular strengths to build on is the best way to set them up for success!

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140.

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Make the Summer Olympics Come to Life in Your Own Home

With the Summer Olympics just days away, what could be a better time to engage your kids in fun Summer Olympicsactivities to promote physical activity, social interaction, a healthy lifestyle, and improve their overall development? Many kids dream of becoming a gold-medalist in the Olympics and with these activities, you can make your child feel as if they are standing on top of that podium while assisting in their skill development without them even realizing it! There are endless opportunities to promote your child’s well-being. Be creative! Below are a list of easy-to-do Olympic related activities to get you started:

Focus on Fine, Visual, and Gross Motor Skills:

Table time activities

  • Print off Summer Olympic word searches, mazes, and coloring pages.
  • Create the Olympic rings (Cut strips of paper, form them in to circles, and connect them).
  • Olympic torch craft (create an Olympic torch using a paper towel roll, covering it with tin foil, and cutting/taping flames to the roll using red, orange, and yellow tissue paper).
  • Origami Olympic Rings (http://www.activityvillage.co.uk/origami-olympic-rings)
  • Create gold, silver, and bronze medals using paper, clay, tin foil, or paper plates. Then connect them to a string or ribbon to wear during your Olympic games.
  • Write about a favorite sport, Olympian, or your child’s Olympic dream.

Play Sports and Competitive Activities:

  • Basketball, swimming, running, simple gymnastics tricks, volleyball, soccer, hockey, mini-golf, etc.
  • Water balloon toss or ring toss
  • Races (three legged races, sack races, spoon, or relay races)
  • Obstacle course
  • Throwing a ball through a hoop or at a target,
  • Create a long/high jump

Focus on Social-emotional Skills:

  • Model good sportsmanship- Play the Olympic games with family and friends. This gives you the opportunity to model good sportsmanship when losing, working as a team, and how to support/encourage others for your child.
  • Promote social interaction with others, sharing, and taking turns – these are all important for building friendships and play skills.
  • Use positive self-talk– “I can do it,” “I will try my best,” “The more I practice, the better I will get.” Promoting positive self-talk will help improve self-confidence, increase positive thoughts, and will help improve performance during tasks.
  • Create rules for the games to teach direction following and playing fair with others.
  • Celebrate differences– the Olympics are a time of celebration, unity, and peace. Take this time to teach your child about different cultures and countries from around the world and that we accept our differences and treat everyone equally.
  • Promote friendly competition– While playing games, time your child and see how fast they can complete the game. Then see if your child can beat their score every trial. This will promote focus, improve overall attention, and assist in friendly competition with themselves or others.
  • Identify feelings of others– Find pictures of athletes in the Olympics on the internet or in magazines which portray emotions on the athletes faces and ask your kids how they think the athletes are feeling.

Focus on Sensory Processing:

  • Tactile input
    • Create the Olympic rings with finger paint- have the child create a circle with their thumb and index finger and with a paint brush, paint their hand. Then print on to the paper and repeat with the next color (this is a great tactile play activity for the tactile defensive child)
    • Bake cookies and decorate them to look like the Olympic rings, medals, basketballs, etc. Have your child mix the dough with their hands and decorate with frosting, sprinkles, or candies. This way your child is engaging with all different textures.
  • Proprioceptive input with heavy work– Have races, whether it be while pushing a laundry basket, running around a track outside, or animal walk races (these are great activities to help regulate the sensory seeking child or increase arousal levels)
  • Oral and tactile input-Engage with and try different foods from different countries and cultures from around the world- maybe your picky eater will try something you never though they would!

Focus on Speech and Language:

  • Incorporate your child’s target sounds in the context of the Olympics. For example, if your child is working on his or her “L” sound, have them practice saying: Summer Olympics, medal, or basketball.
  • Improve expressive language by describing/explaining as well as answering open ended questions, you can ask you child some of these questions:
    1. How hard do you think the athletes work to be able to compete in the Summer Olympics?
    2. How do you think the athletes feel on the day when they will be competing in the Olympics?
    3. What types of things would you do on that big day to prepare?
    4. How do you think an athlete would feel if they took last place in the Olympic Games?
    5. If you were going to compete in the Summer Olympics, which sport would you chose and why?

Make it even more fun by making a whole day out of it and creating your own Olympic Games! Create an athlete registration table, make teams, dress up, and don’t forget the award ceremonies. Enjoy and may the odds be ever in your favor!

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

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Sensory Tips for Sporting Events

Summer is a great time to enjoy sports! Whether it’s going to a Bear’s pre-season game at Soldier field, aSensory Tips ball park, or even a sibling’s soccer game, sporting events come with a large variety of sensory experiences. This can be a great part of the event, or one that makes some children want to run for the hills. If your child has sensory processing difficulties, you may need to prepare your child (and be prepared!) for what’s ahead.

Here are some sensory tips for kiddos whose ideal Saturday may not be spent cheering in a roaring crowd at a sporting event:

For the child with auditory sensitivities:

  • Bring along noise canceling headphones or ear plugs to help drown out the loud sounds.
  • Tell your child when to expect a loud buzzer so they can cover their ears (e.g. watch the clock count down at the end of a quarter/half/period).
  • Give them “quiet breaks” where you take them to a quieter part of the stadium/arena, like the bathroom or concessions, to allow them to regulate.

For child who just can’t stop moving:

  • Give them movement breaks! Let them walk up and down the stairs and time them to see how fast they can do it; take them with you when you’re going to get food or to the restroom.
  • Give them a wiggly cushion seat that allows them to wiggle while still staying seated.
  • Make sure to incorporate a lot of movement activities before the event to help them be able to sit longer (e.g. animal walks, wall pushes, hokey pokey)
  • Let them stand. Some kids can pay attention better when they’re allowed to stand. Let them stand at their seat or find an area where they are allowed to watch while standing.

For a child who is sensitive to tactile input:

  • Let them be comfortable. If they insist on wearing a particular type of sock or their shirt inside out, this is not the time to say no (within reason). Allow them to be as comfortable as possible so there are no meltdowns in the middle of the 2nd
  • Let them sit in the middle of the family; some children are sensitive to light touch and may become upset if they are constantly being brushed by passers-by while sitting on an aisle.
  • Wear long sleeved lycra shirt: rushing through crowds bring along a lot of unwanted light touch. Wearing-sleeved shirts (i.e. Under Armour) can help lessen that aversive sensation.

For a child sensitive to visual input:

  • Bring sunglasses. Even if the event is indoors, the bright lighting may be overwhelming if they are exposed to it for long periods of time.
  • Bring a hat. A jacket with a hood also works and gives the option of blocking out bright lights and other distractions.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

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White Sox Benetti

Living the Dream | An Interview With Chicago White Sox Announcer Jason Benetti

Every day at NSPT, we welcome families into our clinics. Each child is so incredibly unique with their Jason-Benettitreatment, their diagnosis, the challenges they may face, the strengths that they have, etc. We are often told by parents that their biggest question is “what’s next for their child?” “Will they succeed in life?” At NSPT, our mission is to help each and every kiddo reach their maximum potential…whatever that may be.

Jason Benetti, the newest addition to the broadcasting team for the Chicago White Sox, is living his own childhood dream. At a young age, Jason was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. Like our families, there was a point in time where maybe his family had the same questions about “what’s next?” He recalls at a young age going through a few surgeries and spending time at the Rehab Institute of Chicago. “Everyone there was just wonderful,” said Benetti. A typical week at a young age included Physical and Occupational Therapy and focusing on building range of motion.

Benetti grew up on the Southside in Homewood and is a graduate of Homewood-Flossmoor High School. Initially, he was a member of the band playing tuba. “That probably wasn’t the best thing for me to be doing,” joked Benetti. It was at that time the band director asked him if he would be interested in sitting in the press box during games and calling out the next set as the band was performing. This was the beginning of a growing passion for broadcasting. Homewood-Flossmoor was one of few high schools that had their own radio station, so Benetti was able to further pursue and develop his skills.

Upon graduation, Jason attended Syracuse University to pursue a career in broadcasting. While there, he was able to continue to build his skills as the Triple A announcer for the Toronto Blue Jays. But nothing fits quite like being able to land your dream job with your favorite team growing up. We were able to sit down with Jason and ask him about what it’s like to be a broadcaster for his hometown team, the Chicago White Sox.

Were there any broadcasters you wanted to be like growing up?

Benetti: There were a lot of people, Hawk Harrelson was the guy I would mimic with catchphrases walking around saying, and “You can put it on the board, YES!” But I’m not particularly a catch phrase guy myself. So Hawk was the guy. He has been so encouraging of me doing half of the games with Steve Stone, just genuine and kind.

When you first expressed interest, what did people around you say? Was there adversity or support?

Benetti: As a radio guy, no one cared what I looked like. Viv Bernstein did a story in early 2010 and asked me if there was a ceiling with regards to TV. It took time for people to warm up to the fact that I can’t look into the camera or have a commanding strut walking into a room, so perceptively there was an adjustment period for people. I quickly found great allies with Time Warner in Syracuse and ESPN. Once they got to know me, they were supportive. It just takes one person.

If you could call a game for any baseball player, who would it be? Retired or current.

Benetti: Growing up Robin Ventura was my favorite player, so in a way, I now get to call games for him.

What are you most looking forward to this season?

Benetti: I’m looking forward to the development of the rapport between myself and Steve Stone. We have only had one game so far, but I felt comfortable after and am excited to have the partnership develop. Steve has such a wealth of knowledge. It’s going to be a lot of fun.

What was it like sitting in the booth at US Cellular Field for the first time?

Benetti: It was just like another game, but with way more people interested. I’ve done so many baseball games and baseball is baseball. There weren’t really nerves, just a new experience.

What is it like working alongside hall of fame broadcaster Steve Stone?

Benetti: Anyone who is creative grows up wanting to be around other people like that. Steve Stone and crew fulfills that 100 percent. To be in a room with everyone wanting to do great work, to work with someone who expands like Steve, is everything anyone could want in a partner doing games.

Do you ever meet with or talk to young athletes? Or young individuals with CP or other disabilities? What is the one thing you tell them?

Benetti: I would tell them if you think people perceive you a certain way, you are not crazy and they might be, but do everything you can to disregard that and get past it, it could be damaging to the relationship. It is happening, but trust yourself to get past it.

And one final question…you heard it here first…Prediction…will it be a Cubs vs. White Sox World Series?

Benetti: I’m going to say yeah, it would be great fun. The Billy Goat couldn’t be blamed. Someone would have huge bragging rights for a long time.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

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Springtime Activities in the Suburbs

After a long and dreary winter, it’s finally springtime in Chicago! With warmer weather on the way and Blog-springtime-activities-Main-Landscapesummer just around the corner, parents and children alike are looking forward to heading back outdoors for springtime activities. While the city has endless parks, museums, and theaters to choose from, the north shore and western suburbs also have a plethora of well-known play places, as well as hidden gems for suburban families. If you are looking for a quick answer to the “What are we doing today?” question, here are some great places that your kids will love! All of the locations mentioned would be fantastic places for both toddlers, as well as older children to discover.

If you are looking for a little inspiration for your budding Picasso, or your superstar just needs to burn off some additional energy, here are some great locations for the arts as well as sports-themed venues.

Arts & Sports:

Color Me Mine – Glenview

Sunshine Arts & Crafts – Highland Park

Art Reach – Palatine/Schaumberg

Marriott Theater – Lincolnshire

Fairytale Ballet & Academy – Evanston

Hi Five Sports Camp – Highland Park

Rec Center of Highland Park

North Suburban YMCA – Northbrook

Arctic Splash – Wheeling

Splash Landings – Glenview

Key Lime Cove – Gurnee

Big Blue Swim School – Select locations

Foss Swim School – Select locations

If your family is still recovering from the cabin fever experience all winter long, below are some great fun and educational locations you can explore.

Educational/Farms:

Kohl Children’s Museum – Glenview

DuPage Children’s Museum – Naperville

Chicago Botanic Garden – Glencoe

Lambs Farm – Libertyville

Wagner Farm – Glenview

Elawa Farm – Lake Forest

Morton Arboretum – Lisle

Cantigny Park – Wheaton

The Grove – Glenview

Independence Grove – Libertyville

Cosley Zoo – Wheaton

Naper Settlement – Naperville

Spring Valley Nature Center – Schaumburg

Since the start of spring brought Chicagoans a few additional snowy days, springtime weather can be somewhat unpredictable. Below are some suggestions of places to visit when the weather turns sour.

Indoor Play Places:

The Chicago TreeHouse – Lake Zurich

Little Beans – Evanston

Jammin’ Jungle – Highland Park

Gymboree – Select locations

Pump It Up – Select locations

Jump Zone – Buffalo Grove

Lego Land – Schaumburg

Exploritorium – Skokie (Part of the Park District)

Go Bananas – Norridge

*Opening Soon: Funtopia – Glenview

In addition to the above mentioned locations, the park districts and libraries in the northern suburbs have plenty of fantastic resources for toddlers and their older siblings. With sunnier days on the horizon, most cities offer outdoor festivals, special events, and farmers markets, so be sure to check out what your town is offering. If you and your family have another favorite hot spot that you would love to share with others, please let us know about it in the comments below.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

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raising a good sport

“Good Game!” Smart Strategies for Raising a Good Sport

“Good game, good game, good game…” The image of teammates lining up at the end of a sporting event to acknowledge one another and give a hand shake is one that is well known to most. Go Hawks! Although the sentiment may not be the same for all players involved at the end of a tough game, it is a ritual that has lived on and is a vital component to being a “good sport”.

Being a good sport may be something that comes easily for some, but others could use a few pointers. As a parent, there are a few things you can do to work with your child in becoming a better sport. In Fred Frankels book, “Friends Forever: How parents can help their kids make and keep good friends,” he outlines some easy steps to helping your child master the art of sportsmanship!

Tips for raising a good sport:

  1. Take the game seriously – when first joining a team or group of friends, it’s important to take the gameStrategies for Raising a Good Sport seriously with the others involved – goofing around could show the kids that you aren’t ready to play by the rules!
  2. Avoid refereeing – instead of arguing about the rules and pointing out mistakes other kids have made, let someone else do it!
  3. Let others have fun, too – If your child is MVP, teach them to let others have a chance to win, too.
  4. Give praise – it’s important to teach (and MODEL) to your child that winning is not the most important thing- it’s having fun! Learning different ways to praise his friends and teammates is vital – things like “good shot”, “nice try” and the ever-popular “good game” are just a few examples!
  5. Suggest a new rule instead of arguing – instead of shouting out when someone does something wrong, suggest that from this point “the white line is out”.
  6. Don’t walk away if you are losing or tired of playing – teaching your child to stay until the end of a round or talking to the teammates about maybe playing something new is important before just walking away!

As a parent, if you are able to watch your child in action at the park or on the field, it can be vital to remind your child of these rules and address them as they are or aren’t happening. If possible, it is ideal to be able to call your child over and talk with them briefly about what you saw and gently remind them with specific examples. Remember, as in learning any new skill, it takes some practice and reminders! Be patient and let the art of sportsmanship live on!

Click here for more tips on raising a good sport!

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

3 Tips for Raising a Good Sport

This past month, the 2014 MLB season came to a close with the wild card San Francisco Giants winning the World Series against the Kansas City Royals. The season was exciting, filled with historic pitching feats. The most memorable moment of MLB 2014, however, was Derek Jeter’s farewell tour.

Derek Jeter, legendary shortstop for the New York Yankees, led an impressive 20 year career: he helped carry his team to 5 World Series Championships, was nominated to play on the American League All-Star team 14 times, and held numerous records for the Yankee organization. Jeter was respected not only amongst opposing managers and players, but also amongst the umpire staff. During an era when it is commonplace for managers to storm onto home plate and argue calls, Jeter stayed classy. He was never one to throw a bat out of rage or turn and yell at the umpire when things did not go his way. He often demonstrated his reputation as one of the few good role models in professional sports. Thus, when Jeter finally made the decision to hang up his jersey, Major League Baseball gave him a farewell tour.

So in honor of Derek Jeter’s retirement, I give you three tips for raising a good sport of your own:

  1. Model good sportsmanship, in both wins and in losses. You are your child’s first and most formative 200211664-001teacher, so exhibit good behavior in front of them in all competitive/leisure activities, from board games to sporting events. Make it a habit to say, “Good game,” to your opponent in wins or losses, and compliment your opponents often for the things they do well. Make sure to thank coaches and referees who volunteer their time each week. And, most importantly, have fun! When your child sees you having fun regardless of the outcome, it will reinforce the belief that winning is not everything.
  2. Place emphasis on having fun, improving skills, and making friends during games and sports. It is important to recognize that there is so much more to participating in sports than winning. Sports are a great avenue for learning discipline, setting personal goals for lifelong self-improvement, making friends, and instilling a love of exercise and healthy, balanced living.
  3. What do you do when your child loses? Losing can be very tough on young egos. It’s important to not let a loss deter your child from enjoying the game. Use a loss as an opportunity to sit down and have a heart to heart conversation with your child. Be available when your child needs you and provide support and guidance. This will help you to develop a trusting relationship with your child. Looking back on my youth sports career, my fondest memories are sitting down with my dad after the game over a milkshake recapping the things I did well and things I could work on. I don’t remember how many games I won or lost, but I’ll always remember those milkshakes! (Click here on more tips on what to do when your child loses a game.)






when to specialize in a sport

Should Your Child Specialize in a Sport?

In a push to help their children become the best – insert sport here – player, many parents are quick to sign them up for year round travel teams and private training sessions. The question is, what is the best age to begin this specialization and professionalization of sport? If we were to ask world-renowned sports orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews, I bet he would say much later than we currently are.

Why shouldn’t young children specialize in a sport?when to specialize in a sport

Dr. James Andrews is a strong proponent of giving young athletes time off to recover, stating “their kid needs at least two months off each year to recover from a specific sport. Preferably, three to four months.” Dr. Andrews goes on to state that there is an epidemic of adult-type overuse injuries, such as rotator cuff injuries and UCL tears (the injury that requires Tommy John surgery) in youth athletes across America, with children as young as 12 years old comprising almost half his patients. So while parents and coaches are pushing for younger and younger sport specialization, I’m here to ask you to please diversify your children’s after school activities and allow for proper rest.

How do you allow your child ample time to recover from sports?

While this can mean allowing a 2-4 month break from all sports, the emphasis here is on taking a break from each type of sport. For example, sports that focus on repetitive overhead movements include baseball and swimming, ones that require short bursts of explosive energy include basketball and football, and those that involve a combination of endurance and explosive bursts include sports such as soccer and hockey. Each of these types of sports has their own overuse injuries associated with them, so it is important to take a break from the whole sport subset rather than going from, say swimming to baseball. A great way to limit overuse injuries is to follow the seasonal sports, allowing for adequate time to rest between each sport and also during one season.

Won’t a break hinder my child’s progress in his/her chosen sport?

You may be worried that the lack of practice may hinder your child’s skill set, but many dual sport athletes have gone on to say that aspects of one sport-specific training have had a significant impact on their performance in an entirely different sport. For example, a football wide receiver may be able to draw from footwork gained during a previous soccer season. We can look to the NFL for living proof of this. Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks was a dual sport athlete at North Carolina State, playing football and baseball, even signing to a minor league contract prior to the NFL. Brandon Weedon of the Dallas Cowboys pursued a career in baseball, prior to enrolling at Oklahoma State and leading the Sooners to the 2012 Fiesta Bowl. Even LeBron James was a two-sport athlete prior to signing with the Cleveland Cavaliers the first time. So let’s stopping training our kids to become the next Tiger Woods, only to have them become one of Dr. Andrews’ statistics, and allow their growing bodies to rest as needed and diversify their skill sets along the way.

As a parent, you are your child’s biggest advocate. Now that you know the true dangers of early sport specialization please educate coaches and give your children the rest they need. For further information on overuse injury prevention in children, please contact our Pediatric Physical Therapists at North Shore Pediatric Therapy.

why hula hooping is a great exercise for kids

Why Hula Hooping is a Great Exercise for Kids

 

 

 

Part of my job as a pediatric physical therapist is to try to make exercises and the rehabilitation process fun for kids. Most of the physical performance measurements we use during therapy including jumping, running, and stair climbing as tools of assessment. But, I get just as excited when one of my clients learns to hula hoop for the first time, and here is why: hula hooping is a great exercise for kids!

The benefits of hula hooping for kids:

  1. Coordination – At as young as 5 years of age, children are able to break down major tasks that require coordination of every part of their body doing different motions, such as bicycling, jump roping, and hula hooping. What makes hula hooping challenging is that in order to be successful at the task, kids have to separate their trunk movements from their limbs, maintain a stable balance, and incorporate flexibility in their motions at the same time.
  2. Core strength – Performing the hula hip motion while keeping the hoop up at the trunk requires abdominal, oblique, and upper back muscle recruitment. These are big core muscles that we all need to stand and sit upright. Keeping the trunk muscles strong will help with posture, endurance, and total body coordination.
  3. Endurance – Physical fitness is so important in children and adolescence. Health-related fitness is undeniably multidimensional. Endurance itself has many components: cardiovascular, muscular, and mental. While a typically developing school-aged child should be able to remain active and play for at least 30 minutes without need for rest, so few kids these days get a chance to build on their active time outside of school. So many kids I meet can barely play for 5 minutes without being short of breath, needing to sit down, or getting frustrated by a tough physical task.
  4. Flexibility – In order to successfully keep a hula hoop up off the ground, flexibility is just as important as strength. Many kids who don’t get enough regular exercise are often stiff and uncoordinated. There’s a reason why flexibility is often on fitness tests given in schools. Parents and teachers sometimes forget flexibility is an important aspect of physical fitness. In order to ensure proper musculoskeletal development, flexibility is key. Hula hooping teaches children how to purposefully wiggle their hips, separate their two sides, gain range of motion in all their big joints, and have fun at the same time.
  5. Attention – As anyone who tries to pick up a new task knows, learning a new activity takes practice and focus. Young children who are learning something as different and challenging as the hula hoop are honing not just their physical skills but their mental fortitude as well. A task that requires coordinated movements of every part of the body requires lots of repetition to master. Having the attention and motivation to master a new physical activity will help with improved attention for school-related tasks.
  6. Confidence – Hula hooping offers many ways to expand a child’s skills set, such as moving the hula hoop up the body, performing while standing on one foot, etc. Mastery of each new skill offers children the chance to feel pride in themselves. I’ve seen children’s programs and dance competitions dedicated to hula hooping, and not a single child could stay bored or frustrated with this amusing task. There are organizations out there dedicated to introducing hula hooping to children. Nothing boosts a young child’s confidence like being able to show off new found hula hoop skills in front of her parents and friends. I have even used hula hoops as an introduction to jump rope skills.

One recent study found that today’s children are less physically fit than their parents and their endurance is on the decline. There’s a way to combat this slow onset of sedentary lifestyle for kids who aren’t so into team sports or outdoor activities. Tons of toys are out there to make physical activities seem fun, unique, and not in the least bit boring for young minds. Hula hoops are just one of many that physical therapists love to use, in order to bring out the best in little growing bodies.

Click here to view our Gross Motor Milestones Infographic!