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Are Premature Babies Delayed?

The term premature refers to any infant that was born earlier than 37 weeks of gestation. Premature births occur in 10% of all live births. Premature babies (“preemies”) are at risk for multiple health problems, including breathing difficulties, cerebral palsy, learning disabilities, and delays in their gross and fine motor skills.

Premature baby

Why are babies born pre-term?

The cause of premature labor is not fully understood. However, there are certain risk factors that can increase the likelihood of premature labor: a woman that has experienced premature labor with a previous birth, a woman that is pregnant with multiples (twins, triplets, etc), and a woman with cervical or uterine defects. Certain health problems can also increase the risk of premature labor, including diabetes, high blood pressure and preeclampsia, obesity, in-vitro fertilization, and a short time period between pregnancies.

What are the effects of being born pre-term?

In addition to multiple medical complications, a baby that is born before 37 weeks of gestation is at risk for developmental problems in gross motor skills, fine motor skills, sensory integration, speech and language skills, and learning. The baby may take longer to reach specific developmental milestones or need help to reach those milestones. The earlier babies are born, the more at risk they are for having delays. Each child is different as well, and no two preemies will be delayed in exactly the same manner.

If you or your pediatrician suspects that your baby is developmentally delayed, there are a variety of professionals that can assist your child in achieving his or her full potential. A physical therapist can help facilitate development of gross motor milestones such as sitting, crawling, walking, running, or jumping. An occupational therapist can help develop fine motor skills such as object manipulation, hand-eye coordination, and reaching, as well as sensory integration. Speech therapists can help improve language skills and articulation.  Consult with your pediatrician or talk with one of our Family Child Advocates to receive more information on setting up an evaluation with a skilled therapist at NSPT.

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Navigating Early Speech & Language Milestones: What to expect between age 1 and 2

Parents often wonder if their child’s skills are developing typically.  Between gross motor skills, fine motor skills, speech-language skills, social-emotional functioning, and overall growth, there’s a lot to keep track of!  In fact, it might feel overwhelming.  Mother communicating with infantIt’s important for parents to remember that every child develops at their own rate, with some skills emerging faster, and other skills taking more time.  When considering your child’s development, referring to developmental milestones can be an excellent guide.  In Part 1 of this blog, we reviewed speech and language milestones to expect during the first year of your baby’s life.  In Part 2, we’ll review communication milestones you might expect to see between age 1 and 2.  If you begin to feel concerned regarding your child’s development, seek help from a licensed professional right away.  A trained therapist will give you accurate information, ease your worries, and if needed, give your child any help they might need.

Speech & Language Skills Emerging Between 1 and 2 Years

1 – 1½ years

Your child might:

  • easily understand his own speech
  • use a variety of words (between about 3-20) to communicate
  • understand between 50-75 words to communicate
  • be able to point to various objects or body parts as you say them
  • be able to follow simple 1-step directions
  • use words that contain a consonant + vowel (e.g. “bo” for boat)
  • be eager to imitate words they hear others say
  • use some jargon when they’re communicating
  • request things by pointing or vocalizing
  • let you know what they don’t want, by shaking their head “no” or pushing objects away

1½ – 2 years

Your child might:

  • be likely using more true words, and less jargon to communicate
  • be asking questions by using a rising intonation
  • begin to include sounds at the end of their words (e.g. hot)
  • use more than 50 words to communicate
  • understand about 300 words to communicate
  • begin to combine words into simple phrases
  • be able to follow 2-step related directions (e.g. “open the box and give me the bear.”)
  • begin to respond to yes/no questions
  • understand location concepts “in” and “on”
  • begin using words to tell you when they don’t want something (e.g. “no bed”)

For more information about speech and language development in childhood, visit the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association at http://www.asha.org/public/speech/development/.

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10 Activities to Improve Balance

Balance is a great skill to help your child progress with their gross motor skills, leisure activities, and activities of daily living.

The following activities are various ways you can work on improving static and dynamic balance for improved performance in activities such as sports, games, self-care, and many more!

  1. Stand with one foot on the ground while the other foot is resting on a stool in front of the other foot. This is the primary skill in working towards balancing on one foot. If this is too easy, replace the stool with a ball that your child has to rest his or her foot on. Then, progress to just standing on one leg. To make it more challenging play a game (such as catch, zoom ball or balloon tennis) while balancing.
  2. Stand on top of a bosu ball. A bosu ball is an exercise ball cut in half with a flat plastic surface on the bottom. If your child gets really good at standing on top of the bosu ball, turn it upside down so that the ball is underneath and he or she is standing on the flat side. Once this is mastered, play catch while standing on the bosu ball.
  3. Stand on a balance board. A balance board is a flat surface made of wood or hard plastic that has a rounded or curved underside. This can be a very challenging activity just to stay upright!
  4. Simply stand on one foot! Make this into a contest with the whole family and see who can maintain their balance the longest.The person who wins gets to pick a family activity.
  5. Put two lines of tape on the ground and practice walking on a pretend balance beam. The space between the two pieces of tape could start large (6 inches) and progress to 4 inches apart. If your child steps out of bounds, he or she has to start again. By employing a balance beam that is flush with the ground, this will decrease any possible fear of falling. Once this becomes easier, utilize a real balance beam to work on more challenging balance skills.
  6. Sit on an exercise ball while playing a board game at the table. Don’t let your child put his or her feet on the ground while playing unless they need to make sure they don’t fall.
  7. Play hopscotch only while jumping on one foot. No switching feet is allowed! This makes the game slightly more challenging.
  8. Sit, kneel, or stand on a flat platform swing. Once you child can simply balance, play catch, zoomball, or balloon volleyball while sitting, kneeling, or standing.
  9. Stand on a trampoline with just one leg on the surface. To make this even more challenging, invite someone else to walk on the trampoline (or jump) while trying to keep your balance!
  10. Try any of the above activities with your eyes closed. Balancing with your eyes closed is significantly harder than having your eyes open. Therefore, if your child has mastered all of the above activities, make it one step harder to keep them challenged!

The possibilities are endless! Get creative and make these activities easier or harder depending on your child’s progression of skills.  By working on balance, your child will learn to use their muscles properly in order to adjust to changes in movement. This will set them up for success in playing games and sports with their peers! As always, ensuring your child’s safety during these activities is very important. Utilize pillows, mats, and adult supervision when practicing these activities.

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Differences and Similarities Between Occupational and Physical Therapy | Pediatric Therapy Tv

In today’s Webisode, a pediatric occupational therapist explains ways to distinguish between occupational and physical therapy and how they are similar.

In this video you will learn:

  • To determine the differences between physical and occupational therapy
  • How the two disciplines are alike
  • What types of therapies are used for the different disciplines

Video Transcription:

Announcer: From Chicago’s leading experts in pediatrics to a worldwide
audience, this is Pediatric Therapy TV where we provide experience and
innovation to maximize your child’s potential. Now your host, here’s Robyn.

Robyn: Hello, and welcome to Pediatric Therapy TV. I’m your host, Robyn
Ackerman, and I’m standing here with Lindsay Miller, a Pediatric
Occupational Therapist. Lindsay, people are often confused between physical
therapy and occupational therapy. Can you explain with the differences and
similarities are between OT and PT?

Lindsay: Sure. With occupational therapy, we usually work on independence
with self-care skills, and these are skills like dressing and bathing. We
also work a lot on fine motor skills as well. So that’s any sort of
movement using your hands and fingers like writing, coloring, using
scissors, using a fork and knife, those types of things. Traditionally,
physical therapists work on mobility, so that’s walking, running, jumping,
and other gross motor tasks that use the larger muscles of the body. In the
pediatric realm, occupational therapists also work on executive functioning
skills, so those are our thinking skills and our thinking processes, and we
also work on sensory processing as well, so that’s how children react
emotionally and behaviorally to their environment and their surroundings.
In the pediatric world, physical therapists also work a lot on mobility
again and also gross motor development. So that’s, can your child crawl and
can they get themself up into standing and those sorts of things.

Some of the similarities are that occupational and physical therapy both
can look at muscle strength, flexibility, range of motion, and muscle tone,
but the biggest difference is really how we look at those things and in
what context. So occupational therapists look at those muscle strength and
flexibility and those types of things and how they affect functioning and
daily life whereas physical therapists look at those things and how it
affects mobility and gross motor skills. So overall, there is some overlap
between occupational and physical therapy, but the biggest difference is
really how they look at it in terms of functioning.

Robyn: All right. Thank you so much, Lindsay, and thank you to our viewers.
And remember, keep on blossoming.

Announcer: This has been Pediatric Therapy TV, where we bring peace of mind
to your family with the best in educational programming. To subscribe to
our broadcast, read our blogs, or learn more, visit our website at
learnmore.me. That’s learnmore.me.

The Benefits of Fort Building

When it is chilly outside or on a rainy spring day it can be easy to run out of indoor play ideas for your children. A great activity which is often forgotten is fort building. This activity helps to facilitate development of many important skills for children.kids building a fort

 Benefits of Indoor Fort Building for Kids

  • Planning: deciding the materials to use and a plan for how to build the fort
  • Problem solving skills are required to build the fort and fix it if it falls apart
  • Teamwork if made with siblings or friends
  • Facilitates creative and imaginary play
  • Small spaces can facilitate a calming/regulating effect for some children
  • Improve core and upper extremity strength: create an obstacle course through the fort or play a game/read stories while laying on their stomach inside the fort

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10 Ways to Encourage Gross Motor Skills at the Playground | Grammar School

1. Play with your child, instead of being an on looker, be an example of what certain movements

look like.

2. Praise small accomplishments, they may not be doing the monkey bars by themselves just yet, but hanging from the bar for 5 seconds and then 10 seconds, is a place to start.kids on playground

3. Play catch, although it may seem like a simple activity, children benefit greatly from planning their movements, tracking the ball with their eyes, and the repetition the activity provides. Switch up the difficulty level if they are ready for the challenge by changing the size, weight or texture of the ball or distance between you and your child.

4. Challenge your child to an obstacle course race with the entire family.

5. Start with an activity your child is comfortable with, and encourage to expand from there. If your child enters the playground being asked to do something they are not comfortable with, they may shut down before getting anywhere.

6. Schedule play dates at the park with same age peers to encourage age appropriate skills in this setting.

7. Add “park time” into your families weekend routine. Frequent trips to a familiar park will help familiarize your child with the equipment and build endurance for gross motor activities.

8. Play “hot lava” encourage your child to navigate the park equipment without touching the ground.

9. Visit your child’s school playground on the weekend to help them practice what they are having difficulty with at recess.

10. Participate in animal walks (including bear walks, crab walks, frog jumps, etc.) to encourage strengthening, endurance and coordination.

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Gross Motor Preschool Milestones 3 years to 5 years

During the preschool years (ages 3 through 5) a child learns various new gross motor skills. These new skills are vital for playing with their peers. Each child learns these at a different rate, however the following is an general outline of the development of gross motor skills during the preschool years:preschooler jumping

Gross Motor Skills of a 3 Year Old:

  • Standing on one foot for 3 seconds
  • Walking up and down stairs without holding onto the railing, reciprocating (one foot on each step)
  • Jumps over a line
  • Jumps forwards 2 feet
  • Jumps off a step with both feet simultaneously
  • Kicking a stationary ball 6 feet forwards
  • Throwing a ball both under and over hand
  • Independently get on/off a tricycle and pedal 20 feet

Gross Motor Skills of a 4 Year Old:

  • Standing on one foot for 5 seconds
  • Standing on tiptoes for 3 seconds without moving feet
  • Jumps forward 3 feet
  • Jumps up onto a step (approximately 8 inches high) with two feet
  • Jumps over a small hurdle
  • While running, is able to alternate direction and stop easily without losing balance
  • Hops on one foot 5 times
  • Walks backwards on a line
  • Gallops 10 feet
  • Throwing ball so it hits a target from 5 feet away

Gross Motor Skills of a 5 Year Old:

  • Standing on one foot for 10 seconds
  • Standing on tiptoes without moving feet for 8 seconds
  • Mimics movements accurately
  • Skips 10 feet
  • Jumping sideways
  • Kicking a stationary ball straight for 10 feet
  • Recommended:
    • Swimming: can “doggy-paddle” 2 feet to the edge of the pool
    • Biking: can independently pedal, steer, and stop a bike with training wheels (may begin to try without training wheels)

If a child has not yet learned these skills by kindergarten, or is having trouble performing these skills, there may be a cause for concern. They may be low tone or weak in their core or extremities. If you feel that your child is delayed in their preschool gross motor skills and would like advice or help, feel free to contact us for a physical therapy evaluation.  For a complete Milestone Guide for 3 Year olds compiled by Speech Pathologists, Occupational Therapists and Physical Therapists, click here!

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What is Proprioception and Why is it Important?

What: Proprioception is the concept of knowing where your body is in space (body awareness) and the ability to safely maneuver around your environment. It also includes the use of heavy work activities and the ability to stimulate the joint receptors.

Why: Proprioceptive input is important for a child’s frog jumpsdevelopment because it helps them to feel a sense of self, aides in self-regulation and promotes success in both fine motor and gross motor activities. It is also important as it helps a child to be aware of their “personal space” and how to appropriately engage with their peers without overstepping their boundaries (e.g. hugging without asking) or not engaging enough (e.g. decreased eye contact).

Activities to provide proprioceptive input:

  • Wheelbarrow walks
  • Bear hugs
  • Body pillow “sandwich” (have child lay between two large body pillows and provide them with moderate squishes)
  • Frog jumps
  • Jumping on a trampoline or on a mattress
  • Pushing a heavy basket/cart (e.g. fill a laundry basket and have child push across the house)
  • Pulling a heavy wagon
  • Squeezing or rolling playdough/theraputty
  • Bouncing on a pogo stick or on a hippity hop ball
  • Climbing a rockwall
  • Monkey bars
  • Tug of war (e.g. use a towel to play tug of war with a partner using both hands; place pillows behind each child, so that if they fall or lose their balance, they can crash into the pillows)

Developmental Skills While Playing With Cars

Pediatric therapy sessions typically involve a lot of play time! Why? Children learn about their world through play and child playing with car imitation of adults, and play is much more motivating than sitting at a table completing worksheets. When a child plays with a car, here are a few of the skill areas that are targeted:

Cognition while playing with cars:

• Experiencing cause and effect relationships, such as when a car drops down a ramp

• Labeling basic parts of a car

Fine Motor or Hand Skills while playing with cars:

• Strengthing hand-eye coordination skills and improving hand dexterity while building a toy car. Consider building a visual model for your child to copy

• Improving hand coordination and hand dexterity while repairing a car using toy tools. Facilitate this by placing your hand on the child’s and physically moving his hands if necessary

• Practice using both hands simultaneously while turning a steering wheel Read more

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