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Fidget Tools Overview

There are many strategies children use to attempt to regulate themselves. Whether this is more obvious Fidget Tooland large scale such as jumping on a trampoline or spinning around in circles continuously, or smaller, more discrete ways such as grinding their teeth, picking their skin, or squeezing their fists, each of these strategies are satisfying a need within their sensory systems.

These can be mindless or intentional, but the bottom line is that it is fulfilling their bodies and brains in a way that only they can truly understand. While we want to allow children to gain as much sensory input as they need to maintain a regulated state, it is important to explore options that are appropriate and safe. One such option is called “fidgets,” and they are a great tool, especially within the classroom environment, so as not to draw attention away from class learning.

It is important to understand the root of your child’s sensory seeking behaviors in order to provide him or her with the most appropriate fidget tool. There are two main sensory systems that fidget toys typically stimulate; these are the tactile and the proprioceptive system. The body reads touch based on light and deep touch, light being more stimulating (tactile) and deep being more calming (proprioceptive). Think, the feeling of a feather brushing across the underside of your arm versus the feeling of a deep tissue back massage.

  • If your child seeks regulation through obtaining deep pressure input i.e. jumping, crashing, and squeezing, a fidget that targets the proprioceptive system may be the best option. To put this in perspective, think about a child friendly and inviting “stress ball.” These may be in various forms, i.e. foam resistance balls, stretchy theraband, theraputty, and squeeze toys.
  • If your child tends to seek regulation through touch i.e. seemingly mindlessly touching other people, fabrics, or objects, a fidget that targets the tactile system may be the best option. For example, swatches of various fabrics, bracelets with a preferred fabric, and balls or other toys with bumps or (soft) spikes.
  • If your child seeks regulation through movement, and you are looking for something to provide him or her with that while maintaining appropriateness based on the environment (…as it may be frowned upon to start doing jumping jacks in the middle of circle time), there are options for this, as well. When it comes to movement, though it is important to consider if the fidget is facilitating the child to cope and pay better attention, or if it is actually contributing to increased distractibility. Typically, if a child needs their eyes to utilize the fidget, it may not be serving its ideal purpose and other options should be considered. Fidgets that provide movement include snaps, marble tubes, and plastic tangle tubes.

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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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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5 Swings Used in your Child’s Therapy Sessions

Oftentimes, parents probably wonder ‘what makes the swings and equipment at my child’s therapy different than the swings at the  playground’?  The answer is that each of the swings used in the therapy gym are able to be used in a much safer and controlled Little girl sleeping in hammockenvironment, as the therapists are able to place mats and pillows under and around the swings, and the therapist can therefore challenge how the child engages in the activity and moves and manipulates his body (e.g. hanging underneath the barrel swing).  Similarly, the swings used in the therapy gym are able to be hung on a rotating hook to allow the child and the swing to move in a variety of planes and directions, providing the child with a greater amount of vestibular and proprioceptive input.

Below are explanations of 5 of the swings therapists use throughout your child’s therapy sessions to help best understand the benefits of using the therapy equipment

  1. Superman swing: The superman swing is also referred to as our prone extension swing, meaning that the child is lying in a prone position (on his belly with his arms and legs extended). The superman swing is suspended high enough off of the floor so that the child has to weight bear through his upper body (shoulders, arms, hands). We often refer to this position as using his ‘wheelbarrow’ arms. This position helps to improve upper body strength, neck strength, trunk control, and multi-tasking/motor planning, as the child is typically playing some sort of board game or activity while maintaining this prone extension position in the swing. As the child gets stronger, he shoots to remain in the swing for longer and longer durations.
  2. Cuddle swing: The cuddle swing is mostly used for self-regulation and calming, as it mimics a hammock, in that it completely surrounds, engulfs, and molds to the child’s body. While in the swing children often feel extremely secure and at ease as the swing provides them with a squeezing sensation- much like a big bear hug from mom or dad. The cuddle swing can provide the child with slow rhythmic movement, which can be very relaxing for a child, especially when he is feeling anxious or when his body is moving too quickly. The cuddle swing can also provide a child with more intense vestibular input, as the child can be spun in circles, when he is seeking more fast-paced input.
  3. Rainbow swing: The rainbow swing looks exactly how it sounds, as it has 4 different colored layers, which the child can crawl in and out of. The rainbow swing provides a rhythmic motion when the child lies on his back or stomach in one position, while the therapist swings him back and forth. Similarly, the child can start at one end of the swing and crawl through like a resistive suspended tunnel, until he reaches the other end and can crash out onto a pile of pillows. This serves as a heavy work activity and can ideally help to increase his attention and body awareness.
  4. Frog swing: The frog swing looks exactly like a playground swing, in which a child needs to pump his legs or be pushed by a therapist to get his momentum going. Typically, the child is instructed to listen for a ‘magic word’ before jumping off of the swing to crash into a pile of large floor pillows (e.g. ready, set, and ‘go’). This activity helps to work on following directions and motor planning, as the child must figure out how to get his body off of the swing at the correct timing to land on the pillows.
  5. T-swing: The t-swing looks like an upside down letter “T”, and may also be referred to as a barrel swing. The child is required to wrap his arms and legs around the barrel like a koala bear and hold on as tight as he can while the therapist is pushing and swinging him. This swing helps to work on entire body strengthening and endurance, and it also requires motor planning and body awareness in order to assume the correct position initially to get onto the swing.

As therapists, we find that the swings listed above are extremely motivating for our clients to use, and serve many distinct purposes; as such, equipment truly helps us to better reach our client’s goals (e.g. following directions; attention; body awareness; self-regulation).  The swings are also a great reward for clients to work towards throughout a therapy session, as they see all of the other children playing on them, and they want to partake in the fun too.  Feel free to ask your child’s therapist if you can come-in and peak at the therapy gym during your child’s session to help you to best understand the treatment process.

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