Occupational Therapy

Back to School for Special Needs
Speech, Occupational, and Physical Therapy Prep for Back-to-School
Speech, Occupational, and Physical Therapy Prep for Back-to-School 1000 1000 PTN Chicago

Back to school is upon us once again, and this can be both an exciting and stressful time of year for the children we work with – and their parents! Whether your little ones are looking forward to learning new things or feeling anxious about fitting in, there are several things that you can do to help them feel more prepared for the school year to come. Let’s take a look at several simple areas of focus within speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy that you can practice with your child leading up to that first day of school.

Speech Therapy Back to School Prep

Role Playing – If your child is nervous about meeting new children, you can help them feel more at ease by playing a simple role-playing game. Pretend to be another child that they’re meeting for the first time and have a conversation with them. Help your child think of appropriate ice-breakers and things they can talk about comfortably with new friends.

Curiosity Prep – Children have a tendency to ask questions that can come across as rude and hurtful when they are confronted with something they aren’t familiar with – like another child’s speech impediment. Before school begins, it can sometimes be helpful to gently warn your child that they might get questioned about the way that they speak by other children. Then you can work with your child to find simple answers to the questions they might be asked in order to help their new friends understand them better. (This is an area where a speech therapist can offer a lot of helpful advice!)

Occupational Therapy Back to School Prep

School-Specific OT Challenges – Going back to school – or going to school for the first time – can mean being confronted with new occupational challenges. For example, your child probably doesn’t open a lunch box very often at home. Work with your OT to think of the various occupational skills your child might find useful to practice before school begins.

Waiting Games – A lot of school is sitting quietly and waiting for your turn. If your child has trouble sitting still or gets easily distracted, it might be helpful to practice some mental games that can keep your child focused or occupy their mind while they wait in line. For example, your child can quietly try to find objects that are every color of the rainbow.

Physical Therapy Back to School Prep

Classroom Tour – If possible, try to arrange a tour of your child’s classroom before school begins with their new teacher. That way you can identify any areas that might be difficult for your child to maneuver or unsafe for your child for whatever reason. Having some advance warning will allow both your child and their teacher time to adjust. This is also a useful thing to do if your child has physical impairments.

Explore Outdoors – After your classroom tour, why not explore your school’s outdoor areas? You can walk through the halls of the school and then make your way outside. Let your child practice on the school playground or on the stairs leading up to the school entrance over the summer so they are familiar with these areas prior to school starting. It can be fun for them to see what’s waiting for them both inside and out.

Happy Anniversary PTN
6 Favorite Fun Therapy Ideas to Ring in Our Anniversary!
6 Favorite Fun Therapy Ideas to Ring in Our Anniversary! 1000 1000 PTN Chicago

This month we are absolutely thrilled to be celebrating our ninth anniversary. The actual anniversary is June 22, and we can’t believe how fast the time has gone. It has been an absolute pleasure working with such wonderful and diverse children and their fantastic families, and we can’t wait to keep it up for another nine years – and well beyond!

To celebrate our anniversary, we wanted to share some of our favorite occupational, speech, and physical therapy activities that parents and children can enjoy together at home. These play therapies are simple and don’t require a trip to the store, but they can offer hours of entertainment while also helping your child develop skills that will last a lifetime.

For sensory development…

Nothing beats a good old-fashioned sensory bin. The great thing about sensory bins is that they can be regularly updated and adjusted with new objects that your child likes. To make your own sensory bin, first you’ll need a plastic storage tub with a lid. You probably have one under your bed or hidden away in your kitchen or closet right now. Next, fill the bin about half way with a base material that your child can safely sift through. That material might be popcorn kernels, packing peanuts, or dry rice. The final step is hiding fun sensory objects in the bin for your child to discover and enjoy. Try to find things that will engage a variety of senses. For example, puffy poms are great to touch, tea bags are fun to smell, and oversize beads are beautiful to look at!

For gross motor skills…

One of our favorite activities that helps develop gross motor skills is playing pretend! This activity is wonderful, because it can be whatever you want, and it lets both you and your child stretch your imaginations. Maybe you can take turns pretending to be different animals. Or you can pretend that the floor is lava and jump between cushions and pillows laid out on the floor. You can stomp around like dinosaurs, or practice climbing (with supervision!) like monkeys.

For fine motor skills…

A great game for developing fine motor skills and getting some occupational therapy in at the same time is Restaurant! Play this make-believe game in your kitchen with actual pots, pans, and safe utensils like spatulas. You can even break out some real food like dry pasta or those baby carrots you’ve been trying to get your child to eat to make the game even more fun. Moving the game into the kitchen helps your child gain comfort in a different environment while practicing skills like stirring, scooping, and following directions, all while being creative.

For a DIY toy…

The simplest of simple do-it-yourself toys is the cardboard roll at the center of your paper towels. When you finish a roll, hand the cardboard over to your little one and tell her that it’s a telescope, or maybe a magic wand, or tape two together and make binoculars. A cardboard roll can become a log for dolls to sit on or a tunnel for small cars or Legos to slide through.

For speech therapy…

Try playing “I Spy” around your house – or anywhere, for that matter! But home is a great place to start with this game, as your child will be able to name more of the things in their environment. This game helps with building vocabulary, especially adjectives and nouns, and also builds critical thinking skills.

For balance…

Make a gym in your living room – or any room that has soft carpet – by grabbing a stack of your child’s books and lining them up on the ground to make a balance beam. Your child will have fun standing on their books and practicing walking across them without falling off. (And if you’re worried about books being mistreated, don’t be! The more that books feel like toys and rewards, the more your child will want to look inside.)

We hope you enjoy all of these play activities this summer. Give us a call anytime for more recommendations tailored to your child!

therapeutic skills
Simple Ways to Keep Your Parenting Resolutions This Year
Simple Ways to Keep Your Parenting Resolutions This Year 1000 667 PTN Chicago

With a new year upon us, you might be thinking about New Year’s resolutions. One common resolution that we hear from the parents we work with is that they’d like to create more time in their busy schedules to work on home program activities. It’s a goal that is easier said than done, because there is only so much time in the day, and often the urgent outweighs the important.

Whether your child benefits from occupational, physical, or speech therapy, finding time to work on those skills with your child on a regular basis is a great goal that will benefit your child immensely. One easy way to get started with as little stress and time-commitment as possible is to incorporate therapeutic strategies into the things that you already do with your child.
Here are some simple examples of ways that you can incorporate therapy into activities that you likely already do every day.

Sing songs in the car.

When driving your child to school or daycare, turn off your radio and ask your child what song they’d like to sing. If they’re too young or not verbal enough to choose, pick a few songs that you like and sing them for your child. Even just listening to songs stimulates a variety of areas in the brain and improves language development. By choosing interactive songs like “If You’re Happy and You Know It…” you can also help your child develop their listening and imitation skills.

Take a back seat during bedtime.

At bedtime, it’s easy for us parents to go into autopilot – putting our kids in jammies, brushing their teeth, and choosing the books we’ll read for them. Whenever time allows, try to take a step back and give your child a bit more control over bedtime. Let them choose their jammies and give them the opportunity, if possible, to try to undress and redress themselves. Likewise, show them how to brush their own teeth and let them have a say in what books you read. Going about bedtime this way will take a bit more time, but it will help your child enjoy the routine more and improve their self-help skills.

Invite your child into the kitchen.

Whenever possible, let your child work with you in the kitchen to prepare meals. Their help might be as simple as pouring pre-measured ingredients into a bowl or even pressing the appropriate buttons on the microwave. Your child may also enjoy playing with pretend food or with unused pots and pans on the kitchen floor while you cook. You can talk about what you’re making and practice skills like counting and following directions.

But most of all, remember to enjoy the time you have with your little one. Don’t worry about carving out a ton of time each day. A little one on one time goes a long way!

For more suggestions, feel free to reach out any time. Our occupational therapists, speech therapists, and physical therapists are here to support both you and your child in any way that we can.

occupational therapy and autism
How Our Occupational Therapists Support Children with Autism
How Our Occupational Therapists Support Children with Autism 1000 750 Triston Kee

Being a parent is never easy. It comes with its own rewards and challenges, and those rewards and challenges can be significantly amplified when you have a child with autism. Fortunately, many children on the autism spectrum have a legally protected right to occupational therapy through public schools, and many more can receive fully covered private occupational therapy through health insurance and federal and state programs. This therapy can be incredibly helpful for both the children and their parents.

Occupational therapy focuses on helping people perform everyday activities that are needed to get by. People recovering from injuries, dealing with mental illness, and people with developmental delays can all benefit from occupational therapy.

In the context of autism, occupational therapy can be an important tool for gaining skills that might come more readily to children who aren’t on the autism spectrum. These skills can include learning to play with other children, learning to listen to instructions, communicating basic needs, and feeding, bathing, and dressing oneself.

In our Chicago pediatric therapy practice, we regularly work with families who are affected by autism. The process starts with assessment. An initial assessment can include discussion with the parents and teachers about behavior patterns, observed problem areas, any diagnosed medical conditions, and questions and concerns. The goal is to determine where the biggest concerns lie and to create an intervention plan that will work for both the child and the family.

Meeting Children and Families Where They’re At

When working with kids with autism, we like to meet with them in environments where they feel most comfortable to help reduce stress, encourage positive associations, and make the whole process easier for everyone. We’ll often work with children in their homes, back yards, or even favorite local parks.

Specific therapies that can be helpful for children with autism often start with identifying any underlying sensory issues and creating games or routines that help address those issues. An estimated 80% of children with autism have sensory processing issues, which means that these children have trouble filtering out sounds, sensations, and/or sights that overwhelm them. (Imagine listening to thumping music all day with a strobe light blaring in your vision, and you might begin to understand why some children with autism act out.) Understanding what sensory issues may be at play makes it easier to address those issues with tools like weighted blankets, massage, and soft tag-free clothing that help children feel more relaxed and at ease in their own skins.

Working with the family is also an important part of occupational therapy for children with autism. As a parent, caretaker, or sibling, it can be very easy to get overwhelmed and have trouble empathizing with certain behaviors. An occupational therapist can help by showing the whole family how to incorporate play therapy and more positive responses into their existing routines at home.

If you’re looking for occupational therapy in Chicago for your child, please give our office a call. We’d be happy to answer any questions and provide more information and resources.

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