home based therapy

Three Ways Parents Can Support Social and Emotional Competence in Young Children
Three Ways Parents Can Support Social and Emotional Competence in Young Children 1080 1080 PTN Chicago

Social and emotional competence is a fancy term for a person’s ability to interact with others and regulate their own emotions in a healthy way. These skills are not a given for any child – they must be learned over time, and parents/caregivers are the main people that children learn social and emotional competence from.

Children start experiencing complex emotions from infancy, but without language skills, their best option is often crying for attention. As children get older and gain the ability to speak, they don’t always have the words they need to express themselves in the moment, and big feelings can lead to big reactions like tantrums, hitting, or refusing to speak. All of these behaviors are a normal part of growing up. It’s our job as caretakers to try to understand what our children’s emotional needs are and to help them express those needs in healthy ways. Here are three ways to go about that:

1. Acknowledging your child’s feelings.

One of the most powerful tools a parent has for diffusing their child’s stress, anger, and frustration is acknowledging it. Rather than trying to yell over a tantrum or going straight to time out, take a knee so that you’re down at your child’s level, and tell them what you think they’re feeling and why. For example, “Are you upset that I turned off the show?” or “You’re frustrated because I was on the phone, is that right?” This simple act of showing your child that you understand why they’re upset can bring immediate relief, because having your feelings acknowledged and validated – as an adult or a child – is a very powerful thing. This acknowledgment also helps calm everyone down and allows you to then explain your own actions in turn.

2. Being mindful of your own emotions.

Children watch their caregivers closely. If we yell when we’re upset, they see that and they learn that behavior. If we spank them (a big no-no), they learn that hitting is an appropriate form of punishment. This isn’t to say that you can never get upset in front of your children or at your children – we guarantee that even the most patient parents break from time to time. Rather, when you do get upset, take deep breaths, say out loud what you’re feeling, and decide what you’re going to do to calm yourself down. Let your children see your emotions, including sadness and frustration (in moderation), and show them how you deal with those feelings in a healthy way so that they can learn from your example.

3. Talking about feelings.

As your child gets older, you’ll find more and more opportunities to talk about feelings. For example, pretend play is a great time to build empathy. Your child might say her doll is sad, and you can then comfort the doll and ask what will make her feel better. If your child tells you that someone got mad at school, you can ask what happened and how your child felt about it. When you watch a movie or read a book with a sad scene, a scary scene, a happy scene – whatever it is – you can identify those emotions with your child and talk about how the story made you feel.

Here’s an excellent resource with more helpful information about social and emotional development and your role in helping your child express their feelings.

Classic Games Worth Bringing Back for Play Therapy Week
Classic Games Worth Bringing Back for Play Therapy Week 1080 1080 PTN Chicago

This week (February 2-8) is National Play Therapy Week, and we are so excited to celebrate! Play is at the heart of everything we do here at PTN, and we are firm believers that children feel more loved, more heard, and more receptive when they engage in play – that’s exactly why play therapy is so effective. It’s safe to say that we all learn faster, feel more at ease, and simply have a better time when we get the opportunity to learn through play.

If you’re looking for ways to celebrate this week and spread the word about the benefits of play therapy, the Association for Play Therapy has helpful resources that you can check out, including images that you can use to replace your cover photo or profile picture on social media this week.

Of course, the best way to celebrate this week is to actually enjoy some play therapy time with your child. Here are some of our favorite ways to work on occupational, physical, and speech therapy skills through at-home play.

Occupational Play Therapy

If you’re looking for ways to supplement your child’s occupational therapy between visits with their OT, one of the most simple and effective ways is through classic games. Depending upon your child’s age, you could play Jenga, Operation (with or without the batteries), Connect Four, or any number of other classic table games that are easy to learn and fun to play as a family. If your child is on the younger side, don’t worry about the rules. Just have fun building towers or creating colorful Connect Four patterns. Get a few travel-sized games that you can take with you in the car wherever you go.

Physical Play Therapy

All sorts of physical therapy goals can be practiced with classic games like Simon Says and Red Light, Green Light. The key to making these games fun and keeping them fresh is embracing your own creativity as well as the creativity of your child! If your little one tells you, “You’re a puppy,” that’s a great invitation to engage in their world. Give your child your best bark, then tell him that he’s a kangaroo and must bounce everywhere, or make her a sunflower and have her stretch her petals/arms up to the sun! Whatever skill your child needs help with, playing pretend is a great way to get them practicing without them even realizing it.

Speech Play Therapy

Songs and word games that you probably played as a child are still perfect for helping your child practice different sounds and to help build their vocabulary. I Spy is a wonderful game that can be played anywhere (it’s especially great anytime you’re stuck waiting in line). With younger kids, you can pick a color and have them point out all the things they see that are that color. With older kids, you can move past colors and use a wider range of words to describe the specific item they need to look for.

New Year’s Parenting Resolutions: Three Simple Ways to Incorporate Learning Into Your Family’s Daily Routine
New Year’s Parenting Resolutions: Three Simple Ways to Incorporate Learning Into Your Family’s Daily Routine 1080 1080 PTN Chicago

Happy New Year from all of us at PTN! With a new year, comes New Year’s resolutions. One of the most common resolutions we hear from parents is that they want to incorporate more learning activities throughout the day, but they don’t feel like there’s enough time to do so. We get it! As parents, we tend to put so much pressure on ourselves. We set goals to spend time with our kids daily, but before we know it, the day is over. 

No matter if your child benefits from physical, occupational, or speech therapy, it’s very important to make sure you take time during each day to work with them. An easy way to do this is to incorporate learning into your family’s daily routine. Believe it or not, there are ways to take that pressure off your shoulders while making sure you get in that all-important learning time.

That being said, here are some simple ways to incorporate learning into your family’s daily routine: 

Slow Down and Let Your Child Help With Their Morning Routine

A lot of us tend to feel rushed in the morning, and focus more on completing our morning routines as quickly as possible, rather than taking the time to start the day off on a good note. Wake up a little earlier than normal, and get your child involved in getting ready for the day. To start, give them two verbal directions at a time to follow while they’re doing their bathroom routine. You could say something like, “put toothpaste on your toothbrush, then brush your teeth”. Another task you can have your child help with is picking out their clothes for the day. You can have them use their words by asking what color or style of clothing they want to wear.

Get Your Child Involved With Grocery Shopping

The grocery store is actually a great place for learning. Next time you go shopping, take your child with you. While on the way to the store, discuss with them what type of groceries you’re buying and how many of each item you will need. Then while you’re there, talk about the shape of each item (round, square, etc), what color the item is, and the size of the item. This allows you to get your weekly shopping done while improving your child’s verbal skills. 

Play a Board Game

Another way to work on your child’s therapy skills is to play a board game together. Board games allow your child to have fun while also improving their motor skills, language skills, and even balance and coordination. Choose a board game based on your child’s specific therapy goals. If your child is working on improving their fine motor and visual motor skills, Connect 4 is a great option. If balance and coordination is the key focus, Twister might be the game for your family. Finally, Memory Match is an excellent way to help build your child’s vocabulary. Best part? For the younger kiddos, you don’t even have to play by the rules!

There’s no reason to put unnecessary stress on yourself once you realize that it’s actually very easy to incorporate learning into your family’s daily routine. Taking a little time out each day to work with your child will go a long way!

For more suggestions, feel free to reach out at any time. Our team of pediatric therapists are here to support both you and your child in any way that we can.

At Home Therapy
How In-Home Pediatric Therapy Sessions Can Have a Greater Impact
How In-Home Pediatric Therapy Sessions Can Have a Greater Impact 1000 1000 PTN Chicago

One of our core philosophies at PTN is that pediatric therapy is most effective when it happens in a comfortable environment with the full participation and support of the family.

When physical therapy or speech therapy happens in isolation it is very difficult for the child to take what they’ve learned back to their home environment, especially if a parent or caretaker isn’t able to be there observing each session. It’s also much more difficult for children to feel comfortable in a place that is foreign to them.

By bringing therapy into the home, the classroom, or even the child’s favorite park, it becomes much easier for parents, siblings, friends, and other caregivers to take part in sessions and become stronger pillars of support for the child.

Engaging in pediatric therapy sessions at home also makes it much easier for the therapy to be tailored to the child and the family.

Let’s use speech therapy as an example. Depending upon the house, the same time of day could be referred to as “bedtime,” “night time,” “time for night-night,” “sleepy time,” or a host of other possibilities. Underwear could be referred to as “undies,” “knickers,” “chonies,” or “panties.” Grandma could be called “Nana” or “Grannie” or “Abuelita.” The list of family-specific vernacular goes on and on.

If a speech therapy session happens in the house, the speech language pathologist (SLP) can start to learn the words and phrases that are most important in that household and find customized ways to help the child better express their wants and needs in ways that the family will recognize and respond to.

Being in the house also allows the SLP to work with the family to help them better support the verbal development of the child. That might mean teaching siblings games that they can play together or showing parents ways that they can encourage stronger language skills between sessions. Those games or tasks could be specified to favorite toys that the child already has or play spaces – like a backyard playhouse – that the SLP might not otherwise know was there.

When family and friends have a chance to observe different forms of pediatric therapy, that helps lead to a more cohesive household where everyone has the chance to better understand the work that’s being done, why it’s so important, and how they can help.

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