The Importance of Play in Childhood Development

Play has a beneficial role in every child’s growth and development. Play allows a child to be able to use their creative senses in order to connect with the world around them. Playful interactions can foster new skills such as fine motor, gross motor, and executive functioning skills. Certain play can increase a child’s physical activity, making it an important part of a healthy lifestyle while combating unhealthy choices and building healthy bodies. Play also enables children to develop emotional regulation skills such as coping mechanisms, impulse control, and sharing skills.

Through play a child is able to master their world while conquering their fears. Children learn how to work with peers while negotiating and resolving conflicts. When a child is able to direct the play, he or she can practice important life making decisions that will carry over into their adult years.

The-Importance-of-Play-in-Childhood-Development

Play Improves The Therapeutic Relationship
Play is a key component to the therapeutic relationship between a child and the occupational or behavioral therapist. Play in therapy allows a child to enhance learning readiness, attention span, and problem solving skills. In fact, according to research by Dr. Karyn Purvis, scientists have discovered that it takes approximately 400 repetitions to create a new synapse in the brain, unless it is done in play, in which case it only takes 10 to 20 repetitions. Whether it be board games, crafts, puzzles, or imaginative games, a child is always learning. For learning to occur in play, it should be done in a stress-free environment and it should be meaningful for the child. It is important to foster the development of skills in play in order to help children reach their full potential.

Blog Post By:
Stephanie Nereppil, MSOT, OTR/L

Attributed Resources:
http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/119/1/182
http://homeschoolingalmanac.com/teaching-learning-games-10-20-repetitions-vs-400/

Occupational Therapy Can Target Many Important Skills While Teaching Children To Bake!

In need of something to do with your children in the cold winter months? Warm up your ovens and do some baking! Occupational therapists are always stressing the importance of carry-over of skills in the home, as well as increasing a child’s ability to function as independently as possible.

OT Skills Development
Baking is an activity that addresses many “OT skills” in ways you may not have thought of. For example, your child will be working on their problem solving skills, bilateral coordination (using two hands together), sequencing skills, manipulating tactile input, hand strengthening, hand-eye coordination, and simple math. All of these skills can be practiced while making long lasting memories of baking with your child. Bonus, there is a yummy treat waiting at the end!

Problem solving skills: You can address this skill by having your child pick out the ingredients at the grocery store. Have them first look in cabinets and decide what ingredients are already in the house, and which ingredients need to be bought. Bonus handwriting task: have your child write a list of ingredients to buy at the store.

Bilateral coordination skills: Using a rolling pin, holding a bowl with one hand and stirring with the other, even rolling dough into balls are all ways your child will be using both hands together to complete a task.

Sequencing skills: Baking is a special kind of science; a recipe must be followed in the correct order, or your treat might not turn out right. Create a checklist for your child to follow step-by-step directions.

Manipulating tactile input: Have your child use their hands instead of a wooden spoon to mix together dry ingredients. Using your hands to knead dough is gooey texture that children are not exposed to on a daily basis. If your child is sensitive to tactile input, ensure then they are able to wash their hands as soon as they are done. Feel free to use latex-free gloves for those that are extra sensitive.

Hand strengthening skills: Hand strengthening does not always have to be tedious and boring. Using a fork/whisk to whisk eggs, using a spoon to mix wet and dry ingredients together, and kneading dough are all ways to make hand strengthening a bit more fun.

Hand-eye coordination: Having to pour ingredients or batter takes more skill than you think; if you miss you may have a big mess to clean up! Using icing to decorate cookies is another great way to practice hand-eye coordination.

Math Skills Also Improved
Simple math skills: I bet you never thought about using math while baking! Using measuring cups and measuring spoons, as well as counting are simple ways to incorporate math into your baking experience.

One of the best benefits of using baking as a way to incorporate OT skills into your daily routine is having that reward of eating what you created. Now go find your favorite recipe, or try out a new one!

Sources: https://www.ot-mom-learning-activities.com/baking-with-kids.html#SpatialPerceptionPlanning

Written by: Melissa Melnick, MOT, OTR/L

What is Speech Therapy?

There are many facets to speech therapy.  This can range from babies developing sounds to children communicating effectively with peers and adults.  Does your child have difficulty understanding words or using words to communicate? Does your child have difficulty with social communication skills that allow one to interact with friends?  Is your child’s speech difficult to understand? If so, your child may benefit from speech therapy.

Speech therapy is provided by a licensed speech pathologist.  Speech Pathologists are professionals who specialize in communication.  They work with children of all ages to improve their ability to communicate.  Therapy may be provided in the clinic, home, or school. Children receive either individual therapy or therapy within a group.  There are benefits to both!

speech-pathologists-in-chicago-for-articulation-receptive-expressive-social-communication-fluency

Speech Pathologists focus on:

Articulation:  How we make speech sounds with our mouth, tongue or lips.  How we pronounce specific sounds or words so that we speak clearly and others can understand us.

Receptive Language:  How we understand what others say and follow directions.

Expressive Language:  How we communicate using words to request wants and needs and share ideas and thoughts.

Social Communication:  Social communication is often called “pragmatics.”  This includes greeting peers, taking turns when talking and staying on topic when conversing.  Pragmatics also include using appropriate facial expressions and eye contact and using appropriate body language.    

Fluency:  Fluency is also called “stuttering” and is how well our speech flows.  Children who stutter may repeat sounds, words or phrases. They may pause when they are talking.  Some children may stutter for a period of time but then outgrow it.

Voice:  How our voice sounds to others and how we use our vocal folds to make sounds.  If we are speaking too softly others may not be able to hear or understand us. If we are speaking too loudly and yelling too much we may hurt our vocal folds and our voice may be raspy or hoarse.

Feeding and Swallowing:  How we suck, chew and swallow food and liquid.   


If you have concerns in any of these areas, speech therapy may be appropriate for your child.



Blog Posted By:  
Mary Lee MA CCC-SLP/L
Oak Tree Developmental Center



Attributed Sources:

ASHA: Who Are Speech-Language Pathologists, and What Do They Do?
https://www.asha.org/public/Who-Are-Speech-Language-Pathologists/


ASHA:  What is Speech?  What is Language
https://www.asha.org/public/speech/development/language_speech.htm







What is Behavioral Therapy?

behavioral therapist for children in chicago il

Behavioral Therapy

A child’s environment influences the way they behave. Often, problematic and unhealthy behaviors are unintentionally rewarded. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps parents gain the skills and knowledge to help redirect unwanted behaviors. Behavior therapies can be applied to a wide range of psychological symptoms among adolescents and children.

Although behavioral therapies can vary substantially from disorder to disorder, a common thread is that behavioral therapists encourage children and adolescents to try new behaviors, reward desired behaviors, and to allow unwanted behaviors to “extinguish” (that is, ignore unwanted behaviors).

In behavior therapy, parents and children learn to promote desirable behaviors and reduce unwanted behaviors. 

One common trap that families fall into is unintentionally rewarding the wrong behavior. For example, take the teen who has not finished his homework, but really wants to take the car. Despite initial objections, the teen persists, and becomes angry, irritable, and disobedient towards his parents. Following a tantrum, the parents decide they cannot take the hassle anymore and allow him to borrow the car. In this way, the parents unintentionally reward, or reinforce, the teen’s oppositional behavior. The best way to handle these situations is to planfully ignore acting out behavior and to reinforce wanted behavior (homework attempts) as much as possible. Behavioral therapists seek to understand such links between behaviors, rewards, and learning, and to help youth and parents shape their own behaviors to meet individual and family goals.

Behavioral Parent Training
Behavioral parent training was developed to teach parents how to reinforce desirable behaviors in their children, discourage unwanted behaviors, and improve parent-child interactions. In this form of therapy, the parents play a significant role in treating their children’s behavior problems. During the therapy sessions, parents learn how to carefully observe their children’s behaviors at home and are taught skills to reward their children’s positive behaviors by using praise, positive attention, and rewards. They are also taught to use rule-setting, time-out, and ignoring to discourage bad behaviors.

Blog Post By:

Sarah Irvine, LCSW

Oak Tree Developmental Center

Attributed Source(s):

https://effectivechildtherapy.org/therapies/what-is-behavior-therapy/

Steven W. Evans, Julie Sarno Owens, & Nora Bunford (2013). Evidence-Based Psychosocial Treatments for Children and Adolescents with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology Vol. 43 Issue 4, 527-551. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15374416.2013.850700

Charmaine K. Higa-McMillan, Sarah E. Francis, Leslie Rith-Najarian, & Bruce F. Chopita (2016). Evidence Base Update: 50 Years of Research on Treatment for Child and Adolescent Anxiety, Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 45:2, 91-113, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15374416.2015.1046177

How An Occupational Therapist Can Help With Sensory Processing Disorder

A sensory processing disorder in therapist Chicago IL

What is Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)?

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is a condition in which the brain has trouble receiving and responding to information that comes in through the senses. The sensory system is comprised of our sense of smell, taste, touch, sight, and hearing. In addition we have two more "unknown senses". These are our sense of proprioception and vestibular sense. Proprioception and vestibular, which are a part of the sensory system, are often referred to as the “unknown senses”. The proprioceptive sense helps your body understand where it is in space, as well as how much force is needed to move your body within your environment. The vestibular sense refers to your body’s ability to understand how fast it is moving and helps to maintain balance. SPD can cause a person to be either over responsive or under responsive to sensory stimuli.

Sensory Diet For SPD

A sensory diet can be useful to help a child with SPD stay in a regulated state throughout the day, as well as cope when they become dysregulated. A child who is over responsive to touch may find certain clothing fabrics to be uncomfortable. A child who is sensitive to noises may be seen to cover their ears to noises that seem novel to others. Those with food aversions may be over responsive to taste or smell. Those who are under responsive to proprioceptive input may enjoy crashing or falling. Finally, those with difficulty regulating vestibular input may be seen to have “on the go” tendencies, or prefer to not move very much at all.

OT Support For SPD Parents

To accommodate SPD, an occupational therapist will work alongside parents and children to develop a tailored sensory diet to each child’s specific needs. No two children have the same sensory needs; therefore, no two sensory diets will look the same.

Blog Post By: Melissa Melnick, MOT, OTR/L

Attributed Resource: Super Duper Publications: Using a “Sensory Diet” with Children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) by Amber Swearingen, MOT, OTR/L

.Please watch the insight video below, to experience a child's view of sensory processing disorder: