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Remember back in school when there was always that ‘clumsy’ kid, who would easily trip over things, bump into people, was never the best at sport, and just appeared a little awkward at times? Or maybe that kid was you? Let’s dig a little deeper and find more out about this ‘clumsy’ kid.

You may have heard Doctors, Paediatricians’, Speech Pathologists or Occupational Therapists mention the terms Dyspraxia and Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), or perhaps your little one is working on their ‘praxis’ skills in OT. So what exactly do these terms mean?

Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects fine and/or gross motor coordination, as well as sensory processing and visual perception. Dyspraxia affects children of various ages and often presents as difficulties with planning, organising, and carrying out tasks/activities in the correct order. It can also affect speech. Generally, in Australia, we use the term Dyspraxia as both terms essentially have the same presenting characteristics and functional goals.

Being a neurodevelopmental disorder, there is no identifiable medical or neurological condition that explains the reason for a child’s motor coordination disorder, such as Down Syndrome, Fragile X Syndrome etc. However, it is quite common for dyspraxia to be co-morbid/co-occurring with other conditions such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or learning difficulties.

What does this look like in a child?

Some children may experience difficulties in a variety of areas while others may have problems only with specific activities, but here are some common characteristics:

  • They may appear clumsy or awkward in movements compared to friends of similar age (e.g. running awkwardly or holding scissors awkwardly).
  • Poor body awareness: bumping into things/people, invading someone’s personal space without recognising this.
  • Difficulty or delayed development gross motor skills (e.g. running, catching), and fine motor skills (e.g. handwriting, doing up buttons, tying shoelaces!)
  • Slow in following verbal instructions
  • Forget previously learned movements
  • A discrepancy of skills: may have good language & communication but messy handwriting
  • Find it hard to learn new skills, as well as transfer, learned skills to different contexts, eg. At home to school
  • Difficulty performing activities requiring coordinated use of both sides of the body, g. cutting with scissors, running, tennis.
  • Reduced balance and postural control, eg unsteady when stepping over height or when standing while dressing.
  • Taking the extra time to complete academic tasks such as maths, spelling and handwriting which requires writing to be accurate and organised on the page.
  • Rushing through tasks as completing them slowly is difficult (due to reduced control/balance)
  • Difficulty with organisation, eg. school bag, homework, getting changed, setting out their writing on the page appropriately.

As a consequence of finding these day-to-day tasks challenging, sometimes children will often:

  • Avoids sports/physical activity and socialising with their peers on the playground as they fear they may not be included in games. Often these children end up playing with younger kids as their skills are of a similar level and they feel more confident playing with them.
  • Find it difficult to perform everyday tasks such as brushing teeth, doing up buttons, getting ready for school
  • Reduced self-esteem and/or anxiety when asked to participate in difficult activities
  • Complains that things are ‘too hard’ or ‘I can’t do it’ when presented with motor activities
  • Lack of interest/motivation in engaging in activities they find difficult or have experienced failure
  • Become frustrated easily when completing tasks

So what can Occupational Therapists( OTs ) do to help?

After a formal assessment has been completed, your OT will devise goals in collaboration with you, and your child’s teachers in order for your child to achieve their functional best. They may have only a specific area of Dyspraxia to work towards, or it could be that they will require a number of skills to work on within the Dyspraxia scope.

Generally, your OT will help your child develop the underlying skills necessary to support the whole body (gross motor) and hand dexterity (fine motor) skills, such as providing activities to support:

  • balance and coordination
  • strength and endurance
  • attention and alertness
  • body awareness
  • movement planning

Since Dyspraxia often coincides with other condition such as ASD and ADHD, your OT will be able to incorporate strategies such as using a multi-sensory approach to help develop their praxis skills as well as their sensory processing.

What can you do with your kiddo to help?

  • Hopscotch – cost effective and simple to create, hopscotch is very beneficial in building the gross motor skills in children. You could use bright colours and a design to appeal to the visual strengths in children with dyspraxia!
  • Obstacle courses – These are soo much fun and kids love to build things! You can use playground equipment or set up one at home using cushions, trampoline etc.. A great one for those planning, sequencing and gross motor skills!
  • Simon says – using a variety of positions and slow movements
  • Going in/under/over/between/around objects e.g. running and weaving between objects while keeping a balloon in the air.
  • Getting them involved in sports such as swimming, martial arts, dancing, soccer and gymnastics are all beneficial – have your child choose one they are motivated to try!
  • Clapping games or action songs
  • Arts and craft – step by step approach e.g. origami, paper weaving, writing up a procedure
  • Follow a step-by-step model for building toys — e.g. Lego, building blocks
  • Jigsaw puzzles — try ones that they aren’t familiar with
  • Pencil activities – e.g. dot to dot, tracing, copying shapes, mazes.

Remember, the more these tasks are practised and the more the fine and gross muscles are engaged and challenged, the better their overall motor output will be. Children with dyspraxia are perfectly capable of learning alongside their peers; they may just need some extra attention and support from time to time. Awareness is the first step and can make all of the difference in helping a child to reach his or her full potential at school!

If you feel your child could benefit from some extra support in with their motor coordination or sensory processing please give us call on 02 9913 3823.

The post Dyspraxia ( Developmental Co-ordination Disorder) in Children appeared first on Occupational Therapy Helping Children.

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Guest blog written by Lauren Reinhardt, Director and Speech Pathologist for North Shore Speech Therapy

Have you ever wondered with a Speech Pathologist actually assesses and treats? Well, Paediatric Speech Pathologists can manage all types of communication and feeding difficulties. This includes (and is not necessarily limited to):

  • stuttering
  • articulation/phonology
  • dyspraxia
  • receptive language (understanding what people say to you)
  • expressive language (expressing yourself through sentences)
  • literacy (reading and spelling)
  • written language
  • social skills

It might seem a little overwhelming that a Speech Pathologist can assess and treat all of those things. What do they even mean? Let’s delve a little deeper into some of the main areas of their focus:

Speech

Speech (or “articulation and phonology”) refers to the way that your child pronounces their sounds. It plays a vital role in your child’s development as they can become easily frustrated if they are not being understood. For example, if your child has a lisp, they might say the word “sun” as “thun”.  By the day your child turns 3 years old, people outside of the family should easily be able to understand him/her. However, speech difficulties can be identified earlier than age 3 years. For example, if you have a child who is less than 1 year who is not babbling much. Or, at age 2 years, if your child does not have many sounds in their repertoire.

Receptive language

Language comprehension or receptive language refers to the understanding of a spoken or written message. A child with a receptive language disorder might have difficulty following long instructions, might not understand their homework, or might seem to day-dream and copy what other children are doing.

Expressive language

Expressive language refers to the ability to convey a spoken or written message. A child with an expressive language disorder might have difficulty expressing their thoughts or ideas clearly, might struggle to find the right words to use or use non-specific language like “thingy” and “stuff”, or they might write very brief or incomplete sentences.

Literacy

Did you know that Speech Pathologists can identify children who are at risk for reading and spelling difficulties from preschool age? A child with literacy difficulties may be reluctant to read or write, struggle to remember letters or words when reading or spelling, and may appear to guess words frequently when reading or writing.

Speech Pathologists are able to use a mixture of formal and informal assessment tools to identify difficulties in these areas and use evidence-based treatments to address these difficulties. They work alongside you and your child to help them achieve their goals.

Lauren Reinhardt is a Speech Pathologist and mother. She is the Director of North Shore Speech Therapy, an awesome team of speechies located in Neutral Bay, Chatswood and Hornsby. Lauren has presented nationally, co-authored resource books and her team regularly consults for the Department of Education and Independent schools around Sydney.

Check out North Shore Speech Therapy on Facebook for weekly tips and updates!

Lauren is passionate about changing lives by helping families improve their communication.

“Children entering school with more words do better socially, emotionally and academically. Every child deserves to understand and express themselves and every parent deserves to learn how to help their kids achieve this.” Lauren Reinhardt

The post What does a paediatric speech pathologist assess and treat? appeared first on Occupational Therapy Helping Children.

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Occupational Therapy Helping Children by Occupational Therapy Helping Childr.. - 3w ago

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is a complex disorder of the brain that affects both children and adults. People with Sensory Processing Disorder are not able to effectively process sensory information such as touch, sound and movement that we all experience every day. This causes them to misinterpret these sensations and respond differently to how most of us do. Some people with SPD may become easily overwhelmed by sensory information, some may seek out sensory experiences more than other people or some may not even notice different sensations that come into contact with.

What is sensory information and why is processing it correctly so important? Sensory information is the information we take in from the environment, from other people and from our own bodies through our seven senses. The commonly known five senses are touch, smell, taste, sight and sound. The final two lesser known senses are proprioception, which refers to the sensation of our body joints and muscles, and vestibular, which refers to the sensation of where our body is in space relative to gravity. Your brain’s ability to correctly process this information is so important because information received through hearing, vision, taste, smell, touch, pressure, and movement is used by our brains and bodies to develop our movement skills, cognitive skills and our ability to learn new things.

So what do we mean by sensory processing? Sensory processing refers to our ability to perceive sensory information, interpret and process this information in our brains and finally give an appropriate response to the sensation we have experienced. For most of us, this process is as automatic as taking a breath, however this is not the case for people with SPD. The sensory information they perceive gets confused in their brains. Whilst experiencing different sensations helps most of us to develop our skills, it causes the brains and bodies of people with SPD to become disorganised and unable to respond like most of us. People with SPD commonly have many emotional, social, and educational problems, including the inability to socialise effectively and make friends and being commonly labelled as clumsy, uncooperative, oversensitive, disruptive, disengaged or ‘out of control’.

Are there different types of SPD? Being a very complex neurological disorder there are several subtypes of SPD which all look present differently. Many people with SPD have a combination of more than one subtype. The 6 main subtypes are:

Sensory Over-Responsivity:
Individuals with sensory over-responsivity are more sensitive to sensory stimulation than most people. They often feel overwhelmed by sensory input and will often try to avoid or limit their exposure to sensations by covering their ears when there are loud noises or avoiding certain textures.

Sensory Under-Responsivity: Individuals with sensory under-responsivity are often quiet withdrawn and difficult to engage. They may fail to register certain sensations or demonstrate no response to sensations others would commonly respond to or engage with. Being under responsive to sensations such as tactile and deep pressure input can lead to poor body awareness which often presents as clumsiness. They may also fail to recognise when objects are too hot or too sharp which can be harmful.

Sensory Craving/Seeking
Sensory seeking individuals constantly crave sensory input. They love being on the move, jumping, crashing and running everywhere they go. They also love touching everything and struggle with the concept of personal space and keeping their hands to themselves.

Postural Disorder
Individuals with postural disorder have difficulty stabilising their bodies during movements or whilst at rest. They struggle to maintain a good standing posture or sitting position which affects their ability to effectively engage in required tasks.

Dyspraxia
Individuals with Dyspraxia have difficulty planning and carrying out motor tasks. They are usually clumsy and lack coordination, demonstrate poor skill level in ball activities and other sports and often struggle with fine motor activities as well.

Sensory Discrimination Disorder
Individuals with Sensory Discrimination Disorder have difficulty distinguishing between specific characteristics and details of different sensory information. They may mix up similar letters or sounds, take longer to determine where a sound is coming from and find it difficult to execute fine and gross motor skills accurately. They also tend to have difficulty recognising how much force is required for particular tasks e.g. how tightly they need to grasp a pencil or how hard they need to press down when writing or the amount of force required to throw a ball a set distance.

So, what strategies can we use to help children deal with their sensory differences?

  • Introducing and sticking to a simple and consistent routine.
  • Using visual cues to set task expectations, to help reinforce routines and to introduce new or changes in tasks.
  • Giving children extra time and support (if available) at school and when completing tasks at home.
  • Using a sensory diet to maintain an appropriate level of stimulation, therefore providing a good level of sensory feedback to the brain and body.
  • Reducing environmental factors in the classroom and at home that contribute to overstimulation.
  • Reading social stories to help a child understand how to follow a routine and how to respond appropriately in everyday situations.
  • Using physical activity to develop strength and coordination, enabling children to participate in a variety of activities which provide good opportunities for social interaction.

Occupational Therapy Helping Children focusses on the treatment of children with sensory processing disorders. If you have any concerns with your child’s sensory processing please contact us to help.

The post What is Sensory Processing Disorder? appeared first on Occupational Therapy Helping Children.

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Occupational Therapy Helping Children by Occupational Therapy Helping Childr.. - 3w ago

The in’s and out’s of study, placement, and juggling life commitments

Written by Merinda Griffith

Occupational Therapy; What is it and what does it involve?

Occupational Therapy (OT) looks at promoting health and well-being by assisting individuals to participate in everyday, meaningful occupations. As a professional, OT involves understanding a range of conditions, or factors, that impact an individuals ability to participate and perform, how to assess those performance abilities and the best interventions to apply for optimum results for the client.

These occupations are considered ‘activities of daily living (ADL)’ and can be broken down into anything from dressing, showering, engaging in sports or leisure activities, returning to work or engagement in the community.

OT is ‘client-centred’ meaning that identifying what is important and meaningful to the individual is essential. Each individual will present differently; their needs and wants will be unique, their capabilities will range and their goals will differ.

One of the most important things to remember as a budding OT is that you will be working as part of a multi-disciplinary team. This means you’ll often be working with other allied health professionals; psychologists, speech pathologists, doctors, nurses etc.

Occupational Therapy is a rewarding and fulfilling profession; you are given opportunity to build rapport with those around you and become a key part of the recovery or development of some amazing individuals.

Where do OT’s work?

Occupational Therapists can be found in private or public sectors; hospitals or private practices. The department of speciality will help to navigate the area that they work. Private practices can include working with children or aged care, whilst a public sector might include rotations through departments of a larger hospital, including acute care or burns.

  • Orthopaedics: After injury, OT’s work to help the individual to regain their energy and capabilities after surgery. The patients with traumatic injuries, upper or lower limb fractures, musculoskeletal and other tissue-related conditions, and people who are undergoing surgeries like a knee replacement, hip replacement, etc. Other basic tasks of the OT include providing mobility supports, such as a wheelchair, day to day activities, and help them to participate in recreational activities.
  • Paediatrics: OT’s help to develop cognitive and adaptive skills in children. Includes developing skills to participate in environments such as at school or home, and also teach appropriate skills to interact with other children. There may also be focus on psychiatric and neurological conditions of the child such as cerebral palsy, autism etc.
  • Geriatrics: Assisting individuals in aged care to regain lost life skills and promote self-reliance leading to an independent life. This can be done through improving motor skills, education, and implementing exercises to aid the process of healing. It may also include dressing, participation in social activities, home management, and falls prevention.
  • Neurology: This looks at conditions such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, or conditions that require special care and support. OT’s here work to prevent deterioration and minimise the effect of the neurological conditions, improving life quality for the individual. Patients may participate in aquatic therapy, be taught visual perception techniques, energy conservation, body mechanics, biofeedback, etc.
  • Mental Health: Providing individuals with skills to accomplish day to day activities like grooming, hygiene, home management, etc. There may also be need to evaluate the environment at home, work, school, and several other settings; looking into stress management or interpersonal skills. Mental Health OT’s may work in correctional facilities, psychosocial clubhouses, homes, senior centres, community mental health centres, after-school programs, homeless and women’s shelters, etc.
  • Acute/Critical Care: Involves patients who are suffering from serious medical conditions e.g., trauma, emphysema, stroke, etc. The OT assesses the threats to the life of the patients and loss of functions if any. The therapist may assist the families and caregivers, taking measures to determine a safe environment and develop plans for recovery pre and post hospitalisation. They also educate patients regarding skills to preserve the integrity of joints and muscles.
  • Hand Therapy: Applying preventative care, non-operative intervention, and post-surgical rehabilitation of the hand or upper limb. May include providing tools such as splints, or techniques for recovery. Management of swelling, pain, wounds, etc is common, as well as education around various exercises and activities to aid healing. Often includes patients with arthritis, carpel tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, etc.
  • Visual: Improving eye-related issues and reduce the level of discomfort caused due to strain in eyes. These OT’s look after the entire visual system of the body, including eyes and brain. The primary goal is to teach skills or methods for patients to use the brain and eyes effectively to comprehend the information and form appropriate reactions. This could include areas such as working alongside Guide Dogs Australia.
  • Cardio-respiratory Conditions: Involves making plans to improve the lung function of the patients. They look after the day-to-day activities of the patient and train them so that they can lead a normal life, this may also include training the patient, their caregivers and family members regarding oxygen, and even energy conservation.
  • Ergonomics: Creating or establishing an environment that fits the performance capacity of the worker. The goal here is to prevent work-related injuries. It can include designing a varied environment and suggest appropriate equipment, minimise distractions, office organisation, review office space lighting, etc.
  • Driving Rehabilitation: Looks at helping individuals to remain independent and mobile through driving. This commonly includes working with senior drivers.
  • What is covered in the Occupational Therapy Course?

    Occupational Therapy is a broad and encompassing profession. For that reason, the degree covers a range of different populations, demographics, conditions and concepts.

    The OT course covers frameworks, which act as the foundations and guidelines for therapy, and how to establish achievable goals best suited to the client. You also gain knowledge around appropriate assessment choices and how to apply them, and interventions to meet goals.

    Hang in there though, these are just the foundations and building blocks before the good stuff! OT also covers areas of psychology, mental health, paediatrics, neurology, and plenty more! By the time you finish the course, you will have all the foundations to work in any of the areas mentioned above.

    As well as that, before you’re thrown out into the practicing world, the course also includes placement opportunities which helps to give you that hands on knowledge that concretes all the concepts you learn in class.

    Where and how long are placements?

    University placement helps to give you that hands on knowledge that concretes all the concepts you learn in class. The placements that you take are unbelievably beneficial to helping decide what areas interest you and what you can rule out early on! In the bachelor of OT, you are required to complete 1000 hours of practical, hands-on work.

    These are displayed as placements in day or week blocks, which increase as you move up in the course. In first year, you might start with a single day of observing an OT at work, by third year, 5 week placements and fourth year finishing up with a nine week placement.

    You are also required to complete one rural placement, so be prepared for a touch of travel at some point in your degree.

    Remember to be prepared and have time aside for these placements! They will all help define your skills as an OT, so throw yourself into them and learn as much as you can!

    Remember to get a good sleep at the end too, you’ll need it!

    Can I work and study at the same time?

    Yes! A lot of students do work and study at the same time, even in the full-time course.

    Casual jobs that allow flexibility are the best option when juggling the ever-changing schedules and placement dates.

    It can also help to work in jobs that can link to OT, or that allow you to have an opportunity to see what the OT world is like.

    These jobs could include working at a gym and understanding movements of the body, working in reception at a medical practice, or respite care through sites such as HireUp or Homecare Heros, which can help build an understanding of the needs and life of individuals living with a disability. Any way that you can build up more experience or develop hands-on skills, will be a great foot-up in your learning.

    Where can I find other helpful information?

    Occupational Therapy Australia

    Allied Health Professionals Australia

    Helpful Hints when studying OT!

     

The post Life as an OT student appeared first on Occupational Therapy Helping Children.

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Occupational Therapy Helping Children by Occupational Therapy Helping Childr.. - 1M ago

So you think your child is hypermobile?

Guest blog written by Cathy Molloy, Physiotherapist for Just for Kids Physio

Hypermobility refers to the ability of a joint to move through a greater than normal range of motion.

To understand how this happens let’s start with some simple anatomy…

Our joints are held together by connective tissue – namely the joint capsule and various ligaments. Connective tissue is made up of collagen which is flexible but strong. In some people, the collagen is more stretchy and weaker allowing joints greater range of motion.

Think of gymnasts, ballet dancers, even swimmers – they all probably have some degree of hypermobility. Many children (and adults) will have one or more “double joints”. This is quite common and is considered a normal variant of development. For most children hypermobility affects just the joints.

However, some children have a condition called Joint Hypermobility Syndrome or JHS. In addition to hypermobile joints a child with JHS may also have

  • pain and stiffness in their joints and muscles
  • muscle weakness
  • delay in gross motor skills
  • increased incidence of sprains
  • fatigue more easily than their peers
  • digestive problems like gastro oesophageal reflux and constipation
  • problems with their bowel or bladder
  • anxiet

JHS can run in families and may be part of other disorders. A paediatric physiotherapist will refer a child suspected of having JHS onto a paediatrician who will make a diagnosis and assess the child for involvement of other body systems.
You can see that having a few hypermobile joints on their own is very different to having Joint Hypermobility Syndrome.

What can you do if you think your child has hypermobile joints?

Paediatric physiotherapists often use the Beighton Scale to assess how hypermobile a child is. This is a 9-point scale that exams how hypermobile the fingers, wrist, elbows, knees and back are.

If your child is showing other signs of JHS your physio will refer you onto a paediatrician who specialises in this.

Your physiotherapist may also provide a program that includes the following:

Strengthening to support the joints that are hypermobile. Handwriting can be more challenging if the joints of the fingers and wrist are affected.

Stretching Seems funny right? Why would you want to stretch if the joint is already loose? If a joint is loose it will often ‘flop’ one way. The muscles on one side are stretched (and weak) and the muscles on the other side of the joint become tight (and weak). This often happens around the hip joint. So stretching the right muscles is important.

General exercise for fitness Your physio will work with you on what your child enjoys. Swimming and bike riding are good exercises that don’t impact too much on joints. It is, of course, good for the lungs and heart as well.

Pacing Because the muscles around a joint have to work harder than normal to keep the joint stable, some children will fatigue easily. Gradually building up to exercise is important, allowing your child to have rest periods during the day and not packing too much into the week are some suggestions.

Braces for the older child involved in sport soft braces to protect knees or ankles are sometimes recommended.

Advice on appropriate sports Depending on what joints are affected and how hypermobile they are some contact sports are not recommended.

Physiotherapy can assist in many ways to help a hypermobile child grow strong and healthy with good gross motor skills.


Compiled by Cathy Molloy www.justforkidsphysio.com.au

The post Hypermobility in Children appeared first on Occupational Therapy Helping Children.

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Occupational Therapy Helping Children by Occupational Therapy Helping Childr.. - 1M ago

We’ve all heard the term Asperger Syndrome, but what does it really mean?!

The term was initially derived by Austrian Paediatrician Hans Asperger in the 1940s. To his experience, he recognised people lacked social skills, and had extremely narrow-minded interests. Forwarding 40 years to the 1980’s, British psychiatrist Lorna Wing developed the concept “Asperger Syndrome” which later become listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-4) in 1994, until conclusively in 2013 it became incorporated under the umbrella term, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5 (DSM-5).

Famous people with Asperger Syndrome include Michelangelo, Abraham Lincoln, Robyn Williams & Bill Gates.

Those with Asperger Syndrome see, hear and feel the world differently to individuals around them. Often, they feel that Asperger Syndrome is a fundamental aspect of their identity.

So, you may be wondering now how is it diagnosed?

The characteristics of Asperger syndrome vary from one person to another, though in order to obtain a diagnosis, the individual will usually be assessed as having persistent difficulties with social communication and social interaction with restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviours, activities or interests. These behaviours, in particular, may limit and impair their everyday functioning.

So, let’s dive into the topic a little deeper. What are the characteristics that present in a typical individual with Asperger Syndrome?

The characteristics of Asperger syndrome vary from one person to another, though in order to obtain a diagnosis, the individual will usually be assessed as having persistent difficulties with social communication and social interaction with restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviours, activities or interests. These behaviours, in particular, may limit and impair their everyday functioning.

So, let’s dive into the topic a little deeper. What are the characteristics that present in a typical individual with Asperger Syndrome?

SOCIAL COMMUNICATION

Individuals with Asperger Syndrome, have difficulties with interpreting both verbal and non-verbal language, such as facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice. Many have a very literal understanding of language and tend to assume people mean exactly what they say. They may also experience difficulty in interpreting jokes and sarcasm, vagueness and abstract concepts.

Individuals with Asperger Syndrome usually have good language skills, though will still present with difficulties in understanding the expectations of others within conversations, for example repeating what the other person is saying or talking extensively about their own interests.

SOCIAL INTERACTION

Those with Asperger Syndrome often have difficulty ‘reading’ interactions with others and recognising or understanding the feelings or intentions of individuals. At times, it is also difficult to express their own emotions, making it difficult for them to navigate the social world and create friendships. They may present to be:

  • Insensitive towards others,
  • Seek a time out when overwhelmed,
  • Refuse comfort from those around them, and
  • Appear to behave ‘strangely’ or in a way thought to be socially unexpected.

REPETITIVE BEHAVIOUR AND ROUTINES

The world can often be unpredictable and inconsistent, thus for people with Asperger Syndrome, who prefer to have a routine and predictability, it can be a difficult environment to adjust too. Here, the typical behaviours that may be presented in such situations could be anxiety, over-reactivity to situations and meltdowns.

The use of rules is also a very important concept. It may be difficult for someone to take a different approach to something once they have been taught the ‘right’ way to do it. They may not be comfortable with the idea of change but will be able to do so if taught how to prepare for changes in advance.

SENSORY SENSITIVITY

Individuals with Asperger Syndrome may also be either over or under-responsive to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light, colours, temperatures or pain. For example, they may find certain background sounds, which other people ignore or block out, unbearably loud or distracting. This can cause anxiety or even physical pain. Or they may be fascinated by lights or spinning objects.

Despite these behaviours, individuals who present with Asperger Syndrome have amazing strengths and talents! They have remarkable focus and persistence, a profound capacity to recognise patterns and intricate attention to detail. These tendencies vary amongst each individual, though many learn to overcome their challenges by building on strengths through an array of therapies. These could include:

  1. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – helps address anxiety and personal challenges.
  2. Social Skills Training – assist with conversational skills and understanding social cues.
  3. Speech Therapy– develop speech and language skills
  4. Occupational Therapy – assist the individual in developing their independence

If you feel like your child might struggle with some of these issues, give us a call to discuss your concerns – 02 9913 2823

The post What does ASPERGER SYNDROME really mean? appeared first on Occupational Therapy Helping Children.

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Occupational Therapy Helping Children by Occupational Therapy Helping Childr.. - 1M ago

‘The Whole-Brain Child’ by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson gives you a deeper understanding of the neuroscience of a child’s brain. The book provides readers with practical strategies that can be used with children of all ages. One of the key strengths of the book is that it shows that a child’s brain is constantly changing and that parents can play a role in ensuring that their children develop emotional intelligence.

‘The Whole-Brain Child’ is very reader-friendly, delving into the neuroscience behind the development of the child’s brain in a very simple and practical way. Throughout the book, the authors’ use real-life experiences to demonstrate how the child’s brain works. They provide strategies to help parents deal with their child’s emotions and ideas to develop their child’s mind.

The brain is very complex and it can be very intimidating to try to understand how it connects to your child’s behaviour. Parenting is challenging, situations arise and parents ask themselves, how do I handle this situation? Parents don’t always get it right, however, this book can help them take steps to nurture a strong and resilient child.

The book starts by explaining the fundamental concepts of a child’s brain, including the left and right side of the brain, as well as the upstairs and downstairs parts of the brain.
The book goes on to explain the differences between the left and right brain; the left side is for logical thinking, while the right side of the brain is where emotions are experienced. The book then goes onto explain, how the left and right side work by themselves and together as a whole.

An understanding of how the sides work together, allows parents to respond to their children in an effective way. The strategy called ‘connect and redirect’ is explained, which teaches parents a great way to respond with their child’s whole brain in mind. For example, when a child is upset, responding in a logical way will hit a brick wall of emotion in the right side brain, which can turn into an even bigger emotional response! By responding to their feelings and right side brain, they start to feel supported and calm down, which helps the left side brain logic to turn back on. Once the logical side has come back on this parents can bring in the logical solutions.

The book explores concepts in a very creative way, explaining how the child’s brain can be seen as a house with an upstairs and downstairs. Downstairs is responsible for the basic functions, including innate reactions and strong emotions, while upstairs is much more complex, responsible for thinking and planning – helping us to control downstairs emotions. In the book, they explain, that the upstairs part of the brain does not fully develop until a person is in their early 20s, which means parents can play a key role in helping it mature. By understanding the upstairs and downstairs parts of the brain, parents will be able to recognize their child’s responses and know which approach to take in the situation.

The book gives parents a range of strategies which deal with a variety of challenges parents face when raising children. These are the 12 strategies that are discussed in the book.

  • Connect and Redirect – When a child is upset:
    – Connect first right brain to right brain. Eg. Empathy, touch, feeling.
    – Redirect with the left brain.  When they are calmer talk to the child about their behaviour.
  • Name It to Tame It – Use left brain story telling to help them understand what is upsetting them and feel more in control.
  • Engage, Don’t Enrage – In high-stress situations: appeal to the upstairs brain. Keep them thinking and listening rather than just reacting.
  • Use It or Lose It – Exercise the upstairs brain. eg. give choices, practice solving problems, practice controlling emotions, consider other’s feelings.
  • Move It or Lose It – When kids are reactive encourage physical activities to shift their emotional state and reconnect with their upstairs brain.
  • Rewind and Remember – After a difficult event, use the remote of the mind to pause, rewind and fast forward to help them process what happened.
  • Remember to Remember – Give kids practice at remembering to help integrate implicit and explicit memories. eg. important and valuable times in their lives.
  • Feelings Come & Go – Let the clouds of emotion roll by. Help children understand that negative feelings are temporary.
  • SIFT – Teach kids to explore sensations, images, feelings, thoughts inside them to help them understand and change their experience.
  • Exercise Mindsight – Give tools and strategies to calm themselves. eg. taking calm breaths, visualising a calm place.
  • Connect Through Conflict – use conflict as an opportunity to teach kids.
  • Enjoy Each Other –Family fun & Enjoyable Rituals creates positive memories.

The strategies provided in The Whole-Brain Child are practical and very informative. They are perfect for parents who struggle to find effective solutions in times of challenging behaviours.

Are you struggling with challenging behaviours?  We are genuinely interested in helping you and your child so please call us on 02 9913 3823 to see how we can assist.

The post Book Review on The Whole-Brain Child appeared first on Occupational Therapy Helping Children.

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1. Initial Phone Call

When you phone an Occupational Therapy practice for children, the person on the end of the line should be engaging and generally interested in how they can best help you and your child. They will take a few personal details and find out why you are looking for Occupational Therapy services for your child. They’ll ask you about what concerns you have and find out any important background information. They will then be able to guide you towards the right type of service for your child. Following that, an appointment will be set up and they will tell you about the price for the session, whether it includes a report, who will be seeing your child and the address of the clinic. Finally, they will tell you that a follow-up email and parent questionnaire will be sent with all the details. You should finish that phone call feeling that you have had great customer service and you have made a positive step forward to help your child.

2. Initial Consultation

When you arrive at the clinic, the Occupational Therapist should introduce themselves to you and your child. They should be able to engage with your child and build rapport so that they are happy to come and play with them. Depending on the nature of the first appointment, the Occupational Therapist may conduct a series of formalised tests. They will make some general observations, play with your child and work on building up their trust. All through this, your child should be happy, engaged and willing to participate. At the end of this first appointment, you should leave with a clear plan in your mind about the outcomes of the session, what the therapy goals are for your child, what the future plans are, and what you need to work on at home. The therapy goals for your child will be set in collaboration with you.

3. Ongoing Therapy

For therapy sessions, the Occupational Therapist will either have you sit in or wait outside the therapy session depending on what best suits your child’s needs and what practice model they work under. If you are sitting in for the sessions, you should be encouraged to participate in the session to help your child have fun and be engaged and to learn how to facilitate similar experiences at home. If you don’t sit in for the session, the Occupational Therapist will catch up with you after the session to tell you about your child’s progress and what has been worked on in the session. Suggestions for activities to work on at home will also be provided.

4. Total Care

A child’s Occupational Therapy session is a small window in their week, so it’s important your child’s Occupational therapist gains a view of what their performance is like across all areas of their life. An important person they should be in contact with is your child’s teacher to see how they are performing at school. The teacher’s feedback provides insight into what skills need to be addressed in therapy sessions, then carried across into the school environment. Your Occupational Therapist may want to do a school visit to meet with the teacher and collaborate about the best way to help your child at school. If your child is receiving services from other health professionals it is important that your child’s Occupational Therapist liaises with them to find out what they should be reinforcing in their therapy sessions. Eg. The Speech Pathologist could tell them how many step instructions they could practise following in a gross motor sequence. If your child is having difficulty with their siblings, the Occupational Therapist may suggest some group sessions with the siblings so they can work on building their social skills and working together as a team.

5. Availability

Whether your child attends OT sessions once a week, or once a month your Occupational Therapist should be available by phone or email between appointments. You may need to contact them about what is happening at school, for help with navigating the NDIS or gaining some advice about therapy equipment for your child.

If you’re looking for Occupational Therapy services for your child, please give us a call on 02 9913 3823.

The post Occupational Therapy – What to Expect from a Kid’s OT Service appeared first on Occupational Therapy Helping Children.

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Occupational Therapy Helping Children by Occupational Therapy Helping Childr.. - 2M ago

Time for an adventure: a new park that is inclusive of all children!

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

This quote from the wonderful world of Dr Seuss sums up how we believe play should be for all children, and of course as a parent you want your child to be able to access this in all aspects of their growing life. After all, play is so important to children’s development that it’s been recognised by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights as a right of every child. Yet there seems to still be a majority of public playgrounds are not inclusive to all, especially for those with disabilities.

With the school holidays coming up, going to the playground will almost certainly be on the agenda, so in this blog we have found a new exciting play space located on Sydney’s Northern Beaches that is designed to encompass the true meaning of inclusion in the community. And what we mean by this is, it’s one thing to provide a liberty swing for children in wheelchairs, but it’s not so inclusive when other kids can’t join in right? Going to the playground should be an experience the whole family can enjoy together, so playgrounds should ideally have play equipment and an environment that use a universal design catering for kids at all levels of development (and is fun!).

So what’s different about these playgrounds?

Five neighbourhood play spaces in Belrose have been transformed into one big, vibrant and inclusive sensory play network that all children can enjoy with their families. The designs rose out of a collaborative partnership with local artists, designers, engineers, early childhood educators, allied health professionals and council staff.
Each location takes inspiration from one of the five senses (sight, sound, touch, smell, movement) and has a character mascot to match. They are all focused on sensory play and are innovative in design. Some even featuring lavender, mint and passionfruit vines for children to explore, pick and crush and a sound area filled with instruments!

What’s so good about this park for my kiddo?

From having visited these parks, one of the best thing about them is that each of the five play spaces target identified developmental needs shared by all children, and they allow kids to make choices and decisions about how they play. For example, there is no expensive structured equipment – rather, children are encouraged to bring along their own fun items and make the play their own. Each child has the opportunity to equally participate and enjoy the cognitive, social and emotional benefits that only play can bring.

While you’re there, try these activities:
    • Bring a bag for your child to collect leaves, and have them scrunch them up and tell you what they smell.. great for their smell and tactile senses!
    • Bring a number of different sized balls to kick around, do canon ball kicks and walk outs to under the new spaces to work on that core strength!
    • Take some your child’s favourite car toys to drive along the slats to work their fine motor skills and encourage playing races with others
    • Bring a saucepan and spoons so you can pick the leaves and flowers from the planter boxes and make a “special concoction” to encourage sharing and imagination
    • Help the plants while strengthening those fine motor muscles by brining little watering spray bottle to water the new plants
    • The Lindrum Street park has a fabulous bike track and now has extra features that will help your child think of new play ideas and test their gross motor skills
    • Explore their creative side with the chalk board, while encouraging writing and crossing midline skills
    • Swing from the ropes installed there to get that proprioceptive input they may be craving!

As you can imagine, the possibilities are endless… the only thing left to do is go for a visit and let you and your child explore!

Where are these playgrounds?

The five inclusive playgrounds in Belrose are all within a short drive of each other:


A great way to spend a day is to visit each one to see how they all link together – think of it as an adventure! You can find out more about the Belrose Inclusive Play Spaces by following the link.

Want more?

Want more information about the benefits of play? Check out one of our previous blog posts on The Importance of Park Play. And if you’re looking for more holiday activity ideas, check out our blog post on Top Summer Fun Activities (which has ideas that can be used year-round).
And if you would like support for your child with additional needs, get in contact with us by calling 9913 3823 or by emailing us at hello@occupationaltherapy.com.au.

The post Sydney’s New Inclusive Play Spaces appeared first on Occupational Therapy Helping Children.

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Moving from the therapy environment to community activities

Occupational Therapy is a client-centred health profession concerned with promoting the health and wellbeing through occupation, so our primary goal as OTs is to enable children to participate in the activities of daily life outside of our sessions. As a result, community-based activities provide a unique setting for kids to practise the skills they are developing through Occupational Therapy.

The founding factor of the term “community” involves the development of relationships, and the idea of individuals coming together to achieve a common goal. Throughout our time as Occupational Therapists, we’ve all become aware of the fantastic community-based activities, which not only benefit kids on the basis of physical exercise and emotional regulation strategies, but rather social inclusion.

What’s better than seeing the happiness on a child’s face when they’re genuinely enjoying an activity, but also gaining so much from it?!

The following is a list of our top four picks for community-based activities outside of the therapy room:

Sense Rugby


Sense Rugby was founded by Paediatric Occupational Therapist, Carlien Parahi and Australian Rugby Sevens Olympian, Jesse Parahi. It is a rugby-based Occupational Therapy programme helping kids who may find it difficult to be part of a sporting team and engage in social interaction. Most of the kids they work with live with various developmental delays and conditions, including:

    • Autism Spectrum Disorder
    • ADHD
    • Down Syndrome
    • Dyspraxia
    • Sensory Processing difficulties
    • Emotional Regulation difficulties
    • Learning difficulties
    • Resistance, avoidance or an issue with confidence
    • Social skills

Sense Rugby have an experienced Paediatric Occupational Therapist who work with trained rugby players to help the kids to achieve success. They utilise the child’s strengths and their motivation to help them to participate whilst us OT’s focus on creating a positive successful social experience for all.

Occupational Therapy Helping Children is excited to be partnering with Wahroonga Rugby Club and offering the Sense Rugby program in Term 2, 2019. Contact us to find out more and register your child on 9913 3823 or hello@occupationaltherapy.com.au.

Yoga

With its rising popularity, yoga is moving beyond the mat and into the therapy setting.
OTs bring a unique perspective to yoga and can guide you child deeper into their practice for emotional regulation and physical wellbeing.

Yoga and Occupational Therapy are complementary in their concepts and methodologies. While yoga has an emphasis on activating the parasympathetic nervous system, Occupational Therapy incorporates goals and objectives toward functional independence. Therefore, both sciences accentuate the use of mind, body, and spirit in daily life in order to function within a new perception and new skills all while being in a calmer and regulated state.

If you’re looking for some yoga poses you can do at home with your kids, read our earlier blog post on Yoga and Occupational Therapy

Gymnastics


Gymnastics is known as one of the most comprehensive lifestyle exercise programs available to children, incorporating strength, flexibility, speed, balance, coordination, and discipline. Whether they are involved in recreational gymnastics or in a competition squad, skills learned in gymnastics can benefit a child’s overall development!

The challenging nature of gymnastics requires commitment and concentration. The structure of gymnastics lessons teaches children how hard work and dedication pays off. It also helps children build a range of motor and coordination skills, and assists in developing a good sense of body awareness. Gymnasts are renowned for their excellent strength-to-weight ratio. Therefore, taking part in gymnastics at a young age can help build the foundations of good all-around muscle strength, endurance, and power.

Martial Arts, Jiu Jitsu & more!


Martial arts, Jiu Jitsu and Taekwondo are all athletic sports that require children to use every part of their bodies. You develop strength, flexibility, agility, and overall cardiovascular fitness. Developing these skills and attributes at an early age is important and will instill habits and an understanding of the importance of fitness. Despite the physical benefits, children learn to be part of a team, and alongside individuals who they’ll bond and grow with.
Most of these sports have a well-defined progression structure for children. They are graded and awarded belts/tips based on the amount of time spent training in conjunction with their skill level. This system teaches children that rewards are earned through effort and investment of time spent on learning.
All these methods incorporate the organised influence of meditation, rhythmic breathing and relaxation that generate skills to help with self-regulation and behavioural control. Children learn to “stop”, “wait”, “think” and then “do”, incorporating mindfulness and assisting in their development of self-control.

If you think your child would benefit from any of these activities and we can provide you with further information about activities in your local area. You can get in contact with us by completing our contact form, calling 02 9913 3823 or emailing us at hello@occupationaltherapy.com.au.

The post Sporting Activities: Our Top OT Recommendations appeared first on Occupational Therapy Helping Children.

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