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Winter Swimming

Winter Swimming

Shake Off Winter Blues in the Pool!

Consider your local pool or aquatic park this winter for all it’s amazing benefits! 

Welcome winter and all it’s fun activities like ice skating, sledding and SWIMMING! The joy of swimming doesn’t have to end when winter begins. Indoor pools are the ultimate good mood booster along with so many other benefits! Open swim, swim lessons, aqua therapy and aquatic parks are amazing ways to get some exercise and a splash of the summer feels during the cold winter months.  

Winter swimming has even more benefits than summer! Here are some cool pool perks!

  • Playing in the water makes us happy! Water is a natural anti-depressent. Prevent “SAD” (seasonal affective disorder), a common syndrome in the winter months. Water submersion stimulates our sensory system, exercise releases endorphins and decreases anxiety. 
  • Master those swim skills! Practicing safety and swimming skills in the winter months will improve skills over the summer.  Motor planning for treading water, breath control, floating and swimming takes practice. Those skills are lost during the winter months and need to be reintroduced for water safety and proficiency. 
  • Create joyful memories! The family that plays together stays together! Exercising with family is not only fun but promotes a healthy lifestyle for your children to follow as they grow older. Promote year long family fitness and a lifelong healthy lifestyle.
  • Water is magic! Water play improves mobility, flexibility, balance, coordination, strength, posture, spatial awareness, endurance, circulation, attention, sensory motor integration and confidence. It decreases pain, muscle spasms, abnormal tone, rigidity, joint compression and stress. 

Concerns of increased illness from winter swimming are common. Check out these pool facts that address common miconceptions of winter swimming. 

  • Only a virus can cause a cold or flu. Viruses are more common in winter months from school and being indoors. Any indoor activity during the winter months increases the chances of catching a virus.   
  • Risk of illness is greatly reduced from a properly maintained pool.
  • Illinois Department of Health enforces rules and regulations for water quality in public pools.
  • Several studies have shown that wet hair along with cold exposure has not been linked to increase illness.  
  • Indoor pool water temperatures must be kept at 77-84 degrees and warm water pools are between 86-92 degrees for safety all year long. 
  • Prevent chills or risk of hypothermia by drying off properly, wearing a hat, and dressing appropriately for the cold weather after a fun winter day at the pool! 

Aqua Therapy is a great way to get started with a life long love of the water in a safe and accepting environment. Ask your pediatric therapist how aqua therapy can benefit your child! https://bdiplayhouse.com/aquatic-therapy/ 

Written By: Dana Bukala, PTA 

 

Preschool: Top 5 Reasons Why Preschool is Important

Questioning whether or not to send your child to preschool? From a therapist perspective, preschool is such an important piece to practicing skills required later down the road. It facilitates structure, independence, social-emotional learning, and the foundation for higher level skills. 

1.  PLAY AT PRESCHOOL

Play is how kids learn! They learn to use their imagination, be creative, socialize with others their age, share, and problem solve when an obstacle arises. It also provides various play experiences through structured and unstructured activities, all of which allow children to build confidence, a sense of self, and critical thinking skills.

2. STRUCTURE

Preschool is where children start to participate in more structured routines like stations, lining up, singing a morning song, or learning the days of the week. Consistent routines are important for understanding expectations, predictability, and at the same time adapt to any changes that may arise. 

3. FOUNDATIONAL SKILLS

Preschool helps you develop: 

      • Fine motor skills (pre-writing strokes, grasp, stringing beads, scissor skills)
      • Visual motor skills (building block structures, coloring)
      • Gross motor skills (catching, jumping, playing on the playground)
      • Communication skills (having conversations with others, identifying colors, asking questions)

4. INDEPENDENCE 

Preschool instills independence and provides an opportunity for children to develop self advocacy skills and personal interests. Within preschool, children start learning how to take responsibility for their actions and provide numerous occasions to complete simple tasks on their own. 

5. SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING

The preschool environment gives children the chance to engage with others, navigate conflict, understand their own emotions, and learn about empathy. Building on these skills at a young age provides children opportunities to grow and reach their full potential and beyond. 

If you find that your child may have trouble in one or more of these areas, reach out to the BDI Playhouse office to schedule a free OT, ST, or PT screen. 

 

Written By: Kiersten Robertson, MOT, OTR/L

 

Reflex

Primitive Reflexes

Primative Reflexes- The Good, The Bad, The Better!

Have you ever tripped and simultaneously reached out your hands to stop the fall? That is your primitive reflexes at work! They are essential as the first line of defense to protect ourselves but they can also be detrimental to our development.

What are primitive reflexes? 

Primitive reflexes are involuntary motor responses present at infancy that facilitate survival. Pediatricians check these reflexes at wellness visits to ensure the nervous system is working properly. It is important that these reflexes are present but it is just as important that these reflexes mature or integrate in early childhood. 

The Good: 

REFLEX

GOOD

Moro Reflex

The startle reflex

A fear response to sudden movements or noise
Hands PullingHead control reflex and the ability to contract our muscles to sit up
Hands SupportingOur falling reflex. Ability to reach out and catch yourself.
Tonic Labyrinthine (TLR)Develops balance and spatial awareness
STNRHead, limbs and balance system connection
Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR):  Differentiates our left and right side.
Spinal GalantConnects the trunk and lower body
AmphibianActivates nerves between both hemispheres of the brain
Babinski:Supports mature walking and balance
BabkinTongue and mouth coordination for eating and speaking
PlantarProtective response to provide stability
PalmarAdvances fine motor movements of fingers.
Landau Promotes ability to control head in tummy time

Why do reflexes need to integrate?

We unconsciously use these reflexes everyday, but what happens when we are unable to consciously control them? That’s what happens when reflexes don’t integrate. It’s like being in a self driving car and not being able to take control of the wheel, which can be very scary. Sometimes our reflexes do not mature because of abnormal movement patterns in utero or infancy, neurological deficits, or just unknown reasons. These primitive neuro connections are powerful and can inhibit our ability to voluntarily control our body and mind if they are retained.

How do reflexes affect development?

A retained reflex can present in strange ways causing possible behavioral, emotional, sensory and physical deficts. Not all reflexes present the same way in every person but they do have common patterns. The infant’s movements work together in sequence during development. If one reflex does not integrate it can cause others to also be retained. It is not uncommon to see two, three, or almost all the reflexes present during a primitive reflex evaluation. The following are common traits you might see if reflexes are retained.   

The Bad- Unintegrated Primative Reflexes

REFLEX

GOOD

BAD

Moro Reflex

The startle reflex

A fear response to sudden movements or noise
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Insecure
  • Sensitive to light
  • Sound and/or touch
  • Emotional
  • Common in toe walkers 
Hands PullingHead control reflex and the ability to contract our muscles to sit up
  • Poor muscle tone
  • Poor hand, eye, and mouth coordination
  • Delayed gross and fine motor movements 
Hands SupportingOur falling reflex. Ability to reach out and catch yourself.
  • Clumsy
  • Poor personal boundaries
  • Aggressive
  • Avoids interactions
  • Difficulty processing information
Tonic Labyrinthine (TLR)Develops balance and spatial awareness
  • Motion sickness
  • Poor sense of time and organizational skills
  • Coordination difficulty
  • Spatial and balance problem
STNRHead, limbs and balance system connection
  • Crawling difficulty
  • Low muscle tone
  • Slumps while seated
  • Difficulty copying tasks
  • Poor attention
  • W sits 
Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR):  Differentiates our left and right side.
  • Challenged with crossing midline
  • Difficulty catching
  • Focus and memory difficulty
  • Auditory challenges
  • Dyslexia
Spinal GalantConnects the trunk and lower body
  • Postural deficits
  • Hip rotation effecting gait
  • Hyperactive
  • Fatigues with cognitive functions
  • Bed wetting
AmphibianActivates nerves between both hemispheres of the brain
  • Rigid movements
  • Limited stride length
  • Poor coordination
  • No rotational movement
  • No hand dominance
Babinski:Supports mature walking and balance
  • Tripping
  • Stabilizes with tongue
  • Oral motor and articulation deficits
  • Flat feet
  • Walks on toes or sides of feet 
BabkinTongue and mouth coordination for eating and speaking
  • Open mouth posture
  • Poor mouth coordination
  • Lacks facial expression
  • Speech delay
  • Sensory chewer 
PlantarProtective response to provide stability
  • Grasping hands
  • Poor running/jumping
  • One sided crawl
  • Standing delay
  • Fight/flight response to loss of balance.
PalmarAdvances fine motor movements of fingers. 
Landau Promotes ability to control head in tummy time
  • Poor posture
  • Clumsy
  • High tone in legs
  • Visual challenges
  • Depression and fears
  • Poor focus and balance

 

The Better: 

It is extremely common to have one or more reflexes present and you might even identify some of these traits in yourself. That does not mean it needs to be treated unless the reflex is so dominant that it interferes with the ability to learn, be safe and thrive. Reflex therapy helps to identify and create an individualized reflex exercise program to promote integration. The brain responds by taking the wheel and improves control over it’s own mind and body. Now that’s better!

 

If you think your child may have primitive reflexes present we can help! Free primitive reflex screenings are available via Zoom or in person at our Orland Park or Naperville/Aurora locations. 

Back to School

Back to School Transition Strategies

Back to School Emotions

August means back to school is right around the corner!  Back to school means transitioning to new schools, new teachers, new peers, new expectations and new routines! Many kids are excited about the anticipation of a new school year, but for many kiddos “new” can be scary and worrisome. 

Children can communicate their emotions through a variety of behaviors. It’s important as parents and caregivers to be aware of these behaviors to help our kiddos manage their emotions and provide opportunity for a successful transition back to school!

The best way to help our kiddos with new tasks is by creating predictability and maintaining consistency in their routines.  This will help ease their worry and fear while building their confidence for success.

 Simple Strategies to Help Back to School Transition: 

Waking and Bedtime Schedule

We all fall into the summer slump of less structure and organization in the routine of our days. Beginning at least a month prior to the first day of school, begin  implementing a waking and bedtime schedule that will mirror your child’s school time routine.

Visual calendar count down

Time is a vague concept for young kids, so counting the “number of sleeps” until school starts is a meaningful way to incorporate how many days until the first day of school.

Social Stories

Read social stories and talk about expectations for the new school year.  Don’t forget to highlight important details that you know they are looking forward to (including a favorite teacher, familiar classmates, exciting activities they are looking forward to that year), but also recognize and discuss novel tasks that may cause stress (such as attending at a new building, bus rides, lunchtime, whatever it may be).

New Peer Playdates

Reach out to local parent/community groups to set-up park meet-ups/ playdates to become familiar with new peers.

Trial Run

Do a trial run before school starts. Drive by your child’s school to create familiarity.  Is there a park accessible to play at? Go play to create positive experiences associated with the school. This will help to see where you might have some bumps getting on the road and need to tweek parts of your morning routine.

Label feelings

Validate their feelings. Use visuals when you can. Provide your child with a ‘toolbox” of calming strategies to attain/maintain a feeling of calmness throughout their day.

Model Confidence

Model your confidence to make them feel confident (even if you have to fake it); kids feed off of our emotions. This includes talk enthusiastically about what a positive experience this will be, avoid lingering at drop-offs and encourage participation in new activities.

Back to School Mantra

Create a mantra to repeat out loud.  “I am safe” is one of my favorites!

List of Resources

Below are a list of resourceful links to provide more information about typical/atypical behaviors, countdown calendars, addressing feelings and visuals for calming strategies:

  1. Managing Behavior Strategies
  2. Social Story
  3. Journals
  4. Emotions for Kids
  5. Back to School Countdown

Don’t forget, what may seem like a minor problem to us as adults, feels like a BIG problem to our kiddos, especially when they are learning to recognize and handle their big emotions.  Make the experience easier for them by  remaining calm if things do not go as planned, or their reactions don’t meet our expectations. Don’t forget to model flexibility to bumps in routines.  Also,  remember that changes don’t happen overnight and give your child time to settle into their new routines! If things don’t get easier and you would like some additional strategies, please schedule a screening with one of our therapists to help find individualized strategies for you and your child.

Written by Jamie Blough

Halloween

Halloween Activity

Happy Halloween month! At BDI, the therapists have been incorporating Halloween vocabulary throughout their sessions!  This simple activity of stickers and real image vocabulary card can be used to target all different areas of communication, fine motor skills, and visual processing.  Targeting holiday specific vocabulary can help your child communicate in their community.  Why?  Because our kiddos are seeing Halloween items everywhere (i.e pumpkins on walks in their neighborhood to spooky spider displays at the grocery store)!   The following are examples of ways to achieve different developmental goals by using the same activity.

Halloween Bingo

Matching

Starting out, simply matching the animated sticker to the real image is a perfect way to help teach reality vs. fantasy and to make sure the child isn’t just memorizing one specific image!

Imitation

The child imitates the vocabulary word and receives the sticker to mark as “complete”.

Independent labeling

The child labels the Halloween card or sticker independently

Receptive identification

If your child is a great talker but needs to work on his/her listening skills, you can ask your child questions!  For example, you can ask your child “where is the cat?” or “which one is round and orange?”.  Columns or rows can be covered to reduce the amount of items he or she is scanning.

Image description

After basic labeling is mastered, you can have your child be more descriptive with their request.  The child can request the “black cat” sticker, “scary spider”, “two bats”, “silly pumpkin” etc.

Simple requesting

“I want + vocabulary word” or “Can I have + vocabulary word”

Complex requesting

“I want the purple hat”; “I want the scary ghost”

Articulation

Try finding all the final /t/ sounds in these fun Halloween words!

Are you looking for more ideas on how to make every day activities a little more festive?  Join our Talk and Groove class to learn about more ways to help your child develop their language and fine motor skills at home!

School set up

Successful Classroom Set-up

Classroom setup is more important than ever. A properly set-up room can increase focus, increase a student’s ability to sit still, and even decrease problem behaviors.

1. Less is best

The first step to a successful classroom is embracing “less is best”.  A crowded classroom can cause over stimulation. This can cause challenges with attention or following directions. When too many visuals are placed on the walls of a classroom, students can become easily distracted. Start by simplifying the classroom. Use uniform colors.  Place limited posters on the wall. If educational posters are a must, it is important to keep those areas defined by placing similar visuals together towards the back of the room.

 

2. Dynamic seating

Noticing students having challenges with sitting still? Alternative seating options provide an opportunity to increase self-regulation, attention, and productivity within the classroom. Offering flexible seating choices, allows teachers to enhance their learning environment while providing control and comfort for students.  Here are a few dynamic seating options:

Besides utilizing dynamic seating options, it is important to make sure their current desk and chair fit. Make sure both feet can touch the ground.  The desk height needs to allow their arms and hands to rest on top. 

 

3. Organization

Another tip is maximizing organization.  Organization is key within a classroom learning environment. Messy desks or a cluttered space  causes difficulty focusing or turning work in on time. Desks should hold limited supplies and should be cleaned out regularly. Color coded folders for certain assignments or subjects can be utilized as a visual to increase task engagement, participation, and attention. Organizing the room in a way where students know where items are, by utilizing labels is a great way to assist with independence in the classroom.

 

4. Lighting

The next step to consider is utilizing natural lighting.  Natural lighting has benefits for attention and task engagement. Bright fluorescent lights can cause distractibility, discomfort, and decreased regulation. If natural lighting is not an option, utilize a cozy shade or fluorescent light filters during classroom set up is a great way to enhance regulation within the learning environment.

 

5. Visual boundaries

Finally, the last recommendation is using visual boundaries within the classroom. Doing so can provide order and success within the learning environment.  They are helpful for students who have difficulty with spatial awareness, eloping, or other difficult behaviors.  Utilizing painters tape on the floor to set the boundaries for a play area or a reading space is a great way to help with task engagement and to decrease roaming around the room during center time. 

If you notice a student or child who still has challenges with attention, self-regulation, or organization within the classroom even after implementing these strategies, BDI Playhouse offers free screenings and can help improve executive functioning skills, task engagement, and participation.

 

 

 Written By: Kiersten Robertson, MOT, OTR/L