The Global Pandemic of 2020 has left its mark on our lives in a variety of ways. It has changed the way we shop, the way we work, and even the way we learn. The lives of our kiddos have also been changed, especially for our “COVID Babies.” Babies born just before, during, or shortly after the global pandemic do not know anything different than the lives we live now.
So how has this new “normal” affected the way they learn and grow? Has it even affected them at all? Here’s what the latest research shows: “COVID Babies” were less likely to “wave” to greet others, point/use gestures, and say their first words prior to their first birthdays.
So, how can we support these “COVID Babies” and make sure they are on the right track? Meaningful play and reading together can be great ways to work on development. Exposing your child to as many different experiences as possible can create new environments for them to learn. It doesn’t have to be big and expensive. Something as simple as packing a snack and heading to the park can create new and unique learning opportunities for your little one. Click HERE for a list of more ideas.
If you have concerns about your kiddos development, click HERE for a link to our milestones page resources or schedule a free screening with one of our skilled therapists at BDI Playhouse. It’s never too early to make sure your little one has the skills needed to grow!
Do you know what AAC is? It’s all the way someone communicates besides talking. AAC stands for Augmentative and Alternative Communication. Augmentative means to add to someone’s speech. Alternative means to be used instead of verbal speech. AAC is used when individuals have trouble with speech and language skills. AAC can look like an iPad/tablet with an app and a voice or a picture board. Here at BDI, we have many AAC users!
It’s so important to model on your child’s AAC device. This is the best way for them to learn about their device. Modeling requires a communication partner with SLP’s typically begin by modeling core words. Core words refers to words that are in an individual’s vocabulary that make up most of an individual’s daily communication. Core words help AAC users to express their basic wants and needs. Examples include: help, stop, more, want, in, on, up, open
The best way to model is to use the device while you’re talking. For example, you can model “help me” by pressing “HELP” on device (or pointing to HELP on a low tech device) at the same time you say “help me”.
With winter here, here are a few activities that you can do with your child with some tips on how to incorporate AAC!
Supplies: Paper plate, construction paper (black, orange, brown, red, child’s favorite color), scissors, glue, pen/pencil
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.
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.
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.
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 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:
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.
So frequently do I hear “my kid takes a bite to eat then leaves the table” or “my kid can’t sit still throughout his entire meal” creating a lengthy meal time and impacting positive mealtime dynamics. Here’s come tips and tricks for getting your child to sit for longer durations:
LOTS of heavy work right before meal time!
Helps get extra energy out right before having to sit down
Bear walks, wheelbarrow walks, rolling child up in a blanket like a burrito and then unrolling MANY times, frog hops, running and crashing into pillows/ blankets over and over, crawling over pillows/ blankets/ couch cushions thrown unevenly onto floor, inchworms, belly on ball arm walkouts, lifting or pushing heavy baskets
Boundary to maintain near table, even if not sitting.
Try a chair with arms on it
Provide painters tape boundary on floor for child to remain in during meal. Start off bigger and make boundary smaller as the child displays readiness. Be strict on maintaining in boundary area throughout meal.
Can provide sensory movement items in this area.
Thera-band wrapped around chair leg
Child can push legs/feet to fidget on band while sitting
Allow child to stand and eat if that’s what is needed to remain near table
Only use if child has enough core stability and safety awareness
Ensure table height matches with chair height
Better for older children
Stabilize those little feet!
Stabilizing the feet will help to stabilize the core. When our core is not stable, our attention is overall decreased and chewing can become a chore.
Textures or fidgets
Attach velcro textures under table or chairs
Special “meal only” fidgets to play with and only while sitting or standing right at table
List of discussion topics for family to engage in
Talk about feelings throughout day, favorite/ worst moments
Distraction is a great way to enhance attention
Have child walk around with weighted backpack for up to x20 minutes prior to meal
Can wear while helping set table
See how long the child can tolerate sitting, then lengthen the timer just a bit longer. When sitting for timer duration is easily attainable for child, adjust timer for a slightly longer time frame.
*Strategies may take multiple attempts to see change. Keep trying and be consistent!
*Some strategies may work, and some may not. That is okay! Find what is right for your child.
If your child is having trouble sitting still during mealtimes, during free time playing at home, in the school setting, and overall seeking extra movement from same aged peers or siblings don’t hesitate to give us a call. BDI Playhouse Children’s Therapy offers free screenings and consultations through Telehealth or at one of our child-friendly therapy gyms in Orland Park and Aurora, IL.
Movement and sensory experiences allow us to grow as an individual through problem solving, body awareness and creativity. Here are some great activities to get your child moving and ways to stay creative while the colder weather moves in!
Movement: Movement activities allow your child to get their energy out and move in a new way.
Make your own obstacle course
Find supplies around the house! Use pillows, chairs, a tunnel, baskets, blankets, painters tape, etc.
Add in some moves! Animal walks, hopping, walking backwards, jumping jacks, cross crawls, etc.
Use some painters tape and make a variety of paths on the floor (zig zag, straight line, boxes, etc.)
Then have your child walk the path without losing their balance. OR have them push a toy car along the “road.”
Blow up some balloons and let your child have fun!
Play keep it up, tap it back and forth, or even kick it!
Hide and seek
Hide a certain amount of objects around the house- this can be toys, pictures with different symbols, a deck of cards, etc.
Have your child scan the room to find the missing items!
Sensory Play: Sensory activities are also great for exploring new textures and being creative!
Place shaving cream on a cookie tray with cars, legos, or any toy! And enjoy!
If your child has difficulty completing any of these gross motor tasks or tolerating any of these sensory related activities, schedule a free screen with BDI Playhouse Children’s Therapy through the office or the website at https://bdiplayhouse.com/free-screenings/.
The path to reading for some children is not often an easy one. It is assumed that children will begin to read and spell naturally. However, some children may persistently struggle with learning the process of how to read fluently.
Children who demonstrate challenges early on with word recognition, poor spelling, weakened decoding skills, and difficulty with their handwriting may continue to present with deficits within the areas of listening, reading, writing, and speaking, if intervention is not received.
There are numerous reading programs geared toward helping emergent readers as well as older children who are struggling using a more traditional approach to reading. The Orton-Gillingham Approach was established to help provide a more systematic approach to reading, specifically for children with dyslexia. Research has shown that children without specific learning disabilities could also benefit from this approach in order to help them overcome their specific challenges.
What is the Orton-Gillingham Approach?
The Orton-Gillingham Approach focuses on the five critical areas of reading:
The approach implements a multi-sensory approach by integrating the visual, auditory, and kinesthetic pathways to more efficiently teach children the rules and sequence of reading.
The Orton-Gillingham approach to reading follows a specific format to help teach these language skills and patterns in a systematic way. Orton-Gillingham begins with teaching the individual sounds. Then it focuses on building words. By doing so, the child visually sees the letters, hears the sounds, then writes the letters. Thereby, using a multisensory technique that includes these three sensory pathways. This is referred to as the “language triangle”.
The specific lessons are flexible based upon the child’s level of functioning. They continue to build from simple to complex, as the children are taught the specific rules of language, such as spelling and decoding certain patterns in text. This ultimately helps to build upon their mastery. It leads to automaticity when reading, since there is a continual review of previously learned material during the sessions. The children cannot progress to the next level until they master certain lessons and drills.
Early Indicators of Reading Difficulties
Teachers and parents will often recognize challenges with pre-reading skills in kindergarten, though some children may not demonstrate weaknesses with reading until after the second grade. Some early indicators of reading difficulties may include:
Family history of dyslexia or reading difficulty
Weakened phonemic awareness skills
Decreased skill blending sounds and reduced comprehension of rhymes
Decreased processing speed when verbally responding
Inconsistent memory and recall
Poor executive functioning skills
Weak handwriting skills
Reduced auditory and/or reading comprehension
Later Indicators of Reading Difficulties
Older children may present with language processing difficulties, as well as persistent challenges regarding their reading fluency, comprehension, handwriting, grammar, and spelling. Additionally, these children may have progressed with reading but continue to demonstrate deficits with clearly expressing their thoughts and ideas, therefore writing, vocabulary, and conversational skills may continue to be weak even years after they have acquired adequate reading skills.
Therefore, a more customized approach is warranted for these children to help them better succeed using strategies that will compliment the specific way they learn. By implementing the specific strategies using the Orton-Gillingham approach, children will continue to build upon their confidence and interest in reading by providing them with the skills they need in order to become more successful and proficient readers. Does your child struggle? Schedule a free screening with our Orton-Gillingham trained SLP.
It’s getting chilly out there! Are you wondering how to keep your baby warm and safe while sleeping? Here is a quick guide on how to keep your baby safe while sleeping in warm and cold weather!
4 simple steps
1. Place your baby on their BACK during naps and at night.
2. Use a firm mattress in a safety approved crib.
3. No bedding, pillows, bumpers, toys, and stuffed animals in the crib.
4. Baby can share your room but NOT your bed.
These simple steps are recommended for any season and time of the year by the CDC and National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
Always remember! BACK to sleep & TUMMY to play! Click here for more information about the importance of Tummy Time!
Can my baby sleep in a swing or car seat?
Consumer Reports states, “car seats are safe for travel, not prolonged sleep. Parents and caregivers should feel confident that using an infant car seat is essential in a car, but a baby shouldn’t be left unattended in a car seat, it shouldn’t be your baby’s primary sleep space.”
If your baby falls asleep in their car seat, swing, bouncer or any other place that is not a flat firm surface, it is recommended to gently remove your baby from the “container” and place them in a safe sleep space. This allows your baby to move naturally which is essential to typical development. “Container” sleeping is not only unsafe for prolonged sleeping but linked to primitive reflex integration deficits, torticollis, visual deficits, plagiocephaly, toe walking, and delayed milestones.
Is my baby warm enough?
To determine if your baby is too warm or cold, feel their chest or back of their neck. They should be warm, not hot, clammy or sweaty. Babies have poor circulation so hands, feet, cheeks, and ears can be cool to the touch during sleep and does not necessarily mean they need more layers. The ideal temperature for a baby’s room to sleep in is between 68-72F (20-22C).
Can my baby wear a hat, socks or mittens?
No, it is not recommended for baby to have any clothing that can come loose to avoid suffocation. Hats are not necessary if baby is dressed appropriately for temperature. Mittens should be avoided as babies use their touch to learn and self soothe. You can clip or file nails often to avoid scratches. Footy PJ’s are a great alternative to keeping baby toes warm.
Can my baby have a blanket?
No. To reduce risk of suffocation avoid using blankets or ANY soft items in the crib. Instead use a sleepsack which is a blanket that baby wears. Be sure to look at the TOG rating of the garment to assess which sleepsack should be used depending on the room temperature. Remember to dress baby for the room temperature and not the temperature outside. It is suggested that you get a room thermometer because baby monitor temperatures can be inconsistent. What is a TOG rating? Thermal Overall Grade (TOG) is a standardized unit of measurement that calculates the thermal insulation of warmth of a textile. Keep in mind every baby is different and always check your baby for warmth with touch as described above. This chart is a general reference of how to dress baby with a sleepsack depending on the temperature.
According to the CDC, In 2019, there were approximately 1,250 deaths due to SIDS, approximately 1,180 deaths due to unknown causes, and approximately 960 deaths due to accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed. Take these simple steps are the best known ways to reduce the risk of SIDS and allow baby to sleep safely and comfortably. If you are concerned about your baby’s sleep, tummy time, feeding or any other infant development reach out to your pediatrician and your local pediatric therapists. Have questions? Schedule an appointment with a pediatric therapist for a free infant screening at BDI playhouse!
Potty accidents aren’t fun for anyone. It can impact a child’s relationships with their family and friends. Here are 5 common reasons children have accidents
Chronic constipation is the main cause of pee and poop accidents in children that have been potty trained. This is a great handout to see if your child has any of the main signs of constipation. Did you know that pooping every day doesn’t mean they aren’t constipated? “The Poo in You” is a video with a great explanation of what happens inside the body.
Lack of Awareness
Many kids may not have any idea that they have to go. They may not realize that they have to use the bathroom until it’s too late, or until they’ve already gone. Knowing what is happening inside the body can be a hard concept for kids with difficulty with sensory awareness.
Poor Potty Posture
Poor potty posture makes it hard to clear out the bladder and bowels. The Squatty Potty or other step stool helps support the feet which lets the pelvic floor muscles relax. Therapists can also help with postural awareness and strength to help with the proper potty posture for successful toileting.
The bathroom can be a scary place for kids! Sitting with dangling feet, the noise, and the smell can all make kids avoid the potty. Many children avoid public bathrooms because of these fears.
There could be a medical reason your child is having accidents. If you have concerns about your child’s accidents talk to your pediatrician. They can help decide if a referral to gastroenterology or urology is needed.
Who can help my child?
If you think your child might have constipation or is struggling with accidents, please reach out for a free screening! Sometimes, you may need the help of a physical, speech, or occupational therapist to help identify the reasons for your child’s accidents and/or constipation.
Therapists trained in pediatric incontinence can provide treatment with:
W Sitting. Why do children W sit? Simply, because it’s easy! Kids like W sitting because it creates a large base of support like a pyramid.
Why do we want to correct the W sitting?
W sitting allows kids to sit and play by using very little core muscles.
It prevents trunk rotation. Trunk rotation strengthens the muscles necessary for typical movement.
This posture discourages the use of midline hand crossing with play. Movements that cross our midline improves communication with both sides of the brain and eventually help develop a dominant hand.
If your child has a diagnosis that causes high or low tone it is important to discourage W sitting to improve their postural control and prevent muscle inbalances.
5 alternative ways to sit on the floor!
Criss Cross. Sometimes referred to criss cross applesauce. While W sitting discourages trunk rotation and midline crossing, criss cross legs do just the opposite! The legs are crossed through midline and does not restrict trunk rotation.
Side Sitting. Encourage side sitting on both the left and right side to stretch and strengthen their core muscles.
Kneeling and Tall kneeling. Children who kneel will also move in and out of tall kneeling or standing on their knees. Try putting legos on the floor next to a coffee table to encourage kneeling to tall kneeling to improve leg, hip and core strength!
Tummy Time. Tummy time is not just for infants. We should always encourage our kids and to get back to our bellies to improve our back strength and head posture.
Sitting in a variety of positions is helpful to strengthen different muscles that support our child’s whole body. Poor posture can limit our child’s attention, dexterity, vision, digestion, participation, and so much more! So fix those legs!
If you notice your child is resistant to moving out of W sitting or has other postural deficits that you are concerned about, BDI Playhouse offers free screenings https://bdiplayhouse.com/physical-therapy/ and we can help with strategies for core strength, postural alignment and trunk stability.
Does your child struggle to play simple games, take turns, or is a sore loser? I often work with children who hate losing games or do not have the attention to wait for their turn. This blog will highlight some strategies I use to help children learn to play a board game with the whole family. I’ll break down the steps in how to take turns, select an appropriate game, and dealing with sore losers.
The first skill that is important for any type of game is taking turns. While some kids might have the patience to wait their turn, others may think it is life-shattering to watch their sibling move a game piece. Here are some ideas you can use to help your child understand to wait their turn:
Carpet Squares: have your child sit on something like a piece of carpet, towel, or piece of paper. This is their spot to keep their body for the game.
Sit at the Table: if your child has trouble sitting still on the floor, then move to the table. Have a firm chair that allows their feet to rest on the floor or footrest.
Take a Break: playing a 5-minute game may be too long for your child to handle at first. Simply take play 1 or 2 rounds of turn-taking then take a break! Then go back to the game where you left off or end the game. If your child successfully takes a couple turns without becoming upset or distracted, then you can always end the game.
Use your Words: To help a child understand turn-taking, use your voice to label “my turn” and “your turn”. At the beginning of each turn, the child can say whose turn it is. This will help them understand that there are times when they have to wait.
Change the Rules: Some games involve stealing pieces, losing a turn, or more complex rules. Make the rules easier by eliminating complex rules or make up your own rules to allow for simple turn-taking.
Work in Teams: Use the buddy system to have your child play with an adult or an older sibling who can help them follow the rules.
Selecting a Game
Choose a game appropriate for your child’s physical and cognitive level. If you find that age level games are too difficult, then move to easier games! This is not a one size fits all. First, start with a simple cause and effect game that your child is motivated to play. As you read down the list the games will become harder.
If you are just starting out teaching your child to play a game, choose simple cause and effect games. Cause and effect games offer quick responses to the child’s action and often do not require a lot of skill. There are simple games that involve quick turn-taking and moving pieces.
There are several varieties of card games available that range in difficulty from easy to complex. Card games are a great way to work on matching, fine motor manipulation skills to move the cards, and executive functioning skills to use strategy to win.
One major barrier to family game night is that no one wants to play with a sore loser. We’ve all played a game with a child, or even an adult, who is a sore loser- it’s not fun for anyone! Here are some ideas:
Practice What to Say: Before the game even starts, role-play what everyone would say if they lost or won a game. “Good game!” “Better luck next time!” “Maybe next time I will win!” “That’s ok, I tried my best”. You also need to practice letting your child lose! Do not let them win every game.
Be the Role Model: If you win against a sore loser, so those phrases above that you practiced during the game. Do not have the winner have a big party. The winner can be excited but does not need to be over the top to hurt other’s feelings.
Team Games: Play in teams so a child that has trouble playing a game can win every once in a while.
Stop: If your child is becoming out of hand- stop the game and start later when they are calm.