Spring Into Fun!

Spring is a wonderful time of year – a time for growth and a time to start something new.  There are many activities you and your child can enjoy while playing outside together.  These games and activities will encourage their growth and development in a variety of different areas.

Play Games: Teach your child some of the games you played as a child (freeze tag, hide-and-seek, Frisbee, catch, etc). These games will help your child with their motor skills (running, squatting down to hide behind bushes, balance, coordination, etc) and teach them the importance of rules and following directions.

Build a Birdfeeder:  Make a birdfeeder.  This doesn’t have to be complicated, but it can be a great memory maker for you and your child.  After making the birdfeeder, you and your child can enjoy seeing all the birds in your backyard.   This activity will help your child with following directions and sequencing events.  

Fly a Kite:  This simple activity can bring a lot of fun and joy to your child.  Let them pick out their own kite and put it together (with some help if needed).  Go to the park and enjoy the fun you’ll have when the wind picks up the kite.  You’ll child will love it!  Plus, building and flying kites works on following directions, sequencing, fine and gross motor skills!

Host a Garage Sale:  This can be a lot of fun for kids.  Allow them to choose items (toys, games, movies, clothes, etc) they would like to sell at the garage sale.  Older children can help price the items and keep track of the money.  Hosting a garage sale is a great way to work on language skills, counting, handling money and social interactions. Items not bought at the garage sale can be donated to non-profit organizations, schools or other community service organizations to teach your child the joy of giving.

Visit a Local Farmer’s Market:  Shopping at a local farmer’s market is a great way to teach children about healthy foods.  Encourage your child to pick items from the market and then involve them in the menu planning.  Encourage them to taste and try new foods – foods they pick out and help prepare.   Exploring new foods will work on introducing new tastes and textures and encouraging positive interactions with food.  Plus, making a menu and planning the meals works on sequencing, following directions and math skills to measure the necessary ingredients.

Visit a Farm or Zoo: Take some time to plan a day at the farm or zoo.  Your child will love seeing the animals and learning all about them.  A trip to the farm or zoo is a great way to build language and vocabulary skills.

There are a lot of things you can do with your child this spring. The most important thing to remember is that spending quality time with you is fun for your child and helps carry-over a variety of skills into daily activities.  Plus, quality time together makes memories that will last a lifetime!   Have fun!

Down Syndrome Awareness

Down Syndrome Awareness.

Down Syndrome Awareness

March 21, 2012 marks the 7th Anniversary of World Down Syndrome Day.  There are many things you can do to support individuals with Down syndrome in your community and around the world.

Be Respectful
:   Use positive language while talking about those with Down syndrome and others with special needs.  These individuals are children and adults with Down syndrome, not “Down’s kids” or a “Down syndrome child.” Don’t be afraid to share the message with others and encourage them to be respectful as well.  Know the facts while talking about Down syndrome:

  1. Down syndrome is a genetic condition which occurs in 1 of every 691 live births.
  2. Children and adults with Down syndrome have 47 chromosomes instead of 46.
  3. Down syndrome is not related to race, nationality, religion or socioeconomic status.
  4. Children and adults with Down syndrome are more like those without Down syndrome than they are different.

Be Inclusive:    Individuals with Down syndrome do experience developmental delays, but they also have talents and gifts to share with others and should be given every opportunity and encouragement to do so.  Most children attend schools in their neighborhood, some in regular classes and some in special education.  Some adults with Down syndrome attend post-secondary education and volunteer in the community.

Many children and adults with Down syndrome play musical instruments and enjoy drawing and painting. Children and adults with Down syndrome participate on athletic teams, either with the Special Olympics or on integrated teams at school and in the community.  They have close friendships with others and may have boyfriends or girlfriends as well.

Include those with Down syndrome in your lives.  Invite a child with Down syndrome to your child’s birthday party.  Invite a family to church, a ball game or family BBQ. You’ll make great friends and learn that you are more alike than you are different.

Be Supportive:  When you see adults with Down syndrome working in the community, support them and the business they are working for.  Support your local organizations providing services for these families and children.  In Memphis, the Down Syndrome Association of Memphis and the Mid-South (DSAM) provides many workshops for parents and educators throughout the year.  There are many Down syndrome associations across the United States and the world.  Most of these organizations are non-profits and function on private grants and funding.  Offer your support financially or by volunteering at their many events.

Be Involved: Support legislation and organizations to provide accurate information about Down syndrome to others. With the advancements of prenatal testing, expectant mothers are learning whether or not their baby has Down syndrome in the first trimester.  According to recent studies, 92% of women worldwide choose to terminate their pregnancy when they receive a definitive prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome.  Dr. Brian Skotko and his associates have completed several studies about Down syndrome and you can follow his blog to learn more.

One of the most important things to know about Down syndrome is that each child and adult with Down syndrome is an individual – with their own unique personality, hopes, dreams and talents.

There are many different ways you can support children and adults with Down syndrome throughout your community.  To learn more, visit your local Down syndrome association or contact the following agencies:

National Down Syndrome Congress

National Association for Down Syndrome

National Down Syndrome Society

Down Syndrome Association of Memphis and the Mid-South

Hooked on Bob Books® – An App Review


Parents, teachers and therapists need to know about this wonderful app – Bob Books®.  Many of us may be familiar with the original books, but this app for the iPad and iPhone is amazing.  It is very easy to use and it teaches early phonics in a fun and interactive way.

There are 4 levels with 12 story boards in each level.  As you move through the story boards, each story gets a little harder, adding more words to the caption and more words to spell. The pictures start with black and white line drawings.  After the word is spelled, the pictures become colorful and animated.

Level 1:  After you tap the picture, the word is said and then the targeted word appears at the bottom of the screen in gray boxes.  Your child is able to move the letters around and match them to the correct sound.  The letters do not need to be placed in any particular order – just matched together.  Then, the word is sounded out again and the picture becomes animated.


Level 2: Same sequence as above, except the letters must be placed in order from left to right.  If you try to place a letter in the incorrect spot, it will bounce back and then you can try again.

Level 3:  Same sequence as above, except the letters in the gray boxes are gone at the bottom of the page.  New words are also added at this level.

Level 4:  Same sequence as above, except now extra letters appear on the screen that aren’t actually used in the word.  You’ll need to remember how to spell the words correctly.

This app has many benefits from a speech and language perspective.  Not only are children able to work on matching letters, they are also working on sequencing and increasing their pre-literacy skills by learning about the different sounds letters make and how to blend them together to form words. Building these skills early in life creates a firm foundation for reading and spelling skills later.

For more information about Bob Books, please visit their website http://bobbooks.com/

Spread the Word

Spread the Word.

Addressing Tantrums from a Sensory Standpoint

Pretty much all kids tantrum at some point. In fact, we all tantrum – grown ups just usually refrain from lying on the floor. But we’ve all experienced that kid whose tantrums are less predictable, more explosive, and seem to go on forever. Here are a few tips, based both in sensory theory and counseling, that may help with that frequent flyer-off-the-handle.


For some kids, we know exactly what is going to set them off – it’s raining and you can’t go outside, it’s time to share that favorite toy, the word “no” comes out of your mouth… Sometimes preparation can go a long way in heading off that tantrum.   Even though most young kids (and a few adults) have no concept of time, a “5 minute warning” will at least prep them for what is to come. A very effective tool is some kind of timer with a loud ping. Many kids respond much better to an inanimate object telling them to quit, and then you can serve as the comforter instead of the bad guy. Deep pressure is calming, and can be used to help comfort before, during, and after bad news is delivered. Visual schedules can help less favorable events during a school day be less of a surprise.

In the moment:

1)    If possible, label what the child is feeling and why -“you are mad because I made you share that toy”, “you are mad because we can’t go outside”, etc. Use as few and as simple words as possible. DO NOT SAY “BUT”!

2)   If the child doesn’t respond to a calm reflection of their feelings, try again, this time mirroring their intensity – stomp a foot, smack your leg, show some emotion. What they may not get from your words, they may get from your actions and hear more clearly that they are being understood.

3)   Tell them they make sense – period. “It makes sense that you are mad – you really like going outside”, etc.

4)   Provide calming input of some kind – massage their shoulders, give a big, deep hug, rock slowly from side to side (but avoid any contact that may feel like restraint).

5)   Briefly describe what will happen next, or engage in conversation about solution, depending on the age of the child – “Joey is going to play with this toy now, and I’m going to go get you that toy to play with”, or “You really like that toy – it is so cool. Is there another toy here you like, too?”

6)   Repeat as needed, offer timeout location


Make note of what may have contributed to tantrum – who was near, noise level in room, sequence of events – to better prevent the next time. Notice any patterns that emerge – you may find that simple adjustments in schedule or seat arrangement may help. Discuss with parents to see if similar patterns are happening at home and work together on similar approach.


Prepared by Rebecca Thomas, MOT Occupational Therapist
Brightsong, LLC

With information from “The SOS Feeding Approach” by Toomey and Associates and Imago Relationship Therapy by Harville Hendrix