Encouraging Inclusion

Each child has their own individual strengths and their own individual needs.  Some children will need more support than others in order to  participate in activities at home, school and in the community.  There are many programs throughout the United States offering inclusive opportunities for children with special needs and their “typically developing” peers.

In 2009, the DEC (Division of Early Childhood) and NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) issued a position statement to clearly define inclusion in order for parents and educators to create true inclusive environments.  Their definition states, “early childhood inclusion embodies the values, policies and practices that support the right of every infant and young child and his or her family, regardless of ability, to participate in a broad range of activities and contexts as full members of families, communities and society.”   This means that children with special needs are not merely in the same room as their typical peers, but that they are actively engaged in activities with their peers.

There are many ways parents, teachers and community leaders can encourage inclusion:

  • Create high expectations for every child to reach their full potential at home, in the classroom and in the community.
  • Treat every child as an individual and avoid comparing children based on their diagnosis.
  • Encourage collaboration and communication between parents, teachers, therapists and other medical and community professionals.
  • Provide opportunities for children to learn and grow using a variety of sensory rich and developmentally appropriate materials.
  • Provide accommodations to ensure that every child has access to learning environments.  If supports are needed, such as behavior management strategies, adaptive equipment,  alternative communication devices, etc., ensure that each child has the appropriate support system in place so they can be successful in activities with their peers.

Inclusion is a wonderful way for children to learn, grow and play together.  Creating and maintaining these inclusive programs is important in order to give every child an opportunity to reach their full potential.  After all, isn’t that what all parents, teachers and therapists want for ALL children – with and without special needs?

The Sad Truth: All TV is Bad TV Under Age 3

As parents, caregivers, therapists and teachers, we all want to do what’s best for the kids in our lives.  We want to give them every advantage, every leg up, every boost they need to grow and develop their potential.  So, when the “experts” who make things to educate and entertain our kids come out with a whole new line of products, videos and shows that promise to give our kids that something extra to develop their minds, we’re right there!  We go right out and spend the bucks to insure that our little Einstein won’t be left out.  But some other experts began to wonder… how much did these videos aimed at toddlers, or even infants, help them develop?  What they discovered may surprise you.

A leg up?   The pediatric experts involved in studying the effects of TV on our kids found that, for each half hour on average per day a child under three spent in front of the tube, they were that much more likely to develop ADHD or learning disabilities.  It also didn’t matter what type of TV show, either – Baby Einstein was just as dangerous as Sponge Bob.  The findings point to what exposure to TV does to those rapidly developing brains.  New little brains are forming neurons at an amazing rate, and neurons formed in front of the TV tend to want more flash and dash.  The exposure to rapidly changing images presented by TV without any physical outlet puts the brain out of balance, and it comes to expect that level of stimulation.  I mean, after Danny Phantom, “Goodnight, Moon” just can’t cut it!

Now, we all know that there are times that dinner just has to get on the table, and someone is working late, and the TV is all there is between you and insanity.  An occasional short video for your toddler will not damage her for life.  Chose age appropriate selections that are slow-paced and full of kid-friendly language, characters, and topics.  But if your goal is to maximize her brain’s potential, head to the library or the park, not your dvd collection. Avoid regular TV for your under three, and you will not regret it!

by: Rebecca Thomas, MOT
Occupational Therapist

Encouraging Skills Over the Summer

Everyone needs a break. Taking a break from school, work and therapy can be a good thing.  Time off gives us a chance to recharge and refocus our energy on the work ahead. Summer is a great time to take a short break from school and therapy. As therapists and teachers, we encourage you to take time off and give your child some time away from therapy to be a kid and do some fun summer things – like swimming, camping, visiting family and friends, etc.

After taking a few days or weeks off from school and therapy, you may want to start incorporating therapy skills indirectly to work on carrying skills from one school year to the next. Click here for some ideas for fun activities to encourage your child’s development indirectly over the summer.

Play in the Water  – When the weather turns hot, playing in water is a lot of fun.  Not only does it cool you off, but it encourages sensory exploration, motor skills and language development.  Simply turning on your garden hose can lead to hours of fun throughout the summer!  Don’t forget the sunscreen and remember to watch your child closely when they are playing in and around water.

Sing Songs – While on car trips or camping, encourage your child to request songs to sing. Singing works on the encouraging phonemic awareness (matching sounds to letters) – which is important for reading. It also works on breath support, oral airflow, increasing oral language skills and memory skills.  Studies show that children remember things more when they are taught through rhyme and songs.

Play with Blocks – Playing with blocks of different sizes indirectly works on math and science concepts such as geometry, spatial relations, balance, gravity, stability, etc.  Building with blocks encourages problem solving, classification skills and oral language.   Several games encourage block skills, such as Jenga or Make ‘n Break, or just use your imagination to create an alien city.   Use words to describe location, like “on top” or “next to” and encourage your child to copy your design.

Visit a Library –Reading is a great skill to work on over the summer. Many libraries have summer reading programs and book clubs for kids of all ages. Reading increases the child’s vocabulary and comprehension skills.  Looking at books helps children learn print concepts such as reading books from front to back, left to right, turning pages, etc.

Have an Art Show – Visit an art museum and encourage your child to look at the different paintings and talk about them.  After visiting the museum, purchase some art supplies and encourage your child to create a variety of art pieces and then host your own art show!  Creating the art will work on spatial, visual motor and color concepts.  Organizing the art show will work on increasing your child’s expressive language skills and social interactions.  Make a list of friends and family to invite to the show and send out invitations.  Your child can handwrite the invitations to practice handwriting skills.

Cook Together – Plan a menu with your child’s help.  After making the menu, make a grocery list.  Having your child write the list will work on their handwriting.  Encourage your child to organize the list into categories (fruits, dairy, etc) to work on classifying objects and organizational skills. Go to the grocery store together and help your child find the food items and purchase them.  Visiting the grocery store and buying the ingredients will work on math skills and understanding money.    Once you’re home, cook together to work on measuring, following directions, understanding changes from solids to liquids and sequencing skills.  Cooking can also help the not-so-eager eater become more comfortable with new foods.  Then, you get to enjoy the meal together!

Visit the Zoo – Before visiting the zoo, make a map and plan out which animals you and your child will stop and see.  Planning on what you’re going to do at the zoo will work on organizing, classifying and descriptive concepts.  While at the zoo, encourage your child to read the map and tell you where to go to work on following directions.

Play Outside – With all the technological advancements, children are playing outside less and less.  Playing outside encourages motor skills, balance and coordination.  Visit a park or play games like hide-n-seek, tag, catch, etc.  These games encourage turn-taking, following directions and social interactions.  Introduce your child to a new sport like baseball, basketball or soccer.  These sports encourage cooperation, working on a team, following directions and motor skills.   Even unstructured outdoor play can help increase muscle strength and stability, provide opportunities for sensory input, and increase focus and attention for sit down activities.  If it’s too hot, there are a number of places to play indoors, like Pump It Up or SkyZone.  Remember, theAmericanAcademy of Pediatrics recommends limiting total daily screen time to 2 hours or less, including computer and video games, and none at all for kids under 3.

So, keep it easy, keep it fun, and have a great summer!

From your Brightsong Therapy Team

The Benefits of Developmental Therapy

All children learn at a different rate.  Most children learn by exploring their environment and interacting with others.  Some children may have difficulty exploring and interacting with others due to developmental delays, behavior issues, sensory processing issues, etc.  When a child has difficulty learning new skills, developmental specialists are typically the first therapists the child will work with.

Developmental Therapy is a service providing guided “play” for children.  This “play” therapy is beneficial for children because a variety of developmental skills are targeted.  These skills may include communication, cognitive, gross motor, fine motor, self-help, social interactions, behavior, etc.  Each child will have their own individual goals – which are addressed during everyday activities such as playing, bathing, dressing, eating, classroom routines, etc.

Developmental Therapy is beneficial because it:

1). Provides Individual Services:  Each child is different and develops different strengths and needs.  The developmental specialist will evaluate your child through formal observations, standardized assessments and parent and teacher reports.  Following the assessment, they will create goals for your child based on his or her individual needs.

2). Targets Skills In The Most Natural Environment: The most natural environment is a place where the child is comfortable and the most familiar with.  This may include their home, grandma’s house, daycare or preschool setting.

3). Encourages Social Interactions: Social skills are important in order to interact with and learn from others and the environment.  Many children with developmental delays have difficulty with social interactions. This may result in limited eye contact, difficulty maintaining two-way conversations, difficulty playing with others, etc.  Developmental therapy provides opportunities to address social interactions with others – including the child’s parents, siblings, teachers and peers.

4).  Builds A Foundation For Learning: For younger children, developmental therapy focuses on learning cognitive skills such as colors, shapes, numbers, letters, names of objects and people, etc. through play activities.  These skills are foundational skills which will help your child as they transition from early childhood programs to the elementary school setting.

5). Promotes Play Skills: Play is an important part of childhood. As Lawrence Frank once said, “through play, children learn what none can teach.”  While playing, children are able to practice skills and roles needed for survival, learning and development.  These skills include problem solving, sharing, taking turns, pretend play, etc.  According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, play is one of the most important experiences of childhood and through it, children can develop physically, emotionally, socially and mentally.  Children with developmental delays may have difficulty playing purposefully with their toys.  During developmental therapy sessions, toys may be adapted to help children play.

Developmental therapy addresses several important skills.  If you feel your child may be having difficulty reaching their developmental milestones or interacting with others, please talk to your child’s pediatrician, teacher or therapist.