Facilitating Toddler Social Interactions

During the toddler and preschool years, there often is a heavy focus on pre-academic skills such as identifying shapes and colors or learning to write their name. While these skills are important, research shows that your child’s social and emotional skills during these young years are actually a better predictor of his/her academic success and beyond. The ability to inhibit impulses and practice empathy not only helps them learn in the classroom, it also helps them navigate adult life as well. The good news is that social skills are teachable at this age just like numbers and letters!

Model the Language

Healthy social skills are taught through providing models and guidance. Telling your child, “It is not okay to take a toy from someone,” lets them know what not to do, but go a step further and provide what you want them to do instead. For example with your toddler, model holding your hand out and asking “My turn?” Remember that it’s okay if the other child does not share with yours right away or vice versa. Waiting for something we want is a lesson worth learning too! You can support those skills by validating their disappointment and offering an alternative. “I know, it is so hard to wait, but I know you can do it. Would you like a book or swings while you wait?”

Provide the Opportunity

Children are hands-on learners and social skills are no different. They need the opportunity to practice skills they are learning and problem solve through tricky situations with other children. Siblings can provide some opportunity for learning these skills, but children can learn so much through same-aged peers who are working on the same skills. An older sibling is more likely to accommodate their actions, while a peer provides the opportunity to attempt to clearly effectively and appropriately communicate your child’s wants and needs. These opportunities include going to the neighborhood playground, attending music/art/tumbling classes, visiting the local children’s museum, and having play dates.

It’s a Process

Just like learning to play an instrument or a new language, it takes time and mistakes will happen. Try to be patient as you find yourself repeating the same words and actions. It’s sinking in! Reinforce their efforts and successes, and try pointing out specifics. Instead of “Good job!” try “You asked for a turn so nicely by saying ‘turn, please’!” or “You did it! You played with the blocks while you waited your turn. Now it’s your turn!”

Questions or concerns?

If you have questions or concerns about facilitating social interactions with your child, please contact us at info@playworkschicago.com or 773-332-9439.

Becky Clark, MS, DT
Developmental Therapist

Reference:Denham, S. A., Bassett, H. H., & Zinsser, K. (2012). Early childhood teachers as socializers of young children’s emotional competence. Early Childhood Education Journal, 40(3), 137-143.

Photo Credit:Three Angels Preschool, Infant Center, Ventura California, School via https://threeangelspreschool.org

The Importance of Promoting Early Literacy Skills

Literacy skills develop from language skills and language skills begin to develop as soon as your child is born. Your baby begins communicating through eye contact, smiling, crying, facial expressions, and gestures and relies on your response with words and attention to lay the foundation for language and literacy development. Your child’s brain develops the most during those early years, and frequent exposure to language and reading will help build your child’s vocabulary, comprehension, story-telling, reading, and writing skills.

Why is Early Literacy Development Important?
Research shows that babies and toddlers who participate in literacy activities with their caregivers are more likely to develop a sustained interest in reading and writing. Developing an interest in reading and writing early on will have a positive impact on your child’s academic readiness.

Literacy, which is the ability to read and write, is comprised of a variety of skills including letter recognition, phonemic awareness, use and understanding of vocabulary, and story comprehension. These skills begin to develop within the first year of life. For example, when your child is six to twelve months old they may begin to grasp books or pat pictures they are interested in. At twelve to twenty-four months your child may begin to turn board book pages, give a book to you to read to them, and point to and name objects in pictures. Between the ages of two and three your child may start to scribble, request the same story over and over, and begin to complete sentences or rhymes in stories that are familiar. As a parent or caregiver, you can provide your child with positive early literacy experiences, which will lay the foundation for language, reading, and writing skills to develop.

Tips For Promoting Early Literacy Skills:
1. Have fun while reading! If your child is engaged and enjoying themselves, they are learning. You can use silly voices and actions while reading your child a story. This will promote positive feelings towards reading for your child.
2. Talk about the pictures. Rather than reading the words on each page, try talking about the pictures. Point to the objects and actions in the pictures as you describe them so that your child will begin to make connections between the words you are saying and what they see. Eventually you can ask them to describe the pictures themselves.
3. Let your child interact with books. Let your child hold the book and turn the pages even if you need to help them do this. Remember that it is okay to skip pages and to talk about pictures rather than read all of the words.
4. Make books and stories a part of your daily routine. Have books in your car, sing songs and nursery rhymes during mealtimes or play, and make time to look at books before naps and bedtime. Provide your child with frequent opportunities to engage with books and story time.

Early Literacy Skills Are Developed Through Early Experiences:
Remember that early language and literacy skills are learned through every day experiences with you and your child. Through playing, talking, singing, and reading together, your child is developing early language and literacy skills. While your baby or toddler may not be ready to read or write yet, exposing your child to frequent opportunities to interact with books and tell stories will help to develop your child’s vocabulary, comprehension, story-telling, reading, and writing skills. Remember, it is never too early instill a love for learning and reading in your child!

Questions or concerns?
If you have questions or concerns about your child’s early literacy skills, please contact us at info@playworkschicago.com or 773-332-9439.

Claire Kakenmaster, MS, CCC-SLP
Speech Language Pathologist

Photo Credit: Child, Fun, Family, Love via Pixabay.com

Developmental Therapy: Destigmatized

What is developmental therapy?

Developmental therapy focuses on your child as a whole. Therapists look at a child globally (i.e. cognition, social-emotional development, speech and language development, fine motor, gross motor, and self-help skills). Developmental therapy typically begins during your child’s most significant time of development, between ages birth to three. During this time, your child is creating the foundation for their developmental track. A developmental therapist will focus their sessions on your family’s needs and your child’s needs.

What does a developmental therapist do?

Developmental therapists (DT) assess a child globally to determine their areas of strength and need. A DT also looks at your child’s home and/or school environments and their daily routine to see how their surroundings attribute to their development. DTs then service your child as needed using a combination of play and parent education. Children use their cognitive processing, memory, and attention span to regulate themselves and to help them understand their environment. DTs provide your child and your family with the tools to help them develop in their natural environment. A DT’s ultimate goal is to empower your family in understanding and navigating their child’s learning process.

What are the benefits to developmental therapy?

Developmental therapists look at how a child is developing in every area of development. Sessions may focus on joint attention, engagement, play skills (functional and symbolic), attention span, following directions, frustration tolerance, cognition, social sills, preschool readiness, etc. DTs can also provide support for your family’s daily routine goals (i.e. sleeping, meal time, going to the park). Your child’s developmental therapy may include a combination of these areas based on your family’s needs.

Common misconceptions:

Although your child may benefit from developmental therapy services as a young child, this does not mean they will always be in a special education program. Many children who benefit from developmental services are provided the tools that will help them succeed when they enter school. Developmental therapists are trained to provide the children and the families that they service with the resources to help children succeed throughout their development.

If your child is demonstrating difficulty in one or more of the areas discussed above, consider contacting one of our developmental therapists.

Questions or concerns?

If you have questions or concerns about your child’s development, please contact us at info@playworkschicago.comor at (773) 332-9439.

Rachel Weiser, MS, DT
Developmental Therapist

Reference: EB Pediatric Resources, Inc. (Chicago, IL). What is Developmental Therapy? Retrieved from: http://pediatricresources.org/developmental.html.

Photo credit: Tanaphong Toochinda via unslaps.com

Why OT?: Destigmatizing the Need for Therapy

“Why was my child recommended for occupational therapy, they don’t have a job!” You might have many questions if your child has completed an occupational therapy evaluation and was recommended to receive occupational therapy services. What does this mean, exactly?

What is occupational therapy?

The term “occupational” does not refer to one’s employment, in this instance. Occupationscan be defined as activities that support the health, well-being, and development of an individual (American Occupational Therapy Association, 2014). An occupational therapist’s job is to increase the engagement and participation in meaningful daily activities that support your child’s learning, growing, and most of all, fun! There are a wide variety of circumstances that may affect your child’s optimal engagement in day-to-day activities at home, at school, or in the community.

How is occupational therapy going to help my child?

The benefit of occupational therapy is that practitioners are equipped for focusing therapy on a widevariety of skills required in your child’s daily life, such as:

  • Fine motor skills
    • Your child uses fine motor skills to write their name on their school work and to tie their shoes before heading out to play!
  • Visual motor skills
    • Your child utilizes visual motor skills when playing catch in the park and to copy written work from the chalkboard in the classroom.
  • Self-help skills
    • Self-help skills help get your child out the door in the morning! Your child needs to eat, get dressed, and use the bathroom to start their day.
  • Gross motor skills
    • Gross motor skills are required to walk to the front door and down the stairs safely to begin your child’s commute to school.
  • Sensory processing and regulation
    • Your child’s body is constantly processing sensory information in their environment to attend to and enjoy their world.
  • Executive functioning skills
    • When recalling the steps of their favorite family board game and following their teacher’s instructions, they are using their executive functioning skills, i.e., working memory, sequencing, and problem solving.
  • Social interaction skills
    • Your child utilizes their social interaction skills to make new friends and keep familiar ones.

What does it mean if my child was recommended occupational therapy?

Receiving a recommendation for therapy can be difficult and may bring about many questions and concerns regarding your child. Common concerns after receiving a recommendation for your child to receive therapy are “Will my child be singled-out from their peers?” or “Will my child always need therapy?”  When your child receives a recommendation for therapy, it does not necessarily mean that there is something wrong. A recommendation for occupational therapy does mean that a trained therapist has noted suspected concerns that warrant further evaluation. As an occupational therapist, many times I am asked, “Do you work with children with disabilities?” and my answer is, “Yes I do, but not exclusively!” Just as pediatric occupational therapists work on a wide variety of skills, we also work with a wide variety within the pediatric population. An occupational therapist will utilize a holistic approach to empower your child and your family so they can live their life to the fullest in their daily routines, school activities, and excitement within the community.

Questions or concerns?

If you have questions or concerns about your child’s engagement in meaningful daily activities, please contact us at info@playworkschicago.com or 773-332-9439.

Reagan Lockwood, MOT, OTR/L
Occupational Therapist

Reference: American Occupational Therapy Association. (2014). Occupational therapy practice framework: Domain & process (3rd ed.). American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 68(Suppl. 1), S1–S48. http://dx.doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2014.682006

Photo Credit: Photo by Thiago Cerqueira on Unsplash

Co-Treatment 101: What is it? And is it right for my child?

Co-treatment, or sometimes referred to as a co-treat, refers to when two different disciplines provide treatment for one child at the same time. For example, the speech-language pathologist and occupational therapist work together to implement both of their goals into one therapy session. Co-treating can be any combination of therapists, including developmental therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech-language pathologists, social workers, nutritionists, or any of the other members on your child’s therapy team.

When it comes to therapy, doesn’t more equal better?

Not necessarily. There is no one-size-fits-all recommendation for therapy frequency and is entirely dependent on the needs of your child. Some children benefit from multiple sessions of the same discipline to provide intense focus on specific goals, while others may benefit from a combined therapeutic approach. When an increase in therapy is recommended, it is best to consider both individual and co-treatment sessions.

What are the benefits of a co-treatment session?

There are many reasons why your team of therapists may recommend a co-treatment for your child. Below are just a few:

  • Co-treatments with OT or PT
    • When sensory regulation support is needed in order to attend to therapy activities
    • Gross motor activities may increase your child’s verbal output
    • Postural support may increase your child’s success in various therapy activities
  • Co-treatments with DT or SW
    • Behavioral strategies may be easier implemented with two trained therapists to support your child’s needs
    • Your child requires additional support to establish early developmental milestones prior to focusing on more complex therapy tasks
  • Co-treatments with SLP
    • When your child demonstrates a receptive language (comprehension) delay and benefits from modified cues for therapy directions
    • Appropriate language models can be implemented into structured tasks to increase verbalizations
  • General benefits
    • Therapists are able to brainstorm new therapeutic strategies and modify approaches in real-timeto see what works best for your child
    • Your child is already receiving multiple therapies per week and may become fatigued with additional sessions

How do I know if a co-treatment session is right for my child?

The first step is to talk to your current team of therapists to review your child’s individual goals. Depending on their needs, you and your team will be able to decide if a co-treatment session would be beneficial for your child. If you do decide upon a co-treatment, discuss the therapy plan prior to implementation to make sure that your child is not being placed under too many demands. A successful co-treatment will use basic principles of resource allocation to guide therapy – basically, your child only has so many resources to spend on one difficult task at a time, so they should not be challenged in both discipline areas during the same task (i.e. working on both speech therapy and occupational therapy goals while playing with one toy). This most likely will be asking too much of your child and will often cause them to be unsuccessful with both goals.

Questions or concerns?

If you have questions or concerns about implementing a co-treatment session for your child, please contact us at info@playworkschicago.com or 773-332-9439.

Autumn Smith, MS, CCC-SLP
Director of Speech-Language Services

Photo Credit:rawpixel.com

The Benefits of Parent Involvement in Early Intervention

What is your role as a parent in your child’s therapy sessions?

As a parent of a child who is receiving Early Intervention services, you may wonder what your role is during your child’s therapy sessions. Will the therapist be working one-on-one with your child? Will you be observing the session? Or will you be actively participating?

Parents are key to the success of therapy, no matter the goals being targeted. As a parent your involvement and insight are essential for your child to make progress towards their developmental goals.  For this reason, it is recommended that parents take an active role in therapy sessions. Your child’s therapist will model and teach you strategies and techniques for achieving your child’s specific goals. These strategies can then be carried over into your child’s daily routines and activities. You will see the best outcomes when the strategies provided during therapy sessions are embedded into your child’s everyday routines, as this will provide your child with frequent and natural learning opportunities to practice the skills introduced.

Benefits of parent involvement:

  • Parents are a child’s first teacher and children will learn the most from the people who know them best!
  • Parents interact with their children everyday and offer frequent learning opportunities for their children.
  • Children generalize learned skills when they are embedded into every day routines, such as mealtime, bath time, bedtime, and play

The impact of ongoing parent involvement

As a parent you will be able to provide your child’s therapist with important information that will help with setting specific goals for therapy and how best to implement strategies for reaching those goals based on your family’s daily routines and activities. You will take an active role throughout the therapy process by reporting changes that you see in your child and subsequently working with your child’s therapist to determine what the next steps will be. As a parent you will be able to take the strategies provided during therapy sessions and incorporate them into your child’s every day activities, which will allow frequent learning opportunities for your child. You are your child’s first and best teacher and your involvement makes all the difference!

If you have any questions or concerns about joining your child’s therapy sessions, talk with your ongoing therapist to discuss a plan for getting involved. For further information on parent involvement, please contact us at info@playworkschicago.comor 773-332-9439.

Claire Kakenmaster, MS, CCC-SLP
Speech Language Pathologist

Photo Credit

Why is Play Important?

Play is a natural and important part of development that begins in early childhood. Children learn to connect with and understand their world through their play. Play contributes to cognitive, social-emotional, motor, and language growth in young children. Children learn through toys and people how to explore, discover, and play.

Sensory Exploration (3 to 6 months): A child explores an object texture by using their senses. They will put an object in their hands, mouth, or visually watching the object as a caregiver is displaying it to them. This is when a child is learning how to comprehend new experiences.

Relational Play (9 to 12 months): This is when a child use two different but related objects. For example, a child will bring a brush to a doll’s head.

Functional Play (12 to 15 months): This is when a child plays with an object according to how it works. For example, cups are for drinking or cars are for pushing.

Symbolic Play (15 to 18 months): A child is using an object for something else. For example, a child may use a block as a phone, or a straw as a toothbrush. A child can also use realistic props such as, pretend food to engage in symbolic play with realistic props.

Imaginative Play (24 to 30 months): This is when a child is starting to process their environment through play. For example, a child may act out a visit to the doctor’s office or pretend to have a birthday party.

The different stages of play help support the meeting of developmental milestones. Encouraging play in your child’s day will allow these play stages to naturally form. Playing and interacting with your child from the beginning of birth will help you encourage these developmental milestones to flourish. In each stage of play, children are learning how to interact with others in their environment. They are learning how to manipulate toys, move around the room to access activities they are interested in, how to problem solve, and how to share their ideas through communication. Play skills develop as a child develops. As a child’s understanding of the world and how it works develops so do their interests in toys and in social interactions with their caregivers and peers.

Rachel Weiser, MS, DT
Developmental Therapist

Resources:

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/119/1/182

http://www.earlychildhoodnews.com/earlychildhood/article_view.aspx?ArticleID=240

https://www.naeyc.org/resources/topics/play

Making Transitions Easier for the Child and Caregiver!

Are you having trouble getting your child to transition between activities, tolerate a diaper change, or simply cooperate in his/her daily routine? Children’s early learning experiences are created through their caregivers, requiring the children to navigate their worlds through imitation and by following their caregivers’ specific directions. Around the age of 15 months old, children attempt self-direction and prefer to exercise independence and control. With that said, children often become more defiant of adult direction and may start to experience more difficulties with transitions. As caregivers, we want to make sure we continue to offer children control in order to help them better adjust to the demands placed on them. Below are some suggestions to use for helping your child in a transition process:

  1. Give your child verbal warnings before moving to another activity (e.g. putting on their shoes)
  • For example, give children a two-minute warning before they need to stop playing and put on their shoes. Even though they won’t understand the concept of two minutes, it will get them used to a verbal warning, which will precede the transition. Caregivers can also then give a second warning of one minute, offering the child a total of two warnings in total before they are required to transition.
  1. Give your child options during the transition.
  • Once you begin the process of putting on their shoes, caregivers can ask the children which pair of shoes they want to wear, ultimately offering two pairs that are acceptable to wear. This not only has the children comply with adult direction but also gives them the control back in choosing the options.

Caregivers can apply these two strategies to every transition! It is normal that children will require some time to adjust to the guidelines but stay consistent and changes will come!

Brittany Hill, MS, MSW, LSW, DT

Story Time with Your Toddler: How to target those early language skills!

There’s no denying the benefit of books and story time, particularly during those early toddler years. As a speech-language pathologist, parents often ask for tips on how to make the most out of books and story time with their littles. Here are my three favorite tips for ensuring that your toddler gets the most out of story time:

  1. Forget about the story!

I know, I know… This sounds a little counterintuitive. But, trust me here! Instead of relying on the text in the story you are reading, place an emphasis on the pictures. Use the pictures to make up your own story. Encourage your toddler to help you identify pictures on each page. By forgetting about the actual storyline, it allows you to change the story every time you read it. This keeps the same book novel and can help to keep your toddler engaged.

  1. Keep it interactive.

Encourage your toddler to participate during every story time! Whether it be by asking your child to identify pictures, label pictures, or tell you what noise a certain animal or object makes, keep your child participating. Try to avoid asking your toddler to identify letters, this is a pre-academic skill that they will target in preschool. Instead, books with a lot repetition are fabulous because they encourage participation and interaction. Fill-in-the-blank activities are a great language strategy when reading books with a lot of repetition (i.e. “Brown bear, brown bear, what do you _____?” – encourage your child to fill-in-the-blank!).

  1. Question a little, not a lot.

On the same token, acknowledge that too many questions during story time could keep your toddler from enjoying the experience. Keep your little one engaged by asking questions, but don’t push too much. Story time should always be an enjoyable activity for both you and your toddler!

Happy reading!

Julie Euyoque MA CCC-SLP

Is My Child Ready for Potty Training?

All parents are looking forward to the day that diapers are no more! You may be ready for your child to be using the toilet, but is he? Here are a few things to keep in mind when asking yourself “Is my child ready to lose the diapers and start using the potty?”

  1. Your child indicates that their diaper is dirty. Whether it is touching/pulling at their diaper or saying “poop!” after a bowel movement, your child needs to be able to show you that they are aware of the uncomfortable feeling “down there”.
  2. Their diaper is dry for longer periods of time (at least two hours) and their bowel movements are predictable. This shows that they are starting to have bladder and bowel control. If your child is dry after a nap, they are demonstrating bladder control during this time (overnight may take a little longer!).
  3. Your child shows an interest in your toileting. Children love imitating adult behavior! Just like playing dress up in your clothes and going to “work” or pretending to talk on the phone, they may show an interest in what you do in the bathroom. Use this to your advantage! Answer questions and allow them to join you in the bathroom.
  4. Your child can follow multistep directions. There are a few steps that go into using the toilet (go to bathroom, pull down pants, sit on potty…). Once your child demonstrates that they can follow a few directions (“pick up your toy, put it in the toy box, close the lid, and come back!”), they may be receptively ready to start potty training.
  5. Your child can pull their pants down and up (it’s ok if they need a little help!) This one is a little more obvious – if they cannot pull their pants down, they will have an accident! While you’ll be there to help at first, the goal is for your child to meet their own needs. But beware – once they figure this out, you may have a little nudist on your hands!

Remember, every child is different! It is a normal process in child development and we all move at our own pace. If you push it and your child is not yet ready, it may backfire and they may fight you on it! Look for their signs that they are ready…not your idea of when they “should” be potty trained!

Kimberly Shlaes, MAT, DT
Director of Developmental Therapy Services