Interoception: The Eighth Sense

Our sensory system is how we experience the world around us, and when we have difficulty processing one or more of these senses, our daily experiences can be hugely impacted. Children also use their senses to take in the world around them and learn new skills, whether through watching a bubble float by with their eyes, feeling gooey slime squish between their fingers, or tasting that delicious piece of cake with their tongue. While some of the senses are better known, there are others that are “hidden,” but equally as important in your child’s development. Some children have difficulty processing sensory information and producing a response that is appropriate, which can be seen through a variety of challenges in completing important daily activities. Understanding what our senses do for functioning is the first step in improving our ability to process them!

What is interoception?

It is likely that you learned about the “five senses” sometime early in your life: touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing. These senses help you initially interact with the world around you and are important in helping you participate in everyday activities as an infant and young child. As you got older, you may have learned of the next two senses that are not as obvious but still very important to daily functioning: the proprioceptive and vestibular sense. Proprioception is the sense that identifies the position of your body in space with the use of receptors in your joints and muscles, and the vestibular sense helps us with movement, balance, and controlling our posture.

Interoception is the eighth sense we have; it is often called the “hidden sense” because it is not something we can see, but what we feel on the inside of our bodies. Imagine it is 2:00 in the afternoon and you have not eaten since 7:00 in the morning. Your stomach starts to make a growling noise. That is your interoceptive system working to let you know that you are hungry and that your body needs food to maintain a balanced state. When responding appropriately, you would recognize that sound and feeling to mean hunger, and you may go to the kitchen and get a snack.

Our interoceptive sense allows us to feel important body functions like hunger, pain, nausea, itch, needing to use the bathroom, coldness, and even emotional states such as nervousness, fear, or excitement. This sense uses internal signals that tell us how our body is feeling and can give clues to how we can respond to restore balance and find a place of comfort. Our bodies want to feel regulated, and how we get there may be different for everyone.

What does it look like when a child has difficulty with the interoceptive sense?

When the interoceptive sense is not processed appropriately, your child may have difficulty understanding what the signals inside of his/her body are trying to communicate and then will have difficulty responding appropriately to these messages.

Generally, this means challenges with:

  • Bedwetting, constipation, and frequent accidents
  • Identifying appropriate ways to dress for the weather/temperature
  • Not being able to identify hunger, thirst, sickness, pain
  • Self-regulation, self-awareness, and emotional outbursts
  • Having flexible thoughts and behaviors
  • Problem-solving
  • Social skills and participation

Self-regulation, or the ability to monitor and manage your emotions and behaviors, is a vastly important aspect to consider with your child who may be struggling with interoception. For example, your child may not be able to feel or recognize getting angry; that is, a faster heartbeat, the face getting hot, or muscles tensing. Your child will then have difficulty identifying that these feelings mean anger, possibly not even until the emotion has already produced an inappropriate response. Without understanding and being aware of how these body sensations are making us feel, it will be difficult to identify the emotion being experienced and react in a way that is appropriate.

How can occupational therapists address interoception skills in children?

As daily occupations (i.e. using the bathroom, dressing for the weather, interacting with friends) are often affected by our understanding of our internal body sense, occupational therapists have a role in working with children who may have difficulty with the interoceptive sense. Occupational therapists (OTs) at PlayWorks follow guidelines from the Interoception Curriculum, a program designed by Kelly Mahler, a licensed occupational therapist and expert in interoception.

Using a step-by-step framework, OTs work to improve awareness of sensations within the body by introducing body experiments and body checks. These activities seek to improve your child’s understanding of how his/her body feels and can enable him/her to respond appropriately to improve participation in daily activities. Following this curriculum, OTs may also use a visual representation of the body to aid in recognizing and understanding body signs. This can be accomplished by using a visual drawing of a person with different body parts, combined with a list of different sensations or describing words. This will enable your child to practice matching the descriptor words to different body parts to increase understanding and connection of internal body cues and daily activities.

What can I do to support interoception in my child?

While interoception should be addressed in therapy, you can also support these challenges while at home. It will be helpful to start labeling body language as you notice it during different activities. For example, you can say, “I see that your breathing is getting heavy and your face has become a little red. I think you might be feeling angry.” This may help to link specific body language to emotions that they are feeling.

Additionally, you can try out some mindfulness activities, such as meditation, yoga, or reading a book centered around being mindful. While doing so, you can point out or ask how their body is feeling when they are doing these different activities to bring awareness to internal body cues. While this may be a challenging sense to understand for some children, there are many ways we can work with you and your child to increase his/her knowledge and recognition of these cues to improve participation in daily activities!

Questions or concerns?

If you have questions or concerns about your child’s interoceptive sense, please contact us at info@playworkschicago.com or 773-332-9439.

 

Molly Ross

Occupational Therapy Student Intern

 

References:

Interoception: The Eighth Sensory System (2016). Retrieved from https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/b303b5_ab07aaedc04c45b3a96e519fc262ecd1.pdf

Mahler, K., McLaughlin, E., & Anson, D. (2020). Interoception Across Varying Degrees of Mental Wellness. American Journal of Occupational Therapy74(4_Supplement_1), 7411505251p1-7411505251p1. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2020.74S1-PO9513

 

Photo Credit: Ketit Subiyanto via https://www.pexels.com

The FUN in Executive FUNction

Have you ever heard someone say that your brain is not fully developed until age 25? When someone mentions that, it’s usually to explain how teenagers can still make risky decisions, even when they feel like near adults because their “decision making warehouse” in their brain is still making new connections. That’s true! The frontal lobe of your brain is responsible for many of your executive functioning skills! So, what does that have to do with your child? Executive functioning skills that are required for all those complex adult decisions begin with foundational skills that emerge in early childhood that are necessary for your child to pay attention, finish tasks by themselves, and stay in control of their body and reactions. All children need to develop well-rounded executive functioning skills for success in the classroom and at home.

What are executive functioning skills?

Executive functioning refers to a complex collection of skills across areas of neuropsychological development that include how your child’s brain is able to focus on one subject, plan ahead, organize, follow steps in order, follow familiar routines, have self-awareness, hold thoughts in our memory, switch between activities, and control our responses to events. In general, executive functioning skills are responsible for our general external and internal organizational and attentional processing. In general, executive functioning skills help us make a decision or goal, plan how to achieve that goal, carry out the steps in the plan, and check that we were able to do it right.

What does it look like when a child has difficulty with executive functioning skills?

Executive functioning develops typically in children who are participating in learning opportunities with gradually decreased support from an adult, everyday social interactions, games that challenge inhibition or memory, and lots of trial and error with activities. Early signs of difficulty with executive functioning skills may look like any of the following:

  • Having difficulty staying on task and avoiding distractions
  • Becoming easily frustrated, at times resulting in outbursts
  • Needing frequent reminders to slow down with work or think before acting
  • Forgetting directions almost immediately
  • Skipping steps from directions with more than one step
  • Trouble getting started with instructions or finding the materials they need for an activity
  • Disorganized when re-telling a story or event that happened
  • Getting stuck on one idea, or becomes frustrated when having to transition from one activity to another
  • Needing more reminders to complete daily routines than same-aged peers
  • Difficulty adjusting to in the moment changes

What can I do to support my child’s executive functioning?

Infancy:

  • Anticipation games such as peekaboo, “1-2…….3!” with any silly action, and this little piggy
  • Pausing during their favorite familiar fingerplay song for them to fill in the blank with a gesture or word
  • Hiding games with their favorite toys to search beneath a cup or cloth for them

Toddlers:

  • Increasing gross motor challenges such as a one-step obstacle course for them to control their bodies during movement
  • Movement songs and dances that they can follow along with and remember all the steps
  • Exposure to emotion words such as happy, mad, sad, and scared on themselves and on characters in books
  • Completing simple matching puzzles or sorting games

Early Childhood:

  • Have your child “read” a familiar story to you while looking at the pictures
  • Play freeze dance
  • Sing backward counting songs such as the three little ducks and have the child keep track of how many ducks are left
  • Play games where your child has to identify which object is not like the others

School Age:

  • Help follow simple cold meal recipes with a plan ahead of time. Your child can help gather the materials and put them together in the provided order.
  • Play games such as Spot it, Quick Cups, and cooperative board games
  • Play Red Light, Green Light, Musical Chairs, or Simon says to increase the child’s attention and impulse control
  • Play games such as Guess Who, where your child has to keep track of characteristics already said

Executive functioning challenges are common in children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), autism, anxiety disorders, and learning disabilities. However, not all children with difficulties in these areas may have one of those diagnoses. If your child is demonstrating persistent problems with some of the skills above, consider contacting one of our occupational therapists, who can provide your family with helpful tips and tricks to build your child’s executive functioning skills.

Questions or concerns?

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

Caroline Stevens, MS, OTR/L
Occupational Therapist

References:

Center on the Developing Child. (2020). Enhancing and Practicing Executive Function Skills with Children from Infancy to Adolescence. Retrieved November 5, 2020, from https://46y5eh11fhgw3ve3ytpwxt9r-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Enhancing-and-Practicing-Executive-Function-Skills-with-Children-from-Infancy-to-Adolescence-1.pdf

Cramm, H., Krupa, T., Missiuna, C., Lysaght, R., & Parker, K. (2013). Broadening the Occupational Therapy Toolkit: An Executive Functioning Lens for Occupational Therapy With Children and Youth. Retrieved November 06, 2020, from https://ajot.aota.org/article.aspx?articleid=1863088

Photo Credit: Olav Ahrens Rotne via https://unsplash.com

Falling in Love with Fall Sensory Activities!

Photo Credit: Mel Bailey via KneesBees

Fall is a season full of creative activities to do both indoors and outdoors. Use this season to expose your child to creative and different sensory play activities to get their imagination flowing. Sensory exploration can occur through different textures, smells, visual input, and even using something ordinary in a new way.

Paint a pumpkin 

Finger painting a pumpkin exposes your child to a whole new world of painting. From the slippery textures of the paint to the rough texture and ridges of the pumpkin your child will be able to allow their imagination to run wild on this novel canvas!

Photo Credit: Shaunna Evans via Fantastic Fun and Learning

Pumpkin carving

Gooey gooey goodness! Pumpkin carving is a great way to encourage your child to get hands-on with a mixed texture…the gooeyness of the inside of the pumpkin mixed with the firmness of the pumpkin seeds. This activity is a great way to promote your child to engage in more messy play!

Photo Credit: Cat Bowen via Romper

Crunching and jumping in leaves

Crunching in your hand or even stomping with your feet, fall leaves are a great way to engage your child in sensory play using a familiar object. Have your child help in creating a leaf pile to jump into to get their senses ready for the big jump. The crunchier the leaf the better!

Photo Credit: Sarah Clouser via Herviewfromhome

Fall sensory bin

Creating a fall sensory bin is a fun and exciting way to explore the different textures and smells of this season! Have your child help in creating the bin to increase their excitement. This bin can be created using all sorts of textures and everyday items from dried corn, popcorn kernels to pine cones and even cinnamon sticks to get their senses ready for the season.

PlayWorks Therapy

Questions or concerns ?

If you have questions or concerns about your child’s responses to different sensory inputs, please contact us at info@playworkschicago.com or 773-332-9439.

Urooba Khaleelullah, MOT, OTR/L
Occupational Therapist

 

Crossing Midline: What, Why, and How?

What does it mean to “cross midline,” and why is it important?

The ability to cross midline involves moving a body part across the center of the body (midline) to the opposite side in a smooth or fluid manner. This movement is essential for learning to use both sides of the body together. This skill is closely associated with brain development, as the two sides, or hemispheres, of the brain must communicate to coordinate learning and movement. Crossing midline promotes a child’s ability to reach for and explore new toys or objects, learn to creep and crawl, develop patterns for self-feeding, and interact more fully with the environment as infants and toddlers. As children continue to grow, crossing midline becomes an important skill needed for the development of fine and visual motor coordination.

If a child is unable to cross midline, they may tend to use their left hand to complete activities on the left side of the body and their right hand to complete activities on the right side of the body, impeding their ability to develop a preferred or dominant hand. Hand dominance impacts a child’s ability to use tools effectively, including pencils, markers, and scissors, so difficulty crossing midline often affects handwriting, cutting, and other school-related fine motor tasks. A child’s ability to smoothly cross midline with their eyes, arms, and legs also plays a significant role in developing reading skills, eye-hand coordination, gross motor skills, and independence with self-care tasks and impacts overall quality of movement within age-appropriate activities and routines.

Difficulties with crossing midline may be present if your child:

  • Uses their left hand to complete tasks on the left side of the body and their right hand to complete tasks on the right side of the body
  • Switches writing utensils between hands to avoid crossing midline during writing, drawing, or coloring activities
  • Demonstrates difficulty coordinating smooth gross motor movements that involve both sides of the body (for example, skipping, catching/throwing/kicking a ball)
  • Rotates their trunk to retrieve objects during play or seated activities instead of reaching across midline

How can midline crossing and coordination be encouraged at home?

You can support continued development of your child’s ability to smoothly cross midline during a variety of daily activities, using toys and items you likely already have at home:

  • Pour water back and forth between two cups while in the bathtub, ensuring the second cup is positioned on the opposite side of the body as the first cup.
  • Color with crayons or markers, ensuring one hand stabilizes the paper and the other is used to draw or scribble. Larger paper will encourage a greater reach across midline.
  • Dig in the dirt or sand. Have your child sit, kneel, or squat on the ground. Place a bucket on one side of your child and a shovel on the other side. Encourage your child to dig with the shovel and then transfer it to the other side of their body to dump the dirt in the bucket, ensuring they do not switch the shovel to the other hand as they cross midline. This activity can also be modified by using one hand to pick up small stones and placing them in the bucket on the opposite side of the body.
  • Play tennis or baseball, which require the arms to work together to cross midline during each swing. Encourage your child to hold the bat or racquet with both hands and ensure that both arms and hands cross the body during the swing.
  • Play tug-of-war or have a pillow fight. Your child’s arms and hands will naturally move back and forth across midline during each activity while promoting overall strength and coordination.
  • Play with a large car mat, draw roads across a large piece of paper, or use tape to create a figure eight pattern on the floor. Encourage your child to use one hand to push cars along the road or path while their body remains in place.
  • Set up activities to specifically target crossing midline by positioning pieces on one side of your child’s body and positioning the container on the opposite side. Encourage your child to use one hand to retrieve a piece and then place it in the container or on the designated space. This works well when participating in container play, completing shape sorters and puzzles, and placing objects, such as coins into a piggy bank or pompoms into a jar.
  • Play Twister! This game will naturally encourage your child to cross midline with both arms and legs as they match body parts to the colored dots on each turn.
  • Play Simon Says, ensuring that when you are Simon, you direct your child to engage by crossing midline and using both sides of their body to complete each task (for example, “Simon Says, touch your left hand to your right knee” or “Simon Says, skip around the table”).
  • Place stickers on one of your child’s arms or attach clothespins to the clothing on one side of their body and encourage them to use the opposite hand to remove them.

Continued practice with crossing midline will promote overall fine motor, visual motor, and gross motor coordination for improved independence in self-care, recreational, and school-related activities throughout your child’s day.

Questions or concerns?

If you have questions or concerns about your child’s ability to cross midline, please contact us at info@playworkschicago.com or 773-332-9439.

Caitlin Chociej, MS, OTR/L
Occupational Therapist

 

References:

Cermak, S., Quintero, E.J., and Cohen, P.M. (1980). Developmental Age Trends in Crossing the Body Midline in Normal Children. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 34(5), 313-319. https://dx.doi.org/10.5014/ajot.34.5.313

Photo Credit: Pragyan Bezbaruah via Pexels

Teletherapy 101: What to Expect and Common Questions

PlayWorks Therapy Inc. is committed to ensuring your child receives quality services during this time of uncertainty and have transitioned to all online teletherapy sessions. We are looking forward to this virtual experience with you!

What is Teletherapy?

Teletherapy, also referred to as telehealth, is a type of therapy provided by your child’s therapist online through video chat, much like FaceTime, Skype, or Gchat. Although teletherapy is a new offering at PlayWorks Therapy, it is a model of therapy that has been used and researched in the field for several years. PlayWorks Therapy is remaining current with best practice and continuing to provide evidence-based therapy through this mode of therapy.

What can I expect from a Teletherapy appointment?

Depending on the type of therapy your child receives, the structure of the therapy session may differ slightly than the in-person appointments. The session itself may consist of the therapist reviewing goals and techniques with caregivers as well as assisting in choosing appropriate toys, games, and materials to target those goals. The therapist would then provide recommendations for how to use each material, including specific prompts to use throughout the activities. We realize that your child may not be as engaged or motivated to sit in front of a video so we require a parent or caregiver to be present or nearby for the majority of the session.

Will this really be a productive mode of therapy for my child?

Many providers have been using teletherapy as their primary mode of therapy over several years with success. Because the structure may look different than usual the in-person appointments, our expectation of what makes a “productive” or “successful” session may also change. Your child’s goals may shift slightly in this period but just know that every and any interaction your child has with their therapist informs their continued work. With a strong partnership, both the therapist and caregivers can use techniques with the child to reach targeted goals.

Won’t it be awkward that my child and the therapist are in different rooms?

At first, some children do find it slightly awkward or uncomfortable to work with therapists virtually. Below are strategies we recommend trying to increase your child’s comfort level with this new type of appointment:

  • Find a space that works for you and your child. This does not need to be the quietest or cleanest room in your home; however, be mindful of the visual distractions (e.g. toys, games) in the room as this may affect your child’s attention. We recommend that you choose a favorite place or comfortable space you usually spend time in as this may help your child with the transition.
  • Help your child settle in by allowing them to have a favorite toy or other comforting object with them.
  • With supervision, allow your child understand the technology by gently touching the screen and exploring the different functions, provided by the therapist.
  • Check in with others in your home to see if they want to be present or out of view for the session and ultimately let your child know who will be with them.

I’m not great with technology. Will this be challenging to set up?

In most cases, your teletherapy appointment will take place on a website or app platform. Your therapist will communicate with you about your child’s specific platform, and whether or not to download an app, based on what type of therapy they receive. Your therapist will then send you a confirmation email with the link and any other information you will need to access the appointment. It will be as simple as opening your email and selecting the link! You will then be directly connected to your therapist’s video chat.

I am in the appointment, but now I am experiencing a problem with the connection.

Below are technology tips to help you get the most of your therapy sessions:

  • Be sure to switch on audio and video settings at the start of the session.
  • Confirm a plan with your therapist in case the connection is abruptly ended.
  • Check the use of additional devices. Streaming or heavy use on another device at the same time as your session may slow your connection and video quality.
  • Having multiple tabs open on your device may also impact video quality.
  • If possible, try not to sit in front of a bright window or light.
  • Let your therapist know if you cannot see or hear them clearly – we want you to get the most of your session!

Questions or concerns?

If you have questions or concerns about your child’s eligibility for teletherapy, please contact us at info@playworkschicago.com or 773-332-9439.

Amanda Deligiannis, MSW, LSW
Licensed Social Worker

Photo Credit: GSCSNJ via photopin.com

Brush It Off! Brushing Protocol for Sensory Integration

Therapeutic brushing may be recommended for your child due to tactile defensiveness, or difficulty tolerating a variety of textures. However, engaging in a therapeutic brushing protocol may also help to ease sensory-based anxiety, promote falling asleep, increase attention to task, increase coordination, and overall self-regulation.

What is Therapeutic Brushing?

The Wilbarger Deep Pressure and Proprioceptive Technique (DPPT), also known as the Wilbarger Brushing Protocol, is often used by occupational therapists to promote sensory integration. It is typically used with children demonstrating sensory defensiveness, or children who exhibit signs of over-responsiveness in the protective responses of the nervous system. Oftentimes, it is used with children who exhibit tactile defensiveness, or difficulty being touched by people or a variety of textures.

What Does the Protocol Look Like?

DPPT begins with systematic brushing of the body, followed by joint compressions to a child’s arms, legs, hands, feet, and head. Brushing is completed using a soft surgical scrub brush, often called a Therapressure brush. The correct brush is required in this protocol, as it provides a specific type of sensation to the nerve endings in the skin. Firm, even pressure is used to sequentially brush the arms, back, legs, and feet. Areas such as the stomach and chest are always avoided, as they are particularly sensitive. Following brushing, 10 joint compressions are provided to the child’s hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders, hips, knees, ankles, and feet using gentle pressure. This provides the child with deep pressure proprioceptive input which is calming to the nervous system. The protocol is repeated approximately every two hours while the child is awake. DPPT must always be taught by a trained therapist to ensure that it is safe, effective, and beneficial for the child.

What Does Brushing Do for Sensory Integration?

The brushing portion of DPPT stimulates the nerve endings of the skin, generally serving to “wake up” the nervous system. The joint compressions provide the body with deep pressure proprioceptive input, which typically calms nervous system. Performing the two elements of the protocol helps the central nervous system to better utilize information from the nerve endings of the peripheral nervous system more effectively. This can result in increased overall regulation, decreased anxiety to sensory triggers, and improved ability to transition between challenging tasks.

Who Would Benefit from Therapeutic Brushing?

Your child may benefit from DPPT if he or she:

  • Demonstrates difficulty being touched, wearing a variety of clothing, or tolerating a messy play.
  • Becomes reactive with grooming activities, including having his or her hair washed, or fingernails clipped.
  • Demonstrates difficulty maintaining a calm, alert, and organized state.
  • Experiences difficulty calming down and falling asleep at night.
  • Demonstrates difficulty transitioning between activities
  • Appears to have trouble noticing when he or she is hungry or needs to go to the bathroom.

Questions or concerns?

If you think your child could benefit from DPPT, please reach out to your occupational therapist or  us at info@playworkschicago.com or 773-332-9439.

Natalie Machado, MS, OTR/L
Occupational Therapist

References:

OT-Innovations.com. (2018). Therapeutic brushing techniques. Retrieved from https://www.ot-innovations.com/clinical-practice/sensory-modulation/therapeutic-brushing-techniques/.

Keep Calm and Messy Play On!

Ever wonder why most of us have a baby photo with food all over our hands and faces? An important part of processing our world is through touch, even from a young age. Our sense of touch gives us information about our environment and the characteristics of our surroundings. We are able to determine if something is hot, cold, sticky, dry, soft, smooth, and so on! Messy play is a vital part of child development as our touch processing feeds into our skills such as motor planning, body awareness, visual-motor skills, fine motor skills, and more. At the moment with our schools and businesses closed many of us may be stuck indoors as we quarantine at home. While our current focus might be keeping our hands and homes clean, we can find ways to continue promoting our tactile sensory processing and get messy safely!

Our sensory processing abilities determine how we respond to tactile input. Your child may demonstrate sensitivity or avoidance to tactile input, such as withdrawing their hands when they get messy or splaying their fingers outward when they engage with wet textures. Maybe your child craves tactile input and you have a hard time keeping their hands clean or to themselves. Either way, incorporating messy play or multi-sensory experiences into their day can help them learn to process and respond to tactile input in order to better participate in grooming, meal time, bath time, and other daily routines!

Sensory Materials from Home:

You can always try to repurpose materials that you already have in your home to promote messy play. Try filling up a plastic bin at home with any of the following. You can switch out the material weekly to continue providing a range of tactile sensory experiences.

  • Cotton balls or pom poms
  • Feathers
  • Dried foods: pasta, rice, beans, oats, corn, seeds, coffee beans
  • Wet media: shaving cream, frosting, whipped cream
  • Slime, Gak, Flarp
  • Kinetic sand
  • Beach sand
  • Potting soil
  • Beads
  • Small rocks
  • Shredded paper
  • Water with ice cubes
  • Packing peanuts

Messy Play Activities at Home:

  • Have your child help you cook or bake
    • Roll dough, wash vegetables, mix batter
  • Art
    • Finger paint! Paint your child’s hand and make hand prints on paper
    • If your child has a hard time using their fingers use cotton balls, Q-tip, or a paint brush
    • Use halved apples, peppers, or celery to make vegetable stamps with paint
  • Homemade PlayDoh
    • Add essential oils for a multi-sensory experience
  • Hide puzzles or activities inside of a sensory bin
  • Make a mess with shaving cream in the tub during bath time
  • Practice letter formation in wet messy play such as whipped cream
  • Have your child help you garden by planting seeds or flowers in soil
  • Have your child wash their toys in soapy water
  • Hide beads inside of Theraputty or PlayDoh
  • Play barefoot in grass or sand
  • Blow bubbles and encourage your child to pop them with their fingers or toes
  • Make spaghetti or pasta and color with food coloring for edible messy play
  • Make clough dough or moon sand at home
  • Make homemade gak or slime
  • Go on a nature hunt and collect leaves, sticks, rocks for a nature sensory bin

Make messy play part of your child’s daily routine by adding it to their sensory diet activities or designating a day for messy food play at meal time. Increasing your child’s experience with messy play will help them learn how to process and respond to tactile input and tolerate a variety of textures and materials. It can also be a motivating way to engage children when you are stuck indoors.

Questions or concerns?

If you have questions or concerns about your child’s responses to tactile or sensory input, please contact us at info@playworkschicago.com or 773-332-9439.

Robyn Geist, MS, OTR/L
Occupational Therapist

Photo Credit: JBryson via istockphoto.com

Reuse and Recycle for Reclaimed Fun

Bottles, boxes, and bins…oh my! With everyone quarantined at home for COVID-19, recyclable materials are likely piling up! You may be thinking, “what can I do with all these toilet paper rolls?” Here are a few fun ideas using commonly recycled items. These projects will not only keep children entertained, but also target important developmental skills.

 

Toilet Paper Rolls

With all the toilet paper rolls around the house now, try making binoculars with tape, paper, and string. Play I Spy, and find objects of a particular color or shape to target those early categorization skills. You can also create a bowling set for turn-taking and eye-hand coordination. Decorating the tubes in any way will require plenty of precision and coordination as well!

 

Cardboard Boxes

Round up all of those food boxes and make some new puzzles! If you have older children, have them practice their cutting skills by creating the pieces. The thickness of the cardboard requires a greater amount of strength and coordination to cut. Have your little ones complete the puzzles. You can also use these boxes for imaginative play, like this fun car parking garage.

 

Plastic Bottles

The possibilities are endless with plastic bottles. Put raw beans or rice inside of them for homemade maracas, make a science experiment lava lamp, or use them during bath time for pouring and filling. You can also create animals for container play for young ones to practice fine motor skills. Or have your older children get creative for some cute spring planters.

 

Questions?

If you have questions about how to use other materials or how to adapt an activity specifically for your child, please contact us at info@playworkschicago.com or 773-332-9439.

Kristen McManus, MOT, OTR/L
Occupational Therapist

Don’t Overlook Visual Development in Infants

Parents often look forward to important milestones in their child’s development such as their first steps or first word. They work to encourage their baby to crawl, sit up, or roll over. What parents may not realize is that many of the foundational skills needed to reach these milestones are visual in nature. Visual skills are an essential part of an infant’s early development.

Why do visual skills matter?

Visual skills are important for learning in all areas, as babies frequently learn from imitation. Age-appropriate visual abilities are necessary for a child to see parents or siblings doing something and want to try it out for themselves. Visual skills also provide the motivation for motor milestones like walking or crawling. Babies are usually motivated to move by looking at a favorite toy or seeing a parent waiting with outstretched arms. Without being enticed by what they see, infants are less likely to explore their environment and develop important motor and coordination skills as they do.

Visual skills are closely related to motor skills in other ways, as they allow babies to see and discover their own bodies. Babies then use this connection between their eyes and their bodies to do important things like picking up and holding objects, planning movements, and developing body awareness. New movements allow a child to be in different positions, which in turn causes a change in perspective that further develops visual skills and provides new sensory experiences. Visual and motor skills continually build on each other and connect in important ways throughout early development.

Vision also plays an essential role in the development of cognitive and social skills. Concepts like object permanence (understanding that objects are still there even when they can’t be seen) come from being able to look at and play with objects. Social skills begin to develop when a child can see that there is someone who they want to interact with in his or her environment.

How can I support my child’s visual development?

Infants need opportunities to explore the world around them and practice the visual skills they are trying to develop. The chart below outlines the visual milestones that you should see at each age and activities that you can do to encourage visual development.

Questions or concerns?

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

Aubrey Day, Occupational Therapy Student Intern

 

References:

American Academy of Pediatrics. (2009). Babies should sleep on their backs, play on stomachs.

American Optometric Association. (2020a). Infant vision: Birth to 24 months of age.

American Optometric Association. (2020b) Ways to help infant vision development.

Folio, M.R. and Fewell, R.R. (2002). Peabody Motor Development Chart.

The Urban Child Institute. (2012). Seeing the importance of visual development.

 

Photo credit: allaboutvision.com

Employee Spotlight: Caitlin Chociej, MS, OTR/L

What do you love most about working for PlayWorks Therapy?

One of my favorite things about working for PlayWorks Therapy is having the opportunity to work, connect, and collaborate with such a diverse community of clients, families, therapists, and staff. The warm environment created by every individual provides continual support for clinical and personal growth and self-discovery.

What is your favorite children’s book?

I loved Walt Disney’s 101 Dalmatians. To this day, my mom jokes about how I memorized every word after asking to read it for three months straight and insisted excitedly to “look at all the puppies!” as we drove past cow pastures on the way to and from daycare each day.

What do you enjoy most about living in Chicago?

I love how there is always something to do in this city, from trying new restaurants, exploring diverse neighborhoods, and catching an improv or comedy show, to learning about its historical influence, going to a sports game, or walking along the lake. Opportunities are endless!

What is your favorite childhood memory?

My favorite childhood memories are from family vacations to Cape Cod. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins would come together for one week every year, renting the same house on Scusset Beach and spending sunny days swimming in the ocean, searching for sand dollars, playing board games, and eating enough seafood to make our bellies hurt.

Would you rather a mountain or beach vacation?

I’d be equally happy with either! It just depends on whether I’m in the mood for taking in panoramic vistas after a high-energy hike or lounging on the sand with a good book after a day spent swimming and snorkeling.

Share a proud “therapy moment” with one of your clients.

There are so many proud moments that I’ve shared with clients and their families since becoming an OT. One moment that stands out was when a little boy diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder noticed me walk into his classroom, smiled, and ran across the room to give me a hug. It was the first time he initiated eye contact and engagement in almost six months of working together.

What is your hometown?

I grew up in Naples, New York.

What do you like to do in your free time?

My favorite thing to do in my free time is travel, whether a few states away to see family or across the globe to experience new cultures! I also love to read, spend time with friends, and cuddle with my kitten, Penelope.

What is your favorite therapy toy?

My favorite therapy toy is Play-Doh as it encourages imagination and creativity while targeting a variety of developmental skills. Homemade options that modify color, smell, and texture also allow for fun sensory exploration.

Share a fun fact about yourself.

I spent 11 years throughout high school and college participating in a performance-based activity called winterguard. We danced a choreographed routine to music while spinning flags, rifles, and sabres in a different themed show each year.

Caitlin Chociej, MS, OTR/L
Occupational Therapist