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: Ana Burgoon

What do you love most about working for PlayWorks Therapy?

PlayWorks places such an emphasis on caring for the whole child, not just teaching a particular skill, which I have found to be critical in the field of speech and language therapy. Also, you can’t beat working with a team of competent, supportive, and compassionate individuals, such as the team here at PlayWorks.

What is your favorite children’s book?

Miss Spider’s Tea Party, by David Kirk.

What do you enjoy most about living in Chicago?
My favorite thing about Chicago is living close to Lake Michigan. I also love the big buildings, being able to walk so many places, and never running out of things to do.

What is your favorite childhood memory?

I have many favorite memories related to spending time with my grandma and grandpa. One that came to mind involved attempting ballet to the sounds of a wind-up music box in my grandma’s living room. I now have the music box on my dresser and think of those memories affectionately and often. My grandpa did a series of stretches every morning and when he came to visit, I would always do them by his side.

Would you rather a mountain or beach vacation?

I do sincerely enjoy hiking, but I have to go with beach overall. I recently enjoyed a trip to California, where I was lucky enough to do both!

A proud “therapy moment”:

On my third session with a child with autism, they spontaneously gave me the biggest hug! I believe it was because they felt supported and understood that I was going to help them communicate.

What is your hometown?

Grand Rapids, Michigan!

What do you like to do in your free time?
I love exploring Chicago with my husband, heading up to Michigan to spend time with my family, taking pictures, and anything related to being outside (when it is warm enough).

What is your favorite therapy toy?
I always enjoy doing crafts with the kids – glitter pens, stickers, markers. The possibilities are endless. You can scaffold the activities to target a variety of skill levels and treatment objectives.

A fun fact about me:

I am a certified small boat sailor!

 

Ana Thrall Burgoon, M.S., CCC – SLP 

Speech-Language Pathologist

Chill-dren: Calming Strategies For Your Child At Home

Picture this: You’ve had a long day at work, reprimanded by your boss and had a disagreement with that one co-worker who always gets under your skin. All you can think of is how much you want to get home! You already have in mind exactly what will help you let the stress of the day go.

Children and Stress

Although our children do not have bosses or coworkers, they do experience daily stress and share your feelings of wanting time to relax. The only thing is, they often do not know exactly what will help them de-stress and calm down in the moment. You can help your child by having a conversation about quiet activities they enjoy and items or experiences that make them feel better when they are upset. Discussing and practicing their calming strategies while they are feeling happy and relaxed will be important so your child knows how to use them during frustrating moments. Below are ideas to get you and your child started with their own relaxation routine.

Calming Ideas for Children

  1. Calm Down Corner
  • Different from a time-out spot, the calm down corner is a place your child can go when they are feeling overwhelmed or stressed. It can be any spot around the house that they always have access to and can leave set up. Encourage your child to put blankets, pillows, and anything comfortable to cuddle with. Let them know that this is their special spot they can come to whenever they need a break.
  1. Deep Breaths
  • Deep breaths are a great tool for calming because once your child masters them at home, they can use them anywhere! Together with your child, practice taking three to five slow, controlled breaths. You can prompt your child to pretend their body is balloon and to watch their midsection fill up while they inhale, and see it deflate while they exhale. Modeling with your own body is a great way to show them exactly how their air should move and sound when they breathe.
  1. Yoga
  1. Calm down kit
  • The calm down kit is a bucket or bin full of items and pictures that is easily accessible to your child when they are feeling upset. It might include crayons and paper, something to squeeze, play-doh, snacks, bubbles, stickers, a book, and/or a feelings chart. You can also fill it with pictures of any of the ideas above!

What else can I do?

If your child is demonstrating continued difficulty calming themselves at home, consider contacting our office, as our social workers can provide your family with helpful tools and supports to help your child move from angry, sad, and/or scared back to the loving, happy child you know them to be.

Questions or concerns?

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

Amanda Deligiannis, MSW, LSW
Licensed Social Worker
Photo Credit: Photo by Anissa Thompson from FreeImages

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

What’s So Fine About Fine Motor Coordination?

Do you remember back when you first learned to zip up your own jacket? How about tie your shoes? Write your name for the first time? Color carefully to stay inside the lines? You may not have known it then, but as a child you built many of the fine motor coordination skills you still use every day. When you think of “coordination” you might think of playing sports or swimming, and you would be right! However, when we talk about fine motor skills, we also use the word “coordination” to describe how many different muscles in your hands are working together to accomplish the smallest of movements.

Fine motor coordination involves learning many different skills simultaneously in order to have more control and precision over tools or objects in order to be accurate. These skills include having strength in the small muscles within your hand and fingers, developing a good grasp on tools, moving items around your hand without dropping them, and developing precise targeting. As your child practices these skills, he/she will refine these skills to help learn the foundational skills in many different areas of development. In general, large motor skills (stability of the head, core, controlled limb movements), become more consistently accurate before fine motor skills.

What skills should my child have now?

  • Around 12 months: Pulling off socks, starts to finger feed self with small table foods, can use a spoon to dip, grasps objects of different sizes, uses their whole hand to grasp around writing utensils, places and releases small objects down on a flat surface
  • Around 24 months: Pulling off untied shoes, can use a fork to pierce food, and a spoon efficiently to transfer food, shows an interest in scissors but may not be able to open and close them with one hand, may use a pronated (thumb side of hand down) grasp on writing utensils, they are starting to pick up small items and tuck them into their palm, they are starting to place items from the inside of their palm down by passing them to the finger tips, they consistently rotate items 90 degrees using just their finger pads (such as when taking the top off a small twist top jar)
  • Around 36 months: Unbuttoning large buttons on a jacket, pulling on socks with some help, can open and close scissors, and snip through paper, may continue to use a pronated (thumb side of hand down) grasp on writing utensils
  • Around 3rd birthday: Putting shoes with Velcro fasteners, putting on socks, zipping and unzipping a jacket (help putting both sides together at bottom), buttons large buttons on a jacket, starts to use scissors to cut through paper, over the next year practices pushing scissors forward to cut on a line, starts using a three-finger grasp that is looser and their arms and shoulder move lots when coloring
  • Around 4th birthday: Able to put together jackets that have a snap or hook fastener, some snaps on pants, zipping jacket independently, puts on shoes (needs help with tying laces), can put a belt through loops, pushes scissors to cut out simple shapes, over the next year starts cutting curved lines and circles, your child continues to get more efficient and accurate with drawing with their three-finger grasp, they are able to separate two pieces of paper by rubbing their fingers together
  • Around 5th birthday: Can tie knots, improved accuracy with scissors, the child uses a dynamic grasp (three fingers on utensil near the tip, their shoulder/arm are stable, their fingers and wrist are controlling movements, they are more accurate and efficient with this grasp, they can adjust their grasp on a pencil by moving it between their fingers
  • Around 6th birthday: Can tie a bow, independently manage shoes, other clothing fasteners, can cut more complex figures, they can flip a pencil around to reach the eraser without picking up and moving the pencil, they can pick up small items sequentially while holding other small items in their hands

My child isn’t ready to tie their shoes or write yet; why do these skills matter now?

Fine motor coordination skills are built over a long period of time, and gradually get more complex as a child gets older. Foundational skills in this area, such as grasping tools and moving small items from the palm to tips of the fingers, are key for later important skills such as writing, typing, cutting, money management, using utensils to eat, tying shoes, and managing fasteners on clothing. A child may become successful and efficient with navigating these skills as they continue to develop other skills through play and participation in daily routines.

Why do occupational therapists work on these skills?

Occupational therapists focus on these skills because they are a part of our daily living skills, from putting toothpaste on our toothbrush, to getting dressed, to participating in school, and feeding ourselves! Children use their fine motor coordination skills during daily living activities, in education, and in play, all areas which are covered by the domain of occupational therapy! During an occupational therapy evaluation, a therapist would look more in depth at your child’s fine motor coordination skills for their age.

What can I do?

  • Play games while picking up small items with kitchen tongs, chopsticks attached at the top with a rubber band and paper, or a straw bent in half to form tongs
  • Snap/button art boards
  • Puzzles with different snaps, buckles, locks to open
  • Read books with flaps to lift up to reveal pictures below
  • Practice tearing paper with your child, crumpling it up between your fingers, and using it in an art project, such as gluing it onto a snowman outline to make it 3-D.
  • Make a paper cup lantern by pushing a paper clip through the side of the cup and place an LED tea light inside
  • String beads or pasta on spaghetti noodles, string, or pipe cleaners
  • Make PlayDoh with salt, flour, and cream of tartar. Roll it into snakes, small balls, build tiny snowmen
  • Let your child practice opening items in the house for food consumption, such as bags of chips, twist off applesauce pouches/water bottles,
  • Tape small animals to a baking sheet and practice pulling the small pieces of tape off
  • Cut a slot in the top of an oats container. Have your child practice placing popsicle sticks in the slot; recreate this activity with Q-tips and a plastic lid with a straw hole, sort coins into different piggy banks
  • Stretch rubber bands around the outside of a small jar
  • Pull pom poms or other small items out of a kitchen whisk
  • Decorate cookies and allow your child to pick up the small sprinkles and push them into the dough
  • Let your child have as much practice as possible with fasteners (snaps, buttons, zippers, and shoe tying)
  • Cut through different layers/thicknesses of paper (tissue paper, paper, paper plates, cardboard)
  • Increase your child’s opportunities to practice writing outside of school by having the child write the score of a game, write letters to family members, write the list of items needed at the store
  • Use a stylus if your child plays games on a device. There are apps to practice coordination while using a stylus such as: iTrace, LetterSchool, Dexteria Jr, Writing Wizard, Trace it/Try it
  • Paint using the ends of Q-tips to make small dots on paper to draw fireworks
  • When recycling boxes, have your child cut the box instead of breaking it down for extra scissor practice
  • Allow your child to practice peeling fruit, picking the stems off the ends of beans, etc.
  • Hide toys in small jars and bottles, and have the child practice getting them out by twisting open the top

Questions or concerns?

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

Caroline Stevens, MS, OTR/L
Occupational Therapist

References: Fleming-Castaldy, Rita. (2019). National occupational therapy certification exam review and study guide. 8thedition. Therapyed.

Photo Credit: Markus Spiske via unsplash.com

Valentine’s Craft Ideas!

Valentine’s day is approaching, and love is in the air! Here are a few fun craft ideas for you to make with your littles while working on their language development!

Heart Man:

Supplies:

Red paper, white cardboard, black marker, googly eyes, scissors, glue

Instructions:

  1. Cut out one large heart and four small hearts from the red paper.
  2. Fold the white strips of paper like an accordion. Glue two strips for arms and two strips for legs.
  3. Create a face for your heart man! Glue two googly eyes and draw a mouth!

How to target language?

  1. Expressive language: Talk about body parts when making/gluing the eyes, mouth, legs, and arms.
  2. Receptive language: Following multi-step directions (e.g., “First, put on eyes, then draw mouth”).

Valentine Mailbox

Supplies:

Tissue box, wrapping paper, stickers, markers, candy and/or envelopes

Instructions:

  1. Cover the empty tissue box with wrapping paper.
  2. Decorate your tissue box with stickers, markers, pom poms, etc. Get creative!
  3. Deliver candy and/or Valentine’s cards to other mailboxes!

How to target language?

  1. Expressive language: practice “mail”-related vocabulary, such as card, send, mailman, mailbox, write, letter, and stamp
  2. Receptive language: understanding pronouns (e.g., “put the candy in her mailbox” or “put a card in theirmailbox”)
  3. Pragmatic language: role play social exchanges as you deliver letters to loved ones

Friendship Necklaces:

Supplies:

Craft foam, yarn, scissors, hole punch, beads

Instructions:

  1. Cut a small heart out of the craft foam.
  2. Punch a small hole into the top center of the heart.
  3. Thread a 2-3-foot piece of yarn through the hole.
  4. Add the beads of your choice and tie a knot on the top!

How to target language?

  1. Expressive language: using prepositions (e.g., “on the string,” “in the heart”)
  2. Receptive language: following directions to put different beads on the string

Jill Teitelbaum, MS, CCC-SLP
Speech-Language Pathologist

Blankets, Vests, and Lap Pads…Oh My! A Guide to Weighted Objects

What are weighted objects, and how do they work?

In the context of pediatric therapy, a “weighted object” refers to any object or item that is worn, placed on, or carried by the body to elicit a desired sensory response. These objects work by providing deep pressure, or distributed weight over parts of the body through cuddling, hugging, squeezing, and holding, to regulate the nervous system and calm the body. Additional input is processed by the proprioceptive system, which provides information about the position and movements of our muscles and joints, to increase understanding and awareness of where our body is in space.

What are some potential benefits of using weighted objects?
Potential benefits of using weighted objects include:

1. Better attention and focus: weighted objects are often calming for children that seek opportunities for movement and deep pressure and for those that have a difficult time sitting still and attending to structured activities. As weighted objects provide the input these children are seeking, their bodies become more calm and organized, and they are better able to focus and stay on-task, especially in the classroom environment.

2. Less anxiety and improved sleep: the calming effects of weighted objects on the nervous system help to reduce sympathetic arousal, or the fight-or-flight response, and promote feelings of comfort and relaxation. For these reasons, use of weighted blankets at night has also been found to help individuals fall asleep more easily as well as improve overall quality of sleep throughout the night.

3. Smoother transitions between daily routines and activities: when children experience increased regulation and sensory organization due to the effects of weighted objects, they often feel more “in control” of their bodies and are better equipped to handle transitions and changes in their routines, leading to fewer or less intense tantrums and emotional outbursts.

What are examples of weighted objects and where can I find them?

Common examples of weighted objects include:
• Vests
• Blankets
• Lap pads
• Backpacks
• Stuffed animals

Depending on your child’s needs, weighted objects come in a variety of shapes and sizes and can be worn or held during specific activities (vest; lap pad; stuffed animal) to improve attention, carried between environments (backpack, stuffed animal) to improve smooth transitions, and placed on the body (blanket) during quiet activities, such as reading books, riding in the car, and when going to sleep, to provide comfort, reduce anxiety, and promote a calm, organized state of arousal.

Many weighted objects are available for purchase from online and in-store retailers. Weighted objects may also be created by adding weight to items already found in your home. For example, filling a long tube sock with dry rice or beans and tying off the end securely or adding these materials to one of your child’s favorite stuffed toys may work well for use as a lap pad or weighted stuffed animal. Similarly, adding books or bottles of water to your child’s backpack makes for an easy weighted adjustment during transitions to and from school. Research suggests that each object should be about 10% of the user’s body weight plus one pound to promote optimal effects, so be sure to consult with a trained therapist or doctor before trialing weighted objects with your child at home.

Do weighted objects work for every child?
While research suggests that weighted objects have several positive benefits, they may not be appropriate or suitable for every child. Objects are often most effective when implemented with other sensory strategies and should be used only as directed by your child’s occupational therapist or doctor to best target their individualized needs and ensure safe and appropriate application.

Questions or concerns?
If you have questions or concerns about whether your child may benefit from using a weighted object, please contact us at info@playworkschicago.com or 773-332-9439.

Caitlin Chociej, MS, OTR/L
Occupational Therapist

References:

Chen, H., Yang, H., Chi, H., Chen, H. (2013). Physiological Effects of Deep Touch Pressure on Anxiety Alleviation: The Weighted Blanket Approach. Journal of Medical and Biological Engineering, 33(5), 463-470. doi:10.5405/jmbe.1043

Vandenberg, N. L. (2001). The Use of a Weighted Vest to Increase On-Task Behavior in Children with Attention Difficulties. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 55(6), 621–628. doi: 10.5014/ajot.55.6.621

Photo Credit: Naomi Shi via Pexels

Employee Spotlight: Stephanie Wroblewski, MSW, LCSW

What do you love most about working for PlayWorks Therapy?

My favorite thing about working at PlayWorks is the welcoming environment. I love that the clinic was created in a way to promote collaboration and connection between families, staff, and therapists. Every time I walk into the clinic, I feel like I am entering the center of a special community, where everyone is focused and committed towards enhancing the lives of all children.

What is your favorite children’s book?

Instead of choosing just one book I will have to choose a series, and that is Junie B. Jones! I still remember reading my first Junie B. Jones book (when I was in early elementary school), and instantly falling in love with her character. As a child I was eager to purchase the latest book in the series, and I was constantly reading (and re-reading) each and every one.

What do you enjoy most about living in Chicago?

It is hard for me to choose just one thing I enjoy most about living in Chicago, but when I think of how much I love this city, the first thing that comes to mind is the lake. Through all seasons, I really enjoy walking/biking down the lakeshore path, waking up early to enjoy a sunrise over the water, or just taking in the beautiful waters and seemingly endless horizon.

What is your favorite childhood memory?

Again I will choose a “series” of memories instead of just choosing one: my family’s yearly vacation to Wisconsin Dells. Each summer my entire family (grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.) drives to Wisconsin Dells to spend a week together enjoying picnics, bonfires, and all sorts of summertime activities. The tradition began a few years before I was born and continues to this day, even as our family has nearly tripled in size!

Would you rather a mountain or beach vacation?

Mountains. I will definitely choose mountains over the beach every time! I love the feel of the crisp mountain air and the panoramic views from the top of a high peak.

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

There are so many successes I am lucky enough to experience with my clients, both big and small, and I think it is very important to acknowledge and celebrate each and every one. A few weeks ago one of the young boys I work with was having a difficult time leaving the sensory gym in order to return to our therapy room and resume work for the day. Before I was even able to suggest some strategies he can use to calm down he stopped shouting, took a big deep breath, and told me exactly how he was feeling. This was the first time this particular child independently used a calming strategy in my presence, and I was so proud of him for doing so!

What is your hometown?

I grew up in Western Springs, Illinois.

What do you like to do in your free time?

My absolute favorite thing to do in my free time is travel! I also love to read, spend time with my family, and do just about anything outside.

What is your favorite therapy toy?

Currently my favorite therapy toy is Mr. Potato Head. I love how this toy allows for endless possibilities when it comes to creativity and expression.

Share a fun fact about yourself.

I have a goofy and energetic English bulldog named Filomena.

Stephanie Wroblewski, LCSW
Licensed Clinical Social Worker