Have you ever wondered how your child’s Early Intervention activities make a difference?
Our occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech pathologists and developmental therapists thought that was a great question! So over the next few months we will be providing a “behind the scenes” reason for some of these activities. Our therapists will explain the back story for making silly faces or sitting on a therapy ball or ensuring your infant has “tummy time”.
Wonder how your child’s Early Intervention activities make a difference?
How does sitting on a ball help your child if they have balance issues?
How does chewing something like dried fruit help your child increase oral strength?
If your child is receiving Early Intervention Services, you are most likely working with them on a daily basis, doing your homework! But do you understand exactly what you are doing and why?
That thought occurred to Vanessa Doherty, an Occupational Therapist for teli’s Early Intervention services over the last 14 years. “I find that parents are curious about exactly how our tailored therapy plan for their child really works,” says Vanessa. “While most people can understand that you are trying to strengthen various muscles, what they don’t realize is that we are helping children integrate their reflexes, to improve coordination, strength and functional movement. These reflexes in fact help their child to achieve their developmental milestones.”
As part of Early Intervention, parents are provided with activities that replicate the work that the therapist performs during their session. “I found that as parents understand more about the process, they better understand how important their involvement is in their child’s progress,” notes Vanessa. While each child’s needs are different, and their Early Intervention plan unique, Vanessa identified three particular activities that are fairly common and shares the “back story” on why and how they work
Sitting on a Therapy Ball
The use of a therapy ball for a child to sit on or roll on their belly can address a number of developmental needs. For example, sitting on the ball and balancing with their feet off the floor, helps them to develop core strength and expand their ability to tolerate the sensation of movement without touching the floor with their body. “We may change positions to help them learn how to manipulate their body position to retain balance and with repetition, a child begins to self adjust to avoid losing their balance over time,” says Vanessa. “This is an instance when both gaining core strength and an ability to handle sensory cues becomes more natural for the child as they practice over and over.”
Chewing dried fruit?
A child may have difficulty developing oral motor skills which refers to the use and function of the lips, tongue, jaw , teeth and the hard and soft palates. Mastering these skills is very important in speech , swallowing and for tolerating various food textures. So where does the dried fruit come in? Vanessa explains, ” Some therapists use dried fruit to help the child develop munching strength and endurance, says Vanessa. By prompting the child to use their natural reflexes, they can develop skills that will eventually become involuntary. The repetition of the chewing activity will develop and stimulate those reflexes to manipulate the food in their mouth with their tongue, etc
Giving and receiving big hugs?
While hugs are a definite sign of affection, for children with sensory processing issues, they may have difficulty tolerating their environment for example: sound or light touch or a hug. “There is a reason why we give these children big hugs.. it releases a natural occurring chemical called dopamine in their system, which is known to have a calming effect on the body, ” notes Vanessa. “We may even use a therapeutic tool called a “pressure vest” that literally simulates a hug around a child’s body as we help them tolerate stressful situations.”
In each of these cases, these activities and tools are helping a child to begin to build skills that enable a long term integration of movement or ability that becomes second nature to them. “Our goal is to build confidence in the child through these activities as they become more and more comfortable with their abilities.” notes Vanessa.