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Category: Information

Your child has writer’s block?

Many children and adults have trouble getting thoughts onto paper. It is common to be caught staring at the page with nothing coming out. So how can we help kids order their thoughts and ideas to take that next step of putting pen to paper? Here are some in the moment strategies that may help children with planning and ideation difficulties to streamline their thoughts through other means before then having the cohesiveness to write it down.

Writers Block Tip 1

Writers Block Tip 2

Writers Block Tip 3

Writers Block Tip 4

Writers Block Tip 5

Have they understood?

Children with auditory processing difficulties often have difficulty understanding instructions that they have been given. It may be that due to too much competing background noise, internal processing difficulties, they were not ready to receive the information or the way that the instruction was given. Here are some in the moment tips that may help a child to understand the information that they have been given:

Have they understoond? Tip 1

Have they understoond? Tip 2

Have they understoond? Tip 3

Have they understoond? Tip 4

Have they understoond? Tip 5

The OT’s Key to Handwriting Success

Handwriting Infographic

When OT’s look at handwriting, they are assessing a wide range of skills. All of these skills are needed to do something as simple as write your own name. This infographic looks at the different levels of skills needed for handwriting success:
(1) Foundational skills of being able to complete academic tasks; body regulation, sensory processing and engagement/motivation. These skills allow us to stay seated at our desk, feel calm and alert, be willing to engage in the activity and work in the surrounding space.
(2) Systems skills needed to carry out the more complex skills; posture, vision and listening. These skills allow us to be physically orientated to the task, be ready to take in the information needed and feel comfortable at our desk.
(3) Higher level motor skills needed to carry out the task: bilateral skills (two hands), coordination and fine motor skills. These allow us to do things such as hold a pencil, manoeuvre the page and write letters with precision.
(4) These are called executive functioning skills; attention, memory, planning. These skills allow us to think through a task, solve any problems, come up with ideas and work out what we are going to do next.

Depending on the difficulty that a child may be having, an OT may start at any level of skill. Each of these skill areas contribute to the overall success of handwriting at home and school!

Have any questions or comments? Get in touch by emailing calmandconnected.com.au or call 0430 645 086

Using the mouth to support posture and calming

Patricia Oetter, Eileen Richter & Sheila Frick are amazing therapists that support kids who have difficulty with posture, regulation, attention and oral motor (feeding, talking, breathing). They talk all about using the mouth (breathing, biting, chewing, blowing etc) to help calm the nervous system down and develop posture.

From birth, a babies movement is driven by their mouth with their need to feed. Then as children become more mobile, what happens to everything? It ends up in their mouth. As an adult when you put on mascara, whats keeps your face stable? your mouth drops open or locked to help hold the face muscles still. So unsurprisingly, the mouth is plays many essential roles, why not unlock its potential therapeutically?

I highly recommended looking at the below resources to learn more about how oral motor and respiration can used to improve kids posture and self regulation:
For therapists – The Motor, Oral, Respiration, Eyes (M.O.R.E.)Book, Integrating the mouth with sensory and postural functions, By Patricia Oetter, Eileen Richter & Sheila Frick. http://shopau.sensorytools.net/as_books?productID=2851 MORE book
For parents – “Out of the Mouths of Babes” By Patricia Oetter, Eileen Richter & Sheila Frick. Mouth of Babes book

If you would like to learn more please check out our courses or therapy options on our website calmandconnected.com.au.

Supporting Kids in FIFO Families

Families that live in a Fly In Fly Out lifestyle can find it difficult to manage a consistent routine and feel connected to the family member when they are absent. This can cause stress or anxiety among the adults and/or children in the family. Therefore the following are some ideas of ways to maintain a routine and ensure that all members of the family can have a presence despite being away at work.Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 12.35.20 pm

Routine ideas to build in consistency despite rosters:

  • Keep a consistent morning, afternoon and bed time routine every day. Have a picture schedule of all the things that need to be done so both parents and children can follow step by step.
  • Include the absent dad/mum in the routine when they are away; such as record them reading a story that can be played at night.
  • Utilise technology to make video calls or send short videos to each other; such as skype, facetime, whatsapp etc.
  • Have a calendar visible with the dates that the parent will be home/away so the kids can track the progress of the FIFO schedule and feel prepared.
  • Have a goodbye and welcome home activity that is done each time the parent leaves/comes back.

Calming ideas to reduce anxiety in children affected by disruption:

  • Create opportunities to practice feeling calm throughout your daily routine such as; listen to relaxation music before going to bed.
  • Exercise and movement is the main factor that reduces stress and calms children/adults. Ensure kids get a chance to play and exercise everyday to reduce the feelings on anxiety and/or uncertainty.
  • Create a quiet calm place, such as small tent or canopy, where the kids can escape to when feeling stressed.

Connection ideas to foster strong relationships:

  • Write a letter to mum/dad to tell him about your day (great way to practice handwriting!).
  • Make a photo/scrap book together of all the things that have been doing while mum/dad are away to show when they get back. Collect items such as tickets, empty packets, leafs etc of where you have been to put in the book.
  • Utilise technology to make stories of what has happened whilst mum/dad is away such as Pictello, StripDesigner, Creative Book Builder, Kid in Story Book Maker etc.
  • Use a special ‘messenger toy’ such as a doll, which the child can talk to which will magically pass on all the things the child would like to say to their absent parent.

Check out some picture cards that can be printed out and put on the fridge as ideas to use at home, found on my website in the downloads section.

 

Want to learn more or get support for your family? Contact us to get an appointment with one of our therapists. We have no waitlist!

What is Therapeutic Listening?

What is listening?

Listening is detecting sounds through the ear, the brain organizing the sound and combining it with information from all our other senses. Listening includes:

  • Locating where the sound is coming from i.e. finding the person who is talking to focus on them.
  • Selecting which sounds are the important ones to listen to i.e. the teachers voice or the lawnmower outside.
  • Keeping attention on the sound to get all the information needed i.e. hearing all the instruction not just the first part.
  • Noticing the differences between sounds so we know what they mean i.e. hearing the difference between f and s to hear if someone is saying fat or sat.

What is Therapeutic Listening?

Therapeutic Listening is a structured program using specifically composed music to develop a person’s ability to tune into and respond to their world. Here are some of the aspects found in the music:

  • High low frequencies; the distortions in frequency cause the cells in the ear to vibrate in an organized way; rather than firing off randomly, or not at all. The organized sound vibrations allow the brain to process the sound; rather than becoming overwhelmed by what it is hearing or not even noticing that a sound was made.
  • Rhythm; is used to regulate the child’s natural body rhythm to either down-regulate them to a more even and calm pattern, or to up regulate them to a more engaged and kidpower rhythm. Getting into this level of alertness allows for our body and mind to attend to what is happening around us.
  • Complexity; early song selections start basic and then build with complexity. This is to train the ear to first locate and understand basic detail; then builds on the amount of detail the ear can process.

If you are interested in learning more about this program, please read the Therapeutic Listening Flyer, or contact Kate at Calm and Connected on 0430 645 086 or calmandconnected@outlook.com

The benefits of physical exercise

  • Has anti depressant effects
  • Improves sleep
  • Reduces affects of stress
  • Boosts confidence
  • Can be an outlet for anger/stress/anxiety etc.
  • Gives your mind a break from thinking
  • Can be fun!

Physical exercise not only puts energy into the tank, it also reduces the impact of those factors that drain energy from the tank. This allows for more energy to cope with stress and do the things that we enjoy. Exercise works on a number of areas in our body all at the same time:

Body exercise diagram

What are Sensory Diets?

Sensory diets are specific individualized programs written by an Occupational Therapist (OT). They are designed to help a person with Sensory Processing difficulties manage their symptoms so that they can function in their daily routine. The concept ‘sensory diet’ was termed by OT Patricia Wilbarger in the late 1970’s. It refers to having regular sensory input throughout the day, consisting of intensive large amounts (main meals) and smaller top ups (snacks). An Occupational Therapist develops a sensory diet with the child and supporting adults to determine what ‘nutritional’ sensory input their nervous system needs to function. Activities are chosen according to the individuals preferences usually determined by interview, observation and often formal assessment (such as Sensory Profiles or Sensory Processing Measures). Each activity is strategically placed in the child’s daily routine considering the following:

  • Activity power; determined by intensity, duration and frequency
  • Practical activities; so they are easy to embed in the child’s routine
  • Identifying ‘high stress’ times; so additional input can be given to balance the stress
  • Regular input; activities scheduled throughout the day to maintain optimal behaviour

When used correctly the most powerful and long lasting activities include; movement, deep pressure touch, joint compression and heavy work. With the right amount of intensity, duration and frequency, these activities can have an impact for 2 to 4 hours. It is highly recommended that trialing sensory activities is done in collaboration with an OT trained in this area, as when not done correctly can have a negative impact for 2-4 hours!

Often a family is provided with a Sensory Program or some Sensory Strategies. These are usually more flexible and less targeted then a Sensory Diet. I find it is the process of putting together a Sensory Program with a therapist that families find most helpful. As this gives lots of opportunity to learn about what sensory processing is, about their child’s specific needs and allows for problem solving along the way.

Sleep

Sleep restores the body’s resources that have been used up during the day (such as the immune system which is needed for healing and fighting illness). While sleeping the brain processes and retains information that was learned from the day and stores it into long-term memory. The common sleep issues that children may experience are:

  • Not enough sleep
  • Taking along time to fall asleep
  • Wake up in the middle of the night
  • Staying up too late or waking up too early
  • Difficulty waking them up in the morning
  • Night terrors, or sleep walking

It is important to address any sleep issues as they greatly affect performance during the day.

  • Learning; affects concentration, problem solving and decision-making.
  • Emotional well being; linked to depression, low mood, decreased motivation, irritable and anxiety.
  • Daytime Behaviour; sleepiness, hyperactivity, non-compliance, impulsivity, inattention, risk taking and oppositional behaviour.
  • Sensory processing; heightened sensitivity, leading to overload or over reactive response.
  • Physical coordination; slower reaction time and reduced stamina.

How much sleep do you need?

  • 10 – 13 year olds need about 10-11 hours
  • 14 – 18 year olds need about 8.5-9.5 hours
  • 19 – 30 year olds need about 7.75 hours

Research has shown that it is the first 4 hours of sleep that are the most important. This is when we are in our deepest sleep and therefore the most restoration/healing occurs. There are seven main factors that impact quality of sleep: routine, diet, light exposure, exercise, environment, health/stress and sensory input.

Register for the online training module to learn more about how these areas impact our sleep and can be used to develop healthy sleep practices. Alternatively, give me a call book a session to tailor these strategies to your family.

Vision – seeing and understanding

There is much more to vision then simply being able to see something clearly. Vision is a fundamental factor in the learning process; it is required for reading and handwriting tasks. Current research indicates that 1 in 4 children have visual skill problems. Possible indicators that a child is having difficulty with visual skills are:

  • Avoiding writing and reading tasks as find it too hard
  • Not able to comprehend the information being read
  • Sore/tired, red, or watery eyes, headaches
  • Closing/covering one eye, reading close to the page
  • Turning whole head/body posture to follow an object
  • Take along time to complete work
  • Can only focus for short periods

There are 4 levels of vision that we need to see and use the information around us:

  • Visual Pathway Integrity – how well the eye is able to focus the lens to see something. It includes short and long sightedness, Astigmatism and color blindness. Optometrist and/or Developmental Optometrist assess these factors.
  • Visual Efficiency Skills – how well the motor muscles around the eyes work together. These muscles allow the eyes to fixate on a target and move smoothly together. This is the most common area not addressed which greatly influences the next two higher levels. A Developmental Optometrist assesses this area.
  • Visual Perceptual Skills – how the brain analyses and interprets the information. This significantly impacts how we understand what we see, and consequently how we remember what we see. There are a number visual pathways in the brain associated with this area. An Occupational Therapist assesses this area.
  • Visual Processing Skills – being able to recognize what information is important to look at and what are distractions that need filtering out. This determines how much visual input a person can cope with at once before they become overwhelmed, or if they need more visual input to even notice what is going on. An Occupational Therapist assess this area.

If you would like to discuss your child’s visual skills please do not hesitate to contact me. Online training on this topic is coming soon!