DIY Adaptive Summer Seating

Equipment for individuals with special healthcare needs have come a long way. The field is always evolving to higher levels of performance and patient friendly options, but the problem generally still exists that many items are bulky, heavy, and expensive.

A family I work with in early intervention is well equipped with equipment to ensure that their daily activities as a family are as easy as possible, including adaptive seating and mobility options for community outings, playtime, and daily routines like bathing and eating.

With spring finally deciding to show up around here, this family (like many) is busy planning more ways to enjoy time together outside. One area they identified as a challenge was helping their son to sit on their deck and at the park or beach. Yes, they are fortunate to have specialized strollers, but the reality is that for a quick trip, something light or something that doesn’t take up the whole trunk was desired.

Today during our session, for under $10, his mother and I created something that filled the need for his family. If you or someone you know could benefit from something similar, we are happy to share what we did and what we learned.

Supplies:

1 simple plastic chair ($5):

TIPS:

Fit to size for your child.

We preferred one with the bottom lower than the knee area (to prevent sliding).

Highly recommend a chair with slits to help with attaching supports.

2 Pool Noodles ($1 each).

Scissors to cut noodles.

Two bags of large zip ties ($1.87 each).

Plastic or wire cutters to trim zip ties once attached.

 

Assembly:

  1. We chose to start with the child in the chair and observe his posture. Where did he struggle to maintain neutral and upright positioning?
  2. With him in the seat, cut noodles to accommodate his size and weaker areas. For him this included: back of head, on each side of the trunk under arm pits to base of hips (vertically), on sides of lap from knees to hips (horizontally), a smaller piece on top of these horizontal pieces to support the elbows as needed (these were added after the photo shown above), and a small piece in between the legs as a pummel to prevent sliding.
  3. Attached noodles with zip ties by lacing through chair slits (note: we realized after the fact, but it would be recommended to have the fastener part of the tie on the backside of the chair to prevent rubbing/irritating the skin). 
  4. We attached a loose scarf of moms through slits and around his upper trunk, not as a firm support, but a light reminder for him to avoid slouching.

We were thrilled with the results and so was he! With an adaptive tray he could easily access his I-pad (used for vision work and communication) in his new “desk!” His mom and I were quickly able to identify many potential uses – kicking in the baby pool, outdoor movies, on the sidelines at siblings games, at grandma’s house!

We believe play keeps us all happy, healthy, and smart! When I can help adapt something simple to make joyful activities easier for families, it’s just a really good day.

 

 

 

Share Your Story With Stones

Stones. Rocks. Pebbles. Boulders.

I love them. I don’t know why but I do. And I always have.

I love to see kids proudly tuck them in pockets. It reminds me of my “lucky hopscotch rock” I kept for months in my pocket.

I love to create and craft with them. I especially love to paint on them (a favorite I used to do with my mom and later with my kids).

But one of my favorite’s is to create story stones.

Using (free) rocks and a simple black marker, you can create a variety of children’s favorite objects or people and let them line them up and then create a story based on the order they created.

I recently did this with my cousin’s son. He is just 3 years old but is creative, articulate, and thoughtful and was pretty fascinated by the “game.” He made me tell about 10 different stories based on the various arrangements of rocks he laid down. When I asked him to take a turn, he wasn’t quite ready, but a short while later, I found him creating his own story with his special rocks for his Papap (who just woke up and wasn’t sure what was going on!).

I love story stones because they are simple, cheap, build vocabulary, help focus attention to task, and are fun! As a child gets older or understands the process of the “game,” stones can easily be added to develop more complex plots and details. And you can search for the perfect stones on walks and hikes! This is a great activity to introduce around 15 months but may be especially meaningful as a child’s vocabulary increases rapidly between 2-3 years old.

 

This story went something like…..

Once Thomas the Train had a best friend, a little boy named Gabriel. Gabriel loved trucks and cars. He lived in a house with his mom and dad and baby brother and their dog named Ethan (he filled in this detail!).  One sunny day Gabriel and Ethan went on a walk and chased birds at the park.

Simple. Easy. Fun. and a purposeful way to play.

Try exploring new mileSTONES today with story stones — and send us your pictures. We’d love to hear from your little authors!

For more ideas of pairing milestones with with purposeful play, grab your copy of 1-2-3 Just Play With Me today! (As always FREE Shipping in the US).

 

Earth Day Discoveries – what you can learn about your family and your world.

Have you ever heard the term biophilia?

Edward O. Wilson introduced this concept based on his work, describing biophilia as the notion that that humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other forms of life. 

Simple really if you break down the word. Bio=life, including organisms, species, habitats, processes and objects in their natural surroundings. And Philia= attraction or positive feeling toward.

Do you think Mr. Wilson considered the need for sunscreen without cancer causing agents and natural bug sprays, the increase in child predators creeping in suburban neighborhoods, increased presence of bullies, the risks of getting nice clothing dirty, getting precious children dirty, the norm of fenced yards providing safe perimeters, expectation of themed and scheduled playdates, and the fact that no adult is available to be present every single minute of every single daylight hour in order for a child to play?

This leads to the question of — are we interfering with a child’s natural biophilia? Or our own for that matter?

Earth day is coming up on Sunday April 22, 2018. What better day to discover your family’s natural biophilia?

Don’t know where to start? Here are some ideas that might please your whole crew.

  1. Hike.
  2. Freeze Tag.
  3. Climb a tree (you know you’d still love to).
  4. Find some big rocks and sit and read.
  5. Go fishing.
  6. Try geocaching (our fav!) More here.
  7. Go on a nature treasure hunt and fill buckets with treasures.
  8. Wade in a stream with rain boots and record all the organisms you find.
  9. Bird watching. Print a sheet of birds common to your area and let the kids circle what you see.
  10. Set up a drawing or painting station in the yard and create art inspired by nature’s beauty.
  11. Collect rocks – simply to save or to build or create with later.
  12. Hit the lake or river with a boat or float.
  13. Bike – in your neighborhood or local trail.
  14. Beautify – choose a park or street to clean up/remove trash.
  15. Be brave and actually let them play in the mud (they’ll never forget it).
  16. Visit a local orchard or farm and learn how real food grows.
  17. Skip rocks in a stream.
  18. Grab large flat pieces of cardboard and slide down the best grassy hill near you.
  19. Plant a simple potted garden on your porch or in your yard that everyone can help care for.
  20. Gaze at the clouds and tell stories about what you see.

According to the Child Mind Institute, the average American child is said to spend 4 to 7 minutes a day in unstructured play outdoors, and over 7 hours a day in front of a screen. Simply put – people (children included) are happier and healthy when they engage with their outdoor environment. No better day to start than today!

 

A Must Have Baby Book (with a purpose).

When we created 1-2-3 Just Play With Me, we did so with some very specific considerations. One was choosing a card format vs. a book because while the content on those cards are therapist inspired, we created the product we wanted (and had time for) as busy moms AND therapists.

One benefit we envisioned was the ability to stick a few at a time (appropriate for baby’s age and/or stage) on the refrigerator or nursery shelf,  empowering families to learn the many beautiful details of early development by playing with their baby purposefully, while being present in that specific moment in time and not getting overwhelmed with the many changes that come in the first few years.

 

Along the way, we’ve discovered (with the help of many of you) more creatives ways our sweet cards could be practical in every day life. One of our favorites is using the cards as your personal “baby book.”  As you enjoy reading detailed milestones to watch for at each age and in each developmental domain, customize your cards with what you are seeing your baby doing! Add first words, dates that milestones were achieved, and funny or cute experiences.  That’s right take a pen right to those beautiful cards!  Not only will you have a detailed account of your baby’s development, you can also share their individual developmental path with your pediatrician at your child’s next appointment.

 

Don’t have your copy of 1-2-3 Just Play With Me yet? Pick one up for you, or as a gift and explore why Today’s Parent calls 1-2-3 Just Play With Me a “Product That Will Make New Parent’s Lives Easier.” (Also available via Amazon Prime, in ebook format, and select retailers).

Don’t Add Tummy Time As Another Thing On The Schedule. What a pediatric PT wishes every hospital told new parents.

I love working in early intervention for many reasons, but one of the most rewarding is working alongside other passionate therapists. Today I got a call from a long time and skilled colleague, a speech language pathologist who is a feeding expert in our community. She had a question that led to a great discussion that led to this post (why not share helpful convos, right? That’s why we are here). Her question: I’m working with a 2 month old that hates her tummy. I’ll give general recommendations, but when do I need PT support? And why do babies hate being on their bellies so much? And what can we do to make this more pleasant for babies and families?  

In my experience, there are several understandable reasons parents tend to avoid tummy time, rooting in real reasons that babies don’t enjoy the position, resulting in real (and incredibly frequent) consequences.

WHY DO PARENTS AVOID TUMMY TIME FOR THEIR BABY?:

FEAR:  As a new parent leaving the hospital you are overwhelmed with education on the dangers of letting baby sleep on their belly. It is natural that your first instinct as a new parent is to keep them SAFE. That’s the #1 goal right? I see so many parents avoid tummy time out of fear that their precious, little, fragile baby will not be safe on their tummy.  I was this parent. And I am a physical therapist and my husband is an occupational therapist and we STILL avoided it somewhat with baby #1 OUT OF FEAR. I reassurance parents daily (and wish someone had reminded me) that if you are present, awake and alert, and placing baby on a firm surface, being on their tummy from day 1 is not only safe, but beneficial. Here’s WHY.

DISCOMFORT:  For many reasons (another post, another day), there are many babies that suffer from acid reflux and colic early on. This can lead to legitimate (and often under recognized pain) and a strong avoidance of a tummy down posture (interestingly some babies with these diagnoses may prefer this posture and find it soothing). If untreated and unresolved the pain from acid reflux often leads parents to avoid placing baby on his/tummy and this ultimately leads to other concerns. If you feel that a baby is genuinely in pain or distress, speak to your pediatrician about your concerns. 

CONVENIENCE:  Technology and innovation continues to progress as time goes on and the baby industry is not absent from advances. More and more baby “containers” are created that are incredibly efficient at soothing a baby. Often recreating the sensation of the womb, these swings, seats, bouncers, and rockers can keep baby happy and quiet for long periods of time. The result is more time for parents to get some rest and get things done (who doesn’t love and need that? Me too!) However, there is a reason babies fuss. It’s how they communicate early on. It is their way to request what their body needs – food, physical contact, movement etc. If the container does such a good job at soothing them, they often miss out on natural experiences with their caretakers and during play that are SO IMPORTANT and essential for their development. So while we all need some help and convenience  from time to time, it’s important to limit time in these containers. More on avoiding the “container shuffle” here. 

WHY DO BABIES DISLIKE BEING ON THEIR TUMMIES?:

PAIN: See above. A baby in pain may not like this posture. We can’t stress enough that signs of pain should not be ignored. 

SENSORY CONFUSION: When we think of senses, we thing smell, taste, touch, and hearing. But body position and vestibular movement is a large sense represented in the young brain. Our brains seek out what we are used to and familiar with. Many parents tend to wait until 4-5 months when baby seems more stable with more head control to start tummy time. But by this time, this belly down posture, can seem very foreign to a baby who has only been positioning upright or on his/her back. When things seem foreign we tend to make noise. Think of yourself upside down on the occasional roller coaster. It feels weird, and scary – so you scream….same for baby who has never been placed belly down. If tummy time is started from day 1, it is my experience that frequently baby will never complain or dislike it. 

POSTURAL IMBALANCES: The longer baby stays in the womb the more restricted they are to movement (no more room in the Inn). So many are born with some postural imbalances where the fascia over the muscles becomes restricted on one side vs. the other (think of your stiff neck on one side when you’ve slept in a “funny” position). In many European countries, they often treat infants with osteopathic adjustments for this very reason before they send them home from the hospital.  Often times, these imbalances (if minor) will work themselves out if baby is benefitted with free movement, however if significant, imbalances occur (often presenting as torticollis) baby may be uncomfortable on his/her belly.  

 

CONSEQUENCES OF AVOIDING TUMMY TIME:

DELAYED MILESTONES: Studies show us that babies that have more exposure to free play on the floor meet their milestones earlier. I see this every day. To be frank, this isn’t rocket science. We get better at anything we get to practice. More time on the floor or a firm surface to play allows baby to flex, extend, move in diagonal patterns, and generally get stronger and more coordinated which eventually leads to rolling, crawling, sitting, and walking! I frequently remind parents that they can’t magically roll if they are either held or strapped to some sort of seat all day. 

MISSING OUT ON TYPICAL DEVELOPMENTAL EXPERIENCES: Babies are born with primitive reflexes and responses that are replaced with more mature postural reflexes as they move and develop. If these aren’t replaced or fully integrated, there can be lasting consequences. For example, there is a reflex that integrates when a baby crawls. If it does not, seated attention, posture, and hand/eye coordination can be affected. Other benefits can include improved visual coordination and strength, aided digestion, promotion of natural head shape, and development of natural muscular arches in the hand that support eventual skills such as handwriting.

IMPACT ON OVERALL DEVELOPMENT: We focus on gross motor or physical benefits of tummy time which are so important, but we can’t forget the other areas. When babies become mobile on their tummies, they engage in problem solving situations, flexing their cognitive muscles (How can I get to that thing I want across the room), fine motor skills (picking up tiny things they shouldn’t on the ground), and social skills (I WILL get to mom/dad to show them what I want) to start to advocate for themselves and engage with others at will.

STRATEGIES TO MAKE ALL THIS BETTER:

ALTERNATE POSITIONING: Tummy time means belly down – allowing lifting the body against gravity. This doesn’t have to be on the floor. It can be on a parents’ chest, a large yoga ball, over a lap, or on an incline/wedge/Boppy type pillow.

INTERESTING MATERIALS AND ENTICING SETTINGS: Kids always like the paper or the box, right? Save enticing but safe materials for supervised tummy time experiences (bubble wrap taped to the floor, tissue box, kitchen spoon/whisk) and settings (textured blanket, kitchen floor (yes I’m serious), the grass (or any place outside on a blanket), the kitchen table (with parent right next to them – great place for eye contact!).

DO IT EARLY & STOP SCHEDULING IT: My favorite tips include not to schedule it and to start on the day you come home from the hospital. If we make tummy time an “event” on the daily schedule, it’s likely to not happen or only last 10 minutes. I advise parents to always place baby on the floor or Pack-N-Play on the tummy when they set them down vs. a swing or seat. Ay the end of the day, this practice leads to MANY minutes of exposure to play on the belly, and a natural part of the daily routine leading to consistency. 

A child’s development is fascinating and exciting. Learn more about what to expect and how to encourage early milestones in a format you will actually have time to read and use. 1-2-3 Just Play With Me is kind of like this post – Mom inspired and therapist created. Hope both are helpful!

Milestones & Miracles

The 4 Essential B’s of Early Childhood

When working in the homes of families as an EI therapist I notice many things about a family. The longer I’ve done this work in the family’s natural environment, I’ve become more accurate in picking up small cues about the family…things like, What they value. What time of day they like best. What they want to learn from me and our session. What their comfort level is with a therapist sitting on their floor and jumping into their daily routines. The list really could go on forever.

And as a self described people watcher, I’ve come to know that 1) These things really matter in helping me to do a good job, and 2) They vary GREATLY from family to family. There are very few consistent trends when it comes to my interactions with families in their space…with a few exceptions. The largest exception I see is a parent’s desire to make sure their child has what “they need.” This desire seems universal to me. I’m often asked to recommend toys, asked if they have the “right things,” and asked to make gift recommendations for upcoming birthdays or holidays. Despite family income, I see a trend in family’s feeling that their child needs STUFF. And I understand it. Because I am a mom.  And I also love toys. And because the companies that market to us as parents want us to think that MORE is MORE.

As therapists, we believe the opposite – LESS IS MORE. Here’s why. A child can more easily access and interact with fewer number or toys that are organized with their corresponding parts. Hear me – this does not mean designer toy organization (unless you want it to), but this could mean using bins and boxes or separate areas on shelves (more tips HERE). It just means that toys, which are the TOOLS for learning, have an intended purpose for the age/developmental stage and that we don’t need 50 toys that do the same thing. Note that the recommended toy age is not always developmentally correct. It’s being set by marketers not pediatricians or developmental therapists with different goals in mind. Just because that box says 3-6 months, does not mean the toy is developmentally appropriate for a 3-6 month old baby. (Interested in what real development looks like at each stage and how to pair it with purposeful play and creative materials?  Check out 1-2-3 Just Play With Me We have done that work for you.)

When discussing this, we often talk about THE 4 ESSENTIAL B’S OF EARLY CHILDHOOD. And we’ve challenged ourselves with this question:

What developmental milestone could you not achieve between 0-3 years of age with simply BOOKS, a BALL, a BABYDOLL, and BLOCKS? 

Literally we’ve sat around the room with other therapists and challenged ourselves with this question (desperately nerdy, I know) and we can’t find one single milestone.

Quick examples (But the options are endless):

BOOKS:  Early literacy, labeling of objects, visual focus, turning pages for fine motor activities, turn taking, pointing. (Some of our favorites HERE and HERE and Toddler Reading Tips HERE. (We REALLY love books!)

BALL: Hand eye coordination, grasp/release, turn taking, language, social anticipation and peer play, balance and coordination, joint attention.

BABYDOLL: Imaginative play skills, labeling body parts, fine motor strengthening with dressing, social emotional practice of emotion sharing.

BLOCKS: oral motor exploration, cause and effect (knocking down), stacking, jumping over, counting, role play when using as other objects (cell phone, people), patterning, spatial awareness. More on the importance of blocks HERE.

THE4B's

 

As a parent, I encourage you to shed the cloak of stress that “my kid needs more.” Our kids need us. Embrace that thought. It’s quite freeing and leads to memory making experiences no toy can replace.

As a therapist, I encourage other therapists to spread this message. I sat with a young first time, young  mom yesterday who asked me to go through a laundry basket filled with an array of toys she had been gifted, purchased, or had been handed down. She, like many parents I know, stressed she didn’t have enough or the right things for her child. We went through that bin together and identified what he might learn from those toys at this stage of development and which might encourage him to do the next exciting thing. And she boxed up the things he had outgrown, was too young for, or had too much of. She was so relieved and I was so excited for her and her child.

Spring cleaning leaves room for new growth. That holds true for our little ones too. Shed the rest and see what fun you can experience today with our 4 essential B’s!

Stairway to FUN! (safely)

As a pediatric physical therapist working in an early intervention setting, I spend a good amount of time on the stairs. Steep stairs, wide stairs, narrow stairs, wooden stairs, carpeted stairs, baby gate, no gate, one flight of steps, steps broken into two segments, rail on left, rail on right, no rail at all, no steps at all! I’ve studied construction of steps almost as much as my contractor father. I’ve also learned that parents have as many different views on steps as they do on nutrition and discipline. Some are so fearful of their child falling down steps that they are off limits all together. Others refuse a baby gate reasoning that the steps are there so they need to learn to be safe as soon as possible. And then there is everything in between.

If you are a parent with a child ready to take off (and up and over the horizon) of the steps in your home, we have a few tips to share:

 

  • Allowing your child to learn to crawl up and down the steps is am important pre-curser to walking them. It allows for the cognitive experience of learning the depth of the step, the distance, the texture etc. through exploration of movement and touch.
  • Before you let your child crawl up all the steps, let them practice crawling up and down one small “step” in the middle of the room – diaper boxes and small plastic bins work beautifully.
  • Like stepping, crawling down is typically harder than going up. Moving backwards without relying on your vision to see where you are going is not natural but is the safer option rather than scooting facing forward! Modeling to baby (siblings or yes, you yourself) can help!
  • Children may chose to walk up and down with both hands on the wall or rail (side stepping) or one (forward stepping). One is not better than the other – allow what feels natural to the child.
  • SAFETY is essential. We encourage use of baby gates until your child is proficient and that an adult always stands below the child when practicing.
  • Often times, especially with carpeted steps, the flight of steps appears as one big ramp to children. This may be particularly true if there is any visual challenges with depth perception. Lining the steps with colored masking tape or duct tape and placing a favorite sticker in the middle of each, may help highlight each step as individual and make the task of walking down less scary (and maybe even fun).

Just yesterday I was working with a child who would walk up the steps but not down. Her mother described her as “a mule,” digging her heels in and refusing to walk down no matter what motivators the family tried. Problem is, she is getting too big to carry down the steps. I know she is strong enough to descend a step because she does so with a single step into the home and for fun off an exercise step. So we lined the steps with tape yesterday and placed a snow man sticker on each and she literally walked down on the first try!

FullSizeRender 5

 

I hope that these few simple tips make stair climbing fun and safe within your daily routines. We devote a generous portion of our gross motor cards (the pretty green ones) in 1-2-3 Just Play With Me to stair walking. If you don’t have a copy, make sure you get yours today! We share detailed milestones in 5 developmental domains with fun, purposeful play suggestions in a simple practical format – perfect for a parent or pediatric professional!

 

All the kiddos independent — Throw your hands up at me!

You ever have those moments as a parent, where a realization about your children, your parenting, or your family existence is just IN YOUR FACE? And no matter how busy you are or what situation or setting you are in – it just seems to keep resurfacing?

I’m not sure why this happens, but for our family it does. And lately the reoccurring theme is independence.

A little background info for you – upon self reflection, I’d probably rate my husband and I as middle of the road in terms of expectations for our kids and how much they do on their own. We didn’t spoon feed them for years but they could also be doing more chores for sure.  Let’s be honest, sometimes in the hustle or real life, it’s just EASIER to do it for them then to be patient enough to let them practice doing it on their own.

But lately, as the mother of a 9 or 11 year old, even though I feel real pangs of longing for my former chubby toddlers wanting to sit on my lap for story after story after story, I also have a real urgency to make them STEP UP and start doing a little more on their own. I guess this is why they call it the TWEEN phase, right?

Anyway, we encourage our daughters to order for themselves at restaurants and have for years. Our oldest started doing laundry this year. They have to keep their rooms clean and do a few simple chores. Helping pack lunches and cook is a work in progress. My gut tells me they should be doing a little more for themselves. Yet at times when we nudge them to do the simplest of things, they FREAK OUT.

Here’s an example.

Yesterday we had to stop at the store to buy some poster board for yet another school project. Mostly because we wanted them to accomplish buying it on their own, and partly because I had on fuzzy socks with tennis shoes and sweats and my husband wanted to alter his fantasy football roster, we decided they needed to buy it themselves. We pulled up to the door, handed them cash, and reminded them where they could find poster board in the store.

You are joking, right?

No, I’m quite serious.

But, MOOOOOOM, we are kids.

Yes, and you are quite capable kids – go buy it.

But Mom, there are video cameras in the store!

Exactly, if you cause trouble or someone gives you trouble, you’ll be supervised, now go!

But Mom, parents don’t do this. It’s not ok for you to send kids into a store alone. People will wonder where our parents are.

Tell them we are in the car.

Seriously Mom, you aren’t joking about this?

Girls, when I was your age, I walked 4 blocks to buy candy by myself.

But that was a LOOOONG time ago. That’s not what happens now.

Get in the store or we are taking your electronics.

I would like to say I had super Mom powers and patiently motivated my children to feel empowered and self driven to independently shop for THEIR school supplies alone. It took a threat. I was impatient, annoyed, and we had places to be.

The experience led us to a good family discussion, including the fact that we have to let them have small experiences, within safe boundaries, with increasing independence to become successful and self sufficient adults one day. The problem is it’s not always easy to know how much independence and at what age. I often wonder how much to push, and how much to support.

When I am working as a Physical Therapist teaching parents to encourage their child to learn to walk up the steps, I often say, “I know when you are in a hurry this won’t work, but at least a few times a day, when you have time, let them practice the steps with you close by, but don’t carry them. They need practice to be able to do it by themselves.”

We as adults didn’t wake up with the ability to ride a bike, settle a disagreement with friends or co-workers, tie our own shoes, walk up the steps, or even go into a store and buy something. Our experiences, practice, and space to try and even mess up at times, gave us an opportunity to reflect on what went well, what did not, and how we would change things the next time we tried that new skill. If we hover, if we do it for them, if we spoon feed too long, they won’t have the chance to gain independence, self confidence, and succeed.  I don’t want kids that continue to freak out in fear when nudged to do things for themselves, do you? I’m declaring today INDEPENDENCE DAY!

How old is your child? Do you need to nudge them to be more independent or are they already wanting to take off running on their own? 1-2-3 Just Play With Me includes the 5 domains of child development – 1 being FINE MOTOR where we have included many self help skills. Let us help make understanding when it is typical for your baby to do things more on their own easy for you! Get your copy today and easily understand development while pairing milestones with practical and fun play ideas!

 

 

Reteaching my brain and listening to my body so I can help my patients do the same: A review of TMR TOTS

“Educating yourself does not mean you were stupid in the first place; it means you were intelligent enough to known there is plenty left  to learn.” -Melanie Joy

babies

 

This weekend I spent about 18 hours on the floor in yoga clothes, on yoga mats, holding and twisting baby dolls with black electrical tape on them, and rolling, rubbing, and positioning other people (some I know, some I didn’t before Saturday). PT’s are weirdly awesome. We learn by doing. By seeing. Be feeling. By proving things to be correct…to be good enough to be worth our time, but more importantly to be worthy of making a difference for our patients.

I have be a long time internet stalker of the TMR Method – more specifically – TMR TOTS (the version for baby lovers like me!). It’s been a course that I have wanted to take for a long time, after hearing rave reviews from other therapists, and after hearing MANY refer to methods taught in this course with a sense of common vocabulary. As a PT I felt I was missing out on the secret and I wanted to see for myself.

A great slide with a great reminder!

A great slide with a great reminder!

Without getting into tremendous detail, these methods beautifully weave neurological principals long proven by science to be true, reinforcing what therapists have seen themselves to be successfully with a concept foreign and new to some (like me): making improvements in function, flexibility, posture, and showing increased range of motion without “stretching.” My brain couldn’t process this at first.

 No pain?

No “work?”

No “hold it 5, 10, 30 seconds?”

No “feel the burn?” 

I mean, they don’t call us PT’s (aka Physical Terrorists) for nothing? I was skeptical, then inquisitive, then curious (in between the 1st and 2nd days of the course, my first and favorite lab partner (my college roomie who came to take the course with me) and I assessed my children, husband, and mother in law – with a burning sense of expectation that it wouldn’t work with at least ONE of them.

Practicng at home. Sorry for the PJs - long day!

Practicng at home. Sorry for the PJs – long day!

They all improved. Every one. My mother in law could come to standing with ease and less pain. My husband and children all have increased hip motions where tight hamstrings have long limited them in various ways. So then I started questioning (long term carry over? children with neurologic tone?). And then I got to see before my own eyes and feel with my own hands one of my current patients be treated by Susan Blum – the gentle, patient, and wise PT – who teaches this career changing course. And I submitted. As I did I actually felt guilty that I didn’t have this knowledge for the past 14 years. This old dog learned a new trick and I can’t wait to practice what I learned this week and see what the results are on my patients!

If you are a therapist, I urge you to check it out. The differences we could all collectively make with this knowledge is pretty mind blowing. I’m eager to learn more and to see what we saw and felt replicated and proven in published studies.

If you are a parent with a child with challenges caused by movement – I urge you to seek out a therapist with the training. I wish every child I ever treated had the opportunity to give it a try.

A main component of TMR is to “go to the easy side,”  and “watch, listen, and feel what the body wants to do.” I sat and processed this a bit…and at a deeper level. When we feed our nervous systems with sensory input that our bodies need, we regulate, and function optionally. When we allow movement in the ways I learned about this weekend, our bodies start to correct themselves.  How many times in my life have I pushed my mind, body, and heart out of what it wanted to do? How about you?

Over worked?

Over scheduled?

Under-exercised?

Over-exercised?

Poor nutrition? and hydration?

Wrong choices for wrong motives?

Neglecting my people for reasons that don’t matter?

Judging myself by unfair standards?

My husband claims I have an “inner hippie,” and maybe he’s right (and maybe it’s laughable – go ahead) but I do think people and experiences come to you or are sent to you as you need them. Tomorrow my daughters return to school and as I’ve shared before, a new school year or more like New Year’s Day for me than the holiday. I love fresh starts and new chances for healthy starts….for chances to listen to what your body, mind, and soul are telling you.

As they go off to school, I will shift into working more and having more time during the day to pour into my “other kids.” Thanks to TMR, I have an incredible new skill set to practice and learn with. I also have a reminder to “go to my easy side” as I tackle the mom role of hectic schedules, a much quicker pace, and on the never ending quest for “balance” (in parenthesis because I don’t think it exists).

I am thankful that my body keeps telling me I have so much left to learn! What is yours telling you?

One of my favorite slides from the course.

One of my favorite slides from the course.

 

The POWER of LANGUAGE in WORDLESS PICTURE BOOKS

If you are a follower of our blog you well know by now that I am a children’s book nerd.  I love all kids’ books…even love those without words.  How can that be, you may ask, I am a speech-language pathologist, after all?!  Words are my life!!  Well, it can be because WORDLESS PICTURE BOOKS entice more spontaneous language in kids and encourage language development in ways that pre-written stories that are simply read to them can’t.

So what language learning advantages lie between the pages of wordless picture books?

1.  Spontaneous language – wordless picture books allow kids to tell their own story about the pictures they see.  While doing this they are practicing sentence formulation, sequencing and naturally, storytelling skills!

2.  No reading level required – Wordless picture books are “readable” for all kids no matter what their reading level.

3.  Attention to detail – Because there is no predetermined story line, kids are more likely to notice details in the pictures to add interest to their story.

4.  Interpreting and inferring – Again, without words to tell them how characters are feeling, wordless picture books require kids to infer details from the pictures like characters’ emotions.

5.  Infinite options – Wordless picture books can be a new book with a new story each time a child picks it up.  This encourages creativity, imagination and flexible thinking.

Here are a few of my favorite wordless picture books.  Check them out and open up a world of language and storytelling possibilities for your kids!