2018 Holiday Shopping Guide -Toys to Promote Language Development

“What should I get them???”
As therapists we hear this all the time.
You know what else we hear often?
“My kids don’t really play with toys.”

Here’s our 2 cents on this as professionals who believe in the power of play. We all play. All mammals. No matter how old. We were designed for play. It’s the best form of stress release. It recharges creative pathways. And most importantly, it brings JOY.

Sometimes as parents the hardest part is finding the right toy for the right kid (or adult). But we believe Santa has the perfect one for everyone .
So here’s what we’ve done this week.
We’ve made our lists and we’ve checked them twice.

We added toys we have in our homes. Toys we’ve learned about in patient’s homes. Toys recommended by therapists around the globe. And toys that span a large range of interests and prices.   Remember that toys and interest vary by age, so something on another list may really interest a child even if it is not included on the list for your child’s particular age.

We’ve given suggestions by age but here we are sharing some of our favorite LANGUAGE toys! However with toys to support language development it is MOST important to remember the magic is not in the toy but in the interaction you have with your child and the language  you model for your child while playing with the toy.  It is best to pick toys that do not light up, make sounds or talk for the child.  Often children are drawn to those types of toys (that require batteries to work) because of the flashing lights and sounds, however it takes the work out of the play and lessens your interaction with your child because the toy does that for you.  But YOU are and ALWAYS will be the best “toy” for your child to learn from!  These toys range from infant through preschool age.  We’ve picked toys that support join attention, offer opportunities for repetitive modeling of words, singing, early pretend play and vocabulary building.  But most importantly these toys are FUN and TIMELESS!   PLAY ON and Merry Christmas!!









2018 Holiday Shopping Guide – Toys To Promote Vision and Support Vision Loss

“What should I get them???”
As therapists we hear this all the time.
You know what else we hear often?
“My kids don’t really play with toys.”

Here’s our 2 cents on this as professionals who believe in the power of play. We all play. All mammals. No matter how old. We were designed for play. It’s the best form of stress release. It recharges creative pathways. And most importantly, it brings JOY.

Sometimes as parents the hardest part is finding the right toy for the right kid (or adult). But we believe Santa has the perfect one for everyone .
So here’s what we’ve done this week.
We’ve made our lists and we’ve checked them twice.

We added toys we have in our homes. Toys we’ve learned about in patient’s homes. Toys recommended by therapists around the globe. And toys that span a large range of interests and prices.   Remember that toys and interest vary by age, so something on another list may really interest a child even if it is not included on the list for your child’s particular age.

We’ve given suggestions by age but here we are sharing some of our favorite VISION toys! Toys on this list include items that we or other therapist like using in children who have vision loss and/or are working to strengthen their visual abilities with conditions such as CVI. Just like kids, vision and visual abilities are very unique, so please consult with your child’s vision specialist, but here are some great ideas to try.   Here’s our picks for this group this year!

Dimpl Duo –

This sensory toy gets rave reviews. We love that it strengthens fine motor muscles and includes braille for early learners.

Baby Sees Colors Book-

Love this high contrast book including colors baby sees best early on.

Mini Rainmaker-

With simple activation of a soothly sound with touch, this is an easy choice.

Shakin Eggs-

Easy cause and effect toy with simple movements. Great for practicing imitation.

Orange Slinky-

Versatile for draping over just about anything, and in a color motivating to many with vision challenges, slinky is fun for grabbing and batting at.

 

Hearth Song Light Up Shoe Strings-

We love the fact that these illuminate feet to enhance motor skills with a highlighter for vision!

Heart Songs Liquid Color Tiles

While an investment as a set, these are sold individually and could be illuminated from behind for motivation for movement and exploring!

 

Rocket Tent-

Sometimes closing off the clutter of the world outside helps us see the beauty of the things we bring in…and tents like this fun one are a simple way to do just that.

Koosh Ball-

Easy to grab, easier to see, even more easy to play.

Mirror-

Babies loves to look at faces and what cuter one than their own!

Red Rope Lights-

These are a staple for any vision specialist and they can be used in a variety of ways to motivate play and illuminate a child’s day.

Red Pom Pom-

Shiny, textured, with a fun sound to touch. We are giving a cheer for this!

Speaker With Light Show-

Bring the vision party to any room with this great speaker.
** Do not use with children with seizure disorder without discussing with physician first.

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.

 

 

 

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).

EXPLORE, PLAY, GROW: Our visit to see Winter The Dolphin

We are kicking off a new feature on our blog called Explore. Play. Discover, a series of blog posts sharing our reviews of fun places to play. We hope this series will help not just with vacation or field trip planning, but will also bring exposure to incorporating play into your travel fun.

For our first entry, we are sharing our recent visit to Clearwater Marine Aquarium. This marine rescue center and aquarium is located in Clearwater, Florida, and although it has been in operation for years, it was made famous by the Dolphin Tale movies. The popularity of the movies has certainly increased the number of visitors to the aquarium and has increased funds to improve the facilities and services.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium was easy to find and we were able to find (free) parking close to the entrance because we arrived early. Visitors arriving later park farther away. General Admission pricing is $21.95 for adults, $16.95 for children, $19.95 for seniors, and children under 2 are free. The kids were super excited to see the actual houseboat filmed in the movie outside the aquarium and loved pointing out the features they remembered.

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While my 9 and 11 year old were overly excited to see Winter (the Dolphin famously rescued), we were all pleasantly surprised by the other experiences offered. We got a tour of the animal hospital and the well educated volunteers showed us a huge board that tracks when animals were brought in, from where, what their injuries are, and when their expected release is planned. We saw a sea turtle brought in a few days earlier with a cracked shell that was bandaged and resting. We learned that sea turtles are at risk for a virus similar to HPV in humans and that their center is one of a few in Florida that perform laser surgery to remove harmful growths caused by the virus. Our daughters got to hold a bucket filled with the amount of fish a dolphin eats daily. We learned that anyone from the Coast Guard to boaters can call if they spot injured marine life and that Clearwater Marine Aquarium goes out to rescue them.

Next, we made a beeline for the VIPS of this place, Winter and Hope (we could hardly hold the kids back). They are in the tanks that they were filmed in during the movie and were separated at first and then joined together. Trainers on a microphone shared with the crowd the daily routines and care of both dolphin and we got to observe Winter getting therapy to help his prosthetic continue to fit. She didn’t seem to mind the stretches! The kids got to hold an examine one of Winter’s prosthetic tales, which was incredibly cool!

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Next to their tanks were sea turtles with missing limbs, damaged shells and several sea otters. One was paralyzed when hit by a car and could swim with only the top half of his body. Another was raised by a man living on a fishing boat for a year (frowned upon by marine staff) until it “got a bit out of control” and they explained this sea otter acts very odd due to it’s early experiences (See what we do in those first few years really is THAT important!). We also saw the loud and noisy bird, Ricky, that was in the video and another dolphin that had been injured similarly to Winter. There were several stations where we could touch and see small aquatic animals and plants, including sting rays (75% of us was brave enough), and ask questions There were also several tanks with a variety of fish and even some sharks.

This location also included (of course) a gift shop with a variety of souvenirs. We didn’t buy any but my favorite was a plush Winter whose tail could come on/off. We did cave to buy photos of the kids made using a green screen, which were pricey but precious at $30 for both, but too cute to pass up! Towards the entrance of the aquarium they sold limited drinks and concessions and snow cones for enjoying outside under a tent.

Fairly new to Clearwater Marine Aquarium is a second spot a few miles away where they showcase features from the Dolphin Tale movies called Winter’s Dolphin Tale Adventure. We took an open-air trolley to this location (included with the general admission) and did not have to wait long for the ride there or back. At this location, we saw artifacts from the movie (Sawyers bike, the kitchen and bedroom from his house etc.) and could walk through a simulated hurricane (full with high winds, noise, and water). This only took a few minutes but was fun! This location did have a slightly larger refreshment stand, where we enjoyed ice cream and popcorn. I believe there may have been hot pretzels and hotdog type foods too. There was a hands on area for younger children where smaller climbing structures were available and children could write a letter to Winter.   A nice surprise was that Cozi Zuehlsdorff, the actress that played Hazel Haskett in Dolphin Tale was visiting and did a Q&A session and a meet-n-greet.

I would certainly recommend Clearwater Marine Aquarium as a great option for a family activity. Here are a few details to consider:

 

TIME NEEDED: I’d allow ~2 hours if you only do the main animal hospital and ~3-4 hours if you visit the location dedicated to the movies.

 

AGES APPROPRIATE FOR: There’s really something here for everyone and I did see small babies that would enjoy the visuals, but overall, I’d say this is most appropriate for 2-3 years old and up, with 6 and up likely able to fully understand the educational component (of course we believe even babies learn from their environment).  ** The hurricane simulation might be scary for younger children.

 

ADDITIONAL TIPS: If going in prime sun hours, take sunscreen. The top deck and waiting areas for the trolley are outside. We enjoyed lunch afterwards at Frenchies with cousins we were visiting. They suggested this beachy local chain (and it was quite good). Interestingly, the kids insisted on watching Dolphin Tale that evening and noticed Frenchies is mentioned in the movie, so I guess you could say we had a fully authentic Dolphin Tale adventure.

 

DEVELOPMENTAL SCORE: (we decided to add this is a potential 5 star rating system, scoring how many developmentally appropriate, hands on, movement or sensory based activities are offered). We give Clearwater Marine Aquarium 5/5 stars! ★★★★★

 

BANG FOR THE BUCK: Considering there were two locations to visit, multiple hands on experiences, major educational experiences, well educated engaging volunteers and staff, and that we were in Florida at an attraction and we didn’t stand in line or feel Closter phobic, it was certainly worth the money we spent. When you consider that part of your admission funds care of these animals — it is icing on the cake!

 

Most interestingly to me, is that in the movie many children with physical and mobility challenges, including amputees visit Winter and Clearwater Marine Aquarium. While this touched both myself (a PT) and my husband (an OT), we figured it was sprinkled in as Hollywood’s “glitter” to bring he movie full circle. I was pleasantly surprised to see for myself that it was actually true, as many times during our visit I caught myself checking out a kid’s sleek gait trainer or wheelchair and noticing orthotics.   I have to say it was even sweeter in real life to observe the look on these little warriors faces as they watched animals preserve the same ways they do. So if you are a therapist, or simply a sucker for underdogs winning big time, you may experience the same joy on your visit!

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Here at Milestones & Miracles, LLC we BELIEVE that PLAY is the way we all learn, but especially young children and most certainly when encouraged by an involved parent. If you believe in play to learn too, check out 1-2-3 Just Play With Me (the perfect resource made by therapists and moms!).

COMMUNICATION FOR ALL – How AAC Helps Children Find Their Voice

This post was originally written for Child Guide Magazine. Check out the many resources Child Guide offers as well as this article and others HERE.

 

clairechase

What comes to your mind when you hear the word “communication”? Do you think of talking? That is what most people consider to be communication. But what if you don’t have a voice to talk? Or if when you talk no one can understand what you are saying? How do you communicate then?

 

Speech-language pathologists help those without an audible voice find their “voice” by introducing them to AAC. What is AAC? Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) is just that; other ways, using high or low technology, to communicate. AAC includes something as simple as a head nod to something as high tech as a speech generating device.

 

The American Speech-Language and Hearing Association defines AAC as all forms of communications, other than oral speech, used to express thoughts, needs, wants and ideas. AAC can be aided or unaided. Unaided AAC is using body language, gestures and/or sign language to communicate. Aided AAC is when tools and/or equipment are used, such as pictures and speech devices.

 

Communication is a right of all people and it is the job of a Speech-Language Pathologist to help children access that right in the absence of the ability to speak. But how does one decide which AAC approach is best for the child? There are recommended criteria that typically have to be met for the child to be considered as an AAC candidate.

 

  1. Does the child understand cause and effect? Cause and effect is the foundation of communication; I do something and get something in return. Sometimes cause and effect can be taught using an AAC device.

 

  1. Manual dexterity and fine motor skills. To be able to access sign language as a means of communication the child must have the fine motor skills to perform two-handed signs. Also, to be able to push a button to activate a speech device, the child must be able to control the motor movement of the arm and hand. Tilt switches (a simple head tilt) and eye gaze systems exist to allow children with minimal controlled movement to access AAC.

 

  1. Motivation! The child has to be motivated to communicate to be successful with any type of communication option. A highly desirable reward just might motivate any child to use their AAC!

 

So what does AAC look like for real kids? How does their voice sound? Meet Claire and Ethan, two AAC user success stories!

 

Claire

Claire Elias, daughter of Mark and Melanie Elias of Frederick, Maryland, is an adorably sweet 4-year-old girl. Claire loves the color pink and hugging her stuffed animals. She loves to watch Minnie Mouse and Sophia the First and her best friend is her twin brother, Chase. Claire has an incredibly happy disposition and a smile that lights up a room. Claire uses AAC to express herself. At the age of 2 she began using an iPad with a communication app to request toys and answer yes/no questions. The fine motor movements necessary to operate the iPad proved to be a difficult for Claire. Now she uses a PODD (Pragmatic Organization Dynamic Display ) book to communicate. A PODD book is a picture system that allows Claire to use visual gaze to make requests, ask questions, comment, etc. Claire will be 5 in June and will attend Kindergarten next fall. Her PODD book goes with her everywhere, just like her voice.

 

 

Ethan

Ethan Judd, son of Christy and Jeff Judd of Inwood, WV, is a 6-year-old kindergartener at Bunker Hill Elementary. Ethan has an awesome sense of humor and a determined mindset. His favorite colors are green and orange and he loves, and often wins, playing UNO. Because of his tracheostomy, Ethan was unable to access his voice during his infant, toddler and preschool years. During this time Ethan used a combination of sign language and an iPad with a communication app. Since then Ethan has gained respiratory strength and now mostly relies on his voice to communicate. Sometimes he accompanies his speech with sign language to increase his intelligibility (the clarity of how he is understood). Ethan’s story is an example of how AAC bridged the gap for him until he was strong enough to vocalize. AAC gave Ethan a voice when his wasn’t available to him.

 

Claire and Ethan’s stories are just 2 of many, many AAC success stories. If you know a child who has yet to “find” their voice, contact an SLP close to you to help. Communication is a right of all individuals, no one should be denied!

 

Lacy Morise, M.S. CC/SLP, better known as Miss Lacy, is a Speech-Language Pathologist with the WVBTT and Loudoun County Schools. She is co-owner of Milestones & Miracles, LLC (www.milestonesandmiracles.com), a company dedicated to educating families about the importance of PLAY. She loves to use verbal and nonverbal language approaches to help kids access their right to communicate!

Print or Digital? Which version is best for you?

From the beginning of our business, we have enjoyed sharing our visions and dreams with you – our friends and family personally, professionally, and those who we have connected with through our shared passion for play as the best way for a child to learn and bond with a parent.

For those reasons and more, we are very excited to share with you the next step in our journey to support those who love and interact with children by truly understanding their development in the early years and encouraging the pairing of it with purposeful play.

We are proud to announce that 1-2-3 Just Play With Me is now available for purchase as an E-book!

To give you a glimpse into why we decided to expand our product to a digital offering and how it can be used, we decided to share with you some questions we are asked repetitively (and some answers too!)

“I love your product, but are you going to make it into an app? E-book? Some digital form? Paper is going to be extinct soon!”

While we both still love the feel of an actual book or product to hold, and the opportunity to give a beautiful gift to someone, we realize that many people prefer a more compact version of 1-2-3 Just Play With Me! We both embrace the qualities of printed work and the convenience of digital work. As soon as we created our product, it was a goal to create a digital version so that we could meet the needs of all customers. We chose an e-book vs. an app because 1-2-3 Just Play With Me has enough information and text that it could be a book, but we wanted the convenience as parents of quickly accessing only the information we needed at a time in card form. The E-book was the best option to present the information digitally in the format we wanted to preserve.

“Which option is best for me? E-book or print version?”

Of course, this is personal preference, but in our opinion, if you are purchasing it for yourself to use with your baby, or as a gift, we recommend the print version. Here’s why. The cards can be physically placed in a useful place like the refrigerator door. This allows you (or another parent or caretaker) the opportunity to focus on only the age/stage where the child currently is, while doing all the other things we do as parents (cook, clean up dishes etc). The cards were purposefully made to be quite durable for these reasons.  Our sturdy, decorative box also makes a lovely addition to a nursery.

We do sell a great number of units to therapists, child care centers, and early childhood professionals. Depending on the professional use, the E-book version may be more practical. For example, Lacy & I both work in early intervention, so we will be loading the E-book on our individual devices to take daily into the homes of the families we serve to use as a quick reference (as a PT, I LOVE this option to reference the areas of development other than my familiar motor area. It allows me to give the parents a comprehensive and appropriate look into which milestones we are working on and how we can tie together goals in several areas of development into a few activities).  The E-book is obviously easier to transport for work purposes than the print version for us, but if you work in a clinic where you want parents to view the cards themselves in a waiting area or interactively with you during therapy sessions or parent conferences, the print version may work best.  Additionally, the eBook version has a table of contents, search engine, and hyperlinks to additional resources that the print version doesn’t have.

“I really like your product. I wish I had it earlier, but my child is 2 years old, so I’m not sure I can justify buying the whole set. Have you considered splitting it up into sections?”

Why yes, we have! We considered this in the early development phases of the print version, but doing so initially would have increased our production costs making it difficult to sell to our customers at a fair price. With the E-book version we were able to meet this request! You can purchase the cards in the first, second, or third year of life separately and each comes with the detailed resource section at the end of 1-2-3 Just Play With Me, including common topics such as potty training, discipline, sleep. sign language, and book and toy recommendations. Simply search for each individual year at the ebook store of your choice!

“I really like the design of the cards. Is that lost in the E-book conversion.”

We do too, so absolutely not! 1-2-3 Just Play With Me is color coded to quickly reference what domain of child development you are looking for and sequentially by age. That was part of our essential original design so we could not lose that in the conversion. In fact, we actually added a table of contents so you can search by age or area and a search engine to look for specific topics and milestones. The only difference is, that in the e-book version, you will not see our colored scalloped borders, but you will still be able to use the color coding system to identify which of the 5 developmental domains you are exploring. The font in the headings of the e-book sections will maintain the same system as the printed cards (red for cognitive, navy for social/emotional, green for gross motor, gray for fine motor, and light blue for speech and language). Here’s a screen shot to give you a sneak preview!

 

horizontal version

 

 

“So how can I find 1-2-3 Just Play With Me digitally?”

We are excited to offer our e-book through Amazon/Kindle, Barnes and Noble/Nook, iTunes.

Simply click the hyperlink above to find the version of your choice and to read a sample.

There you have it. What you need to know about our next step. As with all of our previous steps, we are humbled by your encouragement and support. For reviews of what others are saying check out these reviews and these too! If you share our vision for a world where adults understand what real development looks like and embrace their children through play, will you share with a friend or colleague that might benefit from knowing  about our E-book? Whether you are a paper fan or a digital fan, we know you’ll be a 1-2-3 just Play With Me fan once you experience the detailed developmental information, purposeful and fun play strategies, and practical and unique format we are proud to offer you! Remember you can always order the print version at Amazon, Pro-Ed, and right here at Milestones & Miracles (we’ll happily ship for free and include a gift card for you). You can also visit these lovely spaces that may be local to you to purchase one in person.

WILL YOU HELP US KICK OFF THIS EXCITING NEW ADDITION TO OUR BUSINESS? SIMPLY SHARE THE FACEBOOK ANNOUNCEMENT FROM OUR PAGE AND WE WILL ENTER YOU TO WIN A FREE DIGITAL FULL VERSION OF 1-2-3 JUST PLAY WITH ME! DRAWING WILL BE HELD ON FRIDAY 9.19.14. THANKS!

 

The Secret of “The Hot Pink Tape”

This post was originally written for Child Guide Magazine.  Check out the many resources Child Guide offers as well as this article and others HERE.

If you are a runner, or have watched a race or even perhaps a professional sporting event lately, you may find yourself asking, “What is that bright colored tape people are wearing? And why is it cut in crazy patterns?” That trendy tape, often seen in bright pink or blue or sometimes black, is called Kinesiotape and it isn’t exactly new, even though it may have gained popularity in recent years in the US. But did you know that Kinesiotape is not just for athletes? This versatile tape is actually a very effective tool for children with motor challenges as well!

 

Kinesiotape is a progression of Kinesio Tex, which was invented by Dr. Kenzo Kase in Japan in the 1970’s. Dr. Kase was searching for an alternative tape to traditional athletic tape. He noticed that traditional tape often restricted movement, did nothing to aid healing, and could potentially cause additional injuries. Out of his hard work, Kinesiotape was born. What makes it different? Kinesiotape is elastic, latex free, cotton based tape that can stretch up to 30-40% of its original size. These properties allow it to be more versatile than traditional tape. In additional to allowing full range of motion and being very comfortable on the skin, the elasticity of the tape allows it to perform many functions. Kinesiotape is meant to be placed very strategically depending on the reason why someone is wearing it. Depending on placement it can increase healing, decrease inflammation and swelling, and support weak muscle by encouraging activation, or increase function lost by spastic muscle by encouraging a decrease in muscle tone. In addition posture can be improved with use.

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Sounds pretty incredible, right? Here’s how it works. Our muscles are each individually covered in a think filmy layer called fascia. Between the skin and this fascia are layers of connective tissue. When Kinesiotape is applied strategically to the skin, it tugs on the skin, which pulls on the connective tissue, which pulls on the fascia, which tugs on the muscle. The result is either an increased “fascial envelope,” allowing for 1) increased removal of toxins (lactic acid and waste) and increased space to allow fresh blood to restore tissue or aid in healing or 2) Encouragement of activation of a specific muscle for a specific purpose., improving posture or strength through increased use.   When used this way, the tape is like a constant tapping on weak muscles saying, “Use Me!”

kinesio-tape-diagram

This can potentially best be illustrated by looking at something concrete like a bruise.

In the images below, Kinesiotape has been used to increase the space between the fascia and the skin and allow quicker healing in the places where the tape was placed.

How is this used with children or anyone with motor challenges? In many ways! Children with atypical muscle tone (either hypotonia (low tone), hypertonia (high tone) or any sort of weakness may benefit from Kinesotape. When the tape is applied strategically over the muscles that need assistance or strengthening, the result is a slight tug that encourages the child to use their body in a specific way. When used this way, Kinesiotape can be used as a bridge to encourage strengthening or function through active participation. The child wears the tape, the tape encourages the child to move their body in a way that strengthens, stretches, or improves function, and eventually the child may get strong or functional enough to not need the tape. An example would be using the tape on the abdominal or back muscles in a child with Downs Syndrome who has trouble sitting alone or on the hand of a child with Cerebral Palsy who has a hard time opening the hand to grab for things.

Owen Ruffner is a 2 year-old child has benefitted from Kinesiotape in large ways. Owen has Mitocondrial Disease and as a result has weakness and low muscle tone, which challenge him when moving and attempting to control his body. Owen is learning to walk with a gait trainer and without tape, tends to drift to his left weaker side. When Kinesiotape is placed on the left leg, encouraging full activation of his muscles, he able to walk in a straight path. These results were immediately noticed after 1 application by his Physical Therapist. His mother Kasey McDaniel has been thrilled with the progress. She shares, “Kinesiotape has helped Owen by giving him a chance to use his muscles on his weaker side. I have noticed a huge difference with daily function and with helping him as he learns to walk.”

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The possibilities are quite endless with Kinesiotape as it is relatively low cost, is easily tolerated on the skin, is waterproof, and usually lasts 3-5 days per application. It is very important that anyone using the tape is initially taped by someone with strong knowledge of anatomy, such as a licensed physical therapist, and by someone who has had training on the Kinesiotape method.  Once a few applications are applied, tweaked as needed, and monitored, a successful method can be taught to a willing parent, who could continue the taping at home, with the help of a physical therapist.
It is true that Lance Armstrong was one of the first to expose Kinesiotape to the United States, swearing by the pink tape specifically for his knee injury, but your child may benefit as well. If you haven’t tried it yet, the risks and cost are low, but the benefit is often quite high. Ask your pediatric PT about Kinesiotape at your next visit.

 

For more information about Kinesiotape and the Kinesiotaping method, visit: http://www.kinesiotaping.com/ and http://www.kinesiologytapeinfo.com/pediatric-kinesiology-taping/

 

What Can You Do With Ribbon, Marbles, Golf Tees and Pom Poms? We Have Some Ideas for YOU!

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Going into homes to serve children can be tricky when it comes to engaging them.  Therapists can be tempted to take in their own toys because the child will quickly join in the fun when a new toy is presented.  But we certainly don’t want parents to feel pressure to purchase the toys we bring into the homes.  Contrary to popular belief there is no magic in our toys!  So it is often best practice to play with what is available in the home and sometimes that is very little.  It can be heartbreaking to be in homes with not even a single book or stuffed animal.  Until I worked as an EI therapist I thought EVERY child owned at least one of each of those.  So in order to help these children have access to developmentally appropriate toys we often help families create toys out of everyday items that can be found in their homes.  At the request of another early intervention therapist we are posting this blog with photos of a few homemade treasures you can share with the families your serve or your own family at home!  I think creating homemade toys is a great way to engage children and their imagination and drives home to parents that it is not the toy that matters but the “PLAYING” with it that does!  We hope you find an idea here you like but if not be sure to visit our Pinterest DIY PLAY board for more ideas.  And certainly refer to 1-2-3 Just Play With Me for more fun PLAY at home ideas paired with developmental milestones for kids ages birth to three.  PLAY BUILDS BRAINS people!  Spread the news!

 

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Create crazy creatures with plastic golf balls and pipe cleaners

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Putting pom poms into a plastic bottle with the bottom cut off or a paper towel roll tube. Then pull up the bottle/tube for an explosion of pom poms! The mirror adds an element of interest as the little one can watch what they are doing.

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Use a lidded plastic container and a few ribbons. Have the child pull the ribbons through the lid.

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Color matching with play-doh and colored Q-tips.

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Fine motor work with golf tees and marbles. To add more difficulty have the child use tweezers to place the marbles.

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Make a Munchy ball by cutting a slit in a tennis ball. This could be used as a reinforcer as well as work on fine motor strength.

“The Look” And What It Silently Says to Me From A Sibling Of A Child With Special Needs

Last week I got the opportunity to speak at career day at my daughter’s school.  I drag my big therapy ball, some thera-band and thera-putty, my anatomy coloring book, a baby doll, and other interesting goodies that I play with every day into the school every time I am asked to do this.  The “regular grown ups” (aka lawyers, mortgage brokers etc.) laugh kindly.

 Last week, I had 20 minutes to share what I felt was most important about the profession I love. And then I did it again 3 more times. 100 4th graders and me. I gab on and on about how Physical Therapy is repetitively listed as one of the “happiest” professions, how great the job outlook is in coming years, and what I love about my job. I share that interested students need to like sciences, can’t be repulsed by touching people, and need to enjoy social interaction with many kinds of people.  I am a total nerd, but I get misty eyed sharing about how I love the teaching part of my job and what a blessing it is to motivate parents who get such satisfaction and joy when they get to be the ones who teach their child to roll, crawl, or walk!

I’ve done this for years for elementary, middle, and high schoolers. Without a doubt, when I ask for questions at the end, I get the same ones every single time – no matter the age.

“Did you ever work with an NFL player, NBA player…Professional Wrestler?”

“What’s the grossest thing you have ever done?”

“How much do you get paid?”

“You dissected a real human in school? Ew. Were they alive or dead? Was there blood? Did you cry? Ew.”

As consistent as these questions are, I am always ready for them. And there’s another one that happens every time as well. Usually when we are almost out of time, a child will somewhat sheepishly raise a hand and when I call on them will ask…

“Have you ever worked with someone with Downs Syndrome?”

 

or

 

“Have you ever worked with someone with Cerebral Palsy?”

 

or

 

“Autism?”

 

No other comments. But none are needed. I get the look and I know. This is the sibling of a child with special needs. No words are needed because the look is enough.

The look says, “I know you get it.”

The look says, “Someone like you has been to my house every week and knows us.”

And, “You know how hard my family works for small things that people take for granted.”

And, “You know how sad it is for us when people make hurtful comments.”

And, “You know that I am often expected to be more patient that most kids my age, and that that isn’t easy, and sometimes I’m resentful, or wish for more attention, and jealous. And you know that I feel bad about that but I still can’t help it.  And you know that despite these sometimes “yucky” feelings, nothing makes me feel more proud than when my sibling overcomes and obstacle or learns something new…because they don’t do it alone…my whole family does.”

Career day is a joy. It’s a day that recharges me with excitement about my job and my calling in this world. But, the sibling “look” gets me every time. 

Sometimes I wonder if those kids can silently read my “look” back to them. If they can, I hope they read,

“You are brave. And strong. And important. Not just because of the kind of sibling you are, but because of who YOU are. All alone. As YOU.”

And I hope they hear, “What you are learning from your sibling experience is compassion, and empathy, and a patience, and an awareness, and gratitude greater than average people will ever even know. And it is a gift. And it will make you do great things in your life.”

And I hope they know, “Your parents love you for you. Not because of what you do to help but for who are you are. Are for the special gifts you yourself have.”

And finally, I hope my look back says, “I get it.” And even though I don’t know you, “I’m proud.”

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the kid that asked that question last week and the kids who have asked that same question in the years before.  April is a month dedicated to Autism Awareness, Child Abuse Prevention, Mesothelioma, Children’s Footwear Awareness, National Minority Health Month, and Genocide Awareness & Prevention among others.  All are so important.

But I’m here to say, let’s let every month be awareness of siblings with special needs month….awareness of their own special needs. 

How can you celebrate?

Do you know a sibling of a child with special medical or health care needs?

       Take them out for a special day celebrating just them..doing something they love and often can’t do.

       Better yet, volunteer to watch their sibling so their own parent can do the same.

       Make a donation to the many camps that offer attention and love to these super siblings so that a child can attend. Financial costs are often a struggle for families. Sharing your resources to help a sibling attend camp, or play a sport would be a gift!

       Simply be aware of the challenges with families you know or don’t know. Offer help if you feel comfortable. Offer a smile. A “we are all in this together” wink. All can go a long way.

       Teach your child compassion and friendship by modeling it. Siblings of children with special needs have their own special needs – quality friendship is one!

 

Do you have a child with special medical or developmental needs? How do you feel their siblings are best supported? What are their needs? Join our conversation!

 

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