Fine Motor Fun Activities For Christmas

Christmas is a hectic and chaotic time. With school holidays, parties and altered schedules Christmas can be overwhelming for adults and children. It can be hard to continue developing and improving specific skill areas, like fine motor or handwriting.

So, I have put together some Christmas-y activities to continue working on occupational therapy areas including fine motor skills whilst simultaneously having fun and connecting as a family. Here are some ideas:

Building a gingerbread house – This addresses fine motor, proprioceptive and olfactory areas. Cut out gingerbread men, encourage pincer grip with small lollies or just play with dough!

Making ginger bread house

Girl making a ginger bread house

Write a letter to Santa – practice letter formation, spacing and legibility.

Boy writing a letter to santa

Writing to Santa can be a great time to practice handwriting

Make a bead ornament. Work on fine motor skills and finger strength by threading beads onto pipecleaners. Threading beads works on a tripod grasp, bilateral hand coordination, hand-eye coordination, visual scanning, visual tracking, patterning, and more.

Pipe cleaner and bead Christmas decoration

Beads made into a Christmas tree shape

Cut snowflakes to work on scissor skills. Try using different textures for line accuracy practice.

snow flake creation

Children cutting snow flakes

Wrapping presents is an activity that requires a lot of fine motor precision.  Measure paper to fit packages, cut paper with scissors in a straight line, fold paper, tear and cut tape, stick tape along edges of paper.  This helps practice motor planning, problem solving, and executive functioning.

Getting all the presents wrapped

Wrapping presents can be a great fine motor activity

Baking Christmas cookies. Choose recipes where children can roll out and squish dough – good for bilateral coordination. Cut out shapes with cutters – good for spatial awareness and planning skills. Choose and measure ingredients – good for math skills, memory skills and following instructions.

Making special Christmas treats

Christmas Baking

Please contact Childworks, if you would like to learn more about how occupational therapy can help your child and their fine motor skills. Please call at 02 9098 1635 or make an enquiry at help@childworks.com.au

It is international Occupational Therapy Day

As part of International Occupational Therapy Day we have put together some information on occupational therapy.

I Love OT

International Occupational Therapy Day

The World Federation of Occupational Therapy says that occupational therapy is a client-centred health profession concerned with promoting health and well being through occupation. The main goal of OT is to help people to participate in activities of every day life. We can do this by working with children, their families, schools, preschools and other treating professionals.

Childworks OTs help children to participate in school, play and self-care. For example we might help a child to learn how to dress herself or to stay focused on table top activities for school. We help children to develop fine and gross motor skills and to manage situations they find difficult by adapting their environment or helping them to learn strategies to manage difficult situations. Occupational therapists have a number of strategies to help children who are struggling.

Children are always active participants in occupational therapy at Childworks and we try to make each treatment fun so that children are fully engaged.

Childworks takes a functional approach to therapy so we work on building strengths in areas that will make a real difference to your child and family. We have a focus on evidence based practice.

Occupational therapists are fr university trained professionals who are regulated through the Australia Health Practitioner Regulation Agency, the body which regulates other professions such as medical practitioners, nurses and psychologists. The minimum qualification is a four year degree but many occupational therapists have master’s degrees or doctorates.

As part of university training, student occupational therapists spend some time in practical experience in clinics and hospitals. Childworks sometimes takes on students to assist in their studies.

Please contact Childworks if you would like more information about how occupational therapy may be able to help your child. If you would like to find out more about occupational therapy at Childworks please call at 9098 1635 or your can use our contact form. You can read more about occupational therapy at the OT Australia website.

 

Are fidget spinners useful?

Are fidget spinners useful?

You’ve seen them, haven’t you? The weird little spaceship things children like to play with all the time.

Here are some fidget spinners

They have become a global craze. When I was at school it was elastics, jacks and swap cards but now it is fidget spinners.

The palm sized, three pronged design spins on a central bearing and has been marketed as helping children with ADHD and autism. This is a not completely untrue as some children who have these diagnoses and some who have no diagnosis may find the toy useful but marketing the toy that way is quite misleading. The toys may be of some assistance to a subset of children with ADHD or children who are on the autism spectrum but the assistance they provide is fairly limited and may well be provided in another way just as easily. Fidget spinners are certainly not a “must have” for children with ADHD or who are on the autism spectrum.

It is true that fidget toys appear to have a calming effect and can help some children to focus. A fidget toy could be a range of items. It could be as simple as two pieces of velcro that a child attaches and then removes over and over again. It could be a squashy toy the child can squeeze or it could be a fidget spinner. No single fidget toy is guaranteed to work for every child and certainly not every child can benefit from a fidget toy.

For the right child a particular fidget toy can help them to concentrate and focus on their work. It is as if they need an outlet for their energy so that the rest of their body can be calm. However, there is no recipe and it is a matter of trying what might work for that child. Fidget spinners do seem very popular but some teachers complain that they are distracting for other children.

 

school boy using fidget toy

boy with fidget spinner

Sandra Mortimer, a lecturer at South Australia’s, Flinders University, told the ABC that research in the area is fairly limitedbut anecdotal evidence supports the use of fidget spinners for some children.

Fidget spinners have become a global craze. Some schools have decided to ban them.

The ABC states that the mother who invented the toy is not benefiting from its’ popularity as she could not pay for the continued patent.

Catherine Hettinger from Orlando, saw some children throwing rocks one day and thought there must be a better way to distract and occupy children. At first she thought of soft rocks to throw but she eventually developed the fidget spinner.

Her patent expired in 2005 and she was not able to pay for the extension meaning that companies can manufacture and sell the product without her involvement. But she isn’t upset about the popularity. She is thrilled that her invention is so successful.

Why is there a sudden boom in popularity? Hettinger thinks people just need a way to calm their nerves and reduce anxiety.

The ABC reports that Principal Judy Cottam from Renmark West Primary School in South Australia, first saw a fidget spinner being used by a student who had made his own, from his skate board. After that students started bringing in numerous fidget spinners until the teachers started to complain and the toys were banned from class.

Dr Justin Coulson, a leading Australian parenting expect is reported by the ABC to liken the fidget spinner trend to the popularity of stress balls in the past. He says there is some evidence that children benefit from movement in the classroom but understands that a classroom of children all spinning their fidget spinners could make teaching very difficult.

It is great for children to have access to toys that might help them to calm down. These fidget spinners are not expensive ranging from around ten to fifteen dollars. We are often concerned with the amount of time our children spend in front of screens such as computers, i pads, television and even ‘phones. This is one alternative. If you don’t see it as a cure for all ills or accept the over stated claims, a fidget spinner can be a positive thing. Having said that, it seems quite reasonable to keep them out of classrooms.

Heusenroeder Catherine – ABC Riverland Does Fidget Spinner Craze Have a Place in the Classroom  10 May 2017

Calfas Jennifer – Money  Meet the Woman Who Invented Fidget Spinners, the Newest Toy Craze Sweeping America 6 May 2017

 

Child’s Play

Play is a child’s work. It is what they need to do to explore their environment, to understand their own bodies and to experiment with ideas and objects. It is how they learn about themselves and their world.

When children play they experience now ways to solve problems and learn new skills needed to become a healthy adult.

Research suggests that children to engage in 15 minutes of play at recess are better behaved in the classroom and are more likely to learn than children who do not have recess. (Barros, Silver and Stein 2009.

Play does not come easily for all children. Some children have a physical, psychological or cognitive issue which limits their play in some areas. This is where occupational therapy can help.

How You Can Help Your Child to Play

Babies

During their first few months, babies enjoy colourful mobiles, rattle and other toys. They also enjoy vocal play such as singing and nursery rhymes or just talking. They may show their enjoyment by moving their arms and legs. Encourage you baby to participate in vocal play and engage with toys. You can encourage you baby to play in different positions, lying on their back, side or tummy.

Tummy time is generally encouraged to assist with child development. Some babies don’t enjoy playing on their tummies. You can help them by singing and presenting toys. If that doesn’t work, you can use an incline, even placing the baby on your chest, to encourage them in this position.

Tummy time

As babies learn to grasp and move on their own, they enjoy playing with mirrors, balls, squeezy toys, water toys, blocks and many things you don’t want them to play with. They may become attached to your car keys, your mobile phone or simply enjoy rummaging through handbags.

Avoid placing your child in an unsupported sitting position before they are ready. Babies can be placed in sitting and maintain the position for a few minutes before they are really ready to sit and there is no benefit in doing that. The important thing is that they can move in and out of sitting by themselves. They may not develop this skill until they are 6 months or older.

Safety is an issue when babies start to move around. Consider his or her environment and remove or control any dangers that may be present. Restraining a child prevents their play and removes opportunities to learn so try to remove risks rather than restrain the child.

Babies are still learning about their bodies and their preferred method of discovery is their mouth. Make sure that any toys they use, not to mention anything they could find to play with, is safe. Small items such as parts of a complex toy can easily become a choking hazard.

Toddlers

Toddlers learn fine motor skills by playing with toys and other items around the house. They love finger painting, play dough and construction toys such as Lego or Duplo. These toys help them to develop fine motor co-ordination.

As children learn to walk and run, they enjoy push toys, pull toys and games such as hide and seek, or climbing around in the playground.

Pre-school

Imitation and pretend play increases during the pre-school years. Children may use dress ups, puppets, dolls or toy cars. Children can sometimes be observed using sticks in imaginative play. At this time they improve all their previous skills. They become better at climbing playground equipment, better at puzzles, better at construction and better at drawing etc.

School Aged Children

Once at school play becomes an important way to get rid of some excess energy so that concentrating in class is easier. Friendships develop as children play and learn together.

Play can become more structured and can include team sports and organised games.

Play is always more fun with someone else and Mum or Dad are the most fun to play with.

You can encourage your child to play by:

  • Engaging in play with your child,
  • Have craft materials ready so the child can participate when he or she wants to,
  • Provide both structured and unstructured play, for example, joining a soccer team and playing in the garden with neighbours.
  • Just like recess, active play after school can help prepare you child for learning.

Don’t forget, play is fun. If it looses the fun factor, it is no longer play!

 

 

 

 

What Is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational therapy Australia states that occupational therapy is a “client-centred health profession concerned with promoting health and well being through occupation. The primary goal of occupational therapy is to enable people to participate in the activities of everyday life. Occupational therapists achieve this outcome by working with people and communities to enhance their ability to engage in the occupations they want to, need to, or are expected to do, or by modifying the occupation or the environment to better support their occupational engagement”.

In other words, occupational therapists help people to do things. When working with children the activities they need to do include, attend and engage in school, participate in sport, play, social interactions and so on. So occupational therapy could include helping a child improve his or her handwriting, helping concentration, prescribing a wheelchair or other equipment to help the child in everyday life.

Most occupational therapists study a 4 year university degree including science subjects.  An alternative training regime for people who already have a degree in science is to undertake a 2 year Masters degree in occupational therapy.

All practicing occupational therapists in Australia must be registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.

Occupational therapists work closely with other professions and the families of children we work with.

If you would like more information about how occupational therapy might help your child please call Childworks.

 

Travelling with Disabled Children

Travelling with disabled children can be challenging. Here is a new innovation for physically disabled children who need support when flying. The seats in aeroplanes are generally designed for adults. This makes them particularly difficult for some children as they do not provide enough support.

Here is the travel chair, an adjustable seating system for disabled children to use in flight.

http:/www.amsvans.com/blog/now-children-with-disabilities-get-their-own-airline-travelchair/

Occupational Therapy Week 25-31 Oct 2015

Welcome to occupational therapy week!

What is Occupational Therapy (OT)?

The World Federation of Occupational Therapists put out this definition in 2012.

Occupational therapy is a client-centred health profession concerned with promoting health and well being through occupation. The primary goal of occupational therapy is to enable people to participate in the activities of everyday life. Occupational therapists achieve this outcome by working with people and communities to enhance their ability to engage in the occupations they want to, need to, or are expected to do, or by modifying the occupation or the environment to better support their occupational engagement. 

What does that mean for my child?

An occupational therapist can help your child to do the things they need to do. We work closely with families and other health practitioners to identify barriers and also identify strengths. For example if a child has difficulty performing school work due to poor co-ordination, visual perception or poor ability to concentrate an OT may be of assistance. We also look at developmental activities such activities that improve a child’s independence. A child may have difficulty with dressing themselves. They may need cues to understand what step comes next, they may need a modified environment to reduce distractions, they may need modification of the activity such as something to help them manage zippers, they may need help to learn specific skills or they may need some other form of assistance.

If your child has difficulty with activities they need to do in their everyday lives, then occupational therapy may help.

How can I find out more about occupational therapy for my child?

Contact Robyne Cottee at Childworks to get information on how Occupational Therapy can help your child.

Is funding available for occupational therapy?

There are various Government funding options depending on your child’s issues and diagnosis. Private health funding may also apply. Please contact Childworks to discuss your options.

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Introducing Julia, the first Sesame Street Character with Autism!

Sesame Street the popular and long running American educational children’s television series has a new initiative aimed at helping children with autism. It is called Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children. As part of this initiative, Sesame Street is about to welcome a new character called Julia and she has autism.

elmo-julia-1024

See Amazing in All Children “will help increase understanding, reduce stigma, and demonstrate the commonalities that children with Autism share with all children. We will also develop resources for families of children with Autism to help them reduce the stress of everyday routines, such as brushing teeth, getting dressed, trying a new food, or playing with other children.” Says Sesame Street.

The initiative, “offers families ways to overcome common challenges and simplify everyday activities. At the same time, the project fosters an affirming narrative around autism for all families and kids,” Have a look at the Amazing Song below which helps to emphasise shared experiences for all children.

“Our goal is to bring forth what all children share in common, not their differences,” says a Sesame Street representative Dr Jeanette Batancourt. “Children with autism share in the joy of playing and loving and being friends and being part of a group.”

Julia is a digital character as research indicates that families with autistic children prefer digital animation. The character was developed with input from families with autistic children. She will be coming to your screens as part of the Sesame Street team very soon!

Julia will also feature in other media including books. The storybook We’re Amazing 1,2,3! is available for free. We’re Amazing 1,2,3!  We're Amazing 1,2,3! pm

In the book Elmo, Abby Cadabby and Julia play together. Elmo explains some of Julia’s unexpected behaviour to Julia and helps Abby to understand. There is an emphasis on what Julia has in common with Elmo and Abby and normalises her differences. This helps other children reading the book or having the book read to the, to better understand differences in children they know or may come into contact with.

To find out more about the See Amazing in All Children initiative go to the website See Amazing in All Children. you will find a range of resources, videos.

To donate to the Sesame Workshop go Sesame Workshop.

Occupational Therapy and ASD

Occupational Therapy and Autism Spectrum Disorder

Occupational therapy can help children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Childworks is an occupational therapy practice in Castle Hill which helps children in the Hills District and Northern Suburbs of Sydney.

Occupational therapists or (OTs) are university educated health professionals. OTs can assist children to engage in school, play and self-care occupations and to participate in their life roles with their families at home, school, and in the community. Because OTs help children in a range of locations, Childworks is a mobile practice. We can see children in our rooms, at home, at school or day care and in the community. Having treatment at the appropriate location helps children to generalise their skills and progress.

Boy blowing bubbles

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Austism Spectrum Disorder is a range of developmental disorders. The characteristics common to these disorders, are social interaction and restricted or narrow interests. In many cases, it also involves communication difficulties. Many people who are on the Autism Spectrum also have unusual sensory interests and sensitivities as well as learning difficulties. It is estimated that around 1% of people in Australia are on the Autism Spectrum and there are significantly more boys than girls.

Children on the Spectrum have a wide range of abilities, strengths and difficulties. Some children show impressive abilities in specific areas. All children are different including children with ASD. We used to think of the different presentations of ASD as distinct disorders. The term ASD is now used which helps to emphasise the range of disorders that covers a continuum or spectrum.

Early intervention or treatment of young children is usually recommended so that issues and barriers can be addressed quickly, providing the best opportunity for the child to achieve their potential. Therapies often recommended for children with ASD include speech pathology, psychology, behavioural interventions and occupational therapy (OT).

OT treatment at home

For families overwhelmed with a heavy schedule of assessments and treatments, as well as the demands in other aspects of their lives, occupational therapy treatment given at home can help to ease the burden.

Childworks is able to provide assessment and treatment for children on the Autism Spectrum

Childworks OTs are child and family focused. They can assist children in managing every day tasks (or occupations), sensory and coordination issues, as well as some of the behavioural and coordination difficulties, that often accompany ASD.

Every day activities form the basis for OT. Occupational therapists are expert in modifying activities and environments to assist children to achieve their maximum potential. Barriers such as sensory and coordination issues can be evaluated in relation to the impact on the tasks or occupations the child needs to perform. Activity or occupation is often used to help overcome a barrier. Where possible we design the activities used as therapy to be fun!

Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 2.30.34 pm

 

Should my child see an Occupational Therapist?

Referral to an OT is appropriate if a child has difficulties with play, self-care, or school tasks such as handwriting or maintaining attention in class. It may also be appropriate if you are concerned about changes in the child’s life, such as starting school. Additionally it may be appropriate to see and OT if your child has sensory or coordination difficulties.

Sometimes children with ASD need additional help to participate in every day activities. This help might be in the form of modification of the activity, the environment, training in specific skills, provision of equipment or range of other interventions.

What is involved when a child sees a Childworks Occupational Therapist?

When you call Childworks, we will arrange a time for an initial assessment. The assessment will take around 1.5 to 2 hours and will involve observation discussion of the child’s motor, social and cognitive development. Standardised assessments may also be used. With your approval, the Childworks OT may contact other people in your child’s life, for example your child’s school, preschool or day care and other health professionals. Discussions with these people will provide the OT with a greater understanding of your child’s strengths and weaknesses, development and behaviour. A visit to school, preschool or day care may also be arranged if necessary. OTs work with the family and community to help the child learn new ways to develop skills.

How is Childworks different?

Like all professionals, each practice has its own approach. Childworks focuses on a functional approach, that is, we emphasise practical aspects of your child’s life and help them to maximise their potential in those areas.

For example, if your morning routine is a problem we will analyse what is going on with that routine. We may modify the environment removing distractions for you child and adding prompts to help him or her with their independent self care. We may help your child to develop specific skills in dressing or eating, we may provide some guidance on how you as a parent can modify the routine and use behavioural tools to overcome issues.

We will identify a problem and use a number of interventions, including using your child’s own strengths to overcome those issues. Clinical research supports this approach.

Treatments can very enormously! They may involve using toys, participating in daily activities, providing information to parents or caregivers or even a trip to the shops. We design an individual programme to help your child to achieve their full potential.

As much as possible, we try to see children with ASD in their own environment. This helps them to develop skills in the location they will need them. It also helps us to identify any other factors that may be impacting on your child’s function.

What funding is available?

If your child has a formal diagnosis from a paediatrican, a range of funding options may be available including the FaHCSIA, Helping Children with Autism package. Some Medicare items may also be available. Private health funding can be an option but is generally quite limited. A formal diagnosis may not be required to use your private health fund.

The range of options available can be confusing . Please feel free to contact Childworks for more information.

How do I make an appointment with a Childworks occupational therapist?

You can call on 0418447072 and make a time for an appointment. Alternatively you can us the contact page on this website or just email Childworks at help @ childworks.com.au (remove spaces which have been added to reduce spam).

Scissor Skills

The ability to use scissors is part of school participation. More importantly, the development of good scissor skills can help improve specific skills needed for good handwriting.   The ability to open and close the web space, the active use of one side of the hand only, and the motor planning of the process contribute to the development of a functional pen/pencil grasp. Cutting also provides a good reward for the child. They really feel they have achieved something when they see the different shapes of paper, cardboard or other material that they have created.

Children differ widely in their ability to use scissors.

Correct scissor position is where the thumb is placed in the top loop and the index or index finger and middle finger in the other loop. Some people prefer to use the middle finger instead of the index finger. The fingers not in loops are curved in against the palm. The thumb side of the hand is active in the cutting process while the other side remains passive. Using the two sides of the hand in two different ways can be a challenge for some children. For children having difficulty with handwriting, practice in using the scissors with the index finger in the lower loop can help the child to develop a more functional pencil grasp.

Cutting with scissors also helps children develop bilateral skills. The non dominant had guides the paper. The two hands are performing different tasks but working together.

By the age of 4 a child is expected to be able to cut along straight lines with accuracy and to cut curves and corners with some error. They should also be moving the paper with the non dominant hand for positioning of the scissors but may still find this a little akward. By the age of  6 a child should be able to cut a range of shapes smoothly and with accuracy and use their hands in a co-ordinated fashion

What if my child has difficulty with scissor skills?

In itself, it may not matter. It may just mean that your child has a little more difficulty when cutting is required at school. However, serious difficulty with using scissors often goes along with a general difficulty with fine motor skills, and possibly handwriting. If that is the case, occupational therapy can help.

You can help your child improve their scissor skills but proving a range of materials to cut for example different weights of cardboard, paper, play dough, straws etc. Also using a variety of different types of scissors can help to develop these skills.

Left handed children may have trouble with ordinary scissors although most seem to manage. You can purchase left handed scissors or you can just try turning the scissors upside down which seems to help some children.

Practice in cutting with scissors can help small children to develop their fine motor skills. It is also fun! Be patient it can take time for little ones to get the idea! Start with safety scissors and something firm (but not too firm) to cut like a thinner style of cardboard. You can make it more fun by drawing a picture on the paper or cardboard first. You can draw a road and pretend that the scissors are a car or a truck. Stay on the road!

Snipping can be a good way to start, for example, snipping straws, the side of a paper cup or your junk mail!

If your child has difficulty with cutting and you are concerned about their general fine motor skills you can contact Childworks to arrange an assessment.