We are headed back to school next week here in the Olympia area and getting ready to send the kids back (or get them started) can be a little tricky. Back to bedtime routines, early mornings, longer days with more structure, and homework....so much to adjust to!
There are lots of kids and families who will struggle with anxious feelings regarding returning to this season of life. The best thing we can do as parents is try to prepare ahead of time to the change in routine.
Here are a few tips that we have found successful:
Visit the School
Whether it is just a random visit or an open house, taking a walk around the grounds and showing them where they will play, eat and learn is a great way to make them more comfortable in their environment. Open houses are a great time to meet their teacher, see their desk, show them the restrooms, nurses's office and playground. Knowing what to expect can really set your child's mind at ease.
Read Books About Going to School
Reading books is a great way to give examples of all sorts of scenarios regarding school. There are so many to choose from for all ages! They can help showcase that your child's feelings are valid and that there are others who might feel the same way they do (shy, anxious, excited, etc) about starting school.
A few titles we like are First Day Jitters, Penelope's New School, Pigeon HAS to go to school and The Kissing Hand.
This is such a fun way to get conversations going and help your child navigate different situations. Let them be the teacher and show how they would do things. Or present certain questions and scenarios they may struggle with like sharing, taking turns, conflict resolution, clean up and following instructions. The possibilities are endless really! Playing school can be a stress free activity with tons of benefits!
Back to Routine
Setting up a routine always seems to be the hardest, yet most productive thing you can do for kids. They thrive in structure, yet seem to fight it a lot. The easiest and simplest forms of routine are consistent bedtimes and wake up times. Sleep (or lack there of) is a major factor in a child's ability to learn, focus, sustain their energy and their overall attitude and happiness. A rough estimate for sleep guidelines per age group looks like this:
Ages 3-5 years old........................10-13 hours per 24 hour day
Ages 6-12 years old......................9-12 hours per 24 hour day
Ages 13-18 years old....................8-10 hours per 245 hour day
Every child is different and some may need more or less hours than these suggestions, but it's a good place to start.
Make a Morning Checklist
If mornings are an issue, sometimes a visual schedule or reminder is a great way to keep kids on track and help them take responsibility for the start of their day.
The example below is easy to print out and place in a frame. They can use dry erase markers to check as they go and then wipe clean for the next day! Make your own or search for great printable online! Print this one here.
The start of a new year is always filled with all kinds of emotions. Make sure you take the time to check in with your child (and yourself) on how things are going. Remember to have fun and don't hesitate to reach out for help if you need it; our therapists are always willing to problem solve and find a solution.
Have a great school year!!
Sun is here, school is out, and it is officially time for summer! Here is a list of family-fun activities in Washington:
Hands-On Children’s Museum in Olympia, WA.
This museum offers sensory-friendly hour from 9-10 am, sensory-friendly kits, and sensory-inclusive playtimes (Mondays – Thursdays from 2:30 – 4:30 pm). Online reservations are required. https://www.hocm.org/sensory-friendly-events/
We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym
We Rock is a sensory gym for kids of all abilities located in Federal Way and Bellevue. They offer classes, as well as open play with the use of the full gym. Open play must be supervised by a caregiver and be pre-booked. Please refer to the websites for additional information on cost and hours.
This area is great for trails and parks with playgrounds. There is always a place to explore, find some shade and have a picnic. Check the links below for some links to the city pages. All the parks are listed there!
JUMP JUMP JUMP
Defy Extreme Air Sports is an awesome indoor trampoline park here in Olympia. They have great packages and are open 7 days a week. While they don't have a special time for smaller children, they state they are the quietest in the mornings right when they open. For tickets and hours, visit their website at defy.com
Cirque Climbing Gym is fun for the whole family! They have walls that are great for beginners to more advanced climbers. They also offer classes like Intro to Climbing and Intro to Technique. It has drop-in/daily rates as well as membership options. Find out more details here.
And don't forget about keeping cool! There are pools, splash pads, and lakes to play in. And the ocean is just over an hour away!
Summer is a great time to explore new places, learn new things, and also find time to relax and enjoy the great weather. The PNW really shines in the summer months.
What are your plans this summer?? Tell us in the comments below!
Summer is almost here! While we all look forward to the warm weather, the lack of routine and structure can be overwhelming for children. As an occupational therapist, I know that play is the primary occupation of a child. Play is therapy and therapy is play! That being said, we encourage play activities and outings that are designed to challenge our children, while helping them emotionally, physically, and mentally. Here are some tips and activities to help keep your summer fun while keeping your child stimulated:
Point Defiance Zoo: https://www.pdza.org/plan-your-day/sensory-inclusive/
Most importantly, HAVE FUN! Summer is a great time to make memories with our children – some they will remember forever!
For more summer ideas (the list is endless, truly), ask your therapist and we will be more than happy to provide ideas. We have lots of tricks up our sleeves. Happy Summer!!
Difficulties with speech-language development is nonbiased and may touch the lives of any family regardless of socio-economic status or cultural background. Because of the diversity of issues that may be present, there is the potential for confusion in understanding how to remediate issues and when to begin intervention.
How could speech therapy help my kid?
Is my child too old or too young to benefit from speech therapy?
Why did my doctor refer my child for speech therapy?
I have specific concerns about my child’s communication, is this something speech therapy can address?
You are not alone: these are some questions that a speech therapist can answer during almost every evaluation. The goal of this post is not only to answer some questions, but to give parents and guardians an idea of what speech therapy is and how it may benefit your child. Specifically, what a pediatric speech therapist may treat, an example of an evaluation, and how to get started if you feel your child may benefit from speech therapy.
Who do pediatric speech therapists treat?
Pediatric clinics serve kids off all ages, from 0-18 years old.
Isn’t 0-3 years old too young for therapy?
Nope! Many children from the ages of 3 and under do very well in therapy. Younger children are often more flexible in their communication and learn new skills more quickly. Therapy for our youngest clients is often play based intervention accompanied by a home-based program.
Are speech therapists available during COVID19?
Yes, we are- In fact, speech therapy is considered an essential service and has remained available through-out the pandemic. Our clinic follows CDC and state-based guidelines for PPE use and implement a cleaning protocol. We ask anyone not feeling well to stay at home. Most parents wait in their car during appointments; however, some exceptions can be made to accompany a child into a therapy room when depending on a child’s needs. In addition, we offer telehealth! This allows for treatment at home, and many kids love showing their therapist their favorite toys and activities. Telehealth can be offered on an ongoing basis, or on a weekly basis depending on what would serve our families best.
What do pediatric speech therapists treat?
Ah yes, the big question. The answer is... a lot. Speech therapists assess, diagnose, and treat disorders related to communication. Communication encapsulates a vast array of skills, which may include:
What would an evaluation look like?
A speech pathologist will determine if your child is demonstrating skills consistent with their peers. Research has demonstrated trends of development that are considered “typical” for all age ranges. If your child falls in the average range for their age, then speech therapy won’t be needed. However, if they are placed outside of the average, then therapy will be recommended. Testing may include but not limited to:
Speech pathologists have a variety of tools at their disposal to assist with the evaluation process. Through years of ongoing education and experience, speech therapists acquire many strategies to aid in the testing process and learn to gather information during naturally occurring interactions. This data can be used and compared to developmental norms to establish clear baseline levels of skills.
If I am interested in speech therapy for my child, what do I need to do?
Talk to your child’s primary physician about your concerns and to get a referral for a speech evaluation. Many pediatricians check speech and language milestones for their patients and will inform you if they are not developing at age expectations. If you have specific concerns about your child’s communication, your doctor may recommend a screening. This is a shorter session with a speech therapist to determine if further testing is needed.
What do I need to do to get ready for an evaluation?
Most clinic settings have an intake packet that is used to help choose the best evaluation tools for your child. Questions that are included pertain to their birth, medical and family histories, present level skills, and your child’s interests. Most testing situations are best served when a family arrives 10 minutes prior to the scheduled appointment, to give the evaluating therapist a chance to review this information and adjust their session accordingly.
If you have any questions or are interested in learning more, please reach out! We would be happy to speak with you to answer questions or help decide if speech therapy can benefit your family.
Stay safe, stay happy, and stay healthy everyone!
What is occupational therapy and what will it address?
A pediatric occupational therapist is ready to help your child with a wide range of skills! We are trained to evaluate and address a variety of skills including:
It is our great hope that the therapy process will be exciting AND challenging for the children that we serve – we love to see children develop to their full potential and are excited to celebrate their victories with you – big and small!
We will continue to post more about OT throughout the month.
Check our Facebook page for more information and tips.
Insurance can be confusing and hard to understand. All kinds of terms and rules. Of course, you probably grasp the concept of copays and deductibles, but then they throw in other terms like coinsurance and out-of-pocket expenses. What do these terms mean, and how do they affect how much you pay for your child’s therapy?
Here is a brief explanation, so you can understand how they all work.
What are copays and deductibles?
Let’s review copays and deductibles to make sure you understand how they work.
Your copay is the amount you pay for pediatric medical and therapy services. For example, you might pay $25 for a pediatrician visit, and $50 for a specialist visit.
Your deductible is the amount you must pay before your health insurance covers all or a portion of the bill. If your deductible is $5,000 a year, you must pay that amount on your own before your insurance will cover some of the remaining expenses.
What is coinsurance?
Coinsurance is a fixed percentage that you must pay for each service or visit. The rate might be 20%. This means you are responsible for paying 20% of the allowed amount set in the contract with your provider and insurance company. Meanwhile, your insurance plan pays the remaining 80%.
Here’s the tricky part, and what often leads to confusion. Coinsurance applies after you have hit your deductible. In other words, even after you have reached your deductible, you will still likely have to pay a percentage of the bill.
What is an out-of-pocket maximum?
The out-of-pocket maximum refers to expenses you are required to pay out of your own pocket during a calendar year. The amount is the most you will pay for covered health care expenses. It effectively puts a cap on how much you have to spend every year. Once you have reached the out-of-pocket maximum, your insurance pays 100% of the remaining costs.
Note: Your monthly premium does not count toward your out-of-pocket maximum, but all copays, deductibles, and coinsurance do.
Here’s an example of how it works:
Out-of-pocket maximum = $6,000
Deductible = $4,500
Coinsurance = 20%
In this situation, you would pay the first $4,500 as a deductible, then 20% of the allowed amount at each visit. However, if your out-of-pocket maximum is $6,000, you are only responsible until you reach that total amount. There is usually an individual out-of-pocket and a family out-of-pocket, which combines all the enrolled members. As with everything regarding insurance, the out-of-pocket maximum varies widely from plan to plan.
How does a visit limit apply?
There are certain plans that also incorporate a yearly visit limit. Once those visits have been exhausted, you have the option to request more visits from your insurance company. If they decline, you will be responsible for visit charges. Some offices have certain rates for cash paying patients.
While these are the most basic of terms and concepts regarding insurance, it’s a good start to understanding how your insurance works. We always suggest reviewing your benefits package on your own or contacting your Human Resources department for specific questions about your plan. Our administrative staff is available to answer any further questions or walk through special situations that can come up. Please don’t hesitate to ask, we’ll happily guide you in the right direction.
Let’s face it, children are getting more screen time now than ever before. School is being held via online platforms and the rainy PNW weather is limiting opportunities for outdoor play. iPads, laptops, and other technological devices are not only the forefront of entertainment, but also for education. As parents or guardians, you may be noticing changes in mood, increased meltdowns, restlessness and/or new undesirable behaviors in your children and it is no coincidence.
The good news is that there are ways to help combat these difficulties. You may have already heard your occupational therapist use the term “heavy work”, or they may have given you activities that incorporate heavy work to complete at home. Heavy work is the term used to describe one of our foundational senses called ‘proprioception’. Proprioception is our ability to recognize where our body is in space and also helps us regulate the direction and amount of force to use when moving. It is detected through sensory receptors in the joints and muscles.
When a child engages in play that requires pushing, pulling, lifting, or hanging, they are stimulating the proprioceptive sense. Children with sensory processing concerns will either seek out this sort of activity, or they may completely avoid it. Kids with proprioceptive dysfunction are often “sensory-seekers” or “sensory-avoiders”. The following are signs that your child may experience proprioceptive dysfunction:
Whether your child falls into either category, there are ways to incorporate proprioceptive activities into your day. One way to ensure they are getting this input is to schedule “recess” time during the day, just as they would if they were attending school in-person. However, the purpose of recess is not for kids to do whatever they want, but to choose heavy work activities to complete. For example, when children are offered breaks by their teachers, have them choose their preferred heavy work activity from the list below and engage in that activity for 20-30 minutes. This is a structured way for kids to get the input that they need while also giving them control to choose what they want to do.
Here are ideas for heavy work activities that can be done indoors when the weather is not in your favor:
Let your therapist know if you have any specific questions regarding proprioception and ways to incorporate it at home. Together, we can identify the best ways to help your child engage in heavy work to give their body the input it is craving, especially during these uncertain times.
Having worked with pediatrics for most of my life, working as a speech therapist for 23+ years and raising two of my own children; I have been afforded a unique perspective in understanding the trials and tribulations, the obstacles and rewards, and the questions and answers that are prevalent in raising a child with special needs. With that stated, a prevailing impression that I have found prevalent in my own reflection of my experiences are the comments and considerations raised by families ring a loud bell of familiarity. Let me elaborate...
For me, I have recognized beneficial characteristics needed in raising a child regardless of their developmental beginnings. Albeit, family dynamics do present differently and have varying levels of impact and play an integral role when comparing situations. If we consider that these characteristics reveal themselves as occurring on a spectrum of developmental influence, we can determine that the emphasis of importance is squarely predicated on the needs of a child. The idea is that their value will ebb and flow as needs evolve. In my opinion, raising a child [any child] comes down to a few fundamental aspects: Love, Stability, Structure, Predictability, Support (freedom to explore/grow). With these ideals in mind, we can explore the relative similarities regardless of a child’s “needs”.
Interestingly, it is the last described characteristic where therapists are most often inserting their expertise. Yet, it is through each of the characteristics contributing in concert that a child’s progress is realized. The highest degree of success is typically appreciated through a coordinated partnership on the part of the family and the therapist. If nothing else is understood from this writing, understand that Love, Stability, Structure, Predictability and Support (freedom to explore/grow) are key considerations for positive development for which all children would benefit.
Welcome to our first blog post!
With the holidays right around the corner, our amazing therapists have gotten out their thinking caps to come up with some of the best products and gifts that will stimulate your child's mind and grow their skills. The list covers all ages, interests and abilities. We've included links below, but they can be found all over!
(*we are also not affiliated with any of the links provided.)
And, as always, if you have any specific questions, don't hesitate to ask your therapist.
Let's get started!!
1. The most popular suggestion this year, a weighted blanket! They are helpful with calming anxious feelings and busy bodies. They come in all different weights, the ideal amount is about 10% of body weight.
You can find one here:
2. Next up are Squigz! These fun, colorful little suction cups have endless possibilities!! Great for fine motor skills and creative thinking!
They look like this!
3. Magnatiles are always a hit! Think legos when it comes to building and science of structures, not to mention the laws of physics! All while having fun!
4. Board games are such amazing tools! They teach great social skills like turn taking, sportsmanship and patience...along with critical thinking! Here are some of our favorites for littles (here) and a bit older (here). These brands also have other great options, so make sure you peek around!
5. These next ideas focus more on gross motor skills at an early age. They promote spacial awareness, body positioning and balance. They also can be enjoyed both indoors or outdoors!
6. Do you have a preschooler?? This one is for you! Nothing is better than going back to the basics: blocks, Mr or Mrs. Potato Head, and a sweet little piggy bank.
7. A few more random fun items that promote cause and effect with
Don't Break the Ice, fine motor skills with bingo dobbers and independent play with this race track.
8. Books are the gateway to learning! Your child can learn about rhyming with this classic or about social emotional learning and inclusion in the following books:
I am Enough, Grumpy Monkey, The World Needs More Purple People, The Boy with Big Big Feelings, I am Human, Strictly No Elephants and the Big Umbrella. For older kids, Wonder is a great read and also was made into a movie.
9. Memberships are a wonderful way to cut back on "stuff" if that is more your goal. Think of children's museums near you, zoos, science centers or even trampoline gyms! Subscriptions are also the gift that keeps on giving...... magazines come in all topics and grade levels. And don't forget about crate boxes! They also come in all types of themes and age levels. All very customizable! We like Panda Crate and Kiwi Boxes, which mail out monthly. Check out all the fun options here.
10. Who could forget good ole fashion pretend play?! Some of the best growth comes from using our imaginations! Dressing up, playing house, and feeding baby dolls teaches empathy and life skills, for boys and girls alike! These are a few of our faves: Baby Alive or this little guy, wooden food, and dress up clothes. Endless amounts of fun!!
11. Wanna know what really gets that brain pumping?? PUZZLES!! The beauty of puzzles is the challenge of them grows with the child. From sturdy wood puzzles like these to complex landscapes and interesting patterns, there is something for everyone! You can find them with almost any character or special interest so you can keep their attention until the very end! Nothing teaches patience like a good puzzle!
12. And last, but not least, the big dogs. The equipment that can turn your home into a sensory friendly area and make it feel like being with your OT. Things like swings, mats, and bars keep the body moving and the brain calm. Now, there's no inexpensive way to do this, but some of these are worth it and can be used indoor or outdoor.
Well folks, that's all we've got for you! But remember, these are just jumping off points and suggestions. Shop around for the best fit for your child and price point.
Happy Gift Hunting!!