Changing Colors: The Blog of Spectrum Pediatrics

Archive for the ‘Preschool’ Category

October 20, 2017

Spectrum at NPC-QIC: Lessons from a Tube-Weaning Program

Our wonderful feeding therapist and clinical coordinator of our Tube Weaning Program, Heidi Moreland, is presenting at the National Pediatric Cardiology Quality Improvement Collaboration conference in Chicago this weekend. Throughout this presentation, Heidi discusses the philosophy behind Spectrum Pediatrics tube-weaning program and provides a glimpse into what the program looks like for children and their families!

Check out Heidi’s presentation here along with helpful resources for the tube-weaning program:

References for Spectrum Pediatrics Treatment Program

Spectrum at NPC QIC Presentation

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August 23, 2017

Trick of the Trade from Tracy Magee,M.Ed., CCC-SLP

Visuals for Toddlers in Their Everyday Lives

All people benefit from visuals. Just think of how your daily planner or agenda helps you feel less anxious about your day if you can see all that needs to get done. Toddlers are no different than adults. Visuals aid them in feeling calmer about what is ahead, particularly since they may not understand all the language adults are using. Here are two visuals that I find helpful with the toddlers:

1. Visual schedules: Visual schedules can be cumbersome, but they don’t have to be. Pick a few categories that can give your child a general idea of the activities depicted. An example would be: 1. Breakfast 2. Bathroom (represents shower, brushing teeth, etc.) 3. Play 4. Snack 5. Park 6. Nap

Visual schedules can be used for a whole day, part of a day, or just an activity. Kids feel a sense of accomplishment when they take off the sticker card for each activity and “complete” the task. It’s a win-win for the child and the parent!

2. Sand Timers: I have been using sand timers for quite some time with the kids I work with and my own kids. We use it as a visual way to give kids an idea of time. My own children try to “beat the clock (sand timer)” when cleaning up their toys at night. I also use it before we are about to leave the house. I will put out a three minute sand timer to mentally prepare them for the upcoming transition. A parent could just use words, but the visual of seeing how much sand is left is so much more powerful to a toddler. You can order sand timers here ) or check out a local teacher-resource store.

Check out our post on SoundingBoard, a great app for visual schedules here. We also shared a favorite visual timer app that all of our therapists love! Check it out here!

August 21, 2017

Back to School Time

By: Tracy Magee,M.Ed., CCC-SLP

It is nearing the end of the summer, and we all know what that means…school is going to be back in session soon! If your child is going to a new school this Fall, here are some ways to make sure they feel comfortable before the first day arrives.

1. Go to the school’s playground NOW – If your child is in preschool or elementary school, take him/her to the playground a few times before the school year starts. This will get your child familiar with the school grounds and play equipment in a low-stress setting with a trusted person (You!). This will make it easier to navigate the school grounds the first few days because the child will already feel like the area is familiar and safe.

2. Attend school functions – Does your school have an Open House day to meet new teachers and tour the school? Be sure to take advantage of this opportunity if it is offered! Attending any pre-season games is also a great way to meet people and familiarize your child with the school grounds.

3. Talk about it! – Make sure that you are talking often with your child about the big changes coming up. Discuss what a typical day will look like, and maybe even brainstorm with your child what to do if something doesn’t go quite as planned. Preparation is always a good idea, and it makes everyone feel more at ease with big transitions, like a new school.

Every student is going to be nervous on their first day at a new school, but hopefully, we, as parents, can help calm those nerves as much as we can by using a few of the strategies above. Wishing everyone a great start to their school year!

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July 23, 2017

Trick of the Trade from Tracy Magee,M.Ed., CCC-SLP

Behavior Strategies

I have recently been learning some of the behavior philosophies of Dr. Harvey Karp. He is the man behind the successful books, Happiest Baby on the Block and Happiest Toddler on the Block. A few of his strategies for dealing with toddler meltdowns were brand new to me, and I thought they might be good to share with others, too! Here are some of his ideas about how to cope with toddler tantrums:

1. “The Fast Food Rule:” Karp suggests that before you can help another person move on from something that is upsetting, you need to acknowledge that the child is upset. You can do this by repeating back the child’s “order” to him/her. This makes the child feel heard and his/her feelings are validated. It is important that the parent use short sentences and the same emotions as the child. Karp models what this looks like by stamping his foot and saying, “I want the bus! I want the bus! I want the bus!”

2. “Feed the Meter:” This idea from Karp suggests that we all need to hear praise from others (i.e. “feed” our ego meter). He also brings up the point that everyone enjoys overhearing this praise from others. We all would love to overhear our boss singing our praises to another boss. Karp says that toddlers are no different. He states that one adult should cup their hand, as if whispering, to another adult to give the toddler praise. This way, the child thinks he/she is overhearing the compliments about his/her behavior. Karp believes this praise is very effective in continuing that positive behavior, and it may even be more effective than praising the child directly.

These are just a few ideas from Dr. Karp, but I have found them to be very beneficial with toddlers I am working with lately. It has also been a success with my own two year old at home!

If you want to learn more about Dr. Karp’s behavior ideas, you can find his book HERE and his website HERE.

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June 30, 2017

Summertime Motor Fun!

By: Colleen Donley, PT, DPT

As the temperatures are rising and the days are getting longer, summer is just around the corner. After being cooped up inside all winter, I love to take advantage of nice weather and getting outside during my therapy sessions. Below are some of my most favorite summer games to foster motor development across many ages and stages:

Sidewalk Chalk

Chalk can be used with kids of all ages to address different motor skills. I love incorporating fine motor skills in with gross motor activities and sidewalk chalk is a perfect way to do that. For a toddler working on moving backwards, balance, and different locomotor movements- see who can draw the longest snake by squatting down and walking backwards while drawing a squiggly snake on the ground. Once you get to the end of the snake, you can walk or tip toe along the snake back to the beginning like walking on a balance beam. Or you can practice jumping forwards and backwards over the super scary snakes!

Water Guns

These plunger guns are great at developing shoulder strength and coordination to fill them up each time. And then think of the fun they will have chasing parents, siblings, and friends around while using different arm muscles to shoot the water and cool down on a hot summer day!

Sponge Toss

Often times, we forget we have to help our kids learn how to catch and throw. Try soaking big, squishy sponges in water buckets and play catch. It keeps everyone cool while the kiddos work on pre-ball skills. I like the use the words “catching hands” or “pinkies together” to help little ones learn how to hold their hands out and open when getting ready to catch. I work with kiddos on different throwing motions when tossing sponges: two hands overhand, one-hand underhand, one-hand overhand, or tossing it up high then catch.

Beach Trips

The beach offers great benefits for a growing toddler! You can go on a treasure hunt for the best-looking seashell. Be sure to let you child go barefoot to get the sensory experience of sand in their toes and encourage them to carry the bucket as it gets heavier with all their treasures. They can help build the biggest sandcastle on the beach that day by carrying buckets full of water, digging up sand, and dumping out buckets of sand or water.

 

Bikes and Scooter Rides

Head to any local playground blacktop or quiet, open street with ample open space with your favorite bicycle, balance bike, or scooter. All of these help teach postural control and coordination to stay upright. Bicycles work on great bilateral coordination to move the pedals. Balance bikes are great choices for younger kids who have difficulty with pedals but still works on the postural control and balance. Scooters are a great choice to address single leg balance and leg strength as a child has to push off the ground with a foot to move forward.

Enjoy a moving and busy summer!

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June 14, 2017

Ways to Beat the Heat

By: Krystina Burke, MS, CCC-SLP

Summer is here! It’s time to pull out the sprinkler, put on the sun screen, and enjoy time in the hot sun with your little ones! Achieving proper hydration is always important for young children, especially during hot summer months! When it is hot out, it is important to have your child drink more often throughout the day. If you know your child is going to be outside in the sun for a an extended period of time or will be participating in physical activities, offer them extra fluids beforehand to drink. In addition, it is recommended that children take a break about every 20 minutes during increased physical activity to hydrate.

If a child does not drink enough liquids, they may become dehydrated. Some signs of dehydration include: dry mouth, few or no tears, less wet diapers or decreased urination, a darkening in urination color, and drowsiness. It is important to contact your medical team if you become concerned regarding your child’s hydration level or state.

In addition to offering fluids before outdoor activities and taking frequent drinking breaks, incorporating liquid filled summer snacks and treats is a great way to increase hydration levels in small children during hot months. Fruits like watermelon, melons, and peaches are full of liquids and can be a great choice for a sweet refreshing snack. You may also try blending your favorite fruits, frozen fruits, ice, and water and freezing this mixture in popsicle molds for a cold and healthy summertime treat!

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April 24, 2017

Exact Instructions Challenge

By: Tracy Magee, M.Ed, CCC-SLP

I recently saw this video on social media, and it really spoke to my “SLP” heart! We don’t often think about how we use language and the importance of the words we use. This dad created a fun game for his kids to practice sequencing, using concept words, like “First, Then, in, on top of,” etc. Watch the video to see how these kids learn the importance of the vocabulary that they use.

You can do this in your own house with your kids to work on prepositions (in, on top, next to, under), time words (First, Then, Last), and other descriptors (color words, long/short, big/small, etc.). Here are some ideas to practice sequencing in your home with this family challenge!

1. How to tie your shoes

2. How to ride a bike/scooter

3. How to put on your jacket

 

April 6, 2017

Spring Time Activities

By: Tracy Magee, MS, CCC-SLP

Spring is a wonderful time to be in the Washington, DC area! There is so much to do and many of the activities are free! Here are just a few ideas for what to do to celebrate the arrival of Spring!

1. Cherry Blossom Festival

  • The cherry blossom trees are one of the major attractions for visitors in the springtime.
  • It can get busy, particularly on weekends. This website lists some great tips for seeing the flowers with little ones in tow!
  • Besides seeing the flowers, there are festival activities each weekend that are very family-friendly. My personal favorite is the Kite Festival, but this website discusses so many more!

2. Thomas the Tank Engine

  • Thomas the Tank Engine is coming to Baltimore!
  • Kids are able to take a short ride on the actual train and meet some of their favorite characters, including Sir Topham Hatt! See this website for more information and ticket availability!

3. Great Playgrounds

  • There are tons of wonderful parks and playground in the DMV area, and now is the time to use them with the warmer weather! Here are a few of a my favorites:
  • Clemyjontri Park – This park in McLean has a great motto – “every child can play!” It was created to make sure that all kids are included, so it boasts some great perks such as ramps, wheelchair access, and other things for kids with sensory needs. It’s wonderful!
  • Chessie’s Big Backyard – This awesome playground in Alexandria has two areas – one for the the little kids and one for the bigger kids. It’s sure to please your entire family and keep them playing and running for hours! It’s located next to the “Our Special Harbor Spray Park,” which is open during the summer months.
  • Cabin John Park: This park is located in Maryland. It is expansive with many different playgrounds scattered throughout the grounds. It has a train ride that runs throughout the park, and it entertains the entire family!

4. Rainy Day ideas

  • We all know that April showers bring May flowers, so here are a couple ideas for days when the weather is less than ideal.
  • Theater – There are tons of children theater shows in the area. Check out this website for dates and locations.
  • Indoor playgrounds – We are lucky to have lots of options for indoor play spaces in the area. See the links below for locations!
  • Nook
  • Alexandria Soft Playroom
  • Open Gym Playtime

Spring has sprung! Let’s have some fun!

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March 27, 2017

Everything Sprouts in Spring: Yoga

By: Krystina Burke, MS, CCC-SLP

The spring season is a great time to get outside and get moving as a family! As we have mentioned here before at Spectrum, yoga is a fun activity that children of all ages and their parents can do together! We all know yoga is great for the body and mind but did you know yoga can benefit and boost the language skills of little ones, too? Yoga poses rely on the skills of physical imitation and attention which are foundational language skills. In addition, doing springtime yoga poses as a family can also secretly target higher language skills such as spatial relationships and opposites for the older children in your family!

Children ages 4-5 are beginning to understand words for order such as “first, next, and last” and can follow longer directions containing multiple steps more easily! Opposites like up and down and big and little also start to have meaning and can be used to further clarify a child’s message.

Yoga poses are often taught using step-by-step instructions in combination with physical modeling. This is a perfect and natural place to add order words! Some of my favorite springtime poses are tree pose, sun, bird, and planting a garden. Here is one way to teach tree pose to the little ones in your life: “First, stand on one leg, then bend your opposite knee, next place the bottom of your foot on your inner ankle or thigh (depending on the comfort and balance of the child) lastly, balance and sway in the wind like a tree”.

You can make this more challenging by asking children to be big or little trees or have their trees move up and down in the wind! Once you feel like your child has mastered a pose, have them try and “teach” the pose to someone else. Now they have the opportunity to use order words and opposites to explain a more complex direction to someone else!

Check out some more springtime yoga poses here!

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March 21, 2017

Bike Riding 101

By Colleen Donley, PT, DPT

Here are a few tips to remember while picking out a bike:

  • Kid’s bike sizes are determined based on the wheel size, not the seat height- wheel sizes include 12, 16, 20, and 24-inches.
  • A child should be able to dismount and straddle the frame while standing flat-footed.
  • When riding, the knees should not be scrunched up under the handlebars or straight out at the lowest position. There should always be a slight bend in the knee.
  • There are different types of brakes- rear-coaster brakes and hand brakes

Before you get into the standard “big kid bike,” there are different styles to help get your child prepared. Here are some explanations of different styles to help you choose where to start and which is right for your child.

  • Pedal and push bikes let your child sit on the seat with their feet on or off the pedals while you push them along. As your child gets accustomed to the feel of movement on the seat and begins to push the pedals on their own, you can gradually fade out how much you push them along. Most of these bikes come with removable handles to convert into a toddler bike.
  • Tricycles have three wheels and serve as great starting points to help your little one develop the coordination to pedal. Moving the pedals requires moving the right and left leg in a reciprocal manner, a skill that many children actually have to learn! Kiddos steer tricycles by using the handlebars only and not by leaning their weight to one side or the other.
  • Balance bikes have no pedals. They let your child develop their sense of movement, momentum, and balance while learning how to steer without the added complexity of a pedal. Many like balance bikes as a first step as they allow the child to keep their feet on or close to the ground for extra stability while they learn to control their body on the bike.
  • Training wheels have become more of a contentious point as the popularity of balance bikes has grown. Training wheels widen the base of support in the back of the bike to eliminate the need for balance while your child masters the coordination of moving the pedals and steering. Many say that training wheels teach the child how to unbalance the bike, as the child will lean their weight against the outer support of the wheels. Then when the training wheels come off, the child has to unlearn to lean against this leverage. So for a child that has already mastered balance on a balance bike, it might be worth skipping the training wheels.

Before beginning to ride, don’t forget the helmet!! Be sure to get the right size by measuring the circumference of your child’s head one inch above the eyebrow. A properly fitting helmet should be placed on top of your child’s head and remain in place as they shake their head yes and no. Head out to an open parking lot or empty tennis court to give your kiddo lots of open space to explore and experiment with speed and steering. Have fun!

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