Changing Colors: The Blog of Spectrum Pediatrics

Archive for the ‘Tricks of the Trade’ Category

December 2, 2016

Trick of the Trade from Colleen Donley, PT, DPT

Crawling Up the Stairs

I love to work on crawling up the stairs with a baby that is crawling and moving around. This is an especially great activity for a baby who may have difficulty pulling to stand at their activity table or your coffee table. Sometimes those tables are a little too high to reach up from hands and knees. A stair is a much more reasonable height, most are typically less than 8 inches.

I work on having the baby practice the same motion:

  • Going from hands and knees to a half-kneel position
  • Pushing up through their arms to bring that second foot up
  • Have both hands on the top step and both feet flat in a supported standing position

You might need to be hands-on at first to teach them the motor pattern or provide a little support for their confidence since stairs are a scary place. You might also need to help them figure out how to negotiate moving their hands up to the next step or how to bring their knees up. This will help reinforce the motor pattern to pull to stand at the taller heights, such as their musical activity table, while building the strength in the legs needed for this movement. Crawling up the steps is an easy activity to incorporate into your already-busy days!


November 28, 2016

Trick of the Trade from Brianna Craite, MS, CCC-SLP

Movement, Music, and Language

There is a lot of research explaining how children need to move more and sit less throughout their day. This recently made me re-think the way I am expecting children to learn while completing language activities. A little trick I started using is to incorporate movement and music during my language activities. When my kiddos are allowed to move a bit I have found that their ability to listen and learn improves. One particular song I like to practice with all my kiddos is “If you’re happy and you know it”. First, I start by singing the original lyrics to clap hands, stomp feet, say Hooray! Once a child can complete these tasks I like to add my own directions based on what we are working on. For example if we are working on body parts “If you’re happy and you know it touch your head.” For older children try a more complex direction like “If you’re happy and you know it give a thumbs up”. Try it out! See how incorporating movement and music with language development helps your little one!


November 23, 2016

Trick of the Trade: Thanksgiving Edition

Happy Thanksgiving!

Our previous post about Thanksgiving traditions made the entire Spectrum Staff start to think about traditions in their own house for the holidays! Although every staff member had a different tradition to remember, they all had one in common and that was spending time with their family! During this Thanksgiving weekend we hope you are all spending time with your loved ones and having fun! Whether that means playing outside, watching football, or helping in the kitchen, there are always ways to build memories with your little ones! Take the time to have your child be involved with the cooking. Our feeding therapist, Heidi, talks more about this in her previous post about helping your child pick out foods in the grocery store or count how many potatoes will be needed for the mashed potatoes.

Most children love to do crafts and this can be a great time to work on some of those developmental milestones. This website gives some great ideas for crafts around being “thankful”. For working on fine motor skills have your child help you cut the different pieces and squeeze the glue to put the craft together. If you are targeting receptive language skills, print out visual directions if your child needs it or break down the craft into multiple verbal steps. To target turn taking or general social skills, have your child use words to request turns from their siblings or cousins.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving!





November 15, 2016

Trick of the Trade from Jamie Hinchey, MS, CCC-SLP

Go For an Adventure!

With the Fall weather in full swing, it is a good time to get outside with your child and do a fun activity before the cold weather comes! While talking with families about their weekend family adventures recently, I thought it might be helpful to talk about some ways to incorporate developmental goals while out and about. If you are thinking about taking a day trip somewhere, maybe into the city, or out for a hike, it is important to talk about this with your child before hand. Most children benefit from knowing what to expect, and when there is a change in routine, it can be helpful to briefly talk to your child about where you are going, who you are going with, and how you will get there. If you know your child benefits specifically from visuals, try finding a picture of where you are going to show them what to expect.

For the day of the trip, try to involve your child in the “packing”. This could help with building receptive language and following directions outside of your normal routine. Children love to help, so it could help you by giving each child a different job, such as bringing a bag out to the car, or putting their shoes on! On your way to this adventure, you can practice expressive language by labeling what you see or talking about what you are going to do when you get there. If you are on the metro or somewhere else that might be loud, this could be a great opportunity to practice transitions.

If you are looking for some adventure ideas check out this website!



November 8, 2016

Trick of the Trade from Colleen Donley, PT, DPT

Making Tummy Time Not-So-Terrible

Tummy time for teeny babies is no small feat! And it can be equally as difficult a time for parents if their baby gets very upset during tummy time. Here are some tips to make tummy time not as horrible (and maybe even fun!) for your baby right after coming home:

Tummy to chest is one of the first and easiest positions for a new baby to have tummy time. Parents should choose a comfortable position, such as reclined on the couch or propped up in bed, and then lay baby tummy-down on their chest. This puts baby at a slight incline, which makes lifting the head slightly easier. And it puts them closest to see their favorite motivator, you!

I also like to have a baby lay on the floor over a rolled-up blanket right at chest level. This creates a slight incline similar to being on your chest but challenges baby a little more. Try folding a receiving blanket from the hospital in half and rolling it up tightly. These aren’t plush so they won’t give under baby’s pressure but will give baby just the little bit of lift to make tummy time more enjoyable. And always, add something fun to the floor during tummy time, like a mirror or contrasting book!

For more information on tummy time, check out our previous post about why tummy time is important!


October 25, 2016

Trick of the Trade: Halloween Edition

Potato Head Pumpkin

During the Fall, there are various activities for children to do outside. At Spectrum Pediatrics, we always encourage parents to get creative and allow your child to explore during play. A family recently shared with us their “Potato Head Pumpkins” they created for Halloween. Most children we know love to play with Mr. Potato Head and find it fun to make silly faces or give him a silly hat. This activity can target various areas of development including receptive and expressive language, as well as fine motor and gross motor development. You may be able to have your child help you identify where each piece goes, label different body parts, or follow multi-step directions (“Put the arm on first, then the leg”). The Potato Head pieces could help children focus on their fine motor skills by grasping onto each piece and working to push it into the pumpkin.

If you are feeling creative, you may be able to work on sensory input by carving the pumpkin as well and pulling out all of the squishy seeds! These Potato Head Pumpkins are fun and easy to make, plus they look great on the front porch! You can find these Potato Head Pumpkin pieces online or at your local toy store!

October 18, 2016

Trick of the Trade from Jamie Hinchey, MS, CCC-SLP

Stoplight for Rate of Speech

When working with young children in articulation therapy, it is often easy to forget to look at the child’s rate of speech. As therapists, we typically look at the specific sound development and production during speech. Often times, a child is able to master the sound production at the sentence level when speaking slowly during a focused structured task. It can be difficult for a child to generalize this sound production to conversations, especially when the rate of speech increases. Naturally, as adults, when we become excited we often tend to talk at a faster rate. This is also seen in young children when they are excited about telling a story or describing a favorite toy.

I often use a stoplight visual to help children visualize their rate of speech and improve their self-awareness. It is helpful to have a stoplight visual that children can manipulate. For example, I often use a stop light with three velcro circles (red, yellow, green) that children can take off and put back on to identify whether they are speaking fast, just right, or too fast. Visuals are a great way for children to learn and eventually build carryover to rate of speech and articulation within conversation.


October 11, 2016

Trick of the Trade from Krystina Burke, MS, CF-SLP

Organize Your Play!

Placing your child’s toys in smaller bins and boxes is a great way to keep organized and boost your child’s speech and language skills! Having toys in different boxes allows your child to communicate with others to get what he or she wants. Your child can make choices using pointing, words, or both to let you know which box of toys he or she wants to play with. If the toy is placed in a box with a lid, you child must problem solve and use his or her communication skills to get it opened or to ask for help.

Giving each of your child’s toys a “home” is also great for establishing a clean-up routine. This allows a child to put things away before moving into the next activity, which works on attention, a foundational language skill.


September 23, 2016

Trick of the Trade From Jamie Hinchey MS, CCC-SLP

Category Ball

This is a creative, fun way to work on both motor and language skills. At Spectrum Pediatrics, we use a volleyball with 10 small pieces of masking tape with various category labels such as foods, animals, or drinks. I use this category ball with different clients who are all working on different goals. This could be a great way to target gross motor and language skills at the same time such as throwing the ball to a partner and identifying items in a specific category. Children enjoy this game because it includes movement, which is always a good motivator! You could make this category ball with any type of ball around the house, including a soccer or basketball.

Depending on what your child is working on, you could choose which categories to put on the tape. I have also used this ball as a way to target asking questions. For example, if your hand lands on the “food” category when you catch it, you have to ask “Ms. Jamie, what is your favorite food?” This ball is able to target speech, language, and motor milestones in so many creative ways! The next time your child is looking for a fun activity, grab a ball and some masking tape!


September 15, 2016

Trick of the Trade from Ashley Glasser, MS, OTR/L, CEIM

Calming Sensory Strategies for Bedtime

Some children have difficulty falling asleep at night. This can be stressful for the child as well as the caregivers involved with the bedtime routine. There are a few sensory strategies that may be helpful for calming your child before or during their bedroom routine. As an occupational therapist I often talk about proprioception and vestibular processing. Deep pressure and rhythmic, slow input such as rocking helps people gather information about their environment while in a stressful situation. Neurologically, these movements are calming and soothing. These can be difficult terms to understand so here is how I typically explain this vocabulary to parents:

Proprioception: The sensation that orients us to our surroundings and lets us know how heavy things are. These receptors are in our joints, connective tissue and muscles.

Vestibular processing: The receptors in our inner ear that provide us the sensation helps us understand movement.

Here are a few proprioceptive and vestibular sensory-based strategies that can help a child calm down at night during their bedroom routine:

1. Hugs and snuggles are a natural deep pressure sensory strategies.

2. Use a weighted blanket. The increased weight provides more proprioceptive input.

3. Allow the child to sit or be rocked in a rocking chair.

4. Use a cuddle swing or a hammock to provide extra proprioceptive input.

5. Engage in joint compression activities right before bedtime such as: yoga poses (downward dog), hanging from monkey bars, somersaults, and other weight bearing activities.

6. Wrap the child up like a burrito.

Hopefully these strategies help calm your child during their bedroom routine! Sweet dreams!