It’s Balance Awareness Week!

 

balanceThis week is Balance Awareness Week! Balance can be affected by many different sensory and motor systems and they all need to work together and team up for us to keep our balance during life’s everyday challenges.

Here’s an introduction to our Sense of Balance.

Our vestibular system describes our balance system house in our inner ears. It becomes active before we our born, is tested out and activated by children as they roll and spin throughout childhood, and becomes more sensitive (no more spinning amusement rides!) as we age.

Here’s some more information about when things go wrong in this system in children.

Our somatosensory system is another big member of the balance team. This system includes touch (think toes in the sand) and also proprioceptive information, which travels from muscles and joints to the brain to tell us where we are in space. Here’s a vestibular patient and OT’s blog post talking about proprioception Here’s another great post on proprioception, which (yay!) includes the importance of alignment in core activation (more important than strength!).

Our third important sensory system of the balance team is vision. Children rely on vision as #1 of the sensory team for balance. As children get older, they must learn to integrate the three systems.

During a physical therapy evaluation, the different sensory and motor systems and how they are working together are assessed. Common problem areas are:
-Postural asymmetries and poor alignment affecting PROPRIOCEPTION
-Decreased VESTIBULAR activation
-Decreased functional VISION skills
-Decreased ability to combine postural control with these sensory systems to work automatically without effort

Call us to arrange a screening and learn how to improve your child’s balance skills within minutes!

A Balanced Body Opens Doors

I have been working with a family visiting from out of the country over the past month.  His parents were very concerned about his motor development.  Addressing this little guys postural asymmetries using the TMR approach gave him the opportunity to quickly and spontaneously learn new skills.  Within days he was crawling and within weeks he was pulling to stand.  His head control developed and sitting balance became strong.  As this family heads back home with the knowledge to treat their own child, I shared with them some things to look for in the coming months.

Postural asymmetries are very common with children with developmental delays.  The children have found patterns of muscle activation that are easiest for them to use and then repeat these motions over and over.

These asymmetries are not always obvious if you don’t know what to look for.  Once you are tuned in you can make changes much more rapidly than if you focused on what is hard for the child to do and relied simply on practice of those skills.

  1. Torticollis: If a child’s head is tilted and/or turned and having difficulty looking the other way, don’t just focus on the neck.  Make sure the child’s whole body is in balance, not just the muscles they are beginning to activate.
  2. Rolling: The child should roll both directions.
  3. Sitting: The child reaches to each side to play with toys.
  4. Crawling: A symmetric opposite arm/leg pattern is ideal.
  5. Pulling to Stand: the child should be able to pull to stand leading with either leg.
  6. Walking with equal step length between left and right legs.  With walking experience, arms should lower and arms should swing with left arm swinging forward with the right leg and right arm swinging forward with the left leg.    

Tightness always wins!  So if you are working on building “strength” with your child, be sure to rule out any imbalances and turn an uphill battle into rapid change and spontaneous development of new motor skills.

Want to learn more?  Call us at 908-543-4390 or send us an email at info@kidpt.com.

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How to Promote Your Baby’s Development & Save Money at the Same Time

When a new baby comes, the house often becomes overrun with supplies and over the first year things for baby seem to multiply and take over!  All of these things for baby can be expensive.  What if you could save money AND best promote your child’s development?!

Young bbaby-cute-child-lying-40724abies spend their days cycling between eat, sleep and poop. Between bottles or nursing, diaper blow outs and diaper changes and precious nap time, there isn’t a ton of play time. There are small intervals throughout the day that get longer as the baby gets older and begins sleeping less, feeding less often, and becoming more alert and mobile.

During those happy alert times there are many options to entertain baby: bouncers, exercausers, jumpers, swings, etc.

What is the best option for baby’s development? What is the best way for the explore their new exciting world?

My advice is to keep it simple. There is no need to spend so much money on various pieces of baby equipment.

The best place for a baby to explore is on a blanket or a play mat. Provide opportunities to look at different things and touch different textures. Instead of rotating between baby equipment, try rotating toys instead.

Concerned about safety with pets or older siblings? Look into a play yard or an old fashioned play pen (larger than the modern pack n play).

Babies learn how to use their eyes, ears, mouths and hands by actively turning their heads in response to sights and sounds. They learn how to control their bodies to move to something they want with practice and experience.  This needs to happen out of a semi-reclined position, that babies often spend a lot of time in, between car seats, swings and bouncers.

Many people will say that their kids are happier when upright in exercausers or jumperoos. There is no denying that many babies enjoy it and for 15 minutes a day while you take a quick shower or need to get something done in the house, that’s ok. I simply recommend limiting use, not banning these baby devices if it makes a difference for the parent.

Allow your baby to move their bodies in the ways they are ready. They grow so quickly and will be up and running before you know it. Until then, let them explore and learn how to control their bodies against gravity one step at a time. This will maximize your child’s development from sensory processing to gross motor abilities, and in the end could even save you some money!

 

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My Child Keeps Falling Out of His Chair!

A quick and dirty test to rule out a commonly missed cause and how to fix it.

Many parents and teachers complain of children with developmental, learning, and coordination challenges falling out of their chairs. They will see this during class instruction and during homework time. Read more

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Muscular Dystrophy and The Role of Physical Therapist

Most children who come to physical therapy require strengthening to be a core component to their rehabilitation.  It is critically important for both therapists and families to understand the difference in the rehabilitation approach for children with muscular dystrophy. Read more

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Bad Behavior or a Cracked Windshield?

Last night my daughters were watching their favorite show, Doc McStuffins. If you haven’t seen it, its an adorable show about a little girl who is a doctor for toys. Its filled with funny little diagnoses that go in the Big Book of Boo Boos and fun little songs filled with life lessons on caring for yourself and others. Read more

A Focus on Strength

A Focus on Strength or Strengths?

Physical therapists are trained to identify all of the things that are atypical, limited, restricted, weak, ineffective and abnormal.  Once all of these problems are identified we develop a plan to knock down all of the things that are wrong.  Our goal? To help someone accomplish something new or to regain a lost skill. Read more

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Autism and School Safety

With the death of Avonte, a young boy with autism gone missing last week for a while in Queens and a local 3 year-old with autism locally who was left on a school bus for 6 hours, it made me reconsider the safety of the students at the schools I have worked. The schools put many safeguards in place, but how do we a related service providers piggyback on those safeguards? Read more

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Movement Magic of Tree Fu Tom

A new interactive tv show on Sprout called Tree Fu Tom has made its way over the pond from the UK. It is aimed at children ages 3-7 and my 4 year old has been asking to watch it again and again.

The show is about a boy named Tom who shrinks and turns into a cartoon to enter the world of his garden. Tom and his friends encounter challenges and have to problem solve solutions. This is where the magic comes in. Read more

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Between the Milestones of the 1st Year

As a mom of two girls and a PT for kids I often get asked about milestones and whether a parent should be concerned. There are many clues to whether a parent should be concerned that go beyond looking at a chart that tells you when a child typically will develop a skill. Read more