Earth day is April 22nd this year, and we wanted to prepare all of the kiddos out there with ways to celebrate! We’ve said it before and we will say it here again, getting outside is great for so many things, including calming and attention (see our blog post about this HERE). It is also great for promoting movement of many varieties!

Here are some fun, Earth Day themed activities to get you and your family moving in the great outdoors:

  1. Hiking – Hit the trails with your family, there are so many great hiking trails in Somerset, Mercer, and Middlesex Counties, you will never be bored! Many of these trails feature wildlife and beautiful flowers as well as inclines and declines that are sure to get the blood pumping! Hiking can be used to teach your child about the “Leave No Trace” rules that apply to all hiking paths, where what is found in the forest, stays in the forest. This is a way to honor the nature found there and to leave it undisturbed for all hikers and wildlife alike.
  2. Gardening – Gardening exposes your child to many fun colors and textures while having them work and help by carrying plants to be potted, then squatting down low to help plant them! They get to feel dirt, feel the many different textures that come along with different plants, and maybe even find a worm or two! This can be turned into an educational experience about what animals and nutrients are needed to help a garden grow big and strong too!
  3. Plant a Tree – This is similar to gardening, but to plant a tree you need to use a big shovel. Have your child grab their mini-shovel and start digging! This can also be turned into an educational experience where you teach your child about how important trees are for our Ecosystem and for life, to teach them about why we celebrate Earth Day in the first place! When the little tree is all planted, they can look at your work and feel a sense of accomplishment that will last years and years as the tree grows!
  4. Canoe or Kayak – Both of these water related activities are very fun AND involve a lot of core and upper body strength! There is a lot of wonderful wildlife to be celebrated in lakes, rivers, and streams, and paddling on the water with your family is a wonderful way to experience the outdoors from a new perspective. You may see turtles and fish, and seeing these creatures living in their natural habitat will help your children learn about why bodies of water are important to protect as well.
  5. Go for a Bike Ride – Go to either a bike path or start from your house and bike somewhere that you want to explore with your family. Bike riding is a whole body activity and is easy for the whole family to do together. If you bike on Earth Day, you can teach your kids all about alternative forms of transportation and how riding your bike for transportation helps decrease the harmful emissions in the air, helping create a cleaner environment for everyone.

Happy Earth Day everyone! Go out there and explore the great outdoors! We hope this post helps generate some ideas for combining movement and activity with the outdoors for some teachable moments so that your kids can learn why we celebrate the green world all around us!

by Dr. Ali Clodfelter, PT

When it comes to the link between physical therapy and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), many people do not know how PT can help individuals within the ASD community. Well, we are here to tell you just how we can help! Not every individual within the ASD community has motor difficulties, but some individuals within the ASD community need a little bit of help to overcome different motor challenges that may be preventing them from flourishing as their best selves!

Sometimes individuals within the ASD community also have a diagnosis of Low Tone. Low Tone makes it hard for kiddos to activate their muscles as quickly and easily as those without low tone. It can make dealing with gravity on an everyday basis very challenging. When a child is frequently losing the battle with gravity, they might sit with a very forward, rounded spine, have difficulty reaching for objects while sitting and standing, have trouble getting onto and off of the floor or into and out of a chair. They may have difficulty keeping their balance when challenged, and may even have trouble walking or running without tripping or falling. Kids with low tone can really benefit from physical therapy because it helps improve their ability to make their muscles ready for challenging tasks. This means, when they go to try a task where gravity previously won the battle, they know how to activate their muscles beforehand (eventually without even thinking about it), and can perform the task with greater ease and safety. 

Children with Low Tone also have difficulty with postural control. Postural control affects their balance. If your child has difficulty with postural control, it may cause them to have difficulty keeping their balance when sitting in a chair, walking on unstable surfaces or narrow surfaces, and it may make it very hard for them to stand still. Often when a child has difficulty with postural control that affects their balance in standing, they will keep moving or keep taking steps forward just to keep from falling! That is a lot of work that they are doing every day just to keep their balance!

With improvements in muscle readiness and postural control, kids with Autism gain the stability they need to do everyday tasks with greater ease. With greater ease of movement, kids are able to grow and learn to do motor tasks they never thought possible. It is this growth we love to see and support, and it is why we do what we do!

If any of these descriptions sound like your child, call us at KidPT today for a free Discovery Visit, where we can discuss if physical therapy is the right fit for your child and why!

This month is Autism Acceptance Month (formerly known as Autism Awareness Month). The purpose of the month, which was originally geared toward raising awareness and sharing resources to raise awareness for the Autism Community, is now aimed at both raising awareness and fostering a culture of acceptance. What does this mean exactly? The name change to Autism Acceptance Month urges for a change in how the community at large embraces individuals with Autism as well as their families. A large source of stress for individuals with Autism and their families is a lack of community support, this includes difficulty finding support within the education system, providing accessible housing, providing affordable healthcare, and helpful, comprehensive long term services. 

That said, we wanted to highlight one resource we found that was designed to help individuals within the community and to help educate the community as a whole. This resource is a children’s book, created by an individual who has Autism, that seeks to describe and normalize various sensory needs, mobility needs, and even nutrition needs for children with disabilities, and is not solely limited to ASD. This resource does so in a way that does not teach children who are neurodivergent or who have a disability to feel like their difference is their fault OR that it is something that needs to be hidden in order for them to fit into everyday life. This children’s story highlights that children all have differences from each other, that the needs of many children can be met within the school setting, and that this is a great thing! It seeks for foster “Neuroinclusion” rather than to create an environment of othering and exclusion. This story is called “A Room For Us All: A Neuroinclusive Story”.

Below is the link to the article written on this topic which has a PDF of the story we mentioned at the bottom of the article!

Other references resourced here:

by Alison Clodfelter, PT, DPT

April is finally here, and you know what that means, APRIL SHOWERS! With April showers comes so many PUDDLES! We know how much your kiddos probably love to jump in puddles, and while it may get their clothes a little wet, it certainly is fun! Jumping is also great for coordinating the muscles of your tummy and back with your arms and legs because all these different muscle groups need to fire at just the right times. This needs to happen in a certain sequence for each jump to occur, which means it is helpful to practice different kinds of jumps to learn all kinds of coordination patterns!

You and your kiddo may want to pull out your rain boots for these fun puddle jumps to keep your feet dry:

1. Jumping AROUND the puddles: Jumping two feet apart then two feet together: Start with both feet together (in front of your puddle), then jump forward and move both feet apart at the same time (two feet outside of the puddle). Then jump with two feet back together to make it to the other side of your puddle!

2. One foot puddle jump: Start with two feet in front of your puddle, then hop onto one foot RIGHT INTO THE PUDDLE (SPLASH)! Now jump back onto two feet! Turn around and try jumping into the puddle on your other foot!

3. One foot OVER the puddles: Start on the side of your puddle on one foot, quickly bend the knee your standing on and jump sideways OVER the puddle to land on your other foot. Try not to land in the puddle! Keep repeating this and see how many sideways jumps you can do without getting your feet wet!

4. Backwards puddle jumps: Jumping backward gives a whole new moving view of the world to your kiddo while they are trying to coordinate their jumping, challenging their coordination with a new visual flow, making their brain work in a new way to move!

5. Puddle LEAPS: Have your child RUN up to the puddles, lift one foot off the ground, and push off the leg that is still on the ground to do one big LEAP over the puddle. Again, try not to land in the puddle, and see how many you can do without making a splash!

6. Puddle Half Turns: We had to end with one right in the puddle! Start with your rain boots standing in the puddle. Jump UP and turn your whole body 180 degrees to do one half turn. This one is great for coordinating the rotational muscles of your tummy with your jump.

These fun jumps can of course be performed without puddles too if you don’t want to get messy! Happy puddle jumping!

This week, we wanted to discuss how PT may be able to help your infant with feeding difficulties. Recently we have been seeing and treating many infants with difficulties feeding, for example trouble latching, mouth tightness, and trouble getting enough milk! When you bring your new baby home from the hospital, there are so many things to learn and so many things your growing family is experiencing together, whether you are an experienced parent or new parent. If your little one seems to be having trouble feeding and becomes very fussy at meal times, you may start feeling very overwhelmed and exasperated, because all you want them to do is eat to grow big and strong!

A lot of times, babies who are experiencing feeding difficulties also have a lip and/or tongue tie, requiring releases. They also may seem uncomfortable in their bodies and seem fussy a lot of the time. It is often blamed on gas or colic, but there is often more to it. Many new parents are referred to a lactation specialist and/or speech therapist to help with their baby’s feeding difficulties and lip and tongue tie concerns. Both lactation specialists and speech therapists are amazing professionals to have on your team during this fussy, troublesome time. 

What you might not know is that a Pediatric Physical Therapist may be helpful as well, specifically a pediatric physical therapist trained in a special technique called Total Motion Release (aka TMR). This gentle technique helps PTs to look at the whole body of a child, no matter how small, to see if there are any asymmetries in their posture. These asymmetries in their posture are often left over from the infant’s specific positioning in utero.  They make it uncomfortable for your baby to be held in certain positions, which may affect them during feeding or otherwise. They can also contribute to tightness in your baby’s neck, jaw, and inside their mouth, which may affect their ability to feed, as you may be experiencing at home! Funny thing is, the muscles and other soft tissues of the body, specifically in the hips and the trunk, are MUCH BIGGER than the little muscles of the neck, jaw, tongue, and mouth. Because these soft tissues are bigger, they may be adding to the tightness your baby is already experiencing in their mouth, which may be increasing their difficulties with feeding.

If you are thinking this sounds like your little one, breathe a sigh of relief, because these asymmetries are easily worked out with simple and easy positioning techniques, especially if your baby is very little. Here at KidPT, we look at the whole body of your little one and use TMR to do this. Through our TMR lens, we look to see if your baby has any of these soft tissue asymmetries in his or her body. We can talk with your lactation specialist or speech therapist to see what their current concerns are, and as a team we can progress your baby toward ease of feeding, and an overall increase in comfort in their bodies, together! Parents often find that not only does the baby feed better, but they become calmer, happier and sleep better! If you are currently experiencing feeding difficulties with your newborn, and want an experienced pair of hands to see if asymmetries in your baby’s body may be contributing to this, come on in to KidPT for a free Discovery Visit with one of our Physical Therapists! We would love to help you and your little one with our no muss, no fuss approach! 

…It might be more than behavior and attention

By: Dr. Ali

Do you feel like your child never stops moving? Like they are here, there and everywhere, running in between destinations and fidgeting in their chair while eating a meal? Even if you have asked them to take a pause they seem to not listen, or be physically unable to follow the instructions you are giving to slow down, even if they are traditionally a very good listener? Being in constant motion can be related to certain diagnoses, like ADHD. ADHD often presents with additional signs and symptoms, like forgetfulness, difficulty staying on task, trouble listening while another is talking, excessive talking, unsafe and impulsive behavior, and/or trouble with turn taking. Regardless of whether your child has a diagnosis of ADHD or not, there may be another factor contributing to their need for constant motion.

That “thing” is something we PT’s call postural control. Postural control defined as the act of maintaining, achieving, or restoring a state of balance during any posture or activity (1). When someone has a very “fine tuned” postural system, their body, vestibular system (little balance center in the ears), and eyes are telling their brain where they are in space and what position their body has to hold. Then their brain sends signals to the muscles to hold that specific position. In order for all of this to work, the eyes, the vestibular system, and the body have to send accurate signals, the brain has to correctly process this information, and the body must be able to coordinate muscles on all sides to hold the position steady. Phew, even thinking about this long process can make someone tired! 

When there is misinformation, trouble processing the information, or trouble coordinating the body in response to the brain’s signals, it will show in the body. When this happens, the child’s body may sway back and forth while they are trying to sit still in a chair, they may need to continuously move their feet instead of standing still, or they may just keep changing position when the one they are currently in becomes too hard to hold. When children are in constant motion, it often shows us PT’s that they are stuck constantly “restoring” their state of balance, as opposed to “maintaining” as the definition says above. Their body feels like it is always at risk of falling, so they move to catch themselves and prevent this. It may not look like that is what is happening when they are step, step, stepping, but if they are stuck constantly restoring their balance with decreased postural control, this is what their body is telling them is happening. 

When we see kids who show us this constant need for motion, we help them improve their postural control so that they can achieve and maintain steady postures. This is important for so many reasons other than just giving them greater stability. Sometimes when postural control improves, a child has an easier time paying attention to tasks and school lessons, because part of their brain isn’t being used to keep them on balance. All of that brain energy that was being used to signal movement that would prevent them from falling can be allotted to other things, because their balance system is operating on autopilot!

If you see your child having difficulty staying still and want to get another opinion, come in to KidPT for a free discovery visit, and a PT can answer any questions you may have about this topic!

References: 

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10945424/#:~:text=Postural%20control%20is%20defined%20as,change%2Din%2Dsupport%20response.

By: Dr. Ali

This week is St. Patrick’s Day and with all of the green, Leprechaun fun, we wanted to add some fun moves to your family’s festivities! If you need a visual version of these exercises, click above to view the exercises in video form!!

  1. Leprechaun’s Jig: Jump together on two feet, then jump onto one, to two, then to one, and keep repeating this over and over again until you have done 10 one footed jumps total! Look, you’re doing a jig!
  2. Making the Rainbow: Go on your belly to start. Place your hands on the ground and your feet on the ground. Then push your tooshie up into the air and hold
  3. Creeping over the rainbow: Tip toe on a line with a sneaky expression, so you don’t “tip” the Leprechaun off that you are coming. SHHHHH its a surprise, you have to sneak up on him if you want his gold!
  4. Jumping in the Pot of Gold: Jump into your imaginary pot of gold but bringing one knee up close to your chest then jumping onto the leg that is up while bringing your opposite knee close to your chest. 
  5. Give gold coins to your friends: Squat low (because you are still up on the imaginary rainbow) and pass your friends coins by reaching down low. Pass the coins to 10 friends!

We hope you have fun getting JIGGY with it! We know you will all be the best rainbows, pot o’ gold jumpers, jig dancers, and gold coin sharers out there! Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone!

Today’s Frequently Asked Question

Parents often ask us the difference between school physical therapy and private physical therapy.

I mean, why should a parent pay for a service they can get for free at school??!!

I totally get that, so I thought I would explain more in a blog post.  Because If they were the same, you would be right!  There would be no reason to invest in therapeutic care for your child that is being provided for free at school.

Let’s get into how they’re the same and how they’re different beyond their location of services.  

Isn’t Physical Therapy, Physical Therapy?

Physical therapists are all licensed to provide physical therapy and to work with all ages and all settings.  However, not only do goals change depending on the setting and the individual, but the role does too.

The role of physical therapy in the school is to support a child’s access to education.  It is to support their ability to participate in the least restrictive environment and support the motor skills needed at school.  The services are determined by the student’s IEP, Individualized Education Plan, and is a related service based on education law.  

Private physical therapy can look outside of the child’s education to look at the bigger picture of a child’s life today and in the future.  Private physical therapy can focus on goals from all parts of a child’s life, from keeping up with the family at the park to protecting a child’s joints so that they will be strong, healthy and pain-free for the future.  

Many children will benefit from physical therapy services in both settings to help them achieve success at school while also being able to guide the child towards their own personal potential.  

If you have questions as to the best ways to support your child, reach out to us today and one of our physical therapists can hop on the phone with you and chat about your options.  We are here to support you and your child and to help guide you to know your options so that you can best advocate for and support your child on their journey!

What is it and why do we PT’s care?

Hypermobility can be thought of as extra laxity in the joints, aka the joints are more flexible than is typical. In the clinic, we measure joints in degrees, and usually joints like elbows and knees are supposed to straighten to make the arm one line and the leg one line, which would measure to be 180 degrees. Hypermobility is really easy to see in the elbows and the knees especially because the angle will be visibly past straight, or past 180 degrees.  It is definitely harder to see in the spine, the hips, shoulders, ankles, wrists, feet, and hands but they can be hypermobile too! A couple of extra degrees is completely fine and is within what we call normal. But, when 10 or more extra degrees can be seen and measured, we start to consider this within our treatment planning in the clinic.

You might be thinking, so what, my child’s knee can bend a little backward, why does this matter? That is a great question! We will use the knee as an example. It really matters if you see them standing and “hanging out” on a hyperextended knee (a knee that is over straight) for prolonged periods of time. There are plenty of kids and adults who have hypermobility throughout their whole bodies who have learned through athletics, or just through life, to control their mobility and stand with “neutral joints”. But, at baseline it is harder for those with hypermobility to control their joints. Because of this, they have to train their muscles and ligaments to sense when they are in the right place.

There are many systems that come into play to learn how to control hypermobile joints, but simply put, the muscles and ligaments need to learn how to sense when the joints are aligned versus when they are hyperextended. Then the muscles need to be trained to hold the joints in the “good place”, gaining control and strength through frequent practice. When this is practiced A LOT, it will become a skill that the child doesn’t need to think about, and will happen automatically.

We PT’s care about hypermobility because it can make it harder for children to sense what their bodies are doing as they move and harder to control their bodies. Part of our awareness of what our bodies are doing as we move comes from signals the joints send to our brain. Sometimes with hypermobile joints, these signals are decreased unless the joint is at its “end range” aka when it is fully extended. This causes children with hypermobility to lock out their joints while completing movements, which can lead to abnormal movement patterns in early life. Constantly moving with abnormal patterns on joints that are over extended can also cause joint injury in later life. 

The other big factor that can be tied to hypermobility we also look for and treat is decreased coordination. When there is less control over the joints, it is hard to put movements together. This is especially so for movements that require standing on one leg, pushing through the arms, and moving the limbs, head, and/or trunk in different ways at the same time.


If your child shows signs of joint hypermobility and you believe it is affecting their ability to move easily and with control, call and inquire about our free Discovery Visits, where we can screen your child to see if physical therapy would be an appropriate option for him or her. If you have any questions about this article, feel free to contact us at info@kidpt.com .

Setting attainable goals & letting kids bask in their own successes!

If you’ve ever watched a pediatric physical therapy session, you will often see us putting a toy or desired object just out of a child’s grasp so they are inspired to roll, crawl, walk, scoot, or reach for it. Setting up the environment this way helps us to encourage kids to utilize emerging motor skills and strengthen those skills while building confidence. When we set our environment up, we are always thinking about where the “goalpost” is and whether or not the goal we are setting is attainable for the child at that time. If it seems too hard, we have to adjust the height, distance, or surface where the toy is located so that the child we are working with is working hard but can still be successful!

Setting attainable goals is so important when kids are learning new skills because we want them to build confidence as they are building skill and we want them to enjoy practicing and learning. One way we see kids get really frustrated or discouraged when learning a new skill is when the goalpost is frequently changing as they are working to reach it. An example of the “changing goalpost” that often causes our kiddos to get upset is when they are a new walker, taking unsteady steps to reach mom, dad, or a toy, and who or what they are trying to get to keeps moving backward. We TOTALLY understand the desire to do this, it gets them to walk more, which is good right? While the easy answer would be “Yes, they are walking more”, it is more complex than this. While they are chasing the desired person or object, they are thinking “Gee, I only had to walk that short distance to mom when I started, and I definitely thought I could do this, but now she is getting farther and farther away, and I am getting tired. I don’t know if I can do this anymore.” Even though they definitely CAN do the skill for short distances, their confidence is then starting to decrease, and they may not want to try again because it takes SO MUCH effort to be successful. 

Don’t worry, this is a very easy fix! Say they are a new walker, have them start with a short distance first. Let them reach the object or person they are walking to and then let them play with the toy, hug mom or dad, and revel in the joy of their success with that mobility. Let them feel that joy for a few minutes while playing with the toy or hugging a parent. Then, once they have played for a short time, move the toy and redirect their attention to have them practice the skill again. Maybe even try to place the goalpost a little further next time, building on their ability as their confidence grows. Now they are learning that they can be successful with that motor skill, they are building confidence in it, while also learning that it is a new way of mobility they can use to reach things they want (a win, win, win)! Learning new motor skills takes a lot of patience, but overall the success your child will experience when moving and reaching each goal is worth the wait!