The CDC put out new milestone guidance for families and crawling was removed as a milestone.  This decision led to a lot of uproar in the pediatric physical therapy and occupational therapy world and a lot of confusion for parents!  Let’s have a conversation in this blog post about crawling and whether it is still important for us to consider.

First off, let’s consider the guidelines put out to parents and healthcare professionals.  The developmental monitoring guidance, which is designed for parents to have a quick way to see if their child’s development is on track, no longer includes crawling as a milestone.

This does NOT change child development, developmental screening, or developmental evaluations.  Developmental screenings are recommended to be done at 9, 18, and 30 months of age.  Additionally, Autism Screening is recommended at 18 and 24 months of age. Any concerns about a child’s development will lead to a developmental evaluation, which looks more in depth at a child’s development.  

Developmental screenings and evaluations will continue to include crawling as a milestone.  Given that, we can include that crawling continues to be a milestone and one that is important to address.

Why Is Crawling Important?

In many ways crawling represents freedom.  Crawling is usually the first time a baby can actively explore their environment, versus someone having to carry them from point A to point B. Babies also gain a sense of independence from their parent or caregiver, as they move away from them and then move back.

When babies bear weight on their arms, they develop shoulder stability and they develop the arches of the hands, which helps later on with handwriting and fine motor skills. Crawling also helps develop vision skills and gives babies important sensory feedback, from stimulating the vestibular system while moving in space, gives information to the touch receptors on the hands, legs and feet, and gives proprioceptive information from the joints and muscles. This sensory feedback helps babies develop spatial awareness, or the sense of where their body is in space.

Finally, crawling helps develop core stability and coordination, because you’re using your opposite arm and leg at the same time, along with moving in a rhythmic manner.

All of these components work together as the baby learns to control their bodies against gravity at this new level.

Getting Crawling Ready

The most important thing parents that do to support their babies development is to have lots of floor time, without the use of supports, so that baby can explore.

Babies need to move against gravity, and see, by trial and error, when I reach for that toy, what happens? A lot of times they start moving by a happy accident, like they lean one way to get something and they roll over. If they don’t have those opportunities, those happy accidents can’t happen.

When the baby is on the floor, encourage them to move by putting toys slightly out of reach. As parents, having the patience to let them go through that trial and error process and not jump in can be so hard, and sometimes even I have to sit on my own hands.

The transitions babies do over and over again during play, moving from sitting to belly and back to sitting, from sitting to hands and knees to sitting again, is what gets their little bodies truly ready for crawling. They move in and out of positions, getting their core muscles primed to support them on hands and knees.

Crawling Variations

Many babies will crawl in a typical all fours pattern, but there are so many variations too. Some babies will first commando or army crawl before getting up on hands and knees. This is where we often see lots of different variations and asymmetries. Some babies will do lot of pulling with their arms and some will always push off with the same leg. I generally tell parents not to worry about funny looking army crawl patterns. It will work itself out when the babies are on hands and knees crawling and moving in a much more symmetrical and synchronized way.

Some babies will bear crawl, where the legs are kept straight. This often happens when the baby is avoiding hard floors! As long as you’re seeing lots of variety of movement patterns during play, this isn’t concerning.

Crab crawl: Baby moves with either one or both legs tucked under. This is another common variation. Its often due to asymmetries in the pelvis and hips, but it can also just be a normal variation.

Bottom scoot: Baby uses hands to push across the floor while sitting upright on their bottom. Some babies don’t go onto hands and knees at all and will get around on their bottoms. If baby is choosing this method of mobility, keep an eye out for how they are figuring out how to pull up to standing so that they are able to get to the next stages of development on the road to walking. My favorite activity to introduce to bottom scooters is climbing up the stairs- you can’t pull that off with a bottom scoot!

Crawling backwards: many babies will crawl backwards before figuring out how to crawl forwards; if you see your baby crawling backwards, just enjoy the process and watch them problem solve and figure out how to change directions; they’re almost there!

When To Get Help

Babies will learn to crawl on hands and knees between 8-10 months of age. Like every milestone baby works towards, there are many small steps that add up to the big achievement of the milestone. If a baby is able to do all the steps up to crawling, such as moving from sitting to hands and knees and rocking on hands and knees, they’re on their way.

Some signs baby may need some help with their gross motor development:

  • Happy Sitter: this is the baby that is happy being placed in sitting, but doesn’t move out of the position
  • Baby has always hated tummy time and hasn’t developed a way to move on their belly to move in circles, forwards, or backwards
  • Baby is 10 months and not moving in and out of sitting
  • Baby loves to stand and wants to be placed in standing all the time (not getting there themselves)

At Kid PT we offer developmental screenings to local families who have questions or concerns about their children’s development. I tell parents that at that screening you will either get peace of mind that there aren’t any concerns or they’ll get recommendations as to how to help their child and support their development. Its a win-win!

To schedule a Developmental Screening, call/text us at 908-543-4390 or email info@kidpt.com.

I have to admit, I’m not the most coordinated person.  You may have noticed the same about yourself or your child.  

The big question parents often ask me is whether their child is on the clumsy end or is there another explanation for it.  

The biggest question to ask yourself is whether your child’s clumsiness is impacting their everyday life.  Is it making them a wallflower on the playground?  Is it making it difficult to make it through a meal without spilling or dropping something?  Is the child tripping frequently or bumping into things?  

Partially because clumsiness has been the butt of so many jokes in media, its often not taken seriously.  The truth is that clumsiness doesn’t naturally improve and can have a really big impact on a child’s confidence and self-esteem.  

Plus, therapy can help!  So if there’s a big problem impacting a child’s everyday life that is making them feel bad and we have the power to improve it, we can’t overlook it!  

Let’s take a look at 2 different people with Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), how it impacts their lives, and then we can talk more about how to know when to seek help.

Meet Jane

Jane is a very warm and friendly seven-year-old girl diagnosed with developmental coordination disorder and dyspraxia. She has never had success with academic, gross motor or fine motor activities, and prefers to talk her way out of challenges. Talking she is good at, but only with adults. She has struggled to make and keep friends. 

Jane started a PT program at Kid PT and after two months of participating in a program working on her visual-motor and rhythmic movement skills, her mom reported that not only was she moving better, but she was having so much more success socially.. Mom said, “I can imagine that if you can’t keep up with the kids on the playground, that’s going to affect your confidence playing with the other kids.”

Mom’s observation was so true and impacts so many children everyday. Our innate sense of rhythm runs in the background of everything we do. It affects how we interact with others and how we multitask emptying a backpack at school while saying hello to a friend while smiling and remembering everything you need for the day. The consistent and reliable rhythm of our brain and body supports all of these seemingly mundane tasks that can be overwhelming if you have to think about them every step of the way!

Meet the Professor

I had the opportunity to meet a brilliant 55-year-old professor a few years ago who had struggled with his body his entire life. As an adult, he received the diagnosis of Developmental Coordination Disorder. 

He talked about years of trauma that occurred in gym class throughout his school years and how writing and driving were still next to impossible for him. This man, a PhD and professor, was trying to make healthy changes in his life to manage his overall health. He knew exercise was important, but could never access it because of his lack of coordination. He found swimming to be his personal answer, but wanted additional help to make swimming more successful.

During his evaluation, I identified many sensory and motor deficits that were greatly impacting all of his movement skills.   His vestibular function (inner ear) was impaired, particularly the vestibular ocular reflex, which keeps vision steady as we move through space. His vision was working too hard trying to make up for vestibular impairments, so his balance was decreased at night when vision couldn’t be relied on as much.

He also had postural asymmetries that he was likely relying on for years that were causing musculoskeletal issues, in addition to affecting body awareness.His movement system had never gone on autopilot. He had limited ability to use his hands and feet simultaneously, especially when he couldn’t rely on vision for feedback.

“For the first time in 55 years I think I found someone who actually understands my coordination issues. I have spent a lot of time and money getting nowhere.” Together, we had found the reasons behind his symptoms, and were able to move forward with building a stronger foundation.

Understanding the building blocks of development of the movement system for an adult, who has only experienced failure with the practice, practice, practice approach, can change one’s perspective dramatically.

 Instead of blaming yourself for not trying harder, you can own your challenges, empower your strengths, and begin to move forward. Awareness of his challenges didn’t change his body immediately, but it did change his perception of himself.

What is Developmental Coordination Disorder?

Children with Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) are not simply clumsy. DCD is a motor skills disorder that affects approximately five to six percent of all school-aged children. DCD has been described in many ways over the years, including dyspraxia, minimal brain dysfunction, and clumsy child syndrome. The medical community has chosen to use the term DCD as the preferred diagnostic term. DCD occurs when a delay in the development of motor skills, or difficulty coordinating movements, results in a child being unable to perform common everyday tasks. They often have difficulty keeping up with their peers during gross motor play, have frequent falls, and have a hard time doing daily skills, such as zipping and tying shoe laces.

The biggest challenge is often with learning a new movement-based skill, which is a challenge that is experienced throughout childhood. These children are often labeled as lazy (read more about how NOT lazy these kids are here!). They’re often told that if they would just try harder they could do it. In the past, it was often assumed that children would outgrow these challenges, but research has demonstrated that children with coordination problems do not simply outgrow these problems. In fact, these children are at greater risk for being sedentary and less healthy as adults than their peers. These children are also at greater risk for mental health problems. We cannot risk overlooking the struggles of these children. There is too much at risk for their futures!

Children with DCD are constant victims of imperfect practice. These children blend in with their peers well and are often not even diagnosed. Goal-oriented methods help with the practice component, but this is not enough. Life will constantly present new skills, so this creates a constant challenge, especially throughout childhood. In addition to working towards specific skills, we can work on developing a child’s building blocks of movement in order to also “teach the child how to fish.” Building the foundations of movement, rather than just teaching gross or fine motor splinter skills, improves the child’s learning abilities and decreases their reliance on others.

Children with DCD often have low tone, as well. Due to the low tone, it is generally assumed that these children are flexible everywhere. However, when you look closely at their core, the opposite is often discovered. Children with low tone typically don’t develop sufficient three-dimensional control in their core. Without the development of core control, asymmetries often remain and limit the development of core control. Often parents will tell us their kids will just randomly fall out of their seats in school (learn more about why here!).

Children with coordination disorders can vary in their vestibular responses. The vestibular system can be underactive, limiting the child’s ability to develop a strong sense of where they are in space, or the vestibular system can be oversensitive, leading to fear of movement. Low tone and hypermobility can lead to less information going from the joints and muscles (proprioception) and traveling to the brain to tell us where we are in space. Commonly, the visual system will work hard to make up for less teammates in the balance team.

Many children with coordination disorders will have difficulty getting their bodies stacked up with good alignment in order to turn their power on. These kids will often hold their bodies in an alignment that feeds into chest breathing, with their chest shifted up and their back appearing to be arched. This position and breathing pattern feeds into the child’s fight-or-flight system, or sympathetic nervous system, and gives them less ability to use their calming parasympathetic nervous system.

Children with coordination disorders struggle to put all of the pieces of their movement skills and sensory feedback together to be able to combine it with timing, sequencing, and multitasking. Being able to do this is demanded from a student, even in kindergarten! Because of this, beginning school is often the turning point for parents to seek out extra help for their child.

We move through daily life without consciously thinking about how we are moving our bodies. We can walk while daydreaming without bumping into a street sign, and we can sit in a chair without falling off while reading and writing. This may sound natural for many of us, but children with postural deficits use excessive energy, attention, and focus to fulfill all of the expectations they face each day. When our gears are synchronized, movement is automatic and children can focus on higher level skills, whether it is moving through the classroom without bumping into things or learning algebra. Filling in or strengthening these missing building blocks to develop a child’s sensory-motor system can build automaticity in order to multitask and to free the child up for higher cognitive skills. That’s where we can help!

Children with coordination disorders are often called lazy and told they’re not meeting their potential. People assume things will get better as the child gets older and that these are delays that will “catch up.” In the meantime, the child struggles with their self-worth, self-esteem, and mental health. As we said before, research supports that children do not grow out of these struggles, and that children with coordination challenges are typically more sedentary adults with increased risk of cardiovascular and mental health problems. 

Supporting a child’s ability to learn the skills they need in daily life is important, but we cannot fall into the work harder and try harder pit, without also working towards long-lasting change. We can help these children fill in those missing and weakened foundational skills. There are so many ways we can help these children meet their personal potential and protect their mental health, all at the same time. They are working so hard, day in and day out- let’s acknowledge that, support their efforts, and improve their building blocks so that they are building their houses with the strongest foundation as can be.

Top 10 Tips for Parents of Children with DCD

  1. Martial arts and swimming are individual sports that help improve body awareness, sensory processing, and balance. They are sensory rich and can be modified for individual differences.
  2. Explore movement in fun, social, and noncompetitive ways, such as hiking, yoga, and creative movement.
  3. Identify postural imbalances that may be limiting the development of core strength and learn ways to improve postural symmetry..
  4. Provide supports for sitting if the child has difficulty sitting upright, such as a yoga wedge or a towel roll.
  5. Encourage the development of timing using music and movement opportunities.
  6. Adapt the environment for success. Some adaptations include picture schedules, written lists, and typing instead of writing.
  7. Practice listening, looking, and moving at the same time. Play walking and looking games, such as “I spy,” while going for a walk.
  8. Model the use of feedback during play. For example, if you throw a ball and it lands short of the basketball hoop, say “I threw it too soft.” Discuss what you could do differently, try it and discuss whether it was successful. Bring awareness to this process.
  9. Backward chaining is a way to learn how to complete a task by working backwards from completion. The child first does the last step to complete the task. Next, they would try the last two steps. The child can build this until they are independent with the entire task.
  10. Team up with a PT or OT specialist to work on the foundations of movement so that practice is more effective and successful!

Getting Help

If you see your child is working harder than other kids to get through their daily activities, don’t wait to look for help. You also don’t need an official diagnosis to get help. Reach out to us at KidPT and come in for a Discovery Visit. We will listen to your concerns, do a screening of your child and their movement skills, and help you make a plan. We’re here for you!

References

  1. Zwicker JG, Suto M, Harris SR, Vlasakova N, Missiuna C. Developmental coordination disorder is more than a motor problem: children describe the impact of daily struggles on their quality of life. Brit J Occup Ther. 2017:030802261773504. 10.1177/0308022617735046.
  2. Sugden, D A, Chambers, M, & Utley, A. Leeds Consensus Statement 2006.
  3. Cousins M, Smyth MM. Developmental coordination impairments in adulthood. Hum Move Sci. 2003;22(4):433–459. doi: 10.1016/j.humov.2003.09.003.
  4. Wilmut K, Du W, Barnett AL. Navigating through apertures: perceptual judgements and actions of children with developmental coordination disorder. Dev Sci. 2017:20(6). doi: 10.1111/desc.12462.
  5. Missiuna C, Moll S, King G, Stewart D, Macdonald K. Life experiences of young adults who have coordination difficulties. Can J Occup Ther. 2008;75(3):157–166. doi: 10.1177/000841740807500307.
  6. Fitzpatrick DA, Watkinson EJ. The lived experience of physical awkwardness: adults’ retrospective views. Adapt Phys Act Q. 2003;20(3):279–297. doi: 10.1123/apaq.20.3.279.
  7. Lingam R, Jongmans MJ, Ellis M, Hunt LP, Golding J, Emond A. Mental health difficulties in children with developmental coordination disorder. Pediatrics. 2012;129: E882–91.
  8. Hill EL, Brown D. Mood impairments in adults previously diagnosed with developmental coordination disorder. J Ment Health. 2013;22:334–40.
  9. Harrowell I, Hollén L, Lingam R, Emond A. Mental health outcomes of developmental coordination disorder in late adolescence. Dev Med Child Neurol. 2017;59(9):973‐979. doi:10.1111/dmcn.13469.
  10. Cairney J, Hay J, Veldhuizen S, et al. Trajectories of cardiorespiratory fitness in children with and without developmental coordination disorder: a longitudinal analysis. Brit J Sport Med. 2011;45:1196-1201. 406/mojsm.2018.02.00054.
child's facing ocean view of ack

Hi all! We know June for being the last month of school and the month where summer fun begins, BUT did you know June is also Scoliosis Awareness Month? Yes! June is the month where we highlight Scoliosis, a diagnosis that affects so many kiddos (and adultos☺️) across the world. So, for Scoliosis Awareness Month, we wanted to bring you all some information about Scoliosis, what it is, and how Physical Therapy can help! 

What Is Scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a diagnosis that involves a curvature of the spine, the bones that run along the middle of your back. If a child is affected with scoliosis, as they grow, their spine will begin to curve in either the cervical, thoracic, or lumbar spinal regions, aka the neck, upper back and lower back regions. Changes in the spine’s natural anatomy create imbalances in the body that may cause your child’s shoulders, shoulder blades, hips, or ribs to look unlevel or uneven. It may also cause their spine to appear curved when bending forward, may affect their overall mobility, and may create back pain later in life if left untreated. If a child’s scoliosis is very severe, it can also affect the shape and growth of their internal organs, like the lungs or the heart. 

Scoliosis Types

There are four different types of scoliosis: idiopathic, neuromuscular, congenital and degenerative. Degenerative scoliosis is often diagnosed above the age of 65 due to normal wear and tear on the spine and surrounding joints. Congenital scoliosis occurs as a result of spinal or rib deformities present at birth. Neuromuscular scoliosis can occur when a child has a neuromuscular condition, like cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy. With Neuromuscular scoliosis, as the child grows, their muscles pull on their bones as they move and continue to participate in developmentally appropriate activities. When a child has a neuromuscular condition, they might not be moving with similar movement patterns or frequency to a child that is developing typically. This means that their muscles are not pulling the same way on their bones as a typically developing child’s muscles are, and this can cause their bones to grow abnormally, creating a potential for scoliosis. 

Most Common Form of Scoliosis

Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis is the most common form. It can be a confusing diagnosis for families to receive because it is often unknown as to why the spinal scoliosis is occurring in the first place. Medically, doctors will often recommend either a “watch and see” approach, monitoring the spinal curvature to see if it is progressing or staying the same. If a scoliotic curve is on the more severe side, or continues to worsen with time, doctors will often recommend bracing to try to prevent the curve from continuing to worsen or will recommend surgery to correct the curvature. Doctors will usually also recommend Physical Therapy, and that’s where we come in! BUT, you don’t need to wait- starting Physical Therapy at the first signs of scoliosis can prevent it from progressing in the first place!

Tips for Parents

What are some signs that you should ask your child’s pediatrician or a physical therapist about scoliosis?  Take a look at your child from behind without a shirt on.  Look at your child’s shoulders, shoulder blades, and hips.  Compare the left and right sides looking for one side higher than the other.  If you see any asymmetries between the two sides of the body, that is a sign to have it looked into by a medical professional.

How PT Can Help Your Child

In PT, we will work with you and your child as a team to help decrease any soft tissue and muscular tightness that may be pulling on your child’s spine while they are growing. We will also work with your child to improve their core strength so that as they continue to grow and improve their mobility, their body can better support itself to control and maintain their new, more-symmetrical posture. If they are having trouble holding a more symmetrical, stable posture while sitting at their desk in school, a physical therapist can also help improve your child’s postural endurance and offer solutions to help improve their sitting posture so that they can sit while supporting their body in class.

Putting It All Together

We understand that scoliosis can be a very scary diagnosis, especially when your doctor starts describing the ways it may affect them and about your treatment options. Through treating kiddos with mild to severe scoliosis, we have found that acting quickly and starting PT as soon as your child receives a diagnosis of scoliosis is the most effective way to help prevent future progression of their spinal curve. We are here to support you through the decision making process and to help provide therapy that will work to improve your child’s body through movement in a way that is friendly and fun! 

Call Us -We are here for your family ☎️

If your child has just been diagnosed with scoliosis, or is being watched for scoliosis and you would like to be more proactive with their care, reach out to us with questions and to schedule a free Discovery Visit so that we can see if physical therapy here at KidPT is the right match for you and your child. 

References: https://www.btetechnologies.com/therapyspark/4-types-of-scoliosis-and-their-interventions/

Happy Father’s Day to all of our amazing Kid PT Dads!

Dads know just how to bring a laugh and a giggle to the moment.

Check out these ideas to bring some movement fun to celebrate how much your kiddo loves you on Father’s Day!

First, hold each other’s hands. Can you lift one foot and hold it? Try taking turns closing your eyes and see if you can still both keep your balance. Add in singing a song together like the ABCs and see if you can balance all the way to Z.

Next, have Dad get into the Downward Dog position! How many times can the child crawl under, run around to the start, and climb under again! Let’s really challenge Dad with this one!

Finally, its time to fly! There are many fun ways to do this, from piggyback rides to holding the child and zooming around the house. My favorite way is for Dad to lie on his back his his hands and feet up. Dad puts his feet on the child’s belly, holds the child’s hands, and lifts them up! This is so much fun, just be careful. Be sure there is nothing nearby the child can fall on and only go as high as you can control.

What other movement adventures can you have today?

Did you go on a bike ride together, go on a hike or walk to the park?

Have a Happy Father’s Day!!!

The kids are getting out of school, the weather is getting VERY warm, and many families are looking for things to do! Many people are starting to think about backyard barbecues and other fun, family friendly activities as we picture our summers! Don’t forget to include some gross motor fun into your next backyard barbecue extravaganza. These activities below are sure to keep your kids moving and having a blast!

Sack Races

Sack races are so much fun and allow kids to jump, jump, jump to the finish line in a way that engages their competitive side and gets all of their energy going! Jumping with your legs together is a great way to work on coordination and strength while getting a little bit of that extra energy OUT! If you think this would be a fun idea, you can buy sacks for outdoor racing here:

Movement Circle

Have all the children stand in a big circle, where they can all see each other! In a movement circle you can play fun games like “Pass the move” where every child does one move and then everyone repeats the move. These moves can be linked together to form a whole mini dance to keep kids moving and grooving in a funky way! In the circle, they can also move along to kids music specifically created for movement, like “Simon Says”, “The Hokey Pokey”, and “Animal Action”. Look for children’s movement songs on YouTube, Spotify, or other music Apps. There is also a whole YouTube channel of children’s movement songs through GoNoodle too, if your child loves silly characters! Here are a few links to some fun ones: 

Simon Says

Hokey Pokey Freeze

Animal action: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=30ePPeUbwSs

The Floor Is Lava Dance

GoNoodle’s YouTube Channel

Building an Obstacle Course

For this one, have each child choose one item they want to put in their obstacle course (so that no one is touching the same items). Have them make up a specific rule for how to use their part of the obstacle course and have each child explain that rule to their friends. By the end of all the explanations and the building process, they will have created a full obstacle course as a team! This will help them use their creativity and collaboration skills before each of them jumps into action to move through their creation, helping them to work on strength and coordination too!

Hopscotch

This old classic is great for working on jumping and hopping, and makes kids switch feet on every step, so it is also great for coordination. It can be set up with simple sidewalk chalk on a driveway or blacktop at the park. Jumping between numbers can be made even more fun and tricky if you ask the children to skip certain numbers, say their top ten favorite animals with every jump, or come up with their own wacky pattern for jumping through the squares.

Have fun out there everybody, keep moving, and enjoy the start to your SUMMER! Let us know @Kidpt on Instagram and @KidPTNJ on facebook or by emailing us at info@kidpt.com to tell us how these outdoor games worked out and if you want more fun ideas for how to keep your kids moving this summer! 

There is so much nature and wonder to experience in a garden.  Here in the KidPT garden, we invite your kids to participate in shoveling the soil, transferring dirt with a wheelbarrow, jumping over the rows of vegetables, imagining they are earthworms tilling the soil, shading the garden as nearby trees, and invading the garden as clever rabbits. 

Shovel the Dirt

  1. Have your child stand on a pillow with a pile of cotton balls (or any small item) on the right and an empty bucket to the left
  2. Use a small beach shovel or kitchen spatula or tongs and have your child squat to pick up the balls and then transfer them into the bucket one at a time. 
  3. Then switch and place the cotton balls on the left and the bucket on the right

Wheelbarrow

Have your child assume the wheelbarrow position by pushing up through their hands on the ground and have a sibling or friend hold them at their knees. The child on the ground will walk forward on their hands while the other child follows them supporting their lower body in the air. Then have them switch roles. If the child’s back is arched (aka the stomach is dipping downwards towards the floor and is lower than the chest and ankles), make it easier by holding them closer to their trunk until they can keep their back straight. Too easy? Hold the child further from the trunk and as close to the ankles as they will tolerate.

Jump Over the Rows of Vegetables

Line up pillows or rolled up towels on the ground and have your child jump over them. Have them name the row of vegetables that they are jumping over as they jump. Switch it up by having them jump sideways and backwards too.

Earth Worm

Start in a standing position and have your child slowly lower their hands down to the ground in front of their feet. Then walk their hands forward as far as they can with their feet planted on the ground. Then walk their feet up towards their hands. Repeat as they squirm their way across the room. 

Tree Pose

Have your child stand on one leg and rest their other leg’s foot on their inner thigh. Once they gain their balance in this position, have them wave their arms in the wind just like a tree. Who can make a tree with the largest branches? Too hard? Instead, have your child place one foot on a step that is in front of them.

Rabbit Under the Fence

Set up the imaginary fence by extending a long piece of tape or string from one kitchen table leg to another ( or any stable surface) at about a foot height off the ground. Then have the kids take time to army crawl under the imaginary fence to the garden. 

What are your family’s favorite garden activities and plants to grow? 

Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis 

May is Arthritis month! Why are we talking about Arthritis? Well, it’s not a diagnosis that only affects adults, it affects kids too. Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis is a diagnosis that affects kids of many ages, both young kids and older teens too. Unfortunately, Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA) is sometimes passed off as “growing pains” by some medical professionals when a child complains of joint pain. This is seen to happen more frequently with older children or young teens complaining of joint pain because at this time in their lives, they are going through large periods of growth and physical development. Sometimes it is just growing pains, but sometimes it might not be! We wanted to give parents and therapists a guide so that you can recognize when signs and symptoms of JIA might be present and know who to seek out for help if you think your child might be showing some signs and symptoms of JIA.

What is Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis?

JIA (also known as Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis), causes joint stiffness and joint swelling, also known as inflammation. JIA affects one or more joints for at least 6 weeks or more in children who are 16 years old or younger. JIA is different from Adult Rheumatoid Arthritis, because symptoms can decrease or go away completely as they get older BUT it can affect how a child’s bones develop as they grow. 

What causes Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis?

JIA is an autoimmune disease. An autoimmune disease can occur when the body’s immune system becomes overactive and begins to attack its own healthy tissue. In JIA, the primary tissues that are affected are bone and cartilage around the child’s joints. When this begins to happen, it can happen chronically or episodically. If a child’s JIA symptoms are chronic, they have them most to all of the time where as if they are episodic, they may go through flare ups where their symptoms get worse and then have periods where they have no symptoms at all. 

What symptoms do children with JIA have?

Children with JIA primarily have symptoms related to their joints like swelling, stiffness, and pain. The joints that are most commonly affected are the knees, hands, feet, ankles, shoulders, and elbows, but the spine and hips can also be involved. Pain and swelling are often at their worst in the morning or after a nap. Children can also have decreased appetite, poor weight gain, slow growth, eye inflammation, and fatigue. In systemic JIA, children can also present with a high fever, rashing, and swollen lymph nodes. The tricky thing is that some of these symptoms can seem like other illnesses or health conditions so it is important to make sure your child is seen by their primary doctor and a rheumatologist for appropriate diagnosis.

Do kids with JIA benefit from Physical Therapy?

Yes, They absolutely do! Physical Therapy is essential for kids with JIA to help preserve joint function and to help strengthen the body to better support the joints. When a child has JIA, strengthening has to be done carefully so to not overstress the joints, and PTs have the expertise to help guide you and your child away from activities and sports that may be harmful for your child’s joints and toward more helpful activities. In acute phases of JIA, when your child is exhibiting a flare up of their symptoms, PT helps to maintain their joint range of motion, prevents muscles from getting too weak, and helps protect their bones from getting weak too. When your child is not experiencing a flare up of pain and stiffness, PT will help improve your child’s gross motor skills, especially ones that may have been limited due to their pain and decreased range of motion, so that they play and move with more freedom and confidence. If a child has a more chronic form of JIA, physical therapy will also help to achieve new mobility goals while making sure to keep their pain levels low and to prevent increased swelling.  

If your child has a diagnosis of JIA or if you think there is a possibility they may have JIA, talk to your child’s primary care doctor about whether or not they believe JIA is a possibility and what your next steps should be. If your child is experiencing joint pain, they may benefit from physical therapy for all the reasons discussed above and more. Our therapists at KidPT can help give you more information and can take a look at your child to see if physical therapy would be an appropriate next step to help their body grow and develop in the healthiest way possible!

If you want to learn more about the different types of JIA, the process for diagnosis for JIA, and more, click to read the article below:

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/arthritis/juvenile-idiopathic-arthritis

References:

  1. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/arthritis/juvenile-idiopathic-arthritis
  2. Rhodes, V. J. (1991). Physical therapy management of patients with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Physical Therapy, 71(12), 910–919. https://doi.org/10.1093/ptj/71.12.910 

What does movement have to do with Autism, you ask? In short, EVERYTHING! Movement is the way we interact with our environment, one of the ways we make sense of all the information around us, and the way we turn our will into action! Even something that seems so based in the brain, like writing or typing our thoughts down, involves movement to actually get those thoughts onto paper or into a computer. 

But what if the wiring in your brain telling your body to move a certain way wasn’t communicating that information effectively?

Or what if the information you were getting from your environment, like the sights or feelings around you were coming in as too bright, too sharp, or not clear enough?

What if you couldn’t necessarily tell where your body was in relation to your environment or where your legs and arms were while walking around?

It would be so much harder for you to get around without knocking into things, to react to your environment in the safest way, move the way you wanted, and keep your stress level down while doing all of these things, right?!

These are just some of the small or large mountains that a person with Autism needs to climb on a daily basis to feel like their normal selves and to engage with our crazy world. Movement can be overwhelming and difficult to coordinate or extra movements may be necessary to feel where their bodies are in space. With the many lenses we can look through from a therapy perspective, we often land on the tie between Autism and movement and want to discuss the connection and why children with Autism may be inclined to move more and to move in their own individual way.

Movement to meet sensory needs: 

  • Often, neurotypical people take the ordered processing of environmental sensory input for granted. There are many ways that valuable information from the environment can be altered as the brain and body perceive it. It can not be perceived enough or perceived too intensely by the body and the brain. Below we are going to talk about multiple sensory systems that can be affected and how that may cause changes in movement.
  • Our vestibular system senses movement and contributes to our sense of balance. When someone does not perceive vestibular input strongly enough, they may partake in a lot of extra rocking or spinning movements. This may help them get a better sense of where their body is and how gravity is affecting them, so they don’t just feel like they are floating when they move.
  • Our proprioceptive system tells us where our joints and limbs are, like how bent your knee is when you are going to climb a stair or that your arms are resting by your sides when sitting on the couch. If this system is not giving enough information, it may take extra effort OR over reliance on another system, like the visual system, for someone to know where their legs are while climbing the stairs, while balancing, and while walking, to name a few examples. Not perceiving enough proprioceptive input can make someone confused about where their body is at all times. To help decrease their confusion, they may seek and need extra deep pressure input from their environment. This can come in the form of pressing on things, like desks, walls, unsteadiness during movement, looking for tight squeezes and hugs, and enjoying weighted items like weighted blankets.

Movement that is Difficult to Coordinate:

  • Neurotypical people often take the ability to produce clear, coordinated movement for granted too. For some people, kicking a ball is not as simple as the brain saying “okay kick” and then their leg executing that action. Sometimes the signals get misconstrued and there is extra movement of body parts, body parts do things together when they aren’t supposed to, or balance suddenly becomes more difficult. Some people have to think about what their standing leg is doing separate from what their kicking leg is doing, separate from what their upper body is doing. And oh yeah don’t forget about coordinating the movements of your eyeballs so you can see too! It’s not always as easy as one, two, three, and sometimes can feel like one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, and so on!
  • Movement can become especially tricky to coordinate when the sensory information from the environment is perceived in a disordered way too. For example, you dodge a ball flying your way based on the fact that you see or hear that ball. You walk forward to get your cup of water from a table and know how far to walk, where the table is, how far to reach your arm, how wide the cup is, and how heavy the cup is once you pick it up. Now, Imagine if you couldn’t get your eyes to work together to see the ball coming your way… you might not move out of the way in time! OR imagine if you couldn’t feel how heavy the cup of water was and it was heavier than it felt to you… you might drop the cup! Putting all of these things together takes a lot of extra energy and effort and all the errors in perception often lead to errors in the execution of movement, even if the mover is trying their very best to do the right thing.
  • Not moving or moving slowly requires even more precise control of your movement! Many autistic children move fast and the observer may think that child has great movement control. Learn more about how that may not be true here.

Now add extra distractions of daily life to the Mix!

  • Another piece to the puzzle is the trickiness of dual tasking! Again, a neurotypical individual often takes dual tasking for granted. Dual tasking is what happens when someone walks and talks at the same time, or eats and watches a television show with ease. It gives us our ability to put one of the things we are doing on autopilot while focusing on something that takes a little bit more brain power.
  • When someone with Autism is trying to coordinate their movements as described above, it may take a decent amount of brain power. But then, a lot of the things in their environment demand a lot of attention, like the people around them or the sights, smells, sounds, and etc. So all of the thought energy that is needed to go toward their movement gets divided between movement and other things. This can create even more difficulty coordinating movement and may lead to overall disordered movement patterns as your child or adult moves through their everyday life. 

These are just some of the big reasons why movement can be tricky and discoordinated in autistic children and how it can impact os many areas of daily life, from getting dressed in the morning to social interaction. We know this is A LOT of information to take in, but this connection is an important one to make because when movement is hard, it makes coping with everyday life hard and stressful! If you feel like coordinating movement or movement with other daily tasks is sometimes tricky for your child, call (908) 543-4390 or visit our website at www.kidpt.com to schedule a FREE Discovery Visit today!

Extra reads:

As March is also Brain Injury Awareness Month, we will be discussing concussions. Did you know that concussions are actually mild traumatic brain injuries?

Let’s unpack what actually happens during a concussion. 

First of all, a concussion can result from rapid movement such as whiplash, a direct blow to the head/ face/ neck, or indirectly by a significant blow elsewhere in the body that is transmitted to the head. These forces put stress on the brain cells and can cause microdamage. Whenever there is damage to a part of the body, the body responds with inflammation, changes in blood flow, and changes in tissue chemistry. While this body response can help assist healing, it requires a high demand of energy and also reduces the amount of energy and nutrients that the brain has access to due to changes in blood supply. This places the brain in a vulnerable state as the brain has limited resources to function as it heals. 

Once the brain has experienced a concussion it is more vulnerable to repeated injury. Subsequent concussions often have longer lasting and more severe symptoms, so it is important to avoid environments and activities that could expose the child to a second concussion. Therefore, it is vital to reduce the demands on the brain to allow it to rest and heal and minimize the symptoms. A concussion can impact cognitive, physical, emotional, and proper sleep function. 

Some symptoms of impaired Cognitive function include difficulty concentrating, reduced short term memory, feeling in a fog, and feeling slowed down. Physical symptoms of a concussion include headaches, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, sensitivity to light, balance impairments, ringing in the ears, and blurred vision. Emotional impacts include depression, irritability, and lack of interest in favorite activities. These symptoms impact many aspects of daily life like the ability to complete classroom assignments, withstand environments with bright lights, participate in sports and recreational activities, and complete daily tasks at home. 

This is where Physical Therapists can help. We have expert understanding of the healing process of the body and have the tools to assess and treat the individual child’s impairments. 

Below are Five Common Ways that we as physical therapists get our clients with concussions back to doing the things they love and the activities necessary for success at school and at home. 

Educate On Strategies to Promote Rest and Healing

As mentioned above, there is a high energy demand on the brain after a concussion as it heals and there is less access to energy resources due to inflammation and blood vessel changes. This can last up to several weeks. It is vital to allow mental and physical rest so that the body’s resources can be used to attend to the damaged brain. Ways to promote rest are limiting screen time, schoolwork, and recreational activities. Once a child is ready to return to the classroom, there are strategies to adapt the environment to improve reading tolerance and participation in class with less onset of symptoms by using colored films, tinted eyewear, and incorporating a schedule for physical and mental rest throughout the day. 

Facilitate and Guide The Process to Return to Sports

Return to sport activities should be overseen and directed by an informed clinician in order to provide the right amount of rest vs challenge. The sporting environment has a high risk for a second and more severe concussion that can have lasting effects. Avoiding competitive sports and recreational activities is a good way to reduce the risk of repeated injury. Also, if a child is challenged too quickly, their symptoms may last longer as healing is delayed. On the other hand, it is important to provide the “just right” challenge to the young athlete to avoid unnecessary deconditioning. A physical therapist has the expertise to create a plan of care that provides the appropriate amount of progression to return the athlete to his/ her sport in the safest and most efficient manner possible.

Promote Sensory Integration

The normal function of the brain is interrupted with a concussion. This can impact how the brain interprets and integrates sensory information from the vestibular, auditory, visual, and proprioceptive systems. A typical brain automatically takes in all the information that your senses perceive, organizes it, and then helps you to respond appropriately. This complex process of integrating the sensory information provides the child with body awareness, understanding where they are positioned in space, postural control, regulation skills, depth perception, coordination of the eyes, and so much more all while they are simultaneously breathing, moving, multi-tasking, and processing a changing environment. When the brain connections that integrate the sensory information are delayed or interrupted, it can be disorienting and lead to visual and balance problems and sensitivities to varied sensory stimuli. A physical therapist will assess what sensory systems are impacted and will progress the interventions to return the child to unhindered play.

Address any Musculoskeletal Injuries Associated with the Concussion

Often the forces that cause a concussion also result in injury to the neck, spine, or other areas of the body. Sometimes injury and muscle tightness in the neck can even cause symptoms of headaches or dizziness and will benefit from therapeutic interventions to promote flexibility, stability, and strength to reduce these symptoms. Physical therapists are experts at identifying and treating these injuries alongside the concussion.

Restore Strength and Endurance

Since rest and lack of physical activity after a concussion is so important, most children will need to build back strength and cardiovascular endurance to return to the state they were before the concussion. Physical therapists are experts in exercise prescription and provide a plan of care to restore strength and endurance at a pace that meets the “Rest vs Challenge” criteria mentioned earlier.

This information is intended for educational purposes only. Please seek the advice from the medical team that manages your healthcare to manage your personal medical needs. 

https://www.choosept.com/guide/physical-therapy-guide-concussion

There are so many reasons why the Spider Cage is a powerful therapeutic tool to integrate into your child’s physical therapy program. If you worry about your child not having all possible opportunities to develop new movement skills, you should try out the Spider Cage during a trial session at our office to see firsthand what your child can do!

Why is the Spider Cage so powerful? Let’s look at 7 reasons that the Spider Cage gives children access to developing new skills and abilities, by supporting them to increase strength, balance, motor control, endurance and sensory processing, all while having sooooo much fun. Remember, fun is really important when it comes to children- if they’re having fun, then they’re LEARNING! Let’s get into those 7 reasons now.

  1. Exploration of New Skills

The Spider Cage is setup where the child wears a belt and the bungees connect to the belt. There are 8 bungees that can be attached to the belt with 2 on each corner.The child can be sitting, on hands and knees, standing, walking on a treadmill or moving between positions. The bungees in the Spider Cage provide support, but they’re also dynamic, so it is a different experience for a child that has been in a stander or a gait trainer. It is also different than having a parent or therapist helping. The child can try out new skills with just enough assist, but they are initiating the movement and responding to what worked and what didn’t work to learn from the experience.

In the video below, you can see the boy practicing standing up by himself without using his hands, which he can’t do outside of the Spider Cage. Over time the bungees can be lowered or only 4 bungees can be used to build more independence, which can then generalize to outside of the Spider Cage.

2. Confidence Building

Many children with movement delays or disabilities develop a learned helplessness from frequently experiencing things being difficult or impossible. Learned helplessness is when you have learned that you can’t do something, so you stop trying. It is an understandable reaction, but one we have to mindful of when guiding children to develop new skills and abilities. The Spider Cage is a fantastic tool for children to experience that they are capable of doing, with just the right support. This can be basic gross motor skills like sitting, standing and walking, or it can be more advanced skills, like hopping and balancing on dynamic surfaces.

The boy in the video initially needed hands on help to perform this motion. He didn’t try to initiate it on his own and needed help to complete the motion. After several times in the Spider Cage, he learned how to transition from hands and knees to standing with the help of the bungees alone. He was so proud of himself and this transferred to him helping more with transitions off the floor outside of the Spider Cage.

3. Safety to Try Higher Level Balance Skills

Children will limit attempts at new skills if they know their body isn’t going to be able to do it reliably and safely. Knowing they can’t fall, the Spider Cage gives the opportunity to try all sorts of challenging balance tasks without the risk of falling and hurting yourself. This way, the kids can work on those advanced skills, flood their brains with novelty and develop more advanced movement control.

In the video below, she challenges herself to move from standing to half kneel while standing on a bolster that rolls side to side. What a challenging task! This would be a risky thing to try holding maybe a trapeze overhead and would have allowed her to rely mostly on her arms, instead of her hips. Doing this activity in the Spider Cage let her work on a high level of hip and balance control and no rely on her arms for help.

4. Sensational Sensations

As we said before, the Spider Cage is a DYNAMIC place to be! The bungees provide resistance and assist to movement, giving intense proprioceptive/deep pressure input to the children’s bodies. All of the movement is very stimulating to the vestibular system in the inner ear as well. The Spider Cage is a great place to put together the postural system with the eyes, vestibular (inner ear), and proprioceptive (information from joints and muscles) to work on improving body awareness and regulation skills.

In this video you will see a boy doing intense jumping, having a BLAST, and regulating his system to do focussed work afterwards!

5. Hands Free Movement

Children who use crutches or walkers for mobility are always using their hands to help manage the rest of their bodies. The problem is that they then become limited in using their hands for other activities, such as carrying something, and they rely on using their arms to initiate movement, rather than using the pelvis, the cornerstone and powerhouse of our bodies.

In this video you’ll se a boy playing basketball where he typically needs a person to help or his hands on an assistive device to be able to do an activity like this.

6. Speed & Power

The Spider Cage gives the support a child needs to be able to work on moving at increased speeds than they could do outside of the cage. It also lets them work on their power with jumping and leaping. The dynamic assist on the bungees give greater access to new skills while decreasing risk of falls at the same time. This allows motor control, strength and endurance to build to support the use of increased power and speed outside of the cage in the future.

In this video, the boy walks 2mph, when he usually walks at a slow pace with crutches, he’s able to explore increased speed. You can see how proud he is at his acomplishment!

7. Play

Play is how babies and children learn! Play in the Spider Cage gives access to children with a limited play repertoire to develop more advanced play skills. Children can jump, kick a ball, throw a ball, and knock down towers. There are so many games children with limited play skills can try out in the Spider Cage!

In the first video below, the boy initially needed assistance from the therapist to stop on the target. With practice he was doing it all on his own and laughing so hard each time!

In the second video, we used the Spider Cage in a completely different way to make a ninja obstacle course with the bungees! The boy is working on his midrange postural control to move over and under while trying not to touch the bungees.

In the 3rd video the boy is playing t-ball! He has the opportunity to be hands free using the support of the bungees to play the game!

Blast off!!!
The ninja avoids the obstacles at all cost!!!
Baseball time!!!
Every kid deserves to knock over their therapist once in a while!!!