April is also Occupational Therapy month and it’s not over yet!

Spring is upon us! A time of year when kids are excited to get outside and play. However for some kids, playing outside is difficult and it shouldn’t be. If your child has difficulty with any of the following activities, he or she may benefit from occupational therapy services to make these activities FUN again!

Does your child have difficulty with any of the following activities?

  • Riding a bike or tricycle?
  • Pumping a swing?
  • Sitting on a swing without falling off?
  • Riding a scooter?
  • Propelling riding toys?
  • Playing on playground equipment?
  • Catching?
  • Throwing?
  • Running?
  • Jumping?
  • Skipping?
  • Sitting in the grass because he/she doesn’t like the way it feels on his/her legs?
  • Having sunscreen applied because he/she doesn’t like the way it feels?

Or does he or she have trouble with getting ready to go outside and play?

  • Getting dressed?
  • Putting shoes on?
  • Putting socks on?
  • Tying shoes?
  • Attaching Velcro on shoes?
  • Brushing teeth?
  • Combing hair?

If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions, your child may benefit from an occupational therapy evaluation.

A child with delayed development may not demonstrate skills that are typical of the child’s age. He or she may have difficulty achieving increased independence and ease with feeding, dressing (such as putting a shirt on or tolerating the feeling of pants against their legs), gross motor activities (such as playing on a playground, catching, and jumping), fine motor activities (such as managing zippers, and buttons), visual motor activities (such as completing puzzles, copying from the board), and developing problem-solving and coping strategies.

Occupational therapists who work with children are knowledgeable about all stages of development and the appropriate milestones in a child’s physical, cognitive, and behavioral development.

What can an occupational therapist do?

Evaluate the child’s level of performance in critical developmental areas

Observe the child clinically and determine how to utilize therapeutic activities in order to facilitate development,  skill acquisition and generalization

  • Develop a plan of treatment independently or in coordination with other health care professionals who are treating the child
  •  Recommend adaptive equipment to facilitate the development of age-appropriate skills

What can parents and families do?

  • Stay educated about and involved in the child’s treatment plan.\
  • Follow up with the treating occupational therapist and health professionals to encourage further development and track progress.

– See more at The American Occupational Therapy Association Inc.

In Maryland, habilitation services like occupational therapy are covered by the autism mandate. Habilitative services are therapeutic services that are provided to children with a genetic or congenital condition to enhance the child’s ability to function. Habilitative Services include, but are not limited to, Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy, Physical Therapy, and Behavioral Health treatment, including Applied Behavioral Analysis (effective March 17, 2014).  Visit Pathfinders for Autism for more information and additional resources.

If you have questions about the clinical services offered at Trellis, contact Caitlin Sprouse, MS, OTR/L, Clinical Services Coordinator for more information.

Podcast: Coaches Power Forward with Pat Skerry

Listen to the following podcast from All Autism Talk featuring Towson basketball coach and 2015 Bull Roast keynote speaker Pat Skerry.

All Autism Talk is sponsored in part by Trellis Services.

This year, a total of 238 teams (15 women’s), as many as 150 officials and lots of broadcasters showed up to support Autism Awareness Weekend in college basketball. Throughout the weekend, coaches, officials and broadcasters raised autism awareness by donning the blue Autism Speaks puzzle piece pin during college basketball games. In all, more than 3,000 coaches, staff, administrators, and officials were wearing pins and spreading the word.

Spearheaded by NCAA basketball coaches Pat Skerry and Tom Herrion, the program provides coaches, their teams, schools and fans with opportunities to raise awareness, fundraise and advocate for the needs of people affected by autism.

Pat Skerry has completely revitalized the Towson men’s basketball program and brought the Tigers back into the national spotlight. Skerry, who took over a program that had endured 15 straight losing seasons, wasted little time in righting the ship.

Skerry, a 21-year coaching veteran, has succeeded in changing the culture of the Towson men’s basketball program. During his first semester as head coach, his players posted the highest GPA for a Towson men’s basketball team in over a decade.

A native of Medford, Mass., Skerry played collegiately at Tufts from 1989-92 where he was a two-time team captain and garnered All-New England honors. As a point guard, he recorded a school-record 650 assists during his career – a mark that still ranks as the 17th best in NCAA Division III history. His 198 assists in 1990-91 is a Tufts single-season record. He also is fifth on the school’s career steals list with 95.

Pat and his wife, Kristen, have two sons, Ryan and Owen.

Creating Successful Play Dates for Kids with Autism

Play dates are a great way to help your child practice social skills, play skills, and communication skills with peers in a safe and structured setting. Preparing for a play date and having it go as planned can be difficult for many families with a child with autism. Here are some tips for a successful play date.

Thoughtfully select a peer
Choose a child who is close to your child’s age and displays age appropriate communication, social, and play skills. The peer should be able to play cooperatively and be flexible. It helps to have a peer who enjoys giving lots of help and suggestions to their friends. Your child’s school, neighbors, or members of your religious congregation may be able to connect you a good match.

Plan the activities head of time
Choose activities which both children will enjoy. They should be structured, organized and should require some level of cooperation. Make the play date fun and special.

Pre-teach the activities to your child
Prepare your child for the play date by practicing the planned activities in advance. Try role playing with your child, taking the role of their peer.

Know what you want your child to learn during play dates
Having clear goals will increase the likelihood that specific skills will be learned during play dates. Rather than simply hoping that something is learned, you can set an intention. Have two or three specific goals (e.g. taking turns, asking questions, responding to questions, changing play activities appropriately), and take notes on how your child did on each goal.

Keep it short
You may want to stick to 30 minutes for first few play dates. The 30 minutes can be further broken down into several 10-15 minute activities. Make sure transitions between activities are short and smooth.

Facilitate the play and provide reinforcement
Encourage cooperative play and guide the children to interact with each other. Provide frequent treats and praise as reinforcement for positive interactions.

Consider activities where the children need to work together, problem solve, and share the same materials. Treasure hunts are great activities – hide toys and treats around the house and give the children a map to the treasures. Art projects are also fun with friends – make a collage, paint a poster or mural. Yard games to try are Freeze Tag, Hide and Seek, Red light Green Light. Have fun!