Fit Kids #3: Yin Yang Fitness

Greetings from the BAC,

We kept Fit Kids rolling along last Wednesday with a full class for the second week in a row! Every single Fit Kid continues to work so hard and requires less and less motivation to do their best each week. Last week included:

Warm up: For last week’s class we started with a hula-hoop passing activity. Everyone circled up and joined hands as we passed the hula-hoop from one friend to the next. We continued until it got all the way around the circle without us letting go of our friends’ hands. Different strategies were used by all, but each one was successful in its own way.

The Main Event: Our Fit Kids had a balanced evening of exercise with a little bit of yin and yang. The class was split into two groups with one contingent performing calming yoga with peaceful and relaxing music. The other group performed a vigorous animal walking relay race where kids got to be anything from bears to mudskippers. After 15 minutes with one activity, the two groups switched and performed the other task.

Cool down: Fit Kids wound down with a student lead yoga flow in the large gym area.

As always, if at anytime you have questions about FIT Kids please let us know with and email, phone call, or in person at a FIT kids session.

Have a great rest of the week,

Micayla and Brian


Image 1 shows stick figures passing a hula hoop between their arms.

Image 2 shows “Yoga Pretzels,” a child-friendly deck of yoga cards commonly used by our clinicians.

Constanza, Dominican Republic: Building a “Safe Room”

Dear BAC Families,

As many of you know, during February vacation I returned to Constanza, Dominican Republic where my family has had the opportunity to serve in an orphanage and school over the last five years. This trip was particularly exciting for me as one of our group’s goals was to install a “Safe Room” at the school. The staff at the school and orphanage have undergone extensive training in competent trauma care. In other words, how to best understand, care for, and teach children who have suffered acute or chronic trauma. Their training led to first hand knowledge of how developing sensory systems suffer when young children endure the chronic neglect, malnutrition and abuse that stem from living in extreme poverty. They began to dream about a safe space where their neediest children could seek sensory input such as deep pressure, small cozy spaces, and vestibular input. They believed that such a space would be a gateway to building trusting relationships with children whose previous relationships were terribly broken.

And that’s where we came in! Together with BAC families (thats you!) and donations from our church, the BAC purchased and delivered 10 massive suitcases full of sensory motor equipment and materials! That’s 500 lbs of therapeutic goodies! This included everything from swings to puzzles to scooters, a cozy tent, blocks, books and so much more. On the last day, I had the opportunity to work with teachers and school administrators to describe each piece of equipment, demonstrate its use, and help them problem solve the sensory processing needs of their students.

It was a blast! They are so excited and incredibly intuitive about what the kids need and how to meet those needs. I was thrilled that every question answered was followed by 3 more questions, stemming from a deep desire to learn as much as possible about this world of sensory integration. The school is already using the Zones of Regulation which we brought with us last June, and we also cracked open the Social Thinking curriculum as another potential tool for their classrooms and small group work. At the orphanage, the directors have worked tirelessly to have neuropsych evals on all 32 children living there. Many of these evaluations led to additional appointments with psychiatry and neurology, all of which required traveling long distances to complete. While we were there, the first ever IEP meeting occurred at the school! What a privilege it was to see the excitement among teachers who are eager to make sure their students get a fair shot at learning.

Spring is coming! I returned to frigid winter wind but with a sense of hope that the warmth of sunshine will return soon and that the “safe room” in Constanza will be a place of healing for one little sensory system at a time. Thank you again to those of you who so generously donated items for our trip!

Gratefully,

Jan


Photo 1 is BAC director, Jan, with other volunteers from her church as well as staff from a school/orphanage in the Dominican Republic in the “safe room” that was created on site.

Photo 2 is Jan holding up a “frog swing” and explaining about it’s use to school/orphanage staff.

Photo 3 is a young child trying out a “body sock.”

Photo 4 is a cozy space that was created indoors using a small pop-up tent, stuffed animals, blankets, etc.

Photo 5 shows some more items that were brought over to the Dominican Republic such as scooter boards, large cardboard blocks, and a hippity hop.

Let’s Play “Main Street!”

Part 1:  The Importance of Following Their Lead

A few months ago, one of my students with autism who often has difficulty engaging in lengthy structured language activities came into the speech room and impulsively grabbed a book off the shelf.  The book he happened to grab was a beaten up, partially ripped, much loved, several-year-old paperback book called “The Popcorn Shop.”  Typically as adults, if a child happens to grab something impulsively our instinct is to hurry him or her to put it back and follow “the plan.”  However, he asked me to read the book and was highly engaged in a circle of communication with me at that moment, so in an effort to keep the reciprocal exchanges of communication going, I followed his lead and attempted it.  I’m so glad I did!

Knowing that attention span and engagement are two foundational areas that this child needed to build, I ‘read’ the book in my own words at a pace that I thought would meet him where he was at.  He was able to get through the bare bones, using multi-sensory tools to talk about the main character, setting, problem, feelings and solution at the end.  During this reading, we did not get into the subtleties of comparing different characters or their different perspectives, or details about all the different pictures.  Instead, we made it start to finish through a story that suited his needs, taking turns turning the page and sequencing basic events, all the while keeping attention and engagement throughout at least 15 pages.  This was a delightful step of progress, but little did I know how this impulsively grabbed book would change our course of speech-language therapy.

Each day in subsequent sessions, this student came in and asked “where’s The Popcorn Book.”  Each time we took it out, we were able to expand and interpret different aspects of the story.  For example, one day we focused on the feelings of characters in the pet shop (some happy and some mad) while the problem in the book developed (i.e., popcorn filled the store).  With each of these characters, we were able to discuss ‘why’ they each had different perspectives (i.e., adults versus kids).  On another day, we were able to build vocabulary and discuss all of the community workers found in the book and on “main street,” which was where the popcorn shop was located.  On another day, we discussed ‘why’ is it a problem if the firefighter has popcorn coming out of the hose!  Oh no!!

One of our goals initially had been to expand play.  This student had significant difficulty participating in pretend play, instead frequently lining up and perseverating on cars without awareness of the clinician as a play partner.  However, with this storyline now very familiar to him, he was able to share joint attention toward building a simulated ‘Main Street’ play scene.  This scene took several sessions to develop, but this student recently asked “where are the people?”  which is a great step toward role-playing and creating dialogue during play.  This is a necessary step is social communication development and one that I was thrilled to see this child take.

Regarding generalization, this child’s mother noted on multiple occasions that between sessions, while the family was doing their routine errands, he commented on items that related to ‘Main Street’ such as a delivery truck, different stores, community workers etc.  As this activity had become meaningful to him, he related other parts of his world to it.  This also provided greater opportunity for his mother to have shared focus and conversation with him, building his ability for engagement with others.

While at times it seems messy and difficult to “follow their lead,” if it is done in such a way that facilitates goal-directed conversation and incorporates boundary setting, it can be one of the best ways a child will learn.  Stay tuned as we continue exploring this topic and the research behind it in future blogs!

Sandra Kastantin, M.A., CCC-SLP, PROMPT Trained 


First photo is the cover of “The Popcorn Shop,” referred to in this blog as “The Popcorn Book.” It shows a woman in an apron using a large popcorn machine.

Second photo is a young boy kneeling and constructing a large pretend “Main Street” on the floor using paper, boxes, and a variety of toys.

 

Fit Kids Recap: Exercise Uno!

 

Greetings from the BAC,

Another night of Fit Kids is in the books. We had a new friend join our group and everyone did a great job of making him feel welcome amongst fitness friends. Here is a run-down of what skills and obstacles the Fit Kids conquered last week:

Warm up: We got started with another medicine ball warm-up activity. Our Fit Kids got into a line and passed the ball over and under their bodies in an alternating pattern. Once the ball got to the back of the line, that kid brought it around track and back to the front of the line as fast as they could.

The Main Event: Our Fit Kids got to use the treadmill and rowing machine this week to improve their cardiovascular endurance. While a few kids rotated through stations of the rowing machine, an agility ladder with step-ups, and the treadmill, the rest of the group played exercise Uno and the word guessing game “hangman.” Exercise Uno is played by assigning a different exercise to each color card in the game. Kids take turns playing a card and completing the exercise assigned to that color in as many reps as the number on the card. Kids try to complete as many cards as they can to get a good variety of exercises. The word guessing game “hangman” works with kids attempting to guess the mystery word (in this case, SPORTS) and completing an exercise together with every wrong guess. Exercises were performed around the track for this game and there was good teamwork on display with some kids helping to demonstrate exercises for other kids.

Cool down: We ran out of time for our cool down this week, but our kids can look forward to being led by a fellow Fit Kid next week!

As always, if at any time you have questions about FIT Kids please let us know with and email, phone call, or in person at a FIT kids session.

Have a great week,

Micayla and Brian

 

Pediatric Intensive Therapy Camp: February 2019

Over February vacation two of our kiddos at the Boston Ability Center participated in an Intensive Therapy Camp where they had so much fun working hard towards meeting their physical and occupational therapy goals. One camper practiced walking with a posterior walker as well as with the BAC’s pediatric Lite Gait.  Another camper participated in modified constraint-induced movement therapy (CIMT) to improve the functional use of her right arm. Both LiteGait and CIMT are research-based therapies that we are proud to use with children here at the BAC throughout the year.

Our campers completed many winter-themed activities to improve fine and visual motor skills, postural control, and bilateral coordination. These included melting an iceberg to save the hidden toys, making snow slime, decorating snowflakes, and building snow globes. The campers also loved working on their gross motor skills including walking, crawling, transfers, and full body strength through a variety of obstacle courses including “dress the snowman” and snowball fights with Rody the horse. There were dance breaks and sing-a-longs to various Disney songs, including the most loved “Let It Go,” throughout the week.  With winter nearly over, we are looking forward to seeing the campers again soon for our April intensive camp!

Pediatric Intensive Therapy Camp at the BAC is designed and led by dedicated and experienced OT and PT staff members and is ideal for children ages 3-10 with neuromuscular impairments. If you are interested in signing up for BAC’s April Intensive Therapy Camp, please reach out to the front desk (781-239-0100). Don’t forget to follow along on social media to see the fun in action! (@bostonabilitycenter) 


——

Photo Descriptions:

Photo 1: A young boy and girl on a log swing assisted by a physical therapist and occupational therapist.

Photo 2: A young boy walking using a posterior walker, assisted by an occupational therapist.

Photo 3: A young girl smiling and showing the snowman she made from water and baking soda. These snowmen were later “melted” using vinegar!

Photo 4: An aerial view photo of a young girl and boy melting an iceberg (chunk of ice) full of small toys using pipettes of warm water.

Photo 5: A side-by-side photo collage, one in which a young boy is walking assisted by a LiteGait, and the other in which he is practicing sidestepping at a ballet barre, assisted by a physical therapist.

Photo 6: A side-by-side photo collage, one in which a young girl is carrying a hat through an obstacle course while stepping over pool noodles and balance disks, another in which she is smiling with the volunteer she dressed in winter clothing collected during the obstacle course.

Fit Kids Returns!

Greetings from the BAC,

Last night was the start of our Spring Fit Kids session with a lot of returning faces and one new one. Everyone worked up a sweat after the week off and got right back into the groove of things. As some of our more seasoned Fit Kids return, they have begun to take small leadership roles either leading other kids in exercises, helping a friend through an obstacle, or helping set up for class. It is a pleasure to get to work with such a motivated and hardworking group. Here is a rundown of what skills and obstacles the Fit Kids conquered last night:

Warm up: To get started we all gathered around in a circle for a chance to go over everyone’s names again. With a 10 pound weighted ball, we tossed, squatted and passed the ball around making sure to say the person’s name before we gave it to them. Without asking, all the Fit Kids did a great job of making sure everyone got a turn and no one was left out.

The Main Event: Our version of America Ninja Warrior included the obstacles below, and was completed multiple times by each child.

  • Climbing the rock wall sideways approximately 20 ft without falling into the water (blue mat)
  • Jumping from the trampoline to a balance beam and walking across without taking a step off
  • Climbing up steps and descending steps of the tree house
  • Pushing a scooter with 10-20 lbs across the ground and around obstacles
  • Climbing up steps and jumping down 1 foot
  • Crash jumps off an inclined trampoline into pillows
  • Crawling under 3 hurdles without knocking them down
  • Weighted ball tosses to knock into targets
  • Inchworm walk 20 ft and then carry a 5-10 lb kettlebell to the finish line
  • Jump over the finish line into crash pads and pillows

Cool down: We did some running around the track to end the day with a game of Duck, Duck, Goose.

We look forward to seeing everyone next week and can’t wait to keep the Spring Fit Kids rolling along. As always, if at any time you have questions about FIT Kids please let us know with an email, phone call, or in person at a FIT kids session.

Have a great end to the week,

Micayla and Brian

—–

Image at the top of this blog post is the red, white, and blue American Ninja Warrior logo with “American” crossed out and substituted for “BAC.”

“Skiing is more than a sport; it is a way of life.”

My experience volunteering for the Waterville Valley Adaptive Sports Program

With all this snow we have been getting in New England over the last week, I figured it was time to share with the BAC community my experience this winter as a first-year volunteer in the Waterville Valley Adaptive Sports Program. Much like how the BAC uses fun, function, and adventure to facilitate growth and establish relationships among its patients, adaptive skiing allows its skiers and snowboarders to do the same.

To quote their program mission, Waterville Valley Adaptive Sports is dedicated to empowering individuals with disabilities through access and instruction in sports and recreation for life. They encourage freedom and self-reliance through experiential opportunities in a safe and supportive environment with highly trained staff and volunteers.  The program enriches the lives of everyone involved, resulting in a profound and lasting impact on individualism, health and well-being.

So far this season I have had the opportunity to observe, learn about, and participate in teaching lessons with individuals with a variety of disabilities including Autism, Down Syndrome, visual impairments, and physical limitations. Skiing has been something I have enjoyed for my entire life! It is an activity that all family members can participate in, it incorporates physical activity, and is a great reason to get outside! Every Sunday, I drive up to Waterville Valley Resort, assist in teaching an adaptive ski lesson, and drive home. It has been incredibly crazy but in the best way possible as I feel it has expanded my skill set as a clinician while sharing something I have always found meaningful with others!

I could go on forever explaining all the benefits of skiing, but there are some that I find incredibly applicable to the world of OT. They include working as a team with your student to plan your lesson, facilitating safety through planning and timing movements through a variety of adaptive techniques, navigating what can sometimes be busy environments, utilizing a variety of muscle groups to maintain correct positioning, and demonstrating emotional flexibility towards uncontrollable circumstances such as the weather, snow conditions, incorporating necessary clothing or equipment, and other people on the slopes.

As an OT, I see patients make immense progress and find meaning through hard work, supportive caregivers, and AMAZING BAC therapists daily, both in the clinic as well as at our partnership schools. The greatest joy I find though is when I see patients use their interests to reach their goals, whether it be building a ninja obstacle course, pretending the hammock is a rocket ship, or skiing down the slopes!

Skiing is my chosen leisure activity that helps me achieve my own goals of growing as a clinician, improving my technique, and watching individuals experience what the mountains have to offer. It has been a gift to share in the experience of others who may not have had the opportunity to experience it without such a fantastic organization. The Waterville Valley Program truly takes the time to provide a supportive, professional, and a family-centered experience to all those involved, including those who choose to volunteer.

Please feel free to reach out via email if you would like to learn more or connect with the staff at the Waterville Valley Adaptive program. Also please find a link below to their annual Ski-A-Thon fundraiser coming up this Saturday, February 23rd. To make a donation please visit:

https://www.firstgiving.com/event/wvas/2019-Changes-in-Altitude-Ski-A-Thon-and-Apres

See you on the slopes!

Janine, MS, OTR/L

 

 

February Vacation: Quality Time for Kids and Families

Image result for staycation

Looking for something fun to do this February vacation? Check out some of these fun family events in and around Boston! Vacations often come with lots of fun activities, but they can also come with changes in routine, crowds, and increased amounts of unstructured time. Wondering how you can best set your child up for success amidst these possible challenges? BAC clinicians are always here to help! 

Celebrate National Engineers Week at the Boston Children’s Museum.

Get out of the house for some family-friendly outdoor activities at the Boston Children’s Winter Festival, sponsored by the Boston Parks and Recreation Department.

While you’ve got your coat on, check out one of the many FREE places to take your kids ice skating around Boston.

Have a little dancer in the family? The Boston Ballet has partnered with Boston Public Libraries and Boston Children’s Hospital to host FREE 1 hour dance themed storytime and movement workshops to children ages 2+.

Head into the city for “Movies at the Marketplace,” a free PG movie series hosted at Faneuil Hall running all week during February vacation.

Calling all builders! Let your imaginations sail and join the LEGO Maritime Festival at the USS Constitution Museum this vacation week. Kids are invited to build their own ships, test out their creations in the water, participate in a scavenger hunt and more!

For the animal lovers – check out a temporary multi-sensory exhibit at the Museum of Science entitled “Nature’s Superheroes: Life at the Limits.”

Wishing it was summer? The Charles River YMCA in Needham is hosting an Adaptive Free Swim for individuals with special needs and their families (open to both members and non-members!)

Welcome, Eliza!

Our speech and language department is growing! Please join us in welcoming Eliza Stopa, MS CCC-SLP, to the BAC team!

If you had to be an animal, what would be it be? A dog

What is your favorite ice cream flavor? Mint chocolate chip

What is your favorite children’s book? The Very Hungry Caterpillar

What is your favorite kid’s board game? Candyland

Do you have any special talents? I’m a certified adult and children’s yoga instructor!

What is your favorite place you have visited? Costa Rica

If given a superhero power what would you choose? Flying!

Eliza earned her Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology from the University of Rhode Island. Eliza’s clinical experience includes both early intervention and school-based settings where she has worked with children of all ages with various diagnoses and abilities. She has experience evaluating and treating children with receptive/expressive language disorders, articulation/phonology disorders, social pragmatic disorders, childhood apraxia of speech, autism spectrum disorder, and children who use augmentative and alternative communication. Eliza is excited to work with children and their families as a member of the Boston Ability Center team! In her spare time, she enjoys reading, running, skiing, traveling, and spending time with family and friends.

DC Day 3: Toe Walking and Technology

 

Mr. Brian’s third day in DC began with insight into an upcoming review of toe walking. While there is no proven treatment for idiopathic toe walking, the presenters had found promising results with serial casting until appropriate ankle motion was achieved. They then used ankle foot orthotic bracing or carbon fiber plates to maintain this motion with ambulation. These casting and bracing techniques in combination with stretching, strengthening, and balance training programs have been shown to reduce or eliminate toe walking.

The next session of the day looked at the use of sensor technology to track infant and child movement when not in the clinic setting. There is a growing movement in physical therapy to reassess how we track patient progress and increase the variety of information we can get about our patients’ quality of movement. Using standardized tests is great for tracking patients’ improvements, but provides little insight into how these improvements are carried over at home, at school, and in the community after being discharged from physical therapy services.

Tomorrow will be the last day of the Combined Sections Meeting. Looking forward to seeing everyone back at the BAC!