Every week, we have been sharing "Mindful Monday" tips on our Facebook and Instagram pages. The following is a summary of those posts for parents and caregivers looking to have these ideas in one place:
Mindfulness practices allow more presence in our lives and connection with the people around us. By following the tips and advice below, families and individuals can facilitate calm and resilience each day. Not only does mindfulness help regulate our emotions, but these practices can help decrease stress, anxiety and depression. This will also lead to better decision-making skills, emotion management, and living a more engaged and fulfilling life. The best part? These practices are easy and simple additions to our everyday lives.
In children, mindfulness can mitigate the effects of bullying, enhance focus in children, reduce attention problems, improve mental health and wellbeing, and improve social skills when taught and practiced with children and adolescents. Here are some activities that you can practice with your children:
1. Download Insight Timer App: This #1 free meditation app has guided meditations, music tracks from world-renowned artists and talks led by top mindfulness experts, neuroscientists, psychologists and teachers from top universities such as Harvard and Oxford. Learning meditation helps calm the mind, reduce anxiety, manage stress, sleep better, and improve happiness!
2. Watch Flow videos on GoNoodle: Flow is a channel on GoNoodle, a website that gets kids moving with short, interactive activities. Flow videos teach kids mindfulness exercise!
3. Create a “Mindful Glitter Jar”:
This activity is great for teaching kids about how strong their emotions can be and how their emotions cloud their thoughts. It also facilitates the practice of mindfulness by focusing on the swirling glitter in the jar.
1. Get a clear jar, such as a mason jar, and fill it almost all the way with water.
2. Add a big spoonful of glitter glue or glue with dry glitter to the jar.
3. Put the lid back on the jar and shake it to make the glitter swirl.
4. Explain to kids: “Imagine that the glitter is like your thoughts when you’re stressed, mad or upset. See how they whirl around and make it really hard to see clearly? That’s why it’s so easy to make silly decisions when you’re upset- because you’re not thinking clearly. Don’t worry, this is normal and it happens in all of us (yep, grownups too).
5. Now put the jar down in front of them.
4. Download and print some mindful coloring pages or buy a mindful coloring book: When coloring, children shift their focus onto concentrating on their picture and the finished product. Coloring is a peaceful activity that has a therapeutic and calming effect on children. It can be an outlet for processing emotions and distracting them from challenging situations. By focusing on a simple activity that has a predictable outcome, anxious children are able to relax and live in the moment.
5.Breathe with a Pinwheel Activity: 1. Grab two pinwheels- one for yourself and one for your child.
2. Sit with your backs straight and bodies relaxed.
3. Blow on your pinwheels together using long, deep breaths, Notice how you feel - calm and relaxed? Having trouble sitting still?
4. Next, blow on your pinwheels with short, quick breaths. Notice how you feel again- do you feel the same as you did with the long, deep breaths?
5. Think about the different types of breathing you engaged in, and discuss how the different breaths made you feel.
National Mobility Awareness Month is observed during the month of May. National Mobility Awareness Month encourages people with disabilities to embody the spirit of Life Moving Forward by raising awareness of the mobility solutions available in your community. The National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA) and MobilityWorks take part in celebrating the Annual National Mobility Awareness Month
This year’s theme for Mobility Awareness Month encourages an international campaign to highlight how people with disabilities are able to overcome physical boundaries. May is all about celebrating independence and growing solutions to create fewer boundaries.
Over 18 million people live with mobility issues. Among older Americans, mobility challenges are the most common disability. By raising awareness of mobility issues, the development of solutions is encouraged and progress is acknowledged. Mobility issues shouldn’t stop anyone from getting to their destination.
People with disabilities can drive or ride in a safe and comfortable way through increasing developments in automotive equipment options and wheelchair accessible vehicles. Some of the developments include driving controls that allow you to operate foot pedals by hand and fully-converted wheelchair accessible vehicles. Check out the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association to discover products so no one has to miss out on any moments or adventures.
If you have a child with mobility issues, take the time this month to read about the different rights children with disabilities have in public schools. Accommodations should be readily available because of:
By educating ourselves on the rights available to those with disabilities and finding resources and equipment to help mobility, less obstacles will prevent people from living their lives to the fullest.
After a year that was anything but normal, it's not surprising that many parents and educators are mentally exhausted from all things school-related. The entire world has been under an enormous mountain of stress for the past fourteen months and teachers, parents, and children all need a well-deserved mental break.
For many parents, the end of their child's school year can often bring about a huge sense of relief, because it means getting a break from the morning hustle, packing lunches, and having to sift through mountains of papers and emails every evening. However, for parents of children with special needs, it can also be a time of worry, especially when you consider that daily routines will be upended and relationships with certain teachers or administrators may be coming to an end. A reminder for parents and caregivers who may be limping towards the finish line this year: You are all superheroes!
Notwithstanding the pandemic, IEP goals and 504 plans were still in effect for the 2020-21 school year, despite the seismic shifts to virtual or hybrid learning environments. Now is the time for you to get answers to these important questions: What worked for your child this year? What was left out or failed because of virtual and hybrid learning models? How were the goals affected or amended by constant change and a year of uncertainty?
To help you finish the year strong, we've compiled some articles to guide you through gathering and organizing information about your child's progress in preparation for next year. Check these items off your to-do list so you can finally put a lid on the 2020-21 school year. Then, relax and enjoy the summer!
Remember: NOW is the best time to get clarification from teachers and administrators, while everyone is engaged, dialed in, and has your child's progress at top of mind.
5 Survival Tips for the End-of-Year IEP Meeting
Your Child’s Educational Rights While Crisis
Planning for 504 and IEP Success in a Post-Pandemic World
How to Work On Your Child’s IEP Goals Over the Summer
As a kid, there is nothing more exciting about Easter than the idea of the Easter bunny hopping to your house and delivering a basket filled with candy and toys! But while lots of their excitement may surround chocolate bunnies and cream eggs, there are children who either can't tolerate most candies, or parents and caregivers who would rather they not load up on sugar. The good news is, there are so many sensory toys and activities you can add to their Easter baskets this year! Here are some ideas that are great for creating basket themes or just to combine different kinds of fun together:
With the holidays just around the corner, the excitement of Santa Claus grows as each day passes. With joy in the air comes an unspoken stress to get the perfect gifts to surprise your loved ones with. This year, the options for kids are endless with the amount of fun, sensory toys available online, so shopping can be stress-free and safe. There are quite a few things to consider to ensure a gift will be enjoyable and appropriate for a child with special needs.
Things to consider when buying presents for a child with special needs
1. Focus on developmental-appropriateness. Taking into consideration a child’s current level of development, it might be helpful to buy toys that help them practice skills and avoid gifts that are too challenging for their current level and abilities. For example, the interactive game Headbanz may not be a good gift for a child that is non-verbal because it relies on having higher level communication skills. Instead, an art and drawing craft or device could better allow them to express themselves. While many toys give age suggestions, each child has different levels that they prefer or are ready to play without feeling frustrated.
2. Focus on preferences and interests. If a child likes swimming or animal toys, water tables will be a great sensory toy to help them grow. There are also sound puzzles that have a wide array of different animals, including farm and jungle. Ask family or loved ones about what the child likes or dislikes. You can even help expand their interests by taking their like and getting them something similar but a bit different than they are usually used to. For example, if a child likes sand, you could branch out their interests with a transition to playdough. Some children with autism have limited interests, so getting them something similar but still different could help expand their fun. For older, higher-functioning kids, there are some products for just about every interest and hobby imaginable. For example, if the child collects trains, perhaps an encyclopedia about model trains or a calendar showcasing different images of trains.
3. Be mindful of behavioral habits and triggers. If a child is sound sensitive, you won’t want to get a gift with a siren or loud animal noises. If a child is working on their fine motor skills, a sensory swing or a Mr. Potato Head would be a toy they can enjoy and progress with.
Here are a few examples of sensory safe and fun gifts that will make younger kids smile with excitement during the holidays!
1. Sand Play Set- Sand is a great way for kids to work on fine motor skills and hand eye coordination, while exploring their imagination! Sand play sets are easily movable for both indoor and outdoor use.
2. Playon Crayons- An easy and comfortable way to allow a child to color and express themselves if they have difficulty holding a crayon. These are made to fit right into a child’s hand and come in so many colors.
3. Ball Pit- This gift is perfect for both indoor and outdoor use. Among the pandemic, it is hard to go to indoor playgrounds where kids love jumping into the ball pit. But this is a great way to bring the fun home. Ball pits are great sensory activities for kids and the plastic balls are a great addition to throw into the bathtub or an inflatable pool too!
4. Sensory Swing- These swings are especially made for kids who have Sensory Processing Disorder, Asperger's Syndrome, ADHD, or those on the autism spectrum. They are therapeutic and help kids with balance, body awareness and motor planning. Kids can relax while laying or bounce, swing, and spin around, whichever mood they are in!
5. Color-In Pajama Set: An art project that will have your child coloring for hours and comfy pajama set all in one! Not only will this be a fun thing for your child to do but they can show off their art with pride around the house when they are getting ready for bed.
It's always a good idea to hold on to receipts when gifting any child during the holidays, in the event the gift isn't suitable or if it is a duplicate. For more ideas on what to give the special children in your life, reach out to a professional at Kinera for some helpful ideas. Our team of consisting of both parent navigators and clinical providers can offer insight into the latest and greatest items for children of all abilities.
Occupational therapy can help to improve a child’s motor, cognitive, sensory processing, communication, and play skills. The goal of pediatric OT is to enhance development, minimize the potential for developmental delay, and help families to meet the special needs of their infants, toddlers and school-age children.
Understanding child development delays
The first three years of any child’s life are a critical time for brain development. During this busy period of cognitive, social and physical growth, children learn so much about how to interact with the millions of new stimuli occurring each and every day of their lives. From learning to crawl, walk, speak, listen, grasp, self-feed, self-dress, and how to play with toys, children are tasked with learning a lot in a very short time and they are constantly absorbing how to appropriately interact physically, emotionally and verbally with the world around them.
Children who may be experiencing subtle-to-severe cognitive, social or physical delays will usually begin showing signs of these at any point between the ages of 0-4. If a child’s developmental delays are more subtle and nuanced, a pediatrician or infant and toddlers specialist may recommend a thorough battery of evaluations that includes an occupational therapy screening for concerned parents and caregivers.
Why is an OT evaluation recommended?
Occupational therapy is intended to treat a variety of problems associated with conditions resulting from birth injuries or defects, sensory processing disorders, traumatic brain or spine injuries, learning disabilities, autism, rheumatoid arthritis, mental or behavioral problems, orthopedic injuries, post-surgical conditions, injuries, and other chronic illnesses.
An occupational therapy (OT) evaluation is one that is completed by a licensed occupational therapist (OTL/R) to assess a child's gross motor, fine motor, visual motor, visual perceptual, handwriting, daily living and sensory processing skills. OT professionals use a group of standardized assessment tools, non-standardized assessment tools, parent interview and clinical observations to assess a child's performance.
The results of a formal OT evolution can help better determine things like how well a child’s hands work together, if the child processes what he sees, hears, feels, etc. and produces an appropriate response and even if the child is able to calm themselves or adapts to their environment. These types of sensory integrative issues can exacerbate the child’s development and be a reason for observed delays.
What to expect at an OT evaluation
The occupational therapist performing an evaluation on a child will determine a baseline for abilities and then perform play-based evaluations that include both standardized and clinical observations with the child performing functional skills. These vary by provider, but might include screening ball play, fine motor play, visual motor tasks, visual perception skills, gross motor tasks, self-care skills (eating, getting dressed), social interaction and visual processing skills.
Once assessments are completed, the OT will summarize all information gathered and present the clinical impressions and recommended treatment goals that will best address any identified concerns. Often, this report will a time frame for the recommended treatment plan before a reassessment is warranted. If routine occupational therapy is recommended, the length of time and expectations will vary based on your child’s individualized therapeutic goals.
How OT helps young learners
A child who may be exhibiting delays with developing fine motor skills – i.e. those involving the small hand muscles – can work with an OT to improve strength, motor control and dexterity. Without these skills, kids will have difficulty drawing, using scissors and stringing beads. These types of delays are detrimental, especially for elementary academics, because seemingly easy tasks like turning pages, writing, using a computer, may be that much harder.
Occupational therapists help children by working closely with them to learn skills that will foster independence and enable participation in daily activities, such as self-care, play and learning. An occupational therapist can also help to establish effective routines and break down information into steps that the child with delays will be able to follow.
Occupational therapists can also help children diagnosed with sensory issues. For example, hypersensitive children (those prone to feeling “sensory overload”) can learn to better self-regulate in uncomfortable environments or advocate for themselves when they need beaks or quiet accommodations to learn. To help sensory seekers (those who seek a higher level of sensory arousal and regulation), OTs focus on teaching them ways to self-regulate using activities like swinging, crashing onto huge bean bags, and jumping on trampolines in areas known as “sensory gyms.” Learning these skills and practicing them at regular intervals can help children be able to sit and focus when it’s time to learn.
Gross motor developmental delays can be addressed by the OT using exercises and activities to promote balance, coordination, strength, and endurance. These skills have a direct impact on how children walk, run, go up stairs, jumping, catching and other skills that will enable them to successfully participate in sports and recess activities – which are crucial elements for building social emotional strengths and self-esteem.
How to get an OT evaluation
While medical coverage may vary, many health insurance plans cover occupational therapy evaluations and services. Kinera Foundation provides occupational therapy (OT) services for children, teens and adults with disabilities and special health care needs.
If you are concerned about your child's development, or your child is showing signs of or has been diagnosed with a sensory processing issues, please call for a confidential meeting and evaluation: 443-249-3126.
Children and adults living with developmental disabilities, who are not getting support from the Developmental Disabilities Administration, can still obtain equal access to funding opportunities through a program called Low Intensity Support Services (LISS). LISS strives to give families with children or adults who live in their own home happy, healthy and independent lives while being included members of their community.
The LISS grant provides up to $2000 for services and items to fulfill the needs of growing children and maturing adults. It also promotes community integration and independence in order to help improve the quality of life for eligible children and adults.
The 2020 deadline to apply for a LISS grant is Nov. 23 and the online application process takes approximately just 2-minutes-or-less to complete.
Some examples of items/services that may be purchased with LISS funds include:
Camp (youth & adult)
Individual and Family Counseling
Medical equipment purchase, rental, and repair
Training and support for self-advocacy
Tuition for post-secondary academic / vocational
To guarantee equality in these opportunities, the LISS program uses a random selection process in order to choose from the applicants. A quick, easy application is all that's needed in order to apply.
LISS grant application and eligibility
To be eligible, one must live in Maryland and have a developmental disability that can be physical or mental. Some determining factors are that it will most likely continue forever, it started before the age of 22 and support and assistance is needed to help with services and treatments.
To apply now, please complete this online application form found on the Maryland Department of Health website. There are two rounds of applications each year. For another chance, the next round is usually in the spring. Not everyone who applies for the grant will receive funding as funding amounts are limited each year.
On top of this opportunity, the Kinera Foundation is always here to help support families through parent to parent support and innovative programs to help transitioning children and adults. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions about the LISS grant or application and selection process.
Epilepsy is a neurological condition that affects the nervous system. Epilepsy is also known as a "seizure disorder." It is usually diagnosed after a person has had at least two seizures (or after one seizure with a high risk for more) that were not caused by some known medical condition. Is estimated that nearly 65 million people worldwide currently live with epilepsy, which can affect any person at any age in their lifetime. New cases of epilepsy are more commonly diagnosed children and usually within the first year of their life.
According to the Epilepsy Foundation, 1-in-10 people will experience a seizure throughout their life, and 1-in-26 will develop epilepsy. Epilepsy is a relatively common disorder, but there is very little understanding in the grand scheme of things. Though there are treatments and medications available to patients diagnosed with epilepsy , a person will live with the condition forever. The goal of medicine is to decrease the frequency of seizures.
Seizure First Aid
Knowing how to respond in the event that someone has a seizure is just as important as knowing CPR. Seizures occur when abnormal electric signals from the brain change the way the body functions. There are many different types of seizures, which may cause anything from convulsions, muscle spasms, brief or prolonged loss of consciousness, strange sensations and emotions, and/or abnormal behaviors. Seizures can be triggered by an isolated incident such as high fever, infection, exposure to toxin, and metabolic abnormalities like hypoglycemia, but are frequently evidence of an underlying medical condition.
Seeing someone collapse and seize can be frightening, but there are simple steps to take to provide a safer environment when it happens. For most seizures, basic seizure first aid is all that is needed. The steps are simple - Stay. Safe. Side.
Sensory-friendly costume ideas and adaptive technology designs make Halloween fun for children of all abilities
With Halloween right around the corner, our kids are filled with excitement over candy, trick-or-treating, Halloween movies and dressing up as their favorite characters. While some costumes can be extremely uncomfortable for sensory-sensitive kids, there are many options to make your child comfortable while fulfilling their wishes to be "in character" for the big day. In addition, there is now a plethora of adaptive costume choices for children with mobility and assistive technology needs. Here are a variety of options, from DIY and homemade, to various store-bought choices:
1. Character Hoodies- Nowadays, there are hoodies that come in all different characters. From Spiderman, a unicorn, or Pikachu, the options are endless. Just pair the sweatshirt with pants and shoes that go along with the theme, and they will be set to not only be comfortable but warm on their night out collecting candy!
2. Cotton Pajamas- Cotton is a great material for kids who are sensory sensitive, and pajamas are the perfect way to find characters in that soft fabric. You can find spooky options like a skeleton, a Captain America set, or a onesie of their favorite animal or monster like Sully and Mike Wasowski from Monsters Inc. Not only will they have an elaborate costume, it can be worn in the most comfortable way possible.
3. Target’s Adaptive Halloween Costumes- Target has a brand of costumes adaptable to whatever your child needs! From robots, dragons, witches, and princesses, there are multiple options for your child to choose from. Not only do they have costumes, but they also have wheelchair covers to help make their costume even more exciting!
4. Everyday Clothes Costumes- So many costumes are easy to craft DIY style with the clothes you already have at home! All black clothes with a pair of kitten ears make for a great, simple, black cat. A Where’s Waldo costume just requires jeans and a striped shirt. A minion only needs a pair of jean overalls and a yellow long sleeve. A cowgirl, a member of the Scooby Doo gang, and a pirate are just a few more of countless options that can be created right from your home.
5. Lab coat, soft-wash scrubs, or a cape- These are comfortable options that can be made into a doctor, a mad scientist, or a superhero that require no sensory sensitivity for your child. A few extra pieces can transform a wardrobe into anything creative and fun with the right material and a quick Pinterest search!
Resources for finding sensory-friendly costume ideas:
Breathe and Relax
Times are stressful. We’re all living with a pandemic, many of us have grossly adjusted our work schedules and many have lost work all together. We have been thrust into new roles as teachers, caregivers, and online facilitators. In addition to the increased time we are spending with families, we are feeling the stress of the circumstances. As counter-intuitive as this may sound, we can find relief from yes, our cellphones. Today there are a myriad of apps out there to help us learn to breath and relax all the while connecting us to a larger online community. Today I’d like to share three apps to get you and your whole family started in managing your stress, one breath at a time.
The first app I’d like to share is Insight Timer. I’ve been using the timed portion with the kids I work with to help guide us in a “Mindful Minute.” I let them choose the bells they want to start and end with as well as the music that plays during the space between the bells. They enjoy having that control and they are more willing to relax for a few minutes knowing they set it up. This free app also has meditations for parents and children focusing on relaxation, managing stress, concentration, and sleep.
The second app to get you back to feeling relaxed and in control is Calm. The visuals are beautiful and the natural sounds are like you’re completely immersed in nature. I like the Mood Check-In that allows you to log how you’re feeling and then you receive a recommendation for a meditation based on your response. They too have body scans and sleep meditations to take advantage of. Calm is also a free app.
And lastly, a little detour from the others, I like the app Colorfly. This app provides a variety of free pictures that you can color with a tap of your finger. They provide you several beautiful palettes to choose from. There’s a showroom where you can upload your finished item to share with others around the world. So go on, express yourself!
I hope you’ll take a few moments to check out these three wonderful apps. They are all free and easy to navigate through. They provide a variety of opportunities to step away from it all and relax the nervous system a bit. Feel free to share your thought on our Facebook page. We’d love to hear from you!
Certified Occupational Therapist Assistant
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