Starfish Therapies

February 19, 2017

Using a Swing to Work on Jumping

We have recently had several kids who are struggling with jumping.  Sure, they clear their feet when they jump, but they are relying on using their hips to lift their feet, rather than push off through the toes.  And learning how to land so that they are primed to either jump again, or absorb the shock, has also proven challenging.

So we decided to brainstorm one day and one of the suggested ideas was to have the child lie on their back on a platform swing, move them forward so their feet are touching a wall, and have them push off.  As they swing back they will practice absorbing the shock and then pushing again.  By having them lie down, their body is in a similar position to if they were jumping in standing. We found the kids loved it.  We had to show them a couple of times what to do, and occasionally slow the return down while they were still getting the hang of it, but once they figured it out, they were self propelling themselves on a swing.  I don’t know about you, but a majority of our kids love to swing.

Of course, then we decided to get creative.  We had them sit at the end of the platform swing to do it.  We also used a typical playground style swing after the platform swing.  We still had them practice pushing off (and work on the components of jumping) but by having them sit up and hold onto the ropes, they also began to work on the idea of controlling their momentum and how to move their trunk so that it could carry over to swinging at the park.

If kids are working on single leg hopping, or leaping from one foot to the next, you can also do all of the above and have them work with only one leg, or alternate legs (and that sneaks in some coordination)! Also the repetition is great for strengthening their legs and core.

If your swing isn’t set up so that a child can push off a wall, you could also have someone hold a large therapy ball at the end and stabilize it so they could push off of that. Because it has a little more give, they won’t get the same force but it mimics the feel of a trampoline.

Has anyone else tried something along these lines?  Have you modified it in other ways? We’d love to hear from you!

February 12, 2017

Eccentric Abs (and no I don’t mean odd!)

eccentric-abs

Our abdominal muscles (or Abs) play a big part in our core muscles.  They aren’t the only part but they are a piece that makes up the whole.  It requires coordination of each of the different muscle groups to help create a stable foundation so that we can move our arms and legs effectively.

What do I mean by eccentric abs?  Well when a muscle contracts it can do it a few ways.  One of those ways is eccentrically.  This post about squatting helps to explain the difference between eccentric and concentric muscle control.  But basically, eccentric contractions, or slow lengthening of the muscle, helps to give us control.

When we do sit ups we are asking our abs to perform concentrically, or to shorten.  When we do planks, we are asking them to perform isometrically, or to stay the same length to hold us stable.  So when do we work on them eccentrically, and why is this important?

Well we use our abs eccentrically also.  We use them to help us control our movements. Think about balance.  If you get bumped and your top half is moving backwards, you want your abs to be slowing that movement down until they can use a concentric contraction to bring you back up to midline. When I started thinking about this, I started wondering how I could help kids practice eccentric control.  For our quads (leg muscles) its easy, we practice slowly sitting down in a chair, or do squats, or slowly step down from a step.  If we ask people to slowly lower down from a sit up position, they will definitely work on it some, but chances are they are going to use their hip flexors (the front of their hip) to help control.  Especially, if its a child and they need us to stabilize their legs.

So, how do we focus on the abs and not get primarily the hip flexors? Well one way we came up with was doing a ball pass.  This can be done in sitting, standing, high kneeling, half kneeling, or whatever position you want to try where the trunk is upright.  Make sure the child is guarded properly to maintain safety, and then have them reach back over their head with both hands to get a ball from someone behind them.  They can then throw the ball at a target in front of them.  After you do a bunch of repetitions this way, have them start with the ball in their hands and then lean back to try to drop in in a basket behind them.  Not only will this engage their abs, but they will also get to work on balance in whatever position you have them in.

January 15, 2017

Ideas for ‘Weight’-Training at Home

Weight training is not usually the first thing that comes to mind for pediatric therapy but its a big part of it.  We are big believers in strength/weight training for our kiddos to help improve their function.  It helps them to more efficiently activate their muscles, improves muscle isolation, helps movement to be more efficient and cuts down on compensatory movements and strategies.  For some of the kiddos we see in the clinic based setting we are able to use the Universal Exercise Unit to help promote strengthening, however not all of our kids come to the clinic or are able to use this piece of equipment so I have had to get creative on ways to strengthen that is still fun for the kids.  Here are some of the exercises we do for strengthening:

Leg Press – To get a good leg press I like to use resistance tubing.  I have bought one that has handles already built in that work great.  I have the child lie down on the ground and wrap the tubing around a stable object at their head (a table leg can often work).  I then put their foot in the handles and I control their leg while they push out (making sure that they don’t hyper extend their knees).  Its easiest to do this one leg at a time.

Hip and Knee Flexion – To do this one, I just reverse the above exercise.  I have them lie down with their feet facing towards the table and put one foot in the handle (the band should be resting taut) and then have them pull their foot up by bending their hip and knee.  Again, make sure you control their leg to avoid and torque at the knee.

Scapular (shoulder blade) Retraction – Take the same resistance tubing as above and tie it around a door knob (make sure the door is shut). You can also hold it for them (like in the pictures).  Then have the child stand (or sit) across from it. They are going to hold one end in each hand and slowly pull back while squeezing their shoulder blades together.  Make sure they keep their elbows bent at approximately 90 degrees the whole time.  Once they have pulled back, then they are going to slowly bring their arms forward again.Their body should be staying still during all of this, and the only movement should be from the arms and shoulders.

Weighted Squats – You can use a weighted ball, heavy cans of food, a bag of flour, or anything else that your child may consider to be heavy.  Have them squat down to pick it up off the floor and then stand up and place it in your hands or on a table or other surface.  If you’re using a ball, my favorite way to get them to do more is to have them give it to me and then pretend I drop it and ask them to pick it up again.  They generally think its funny that I can’t hold onto it!

 

 

January 8, 2017

Righting Reactions

What are righting reactions you may ask.  Righting reactions are the reactions that help bring our head, trunk, and body back to midline so we can keep our balance.  They help us to be able to stand on a boat, or a moving train.  They help us to regain our balance after we catch our toe on something, or to be able to walk across an unstable surface.  Basically they are pretty important.

Righting reactions start to develop right away.  That’s what head control is all about.  When a baby can hold their head stable, their righting reactions are easier.  That’s because their inner ear sends messages to the rest of the body about where it is in space.  If it’s not where its supposed to be, the body is able to begin the correction process it to bring it back to where it should be.

After head control, trunk control follows.  This allows your baby to sit up and not fall over.  Initially they are like that house of cards you may have built, they have to be in exactly the right position and you can’t even breathe on them or everything might topple.  But as they learn to react to the messages being sent about their position, and their muscles get stronger and react faster, they are able to play and pivot and reach and do all sorts of things in sitting.

Standing follows sitting (yes, there are other places that righting reactions work such as hands and knees but for this purpose we will move on to standing).  In addition to the head and trunk control there are three general reactions to help keep you in a standing position: ankle, hip, and stepping.  The ankle reaction is when you have a slight instability and sway just a bit at the ankle to find your middle again.  The hip reaction is for a slightly bigger and faster balance disturbances and you bend forward or backwards at your hips to keep yourself standing.  And lastly, the stepping strategy happens when you need to adjust your base of support (foot position) so that you can stay upright.

Hopefully this gives you a general idea of what our bodies do to keep us upright and what your child is working on as they begin to navigate through the developmental milestones.

 

 

January 1, 2017

Tummy Time – Not Just For Babies

Filed under: Developmental Milestones — Starfish Therapies @ 11:53 pm
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Tummy time is a common activity that babies participate in while they grow and develop. Spending time on their tummy allows babies to help build neck and back strength. Being on their stomach gives babies an opportunity to spend time in a different position while they explore their surroundings. As babies grow up and become toddlers and children they tend to spend less and less time on their stomachs.
Tummy time is also a great position for older children and adults to use. As children start attending school they spend a large portion of their day sitting in chairs at a desk. Adults too tend to spend the majority of their time in a seated position. Spending a large portion of the day sitting can cause the muscles in the front of their hips to become tight; this is also very common in adults. When children spend some time on their stomach it can aid in stretching those muscles on the front of their hips and can help strengthen muscles of their back and neck.
Here are a few positive reasons to get your child to spend some time on their stomachs:
–       Can help improve flexibility of hip flexor musculature
–       Can improve back, neck, and scapular strength
–       Allows children to play and explore in a different position
Tummy time can become an activity that the whole family can participate in! Have the whole family spend some time on their stomach while reading a book, playing a game, or while watching a show on television. You do not have to have your child spend large amounts of time on their stomach’s to gain some of the great benefits of being in this position. Start with a few minutes a day until your child is able to maintain this position for a prolonged period of time. Try to aim for your child to stay in this position for the length of a short book or while playing a board game. Added benefit of playing a game is they are also working on weight shifting, upper extremity strength, hand-eye coordination, to name a few.

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April 8, 2016

Hip Dysplasia

Filed under: Developmental Milestones — Starfish Therapies @ 7:41 pm
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As parents of babies or young children you may have heard the term hip dysplasia or you may remember your pediatrician moving your little ones hips around at all those check-ups during the first year.  They are feeling and listening for clicks or clunks which, when felt may indicate hip dysplasia.

Hip dysplasia is the term used to describe a hip joint that is not properly formed so that either the hip can be dislocated and relocated with passive movement or is already in a dislocated position. The term developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH) is used when the condition is present in a newborn or develops sometime around birth, usually in the first year of life. As physical therapists, we know that most of the time DDH is present at birth and can be attributed to the baby’s position in the womb. Specifically, the breech position is found to be a cause for DDH present at birth. While the exact cause of DDH in other cases is not known, there is an increased likelihood with a positive family history as well as in the female gender, with girls being 4-5 times more likely to have hip dysplasia than boys. However, we also know that DDH can develop over time in otherwise healthy hip joints or can further the amount of hip dysplasia in a mild case that is maybe yet to be diagnosed. Read the tips below so will know the signs of hip dysplasia as well as how to prevent it from developing or worsening by understanding how to position baby with swaddles, carriers, etc.

1. Signs of hip dysplasia that you can take note of and tell your doctor about:

  • Asymmetry of skin folds: when your baby is lying on his or her tummy, the gluteal and thigh folds should be symmetrical at the same height.
  • Loud, audible clicking or clunking felt during diaper changes
  • Limited range of motion available at one or both hips

2. Swaddling

  • Swaddles should be loose around the hips and thighs to allow for baby’s natural hip position (flexed and externally rotated). Baby should have free movement from the waist down.
  • Swaddles should not hold baby’s hips extended or close together.

3. Baby carriers

  • Baby carriers should support baby underneath the buttock and thighs and allow the legs to spread apart with flexion at the hips.
  • Baby’s hips are more at risk when they are allowed to dangle straight down or are held close together in a sling type carrier.

For more information as well as images that demonstrate proper hip positioning during swaddling, use of baby carriers and car seats, visit the International Hip Dysplasia Institute website here. If you have questions about specific products out there, let us know!

March 25, 2016

Working on Control (How to Squat)

Filed under: Developmental Milestones — Starfish Therapies @ 4:46 pm
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Sitting

I recently wrote a post on Power vs Control and afterwards I had someone reach out asking how they could help their kiddo learn how to squat or sit down easier so I decided to write some of my ideas down and share them with all of you.  Hopefully you find them helpful!

For kids that are having a harder time than others developing control so that they can easily lower themselves into a chair, or attain a squatting position to play, or go down the stairs fluidly, you want to remember that it is still a component of strength.  That means, you still want them to work on strengthening their leg muscles that help them do the opposite, i.e. stand up from a chair, get up from the ground, go up the stairs, etc.  Overall strength will help them with the control.

Next you want to remember that they are probably nervous to bend their knee because they don’t know that they can control what they are doing and might fall.  Now if you ask them this, I am not sure that they would be able to tell you that is what they are thinking, but it is what their body is feeling.  A way for you to possibly relate is this: have you ever tried to do a push up and get your body down really close to the ground before you push back up?  That means you are bending your elbows almost all the way to a 90 degree angle.  If you are really good at push ups this won’t mean anything to you.  If you are like me, you can only bend your elbows just a little bit because if you try to go further you don’t have the strength to support your body weight and you lose control and crash to the ground!

So, we covered that strength is important.  What’s next is you want to help them start to feel comfortable ‘unlocking’ or bending their knees.  What you might also see is when they do bend their knees they go from straight to all the way down super fast without any control.  If they were trying to sit it would look like they are ‘plopping’ in their chair.  So here are my ideas:

  1. Sitting onto an elevated surface – If you have a bench or chair or surface that you can pile up with pillows so they can only have to bend their knees a little bit to sit down they will only have to bend a little and be successful.  As they experience more success you can lower the surface.  You can also give them something to hold onto to give them more confidence.  If the support surface is slightly unsteady they will have to depend on their legs more.  If it is more stable they will use their arms more.  A fun thing to do would be make a big pile of cushions and have them practice sitting back into that.  It won’t hurt if they ‘crash’ and they will have to work a little harder to stand back up!
  2. Picking toys up off the floor – If you have a shape sorter or a puzzle or anything with lots of pieces that they are interested in you can scatter them around the floor, or on slightly elevated surfaces, such as step stools, so that they have to bend down to pick them up in order to use them.  You will need to play with the height because they may be able to just hinge at the waist and hips but your goal is to get them to bend their knees.  You can make it close to a coffee table or couch so they can hold on while they reach down to get it.  To make it even more challenging you can have them on a slightly elevated surface and the toy on the floor so they have to really bend their knees to get it.  Just remember a mini squat or a deep squat is going to be the easiest, getting them to bend their knees to the mid range (90 degrees) will be the hardest.
  3. Step downs – get some step stools or cushions or other raised surfaces and have them around on the floor and make a game out of walking around and having to climb up and down each of them.  Make sure they are switching feet so they get to work on both the left and right side going up and down.  You may need to give them a hand at first to be successful but try to wean the support away.  Pairing things with a song or a toy with lots of pieces always helps with motivation.

I’d love to hear other ideas that you have!

January 29, 2016

Football Fun

Filed under: Developmental Milestones — Starfish Therapies @ 1:40 am
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Football 2   Football 1

In honor of Super Bowl 50 being in the San Francisco Bay Area next weekend, and the Broncos playing in the game, I thought I would share a football activity one of our therapists came up with. She used this as a motivating activity for one of our kids who is really into football and wanted his therapy activities to be meaningful.  I thought she did a great job of incorporating his age appropriate interests into something that was therapeutic and fun.

As you can see from the picture a football field was created along with goal posts.  This child was working on dynamic standing and sitting balance as well as walking, transitioning between sitting and standing, and squatting to pick things up from the ground.

With this set up his goal was to get it through the uprights. He got a certain number of points based on various criteria

  • Was he sitting or standing while he threw the ball
  • Did it go through the uprights
  • Did it land on the ‘field’
  • How far away from the target did it land

Clearly if he threw it standing and it went through the uprights he got the most points and then they were graded lower after that.  He had a target number of points that they kept on a white board (also allowing him to work on his math skills!).

After he threw the ball he had to walk to where it landed (or to the accessible place the therapist moved it to) and squat down to pick it up and then return to the bench and sit before he threw the ball again.

You could easily do this with bean bags or a soccer ball and goal or any other activity.  The part that was fun for us was all the skills he could work in a meaningful and fun way for him!  And, football was a regular discussion with regards to players, positions, teams, divisional standings, etc.

What ways have you made activities meaningful for your kids you work with?

January 21, 2016

Superhero Fun

Filed under: Developmental Milestones — Starfish Therapies @ 10:53 pm
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Who doesn’t love pretending to be a superhero? We had a Superhero week at the clinic, and as a result thought it would be fun to list some gross motor activities that we came up with that your child could practice while pretending to be their favorite superhero!
1. Imitating various animals, such as a spider, while pretending to be Spiderman. By imitating various animals, children can work on coordination of their arms and legs, improve their motor planning, learn how to move their body in space, and improve their overall strength. Some animals to try include: bear, crab, spider, snake, horse, and frog.
2. Practicing jumping forwards, in place, down from a step or hopping while pretending to be Batman jumping from skyscraper to skyscraper trying to catch the foes and save the day! By practicing jumping and hopping skills, a child is working to improve their coordination, standing balance, and strength of their leg musculature.
3. Practice running “faster than a speeding bullet” like Superman does on both even and uneven surfaces. Running can help improve a child’s cardiovascular and muscular endurance, improve leg  strength as well as improve coordination. For younger children working on floor mobility skills, have your child pretend to fly like Superman, lifting their head, arms and legs off of the floor, which will help to improve the strength of their neck and trunk muscles.
Be creative and allow your child to use their imagination to come up with activities that their favorite superhero might do!

August 14, 2015

Participation

Filed under: Uncategorized — Starfish Therapies @ 7:37 pm
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scooter1

The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines participation (in relationship to kids) as ‘the act of joining with others in doing something’. At one point or another during childhood, most kids may struggle to participate in an activity that they are interested in whether because of timing, funding, level of challenge, etc. For kids that have difficulty achieving their milestones or who are delayed in various areas of development, participation in day to day activities or recreational activities may feel like an insurmountable mountain to the child and/or the family. These limitations of participation can often leave them feeling different or left out.

While it’s important to aid a child in achieving milestones in development of individual skills, it is also important to look at how we can impact their participation. For example, if a child is still learning how to walk, but all their friends take dance class and that is something they really want to do, we may look at finding dance classes that allow alternative mobility, or work with the dance class that their friends are in to find ways to include the child. By looking at the big picture of how a child’s limitations are affecting their ability to participate in tasks and activities that are important to them we can make a meaningful impact on the child’s life, while continuing to work on individual skills.

This allows the child to: develop friendships with peers from a young age, interact within their family unit, continue to develop skills while seeing success in an areas of importance, and teaches them that, while they may do something different, they can do it. This also helps a child develop a set of interests and desires that can fuel their internal drive to want to learn ‘that’ skill for themselves which as pediatric therapists, we find to be one of the largest indicators of a child’s potential.

As a result, we find, in order to best serve the children and families we work with, that maintaining the focus of goals and interventions on the big picture things a child and their family want to participate in results in the most meaningful, motivating, and individualized intervention, and is the key to our success as therapists.

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