1. Parent Coaching
The parent/child relationship is the cornerstone of supporting the child in their development. Each session allows for the parent to participate as they feel comfortable, and for the therapist to coach parents ‘in the moment’ to support carryover in other environments. Recording sessions is also an option for parents so that they can review the session discussion or to discuss with other caregivers who are also with the child.
2. Sensory Integration Therapy
Sensory processing is the way in which we take in and receive messages from the sensory systems (touch, auditory, visual, balance), and how the nervous system then turns them into motor and behavioral responses.
Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) occurs when the nervous system is unable to organize the appropriate responses to the incoming sensory information. A. Jean Ayers, PhD, a pioneer in sensory processing described this as a ‘neurological traffic jam’ and that this traffic jam prevents certain areas of the brain from receiving necessary information. As a result, everyday activities can be extremely challenging. Behavioral challenges, anxiety, depression, low self-confidence can all be a result of ineffective sensory processing. Unfortunately, sensory processing disorder is often misdiagnosed as health care professionals are not well trained to recognize the effects of an efficient nervous system.
Most children with SPD are cognitively on par with their peers, but their brains are just wired in a different way. They need to learn different ways to engage and learn within their environments. One way in which SPD is treated is within a sensory rich environment set up to provide them with the sensory input that they seek and to foster appropriate responses to sensation. As a result, children can engage in their chosen activities, learning environments, and relationships.
Additional information and current research on SPD can be found at SPD Foundation
3. Managing Difficult Behaviors
All children go through stages of more challenging behavior. Depending on their age, this may be a time where they are discovering independence, their limits and their environment. Alternatively, children communicate not only through language, but also behavior and all behavior is a form of communication. It is critical to fully understand why a child may demonstrating difficult behaviors. Often times, these behaviors are not well understood and when working together, the parent/caregiver and therapist begin to understand why the child is engaging in these behaviors.
Our primary focus is to respect the child – always. All children need to feel understood and need to communicate how they are feeling – happy, sad, mad, frustrated, excited. If they do not feel understood, the relationship between the child and caregiver is compromised and behaviors typically increase. Challenging behaviors can be limited through various forms of consequences, however we seek to fully understand the child’s emotions and then support their emotional regulation. Understanding where the intense emotional behaviors are rooted will not only support the child’s own emotional regulation, but it can eliminate the difficult behaviors altogether.
4. Visual Processing and Integration
We rely on our visual processing system for everything that we do. It is essentially our ‘window to the world’. We use it to communicate, take in our environments, learn and develop a strong body map to understand how our body relates to the world around us. When our visual system is distorted in any way, so is the information that comes in and goes to the brain.
Developmentally, infants learn about their surroundings through their visual system. They communicate and develop a ‘language’ with their caregivers through their visual system. This is essential for develop a healthy relationship and attachment. A toddler begins to explore their environment and learn about how their body can move and function within various surroundings. A school aged child relies on their visual system to read, write and understand academic concepts such as math and science. As social relationships develop, a child uses their visual system to read non-verbal cues and successfully interact and engage with their peers. Unfortunately, visual processing and integration is not always considered when evaluating a child. As a result, an infant, toddler or child can demonstrate challenges in the areas described, but continue to struggle even after intervention because the core issue was missed.
Visual processing and integration testing is an essential component during evaluation and treatment. Once visual support is provided and the child is successfully able to integrate visual information, other areas of challenge may even be eliminated.
5. Child Mental Health
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 50% of mental illnesses seen in adulthood occur by age 14 (WHO, 2009). Furthermore, approximately one out of every five children has a diagnosable mental illness. Examples of mental disorders in childhood include attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), anxiety disorder which includes social anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), Autism, and depression.
Children diagnosed with any of these mental illnesses may demonstrate behaviors related to difficulties with school transitions, difficulties sleeping or eating, peer or friendship difficulties, family stress and conflict or behavioral concerns. Children may also demonstrate challenges in emotional regulation and sensory processing due to anxiety or an inability to maintain their attention and focus.
Animal assisted therapy is one way in which children with a mental health diagnosis are support includes animal assisted therapy. We are very fortunate to have “Newman” our service dog who is also trained as a therapy dog and supports the children with anxiety, ADHD, OCD and Autism. Newman participates in our therapy sessions to reduce anxiety and stress, encourage interaction and reciprocal communication, and to provide a sense of calmness for children with emotional and sensory regulation difficulties.
6. School skills
• Organizational Skills
Successful academic progress depends heavily on the child’s ability to organize themselves, their belongings and their time. Without organizational skills, the child can become easily frustrated because they are unsuccessful and aren’t receiving the appropriate support needed. Lack of organizational skills can also negatively impact a child’s self-esteem and self-confidence and make school and learning a chore rather than engaging and interesting.
With appropriate support that reflects that child’s strengths and interests, they can learn their own individual ways that they can organize themselves for success and engage in learning.
7. Social Skills
Navigating the social world can be a challenge for some children. From initiating a peer interaction to understanding non-verbal social cues, there are so many things that are involved when we interact socially. When a child is challenged by social relationships, self-esteem and confidence can be affected.
We provide support to children of all ages based on their readiness to engage in social interactions. When a child is unable to regulate independently and continues to require support, or co-regulation, the main focus for this child is to support the interaction between the caregiver and child to foster regulation. Once the child is successfully able to regulate, social interactions and in clinic “play-dates” can be arranged on an individual basis to support both the caregiver and child.
For older children, we offer social groups that are organized by the therapist on an individual basis so that the child is matched according to their strengths and interests. Groups will run on a weekly basis and the ‘curriculum’ varies depending on the individual needs of the children in the group.
8. Co-ordination Difficulties, Motor Planning Challenges, Dyspraxia
Motor planning is our ability to plan, organize, execute and make adjustments to our movements. Dyspraxia is a breakdown in our ability to plan motor movements resulting in challenges in the areas of play, feeding, speech, engaging in everyday tasks and activities. Motor planning is also a form of organization and when children show difficulties with motor planning, often we see difficulties in the areas of organizing thoughts and ideas to engage in a play schema, organizing their ideas compete a writing assignment, or to put their toys away and clean their room.
Successful motor planning requires a well-established body map and a good sense of body awareness. Children with SPD often have challenges in planning and organizing their bodies and as a result, are school tasks; including learning and the integration of concepts in math, reading and writing can be difficult. Anxiety and low self-esteem can also occur as the child does not feel successful to complete the task or even to start the task.
We support the child first by establishing an integrated map of their body so that they understand where their body is in space and in relation to other objects. Body awareness also improves and children begin to explore previously challenging tasks. Coaching is also provided to the caregivers to better understand their child’s abilities and ways in which they can support their child in other environments to meet their goals.
9. Integrated Listening Systems (iLs)
The Integrated Listening System is a multi-sensory program that targets the vestibular, auditory and visual system together to improve brain function, learning, thinking, emotional regulation, sensory processing, focus, and engagement in social interactions. iLs works based on the brains ability to change in response to it being stimulated. This ‘change’ is called neuroplasticity. The neural pathways in the brain are strengthened and new connections are formed in order to better process sensory information and support regulation. The program is used both in the clinic and as a home based program in conjunction with other therapies.
We offer iLs as a complement to our therapy sessions and have iLs units available to rent for a home based programs as well. Each child will be assessed by the therapist to determine the most appropriate program to support their strengths and areas of challenge.
More information can be found at Integrated Listening Services