National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day

National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day                           Author: Krista Flack, MS OTR/L

The month of May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, and May 4th is Children's Mental Health Awareness Day.  Children's Mental Health Awareness Day promotes positive youth development, resiliency, and recovery, along with the transformation of mental health service delivery for youth, adolescents, and their families. 

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, mental health in childhood means reaching developmental and emotional milestones, and learning healthy social skills and how to cope when there are problems.  Mentally healthy children have a positive quality of life and can function well at home, in school, and in their communities. 

Mental disorders among children are described as serious changes in the way children typically learn, behave, or handle their emotions, which cause distress and problems getting through the day.  Among the more common mental disorders that can be diagnosed in childhood are attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, and behavior disorders.  Other childhood disorders and concerns that affect how children learn, behave, or handle their emotions can include learning and developmental disabilities, autism, and risk factors like substance use and self-harm. 

Below are some links to resources that can be beneficial to families:

OT’s Role in Children’s Mental Health: Participation in meaningful roles and activities leads to enhancement of emotional well-being, mental health, and social competence. Social competence for children and adolescents includes doing what is necessary to get along with others, making and keeping friends, coping with frustration and anger, solving problems, understanding social etiquette, and following school rules. Recent studies indicate that behavior and social interaction skills are stronger indicators of academic and lifelong success than academic skills.  Occupational therapists evaluate all the components of social competence, and determine whether a child’s motor, social-emotional, and cognitive skills; ability to interpret sensory information; and the influence from home, school, and community environments have an impact on his or her ability to meet the demands of everyday life.

For Military Families: This brief tip sheet outlines the top ten things to keep in mind when working with military families and, for each key concept, includes links to additional information.

SAMHSA’s Building Blocks for a Healthy Future website incorporates the latest evidence-based strategies and programs on early childhood health promotion and substance abuse prevention. These materials support parents, educators, and others working with young children, as part of SAMHSA’s effort to advance the behavioral health of the nation and its mission to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities.

Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive! is a coordinated federal effort to encourage healthy child development, universal developmental and behavioral screening for children, and support for the families and providers who care for them.

Some apps that can help your family plan for and cope with problems, big and small:

Help Kids Cope: (available on apple and android devices): Help Kids Cope is an app designed to assist parents in talking to their children about different disasters they may experience or have already experienced. This app includes 10 different disaster types with sections in each on how to explain, prepare, respond, and heal from the event their family is concerned with. Each section gives guidance on talking to preschool, school-age, and adolescent children, as well as, includes ways parents can help themselves cope and support their children’s reactions.

Daniel Tiger for Parents: The Daniel Tiger for Parents app empowers parents and caregivers with songs and videos from the hit PBS KIDS series Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.  It features over two dozen Daniel Tiger songs, supporting videos from Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, and helpful hints for parents about the important skills children need to be ready for school and life.

Additional information about Children's Mental Health Awareness Day and mental health concerns can be found here:

Increasing Success with Screen Free Week

Increasing Success with Screen Free Week                          Author: Krista Flack, MS OTR/L     On May 1-7, children, families, schools, and communities will rediscover the joys of life beyond the screen.  This nationwide event promotes completely unplugging from digital entertainment and spending all that free time playing, daydreaming, creating, exploring and connecting with family and friends!  While that is a wonderful goal to strive for, and we encourage you to try, we also understand that, for some families, this adjustment is just too big to tackle.  To participate in this year’s event at Lowcountry Therapy Center, we encourage you to set a goal that is reasonable and achievable for your family.  Here are some suggestions: ·Set a goal for the amount of time per day that can be spent on screen time.  Event cutting the usual amount of time in half can be a challenge, but you may be surprised with the other fun things you can find to spend time on.  - Limit a specific device or game.  If you feel that your child is becoming “obsessed” with a specific show or game, try making that specific title off limits for the week.  For some, this alone is a big adjustment, and might be a small step towards reducing overall screen time.

·        -Limit options to educational games and shows only.  There are plenty of shows and games with educational benefits, and those have more to gain, and less negative impacts, than those intended for entertainment only.

·        - Schedule in time for the absolute favorite shows or games, but skip the rest!

·         -Find a fun way for children to earn screen time.  You can find downloadable charts to earn minutes (like this one) or to complete specific tasks prior to any screen time (like this).  Make your own for extra customized options!   Tools to help:

·         -Lock up the electronics!  This can be literal (placing them in a safe, out of reach box, etc., or figurative, by downloading apps that track and limit activity (a few are mentioned here).  

·         -Be a good role model.  Take this challenge with your child and for one week, say goodbye, or limit, your own screen time.  Try to keep work at work (within reason), get off social media, and live in the moment.  Let your kids teach you their games, read a book together, or have a family outing.

·         -Make a Boredom Jar.  Make a list of all the things that can be done INSTEAD of screen time.  Write down ideas and place them in the boredom jar, pulling an idea out each time you are tempted to turn on the TV or get out the iPad. 

Screen Free Week!

Screen Free Week!

Screen free week is back! LTC will be holding a contest again this year for kids who participate in screen free week. This year families are encouraged to either give up screens or reduce the amount of screen time for a whole week. Screen free week runs from May 1st to May 7th this year. We have some great prizes to give away this year! Here is how to participate:

  1. Ask your therapist for a pledge card
  2. Fill out the pledge card and give it back to the therapist to be eligible for prizes
  3. Reduce or cut out screen time each day from May 1st to May 7th
  4. Fill out the activity log with non-screen activities that you completed each day
  5. Turn the log back in after May 7th and collect your prize

You don’t have to completely cut out screens in order to participate. Even just reducing screen time by 1 hour a day is enough.

-Matthew D’Antonio, DPT, PT

Pediatric Physical Therapist

The OT Lens

The OT Lens                       Author: Krista Flack, MS OTR/L

Occupational therapy can be a very broad field, and can sometimes ‘overlap’ with other professionals, like speech and physical therapists, or even ABA therapists, special education teachers, and psychologists.  This week I want to discuss how an occupational therapist looks at some issues through their unique lens.  I’ve chosen 3 specific areas to dive deeper into:

  1. Handwriting

Handwriting is a topic that instantly comes to mind when many people think of occupational therapists.  It is true that we do work on handwriting with many children, especially in the school setting.  Occupational therapists first evaluate what is causing difficulty with handwriting.  When you sit down to write, there are many functions going on, requiring different skills areas.  Adequate fine motor skills, which include strength, coordination, and pressure grading, are necessary to control the pencil to move it in the right ways.  Visual perceptual and ocular motor skills are necessary to see the lines on the paper, space words and letters appropriately, and shift your focus between what you are copying and the paper you are writing on.  Sensory processing, attention, and executive functioning skills help us to hold the idea in our head while writing, remember what the letters should look like, and regulate our arousal level to maintain focus on our task rather than becoming distracted by other sensory input.  Knowing where the deficit lies helps us to determine what underlying skills need to develop before expecting handwriting to improve significantly 2

    2. Feeding

Eating is a complex process, but once proficient at it, it is easy to forget how complex it was to begin with.  Taking a single bite can require up to 32 steps, from using utensils to tolerating smells to coordinating lip, tongue, and jaw movements. A single swallow requires coordination of 26 muscles, 6 cranial nerves, and all 8 sensory systems.  Occupational therapy can help to strengthen muscles and improve coordination of movements in the mouth, improve awareness in the mouth to better detect where food is and where it needs to go, increase tolerance for tastes and textures that are not preferred, and improve self-feeding skills, like drinking from a cup or using a fork. 

    3. “Behaviors”

As on occupational therapist, I have learned that negative “behaviors” are often symptoms of an underlying problem.  Some of those underlying problems could be motor delays (it’s frustrating when you can’t do something expected of you!), language delays (how do you follow directions and rules if you didn’t understand them?), poor sensory processing (it’s hard to listen to what the teacher says when you need to move, or when you can’t ignore the lights buzzing, the child next to you tapping his pencil, or the smell of the teacher’s perfume), poor self-regulation (transitions and changes in the routine can cause anxiety and therefore meltdowns), and poor attention and executive functioning (planning, organizing, and initiating tasks can be so difficult, that it is just easier to refuse to do them).  Attempting to use a behavioral method without first addressing these underlying deficits will likely be met with frustration and resistance.  After addressing the underlying skills through occupational therapy, a behavioral approach can then be used more successfully.  

Lowcountry Autism Foundation Programs and Resources

Lowcountry Autism Foundation Programs and Resources

Lowcountry Autism Foundation (LAF) is located on Hilton Head Island and helps to provide resources for children with autism and their families. All programs and resources are FREE and covered by LAF. Click here ( to sign up and receive free programs and resources. Below is a list of the different resources and programs offered by LAF.

Family Support Services

This program provides families with multiple resources based on the specific diagnosis a child receives. The program features a one on one relationship with you and a LAF representative. LAF provides information, service coordination, and direct assistance to families affected by autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities. The group meets on the 4th Tuesday of every month from 6-8 in Summerville, SC, and childcare and refreshments are provided. For more information on this program click here

Art Therapy

Art therapy is a mental health profession that uses the creative process of art making to improve and enhance the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of individuals. The Art Therapy Program integrates the fields of human development, visual art, and the creative process with models of counseling and psychotherapy. Art therapy is provided with a standard of 10 hours. After the 10 hours the therapist will re-evaluate the child to see if additional sessions are necessary. For more information on this program click here

These are just a few of the programs and resources available thru the Lowcountry Autism Foundation. For more information on LAF and the programs they offer click here

-Matthew D’Antonio, DPT, PT

-Pediatric Physical Therapist

The Role of PT, OT, and ST for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

The Role of PT, OT, and ST forchildren with Autism Spectrum Disorder


Physical therapy can help children with ASD in a number of ways. In the early years (birth to 3) physical therapy can help increase a child’s participation in routines of daily life. They also help with in developing gross motor skills thru structured and free play activities. Physical therapists work on increasing strength and coordination, and walking safely and efficiently in all needed environments, such as negotiating stairs. In school age children (3-18) physical therapists help with improving the learning environment and help teach movement skills needed to participate in social games and peer interactions. They also work on body and spatial awareness in order to navigate the school such as crowded hallways, playgrounds, cafeterias, and steps onto and off of the bus. Here is more information on the role and benefits of physical therapy in children with ASD

Occupational therapy services focus on enhancing participation in the performance of activities of daily living (e.g., feeding, dressing), instrumental activities of daily living (e.g., community mobility, safety procedures), education, work, leisure, play, and social participation. They can help children respond to information they are getting from their senses such as sound, taste, feel, etc. They can help children with ASD learn to transition from place to place and person to person, and also help teach them appropriate ways to communicate and participate with peers. Here is more information on the role and benefits of occupational therapy in children with ASD

Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) play a central role in the screening, assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of persons with ASD. They can help enhance a child’s communication skills and expression of their emotions. They can also help teach kids with ASD how to use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices for children. This helps the child express their emotions and explain what they want and how they are feeling, and this helps to decrease frustration from both the child and the family. Here is more information on the role and benefits of speech therapy in children with ASD



-Matthew D’Antonio, DPT, PT

-Pediatric Physical Therapist

Spring Break OT Activities for OT Month

Spring Break OT Activities for OT Month                                Author: Krista Flack, MS OTR/L




Occupational therapy activities can include some hard work, but they can be done through fun and games!  If you’re looking for activities to carryover some of the skills being worked on in therapy, here is a list of some fun things to do, that you can start now while on spring break! 


Attention span and executive functioning skills can be improved through games and tasks that require higher level thinking skills.  Board games and card games like Battleship, Clue, and Yahtzee require sustained attention, problem-solving, working memory, and planning/organizing skills.  Tasks like cooking and completing crafts or experiments with directions provide a great opportunity to work on initiation, following directions, and sequencing.


Use this time to go to the park, go for walks, and try out different sensory experiences around your home and community.  There are some great local businesses in the community to try out big equipment (Ignite the Senses and GiggleBox, to name a few), but there are also opportunities within your own backyard, and even your home!  From swinging, climbing, and spinning, to mixing up slimes and dry sensory bins in your kitchen, there are many sensations to experience.  Watch how your child’s arousal level and demeanor changes when trying out these things; it can give you, and your child’s occupational therapist, clues about what his or her body needs to maintain a “just-right” arousal level.


Puzzles, games, and crafts often challenge fine motor and visual motor integration skills, without adding frustration.  Try a project like stringing beads, modeling with clay, or making a collage!  Mazes and dot-to-dots require precise drawing, which improve handwriting legibility.  Choose games like Operation and Pictionary, or open up an I Spy book to improve visual perceptual skills.


With a week free from rushing through the morning to catch the bus, take a step back and see what your child can do on his or her own before stepping in to help.  With busy schedules, it is tempting to offer help with dressing and other skills to speed up the process.  Given extra time and just a little support, you may be surprised that he can cut with a knife, pour into a cup, take off his own shoes, or comb his hair.  Children have a lot of ADL tasks to master, and most children love becoming independent with these tasks.

Light It Up Blue For Autism!

Light It Up Blue for Autism!

As most of you know April is Autism Awareness Month, and on April 2nd was national light it up blue day for Autism. But why blue? According to Autism, the color blue was chosen because autism is 5x more likely in boys than in girls. The light it up blue campaign started in 2010. For years, iconic landmarks like Niagara Falls, Empire State Building, Willis Tower, and even the White House light up blue on April 2nd (World Autism Day) in order to raise awareness.


Autism Speaks is an organization that is dedicated to advancing research into causes and better treatments for autism spectrum disorders and related conditions both through direct funding and collaboration; increasing understanding and acceptance of autism spectrum disorders; and working toward solutions for the needs of individuals with autism and their families across the spectrum and lifespan through advocacy and support.


What kind of tools does Autism Speaks provide? If you go on their website they have tons of different tool kits. For example, they have one tool kit about toilet training tips for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. This is a free tool kit that helps give you as a parent different tips and guidance for toilet training a child with autism. Autism Speaks also has tool kits for professionals. For example, there is a toolkit for dentists. This tool kit discusses ways to help reduce children’s anxiety levels and increase compliance. It provides general and specific information that may help dental professionals better serve the needs of children with ASD. Click here for all the toolkits offered by Autism Speaks


For more information check out their website



-Matthew D’Antonio, DPT, PT

-Pediatric Physical Therapist

April is OT Month!

OT Month                           Author: Krista Flack, MS OTR/L


April is OT Month!  This year is especially important as we celebrate 100 years of occupational therapy!  This website has some interesting stories and moments throughout history, highlighting how the field of occupational therapy has grown and evolved. 


Did you know??


Occupation, as defined in Webster’s Dictionary, is "an activity in which one engages." Occupational therapists promote skill development and independence in all daily activities.  For an adult, this may mean looking at the areas of self-care, home-making, leisure, and work.  The "occupations" of childhood may include playing in the park with friends, washing hands, going to the bathroom, cutting with scissors, drawing, etc.  A favorite quote of mine, by Mr. Rogers, says that “play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play IS serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” Skills worked on through play are more likely to be practiced and carried over, resulting in better learning!


Nearly one third of people employed in the profession of occupational therapy work with children, helping them master the "occupations" of childhood – learning, playing and growing.  Handwriting problems are a leading reason schoolchildren are referred to occupational therapists.


Occupational therapy services are delivered in a variety of settings, such as schools, clinics, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, skilled nursing and assisted living facilities, mental health clinics, and even in patient’s homes.


The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) was founded in 1917. The historic roots of occupational therapy lay in the movement to reform mental health care at the turn of the 20th century, when it was shown that patients who engaged in "purposeful occupations" such as crafts and practical work experienced a more successful recovery.


In the past few years, occupational therapy has consistently ranked on Best Jobs by Forbes and US News. 


For a brief introduction to what OT is and how it may help your child, take a look at last April’s OT Month blog and the Benefits of OT Part 1 and Part 2!

April Updates

April Updates                    Author: Krista Flack, MS OTR/L



As March wraps up, we are excited to move into April.  April is a very exciting month to the LTC community!  First of all, April is Autism Awareness Month!  This year, emphasis is placed on moving past awareness, into action, inclusion, acceptance, and appreciation.  There are many ways to show support (beginning with Light It Up Blue on World Autism Awareness Day, which is Sunday, April 2nd), celebrate with your community, and even receive discounts on therapeutic games, toys, and materials! 


April is also Occupational Therapy Month!  The American Occupational Therapy Association is celebrating its 100th birthday this year, so keep an eye out for how we celebrate and recognize #100YearsOfOT.


There are some fun local events planned throughout the month, including the following:


Kid Fest – this event is THIS Saturday from 10am-2pm.  This event is for children and their families to enjoy free games and activities and gather educational information and resources.  Come join us!


5K Bubble Run and Children’s DASH – this event, put on by Ignite the Senses Children’s Gym, is on April 29th.  Proceeds will go towards scholarships and special activities such as art and music programs for our special needs population in and around the Lowcountry.  Sign up early for a discounted price!

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