Upcoming Events!

Upcoming Events

 

Now that school is back in session, routines are finally starting to settle in.  I want to take a moment to update you about some upcoming events Lowcountry Therapy Center is excited about! 

On Saturday, October 1st, there are two fun events to attend. 

  • First, Fish With Friends is a fun opportunity for children and adults with special needs to accompany fishermen out on their boats to experience fishing firsthand.  Following, there is a big cookout for all the fishermen, children, and families to enjoy.  This event is FREE, but registration ends Monday, September 19.  Sign-up sheets are available in both clinics, and we will fax them for you if you return them to us by Friday, September 16th. 

 

  • The Step Forward to Cure TSC Walk is at 10 am at Jarvis Creek Park on Hilton Head Island. All proceeds will go to the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance.  A little girl at Lowcountry Therapy, who is commonly known as Super Chloe, fights a life-threatening genetic disease called tuberous sclerosis complex.  TSC affects people in a variety of ways, causing tumors in the brain, eyes, heart, kidneys, skin and lungs. It is the leading known genetic cause of epilepsy and autism. About 50% of people with TSC have autism, and roughly 85% percent have seizures at some point in their lives. Some will develop cancer. Because of the relationship between TSC and autism, epilepsy and cancer, research into TSC could bring about treatments or even cures for these other conditions such as AUTISM!!  Chloe is considered to have a mild case of TSC, but she does have tumors in her brain, skin and one eye. She also has epilepsy, polycystic kidney disease and ADHD. Chloe is doing great right now. She receives three different types of therapies at Lowcountry Therapy Center, and requires quarterly labwork, checkups with specialists every six months and a lot of medication. Chloe will eventually need a kidney transplant.  To sign up for LTC’s team and to support Super Chloe, register hereDon't forget to dress like your favorite superhero! 

On Saturday, October 15th, there are also two events to attend.

  • The Childhood Apraxia of Speech Association of North America’s (CASANA) first annual Lowcountry SC Walk for Children with Apraxia of Speech® will take place at 10 am at Pigeon Point Park in Beaufort, South Carolina.  CAS is a neurological, motor speech disorder. Children with CAS have problems saying sounds, syllables, and words. The brain has difficulty coordinating the movements of the lips, jaw, tongue, etc., which are required to process speech. Children with CAS are able to fully comprehend language, but they are unable to express themselves with their own voices.  Register for the walk here!
  • The 6th Annual Coastal Empire Beach Festival event through Surfers For Autism takes place on Tybee Island.  At these events, children with autism are exposed to surfing by being provided a safe environment where two to four highly skilled and trained surf instructors carefully guide them into waves. Our surfers and their families are treated like rock stars and enjoy a day filled with a range of activities including stand up paddle boarding, kayaking, live music, face-painting, games, bounce houses, fire engine tours and much more. A catered lunch is also provided, all at no cost. This is a very special day where children with ASD interact with typical peers and wow families with their capabilities. Register here!

  

We are also very excited to participate in and promote the FARE Teal Pumpkin Project, making sure that ALL children, including those with food allergies and special diets, get to enjoy trick-or-treating and other Halloween festivities.  More details to come on this later!

 

Author: Krista Flack, MS OTR/L

September is National Yoga Month

September is National Yoga Month                        

 Interview with Kate Meyer, OT at our Port Royal Lowcountry Therapy Center location:

First of all, can you please introduce yourself and tell me a little bit about what you do here at LTC, and how long you’ve been here?

I’m Kate, I’m an OT.  I specialize in a couple of areas: feeding/oral motor, handwriting, self-regulation, yoga, and executive functioning.  I have been here for almost 5 years, in February. 

The reason I am interviewing you today is to talk about yoga, since September is National Yoga Month (get more info here!).  Can you talk to me a bit about your experience with yoga?

I am a certified Kidding Around Yoga teacher.  There are many programs out there for kid's yoga (it does differ from adult yoga, which is one thing I like about it).  I got started because I had a child that had a diagnosis of autism, had poor self-regulation skills, and I was just trying to find another avenue for him.  I pulled some yoga one day, tried doing a couple things with him, and he loved it.  He actually had his dad and him doing it together.  It was very motivating for him.

Can you talk a little bit about how yoga benefits children, specifically children who may be getting services here?

Yoga in itself, has many components as to how it can be beneficial to the human body: you have a lot of stretching; you have strengthening you can do with it; it builds up endurance (not only for the muscles, but also for the mind); you’re learning to follow sequences and follow directions; you learn body awareness – knowing where you are in space (are you upside down?, where is your leg?, where is your arm?); it teaches you placement in that space (like having body awareness to remain in your space, such as on a towel); you have to be able to pay attention; you work on deep breaths; you’re doing kind of a 2-step motion with yourself – you’re moving, but you’re also breathing, too. 

Breathing is so important.  When we get upset, we do those quick breaths – bunny breaths – that is excitatory, it gets your heart pumping, it gets your nervous system fired up.  Our kids need to learn the opposite – we need to learn how to calm ourselves.   You also learn some self-esteem and some confidence.  There are harder poses that kids can try and work their way up to.  It builds self-esteem up for kids that may not be athletic or have opportunities to be in sports, they can still get those movements, they can build those skills.

One thing I love is that when you’re trying to give these ideas and strategies to families, they don’t always have the means to buy certain things, and yoga is one of those things you can take anywhere with you.  It’s free, you don’t need anything, you can use a towel as a yoga mat, or a carpet, it doesn’t really matter, you don’t need a lot of supplies with it.  If you can learn yoga at a young age, and you can learn those self-regulation skills, it can take you so far in life.

What are some of the differences between yoga for children and yoga for adults? 

With kids yoga, it’s a lot of fun.  You do a lot of fun games, you do a lot of moving, then you have a couple things that you do, like a story that goes along with yoga poses, and then at the end there’s usually a ‘secret garden’ – which is meditation for adults; for kids it’s just a relaxing time, to let your body be still.  A lot of our kids don’t get that, their bodies and minds are constantly going, they don’t have that relaxation time.  We use it like painting a picture, usually after they’ve already gone through a lot of games, then we just do some visualizations: I want you to create your space, where you can always go back to, whenever you’re upset, or sad, or bored, you can go back into your space.  So I help them create their space.  First we build it, what does your space look like?  Is it at the ocean, in the forest, on a magical cloud?  Then let’s paint it, and put some things in it – a tree, a  dolphin, a horse.  Whenever you’re sad or mad or upset or bored, you can always goes back to that space.  You created it, it’s your home now, you can always go back to it. 

When you think of traditional yoga, you think, how could kids ever be that patient, and it’s nice to hear how kid’s yoga can be more active.

Yes, it differs greatly.  The games you play are short, you play multiple games.  It’s very adaptable for all ages, you can gear it towards 2 year olds, pre-teen to teen yoga does start to become more adult, kids are older and don’t want to play all the little games.   It’s great because you can vary it to the child, which is great here because it doesn’t matter what abilities a child has, you can fit yoga to fit their needs. 

There’s toe-ga – yoga for your toes, you pick up pompoms with your toes and try to put them in a bucket, working on foot-eye coordination.  There’s wheelchair yoga.  You can do pompom basketball (blowing the pompoms from your hand at a target), where they’re working on breathing, but also for us, as OTs, we’re looking at visual convergence, hand-eye coordination, bilateral integration.   Yoga is big on the idea that whatever you do to one side you do on the other, so you get that balance. 

If somebody wants to get involved, have their child, or themselves as a parent, get involved in yoga, what would you recommend as a first step?

First step, I would go online.  There are a lot of YouTube videos.  I love the Kidding Around Yoga, they actually have some music selections you can download on iTunes.  There are a lot of resources that are available online.  There’s Can Do Yoga, which is actually a yoga teacher in North Carolina.  She blogs about yoga, and she’s actually an OT.  She has a yoga studio in North Carolina for kids with special needs.  There are some awesome books, too.  There’s one by Baron Baptiste which is called My Daddy is a Pretzel, and there’s a Good Night Yoga book.  Just starting moving with your kid, it’s so important to have that piece, where the parent isn’t just telling the kid how to do it.

And you don’t have to be flexible, yoga is for anyone.  If you can move, you can do yoga!  It doesn’t have to be competitive, you’re on your mat, doing your abilities.  Pinterest has a ton of ideas, you type in kid yoga, it’s going to come up with a ton of ideas! 

Any closing remarks?

The biggest thing I love about yoga is you can take it anywhere.  That self-regulation is so important for kids to learn at an early age; it can take them so far in life. 

 

For a great list of articles about the benefits of yoga, check out this list! https://nextgenerationyoga.com/articles/?mc_cid=fa59b90008&mc_eid=7a887ff998

Author: Krista Flack, MS OTR/L

Pain Awareness Month

Pain Awareness Month

September is declared Pain Awareness Month and was established in 2001 by the American Chronic Pain Association. Their goal is to promote education and awareness on chronic pain in order to break down the barriers to effective pain management. According to John Hopkins University, nearly 100 million Americans experience chronic pain. That is more than the number of people who have diabetes, heart disease, and cancer combined. In 2012 the Institute of Medicine reported that the economic burden of chronic pain exceeds $500 billion per year.

 

In 2010 the Massachusetts Pain Initiative conducted a study to assess the quality of life in people with chronic pain. Nearly three quarters of respondents reported that their pain negatively impacted their quality of life and productivity. 78% reported that pain had interfered with their sleep.  73% reported feeling anxious, irritable, or depressed because of their pain and that they were less productive at work due to their pain. 68% of respondents reported that their pain interferes with their ability to perform everyday tasks such as driving, walking, grocery shopping, or cooking. Read the rest of the report here at http://masspaininitiative.org/files/MassPI_Pain_Survey_-_Executive_Summary_v3.pdf

 

Pain is a warning sign that indicates a problem needs attention. With that being said, now that school is back in session and kids have begun playing sports pain should not simply be brushed off. It is important to address the pain effectively. According to the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA), more than 6.2 million children are sent to the emergency room each year due to sport related injuries. The best offense is a good defense. Making sure your child is prepared properly can help your child avoid an injury. Stretching and the use of proper equipment is one way to reduce the risk of injuries. If pain or an injury does occur the most effective way to treat the pain is by combining various treatments such as physical therapy, bracing, medications and more.  Here is the link for the American Society of Anesthesiologists article on pain in children and how to prevent it https://www.asahq.org/about-asa/newsroom/news-releases/2016/09/pain-awareness-month

 

For more information on pain awareness month and how you can get involved check out the link below from the American Chronic Pain Association:

https://theacpa.org/September-is-Pain-Awareness-Month

 

-Matthew D’Antonio, PT, DPT

Pediatric Physical Therapist

Paralympics

Paralympics                        Author: Krista Flack, MS OTR/L

 

The Rio 2016 Paralympic Games will be held from September 7-18, 2016.  Around 4,350 athletes from more than 160 countries will travel to Rio to compete in 528 medal events in 22 different sports, including archery, cycling, equestrian, sailing, wheelchair basketball, and my favorite: wheelchair rugby!

 

The Paralympics is an amazing and inspiring thing to watch.  It is exciting to see how, despite significant challenges, these men and women have overcome adversity and are able to participate in sports they love at an international level.  In order to participate, athletes must have an impairment in one of the following ten categories:

 

  • Impaired muscle power: Reduced force generated by muscles or muscle groups, such as muscles of one limb or the lower half of the body, as caused, for example, by spinal cord injuries, spina bifida or polio
  • Impaired passive range of movement: Range of movement in one or more joints is reduced permanently, for example due to arthrogryposis. Hypermobility of joints, joint instability, and acute conditions, such as arthritis, are not considered eligible impairments.
  • Limb deficiency: Total or partial absence of bones or joints as a consequence of trauma (e.g. car accident), illness (e.g. bone cancer) or congenital limb deficiency (e.g. dysmelia).
  • Leg length difference: Bone shortening in one leg due to congenital deficiency or trauma.
  • Short stature: Reduced standing height due to abnormal dimensions of bones of upper and lower limbs or trunk, for example due to achondroplasia or growth hormone dysfunction.
  • Hypertonia: Abnormal increase in muscle tension and a reduced ability of a muscle to stretch, due to a neurological condition, such as cerebral palsy, brain injury or multiple sclerosis.
  • Ataxia: Lack of co-ordination of muscle movements due to a neurological condition, such as cerebral palsy, brain injury or multiple sclerosis.
  • Athetosis: Generally characterised by unbalanced, involuntary movements and a difficulty in maintaining a symmetrical posture, due to a neurological condition, such as cerebral palsy, brain injury or multiple sclerosis.
  • Visual impairment: Vision is impacted by either an impairment of the eye structure, optical nerves or optical pathways, or the visual cortex.
  • Intellectual Impairment: A limitation in intellectual functioning and adaptive behaviour as expressed in conceptual, social and practical adaptive skills, which originates before the age of 18.

 

For more information about the games, sports, and athletes, check out the official Rio 2016 Paralympic Games website.  There you can learn more about specific events, read biographies of athletes, and get the short list of athletes to watch.

September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

 

More than 23 million children and teenagers in the United States ages 2 to 19 are obese or overweight according to COAM.org. According to the Centers for Disease Control 1 of every 5 (17%) of children in the United States has obesity. This puts nearly one third of American children at an early risk for type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and even stroke.  Children who are obese are more likely to have obesity as adults and are more at risk for physical and mental health problems in the future.

 

Childhood obesity can be influenced by many different factors. One factor is too much time spent in sedentary activities. These activities include watching TV, playing video games, computer use, and any other activities that cause little to no physical exercise. The other major factor affecting childhood obesity is access to inexpensive high calorie snacks or beverages, or lack of access to affordable healthier foods.

 

Parents are the first line of defense in helping to prevent childhood obesity. One way parents can help to battle obesity is to offer your child healthy snack options. According to the CDC, parents should substitute higher nutrient lower calorie foods such as fruits and vegetables in place of high calorie snack options. Encouraging your child to drink more water and less sugary drinks is another way to help reduce the risk of childhood obesity. Limiting screen time and promoting outside playing helps your child get the exercise they need. These are just a few of the ways for parents to battle childhood obesity. Below are links to various websites with more information on childhood obesity and ways to keep your child healthy.

 

American Academy of Pediatrics Institute for Healthy Childhood Weight was launched in January 2013 to address the complex problem of childhood obesity from prevention through treatment. Here is the link to their website where you can find tons of resources for different programs and treatments such as Healthy Active Living for Families (HALF) https://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/Pages/Childhood-Obesity-Awareness-Month.aspx?nftoken=00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000

 

https://www.choosemyplate.gov/ is a great resource for families to learn about proper nutrition and portion sizes. This will allow you to pick out better foods for you and your family to eat.

 

Here are the links for the CDC and COAM.org. They give information on the prevalence of childhood obesity along with the importance of raising awareness during the month of September.

http://www.coam-month.org/

http://www.cdc.gov/features/childhoodobesity/

 

-Matthew D’Antonio, PT, DPT

Pediatric Physical Therapist

Gross Motor Breaks During Homework

Gross Motor Breaks During Homework

Homework is something the majority of kids struggle with. After sitting in class all day the last thing anyone wants to do is to come home and sit down and do more work. Incorporating small gross motor breaks can help your child stay focused longer. A study done in 2011 showed that kids concentrate better after some form of physical activity. “Specifically, our preliminary work suggests that sustained involvement in structured physical activity may offer benefits to motor, cognitive, social, and behavioral functioning in young people exhibiting ADHD symptoms” (Smith et al., 2011). When sitting down to do homework, give your child a specific number of problems to complete, and then after they hit the target number have them get up and step away. Have them complete a quick gross motor activity before continuing the homework.

 

An article on OT-moms.com stated that the best exercises were ones that stimulate the vestibular system.  This means that the exercises you do need to get the body and the head moving. For example, singing and moving along to the “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” song is a great gross motor break. It gets your child up and away from the desk/table, and allows them to move and stimulate the vestibular system. Another idea would be to place items on the ground and have your child pick them up one at a time. Have them bend at the waist instead of the knees. This makes the head go up and down giving the vestibular system some stimulation. Swings and trampolines are great tools to stimulate the vestibular system. Have your child jump and spin, and make sure you spin both to the right and the left. These are just a couple of ideas to help give your child a homework break and help increase their attention and focus while doing homework. Below is the link to the 2011 research article and to the OT-moms web page.

 

To view the article, please copy and paste into your web browser: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Alan_Smith11/publication/51596807_Pilot_Physical_Activity_Intervention_Reduces_Severity_of_ADHD_Symptoms_in_Young_Children/links/09e41513b8254d8c08000000.pdf

-Matthew D’Antonio, PT, DPT

Pediatric Physical Therapist

 

Bibliography:

 Smith, A. L., Hoza, B., Linnea, K., McQuade, J. D., Tomb, M., Vaughn, A. J., … Hook, H. (2011). Pilot physical activity intervention reduces severity of ADHD symptoms in young children. Journal of Attention Disorders, 17(1), 70–82. doi:10.1177/1087054711417395

 

 

 

 

Executive Functioning Skills, Part 2: Homework!

Executive Functioning Skills, Part 2: Homework!                                Author: Krista Flack, MS OTR/L

 

Last week I talked about how executive functioning skills impact a child’s ability to fully participate in school.  This week I’m going to talk about how some of those same skill-sets can impact a child’s ability to complete their homework.  With children with well-developed executive functioning skills, the process of homework goes something like this:

  • receiving the information to know what your homework is (meaning that attention was given during class, or that assignment rubrics were properly filed in an organized manner)
  • remembering the assignment, requirements, and due date (requiring working memory or organizational skills to properly fill out a planner/assignment book)
  • giving yourself enough time to complete the assignment or project (requiring planning and time management)
  • starting and completing assignments in an appropriate order (requiring initiation, sequencing, and prioritization)
  • completing all parts of assignments, without errors or omissions (this requires frustration tolerance, impulse control/inhibition, and problem-solving to work through problems, and self-monitoring to double check work for thoroughness and accuracy)
  • tolerating interruptions and distractions during work (requiring sustained and divided attention and mental flexibility)
  • bringing homework back to school and turning it in to the right teacher at the right time (organization, initiation, and time management)

As you can see, “doing your homework” requires so many more steps and skills than simply knowing the information.  When children have deficits in executive functioning, any one of these steps could be interrupted, resulting in homework not being completed or turned in.  When you add in the extra challenges some children have with academics, language, handwriting, etc., this entire process can become overwhelming, frustrating, and discouraging. 

There are many ways we can help our kids be successful despite some of these executive functioning deficits.  Of course, our favorite goal is to improve overall executive functioning skills so that the child is independent in these areas.  Sometimes, though, accommodations and modifications can be very helpful to reduce frustration and negativity associated with these difficulties.  Here are some accommodations and modifications that can be used for each step mentioned above:

  • receiving the information to know what your homework is
    • use sensory strategies to help improve attention in class, so your child gets the information correctly the first time (ie fidgets)
    • ask about preferential seating, to minimize distraction in the classroom
    • ask your child’s teacher to double check his or her assignment book
  • remembering the assignment, requirements, and due date
    • request that assignment sheets and important due dates be sent home
    • help your child get organized at the beginning of each day/week/month (as often as your child needs it), using color-coded materials for different subjects, do/done folders, or other organizational supplies; staying organized can be easier than initiating the organization
  • giving yourself enough time to complete the assignment or project
    • TimeTimers or other visual timers can help a child manage their time better
    • visual or written schedules can help children stay on task and know what is coming next
  • starting and completing assignments in an appropriate order
    • again, use a written or visual schedule, designed by you or in collaboration with your child, to list what needs to get done and in what order
  • completing all parts of assignments, without errors or omissions
    • offer breaks at specific intervals or as needed (see Matt’s blog this week for ideas!)
    • help work through example problems for the child to refer back to
    • sit down and complete homework together, offering help as needed or as requested
    • double check your child’s work prior to it being turned in, so there is time to correct errors and complete missed parts
  • tolerating interruptions and distractions during work
    • sensory strategies can be great to reduce distraction
    • find a quiet place to work to minimize distraction
  • bringing homework back to school and turning it in to the right teacher at the right time
    • again, help your child get organized, and teach them to use the organizational system properly to stay organized
    • place reminders on commonly used items, like a pencil box or lunch box, to make sure assignments get turned in
    • ask for collaboration with teachers to offer verbal reminders during class time to submit assignments

These are just a few examples of what can be done to compensate for executive functioning deficits related to completing homework.  Talk to your child’s therapist or teacher for more ideas that might work better in your routine or use your child’s individual strengths more effectively.  And as always, if you have concerns about your child’s executive functioning skills, talk to your doctor or a Lowcountry Therapy Center therapist about a  FREE screening or evaluation.  We can help!

Executive Functioning Skills

Executive Functioning Skills               

There are many areas of executive functioning that impact a child ability to fully participate in school, at home, and in the community.  For example, study-skills and test-taking skills require time management, the ability to organize and prioritize, and working memory.  Many of these same skills are required to complete and turn in assignments, remember lessons and homework, and make it to school and between classes on time.  Here is some more information about a few areas of executive functioning, how they impact our day-to-day lives, and how to improve or accommodate when there are deficits.

Impulse Control: Poor impulse control can lead to behavior problems in class, but can also be reflected by academic success.  If you give the first answer you think of, rather than taking the time to double check and think through answers, you are more likely to make, and fail to notice, small errors.  Games that require strategy are great for learning impulse control.  I love the card game Jungle Speed, where you need to find matches quickly, but are penalized for calling a match incorrectly.   If your child is motivated by technology, apps like Rush Hour and Mind Resolve include challenges in which you are not timed, but rather are encouraged to take your time to complete the level in the least number of moves. 

Time Management: Being able to manage your time includes estimating how long a task will take and being able to judge if you need to move quickly or not.  Giving yourself enough time to complete an assignment, or get between classes, can be difficult if you don’t have good time management skills.  Time Timers and visual schedules (see Matt’s blog this week for more info!) are great ways to encourage independent time management!

Sustained and Divided Attention: Whether you’re at home or at school, there are times when you have to focus in on one thing and ignore other input (sustained attention), and there are times when you have to divide your attention (for example, when the phone rings while cooking, and neither can be completely ignored).   Refer back to this blog for ideas about sensory strategies to improve self-regulation and attention. 

Organization: Getting, and staying, organized can be big challenges for some people.  Organization is a skill that must be learned, but once it is figured out, it can be applied to so many areas of life to improve efficiency!  This blog listed some school supplies, like a planner and color-coded folders, notebooks, and book covers, that can help encourage organization and get you off to the right start this school year.

While the above areas of executive functioning are perhaps the most obviously relatable to the school day, executive functioning also includes initiation, flexibility, problem-solving, emotional control, and self-monitoring, all of which are important skills to have for success in the classroom and the community.  If you have concerns about your child’s executive functioning skills, talk to your doctor or a Lowcountry Therapy Center therapist about a screening or evaluation.  We can help!

Author: Krista Flack, MS OTR/L

Visual Schedules

Visual Schedules

Now that school has begun it is hard to keep track of all the after school activities, homework assignments, meal times, bed times, and everything else that goes on when your child gets home. Visual schedules are a great way to keep your child organized and on task. Some children are able to stay on task and know what needs to be done with verbal instructions. But for children with anxiety, poor attention, auditory processing difficulties, or other challenges, this verbal information is not enough. A visual schedule is a way to provide structure to a child’s life. It gives them information about what activities will be happening, and in what sequence they will occur.

 

Visual schedules can be used in many different ways. You can use it to show your child an overview of their entire day or evening activities when they come home. You can also use them to show all the steps in a multi-step task such as brushing your teeth. Visual schedules help to reduce anxiety in children by showing them what is coming next. They can also improve communication and help your child understand what is expected of them.

 

So where can I get a visual schedule for my child?

We can make visual schedules here at LOWCOUNTRY THERAPY CENTER for $15!

 

What does it come with?

The visual schedules include 35 pre-set pictures such as bed, school, shopping, play, etc. They also include 35 customizable picture cards that apply to you and your family, and can include specific pictures of toys, people, or places. The visual schedule also comes with 4 storage sheets, 1 schedule sheet, and 1 first/then sheet.

 

If you are unsure if a visual schedule is right for your child ask your therapist to trial one while they are in therapy. If you would like order a visual schedule just ask your therapist for an order form.

 

-Matthew D’Antonio, PT, DPT

Pediatric Physical Therapist

Vision Screens and Exams: What You Need to Know!

Vision Screens and Exams: What You Need to Know!

 

For many local families, school begins next week!  While you prepare to head back to school, you have probably made an appointment for your child’s annual physical, or well-child visit.  It is important to remember that your children’s eyes and vision should also be evaluated regularly. 

  • The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends that infants have their first comprehensive eye exam at 6 months of age.  InfantSEE is a program that offers FREE eye exams to children ages 6-12 months.  Check out their website to find a local optometrist that participates.  I took my son to an InfantSEE examination when he was 9 months old and it was a great experience!
  • Children should have additional eye exams at age 3, and just before they enter the first grade — at about age 5 or 6. 
  • For school-aged children, the AOA recommends an eye exam every two years if no vision correction is required. Children who need eyeglasses or contact lenses should be examined annually, or as recommended by their optometrist or ophthalmologist.

Early eye examinations are crucial to make sure children have normal, healthy vision so they can perform better at school and play!  Children need the following basic skills related to good eyesight for learning:

  • Near vision
  • Distance vision
  • Binocular (two eyes) coordination
  • Eye movement skills
  • Focusing skills
  • Peripheral awareness
  • Hand-eye coordination

While school vision screenings are a helpful tool that can detect some vision problems, there are limitations to these screenings.  An in-school vision screen should not replace comprehensive eye exams at regular intervals as outlined above.  And as always, talk to your doctor or make an eye exam sooner if you have concerns! 

If a vision screening detects problems, or if you have concerns, you may be referred to an optometrist or an ophthalmologist, depending on the concerns you have.  Your sight depends on seeing the right eye doctor at the right time.  Ophthalmologists and optometrists each play an important role in providing eye care, but the levels of training and expertise can vary significantly for each type of provider:

  • An ophthalmologist — Eye M.D. — is a medical or osteopathic doctor who specializes in eye and vision care.  As a medical doctor, an ophthalmologist is licensed to practice medicine and surgery.  An ophthalmologist diagnoses and treats all eye diseases, performs eye surgery and prescribes and fits eyeglasses and contact lenses to correct vision problems.
  • Optometrists are healthcare professionals who provide primary vision care ranging from sight testing and correction to the diagnosis, treatment, and management of vision changes.  An optometrist is not a medical doctor, but rather receives a doctor of optometry (OD) degree.  They are licensed to practice optometry, which primarily involves performing eye exams and vision tests, prescribing and dispensing corrective lenses, detecting certain eye abnormalities, and prescribing medications for certain eye diseases. 

If your eyes are healthy and don't require specialized medical or surgical treatment, the type of eye doctor you choose for a routine eye exam is a matter of personal preference.  Optometrists and ophthalmologists both perform routine eye exams and both types of eye doctors are trained to detect, diagnose and manage eye diseases that require medical and non-medical treatment, and can refer you to the appropriate professional if other needs arise.  To read about what to expect at your child’s eye exam, check out this website.

For more information on children’s vision development, signs of problems, and ideas to support and improve vision development, check out the American Optometric Association’s website and the College of Optometrists in Vision Development’s website.

One last area I want to cover briefly today is vision therapy.  Vision therapy is another area of vision care that may benefit your child.  Vision therapy is a highly effective non-surgical treatment for many common visual problems such as lazy eye, crossed eyes, double vision, convergence insufficiency and some reading and learning disabilities.  Some optometrists, and even some ophthalmologists, are trained in vision therapy.  Sometimes these professionals are called developmental or behavioral optometrists or ophthalmologists.  While your child’s occupational therapist may be helping to address deficits in visual perception, eye-hand coordination, ocular motor skills, and visual motor integration, occupational therapists do not receive near the depth of training in vision nor are they trained in the use of lenses, prism and filters.  Seeing a professional trained in vision therapy can provide more options to treat vision problems.  For more information on vision therapy, check out this website.

Author: Krista Flack, MS OTR/L

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