Autism Giving Tree

The Autism Giving Tree is a local organization that is dedicated to educating professionals, families, and community members on autism. Their goal is to make the Lowcountry as autism friendly and inclusive as possible. The Autism Giving Tree Association works on expanding access to quality educational, recreational, and therapeutic opportunities for individuals with ASD, family members and care takers of individuals with ASD, and professionals working with individuals with ASD. Their company offers a wide range of fundraising events to help provide these services. I have listed the details of their next event below:

When: Friday September 8th 4:00pm – 8:00pm

Where: Chipotle (1250 Fording Island Road Suite A)

What: Get dinner at chipotle and show the flyer, show a picture of the flyer, or just mention it to the cashier and 50% of the proceeds will be donated to Autism Giving Tree

Be sure to check out their website, their facebook page, and our facebook page for more events!

Matthew D’Antonio, PT, DPT

Pediatric Physical Therapist

Child Eye Health and Safety Month

Author: Krista Flack, MS OTR/L


For many local families, school begins this week!  While you prepare to head back to school, you have probably made an appointment for your childs annual physical, or well-child visit.  It is important to remember that your childrens eyes and vision should also be evaluated regularly.  August is Child Eye Health and Safety Month, so its the perfect time to talk about vision screens, eye exams, and eye safety. 

  • 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. 
  • 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!  Common signs of vision troubles in children include: frequently rubbing eyes, squinting, tilting or turning head to look at objects, wandering eyes, or squeezing eyes. If you're child displays any of these symptoms, please schedule an appointment to have their eyes checked. Amblyopia (lazy eye), Strabismus (crossed eyes), color deficiency (color blindness), and refractive errors (nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism) are the most common conditions that can affect a child's vision. Many of these conditions, if diagnosed early, can be treated and vision can be restored. If the condition is not diagnosed until later in life, treatment will not be as effective.

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.   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.  To read about what to expect at your childs eye exam, check out this website.

For more information on childrens vision development, signs of problems, and ideas to support and improve vision development, check out the American Optometric Associations website and the College of Optometrists in Vision Developments website.

Eye safety is just as important as eye health.  Every year thousands of children sustain an eye injury - 90 percent of which can be prevented if suitable protective eyewear is used.  Check out Matts blog this week to read about the eclipse, including how to protect your eyes from irreversible damage! 

Solar Eclipse

On August 21 we will experience a total solar eclipse. The last total solar eclipse to pass through the continental United States was 99 years ago. What is a solar eclipse? A solar eclipse is when the moon passes between the sun and the earth causing part or all of the sun to be blocked. The eclipse will start in our area at about 1:13pm and end at 4:06pm.

Seeing an eclipse is something that happens once in a lifetime, but it is important to follow proper safety guidelines when viewing the eclipse. You never want to look directly into the sun without appropriate protection except when the sun is totally covered by the moon. This phase only lasts about 2 minutes long. Regular sunglasses are not strong enough during an eclipse. In order to look directly at the sun during an eclipse you need special eclipse glasses to protect your eyes. The glasses should be worn at all times while outside during the eclipse.

What happens if I look directly at the sun without glasses? Yes, you will go blind if you manage to endure the pain and stare at the sun for long enough. The pain from the visible part of the light spectrum could be extreme, but ultraviolet light - which we can't see - is what actually ruins the eye. It literally gives your eye a sunburn. Depending on the sky conditions, it only takes about a minute and a half for your eyes to be permanently damaged, and the damage is cumulative, meaning you don't have to stare at the sun without looking away for it to be harmful - you may just be taking quick glances, but it's still damaging your eye.

Here is a chart for when to wear your eclipse glasses: 

For more information on the eclipse

Matthew D’Antonio, PT, DPT

Pediatric Physical Therapist

Homework Breaks - Gross motor activities

School is back and that means so is homework. For some kids sitting in a class room all day is hard, and then to come home and sit some more to do homework seems next to impossible. Incorporating small gross motor breaks can help increase your child’s attention and make homework time go much smoother. 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 heavy work activity before continuing the homework. Here are a few ideas.

  • Different animal walks (crab, bear, frog, etc.)
  • Carrying heavy objects through a maze
  • Play statue (adult stands as straight as possible and child tries to push adult)
  • Play tug of war
  • Wheelbarrow walking
  • Place pillows on the floor and have them jump from pillow to pillow
  • Wrestle/rough house
  • Jump on a trampoline

These are just a few of the thousands of different heavy work activities for children that will help increase focus and attention. The key is to set a number of problems, items, questions etc. to complete and then set a timer for the heavy work activity.

Here are some links for different heavy work activities

Here is a link to the article

Matthew D’Antonio, PT, DPT

Pediatric Physical Therapist

School Supply Recommendations

Author: Krista Flack, MS OTR/L

It’s almost time for school to start, and I’m sure the back-to-school shopping has begun!  Before you go out and buy those sparkly pencils, read on for tips on choosing the right school supplies to help your child succeed at school.  Links provided are examples only.  Many of these products can be found in various brands, and can be found both online and in local stores, like Staples, Target, Walmart, etc.

Triangular pencils are a great tool to encourage a tripod grasp, which can impact handwriting by reducing fatigue and cramps and increasing control.  The triangle shape helps fingers fall just in the right spot, and can be enough to correct subtle inefficient grasps.  These come in standard size and thick, and many crayons can even be found in this shape.  Some children need more support, which can come from various pencil grips, but talk to your OT before selecting one!

Thick pencils (like these, or crayons and markers, too!) are nice for children that have low tone in their hands, and have trouble stabilizing a thin utensil.  Of course, it can sometimes hinder development of those tiny hand and finger muscles, so talk to your child’s OT to decide if this will be a help or a hindrance!

Before you throw away those broken crayons and golf pencils, remember that shorter utensils encourage a more mature grasp pattern.  Rather than using your whole hand in a fisted grasp, a short utensil requires you to use your fingers!  Markerscrayonscolored pencils, and pencils can be found in mini sizes (or again, keep those golf pencils and broken crayons!).   Crayon rocks encourage using a pinching grip, rather than a whole fist!

For some children, mechanical pencils can be a great tool!  If you press too hard when using a mechanical pencil, it causes the pencil lead to break, which teaches some students to press more lightly, but just frustrates other students.  Different lead thicknesses can make this very customizable to increase or decrease sensitivity.  Mechanical pencils can also be a good option for students who are easily distracted by trips to the pencil sharpener.  If you’re concerned that mechanical pencils will be too frustrating for your child, consider a small pencil sharpener like this that your child can keep at his or her desk, to minimize distraction.

For many of our kids that are impulsive and rush through work (leading to mistakes that need to be corrected), the small eraser on the end of the pencil is worn away long before the pencil lead is.  Picking out some ‘fun’ erasers that can sit on the desktop may provide a visual cue to remind children to correct mistakes, while providing motivation to do so!  Kneadable erasers add an extra element by doubling as a fidget! 

For children with fine motor weakness, cutting can be a frustrating task.  While this is a skill they need to develop, the best time to do that is when you or their OT is there to provide one-on-one support.  For classroom time, self-opening scissors like these can reduce frustration and increase independence. 

There are numerous styles of lined paper on the market, and some provide more support for your child than you may realize!  Skip-a-line paper helps with keeping organized when visual tracking is difficult.  Redi-space paper helps teach letter and word spacing.  Raised line paper helps to improve sizing and line placement when children have a hard time staying within the lines with visual clues alone.  Websites like allow you to print paper from home with various spacing and sizing options, and you can add a raised line with a little Elmer’s glue and patience!     

For children with executive functioning deficits and who have trouble staying organized, color-coding supplies can be a simple tool to embrace.  From coordinating folders and notebooks to spandex book covers, each subject/class can have its own color, so that the correct supplies make it to the right classroom!  Coordinating pouches can help keep needed supplies together, like a calculator and protractor for math, or a highlighter to mark important dates during history. 

Encourage and help your child use a planner or agenda, so that he or she can gain independence and confidence in keeping track of important dates and assignments.  This is not a skill that comes naturally to everyone, so you may need to take some time to teach him or her how to listen for important dates, where to record, and how often to check what’s coming up.

When picking out a backpack, find the right size by making sure that the backpack does not go above your child’s shoulders or below the top of the hip bones.  When packed, the backpack should weigh no more than 10% of your child’s total body weight.  Make sure to utilize all compartments and pockets of the backpack to help distribute weight, and keep the heavier items closer to the back center of the backpack.  For more information on choosing the right type and weight for your child's backpack, check out last year’s blog about backpack awareness!  Next month, we’ll post more information here about Backpack Safety Awareness Day!

I hope this blog helps you choose school supplies that will support your children so that they can have a successful school year!  If you have specific questions about which supplies would be best for your child, talk to his or her OT about options.

Back to School, Back to Routine

Author: Krista Flack, MS OTR/L

Can you believe that the first day of school is right around the corner?!  With only a few more weeks to go, its a good time to start thinking about how to make the adjustment as smooth as possible.  Here are some tips for easing the transition:

·         Start waking up earlier!  While some kids are early risers all year round, others enjoy the opportunity to stay up late and sleep in during summer.  If your child is a summertime night owl, consider slowly shifting bedtime and wake time in 15 minute increments over several days, until youre on the schedule you need to be for the school day. 

·         Think about classroom expectations that can be hard for your child, and start practicing them now.  If your child has trouble sitting still, pull out some tabletop games and activities that start to get them used to sitting in their chair for an entire activity.  If your child gets the wiggles, think about appropriate and sneaky ways for them to get movement in (stretching their fingers, giving themselves a hug, or clenching their toes can provide just a little bit of proprioceptive input that can help calm the body).  If your child needs more input than that, its a good idea to bring up your concerns to an OT.

·         Do a trial run of getting out the door on time! Go through your morning routine to get an idea of how long it takes to complete, so you arent surprised the first day by being rushed (which can be stressful), or by being done early, and left to sit and wait (providing more time for nerves to grow and wiggles to come out). 

·         Talk about it!  For many kids, talking about the upcoming school year, the new classroom, and any changes they should expect, can help them feel prepared for it.  Give them a chance to verbalize their feelings and ask questions, and try to keep the conversation calm and positive.

·         Visual Schedules and Social Stories can help ease anxieties about a new school year.  This is a simple way to help an anxious child know what to expect out of their day.  Your childs therapist can help make a social story that is customized for you, and ask us about our custom visual schedules

Spinal Muscular Atrophy Awareness Month

Spinal Muscular Atrophy Awareness Month is a public health and awareness campaign focusing on the leading genetic cause of the death in babies younger than two years of age. Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a genetic disease that affects the parts of the nervous system that controls voluntary muscle movement. SMA is a genetic mutation of the 5th chromosome.

The goal of spinal muscular atrophy month is to raise awareness about screenings to find out if you are a carrier of the SMA mutation. 1 in 40 Americans (7 million) are carriers for the disease according to Consumer Digest. The American College of Medical Genetics believes that all couples who are planning a pregnancy should be offered SMA carrier testing. This is in order to give families enough time to make informed decisions when it comes to reproduction. However, the American College of Obstetrics & Gynecology still has not made a formal statement in connection to SMA screening. Thus, there are varying practices among physicians with some offering it and others not offering it.

The goal for the awareness is also for strengthening the fight against the deadly disease and supporting research for the purpose of finding a cure. It is also a time for supporting individuals suffering from the disease along with their families who suffer with them.

Physical therapy and occupational therapy programs can help children and adults learn the best ways to maximize their muscle function and accomplish activities of daily living. An array of assistive technology products can help even very young children explore the world despite having very weak muscles. Standers, walkers, various kinds of powered and manual wheeled vehicles, and braces (orthoses) can help with standing and moving around. Therapists also can help teachers and parents find the best physical solutions for the school environment. Speech therapy can help with breathing, swallowing, and communication problems in both children and adults with SMA

For more information on SMA

-Matthew D’Antonio, DPT, PT

-Pediatric Physical Therapist

National Cleft & Craniofacial Awareness & Prevention Month

Author: Krista Flack, MS OTR/L

July is National Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness and Prevention Month—an observance by individuals and organizations to help make people more aware of and give them information about cleft and craniofacial defects and other conditions that can affect the head and face.  This July, treatment specialists, support organizations, advocacy groups, and affected individuals and families are joining forces to encourage awareness of cleft and craniofacial conditions, and we need your help to spread the word.

Craniofacial defects are conditions present at birth that affect the structure and function of a baby’s head and face. Two of the most common craniofacial defects are orofacial clefts, which occur when the lip and mouth do not form properly, and craniosynostosis, which happens when the bones in the baby’s skull fuse too early.  Treatments and services for children with craniofacial defects can vary depending on the severity of the defect; the presence of associated syndromes or other birth defects, or both; as well as the child’s age and other medical or developmental needs. Children with certain craniofacial defects can have a greater risk for physical, learning, developmental, or social challenges, or a mix of these. Craniofacial defects have significant effects on families and the health care system:

  • Each year, about 4,400 infants in the United States are born with a cleft lip with or without a cleft palate and about 2,700 infants are born with a cleft palate alone.
  • About 4 infants per 10,000 live-births in the metropolitan Atlanta, Georgia, area are born with craniosynostosis.
  • Recent studies have found that direct medical and health care use and average costs per child were a lot higher for children with orofacial clefts than for children of the same age without these conditions.

It is common for children who are born with a cleft palate to have speech problems at some time in their lives.  In addition to evaluating speech, the speech and language pathologist can help you and your child minimize feeding difficulties, possibly offering guidance on adapted feeding techniques.

For more information, check out these links, which provide additional information and resources for families of children affected by craniofacial defects:

Beginning the IEP Process: Part 1

This week, Barbara Helms, M.Ed., CCC-SLP, is sharing some great information about the IEP process!  With so much to share, we couldn't fit it all in one post, so stay tuned for more!

As a former school speech language pathologist, I am often asked questions concerning Individualized Education Plans (IEP’s).    “How do I get services for my child at school?” is one of those questions.  To gain a better understanding, I have broken down the process in 7 steps, to include:

  1. Pre-referral/RTI
  2. Referral
  3. Identification
  4. Eligibility
  5. Development of the IEP
  6. Implementation of the IEP
  7. Evaluation and reviews

Step 1: Pre-Referral and RTI (Response to Intervention)

The IEP process begins with interventions (also referred to as RTI).  Interventions are designed to help struggling students catch up and allow the school to see which students need more academic support.  Interventions are used to document and explain difficulties, test classroom accommodations and/or modifications, assess intervention strategies and monitor progress. 

The RTI process is flexible and designed by school districts to meet the needs of the individual student.  The RTI process TYPICALLY has three tiers. Each tier provides different levels of support.  

  1. In Tier I, all students receive instruction in the regular education classroom; the teacher helps all learners.
  2. In Tier II, the school provides interventions to students who need more support than they are currently receiving in the general education classroom.
  3. In Tier III, students are given individualized instruction.

RTI does not replace the special education process. If at any time parents believe their child has an educational disability and needs special education, they have a right to request an evaluation for special education. RTI cannot be used to delay or deny that evaluation. In addition to the information gathered during the RTI process, other forms of evaluation must occur to determine if a child is eligible for special education and parent’s written consent is required.

Step 2: Referral

If pre-referral interventions are NOT successful, the student is referred for special education services.  A REFERRAL CAN COME FROM MANY DIFFERENT SOURCES.  For infants, toddlers and preschoolers, Beaufort County has “child find”.  The child find process is intended to identify children who may be in need of special education services. (For more information contact Office of Early Childhood, Parenting and Family Literacy 843-521-2399 or ).  In the school environment, other examples of referral sources include: parent, teacher, guidance counselor, school nurse or para-professional. 

Referrals are made by contacting the school's administrator of special education, or Student Intervention Team leader and asking for an evaluation for special education eligibility. No matter who makes a referral, the parent must give informed written consent before a special education evaluation can begin.

Stay tuned for Part 2!

The Beaufort Water Festival

The Beaufort Water Festival starts this Friday July 14th and runs until next Sunday July 21st. Below highlights some of the events that will be going on. Please check out their website for a full list of events.

Friday July 14th

  • FREE
  • Opening ceremony
  • Arts and Crafts Market = noon – 7pm at the waterfront park
  • Paris Island Marine Band
  • Fireworks at dusk
  • Gates open at 6pm and ceremony starts at 7pm

Saturday July 15th

  • FREE until 7pm
  • Arts and Crafts market = noon – 7pm at waterfront park
  • Raft race = 8:30am – noon
  • Children’s Toad Fishing Tournament
    • FREE
    • 12 and under
    • Bring your own rod and reel
    • 10am – Noon
    • Bait is provided
    • Shrimp Boat Tour = Noon – 4pm (FREE)
    • Ski Show 1:30pm and 3pm

Sunday July 16th

  • Arts and Crafts market = noon – 5pm at waterfront park
  • Children’s Day
    • FREE
    • 11am – 3pm
    • Games, activities, shows, bounce house, and prizes
    • Shrimp Boar Tour = Noon – 4pm (Free)
    • Teen Dance
      • $10
      • Ages 13 – 17
      • 6pm – 9pm

Wednesday July 19th

  • Talent Show
  • $10 or FREE with Official 2017 62nd Annual Water Festival T-Shirt
  • Gates open at 6pm and show starts at 7pm
  • Children under 5 are free

Thursday July 20th

  • Lowcountry Supper
  • $15
  • Gates open at 6pm and supper is served from 6pm – 7:30pm
  • Children under 5 are free

Friday July 21st

  • Bed Race
    • $25 per team
    • 4:30 pm check in and 5pm start time

Saturday July 22

  • FREE
  • Arts and Crafts market = 9am – 7pm at waterfront park
  • Water Festival Grand Parade
    • Downtown Beaufort
    • 10am – Noon
    • Air Show = 1pm – 4pm

-Matthew D’Antonio, DPT, PT

-Pediatric Physical Therapist

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