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Connie Walp

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Let the Children Play

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As a pediatric occupational therapist with many years of learning in both formal and informal ways about early child development, I have developed some personal “guiding rules:" A child’s relationship to his/her mommy/daddy/loving adult is primary. Our role with an infant is to nurture and protect. Easy. The not-so-easy role is the gradual changes that should occur during childhood where parents step back and allow the child to learn from their own experiences. Allowing a child to take a risk; difficult. A child’s relationship to “Mother Nature” is a key component of development. For babies, this refers to gravity. As a society we have “over-containered” babies: infant seats, strollers, swings. Babies need to move and maximize the time they are playing on the floor. Children, too, need to move. Run. Climb. Roll down a hill. The evidence is in and it indicates that these activities promote far more than physical development. The architecture of the brain is established by our early experiences. We are sensory beings. Information gets into the brain by the sensory systems. Some of these are not widely recognized by everyone such as the proprioceptive system (information from our muscles and joints) and the vestibular system (information about movement and how we relate to gravity). They are vital components of our development. Play IS a child’s occupation. As an occupational therapist, I have frequently been asked how occupation relates to children. Play is the answer. Not all play is created equally. We must choose those opportunities that allow children to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills while having fun. We want to stimulate their imagination and creativity. Knowing the above, it will not be surprising that I was very excited to learn about TimberNook. It knows, understands and supports my “guiding rules." Tagged as the Ultimate Sensory Experience, TimberNook is both a philosophy and curriculum. Set in the outdoors, Mother Nature is used as a “third teacher” to provide an environment where children can have authentic play experiences. With multiple options for programming, TimberNook can serve toddlers from 18 months-4 years (Tiny Ones) in a parent-child setting, and 4-7 year olds (Little Wild Ones) and 7-12 year olds (Wild Ones) in a child-and-staff setting. Excentia is excited to announce that we are now a TimberNook provider and will be doing programming in 2019! We are working in partnership with the Lancaster County Conservancy to use Climbers Run Nature Preserve as our site. This unique location will have an area specifically planned to facilitate “play the TimberNook way” as well as the existing trails, meadows, a stream, and forested areas. Head over to our TimberNook Facebook page and click the ‘Like’ button to stay informed as we roll out the plans for next year. We will also start posting more detailed articles about subjects that support the philosophy of TimberNook of Lancaster County!

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Speech Therapy

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Pediatric Speech Therapy One parent shared her joy the day her child said, "Now people can understand me when I talk!" Imagine our joy here at the S. June Smith Center, knowing we had a role to play in that child's success. We are happy to announce that we are now offering private speech and language therapy services to our community.  In addition to participating in Early Intervention (Birth-K), the S. June Smith Center is responding to the needs of our community by offering Speech Therapy for children under the age of 8.  This program is located at our Prince Street office (across from Clipper Stadium).  Onsite parking, a secure building and a staff of highly trained speech therapists makes this the ideal choice for young children. Intervention is provided for a variety of disorders, including speech disorders, and receptive and expressive language disorders. Many of our staff members have interest and expertise in areas such as apraxia and suspected childhood apraxia of speech. Parents and caregivers are invited to play an active role during the process. Their input is used to develop goals that will be functional for the child. Ongoing family education is provided, as well as activities that can be used in the home. Most therapy sessions are one-on-one, allowing for focused and intensive session. Our experienced staff of therapists continue to receive education, allowing them to provide the highest standards of care.  You can check out their information in the Early Childhood section of our website www.ourexcentia.org    

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Routines are Learning Opportunities

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My kids haven’t been infants or toddlers for more years than I would care to mention, but my memory of those times would be that those days were anything but “routine.” I think that most families with young kids feel like the only thing routine about their day is “unpredictability.” For most people, a routine is doing the same thing, at the same time and in the same way each day. When trying to use routines as a learning opportunity for kids I find that parents or caregivers often respond that they don’t have a routine.   What does it mean to teach children during daily routines? We think of routines as the parts of your day that have a start and a finish.  This changes our thinking from a schedule to events. I would like to note that for most people schedules seem to imply structure.  While young children thrive on structure and predictability this article is focusing on how to use your daily routines to enhance your child’s learning.   Figuring out your Routine All families are different however we all generally share routines that involve eating, playing, bathing and bedtime.  These routines are great learning opportunities for any child.  For example, when your child is learning to walk, you might carry her to the highchair for breakfast or you could use that opportunity and help her walk to the highchair instead.   Ideas for using Routines as Learning Opportunities First, consider these questions: Think about the daily routines of your family. What skills are you child working to master?  Where are they in their development? What are your priorities as a parent? Consider your own needs. For example, my son was not a morning child.  On the days that I needed to get him to daycare, getting out the door on time was my only goal.  It probably took him longer to learn to dress himself than it took his friends but I was confident that he would learn it one day. In the morning I just didn’t have the time to make it a priority for him to practice that skill. On the other hand, he was a late talker so it was a priority to bring communication strategies into our daily lives. Take the high priority skills your child is learning and your daily routine to see how many opportunities you can give your child for mastering a skill. Practice, Practice, Practice – young children love repetition!   Using Routine Based Learning for kids with unique developmental needs Back in the day (as my grown-up children say), as a young occupational therapist, I would meet the family of a child in the waiting room of a specialized clinic, take the child away for “my” therapy, and return them to their parents at the end of 30 minutes with instructions for “their” home therapy program. Thank goodness we have evolved to understand that parents are the most important and most consistent teacher that children will have.  We have also recognized that children learn best when the task is relevant to their interests and needs.  Out of this research, we have what we call Routines-based Intervention. This process is more natural and creates a much more comfortable and enjoyable experience for your child. Those 30 minutes of therapy that I was able to give a child made little impact on his/her development compared to the number of minutes a child can practice each week with caregivers who have learned to enrich their routines with the learning opportunities that are so important to young children. My role as a therapist has changed from working in a one-to-one situation with the child to being a mentor and coach to the family.  I believe that with my background in development and the family’s knowledge of their child, their activities, and their priorities, we become a powerful team that can problem-solve and invent unique ways to help young children master new skills.

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