Monday, February 03, 2014
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Chances are, Matt Bruback is one of the few pitchers in professional baseball history who feels grateful about taking a line drive off the knee.
The injury spurred him to create a weighted belt that was originally designed to help baseball players with balance and body awareness, but the Miracle Belt evolved into a product that benefits children with autism and ADHD, improving concentration, focus, and sensory deficits.
Bruback – who was drafted by the Chicago Cubs out of high school in 1997, spent a year at Manatee Community College in Florida and then signed with the Cubs in 1998 – was pitching at Double-A West Tennessee in the Cubs system in 2001 when the fateful liner was struck.
In his second start at that level, Bruback delivered a 91 mph fast ball that was ripped up the middle and drilled his right knee cap. The injury disrupted his balance and pitching rhythm resulting in diminished velocity and a lack of command. Since his lower body wasn’t providing the support and stability needed to stay balanced, Bruback started coming across his body when he pitched causing him to develop biceps tendinitis.
Later, while playing for Bowie Baysox (the Double-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles), Bruback placed a 20-pound sandbag on his shoulders while doing leg lifts, which would eventually spark a life changing decision.
“For years, coaches pulled on my uniform to try to get me to feel my balance point to improve mechanics, so I would have better command of my pitches,” Bruback said. “They would tell me, ‘You just need to focus on staying back.’ Coaches can tell you and even show you, but until you feel it yourself, you will not be able to do it. I couldn’t relate to what they were trying to get me to feel, but I suddenly did when I put the sandbag on my shoulders.”
Inspired by what he believed would help improve his mechanics and propel him to live his Major League dream, Bruback created a weighted belt to make him more aware of his body positioning.
“The belt gave me the feeling of being grounded which allowed me to feel my mechanics. Without being able to feel my mechanics and make timely adjustments, it’s difficult to stay consistent on the mound,” Bruback said.
Bruback’s mother, Vickie, crafted the first prototype using material they found at Home Depot. Bruback’s sister, who is a graphic designer, developed a visual design of how the belt would look, and then she created marketing materials to present the product to manufacturing companies.
That is how the concept behind the weighted belt was born. At the time, it was called the Balance Pro Sportbelt™, which was also found to help golfers with body awareness and weight shift.
After the 2006 season, Bruback was a free agent and considering signing with a professional team overseas in either Israel or Italy.
While contemplating his next move, Bruback received a call from Catherine Behan, a San Diego-based therapist who had originally bought the belt to improve her golf game but discovered other therapeutic uses for autistic children who have little or no control of their bodies.
Bruback had a tough decision to make. “Do I continue my professional baseball career and continue working towards my goal to pitch in the majors, or should I focus my energy on helping children with developmental disabilities?” Bruback asked himself.
Therapists at Community Haven saw what they termed “miraculous” benefits from using the belt, so Bruback named it Miracle Belt™. He also added the Sensory Belt™ for larger-sized children, teens and adults.
“With the positive encouragement I received during the conversation with Catherine and the results at Community Haven, the decision was easy to focus my attention on helping the children,” said Bruback, who pitched in the minors for nine seasons. “I love baseball, but essentially I gave up one dream to pursue another, one that will have a lasting impact on children with developmental disabilities. There is no better feeling than helping improve the life of a child.”
The first article on the Miracle Belt was published on Easter Sunday back in 2007 and caught the attention of Drs. Frank and Lisa Lanzisera, who live in Bradenton, Fla. and are the parents of a child with Down Syndrome. The Miracle Belt helped their 10-year-old boy walk for the first time.
"We tried many things over the years to help in our son's development. At 10 years of age he was unable to walk unassisted,” the Lanziseras explained in an email. We knew the problem was his balance.
“After reading about the Miracle Belt™ in the newspaper, we immediately ordered one online. Our son is now walking all around the house without any help. In fact, he constantly surprises us when he just walks into the room,” they added. “We've dreamed of this moment for ten years. So, in our mind, the Miracle Belt truly is a miracle!”
The Miracle Belt and Sensory Belt are being used to treat children with autism, Asperger's syndrome, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and ADHD, helping them become calmer and more focused. The Miracle Belt was specifically designed for infants and children weighing less than 75 pounds while the Sensory Belt was created for children, teens, and adults weighing more than 75 pounds. The belts have been researched and tested “child safe” under Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) guidelines.
There was a time when reaching the Major Leagues is what drove Bruback, but now he gets inspired by seeing how the Miracle Belt and Sensory Belt are making a dramatic impact in the lives of children with sensory disorders, and their families who are striving to do whatever they can to help their children.
“The belt centers children. They begin to understand how to use their muscles and learn how to use their body more effectively,” Bruback said. “It is remarkable to me that a line drive off my kneecap 12 years ago has resulted in improving the lives of thousands of children.”
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Weighted blankets are rapidly growing in popularity as more and more people realize how effective they are in helping almost anyone calm down and fall asleep.
We invite you to join our interview with Kristi Langslet, OTR/L Occupational Therapist who has over 25 years of experience and specialized training in Sensory Integration.
SensoryEdge: What are weighted blankets?
Kristi: Weighted blankets are blankets that usually have pockets of weighting material sewn between two outer layers of material. The blankets become heavy with the weighting materials and are used to help children and adults calm down and go to sleep.
SensoryEdge: Why have they become the necessary item for anyone who needs help calming down and help going to go to sleep?
Kristi: Occupational Therapists and Psychologists have understood from research as early as the 1950’s that the use of certain types of touch is necessary for normal development to happen and helpful to calm and soothe people. As research continued in both fields it became clear using deep (gentle but firm) touch had a profound effect on the amount of calm and focus a person was able to experience. Being and remaining calm is essential for higher thinking to happen. The best thinking, learning and sleep happen only in a CALM state. Calm is essential!
SensoryEdge: When should you use a weighted blanket?
Kristi: Weighted blankets can be used when children or adults have difficulty calming down for tasks, calming down for sleep or staying asleep. Weighted blankets are also used to help soothe and calm for transitions, disruptions, or any time a person has a heightened level of stress.
SensoryEdge: Who should use a weighted blanket?
Kristi: Children and adults who have trouble calming down, falling asleep or staying asleep. Weighted blankets are especially effective for people with diagnoses or disorders such as Autism (ASD), Asperger’s Syndrome, Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), Anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSP), Restless Leg Syndrome and Depression. Infants and children under approximately 22pounds should not use weighted blankets. Wait until the child is older to try a weighted blanket.
SensoryEdge: How heavy should a weighted blanket be?
Kristi: There is widespread misunderstanding about how heavy weighted blankets should be to be effective. The most recent research done by Tina Champagne, M.Ed, OTR/L found that blankets for adults should be 25-30 pounds.
Ms. Champagne agrees that the most common recommendations of 10-% plus 1-2 pounds of body weight is too light to be effective. Make sure when buying your weighted blanket that it is from a company that bases its blanket weights on current research and has direct experience with using weighted blankets.
I am the designer at Sommerfly™ and have worked as an Occupational Therapist for over 25 years. Our blanket weights are based on the most current research and my years of experience and specialized training in Sensory Integration.
SensoryEdge: Where should weighted blankets be used?
Kristi: Weighted blankets are most often used in the home, at schools, at the dentist, during car and air travel, at the hair dressers and in office settings. The home is a natural place for weighted blankets to be used as that is usually where sleep happens. Schools often use weighted blankets in the classrooms and in ‘Sensory Rooms’ to help students get calm or stay calm.
Health care providers such as Occupational Therapist, Speech Therapists, Psychologist, Psychiatrists, Dentists and Physicians use weighted blankets to help their clients get calm or remain calm to get their important work done. Even getting haircuts can be very stressful for some children. Using a weighted blanket can help them remain calm during this time.
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Rollercoaster bead toys are a favorite of pediatricians and teachers. Many say they are the most fun and educational toy in today’s market.
Designed for children from 18 months to 5 years, rollercoaster toys are a three-dimensional manipulative experience in the perceptual, motor and language areas. Developmental and learning skills are “challenged” through fun play!
Eye Hand Coordination… Encourage the child to move the rollercoaster beads from one end to another following the paths of the wires. Start with the least complex wire (blue). The red, blue, orange and green are progressively more complex in their bends and turns as they develop and challenge the eye-hand coordination.
Visual Tracking… Have the child follow the movement of the beads with the eyes. Vary the type of movements such as fast, slow, up, down and around.
Imaginative Play… The rollercoaster invites imaginative play. In a child’s mind the beads transform into cars, trains, airplanes and rocket ships. Pretend play is vital to the development of imaginative skills.
Language Development… Ask the child to relate a story in words and sounds as he/she plays with the rollercoaster. Help to expand vocabulary.
Color and Shape Recognition… Ask the child to identify the primary colors. Direct him/her to point to the red, blue, green, etc. Ask what color beads are on each different wire. Increase the difficulty by asking to identify different shapes in combination with the various colors
Grouping… Instruct the child to make a pattern that has two (2) groups of three (3) beads, one (1) group of five (5) beads, two (2) groups of four (4) beads, etc. Children always find this fun.
Problem Solving… Ask the child to put three (3) beads on the longest wire, two (2) beads on the shortest wire, etc. There are numerous possibilities relating to colors, grouping, shape, length and direction which will allow for development of problem solving. Give clues to help “unravel” the problem.
Directional Change and Spatial Relations… Demonstrate concepts such as over, under, left, right, up and down. The rollercoaster enables difficult concepts to unfold right before a child’s eyes.
Understanding Numbers/Math… Playing with the rollercoaster with numbers and counting. Exercise: Stack a number of beads on a wire. Have child count beads. Next add or subtract beads one at a time. After each movement ask the child how many are now on the stack or how many are left. Vary the number of beads added or subtracted. Allow the child to feel the beads as they are added to or taken away from the stack. Demonstrate the basics, e.g., 1+1=2; 2-1=1. Remember the rollercoaster is like an abacus!
Memory Activities… Set up a pattern of beads and ask the child to study the pattern. Remove the pattern and ask the child to repeat or replace the pattern. This improves visual memory and makes for a delightful game. Other memory activities involve the child closing the eyes after studying the patterns and then opening his eyes after the teacher/parent changes the pattern and thereafter having the child point out the changes.
Pre-writing Skills… The configuration of the wires designed so that the movement of the beads along the paths aids in the development of finger and wrist dexterity. Such flowing and curving motions are prerequisite to developing basic writing skills.
Tuesday, September 03, 2013
The Positive Snowball Effect – Bullying, Bystanders, and You
How much does peer behavior influence our kids and the way they treat other people? I would like to think my children treat everyone with kindness and are not influenced negatively by their peers but is this truth or just wishful thinking?
Today I was reading an abstract of an article from the Journal of Abnormal Psychology. The article was titled “Peer Bystanders to Bullying: Who Wants to Play with the Victim?” (Howard AM, 2013 Jun 26). The article outlines a study that was done to see the effect of peer responses to bullying. Basically they put some boys ages 10-15 years old in a waiting room with some actors of the same age. The actors were to play the parts of bully, victim, and bystander. Later all the boys were sent to play a game together. The child actors exhibited escalating bullying episodes and in different scenarios the bystander’s behavior varied from aide to the bully, defender of the victim, or passive outsider. The study included about 200 boys and I think the results are a very clear indication of why it is important to talk to children about how to react to bullying.
According to the results of the study is seems that when the bystander was passive the other boys had a tendency to disengage from the bullying and it “decreased their willingness to include the victim in the game.” To me this shows that when children observe bullying it is crucial that they defend the victim, not just refrain from bullying themselves. I think of it as a positive snowball effect. By standing up for the victim others will notice and go out of their way to include the victim in other activities as well.
Doing this is not always easy. Most children, and adults for that matter, are often afraid to get involved. They don’t know what to say or they might be afraid that the bully will turn on them. They might even be embarrassed to be associated with the victim. This is why talking about what to do with our kids is so important. I often discuss how to handle this with my children. I tell them the importance of standing up for other kids if they see them getting picked on. I also encourage them to talk to new students – no one likes being the new kid. I remind them it does not mean you will be their best friend or even that you will remain friends but it does help the new student transition until they are comfortable.
What do you do to teach your children or students about bullying? We cannot expect our children to know how to handle such a hard situation without training. We teach them to look both ways before they cross the street and how to say please and thank you. Just telling a child to be kind is not enough. Experts suggest that we role play with our kids, ask them open ended questions on how they would handle a situation, ask them how it would make them feel if they were the victim.
Be specific. For example, “If you were in a group of people and someone made fun of you how would you feel?” or “Pretend you’re sitting down alone and a group of kids started asking you questions that made you uncomfortable what would you do? How would you feel if they made fun of you? How would you feel if others were watching and did not say anything?” Then make suggestions on how they should respond and finally act it out with a few kids. This not only helps the children who are being bullied but the bystanders as well. It is very empowering for children to have a plan of action and to know they are doing the right thing.
Here is a link to the abstract of the original article. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23801432. I hope this inspires you to talk to your child or your students about what they can do to help make bullies back down.
Here are some other resources to help you implement an anti-bullying campaign in your area.
by Alycia Shapiro - Co-Founder & President of SensoryEdge
Questions? You can email Alycia at email@example.com
Thursday, August 01, 2013
The wonderful universe of kids is a planet where imagination has no bounds. While boys and girls have excellent imaginations one thing that inhibits that flow is waiting. Patience is hard to learn for little ones so the best thing an office manager can do is provide a place where kids can have fun while they are waiting. Activity wall toys are a perfect way to bring a interesting aspect to your waiting section without taking up too much space. Try to uncover toys which are not solely enjoyable but educational as well. This will help enhance their social, emotional and cerebral growth.
For parents, think about your sweet little one has to go to the dentist or doctor for a appointment. Going to the doctor can be a scary encounter for little ones, so having an inviting waiting area helps kids transition into the space and diminishes their anxiety. It can make the visit so much more relaxing when they can meet other young children and have fun interactions with them while waiting their turn to see the doctor. Have a well planned waiting area with activity wall toys means everyone is happy. Kids won't get bored, parents get a break, and office staff will not be interrupted with continuous questions regarding how much longer the wait will be.
Waiting room toys are not just for the pediatricians office. Sensible business people know that to generate a sale you need to keep the attention of the purchaser. If the consumer has young children with them then creating a special location for young ones to play in the waiting area is good business. Moms and Dads cannot concentrate on what you are telling them if they are constantly interrupted by their children asking to go home. If the children are satisfied actively playing with the wall toys in your kid's region then the parents are free to focus on what they want to buy. Make certain that the playthings you select are fun and functional so kids will stay involved in the exercise. Picking the right wall mounted toys for your office space is not a hard task. There are a lot of items to choose from. What you need to think about is where will the products be located? Determine your space to see how much space you plan to cover. Determine if you want a theme like or if you favor an eclectic assortment of products.
As soon as you decide on the type of area you are developing and how much room you have you need to decide on the materials you want to use. For example, if you have mostly wood furniture or hard wood floors you may want to remain with wood waiting room toys so that they blend with the style. If your area caters to medically sensitive kids you should stick with plastic surfaces that can be washed with soap & water.
Once you have made a decision on these basic issues it is time to buy. Several moms and dads know the significance of having of good quality educational toys in addition to only keeping children busy. They would like to offer the most effective for their children so select items that are educational as well as enjoyable. A lot of pediatric offices have maze and pathfinder toys for enhancing hand-eye coordination and an understanding of cause and effect.
One more thing to keep in mind is your target age range. Like all toys, kids wall attached toys differ according to age in order to meet the every changing growing stages in a child's development. Help to make sure you have age suitable toys so that all kids coming in to your waiting area will be engaged in the toys that you make accessible to them. The great thing about most wall toys is they are all inclusive in one unit. This means no small pieces for young children to put in their mouths.
It also means that your investment is protected because the units are one piece and consequently the parts cannot be taken away or taken home by little hands that don't want to let go. No matter if your organization caters kids or strictly to their parents giving children a area to play in your waiting area is an effective way to keep kids happy and patient while they wait. Happy children helps mothers and fathers relax so they can focus on what you are trying to express to them.
Whether you need to talk to them about their child or possibly you are attempting to market them a brand new car at a car dealership - the bottom line is offering a kids a interesting waiting area is good way to keep kids and their parent's happy and coming back for more.
Monday, July 15, 2013
When our children are born we see them as perfect little beings. The doctor’s count their fingers and toes, check their hearing and sight, and hopefully hand us healthy babies. After that, for most parents checking their child’s milestones at home is just a formality; something to mark down in their baby books. It is typically not something that should cause anxiety or worry. However, what happens if those milestones are not being met? That is when anxiety starts to creep into your mind and you wonder “Is there something wrong with my child?”
This happened to me with my first born. He was a healthy baby boy - responsive, adorable, and had an impressive 9:9 Apgar score. Despite this I started to have anxiety that something was not quite right. I would check his milestones and he seemed behind based on the baby book charts but right when he would be officially late he would amaze me with his new skill. This happened for everything – raising his head, sitting up, crawling, and walking. Then when it came to for him to talk he passed the late end of the scale and officially entered the delayed zone.
At 2.5 years old I spoke to my pediatrician about the delay and she suggested getting an assessment by a speech therapist. She knew I had been worried for a while – I had noticed a slight delay at 15 months (yes I was that Mom) but she said “Don’t worry he’s a boy, it is normal.” I mentioned it again at 18 months, and at 2 years but she was not concerned until now. Let me say here that I had a really good pediatrician and I do not blame her for not sending us for a consultation earlier. Josh was so responsive with her I understand why she was not worried. However, I wish I had followed my instincts and had him evaluated. Early intervention is a lot easier to get prior to the age of 3 so if you are reading this and you are worried it does not hurt to get an evaluation. It will give you peace of mind and if nothing is wrong - great – if there is a delay you have caught it early and increased your child’s chance of a good outcome.
Although I had done a lot of research on what was normal I did not really understand the complexity of speech issues. Once I realized my son actually had a speech disorder I learned so much more so I thought I would share some of the information and resources that I found to be helpful. Please remember I am not a speech therapist – I am just a Mom who has learned a bit along the way. Please consult a speech therapist for more specifics but maybe this information will help you formulate the questions you want to ask them.
There are three basic categories of speech and language related issues:
Speech, Language, and Oral Motor Feeding Disorders.
Speech disorders can be broken down into four basic categories: articulation, phonological, oral motor, and fluency.
· Articulation: with articulation disorders people have difficulty making specific sounds beyond the expected age of development. For example a child might have difficulty closing their lips to make early developing sounds like p/b/or m. There is a good list of age specific sound development on talkingchild.com. Click here to see the list.
· Phonological: with phonological disorders people have sound errors with specific patterns (for example, a child may produce all “back” sounds /k/ and /g/ as “front” sounds /t/ and /d/).
· Oral Motor: with oral motor speech disorders like children have difficulty coordinating the movements of speech to produce sounds, syllables, and words. The two main types are Apraxia and Dysarthria. When a person is Apraxic the difficulties are typically caused by motor planning and coordination deficits in the brain- not muscle weakness or paralysis. Whereas Dysarthria is typically a reduced ability to motor plan volitional movements needed for speech production as the result of weakness/paresis and/or paralysis of the musculature of the oral mechanism.
· Fluency/Stuttering: Fluency or stuttering issues are typically disorders caused by disruptions of speech production. Characteristics of a fluency disorder include word repetitions, prolongations of sounds and/or words, and at times, a complete “block” of speech.
Language disorders can be broken down into three basic categories: Expressive, Receptive, or Pragmatic.
What is language? Language is a set of rules shared within a society that may include word meaning, word endings (plurals, past tense, adverbs), sentence formation, and symbols. Language disorders can be considered expressive, receptive, or both.
What is language? Language is a set of rules shared within a society that may include word meaning, word endings (plurals, past tense, adverbs), sentence formation, and symbols. Language disorders can be considered expressive, receptive, or both.
· Expressive: An expressive language disorder is an issue when a person has difficulty expressing (speaking) wants and thoughts. Children with expressive language disorders often use pointing or gestures to communicate. While learning verbal communication it is helpful to teach them to use tools like sign language, picture symbols, or augmentative communication to reduce frustration.
· Receptive: A receptive language disorder is an issue when an individual has difficulty comprehending directions, age appropriate concepts, and the written/ spoken rules of language. Basically they are not receiving the information correctly.
· Pragmatic/ social skills: A pragmatic/social skills language disorder is an issue when there is a delay in a person’s ability to communicate with others in an age appropriate manner. Children suffering from this disorder often display characteristics like poor eye contact, poor topic initiation and maintenance, decreased awareness of emotion and non-verbal cues, and poor awareness of personal space.
Oral Motor & Feeding: These issues are classified as a disorder when there are any issues with eating and/or drinking that could lead to the inability to thrive, poor nutrition, aspiration (when food or drink enters the airway), and decreased social participation and/or acceptance during mealtime. Some symptoms of an oral motor or feeding disorder are coughing, choking, or gagging during meals, poor weight gain, history of traumatic oral experiences (choking or surgery), poor transition to age appropriate food, aversion of specific textures, tastes, and/or temperatures, and crying or turning away during feedings. Sometimes oral motor & feeding disorders are present with other speech issues like Apraxia which is an oral motor speech disorder.
The bottom line is knowledge is power. When you child is born they depend on you for everything – including having the information to help them is they are struggling with their speech. If you understand the various types of speech issues out there you can better advocate for your child. No one knows your child better than you do. They might know more about speech therapy but you are spending your time with your child every day. If you see something that seems quirky mention it to your doctor or therapist. It might mean something to them even if it just seems a little odd to you. They can help you help your child more effectively if you have the information you need to describe what you are seeing. I hope this was helpful. If you have any questions or need resources please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.