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Best Toys for Kids with Autism as Recommended by Therapists

Sensory Friendly Toys that Don’t Involve Electronics

Welcome to our exploration of the beautiful world of toys uniquely crafted for children with autism. Selecting toys for kids with autism involves a delicate dance between understanding sensory needs, promoting skill development, and, most importantly, ensuring hours of joy and engagement. In this blog, we’ll delve into a curated list of favorite toys that cater to the diverse interests and preferences of children with autism.

 

Sensory Toys: A Symphony of Textures and Colors:

 

 

Cause-and-Effect Wonders:

 

 

Educational Gems:

  • Puzzles: Offering a mix of challenge and satisfaction, puzzles contribute to cognitive development and problem-solving skills.
  • Building Blocks: The timeless joy of building and creating, these blocks encourage imaginative play and enhance fine motor skills.

 

Calming Oasis:

  • Weighted Blankets: Not exactly a toy, but a soothing addition to any space, providing comfort and a sense of security.

 

 

Communication and Social Play:

 

  • Board Games: Structured play with clear rules, board games provide a fun way to learn social interaction and turn-taking.

 

Outdoor Adventures:

 

 

Artistic Expression:

  • Playdough Fun: The joy of squishing, molding, and creating with playdough offers a satisfying tactile experience.
  • Markers and Crayons: Encouraging creativity, drawing, and coloring provide an expressive outlet for children with autism.

 

Choosing toys for kids with autism is a personalized journey that requires attention to individual preferences and needs. The toys mentioned above are just a glimpse into the vast array of options available, each offering a unique way to engage, inspire, and bring joy to children on the autism spectrum. As you embark on this exploration, remember to observe, communicate, and, most importantly, have fun discovering the perfect toys for your child’s unique world.  Check out our specially curated Amazon Storefront for more toy suggestions!

 

Spring Activities For All Ages!

Join us as we welcome spring!

As the world outside bursts into color and warmth, it’s the perfect time to dive into some fun activities that celebrate the season. We’ve put together a bunch of excellent OT spring activities for all ages that you can do that are fun and help you learn and grow.

From making yummy flower-shaped snacks to crafting bird feeders and sensory bottles, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Whether you’re a parent looking for fun OT activities with your kids at home or a teacher searching for exciting activities, you’ve come to the right place!

Join us as we explore the wonders of spring through activities that work on our fine motor skills and try new foods! Let’s make this season even more remarkable by having a blast with these therapeutic activities.

Spring Activities: Flower Snacks: 

This fun and creative activity works on fine motor skills, food play, and meal preparation skills. It is also a great way to introduce healthy snacks into your child’s diet. 

  • Beet slices flower snack– Use a flower-shaped cookie cutter to cut beet slices (or other soft fruit/veggies: pineapple, apples, thin potatoes…)
  • Mandarin orange flower– Peel an orange and open one end.  Add celery for a stem.
  • Orange with flair–  Add a grape tomato to the center of your orange to add a little color.  Other fruits could also be arranged into a flower shape: apple, pear, and banana slices would work.
  • Dried cranberry mini flowers– Arrange cranberries (or raisins) into petal shapes.  Add chickpeas for a center to each flower.
  • Tulip cucumbers– Cut a jagged line into cucumber slices.  Add a piece of the peel for stems for each flower.
  • Flower art–  Get the kids involved in this one!  Provide carrots, broccoli, red peppers, and grape tomatoes, and create a flower design as a family.  Enjoy!

Paint With Flowers: 

This is an easy and cheap activity to complete at home that only requires paint, paper or plate, and flowers. Use the flower as a brush and press it into the paint, then paint away!

Oral Motor Exercise With Plastic Easter Eggs: 

This is a fun activity to incorporate into your routine before feeding. Adding oral motor exercises provides sensory input and “wakes up” the muscles of the mouth. Give your child a straw and ask them to blow into the straw to push easter eggs toward a target. 

Spring Animal Walks: 

This is a fun gross motor activity that can be done in the home or outside. Have your child bunny hop, bear walk, frog jump, and snake slither from one side to the other. You can even have an animal race to see who gets to the finish line first!

Homemade Bird Feeders: 

This is a great activity to improve executive functioning skills and bilateral coordination skills. You will need toilet paper rolls, peanut butter, birdseed, and spreading tools. Spread the peanut butter on the toilet paper, roll it in the birdseed, and hang it up outside!

Spring Themed Sensory Bottle: 

Sensory bottles can provide a calming sensory experience to children by focusing on the different moving objects inside. All you need is 4 ounces of clear glue, warm water, hot glue (to seal the lid), a bottle, and any desired spring-themed objects to put inside (glitter, small toy animals, flowers, etc.). 

 

Syncing Success: A Better Way to Manage ADHD Without Medication

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) poses unique challenges for individuals of all ages, affecting their ability to focus, organize tasks, and regulate impulses. While traditional interventions often involve medications and behavioral therapy, a groundbreaking approach has emerged in recent years – the use of the Interactive Metronome (IM) as an innovative tool for managing ADHD symptoms. In this blog, we’ll explore the relationship between Interactive Metronome and ADHD, shedding light on how this rhythmic training can make a significant difference in the lives of those navigating the complexities of ADHD.

 

Understanding ADHD and its Challenges

 

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by persistent patterns of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Individuals with ADHD may find it challenging to sustain attention, complete tasks, and regulate their behavior, impacting academic, professional, and personal aspects of their lives. Traditional treatment approaches often involve a combination of medications and behavioral therapy, but the search for non-invasive, complementary interventions has led to exploring innovative tools like the Interactive Metronome.

 

Interactive Metronome and ADHD: A Rhythmic Approach

 

The Interactive Metronome operates on the principle that precise timing and rhythmic synchronization can positively influence neural pathways related to attention, coordination, and executive functions. Here’s how IM is making waves in the realm of ADHD management:

 

  1. Enhanced Attention and Focus: IM exercises require participants to match their movements to a rhythmic beat with millisecond accuracy. This process engages the brain’s attention and timing centers, fostering sustained attention and focus improvements, essential components for managing ADHD symptoms.

 

  1. Improved Executive Functions: ADHD often involves challenges with executive functions like working memory, organization, and impulse control. The structured nature of IM exercises helps strengthen these cognitive processes, providing individuals with practical skills to navigate daily tasks more effectively.

 

  1. Sensory Integration: The combination of auditory and visual cues in IM promotes sensory integration, a critical factor in ADHD management. Individuals can develop better self-regulation and coordination by syncing sensory information with motor responses.

 

  1. Individualized Treatment Plans: Therapists at Carolina Therapy Connection can tailor IM programs to address the specific needs and challenges of individuals with ADHD. The customizable nature of IM allows for a personalized approach, ensuring that the training aligns with each participant’s unique cognitive and motor profile.

 

Real-life Success Stories 

 

The impact of Interactive Metronome on ADHD management is not just theoretical – there is a growing body of research-based evidence supporting its effectiveness. Many individuals undergoing occupational therapy at Carolina Therapy Connection have reported significant improvements in attention, impulse control, and overall quality of life after incorporating IM into their ADHD treatment plan.

 

In the evolving landscape of ADHD management, the Interactive Metronome stands out as a promising avenue for individuals seeking alternative and complementary approaches. By tapping into the power of rhythmic synchronization and precise timing, IM offers a dynamic and engaging method to address the core challenges associated with ADHD. It’s not just about keeping time; it’s about syncing success despite ADHD’s unique challenges.  Our Occupational Therapists and Certified Occupational Therapy Assistants at Carolina Therapy Connection are certified in the Interactive Metronome. They can utilize this as an essential part of a child’s treatment plan.  The Interactive Metronome can be used as a standalone treatment, but we see the best results when incorporated into diverse therapeutic programs.

 

 

Call us today to learn more about the Interactive Metronome and whether your child would benefit from this amazing therapeutic intervention!

 

CTC Ranked in North Carolina’s ‘Best Employers 2023’

Who ranks North Carolina’s Best Employers of 2023?

Carolina Therapy Connection is now ranked one of North Carolina’s Best Employers of 2023, who were ranked by market research company DataJoe in four categories! DataJoe created and implemented a survey that polled employers and their employees. The survey covered essential workplace topics, including organizational health, leadership, engagement, work-life balance, pay, training, benefits and corporate social responsibility.

See Our Ranking Below Under ‘Medium Sized Employers’

 

 

Best Employer 2023 Carolina Therapy Connection

See the FULL issue of Business North Carolina’s annual list of Best Employers HERE

What sets Carolina Therapy Connection apart from other Employers?

Carolina Therapy Connection is a therapist-owned, growing private pediatric outpatient practice with sensory clinic locations in Greenville, Goldsboro, and New Bern, North Carolina.  For the past 12 years CTC has been providing OT, PT, ST, and educational services to children of all ages and diagnoses including: autism spectrum disorder, sensory processing disorder, cerebral palsy, feeding disorders, and developmental delay. Children are served within our newly expanded, state-of-the-art sensory clinics, within the community, and within school settings. In 2023 we added Mental Wellness and Counseling to the umbrella of services CTC offers.

Carolina Therapy Connection is the first outpatient therapy clinic Certified Autism Center™  (CAC) in Eastern North Carolina. Carolina Therapy Connection covers the cost of all staff to complete this professional certification within their first year of hire. Our culture at CTC is faith-based, built around serving others while creating a fun and exciting place to work that will motivate you! 

Just a few reasons to join our team …

  • Competitive Compensation with weekly and monthly incentive bonuses (salary or pay per visit- based on yourpreference and goals!)
  • Flexible schedules perfect for therapists with families (all staff choose their own schedule- what works best for you?)
  • Fun, social clinic setting with company sponsored events every month (team building, potlucks, snack bars, ice cream socials, etc!)
  • Prizes that reward team members who carry out our core values and supportive culture (monthly core value cash prizes!)
  • Multi-disciplinary setting with supervision and mentorship programs to help you grow and based upon the support you need!
  • Supportivefaith-based culture that values teamwork as well as individual team member goals (meetings on a monthly and quarterly basis to check in on your personal and professional growth!)
  • Opportunity for growth within the company including management and leadership opportunities (clinical and administrative ladder programs)
  • Web-based, electronic documentation system (document anywhere that suits you!)
  • Simple IRA with retirement matching (no vesting period!)
  • Health, vision and dental group insurance through BCBSNC with Company contribution
  • Disability insurance
  • Life insurance and Employee Assistance Program (free mental health/wellness services) paid 100% by employer
  • PTO and all major holidays observed (let’s hear it for no weekends or holidays!)
  • Continuing education compensation and company sponsored CEU opportunities
  • We invest in every team member to receive credentialing as an Certified Autism Specialist or Autism Certificate through the IBCCES certification program
  • We credential all of our interested clinicians in becoming certified in the Interactive Metronome treatment modality
  • Private offices for speech language pathologists (and SLP assistants)
  • Clinical Fellowship program with close mentorship and training
  • Relocation assistance and sign on/retention bonuses for certain positions
  • Annual licensing fees and professional liability costs covered
  • Referral bonuses
  • Travel reimbursement
  • Computers and other technology options (iPads) for each employee
  • 15,000 sq.ft. clinic with state of the art sensory spaces for enhanced therapy experiences
  • All treatment equipment and assessments provided by company
  • Amazing administrative staff that handle all scheduling, billing and insurance authorizations (YES… Let’s hear it for less time spent documenting!)
  • A variety of settings offered based on clinician preference (schools, homes, daycares, clinic)

Interested in joining our team? Head over to our Careers Page to apply NOW!

CTC Best Employer 2023

The #1 Tip for Parenting a Child With Special Needs

#1 Tip for Parenting a Child With Special Needs

No matter if your child is typically developing or you have a child(ren) with special needs, we have the best parenting tip that will help you every single day! And guess what?! It’s a super easy concept! However, a challenging one to implement!  Want to know what the #1 tip for parenting your child is?

SELF CONTROL AND MANAGING YOURSELF!

All kids need a calm, loving caregiver who is present and can manage their own emotions.  Being a caregiver is STRESSFUL and when we project that stress outward, our kids pick up on that behavior and emotion and have a hard time regulating themselves.  Remember- kids observe our ACTIONS more than they listen to what we tell them.  They are watching how we react, how we respond, and how we manage ourselves.  When we set a positive example for them in our everyday lives (for example, how we react to stress, how we talk to others, how we talk about ourselves, how we handle problems, etc.), they set this as their model.  When we are out of control there is a good chance that our child(ren) will be out of control!

Other Contributing Factors

In addition to managing our own emotions and behaviors, there are many reasons why a child may display negative behaviors:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Inconsistent schedules (i.e. holiday season, summertime)
  • Lack of routine
  • Overstimulation (from their environment or other people)

Other Parent Tips and Techniques

It’s important to manage these outside influences as much as possible to help encourage better regulation in our children.  During times that we know schedules and sleep may be affected (i.e during the holidays or during the Summer), we can use the following parenting tips and techniques to help our children with self-regulation:

  • Use visual supports (visual schedules)
  • Use a social story that outlines a particular event, holiday, or season. Here are some free holiday social stories you can use to help prepare your child for unexpected events.
  • Decrease the amount of stimulation in the environment by using noise canceling headphones, a weighted blanket, and build in time for sensory breaks (deep pressure input, mindfulness, calming music, etc.).

Parenting Tips and Techniques

Our children depend on us to help regulate their emotions and behavior.  What better way to model these things for them!  Here are some easy ways to manage our own behavior and carryout the #1 tip for parenting a child with special needs:

  • Build in time throughout the week and day for your own self-care- this may be getting enough sleep each night, setting aside time in the morning before everyone wakes up to take 5-10 minutes of meditation time, setting up a workout/exercise routine, setting aside time for your own hobbies.
  • Find ways throughout your day and week to laugh and find humor in situations.  Both smiling and laughing have been studied extensively for centuries- showing laughter and smiling produce inner happiness.
  • Give up on perfection and the need to compare yourself to others on social media.  Give yourself a social media break- detoxing from social media can remove unnecessary noise and the negative emotional triggers often caused by comparing yourself to others.
  • Focus on connecting with your family and kids daily.  Spend quality time with them each day- give them a hug, go for a walk, read a book together, spend time just talking each night before bed.  If your child is non-verbal, spend quality time together by engaging with them in something they find joy in!
  • Count your blessings! Writing down what you are grateful for changes your mindset.  Instead of looking at all of the challenges in your life and the things your child has not yet mastered, focus daily on one thing that is going well or one thing they are successful at!
  • Take a look at your expectations- ask yourself- are they unrealistic?  If your child is 2 years old, can you truly expect them to sit and attend for longer than 5 minutes? The answer is NO!  If your child is non-verbal, can you expect them to communicate their wants and needs effectively? When someone does not live up to the expectations you have set in your mind- that is when you become disappointed and upset.  Do a reality check on your expectations!
  • Lastly, and most importantly, when your child is acting out or behaving in a negative way, KEEP YOUR COOL!  As a caregiver it is super easy for us to lash out, raise our voices, or “punish” our child when they are really trying to communicate something to us.  The more we are able to keep calm and maintain our own composure, the better outcome the situation will be!  When your child goes into meltdown mode, check yourself- how am I feeling, what emotions are going through me, what is my child trying to communicate, what are my actions saying to my child?.  This is tough, I know, but SO important for our children!  How we deal with stress is how they will eventually deal with stress.

So, take a deep breath, count to 10, regroup, and remember your child has big emotions and needs lots of love during this time! Managing yourself, your emotions and your own behaviors is key! When hard times occur, the parent or caregiver’s response affects the likelihood of the behavior happening again.

If you need help creating strategies for your child to help manage their daily routines, please reach out to us! We are here for you!

Blog Written By: Cindy Taylor, MS, OTR/L

Cindy Taylor

Prep Academy Program

Optimizing Therapy Progress

Competence Brings Confidence

When we begin treatment with a new patient, or we begin working on a new skill at home as a parent, we often become so excited about the goal, or the end game, that we forget about all the small steps we should take to get there. Over the past 20 years working with children and families as an SLP and raising my own children I have learned that we need to celebrate the small steps in life and for therapy progress.

At some point I started telling parents of preschoolers and early elementary students, “Competence brings confidence!”

Your child might learn a very small step toward their goal in a therapy session. This small step should bring a lot of excitement, praise, and chances to “show it off” at home. These chances are growing your child’s confidence in their abilities. Those chances are giving neural connections a chance to form. Those chances are reinforcing new motor patterns. Being competent in a new skill, no matter how small, brings confidence! Confidence gives us the drive and the will to keep working hard and keep going. It keeps us excited in our pursuit to learn something new or difficult and optimizes therapy progress.

Focus on the Small Steps for Big Victories

Often parents and practitioners focus too much on the end goal.  Young children do not even know what the end goal is. We need to celebrate each very small step along the way.

With the confidence your child has from practicing a seemingly small skill at home, they come to therapy ready to move on and add more new skills. They will have the skill they have become so good at in their tool belt, and add to it! They might have started making a speech sound with confidence in isolation. When they are confident with that skill because they have shown it off many times, they will be ready to move on to making that sound in words.

In the opposite scenario we might spend time working on the small skills, try to speed along, and forget to give praise and practice at each step. We are focused on the end goal, for example, clear speech. All along your child or patient might practice and never realize all the small gains because we forget to praise them with small steps or have them show off their small steps. In this scenario, opportunities to practice important building blocks are missed. Opportunities to build confidence are missed, and ultimately the pace of progress is slower.

In the end, learning the “end goal” should have felt like many moments of satisfaction and praise to finally reach where we wanted the child to be.  It should not feel like many moments of trying and not {quite} getting there and being corrected over and over until we {finally} get good enough.

Incidentally, this works for grown ups too! If you are trying to learn something new, give yourself some grace. Focus on a small step you have mastered and practice it or show it off many times, and then move on. In the long run, you will be smarter and stronger for building competence in the small steps all along, and you will be more confident with your goal when you get there!

Optimizing Therapy Progress at Carolina Therapy Connection

The key to success is realizing that our large or end goals aren’t going to happen overnight, in the next week or maybe even the next year, but this is okay. We tend to take the present moment for granted – it seems insignificant, and we believe the little things we do in the moment are not changing us. At Carolina Therapy Connection, we believe in a culture that embraces the small victories for your family! Each time your child has milestone achievement, we will find a way to celebrate. We believe it is critical to make therapy as fun and motivating as possible by celebrating the small victories as well as major achievements. After all, when children enjoy what they are doing, who they are with and the environment they are in, anything is possible! If your family has concerns regarding your child’s development or goals you would like to achieve, call us at 252-341-9944. We would love to help you and make you a part of our CTC family and culture. 

 

Written by: Susan Hill, MS, CCC-SLP

Optimizing Therapy Progress Susan Hill SLP Greenville New Bern Goldsboro NC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Optimizing Therapy Progress Greenville NC Pediatric occupational speech and physical therapy written by Susan Hill