A few years back, I joined a MOPS (Mother’s of Preschoolers) group, which I absolutely cherished because of the incredible relationships formed and the close community support. I love to learn and I always looked forward to the different presenters that would come speak on such a wide variety of current, relatable topics. One day last year, my dear Speech Therapist friend asked me to give our MOPS group a brief presentation on child development from an OT perspective.
In total honesty, I fear public speaking and/or teaching large crowds, which is a reason why I chose my profession. It allows me to remain 1:1 – or in a small group – and luckily, I can also give 1:1 feedback to parents. However, this opportunity came at the very same time when I was given statistics on the The Early Developmental Index (EDI), which measures early child development and school readiness in five key domains: Physical Health, Social Competence, Emotional Maturity, Language and Cognitive Skills, and Communications Skills and General Knowledge.
Did you know that less than 50% of Kindergarteners in Orange County are actually ready to be in Kindergarten, specifically in 2 areas: Communication Skills & Fine and Gross Motor Skills? Since Occupational and Speech Therapists address these areas, as well as the fact that my kids will be starting Kindergarten in the public schools, I feel strongly about sharing what I can.
Moms reported they don’t always get all their questions answered regarding their Childs development from their Pediatricians and want more information. Thus, I made my presentation more interactive, allowing moms to move around different participatory stations of their choice: Speech & Language/Reading, Gross Motor Skill Development, Fine Motor Skill Development, Tactile Play, Baby/Toddler Feeding Tips.
Here is a little blurb on the EDI areas I mentioned:
These include a child’s ability to understand what is being said to them (receptive language), formulate ideas through words (expressive language), to articulate clearly (speech) and to use language efficiently and effectively with others (pragmatics).
Fine Motor Skills:
How we begin to coordinate eye/hand movements, develop small muscles in our hands to transfer objects, along with grasp, color, cut, and bead.
Gross Motor Skills:
These are the larger movements that develop from sitting to crawling, our ability to throw and catch, along with how we kick, jump, and balance.
So the big question: Why are our kids underperforming in these skills? Well, our generation is obviously different from our predecessors; with our fast paced society and advanced technology, kids are simply moving less. Movement and exploration is what allows our nervous system to grow and strengthen.
Nearly 85% of brain development happens in the first three years of life. Therefore babies must be given the opportunities to discover the world around them and learn through their Seven Senses. This sensory processing is how our nervous system receives input from the senses and forms appropriate responses. If sensory systems are not functioning properly, the child may react poorly to their environment.
Types of reactivity to sensory experiences include being over-responsive/sensitive OR under-responsive/not registering enough. Such responses effect our mood, attention, and essentially, everything we do. You may hear the term ‘Self- Regulation’ from teachers, which is how we regulate/manage our emotion/behavior in relation to demands of a situation. So doesn’t it make sense that a disorganized sensory system will lead to disorganized behavior?
The term “sensory” is getting used frequently, so simply explaining, in a nutshell, is that we have two hidden senses that function as building blocks for emotional stability:
Proprioception– Sense of BODY PARTS
Informs us on how hard to grasp a pencil, how far away to stand from a peer, and how much force to use when closing a door.
Child with poor processing: Trouble coordinating movements, grading force, may seek out input like leaning, bumping, crashing.
Park activities: crawling up stairs, climbing ladders, monkey bars, any lifting/carrying/pushing/pulling
Vestibular– sense of BALANCE
It informs us how fast to run to catch a ball, if we are going fast or slow, coordinating both sides of our body with riding a bike & swimming.
Child with poor processing: Over-sensitive may avoid movement, under-sensitive may crave movement leading to trouble with gross and fine motor skills.
Park activities: Crawling or walking over uneven surfaces, swinging, slides, see-saw, rolling down a hill.
Sensory and motor delays are on the rise, so I want to stress that Sensation informs everything we do! It is essential for our children to function and will help build a strong base of support for learning and academic success!
For more information on the EDI visit occhildrenandfamilies.com/edi.
For more details on evidenced-based sensory integrative intervention, check out my blog Optimizing the Developing Brain.