Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Adaptive Programming for Expression - ALL ages

The Importance of Adaptive Programming

Art and expressive therapy can seem like an illogical choice for special needs individuals. As it can require vocalization, social participation,  and motor skills.
What people may be unaware of is... how adaptable the expressive arts programming is to special needs individuals, as it can adapt/change/incorporate limitation by using non-traditional material.

For example... painting with string instead of a brush, or using masking tape or stencils to create shapes and patterns to paint in.

As well expressive arts can incorporate sensory materials to engage in self soothing techniques like shaving foam, beads, and clean hands programming. The ability to adapt and change materials, techniques, make programming inclusive is why art therapies is a great and valuable addition to therapeutic programming.

Setting goals that anyone can achieve despite their limitations, and providing support so no one feels struggle or frustration is vital to our therapeutic perspective.

We can all participate together at our own levels and abilities and feel a sense of inclusion and pride in what we are able to create. It is important to support individuals and provide them the opportunity to learn, express themselves, and be included in a community. As well as present everyone with the opportunity to feel pride in what they can accomplish no matter the outcome.

Our perspective of: 
  • support,
  • inclusivity
  • adaptation to needs... is what sets us apart from other services supporting special needs individuals.

We aim to provide service to whoever needs it and support them achieve and succeed in their therapeutic goals. Whether behavioural, motor skill development, language acquisition, emotional and contextual expression. Expressive arts therapy can be beneficial in all these areas, creating a well rounded perspective to therapy and developmental treatment.

written by Emily McLennan - Art therapist - BODiWORKS Institute

Sunday, 15 April 2018

the Power of CONTEXT for Expressive Language

The Importance of Making Contextual and Social Connection in Expressive Language

When we teach a child, we want to develop their ability to communicate and use their language. We first focus on receptive based learning, labeling items, colours, numbers and letters etc. We do this to teach the child how to label things, how to ask for what they want, and these are the basics of how they can communicate. Although teaching children how to memorize and label pictures and items which is the building blocks to their language skills, it is not the whole picture.

It is important
that we add and build on their receptive language.  This is accomplished by adding how to use these labels in context. If they know the colour blue, can their experience painting with the colour blue change how they use it. Can they paint blue sky, or blue flowers, what else can they paint blue? These social and expressive experiences expand the way children understand the receptive language they have learnt.  *Within the Autism brain it is particularly important to incorporate expressive tools such Art. When well directed, this allows the ASD brain's 'limbic system' to be overridden (calmed Amydala) so that the context can be learned and create a potential pathway for the expression.*

What do we play music with:
instruments, our hands, our fingers, our breath? Do we hit a drum, push a key, or blow a whistle? It is experiencing, music, painting, and other artistic ways of expressing ourselves that we learn the context of how things go together. By teaching children cause and effect of how things work, our aim is to build on receptive language to broaden the range of experiences.  Without exposure to new experiences, and social settings children don't have the ability to learn how to use acquired language in context.

“As we interact in a contextually rich learning environment, we
pick up relevant jargon, imitate behavior, and gradually start to act in
accordance with the norms of the cultural setting.”
—Source: Contextual Learning Strategies

written by Emily McLennan - Art therapist - BBAIM team
BODiWORKS Institute

Friday, 6 April 2018

Expressive therapies for Brain development

Expressive Language Development
through Expressive Therapy

There are many therapies offered to children who are delayed with speech and
language. The prevalence of ABA therapies dominating the industry right now is
only part of brain development in children with special needs such as autism
and other language delays.

It is important that we give children language, as well opportunities to use it in context.
We may teach children colours and words, but unless we put them in the environment
with opportunities to use the language in context. These children will struggle to
develop the spontaneous expressive language we will see in neurotypical in children.

Where your child grabs your hand and says I want to draw with blue paint today.

This is an example of spontaneous expressive language. In our program we aim to
develop the skills for our kids to spontaneously express wants and needs in the moment.
By providing opportunities, exposure to contextual language, and new experiences.
We will use art making with a variety of materials, as well as music to expand contextual language development.

Your child whether verbal or not will be involved in music making, singing,
dancing and social play that will give them ample opportunities to express themselves.
As well as art making that will not only work on motor skill development, sensory play etc.
It will provide them with opportunities expand language expression using colours, textures, and context of verbs, adjectives and nouns. Having language is great, but it is using language in social and situational expressive context that is the overall goal with
'neuro-diverse children' which means an expanded brain.

The more opportunities we contrive for our children, the more we give them the ability
to thrive in their environment. Teaching language is only half the equation, it is in the
opportunities to learn context and to apply that language in context, that children are able to really develop expressive language skills.

written by Emily McLennan - Art therapist - BBAIM team
BODiWORKS Institute

Time to Balance the Brain !

The brain needs balance for development

All the memory tasks and “do-overs” in the world will not develop the brain patterns of thinking, expressing and expanding.
Many special needs children, particularly those in the Autism Spectrum, are subject to repetitive tasks, some with hand-over-hand as their main operative developmental tool.  These do serve a very important purpose however. The brain’s intellectual part of the overall child’s ‘behavioural’ profile needs repetition. This helps in areas of daily activity skill with time dependencies and also for safety aspects. Assimilating what is safe and unsafe to do etc.  Then why is this not sufficient?
In the brain, when we repeat, contrast and correct, it learns to use minimal ‘facilitation’. Which means most of the brain lies unused in order to simplify the pattern.  Over time the neurons are ‘suppressed’ for other abilities, in favour of the easier, simplified processing.  Simply put…Much of the brain’s capabilities for emotion, physical and metaphysical remain underdeveloped. 
...Researchers have demonstrated that children with Autism who have undergone extensive “behavioural training”, which works in the areas of suppression, have reduced memory for complex thinking, cognitive organization and poorer spatial awareness.  ...This has a profound negative effect on social function, sensory management and physical motor development.  There is recent appreciation for researching the effects of suppressive brain training and the development of the overall brain…which ultimately affects behaviour.
A brain-based model approach to overall ‘excitation’ of the areas of the brain to facilitate expression, motor skills, creativity, spirituality and problem solving is very necessary for all children especially those with special needs…particularly Autism!

c/o BODiWORKS Institute

Friday, 26 January 2018

Occupational Therapy for kids - What it is?

When you hear the word 'occupation', what do you think of? You may be thinking along the lines of 'work skills' and wondering, what does that have to do with my child? Occupational Therapists define the word ‘occupation’ as the activities and tasks that individuals perform in their everyday lives that have value and meaning for them. This can include looking after themselves (self-care), enjoying life (leisure) and contributing to their communities (productivity) (CAOT, 1997a).

For a child, their main occupation is PLAY. It is through play that they grow and learn to experience the world and how things work. Play has a huge influence on many domains of child development including:
-          Gross and fine motor

-          Sensory processing

-          Cognition

-          Language

-          Social-emotional

-          Perception

-          Behaviour

Children with disabilities often face many barriers to play – these can be physical, social, cognitive, etc (Majnemer, 2010). These barriers often are associated with issues in development that cause difficulties in their ability to carry out their daily activities. This is where Occupational Therapists can help! By using a client centred, evidence-based and holistic approach, Occupational Therapists assess the child, in their occupations, within the context of their environment to determine where the difficulties may lie. Then they set goals and collaboratively determine practical solutions to enable the child’s engagement!

To help guide our practice, we use the Person Environment Occupation Model (Law et al., 1996). Here’s an example: A child is having trouble putting on their velcro shoes which in turn is leading to the frustration of not being able to go play outside with his friends as fast as he would like (their occupation). In this case, the Occupational Therapist would work with the child to provide activities to improve his hand and finger strength (the person) as well as search for environmental modifications that could help with the task i.e. providing larger velcro straps (their environment).

Occupational Therapists are always working towards helping to enable independence for children to learn the skills that will lead to increased confidence, self-esteem and overall quality of life!

written by Rachel Tavares Reg.(OT)
BODiWORKS Institute

Thursday, 24 August 2017

The Cumulative Effects in a 'good' program

Adapted Gym Program

The measure of a 'good' program for special needs children is difficult.  Often parents focus more on the perceived initial benefits such as behaviour, enjoyment and improvements seen.  These can be very subjective because each day with a special needs child is not the same as the next...as you already know if you are reading this blog! 

Having personal and professional experience with the latter I know that our 'stress' persists, and clouds what we see to be improvements or NON-improvements.

A 'good' program is often dictated by its realistic goals and intent.  We cannot determine improvements over a short term, as this is not realistic. Nor should we expect them. However the measure of a 'good' program comes with the acknowledgement that this will take awhile and the folks that are leading and assessing my child have the knowledge, experience and the will to pursue the improvements.

The Cumulative Effect (added in amount of time spent doing)  of several years in a program cannot be overlooked. It has been this author's experience that children who remain in a program, best experience the cumulative effects of the ever changing and improving environment from which they are exposed. The professionals that work with them can adapt and change over time to make the necessary developmental adjustments. The Adapted Gym Program for instance is not the same year to year for a singular child and the development and growth, changes. It is very helpful for a child to have  continuance for improvement rather that changing programs constantly.


Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Art Therapy and Autism

Art therapy, has its origin in psychotherapy, thus plays a significant role in the treatment of children and teens diagnosed with ASD. Images and art making is naturally a safe way for children and teens to communicate and relate to the world around them. (Kramer, 1971; Lowenfeld & Brittain, 1964; Meyerowitz-Katz, 2003; Waller, 2006). When this experience is shared and facilitated by a professional art therapist, a meaningful opportunity is provided for the individual to express their psychological needs that often go unaddressed by other forms of therapies (Martin, 2009).  This use of nonverbal expression and the rich experience of utilizing visual modalities to stimulate cognitive, emotional and social development is what sets art therapy a part from similar professions (Gilroy, 2006; Martin, 2009).

Art therapists do not simply assign therapeutic directives; rather, by establishing a trusting relationship, they work jointly with the individual-sensitively guiding the art making to contribute to a positive change in their social behaviour, emotional expression, focus attention, self-regulation, flexibility, problem solving, communication skills, self-awareness and self-esteem (Martin, 2009; Pioch, 2010; Schweizer, 2014).

As Art therapy provides an fundamental avenue for the individual to understand and express their inner thoughts and emotions, it is crucial to consider this form of treatment in order to serve all aspects of the teen or child’s holistic development.