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Dr. Anne Zachry

occupational therapist & child development specialist

Category: Special Needs (page 1 of 2)

Strategies for Engaging a Child with Special Needs

Children with special needs often struggle with language, motor, and sensory processing skills. Difficulties in one or more of these areas may impact how a child interacts with the world.  For example, a child with a language delay may have fewer social interactions on a daily basis.  Because children learn by engaging with the world around them, it is critical that all children have unlimited opportunities for learning. Here are several strategies for helping a child with special needs learn through engagement.

-Never underestimate the power of imitation. Imitate your child and encourage her to imitate you. Guide her through the motions if she needs a bit of help. Even if she’s being guided, she will feel the movement and learn from it.

Exaggerate, exaggerate, exaggerate! Exaggerate your expressions, your voice and every move that you make in order to get and keep your child’s attention. During play, always position yourself in her line of vision. Your child learns through observation, so the more he watches you, the more he learns.

Reinforcement may be necessary. A child with special needs may not be naturally excited by play and interaction, so keep the motivation high through positive reinforcement. Be sure to use reinforcers that are motivating and meaningful to your chld.

-Keep it simple. Play doesn’t have to be complicated. Break activities down into simple, basic steps in order to increase your child’s opportunities to successfully complete a task. Praise your child for every small accomplishment.

-Make it fun. Try not to “push” your child. Play should be natural and fun and if your child senses that you aren’t having a good time, it’s likely he won’t have as much fun. Laugh as much as possible and have a good time!

Special Needs Articles

Students Gaining Skills in Advance for OT Practitioners

Teaching the Child with Autism: Tips & Techniques

Teaching Students with ADD and ADHD

Helping Students with Developmental Delays Through Play

Sensory Writing: A Team Approach to Handwriting Instruction

Students at Local School for the Deaf Experience Kinesthetic Learning

Hand in Hand with Parents: OT Practice, March 1999


Keeping it Fun! in The Commercial Appeal

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Pediatric Occupational Therapy Tips





Recent study links autism to an immune system protein

According to a study in the April 2012 International Journal of Developmental Neuroscience, children diagnosed with Autism have a significantly lower level of an immune system protein, called cytokines. This conclusion supports earlier research that revealed a link between the immune system functions and autism. Genetic factors have also been found to have biological basis in autism. What does this mean? By building on this study, researchers hope to eventually be able to identify risk factors for autism, and also have the ability to diagnose autism at earlier ages, which would result in earlier intervention.

Autism is a term that describes a group of complex developmental brain disorders known as Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD). Parents and professionals refer to these diagnoses as Autism Spectrum Disorders. Recent research suggests that one child in every 88 will be diagnosed with Autism, with the diagnosis being 3 to 4 times more common in boys than girls.

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