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#GivingTuesday

Today is Giving Tuesday, the global day of giving. This international movement started in 2012 to channel the generous spirit of the holiday season and inspire action around charitable giving.

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Watch Abbey’s video on how she gained independence through the therapies she received at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley. She is now a sophomore at Yale University and is helping clients like Clover achieve independence too.

Today, thanks to three generous individuals, the first $7,000 raised will be matched 1:1!  This means your gift can make double the impact!

Your involvement on this global day of giving will impact all the life-changing services and programs at Easter Seals which help children with special needs develop brighter futures.

Join in and make your gift today at https://www.firstgiving.com/EasterSealsDFVR/giving/.
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Screen Time: What is too much?

By: Cassidy McCoy, PT

Over the past few years, computers, tablets, phones, and TV seem to have taken over. Technology has begun to change the way our children interact with each other and us. However, how much time spent on these devices is considered too much?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released new recommendation for children’s media use.

The recommendations include:

  • <18 months: Avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting.
  • 18 to 24 months: If you want to introduce digital media, choose high-quality programming. Also, watch it with your children to help them understand what they’re seeing.
  • 2 to 5 years: Limit your children’s screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs. You should watch it with them to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.boy-learning-with-therapist
  • 6 and older: Place consistent limits on the time spent using media, the types of media, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviors essential to health.

What are the potential effects of too much screen time?

  • Obesity: Too much screen time equates to more time spent in sedentary positioning resulting in decreased physical activity and weight gain. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommend for children to get at least 60 minutes of active play daily.
  • Sleep: Devices emit a blue light that mimics daylight, which stimulates you, leading to irregular sleep schedules and shorter duration of sleep with use of a device before bedtime.
  • Behavioral problems and violence: Screen time can be an effective way to calm down, but it should not be the only way they learn to calm down. Children should learn how to identify and handle strong emotions and come up with ways to manage them (such as deep breathing or problem solving)
  • Loss of social skills: Face-to-face communication or “talk time” is critical for language development. Research has shown that it’s that “back-and-forth conversation” that improves language skills—much more so than “passive” listening or one-way interaction with a screen.

What can you to to help?

  • Set time limits and expectations
  • Create “tech free zones” such a dinner table or bedrooms
  • Use screen time to promote education and development by utilizing appropriate programming.

For more information on Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley visit, eastersealsdfvr.org.

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My Favorite Apps for Creativity and Interaction

By: Jessica Drake-Simmons M.S. CCC-SLP

Screen time for the purpose of passive consumption should be limited, as it does not activate a young child’s brain the way that real interaction with another person does.  Children learn most efficiently from back and forth communication, interaction in the real world and hands on play.

However, the screen can be a platform to promote back and forth interaction between a caregiver and child.  starblogHere are my favorite apps that promote creativity, collaboration and FUN interaction:

Video Star lets you easily create a music video in which you are the star!  Select the song, special effects, start shooting and then watch back the hilarious video that you created!

Songify transforms your recorded speech into a song.  It is SO FUN!!!songifyblog-copy

Puppet Pals is an app in which you can create your own unique puppet shows.  You can select the actors, background, animation and record the audio.

funnymovieblog-copyFunny Movie Maker lets you replace the mouth (or entire face) of a picture of a friend, celebrity, pet, etc.  You can record videos, adjust the pitch of your voice and add music to complete your video.   I think this could be an entertaining way to get that articulation homework done!

Book Creator is a simple way to make your own book right on you tablet.  In this app, you can customize books by adding pictures, text, video clips, music and even your own recorded voice.  What a great way for a child to re-tell a previous event or create bookcreatorblog-copytheir own imaginative story!

As with all media use, play these games along with your child. These apps may spur your creativity too!

To learn more about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley visit eastersealsdfvr.org.

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Everyone Sitting at the Table: The Power of Family Meals

By: Emily Mitchell, Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley and Northern Illinois University Dietetic Intern & Candidate for Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics

When was the last time your entire family sat down for a meal together? You are an extremely influential role model for your child, and your actions and emotions are essential for your child’s growth and development. Your child learns through experiences and modeling behaviors, so try using meal time as a chance to work towards developmental milestones!

Family Style Meal Service

The environment in which meals are served can impact a toddler’s willingness to try new foods and develop healthy dietary patterns. Family style meals have been shown to be an effective approach in creating an environment conducive to establishing healthy behaviors in the home, as well as in schools and daycare facilities. Most importantly, family style meal service approaches mealtime as a learning experience.

The objectives of family style meal service include:

  • Helping children develop positive attitudes towards nutritious foods
  • Learning to engage in social eating situations
  • Developing healthy eating patterns

myplate_greenChild involvement is integral to the concept of family style meal service, and can be done by allowing children to do the following things:

  • Be the “produce picker” at the store
  • Assist with meal preparation
  • Set the table places
  • Engage in conversation during the meal
  • Assist with clean up

Involvement in meal time may look different for each child based on their developmental abilities. When establishing family meals, it is important that children are not only provided guidance through physical assistance and engaging in appropriate social exchanges, such as taking turns, but are also given age appropriate serving utensils and dishware to establish age appropriate portions.

Meal Time- It’s Not Just About Food and Nutrition!

Again, meal time is not solely about food and nutrition; it also provides parents the opportunity to model social, communication and motor skills. Approach mealtime as a learning experience and remember that meal time serves not only to help children develop positive attitudes towards nutritious foods, but also learn to engage in social eating situations, and develop motor skills.

In order to hone in on social, communication and motor skills, involving your child in meal time is key! Conversations during meal time provide an opportunity to enhance family connection and establish relationships among all members of the family. It is a chance to share information or news about your day.

Maggie_1.jpgBenefits and Barriers to Family Meals

Family meals have been shown to foster happy, well- adjusted kids. Research has shown that family meals have many benefits, including:

  • Opportunities for modeling healthy behaviors
  • Increase autonomy in children
  • Enhance communication and social skills
  • Heighten family connectedness
  • Develop motor skills
  • Encourage nutritious meals

Despite the many benefits of family meals, it can be trouble to do because of, child behavior problems, scheduling difficulties, and lack of self-efficacy in meal preparation.

What About My Child on Tube Feedings?

How do you involve everyone in the meal? Just as children consume food orally, your child on a tube feeding can use family meal time to socialize, interact, and learn. Have meal time conversations that are about more than the food. Look beyond the calorie nourishment of meal times and include your child receiving tube feedings in meal time, so they can receive the many qualities of meal times.

fun-with-food-035What is So Powerful About Meal Time?

The real power of meal time is the interpersonal quality. Kids like eating with their families, so allow for some fun! It is understandable that meal time may be frustrating at times, but try to make it as positive of an experience as possible. Dinner may be the one time during the day that a parent and child can share a positive experience—a yummy meal, a joke, or a story. Many children strive for autonomy, so as discussed previously, involve your kids in meal time and allow for learning and laughter! These special moments created at the table help gain momentum for your child’s development away from the table.

Your challenge–schedule time spent at the table with your family into your day!

If you find your child has nutrition problems including failure to thrive, obesity, poor feeding skills, sensory disorders, and gastrointestinal disorders or others schedule a nutritional evaluation with Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley today. Learn more at eastersealsdfvr.org/nutrition.

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Visual Supports

By: Laura Bueche, MOT/OTR

Visual supports are concrete cues that provide your child with information about a routine, activity, behavioral expectation, or how to learn the component of a new skill. They may include pictures, symbols, written words, objects, visual boundaries and schedules.

Goals that can be addressed by using visual supports include:

  • Increase frequency of smooth transitions.
  • Decrease amount of time to transition.
  • Increase predictability.
  • Reduce inappropriate behaviors associated with a task or transition.
  • Increase independence.
  • Minimize teacher and adult support (e.g. prompts and reinforcement).
  • Increase understanding of expected task or activity to complete.
  • Maximize understanding of environment.
  • Decrease distractions.
  • Reduce self-injurious behaviors.
  • Increase social interaction skills.
  • Increase demonstration of play skills.
  • Increase understanding of behavior expectations.

There are three types of visual support: visual boundaries, visual cues, and visual schedules.

Visual boundaries are a helpful way to help your child make sense of the world around them. It will help your child to stay on task, understand personal space, and stay organized. Visual boundaries can include:

Floor tape

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Spot markers

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Visual Cues are helpful for a variety of different applications. For example they can help with:

Breaking down the steps of a task.

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Organizing concepts and ideas.

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Assisting with communication.

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Organizing materials.

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Time Management.

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Visual Schedules – Visual schedules can increase your child’s understanding of expectations and provide support for transitions in between activities.

When developing a visual schedule, there are a lot of components to consider:

  • schedules-jpgForm of the visual (picture, photos, words, phrases).
  • Length of the sequence (one item, two items, half day, full day).
  • Presentation (left to right, top to bottom, technology based).
  • Manipulation of the visual (child carries object to next activity, “all done” pocket, marks).
  • Location of the schedule (on a wall, desk, notebook).

Be sure to work with your child’s speech and language pathologist, occupational therapist, or special education teacher to determine what the most appropriate type of visual schedule is for your child.

For more information on occupational therapy services including helping children and adults with sensory-processing abilities, coordination, peer interaction, play and self-care skills to participate in daily life activities, visit eastersealsdfvr.org.

 

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Pilates for Kids

By: Laura Znajda, PT, C/NDT

A study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine last month ranked United States children among the least fit in the world—the US ranked 47th out of 50 countries in physical fitness of our children!   With a sedentary lifestyle linked to heart disease, diabetes, and obesity, it is more important than ever to get our children moving and instill healthy behaviors that will last a lifetime.  It’s been shown that children whose parents exercise regularly are more likely to exercise and be active as adults.  Exercising together is fun and more motivating for both parents and their kids.

A good physical fitness program includes a variety of exercise and movement activities.  Pilates is just one of many exercise methods that is gaining popularity among adults, and with its focus on core strength, stability, and body awareness, this exercise method can be used with kids too–and with great benefits.  And since many Pilates exercises use body or limb weight for resistance strengthening,  little to no equipment is needed.  So  grab a piece of floor and perhaps an exercise ball, and have fun while being active with your kids!

Pilates Bridge is an exercise that strengthens gluteal (buttock) muscles and hamstrings, while providing a stretch to flexor muscles across the front of the hips.  It requires core muscles to work together, leading to good posture and balance for all future dancers, gymnasts and sports enthusiasts. To make it fun for kids, help them place feet (and lower legs if more support is needed) on an exercise ball and lift hips and spine off the floor.  Weight should be on the shoulders and feet.  You can stabilize the ball if needed, or have the child wedge the ball in a corner before starting.

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Swimming Exercise strengthens extensor muscles of the back, hips, thighs and calves that kids need for running and jumping.   Lying flat on the tummy, have the child lift one arm at a time, keeping the legs straight and long.  As the child gets stronger, cue him to lift one or both legs off the floor , always keeping them stretched as long as possible.

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Younger children might need help stabilizing one arm against the floor while they lift the other.  Make it fun by pretending to be an alligator chomping on his dinner or reaching for small objects.

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Pilates Leg Circles are hard for many adults, and even harder for young kids who lack abdominal strength to stabilize the trunk while moving their legs above their body.  But working on the starting position for this exercise will help kids learn to engage abdominal muscles prior to moving their legs when climbing or kicking a ball. Ask the child to lie on his back and lift his feet above his body (hips at a 90 degree angle).  Make it fun by placing small bean bag animals on his feet or ask him to squeeze the animals between his feet.pilatesblog2

Plank strengthens core muscles that are critical for a stable, balanced body, whether your child likes to exercise on the playground or by playing a competitive sport.  The key with plank is to only hold the pose for as long as you can keep good form.

Give your child the support of an exercise ball to start, bringing her forward onto her hands.  Keep the ball positioned under the hips if needed; move it to the lower legs as the child gets stronger.  She should be able to keep her tummy lifted and the back straight (not arched or sagging).  As soon as the trunk starts to lose its form, take a rest and try again after a minute or two.  Make it fun by singing a song while holding the plank position.

Proof that Pilates exercise can be used by everyone, many Pilates moves have been adapted for use in rehabilitation.  Pilates is used to rehabilitate orthopedic injuries in adults as well as to strengthen and improve body awareness for children with neuromuscular disorders.

Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley therapists are expanding their knowledge of using Pilates in therapy with a continuing education course taught by Sara Koveleski Kraut, DPT,  on January 21-22, 2017.  The course is open for registration by adult and pediatric therapists at eastersealsdfvr.org/ce.

Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley is also a teaching center that provides innovative continuing education courses that promote therapeutic excellence for speech and language pathologists, physical and occupational therapists, educators and other professionals.  To be added to the course email list, please email us.

 

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Speech and Language Evaluation: What to Expect

By: Jennifer Tripoli M.S.Speech Language Pathologist

You and your child may wonder what to expect when participating in a speech and language evaluation. Many children (and parents!) feel less anxious when they know ahead of time what they will be doing. Of course, the outline of a speech and language evaluation depends on the age of the child and the areas of need. Below is a general outline for a speech and language evaluation:

1. Parent Interview

Parents are the best reporters of their child’s development. They know their child and can paint a clear picture of their child before the speech pathologist begins the formal assessment. A formalized assessment does not always “pick up” everything that should be known about a child. A caregiver or parent’s role in a pediatric speech and language evaluation is crucial in helping the speech pathologist determine your child’s needs. During this interview, the therapist will usually ask you why you have come in for an evaluation, and ask about your concerns and goals for the evaluation.

2. Case History

A case history usually includes a medical history and developmental history. Typically, the speech pathologist is able to review provided information prior to the evaluation, but often there are additional questions that need to be answered.

A medical history includes any medical issues that your child has encountered since birth or before birth. Often this includes, but is not limited to pregnancy/birth history of the mother (e.g. complicated pregnancy, premature birth, complicated delivery), major surgeries, procedures or tests (e.g. tonsillectomy/adenoidectomy, ear surgeries, brain surgeries, hearing screenings/tests, MRI/CT, etc.), significant illnesses, infections or injuries (e.g. chronic ear infections, chronic congestion, respiratory illnesses) and/or hospitalizations.

It is also important for the speech pathologist to be aware of any specialty physicians your child has seen such as otolaryngologists, gastroenterologists, neurologists, etc. A developmental history is taken in order for the therapist to understand your child’s developmental progression. Developmental histories include all areas of development; not just speech and language milestones. They can include when your baby first sat unassisted, crawled, walked, babbled, etc.

3. Speech and Language Concerns

During this part of the evaluation, the therapist will ask more detailed/specific questions related to your child’s speech and language skills. The types of questions will depend on your child’s age and the type of evaluation. The therapist will ask you questions related to your child’s expressive language skills, receptive language skills, social/pragmatic language skills, oral motor skills, and speech sound production.

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4. Discussion of Previous Therapies

It is important that your therapist knows what services your child has participated in previously. Has your child received early intervention services? School based services? Other private therapies? You should be prepared to explain the other therapies your child has participated in including occupational therapy, developmental therapy, physical therapy, or behavioral therapy. Please be specific in the goals of each of the therapies if applicable.development

5. Formal Assessment

01_Lucas_VasquezThe point where the therapist begins the formalized assessment can vary significantly depending on the age and deficits of your child. For a young toddler, this part of the assessment may be play based. The clinician will likely be observing your child’s current communication skills in a play setting while administering a standardized or norm referenced test. The therapist may ask to observe you playing with your child.

For a preschool or school aged child, a standardized/norm referenced test would likely be administered depending on the abilities of your child. This would yield a score that will compare your child’s skills to other children his/her age. A standardized test will likely be your child looking/naming pictures in a book and answering questions.

The clinician will also interact with your child in a less structured way by engaging in conversation or asking questions related to his/her life. The therapist may also take a language sample, which will analyze your child’s expressive language skills and speech intelligibility (ability to be understood by others). Additionally, the therapist will likely complete an oral motor assessment if appropriate in order to examine your child’s oral structures. An oral motor assessment usually asks the child to do certain movements with his/her lips, tongue, jaw and face. The therapist may also have your child eat/drink something. Though this is not a feeding evaluation, it is often difficult to separate speech and feeding skills.

6. Discussion of Results and Recommendations

Toward the end of the evaluation, the therapist will discuss your child’s results and make recommendations for any further evaluations needed. If your child would benefit from therapy, a recommended frequency would be given (e.g. weekly therapy, twice weekly, monthly, etc.) At this time, you can ask questions regarding the evaluation or your child’s prognosis.

Think your child may need a speech and language evaluation? Learn more about speech and language services provided at Easter Seals DuPage and Fox Valley here.

 

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Motivation Comes From Seeing Your Future Self

By: Jessica Drake-Simmons M.S. CCC-SLP

We all have a range in abilities of executive functioning.  Kids and adults alike can struggle with organization, memory, focus, managing time, initiating a task and completing a task.

Being able to visualize the future is an imperative skill for moving from event to event and showing up on time with the needed materials.

Some of our kids who struggle with executive functioning may seem distracted, disorganized and struggling to keep up with the pace of the day.

Additionally, some of these kids can be perceived as being unmotivated.   They might be smart kids that simply don’t appear driven to work up to their potential.  Executive functioning guru, Sarah Ward, asserts that these kids have difficulty imagining their future emotions.  They don’t intuitively imagine what they will feel like or what they will look like when they complete a task or achieve a goal.

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What I need to look like now.                                   So that I can look like this later.

We want kids to be able to see the future, say the future, feel the future and plan for the future.  So how can we facilitate this skill of ‘future imagery thinking’?

  • Have your child make an image by helping them talk through the following:
    • What will the environment look like?
    • Who else do you see being there?
    • What will I look like?
    • What will I feel like?
  • Ask questions that encourage future imagery thinking.
    • Ask:  “When you walk into class tomorrow, what do you see yourself handing to your teacher?”
      • Instead of:  “What do you have for homework tonight?”
    • Ask: “What would you look like if you were standing by the door, ready to leave for soccer?”
      • Instead of: “Go get ready for soccer.”

Making a mental movie of the future requires us to actively think through the necessary steps in order to complete a task.  It enables us to envision and play a ‘dry run’ of a task without the risk of error.  Seeing the future helps us to persist through the present challenge in order to achieve our goals.

To learn more about Easter Seals DuPage and Fox Valley programs, visit eastersealsdfvr.org.

 

Featured image by: Lauren Sims

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Getting Ready For Fall by Teaching Your Child to Dress a Coat

By: Maureen Karwowski, OT

As the leaves begin to turn, it will soon be time to break out those sweaters and coats. This is a great time for your child to practice dressing their coat independently.

As an occupational therapist, I am always looking for ways to help my clients reach their maximum independence. As children become more independent, they develop more confidence and are more likely to try other challenges as well. For my clients that have fine motor difficulties, practicing dressing skills is a natural and routine way to help them develop their fine motor abilities.  Independence with dressing occurs one step at a time, so we can start with dressing a coat as the first step.

Once a child is able to stand securely, or sit securely if they have postural difficulties, it is a good time to start. Here is the “over the head” method that I would start with:

  1. Place the coat on the floor or a low table
  2. Lay the coat flat with the inside facing up
  3. Stand facing the top or collar of the coat
  4. Bend over and place the arms in the sleeves
  5. Lift the entire coat up and overhead
  6. When the arms come down you are all set!

Zipping up a coat requires more precise fine motor skills and strength. I would start by having the child zip up the coat once you have engaged the zipper. When assisting your child with any fasteners, always stand behind them to give them perspective on how their hands should work. You can use a zipper pull to make it easier for your child to grasp the zipper. A quick online search yields many cute options, but you can also use a key ring that you have at home. A magnetic zipper is also a nice alternative while your child is working on manipulating a zipper. Several clothing companies offer this.

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It is important to assist your child, while not jumping in too soon. Be sure to leave extra time, and focus on one step at a time. Once they are independent with this, then you can focus on promoting another dressing task. Good luck and stay warm!

To learn more about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley occupational therapy services, visit eastersealsdfvr.org.

Nutrition Therapy

Help children receive the nutritional therapy they need!

By: Cindy Baranoski, MS, RDN, LDN – Pediatric Nutrition Therapist

Excellent nutrition is one of the most basic requirements for a child to grow and thrive. A study published by Pediatrics found that diagnosis-specific, structured approaches to nutrition issues among children with developmental disabilities significantly improved energy consumption and nutritional status. Yet, nutrition disorders and compromised nutritional status are very frequent among children with developmental disabilities. fun-with-food-054

Research shows that as many as 90% of children with a developmental disorder have at least one nutrition risk indicator. Nutrition problems can include failure to thrive, obesity, poor feeding skills, sensory disorders, and gastrointestinal disorders, to name only a few. Individuals with special needs are also more likely to develop co-existing medical conditions that require nutrition interventions.

Thanks to two significant grants from Hanover Township Mental Health Board and Special Kids Foundation, Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley can now offer nutrition services for children, regardless of insurance, in areas currently underserved immediately north and west of DuPage County. This includes full financial support for those uninsured, underinsured or on Medicaid; and partial support for those in Early Intervention or with insurance. Children who qualify will receive a nutrition evaluation and follow up nutrition therapy as needed.

Qualifications for children (birth to 21 years of age) to receive this service include:

  • Eligible medical diagnosis or identified eating concern  AND

Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley Nutrition Therapy provides care that is difficult to find elsewhere in a community or medical setting. Training and specialties include assisting children with improved oral and digestive tolerance, modifications to help improve growth,  adjusting diet for improved variety, volume and complexity of foods and fluids, balancing the diet of those with food allergies or sensitivities, help with transitioning (off of or onto) a tube feeding, and homemade blenderized formula and diet modifications.
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Evaluations are performed at the Center, in the family’s home or community setting. Our goal is to provide optimal nutrition care to children with developmental disabilities through an inter-disciplinary approach, addressing their nutrition risks and disorders and helping them to lead healthier lives.

Please refer parents, other specialists or anyone else with questions about the program to our Nutrition Therapy intake coordinator, Christy Stringini, who can be reached at 630-261-6126 and cstringini@EasterSealsDFVR.org.

Learn more about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley nutritional therapy and feeding clinic at www.eastersealsdfvr.org.