Monthly Archives: March 2015

Keeping your Wandering Child Safe

By: Cara Long, Parent Liaison

For years I have worried about my daughter, who is non-verbal and has Down syndrome, wandering from our home – and I know that I am not alone!  A 2011 study conducted by the Interactive Autism Network found that nearly half (or 49% of children with autism) attempted to elope from a safe environment, a rate nearly four times higher than their unaffected siblings.  In addition, wandering is ranked among the most stressful behaviors by parents of children with autism who wander.                                                                                                              Caregiver toolkit

Thankfully, my daughter has always returned safely, but sadly that is not always the case.  According to the National Autism Association, between 2009 through 2011, accidental drowning accounted for 91% of the total U.S. deaths reported in children with autism ages 14 and younger subsequent to wandering.  Two out of three parents of wanderers reported that their missing children had a “close call” with a traffic injury with 32% having a “close call” with drowning.

The Interactive Autism Network study also found that more than 1/3 of children with autism who wander are never or rarely able to communicate their name, address or phone number.   These children should wear/carry some type of ID.  There are a number of great products available — bracelets, anklets, necklaces, shoe or jacket tags, ID cards, clothing labels, permanent ink ID on t-shirts or undergarments are all good options.

ProductSquare-SPORT-v2-gray-blueSome products to consider include:, or  However, in order for an ID to be useful, parents must consider what is best for their child.  Parents must take into consideration the specific needs of their child, including sensory issues.  If the child will remove a bracelet/necklace or anklet, it is obviously not a good choice.   When my daughter wandered away, she left the house without her shoes (which included an ID tag), and her communication device (which also contained personal information). An innovative option is the use of prepared washable tattoos that bear ID information, Tattoos with a Purpose.  In order for an ID to be effective, parents must consider the unique needs of their child when choosing an appropriate ID.

The Autism Wandering Awareness Alerts Response and Education (AWAARE) collaboration, whose mission it is to prevent autism-related wandering incidents and deaths, has some wonderful information and resources for parents.  Their Autism-Wandering Prevention Brochure covers information about securing your home including installing locks, alarms and stop signs (as a visual prompt) on all doors and windows.  It also emphasizes the importance of teaching your child how to swim and even practicing with shoes and clothes on.  Although they are quick to point out that knowing how to swim DOES NOT ENSURE that your child will be safe in the water.  The brochure also provides information and resources on tracking devices, and how to alert and educate your neighbors and first-responders about your child.

AWAARE’s Big Red Safety Toolkit includes toolkits for both care-givers and first responders. bigredsafetyboxlogoonly

Their Caregiver Toolkit includes:

  • Family Wandering Emergency Plan (FWEP)
  • First-responder profile form
  • Swimming Lessons Tool
  • Root-cause Scenario & Strategies Tool
  • Stop Sign Prompts
  • Social Stories
  • Caregiver Log
  • Sample IEP Letter   (Never allow restraint/seclusion practices into any IEP)
  • How to Get Tracking Technology in Your Town
  • General Awareness Letter to share with schools, homeowners’ associations, law enforcement
  • Five Affordable Safety Tools
  • Caregiver Resources One-sheeter

The First Responder Toolkit is something that should be shared with first responders in your area prior to any wandering incident.  It includes basic information on autism, wandering, checklists, resources and tips on how to interact with a missing child with autism once found. It is very important that first responders understand that children with autism have a decreased sense of fear causing them to engage in high-risk behaviors such as seeking water, active road ways, heavy equipment or railroad tracks.  Responders must also be made aware that the missing child may not be able to respond to the rescuer and may, in fact, run and hide from rescue teams.  Every effort should be made to educate all children to “go to” police or other uniformed first-responders.  As children get older, parents should be aware that wandering can also lead to high-risk contacts with law enforcement or members of the general public.

Please take the time to visit the AWAARE website to learn more.  Hopefully, by becoming more educated on this issue and instituting these strategies, you can decrease the risks associated with your child wandering, and maybe even decrease your stress level a little.

Parents can receive a 25% discount at by entering promo code carlon15 at checkout.

 *  The links mentioned in this article are offered by the manufacturer to the consumer.  Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley does not endorse nor support the content of third-party links, benefit from this linkage and is not responsible for the content of a third-party web site.

 For more information about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley please visit

Beyond the Nutrition Basics

By, Cindy Baranoski, MS, RDN, LDN

Earlier this month, I provided some introductory nutrition resources and tips for infants to children. Now as we continue to celebrate National Nutrition Month, we will look at the next steps to aid our children’s nutrition needs.

Photo by Nancy Kerner
Photo by Nancy Kerner

Seeking the help of a dietitian can be invaluable in helping to determine so many particulars about nutrition, especially if your child has specific needs. A dietitian can help with determining how much nutrition your child actually needs. Typically based on their age, weight, length or stature, sex, and activity, no two children need the same amount of nutrients.

Calories change with weight gain and length growth. They continue to change over time, and what your child needs today will not be the same in a month. Monitoring growth and diet is helpful, especially when your child is not gaining enough weight, or possibly gaining too much. It’s not necessary to count calories, so tools such as SuperTracker are not always necessary.

Using MyPlate Daily Food Plans are an easy way to ensure children are not over or under eating. When in doubt, asking a dietitian for some help can give you the basics on calories so you can monitor them on your own over time.

Protein is similar to calories, and will change with growth and age as well. Most every food contains some protein, and the amount needed is much less than most people would think. If your child is not the best eater, they may be getting enough protein, regardless. A dietitian can help you determine how much is needed, and how much is actually in your child’s diet now. They can also give suggestion on food sources that work for your child.

The government provides guidelines on vitamins and minerals, as well as essential fatty acids, but many conditions can change needs. Some medications interfere with absorption of certain vitamins, while vitamins can interact with some medications. Knowing this information, a dietitian can better guide with changes to help limit the interactions, and allow medications and vitamins do what they do best. Use of a supplement may be needed, and this can be a discussion with the dietitian, about which kind, brand, gummy, liquid, chewable, single nutrient, or multivitamin mineral supplements would be best.

Photo by Lauren Vitiello
Photo by Lauren Vitiello

Hydration is the last of the overlooked nutrients in the diet, and although most of us think we drink an adequate amount of fluid in a day, most often this is not the case. With infants most of their hydration comes from breast milk or formula, so no added fluid is necessary. With introduction of baby foods, hydration is still achieved as most baby foods are very watery. But as children reduce and eliminate these primary sources of nutrition, they are replaced with solids. Nearly all foods provide fluid, so we do get fluid from foods, but the body has to work to remove the fluid from the molecules it is bound to when the food is more solid in form. Drinking water is the best way to hydrate a body, and as a rule of thumb, drinking half your body weight in water is an achievable goal.

Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley offers exceptional Nutritional Therapy for anyone who feels their child is struggling with nutritional development. Our registered Dietitian/Nutritionist will first asses your child’s nutrition and then provided a individualized plan specific to your child’s needs.

Click here to learn more about this great service, or to schedule an appointment, call our intake coordinator at 630.261.6287.

For more information about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley please visit

Self-Regulation: The Secret to Success

self regulationBy: Jessica Drake-Simmons, M.S. CCC-SLP, Speech-Language Pathologist

I have a confession.  Sometimes I have poor self-regulation skills.  I have difficulty resisting the distractions in my home–getting a snack, doing the laundry, playing with my dog, taking a nap, turning the TV on while I work, the list could go on and on and on.  Therefore, I have to make modifications for myself.  I need to remove myself from my home and go to the local coffee shop in order to be able to focus on the task of brainstorming, researching, organizing information and writing this blog. This process is called self-regulation. Self-regulation is the ability to monitor and manage ones thoughts, feelings and behaviors.

Research is finding that self-regulation is TWICE as influential as a child’s IQ!  Self-regulation is the single most important predictor of success.  The ability to control one’s actions is the foundation for all other learning.  Children develop foundation skills for self-regulation during the first five years of life with the most rapid time of development being between the ages of 3-7.

Children need to be able to filter out distractions, handle emotions, delay gratification and inhibit impulses in order to be able to focus their attention on the information that we want them to learn.   Parents and teachers play a critical role in providing consistency, organization and structure.

Here are a few strategies to teach self-regulatory behaviors:

  • Enforce rules consistently.
    • This provides children with a greater awareness of what is expected of them and opportunities to practice controlling themselves.
  • Tell the child what you want them TO do, not what you DON’T want them to do. Be explicit in your directions.
    • Keep your hands to yourself—versus: stop touching everything!
    • Walk next to me—versus: stop running!
  • Provide 2 positive choices in order to allow your child the opportunity to exercise autonomy and self-regulation by selecting how to do a task.
    • You can sit on the floor or sit on a chair.
    • You can walk with your hands by your side or hold my hand.
  • Combine challenging tasks with a bit of pleasure! Find a hook that turns a chore into a game.
    • Provide rewards, breaks or integrate motivational activities into challenging tasks (e.g., jump, run, wheelbarrow walk across the room to find a piece of a letter puzzle).
    • Sometimes activities naturally facilitate this and sometimes we have to come up with ideas to hook kids into an activity.
  • Encourage self-talk. Inner speech is not fully developed until around the age of 7.  So, for tasks that are challenging, we frequently hear children using self-talk.
    • Self-talk supports a child’s ability to complete difficult tasks.
    • Reinforce self-talk when you hear it: “Hey, you did a great job talking yourself through that problem!  Good for you!”
  • Model self-talk for self-regulation and problem solving. What children hear becomes internalized over time.  The self-regulatory, self-talk that we model will help support a child’s self-regulation skills for the rest of their lifetime.
    • “hmmm…I’m not sure how to do this puzzle.  I think I will start with the boarder pieces first.”
    • “I’m feeling upset.  I am going to take 10 breaths to calm down.”


  • Use pictures to communicate expectations. Children who are developing language skills do not think in words.  Rather, they think in pictures.
    • Stage a picture with what you want child to do during given activities.
    • You can remind them of the expected behavior by showing them the visual before and during the activity.

walking pic

Kids are most receptive to developing these skills when targeted in a fun, playful manner.

Here are 8 ideas to practice these skills at home with your child:

  1. For the child that has a hard time giving up control during preferred activities, start with quick turn-taking opportunities during play. For instance: putting a ball down a ball tower, putting a piece in a puzzle, shooting a basket or rolling a ball back and forth.  These quick turn-taking opportunities are the perfect place to start.
  2. Red Light, Green Light: Children try to reach a given destination but can only move when verbally and/or visually presented with “green light”.  They have to stop when they are given the direction “red light”.  Providing a visual cue, like a red and green piece of paper, provides another sensory modality for your child to process the direction.
    1. After children have adjusted to the rules of the game—make it harder. Have them respond to the opposite cues: red light=go, green light=stop.
  3. Freeze dance: This is another fun activity to get your child moving!  When the music stops, your child stops dancing.
  4. Have children play musical instruments and you are the director. They have to watch your hand cues and respond when you cue them to stop.
  5. Any game that requires turn-taking and rule following is a great opportunity to facilitate waiting and self-regulation. The child is naturally rewarded for waiting by being able to participate and take their turn.
  6. Play a game where children have to pay attention to a certain attribute. For instance, when driving in the car, have your child: clap when they see a blue car, count how many trucks they see or pat their legs every time they see someone walking outside.
  7. Don’t Pop the Bubbles” is a fun game where participants take turn blowing bubbles and the other participants have to wait until they hear a magic word to be able to pop them. Participants can alternate being the bubble blower in order to monitor the behavior of other participants.  Scaffold the difficulty:
    1. Level 1: model self-talk by cueing participants with, “wait, wait, wait, GO!”
    2. Level 2: fade the verbal wait cue and only provide “GO” cue
    3. Level 3: throw out some trick words to really have the children auditorily attend, “chair…rainbow….GO!
  8. Simon Says-This is a childhood favorite! Kids have to follow the directions, but only when they hear the direction start with “Simon Says”.

    Photo by Courtney Penzato
    Photo by Courtney Penzato

Are you familiar with the famous marshmallow test?  Researchers told children that they could either have one marshmallow now or two marshmallows later.  The findings of the research indicated that the children who were able to delay gratification had better test scores and were more likely to finish college later on in life.

What do you think your child would do with the great marshmallow quandary?  I am pretty sure my sweet tooth would have led me to impulsively gobble up the marshmallow immediately.  And look, I still managed to do well in school and have a career that I love. We are all wired a little differently and that’s okay!    It’s most important to have an awareness of our skills, know how to develop areas of weakness and make modifications when necessary to help our children be successful.

For more information about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley please visit

Nutrition for Your Children

By, Cindy Baranoski, MS, RDN, LDN

Although March is National Nutrition Month, and March 11 is Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day, every day of the year is a nutrition celebration.

We eNNM_Logo_2015_hires_lg_r1at, drink, or are fed every day, throughout the day, in order for us to survive, grow and thrive. As adults we tend for forget just how important nutrition is for us, unless we are diagnosed with a nutrition related disease, such as diabetes, heart disease or cancer. For children, however, nutrition is the key ingredient in helping them grow and develop into the best they can be.

At Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley, parents are learning more and more just how important nutrition is to their child at a very young age, and these parents are becoming very proactive in this area, to the benefit of everyone involved in their child’s world.

Most people have a difficult time even knowing where to begin. Nutrition is a degree that can be earned at all levels, including doctorate degrees. Although the detail and level of understanding to receive a degree is pretty huge, it doesn’t’ take a degree to provide good nutrition for yourself or your child.

How can you even begin to delve into this science of nutrition? Start by keeping it simple. The government has done a lot of research, and MyPlate is one of the easiest websites to find daily food plans, menus, recipes, tips for nutrition, videos, games and more.


MyPlate is the easiest way to know how much food to eat in a day for optimal nutrition. It’s divided into food groups, and one of the easiest tools on this site is the Daily Food Plan. Depending on your child’s age, or if you know a calorie level you are trying to aim for, it will give guidelines on how much to eat from each food group to achieve this goal.

Another resource on MyPlate, is SuperTracker. This resource is easy to use and you can put information into it for analysis of nutrition for you or anyone in your family. It’s not completely accurate, but it is helpful to determine how many calories, protein, vitamins and minerals were included in that diet.

Infants and Toddlers

If your child is an infant, there are limited tools available that tell you what they are supposed to eat or drink every day. However, if you go to Gerber you have an opportunity to access general information or create menus specific for your child.


Based on your child’s developmental level, they may need to only drink formula or breast milk, or they might be ready to start solid foods. Gerber’s website tools are helpful because they are based on development, and not necessarily ages. The website is geared for Gerber products, but the menu system can really be helpful to see 7 days of what your child could be eating or drinking, how many times in the day and how to keep their diet balanced.

Top Ten List  For Nutrition for Children Over 1 Year of Age

  1. Keep your child on a schedule as much as possible.
  2. Do not allow your child to graze through the day. Most children eat 4-6 meals and snacks each day.
  3. If not an infant, offer three meals and 2-3 snacks a day, with 2-3 hours of time separating each of these eating times.
  4. Offer water between all meals and snacks.
  5. Ensure supported seating with mealtimes; the body should be at 90 degrees at the ankles, knees and hips. Be sure they
    Photo by McKenzie Burbach
    Photo by McKenzie Burbach

    don’t fall to the sides in a chair – it should provide support in all directions. The table or tray of their chair should be at a level their shoulders are not too high up and fatigue.

  6. Offer a source of protein, vegetable, fruit, grain and dairy at each meal. If they are an infant, this is not a rule.
  7. Meals are for nutrition, snacks are for extra food or drink, or an opportunity to practice more challenging foods.
  8. Be sure your child is stooling each day. Stools should be soft, easy to pass. Urine should be clear or light in color and often through the day.
  9. A good indication your child is receiving enough to eat and drink in the day is how well they sleep at night.
  10. When in doubt, speak to your child’s doctor or consult with a dietitian with who has skills with children.

Find a Dietitian in your area at Eat

For more information about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley please visit

“Pin'” All About It!

Photo by Mike McPherson

By: Laura Van Zandt, OTR/L

Are you looking for the next best activity to do with your child or need some new ideas to spur some additional creativity? Look no further than Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley!

Our top clinical staff from both the speech therapy and occupational therapy departments have created individual boards to cover a wide range of developmental areas specific to their profession.  Some examples of boards you might see include: sensory, executive function, handwriting, social skills, articulation, stuttering and literacy.

Here are some tips to help you navigate Pinterest:

  • A board is where the user’s pins are located. Each department has several different boards.
  • A pin is an image that has either been uploaded or linked from a website. When you click on the link it will take you to a detailed information page regarding the image.
  • “Repin”– once you find a pin that you link, you can “repin” and save the link onto your own boards. To repin, simply hoover over the image and click “pin it”.
  • Sharing– you can send the file to yourself or share with a friend. Sharing might be helpful if you are working with other professionals or caregivers with your child. It is an easy way to pass along information.

sensory ot

Ready to get started?

Head over to Pinterest and sign up. When signing up, you will have the option to link either your Facebook or Twitter account with your Pinterest account. This will make it easier for you to find your friends, family, and favorite blog/brands to follow. You can also sign up with your email address.

For more information about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley please visit

Benefits of Sign Communication for Babies

Photo by Tom Feltenberger

By: Amanda Nagle, MA, CCC-SLP/L

Sign communication is an easy way to give your child a way to express herself before she is using spoken words.  It is easy to implement and model core words that we use throughout the day and throughout naturally occurring activities like playing, eating, reading and singing.  This will teach your child to communicate core words within repeated activities.  Signs can reduce your child’s frustration by giving her a way to communicate a specific word before she can speak the word.

Here are a few examples of ways to add signs to the spoken words you are already using.

  • You can model ‘more’ when you want more milk, when you are giving your child more milk or when you are giving your child more crackers.More
  • You can model ‘all done’ or ‘finished’ as you end a play activity or at the end of a meal or snack.


  • You can model ‘eat’ when you are going to eat or when you ask your child if she wants something to eat. Eat
  • You can model ‘drink’  or ‘milk’ when you are asking your child if she wants a drink or when you tell your child that you are getting a drink.


  • You can model ‘help’ when you see that your child is beginning to get frustrated with something and needs help.


  • Model ‘I love you’ any time of course!
I Love You
I Love You

Here are some great websites with additional tips and videos.

Sign Savvy

Hand Speak

Baby Sign Language

For more information about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley please visit