Monthly Archives: June 2015

Top Reasons Kids Make Great Gardeners

By: Vanessa Doyle, Lead Teacher in the Lily Garden Child Care Center Infant Room & Horticulture Coordinator

Pop quiz! Which of these would you like your child to improve on?

  1. How to make healthy food choices.
  2. How to cooperate well with others and engage in teamwork.
  3. How to increase their confidence and self-awareness.
  4. How to interact and connect with the natural world.

If you agree with one or any of these statements, your child would be a great gardener.

Gardening Blog1Gardening has been around for so long that people may not realize the positive effects it can have on our children and us. With more processed and highly sugared foods hitting the table, we are further away from where our food comes from than ever before.

Everyone agrees that eating healthy is good. It makes you feel better, gets you a good doctor’s report and prevents disease. But it can be really hard sometimes. After working all day and picking up the kids from school, going to soccer practice, therapy and homework; taking a swing threw the drive-thru seems like the only option available. But this option is causing a worldwide epidemic of obesity and metabolic disease not only in us but also in our children.

So what can we do to turn that around?

We can start by establishing healthy eating habits young. These habits will last a lifetime.

Garden Blog3.jpgGardening is a great way to incorporate real fruits and vegetables into your home. It provides a learning opportunity for children to see where their food comes from. School or community gardens also offer an opportunity to interact with a group to practice socialization and teamwork. Once youth are involved in the growing process, they gain a sense of pride and ownership of what they created. This makes them more willing to try new foods and share. Often school can be an overload of sensory input. The garden provides a relaxing environment for everybody. Children can explore their senses by smelling flowers and hearing the sounds of nature around them.

How do I get started?

  • Gardeners are great sharers! Ask friends, family and even us here at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley. Somebody usually has an extra plant or two to spare or a packet of seeds to share. If you can’t find any, your local nursery can help or you can order seeds online at Rare Seeds.
  • Dedicate an area of your yard to be the garden. If you don’t have a plot of land to dedicate to a whole garden, that is okay too. Containers work well and can grow plants such as tomatoes and peppers.
  • Make it easy on yourself. If you have never gardened before, it is as simple as putting a seed into the dirt, giving it sunlight and water and watching it grow.

Happy Planting!

Come by and check out our very own school garden grown by the kids in the Lily Garden Child Care Center at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley in Villa Park.

Other Resources:

http://www.letsmove.gov/eat-healthy

http://www.chicagobotanic.org

http://www.earlysprouts.org

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Yes!  We Want Your Baby to Crawl! 

By: Bridget Hobbs, PT, DPT

During a physical therapy evaluation when I ask parents about their child’s milestones, I sometimes hear a response like “my child didn’t like their tummy so they went straight to walking.” Parents are often so thrilled that their child skipped the crawling milestone (Less babyproofing!  Cleaner hands!)   However, as a pediatric physical therapist I see on a daily basis what an impact crawling and creeping  has on developmental skills later in life. Crawling is also known as army crawling, when tummy is on the ground. Creeping, in the world of development, is when babies’ abdomen is off the ground and they are going places on hands and knees. Crawling and creeping are such important developmental milestones so I want to shed some light on the big benefits of crawling and how you can encourage your little one to do so

Because of the back to sleep program, which started in the early 1990’s, babies are not on their tummies as much. The back to sleep program has done an excellent job at reducing SIDS, but unfortunately, many children get plagiocephaly (flat heads) and torticollis (tight necks) from not spending enough play time on their tummy.  Without enough tummy time early on, another consequence is that babies can also sometimes go straight to walking without spending time exploring their environment on their hands and knees.

Babies who crawl and creep tend to have improved coordination, improved ability to read and write, improved muscle strength and better speech production when compared to their non-crawling peers. Crawling and creeping puts weight through the hands, arms and shoulders, which provides important strengthening. This position helps with grasp and stability and even strengthens the little muscles in the hand, which assists with fine motor tasks such as handwriting, using scissors and buttoning later in life.

Photo from Take Three Photography
Photo from Take Three Photography

Crawling is also a great core strengthener, which helps with balance and provides stability for speech production.  Crawling and creeping provides babies with trunk rotation and repetitive crossing midline, which helps with tasks of using both sides of their bodies that they will need for playground and sports-related activities later in life.  Crawling is also a time when the two hemispheres of the brain are communicating with each other, helping with bilateral coordination.

In order to help your child reach the crawling milestone, make sure they get plenty of tummy time from the start. Even when they are newborns, getting into a routine like 3 minutes of supervised tummy time after every (daytime) diaper change will yield great results.  This will get them on track early on in life to have strong muscles, good balance and to enjoy tummy time.

When your child is a bit older (7 or 8 months), help your child get up onto their hands and knees by giving them some support under their trunk.  This position helps your child gain the muscle strength in their shoulders, core and neck needed for crawling.  You can even gently rock them forward and back in order to give them the input into their hands and vestibular movement they will need for crawling.

Here are some of my favorite toys to get little ones motivated to get moving on their tummies:

playyard

These colorful play yards are a great way to ‘contain’ your baby without strapping her in to anything. Babies are still able to roll and crawl inside of this playard, so Mom can fold laundry knowing baby won’t be getting into Dad’s briefcase.   Bonus: This gate provides a nice barrier between baby and any four-legged furry friends in your home.

playballs

Play balls are so under-rated. This simple toy can provide tons of motivation to get your little one moving. Once your baby is able to sit up independently, roll the ball to them. Your baby will learn how to corral the ball and even will start to roll it back by 8-9 months. This is a great way for babies to work on reaching outside of their base of support and eventually learn how to transition from sitting to their hands and knees in order to crawl.

tunnels

Tunnels can be a great motivator for crawling activities. Place your baby’s favorite toy in the tunnel or play peek-a-boo from the other side.  Your baby may love the different sensory experience that crawling through a tunnel allows as an added benefit.

mirror

I am a huge fan of this tummy time mirror.  Use this right from the start when baby is a newborn to help them to enjoy tummy time.  When your baby is older, they will love touching the crinkly butterfly and spinning the wheel on the ladybug.  This helps with baby being able to learn how to shift her weight right and left in order to reach forward with one hand.  Weight shifting while on their tummy is an important pre-crawling milestone.  Also, babies LOVE to look at themselves.  Need I say more?

Crawling and creeping on hands and knees is an important developmental milestone and will provide the base of muscular strength and coordination your child will need later in life.  Some children do skip crawling and creeping all together,  go straight to walking, and turn out just fine.  However, if you can encourage your little one to crawl, they will gain some important developmental benefits that will assist them with other fine and gross motor activities later in life.  Whether your child is late to achieve milestones, such as crawling, or misses a step all together, it will likely turn out okay.  So, keep celebrating all of those milestones and enjoy every step in your little one’s development.

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

Finding Our Voice with New Speech Technology: Part 1

By: Jennifer Tripoli M.S., CCC-SLP

A few years ago, the Speech Language Department at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley had a vision to create a speech lab that would house cutting edge equipment related to articulation, voice and resonance disorders. A few therapists made a wish list of equipment that speech pathologists in an outpatient pediatric clinic could only dream of having. We knew this equipment would benefit our clients and hoped our vision would become a reality. Fortunately for us, our idea was chosen as one of the paddle raise items at the 2013 Easter Seals DuPage and Fox Valley Benefit Gala.

Due to the donations of several individuals, we were able to transform a therapy room into a beautiful speech lab and purchase three very high tech pieces of equipment. This room was given the name “The Voice Box” and we were ready to put our new equipment to use! A huge thank you to each and every one of you who were so generous in donating to this lab and to everyone who has supported the idea from the beginning!

Since openings the doors of the Voice Box, we have had many questions about the technology and how it could help a child.  In my next few blog posts, I am hoping to help you better understand the Voice Box and all of its possibilities!

The first piece of high tech equipment inside the Voice Box is the “Smart Palate” by Complete Speech. This device is used primarily for children with articulation disorders or children who have difficulty making specific sounds. Sometimes traditional articulation approaches are not enough for children to learn to produce a specific sound.

The system is designed to:

  • Use biofeedback to help a client see exactly what their tongue is doing inside their mouth
  • “It takes the guessing out of speech therapy by showing students exactly where their tongue is supposed to touch their palate to produce different speech sounds,” says Complete Speech.

Who can the Smart Palate help?

  • Children with Down Syndrome
  • Children with Dysarthria or Apraxia
  • Children with Articulation Disorders
  • Children with repaired Cleft Palates
  • Children with a hearing impairment

How does it work?

First, an acrylic mouth piece or palate is custom made for each client by Complete Speech (*fee involved for purchase of palate). The Client’s dentist or orthodontist makes impression of a client’s palate which is then sent to Complete Speech for palate construction.

Once completed, we receive the palate and connect to our computer software. It looks similar to a retainer with sensors.

palate collage
The smart palate connected to the computer via USB port.

Below are pictures of the Smart Palate in action.

palate1
The palate with sensors that show tongue to palate contact on computer screen.
palate2
The client’s tongue resting on their palate (sensors light up blue).
palate3
The “blue” sensors represent accurate tongue placement for sound /r/.
palate4
Only “blue” sensors are lit which indicate accurate production of sound /r/.
palate5
The “orange” sensors show inaccurate tongue placement for sound /r/.  This indicates activation of sensors outside of accurate /r/ tongue placement.
palate6
Side by side display of the clinician’s palate and client’s palate.

What are the Smart Palate requirements?

  • Client must have adequate attention to computer screen
  • Client must have cognitive ability to understand what they see on the computer screen is what they feel inside their mouth
  • Client must be able to tolerate acrylic retainer in mouth
  • Be at minimum 4 years or older

Click here to watch videos on the Complete Speech website.

To learn more about the Smart Palate please visit the Complete Speech Website here

Important note: Here at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley we are using the Smart Palate in therapy to augment our current, traditional articulation approaches. We are not solely using the Smart Palate to address speech sound disorders. The Smart Palate is not appropriate for every child who has a speech sound disorder. An evaluating Speech Pathologist who has experience in working with children with the Smart Palate will determine appropriateness for each individual client.

If interested in the Smart Palate, please contact our Villa Park intake coordinator at 630.282.2022 for questions or to schedule an appointment. For more information about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley please visit EasterSealsDFVR.org.

How Monkey Bars (and Other Fun Summer Activities) Will Improve Your Child’s Handwriting Skills

By: Maureen Karwowski, OT

Summer is here and that means plenty of opportunities for outdoor fun.  I can only guess that the last thing that your child is thinking about is handwriting.  That is okay because many outdoor activities actually help with fine motor skills such as handwriting.  If handwriting skills are challenging for your child then summer is a perfect time to address them.

Fine motor skills are important for so many things.  Buttons, zippers, cutting with scissors, cutting food with a knife, opening glue bottles, unlocking a door, opening a bag of chips, and writing are just a few examples of how we use refined fine motor skills every day.  Many of the children that I see in occupational therapy are working to improve their fine motor skills, and especially handwriting.

AFaithctivities to help promote fine motor skills typically focus on two areas:

  1. Strengthening of the core and upper body
  2. Strengthening of the fine motor muscles of the hands.

We know that in order for our hands to develop precision, for grasping, and for handwriting, the core must be as stable as possible.  Imagine sitting on a wobbly chair and trying to write your name.  That is an example of how the stability of the core impacts the way we are able to use our hands effectively.  We also know that in order to use both hands together the core needs to be strong.  Again, sitting on a wobbly chair and stringing beads would be very challenging.

The good news is that you can incorporate activities to help your child develop core and upper body strength into outside play naturally.  These will then impact fine motor skills.

  • Wheelbarrow walking.  Hold your child at the hips or knees, wherever you see your child have the best posture.  A “sagging” stomach is not an ideal posture.
  • Animal walks such as bear walks and crab walks.  Donkey kicks are also great.
  • Help your child climb the rock wall at the park.

    Omar_Yaihr
    Photo by Petra Ford
  • The glider at the park is a great way to promote core strength.  Have your child look at his/her knees while gliding to encourage even more trunk strength.
  • Help your child cross the monkey bars at the park.
  • When you are swimming help your child push themselves up to the side of the pool with both arms.
  • Play tug of war with your child.  Encourage them to pull you towards them pulling one hand over the other.
  • My favorite game to use in occupational therapy sessions is the “zoom ball” which is a great way to work on using both hands together.

Some ideas for grip strengthening activities:

  • Squirt guns and spray bottles.  The squirt guns that require both hands are especially good.
  • Squeezing out nerf balls while in the swimming pool.
  • Digging in the dirt and sand with a small shovel.
  • Drawing with sidewalk chalk.  Drawing on vertical surfaces such as on the garage wall is even better.  Use large chalk for whole arm movements, and small chalk pieces to strengthen a pencil grip.  Have your child “erase” the drawings with a squirt bottle.
  • Have your child wash the picnic table, or a wagon using soap suds and a large car wash sponge.  Encourage them to squeeze out the sponge in the process.
  • Draw” shapes or letters in the dirt using a popsicle stick.
  • Tools are a great way to build up hand strength.  Make a project with kid sized screw drivers, paint brushes, nuts and bolts.

Incorporating these activities naturally throughout the summer will greatly improve fine motor skills before the school year.

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

Why Treat the Rib Cage?

By, Laura Znajda, PT,  Manager of Community Based Therapy and Continuing Education

Photo by McKenzie Burbach
Photo by McKenzie Burbach

When I went to Physical Therapy school, the entire unit on respiration and the musculature that supports it consisted of a self-study chapter.  With so little importance placed on this subject in school, I was surprised to see what an impact treating the rib cage has on my pediatric clients.  Learning about the way the rib cage changes in structure and function through normal development, and then what happens when a baby is born prematurely or has poor trunk strength, was a big eye opener for me.  Delving into this topic, the most important thing I realized is how rib position could affect not just breathing, but so many other areas of development, including motor skills like sitting, dressing and talking.

If you have put off learning about the rib cage because you think it won’t have a productive impact on your clients’ outcomes, ponder these reasons to add rib cage treatment to your repertoire:

  • The ribs are connected to the spine and need to move properly in order for the spine to move in all directions—we all know spinal movement is needed for everything from sitting up straight to swinging a baseball bat.
  • The ribcage needs to move downward, usually between 8 and 24 months of age, in order to gain a more efficient breathing pattern.  (the newborn pattern uses the diaphragm only; this normally changes over time to include using muscles all around the trunk to expand the ribcage in 3 directions, which allows the lungs to expand fully.  When the lungs can expand fully, the child can take deeper breaths and move air in and out more effectively.)
  • The rib cage is connected to the shoulder via the collar bones and shoulder blades.  The ribs need to move downward after infancy in order to allow the shoulders to work properly for activities such as reaching overhead and dressing.
  • Normally, a baby or child can change his breathing pattern when the body needs more stability for difficult tasks or when he needs to breathe faster under stress.  If the ribs do not move normally or are not in the right position, the child will only have one breathing pattern and might learn to hold his breath to gain stability.

    Photo by Petra Ford
    Photo by Petra Ford
  • The lower ribs need to move inward when lower trunk musculature contracts to produce an effective cough, which clears secretions from the lungs and upper airway.  When mucous is not cleared from the lungs, it can become infected and cause a pneumonia.
  • When trunk musculature is working properly to contract the rib cage with control, airflow over the vocal folds is controlled in such a way that allows the ability to produce sounds properly for voicing.

Normal development of motor skills that typically occurs from birth until the age of 2 facilitates the muscle lengthening and strengthening that moves the ribcage into its mature position and provides effective breathing patterns for the child.  When motor skills develop atypically, muscle lengthening, strengthening, and rib mobility must be provided by a Physical Therapist, Occupational Therapist, or Speech-Language Pathologist trained in this type of therapy.  The therapist must also instruct parents in exercises to do at home for the very best result.

The therapy staff at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley are invested in learning more about this frequently overlooked area of treatment and are hosting a continuing education course this month to expand our skill base. Click here to learn more from Rona Alexander, PhD, CCC-SLP, BCS-S, C/NDT.

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

An Incredible Mile

By: Hannah Thompson

Hannah started this blog in 2012 as an Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley intern. You can read the first blog post here. The below post has been adapted from her personal blog.

Photo by Rich Howe
Photo by Rich Howe

I woke up super excited as it was the day of the 12th Annual Run for the Kids: Superhero Hustle. Morgan comes in at 7:00am and is tired but excited! I picked out yoga pants, an Easter Seals T-shirt, and my Victoria Secret athletic jacket.

I see Mom and Dad in the parking lot and I am pumped! I find my therapists and we go stretch in one of the therapy rooms. We quickly stretched and Mom helped us bring the walker to the start line. Mom had to go to my little sister’s water polo tournament but she took so many pictures before.

10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, START! I started walking with Dad, Joanne and Tami who are my devoted physical therapists, and Morgan. About a block in, Jenn, my main caregiver shows up with her dog so I have quite the entourage! I’m surrounded by little kids who have unimaginable challenges in their lives. They have a lifetime of surgeries and therapies to go through. However, on that day, they were being applauded for their heroism. To have them acknowledge me by cheering me on was humbling. In my case, being an adult has been easier than being a child with a disability. I had the storybook childhood but I had a lot more doctor appointments because I was always growing and that meant a lot of adjustments with my equipment or people wanting to make sure everything was working as it should. Now that we have that all figured out, Mom, Dad, and I know what is important which is my movement disorders so I see a neurologist once a year and physical therapy twice a week. That is nothing compared to other individuals with disabilities have to go through. We dodged so many bullets and that was why I was able to complete this goal.

When I was roughly three blocks away, I could feel the energy of the crowd. I start going faster and faster! My dad had to speed it up along with my entourage! I was fifty feet from the finish line and the crowd is CHANTING my name! Morgan and Jenn start taking pictures. It’s my moment! I cross the finish line and its bliss! I did it in 46 minutes which is less than we anticipated which had been an hour.

I got so many hugs and good wishes. I have to say thank you, thank you, thank you for the outpouring of love on Facebook and Twitter. It was unbelievable! Of course, thank you to my dad and other entourage members. It was an incredible mile!

The real reward was a therapist coming up to me and informing me that her client now wanted to walk a mile next year. That feeling is priceless!

Of course, thank you to Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley for 7 years of outstanding love and support!

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

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