Monthly Archives: October 2015

Halloween Safety Tips

By:  Kelly Lopresti, Director of Child Development

Children are our most valuable investment.  Ensure that your child is aware of all the safety tips and rules this Halloween. Drive carefully as some children may dart into the street and may not be easily visible due to dark costumes. Please take the time to review the following safety rules with your child.DSC_2483

  • Make sure young children are accompanied by an adult or responsible teenager when they go door-to-door.
  • If children are going to be out after dark, me sure they carry a flashlight.
  • Walk, slither, and sneak on sidewalks, not in the street! If there are no sidewalks, walk on the left side of the street facing traffic.
  • Instruct children never to eat anything until they are home and the treats have been carefully examined. Throw away anything unwrapped.  Check the wrapper of commercial treats for evidence of tampering.
  • Leave your porch light on so children will know it’s okay to visit your home.
  • Decorate costumes and treat bags with reflective tape for easier night visibility.DSC_2549
  • Be cautious of animals and strangers.
  • Use face paint rather than masks or things that will cover your eyes.
  • Accept your treats at the door and never go into a stranger’s house.
  • Plan a route on well lit streets and share it with your family.
  • Don’t hide or cross the street between cars.
  • Cross the street only at corner.

Have a safe and fun filled Halloween!!!

For other fun resources, check out the Power Ranger Megaforce Halloween Safety video!

Or read more about Halloween safety at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website.

Learn more about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley’s Lily Garden Child Care Center at: 

How Sensitive is Too Sensitive?

By Maureen Karwowski, OT

I am sure that I am not the only person to buy a wool sweater that I thought looked great.  I bought this sweater despite the fact that it might be a bit itchy.  The first cold morning of the year I decide it is time to wear this sweater, and it feels okay, but not greatAs the day progresses, I am more and more aware of the feeling of my new sweater.  After a long day of working, and a brutal commute home, my skin is crawling.  This sweater is intolerable.  For many of the children that I work with as an occupational therapist who have sensory processing difficulties, this experience may be familiar to them.   

Sensory processing challenges occur when a child has difficulty interpreting  and responding to the sensory experiences in daily life.   It is estimated that 1 of 20 children are impacted by a sensory processing deficit (Ahn, Miller, Milberger, McIntosh, 2004).   When I assess a child who has a suspected sensory processing difficulty, I look at 3 areas:

  • sensory regulation
  • sensory modulation
  • sensory discrimination

In my last blog, I discussed sensory regulation.  It is generally understood that sensory regulation is the ability to keep ourselves at the optimal activity and alertness level for the situation.  For instance, being able to sit through a meal or story time at the library all requires a child to be regulated.   We all have tricks to keep us “regulated”.  Drinking coffee, chewing gum, or working out are just a few examples of how adults naturally regulate themselves.

Sensory modulation impacts a child’s ability to function at home, in the community and at school.  Sensory modulation refers to how sensitive a person is to different touches, sounds, sights, smells or movement. 17b_Riley_and_Reasan_Wazniki_b

As I described my sweater experience, this may be similar to how some children respond to a variety of clothing.  The seams of jeans, or the texture of socks may be very hard for some children to tolerate.  We encounter textures every day, all day and for most of us, we are hardly aware of them.  For others textures such as soap suds, food textures, glue, hand sanitizer, t-shirts with writing on them, and band aids are just a few textures that can be troublesome.

Many children with sensory processing disorders can have extreme challenges in busy environments such as a family party, the school cafeteria, or even McDonald Land.  The sensory input in these situations is immense.  Noise levels are higher and unpredictable.  Large spaces, or crowded spaces can be very hard for children who are sensitive to visual experiences.  Novel foods have new smells, tastes and textures.  All of these experiences can cause an over-reaction.  Some children react by getting so revved up that they can lose control.  Other children cling to their parents or cover their ears.  Some children avoid these situations entirely.    For most children, climbing ladders, and spinning on a merry-go round at the park are delightful.  Others prefer to keep their feet on the ground as movement can be very scary and uncomfortable for them.

On the other side of the coin are the children who are under-reactive to sensory input.  These children often seek intense input in order to register it, and to feel calm.  For instance, a child may be bouncing up and down in their seat at the dinner table without even realizing that they are moving at all.  Another child may seek intense “rough and tumble” play at inappropri26_Jack and Kathleenate times, climb or jump on furniture despite being asked to stop repeatedly.  These children may have difficulty judging how hard to touch someone or something which can impact them socially.

We can all identify some sensory “quirks” that we have.  I know that the sound of Styrofoam makes me cringe.  My co-worker cannot stand the smell of my peppermint tea (crazy right?).  We all have things that are “triggers” for us, certain noises, textures or smells.  When a child has enough of these “triggers” that it is interfering with their ability to learn at school, socialize with other children, and function at home, an evaluation by an Occupational Therapist may be appropriate.

The good news is that a skilled OT can work with you and your child to help them with these sensory issues.  The key is a comprehensive evaluation, using parent interview, observations of your child, and a standardized assessment.  Once that is complete, treatment sessions are typically enjoyable for your child while they are working towards their goals.  You can work with your child’s OT to problem solve the sensory situations that are challenging at home, and when in the community.

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

Should my 2-Year-Old Be Talking?

By: Jennifer Tripoli M.S., CCC-SLP  

I have heard this from countless parents during initial evaluations.  “But he/she is only a baby! He/she should be talking?!” “The neighbor child didn’t talk until he was 3 and he turned out OK.” “I just assumed he/she would catch up.” The answer is YES! Your 2 year old should be talking. Did you know most typically developing children begin using words at around 12 months of age and by the time the child is 2 years of age they are beginning to combine words? Now, like any area of child development there is an age range for when skills begin to emerge. For instance some children may need a few extra months to “catch up” or develop these skills.

I am finding at our Centers that pediatricians are referring young toddlers earlier for speech evaluations due to limited expressive language skills and this is GREAT! There has been a vast amount of research published on Early Intervention and an increased public awareness regarding Early Intervention. “The earlier the better” thought is likely influencing these referrals.

I have to say I am thrilled about this new trend as I get to work with these kids sooner rather than later. It is a much better situation to work with a child who is delayed at 15-18 months versus 24 months or later. Children who are 2 years and older and not talking, or talking very little, are extremely frustrated with their inability to communicate. Many times these children are experiencing pretty severe tantrums and some are even socially withdrawn from other children due to their lack of communication. Yes, some children do fine with the “wait and see” approach. They eventually develop age appropriate speech and language skills, but for some children this is NOT enough. These children will fall further and further behind as we “wait and see” what happens.Voice Box Photo

This blog is by no means supposed to serve as an evaluation tool to determine if your child requires speech therapy, but instead help parents understand if their child is in on target with speech and language skills for their age. If you have any doubts in your child’s development, it is best to consult with your pediatrician. A full speech and language evaluation performed by a pediatric Speech and Language Pathologist would determine if your child is a candidate for speech and language therapy.

Here are some general speech and language guidelines for children 1-2 years of age:

12 months

  • Uses gestures to communicate such as showing, giving, pointing, reaching for preferred item and waving
  • Babbles during play with a variety of different consonant and vowel sounds
  • Plays communicative games such as Peek-a-boo or other back and forth games
  • Begins to use single words though sounds may not be clear
  • Learns new words quickly
  • Attempts to imitate new words
  • Understands common items such as cup, shoe, etc.
  • Understands basic requests related to routine such as “come on” or “give me”

18 months

  • Average expressive vocabulary at 18 months is between 50-100 words
  • Begins to use early 2 word combinations such as “more juice”, “daddy shoe”, etc.
  • Begins to understand 2 step commands with and without gestures
  • Points to pictures when named in books27_Nevean
  • Identifies a few body parts

24 months

  • Uses 2 word combinations “more cookie”, “bye mommy”, “daddy go”, etc.
  • May still be using some single words, though most language is expressed with 2 word utterances
  • Identifies several body parts
  • Begins to ask questions “Where’s mommy?”
  • Unfamiliar listeners understand your child about 50% of the time

For more information regarding typical speech and language development visit the American Speech Language and Hearing Association’s website here.

To learn more about speech language therapy services at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley, click here.

The Best Developmental Toys for Toddlers

By: Bridget Hobbs, PT, DPT

Perhaps you have a toddler’s birthday coming up or with (I can’t believe I’m saying this) the holidays just around the corner, you may be thinking about finding gifts for the little ones in your lives.  As a pediatric physical therapist, I often get asked about best toys for development.  Since I have a soon-to-be toddler at home, and because this age can sometimes be difficult to buy for (past rattles but not quite to the Barbie stage), I thought I’d share the best toys to encourage their development.

Blocks: Toy blocks might not be as sparkly or fancy as the tech-geared toys on the market.  However, they have stood the test of time for a reason.  Dating back to Piaget, numerous studies have proven the positive effects of block play with math skills later in life.  An author of a recent study that was published in the journal Child Dblocks2evelopment states “Research in the science of learning has shown that experiences like block building and puzzle play can improve children’s spatial skills and that these skills support complex mathematical problem solving in middle and high school,” explains Brian N. Verdine, one of the studies’ authors. You can read more of the study here. 

Play kitchen: I love a play kitchen not just for the imagination and sequencing aspect of preparing a meal, putting it on aplay kitchen plate and serving it to others, but for the gross motor benefits as well.  As seen below in the picture, there are many different levels to a play kitchen.  A child has to stand up to get a plate, squat down to put a pretend pie in the oven and walk side to side to put things in the sink.  All of these are dynamic movements that help to incorporate balance, stability and agility and helps toddlers build their confidence while navigating their environment.

Sound puzzles: Puzzles give little ones a jump on hand-eye coordination, help develop grasp as well as sequencing skills.  A bonus is the sound puzzles that make a sound, such as a helicopter motor or a cow mooing.  These puzzles teach cause and effect and can help TakeThreePhotography_05202010-62develop early sound development.

Small table and chairs: Children this age want to start coloring, drawing and delighting in their masterpieces.  An ideal chair for a little one would be one that helps their feet be firmly planted, with their hips and knees at 90 degree angles.

Shape sorters and stackers:  Shape sorters help a child with discriminating between different shapes, and figuring out how things fit together (think early engineering skills).  Shape sorters are a great way to encourage problem solving skills starting at a young age. Stackers, such as the cups shown below, assist a child with important concepts of placing things into a container and taking them out again.  shape stackers

Ride-On Toys: Try to avoid the expensive ‘power wheels’ type of toys that lose their battery after a week and take up loads of space in your house or garage.   A classic ride on toy will last riding toyyears or decades and will provide your child with balance and strengthening through propelling the toy and coordination through steering.

Often it’s the simplest, tried and true toys that are the best for child development.  So, if you recognize toys in the store that you had a kid, it’s likely that they are good for your child’s learning and motor development.   All of these toys listed above are enjoyable, educational and affordable.   They assist with gross and fine motor skills, language development and social engagement.

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

10 Ideas for Practicing Speech

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

I recently had a shoulder injury and was prescribed a long list of exercises to do multiple times a day.  True confession: I was not the best patient.  The exercises were time consuming and pretty boring.  Being in the shoes of the uncooperative, slowly progressing patient made me reflect on what I could do as the practitioner who may be guilty of occasionally recommending time consuming and boring home practice.  My best advice for working on speech is:  incorporate it into a routine as part of your day and Make it FUN!

When working with kids with articulation disorders, phonological disorders or apraxia of speech, I like to balance repetitive, structured practice with functional, meaningful words.  Here are 10 fun and easy ideas for practicing speech at home:

  1. Beat the timer: This is one of my favorite games for getting A LOT of repetitions quickly!  I like to use a visual timer which can come in the form of an app like Time Timer Time Timer or a sand timer from an old board game.   The visual timer lets the child see time passing and acts as a great motivator.  If you don’t have a visual timer—any timer will do!  Set a goal of how many words the child will say correctly before the time runs out.  I like to set this as an almost unobtainable goal so that it is a fun challenge and perhaps something that has to be attempted 2 or 3 times before we succeed.

smart timer timer

  1. Story time: Have the child find his targeted sound in a story. He can repeat the word or fill-in-the-blank of your sentence as you read to practice his targeted sound.
  2. Driving in the car: Practicing speech words in the car can be a great way to use this time more purposely. You can leave a sheet of pictures or flash cards in the car.  If your child were to produce their target words each time they got in the car they could get SO MANY repetitions throughout the day!
  3. Playing a sport: There are many different ways that you could incorporate speech practice while playing a sport but here are a few of my favorites:
  • Basketball- Set up different places to shoot with a targeted word attached to each place. Have your child say the word a given number of times before they can shoot.  You can play this game like HORSE to create a fun element of competition.
  • Soccer- each time a goal is scored against your child he has to say a set number of words.
  • Playing catch- have your child say a targeted word every time they throw a ball.
  1. Meaningful Words: Create a list of your child’s favorite foods, activities, toys and important people. Identify which of these words contain your child’s targeted sound.  You can have your child practice these words in drill or in meaningful opportunities.  These words are a good bridge for generalizing correct production of a sound into natural, spontaneous speech.
  2. Board games– When playing board games, I like to make a list a list of the words we are saying related to the board game that contains the targeted sounds. As the game progresses, I focus on having the child accurately (or to the best of his ability) produce the meaningful, targeted words.  I also make the child produce a given number of words before they take their turn.
  3. Silly stories– This is one of my recent favorites! I will give a child a sheet of pictures that contain his targeted speech sound.  The first person selects a picture and starts a story using the target Speech-Language Therapy - Cara Pagelsword.  The next person repeats the first sentence and then builds onto the story by selecting a different picture and creating a sentence.  I cannot even begin to tell you the funny and crazy stories that some of my little munchkins have come up with! Not only is this a fun activity to target speech production but it also develops language skills, sharing an imagination, memory and sequencing.
  4. Talking Activity-For a child who is at the level of generalizing his speech sounds into conversation, any talking activity can be a great time to work on speech! When a child is at the level of generalization, I don’t like to correct all of the time because I don’t want the child to get the message that how they are saying something is more important than what they have to say.  I recommend designating specific times or activities to monitor speech production. These could be activities like: telling you about his day, reading a book, playing I Spy, describing pictures, or playing a game.
  5. Brushing teeth– This is a routine activity that children do 2 times a day and can be a perfect time to spend a few minutes targeting speech goals. Being in front of the mirror and having the child watch their mouth movements can be very beneficial!
  6. Follow your child’s lead: So many of the kids I work with have brains that are far superior to mine in terms or creativity.  Kids can come up with the greatest games using the simplest of materials.  So try giving your child the opportunity to develop their own creative ideas and games while working on their speech.

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