Category Archives: parenting

Understanding the Grieving Process for Parents of Special Needs Children

By: Sharon Pike & Cara Long, Parent Liaisons

It’s graduation season! We love seeing and hearing about the accomplishments of each graduate and their hard work! But for some parents, seeing their child’s peers reach graduation or other milestones, can trigger many emotions, especially if their child has a developmental delay or disability. For some children, these milestones will come much later or maybe not at all.  We hope to give you a greater understanding of the process families experience in coming to terms with a child with a developmental delay or disability. We speak from experience as we each have a beautiful young woman with a disability.

Sharon & Alison 2.jpgFirst, after the birth of a child with special needs, the diagnosis or incident that changes their child, parents will grieve the loss of the “perfect baby”, they’ve dreamed about. They grieve the dream, not the child.

Dr. Ken Moses is a psychologist who has devoted himself to helping people deal with crisis, trauma and loss. He describes it beautifully and accurately, “Parents generate core level dreams for their children even before the child is born.  Disability shatters those dreams. Grieving is the process where by parents separate from those shattered dreams and begin creating new dreams.”

He also says “few would argue that facing the devastating and continuing loss of having a child with a disability is among the most painful experiences that a person can confront. To separate from a lost dream, one must experience and share denial, anxiety, fear, guilt, depression and anger in whatever order or manner the feelings surface.” You can read more in The Impact of Childhood Disability: The Parent’s Struggle.

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Photo from Rich Howe

We recognize that for many parents this is their first experience with a disability and it unfortunately takes time to gain the insight needed. We want to help you work through the states of grief Dr. Moses mentions, so you aren’t stuck in a certain stage and can see the great potential in your child. This potential might be different than you imagined, but is still a wonderful journey.

We agree with Dr. Moses that the process takes time and honestly never really ends.  We learn to reshape our dreams with the help of the professionals we surround ourselves with. But grieving is the only way we can move on.  The parents who resist this process, become worse not better in response to the loss of the dream.

Below are Dr. Moses states of grief that you may be familiar with but need to recognize and move through them on this journey:

shockDenial/Shock

  • This stage gives parents the chance to “feel it” and start to find support and ways to navigate this new world they’ve been dropped into.
  • It buys time needed to blunt the initial impact, to discover inner strengths, find resources.

Anxiety

  • With the loss of a dream, parents are forced to change
  • Anxiety mobilizes the energy needed to make these changes

Fear

  • This stage speak to itself! The questions come “Will he walk, Will she talk,” “Will he go to college or marry?”

Depression

  • This stage is one that parents can feel repeatedly over the years and it’s depths can be simple sadness to deep, long lasting depression that needs medical intervention.

anger

Pain/Guilt

  • This stage also gives parents the chance to “feel it” to “question it” and ask themselves “What did I do to cause it?” “Why did my body fail?”

Anger

  • This stage parent ask,”Why me, why not you?”
  • A parent’s sense of justice is challenged
  • Their anger is often directed at someone or something (child, medical professional, or spouse)

Acknowledgement and Hope

  • Parents have come to grips with the fact, this is life and with modifications they can still live the dreams they had for their child and family.
  • They learn that there is always Hope.

This journey is reflected in this poem from a parent of a child with autism.

What You Should Know About My Child
by Brian Rubin 

Remember that he is, first of all, my child.
Let me see him smiling in his sleep.
And let me think how handsome he is.
Help me not lose sight of my son
In the sight of his limitations.

I know that you care for my child,
And that you work hard with him.
I need your expertise to help him become All that he is capable of being.
You need my help in understanding who he really is.
And in the following through at home
With things that are important.

Remember though, that you send him home at night,
And have weekends off and paid vacations.
Let me have the luxury of having a vacation…
Sometimes physically, sometimes emotionally.
For  a day… a week… a month..
Without your judging me.
I will be there for him when you are long gone.

I love my child with an intensity that
You can only imagine.
If on a given day, I am tired or cross with him,
Listen to me.
Lighten my burden.
Do not judge me.

Celebrate with me.
Rejoice in who he is and who he will become.
But forgive me if, from time to time,
I shed a tear…
For who he might have been.

renee

This journey is hard and can be isolating, especially for parents of babies with challenges.  But you are not alone. We are here to support families through this process. We can be your sounding board and help find whatever resources you need. To learn more about our family services, click here.

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Sleep Tips for All Ages

By: Laura Van Zandt, OTR/L

As a soon to be new mom, sleep is something that is very important to me and something I will soon be getting very little of in my life! I often get questions by parents about sleep and how to better help their little ones develop good sleep habits and routines. There are many great sleep books available  to read and review for sleep suggestions. Many are targeted towards babies; however, they still contain useful information about typical sleep patterns as well as some guidelines for establishing sleep routines and how to sleep coach. In order to better prepare myself and my husband, I’ve been reviewing some of my handouts on sleep and wanted to share what I found useful.

My first step with families is to help them understand that sleep is a learned behavior. There are many reasons children have difficulties with sleeping. A child may have difficulty sleeping because:

  •  She hasn’t yet learned to put herself down to sleep
  • He might have difficulty self-calming and quieting his body and mind for sleep.
  • She might have separation anxiety
  • He is testing limits
  • She might have an overactive imagination
  • He wants to play longer and will resist going to bed
  • She is sensitive to noise, textures, or odors which makes it difficult to relax to sleep.

04_Bodhi2.jpgOlder children have increasing demands on their time from school, sports, extracurricular activities, and other social activities which can impact sleep.  A child might also snore or have noisy breathing during sleep which should be evaluated by their pediatrician with possibly a referral to an ENT to rule out sleep apnea or enlarged adenoids.

Going to sleep and getting enough sleep are skills we need to teach our children. Optimal sleep helps to ensure children are able to play and ready to participate in daily activities. It also promotes brain development and growth.

How many hours does a child need to sleep?

Newborns sleep about 8 to 9 hours in the daytime and about 8 hours at night. Most babies do not begin sleeping through the night (6 to 8 hours) without waking until at least 3 months of age; however, this varies considerably and some babies do not sleep through the night until closer to 1 year.

Infants typically sleep 9-12 hours during the night and take half hour to two hour naps, one to four times a day, fewer as they reach age one. Research shows that when infants are put to bed drowsy but not asleep, they are more likely to become self-soothers which allows them to fall asleep independently and put themselves back to sleep when they wake up. Babies need our help to establish their own sleeping and waking patterns. You can help your baby sleep by recognizing signs of sleep readiness, teaching him/her to fall asleep on their own, and providing the right environment for comfortable and safe sleep. Your baby may show signs of being ready for sleep by rubbing their eyes, yawning, becoming fussier, or looking away.

Toddlers need about 12-14 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. When they reach about 18 months of age their nap times will typically decrease to one a day lasting one to three hours. Caregivers should try to avoid naps occurring too close to bedtime as this could delay sleep at night.

Preschoolers typically sleep 11-13 hours each night and most do not nap after 5 years of age. It is not uncommon for preschoolers to experience nighttime fears and nightmares in addition to sleepwalking and sleep terrors.

Children ages 5-12 years need 10-11 hours of sleep. Older children may show signs of insufficient sleep by falling sleeping when it is not nap time, frequently waking-up tired and crabbing, seeming irritable or difficulty to please, appearing clingy, or may have a short attention span.

Here are some general tips for all ages.

19_JOERGENRUDAbel.jpgRoutines and consistency is a critical. Parents and caregivers can significantly influence a child’s sleep through scheduling and routines. Some kids do well taking a bath and reading books/telling a story while lying in bed and preparing to sleep. Reading together can be a great way to spend some quality time together and allow the body to relax. Some kids might also need some calming heavy work input prior to bath time or getting into bed for stories. One of the first things new parents learn at the hospital is how to swaddle their newborn because snugly wrapping your baby in a blanket provides calming deep pressure tactile and proprioceptive sensory input allowing the newborn to feel secure and safe. Rocking chairs and baby swings are also some of the most valued and used pieces of baby equipment because of the repetitive movement qualities that provides calming vestibular sensory input.

Some examples of calming heavy work input and movement that might help your child include massage, yoga, pillow squishes, gentle, rhythmical, and linear swinging for at least 15 minutes before bedtime. I would recommend trying simple games that don’t have a competitive nature to them since they are more likely to increase arousal level. We want our children to learn to calm down and be quiet before bedtime.

Darkness is key. Make sure that the bedroom where your child sleeps is as dark as possible and pay special attention to blocking out the early morning sun. Sunlight is a natural wake-up signal; using room-darkening shades and curtains to block out light will help your child sleep. If you are going to use a night light in your child’s room, try to make a compromise and place one right outside your child’s bedroom or opt to turn off the night light after an hour. You can also try a touch operated, battery powered night light with a timer that goes off if your child wakes up in the middle of the night and needs to use the bathroom or hears a noise and needs to be reassured briefly.

Provide some white noise. Parents and caregivers of babies can often be heard making the familiar “shushing” noise or quietly humming to quiet and calm their little ones. These repetitive, quiet sounds mimic the calming, reassuring noises the baby heard when he was in the womb. A sound machine or small fan in your baby’s room will provide a soothing hum of background noise. This has the added benefit of drowning out other noise that might otherwise wake your child

Adjust pajamas. Don’t let your child go to sleep in daytime clothes. Observe your child’s sensory preference for touch. Typically speaking, soft textures are not just comforting but it is also a tactile sign for your body to be calm and quiet down. If you are the parent of a baby, you might want to consider swaddling or using a sleep sack as they grow. Swaddling providers a snug comfort via deep pressure and tactile input that is similar to the womb space.

Look at different blankets and mattresses. Some children, especially children who might have difficulties with sensory processing, are sensitive to the feel of different textures. Blankets of different weights and materials might also be preferred at different times of the year. Weighted blankets or lycra sheets over the mattress may also be helpful options as the provide gentle but sustained deep pressure input which can be calming to the body. Some children like to create a cocoon of several blankets, prefer a sleeping bag, or some have favorite blankets that they use. I was surprised to find many different mattress textures. Try as many mattresses as possible in the store to see which is more comfortable.

plush.pngTry for natural warmth: Try tossing a blanket in the dryer or cuddling up to a warm scented stuffed animal. Warmth typically sends calming signals to the body to help quiet the mind.

Look at scents: Certain scents can have a calming effect on the nervous system and help to encourage sleep. There are a variety of different scents that can be calming.

Look at nutrition: Proper nutrition throughout the day can also significantly impact the ability to sleep at night. This can be difficult with our picky eaters but being more aware and trying to find a balance can be helpful. The biggest factors to keep in mind include:

  1. Plenty of protein
  2. Limiting carbohydrates and sugars
  3. Limiting preservatives, additives, and dyes,
  4. Having plenty of fruits and vegetables.

Incorporate heavy work during the day: Exercise helps tire our bodies out and make us ready for night. Provide plenty of opportunities throughout the day to engage in heavy work activities (i.e. push, pull, climb, squeeze, gentle rough housing). These activities can include pushing/pulling a laundry basket to the bathroom to complete nighttime routines. Inside the laundry basket include several heavy items as well as pajamas, toothbrush, toothpaste, favorite books to read, etc. The activities can also include wall push-ups to be completed by standing 2-3 ft. from a wall, placing hands on the wall, and slowly lowering body to wall. There are a ton of ideas for heavy work input. Heavy work input involves any type of activity where the person is actively moving their body against resistance.

Limit screen time: No screen time at least one hour prior to bedtime. It has been suggested that longer screen times may be affecting sleep by reducing the time spent doing other activities – such as exercise – that may be beneficial for sleep and sleep regulation. The content on the iPad can also impact sleep. For example, exciting video games, dramatic or scary television shows, or even stimulating phone conversations can engage the brain and lead to the release of hormones such as adrenaline. This can in turn make it more difficult to fall asleep or maintain sleep. Less obvious is the impact that light has on sleep and on our sleep-wake patterns in general.

Try an earlier bedtime: Contrary to popular belief, kids tend to sleep more and longer with an earlier bedtime. Ever heard of the “witching hour”? This is typically when kids are overtired and doing everything in their power to fight off sleep. If a child gets to the point of exhaustion or over tired, it can backfire on the nervous system. Just think of the nights when you pushed past your feeling of exhaustion because you just had to get that one last thing down. How did you feel later that night when trying to fall asleep? It was probably more difficult for you.

This is because when you work past your point of exhaustion it is usually because you are stressed. Stress releases the hormones adrenaline and cortisol. Cortisol normally rises and falls throughout the day and it typically highest at around 8AM and lowest between midnight and 4AM. Stress normally causes a surge in adrenal hormones like adrenaline and cortisol that increases alertness making it more difficult to relax into sound sleep. Frequent stress can chronically elevate these hormone levels, resulting in a hyper-vigilant state impacting continually restful sleep.

We ALL need sleep, and when there are concerns, it becomes even more important. When we are not getting enough sleep it impacts our mood, behavior, and overall self-regulation.

Visit eastersealsdfvr.org for more information about our occupational therapy services.

Additional Resources:

  • Stanford Children’s Health
  • St. Luke’s Hospital Sleep Medicine and Research Center
  • American Occupational Therapy Association
  • GetYourBabytoSleep.com

Through my Parenting Eyes

By: Theresa Forthofer, CEO & President of Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley

While I am the President and CEO of Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley, I also happen to be the mother of three children.  Two of my children have Myotonic Muscular Dystrophy and Autism. My oldest, Ryan, was diagnosed when he was 7 years old.  He is now 24 years old. My youngest was diagnosed with the Congenital form of Muscular Dystrophy within days of his birth and he is now 18.

forthofer family

Having two boys with Muscular Dystrophy, meant lots of doctor visits and hours of therapy every week.  Throughout the years we had several different therapists and we liked them all.  They were all very nice and the boys were making progress.  Therefore, we assumed everything was great and the boys were doing the best they could.  Looking back, I sincerely wish I knew then, what I know now.  While they were progressing, they were not reaching their full potential.

I may be biased, but what I have learned since becoming President and CEO isn’t as significant as what I have learned about raising two boys with disabilities.  I share my story to help at least one other family find their child’s true potential.

For nearly 7 years, my son had (unsuccessfully) worked on putting his shoes and socks on independently.  His Early Intervention therapist worked on it, his private therapists from a nearby clinic worked on it, and his school therapists worked on it.  Over and over again we were told, he doesn’t have the strength.

17b_ProcoposJustinDip.jpg
Photo by Alexi Procopos

However, when I came to Easter Seals, I asked about Occupational Therapy for Justin.  I wanted him to put his shoes and socks on independently.  In just two sessions, his therapist asked me what our next goal was because he was putting his shoes and socks on independently.  I didn’t believe her and made her show me.  He did it and is still doing it!  His therapist explained it was a motor planning issue not a strength issue for Justin.  For years, I dreaded leaving the house because putting his shoes and socks on became something to battle over. Now those days are long behind us.  No more excuses for being late!

Occupational therapy worked so well, I signed Justin up for the feeding clinic.  At 12 years old, he weighed 40 pounds and we had tried everything.  We saw an endocrinologist, feeding therapists, nutritionists, etc.  The best solution was growth hormones, but Myotonic Dystrophy has cardiac complications, so this was not advised.

After attending the feeding clinic and starting a few relatively small changes, he gained 10 pounds in three months – 25% of his body weight!  He will likely always be small for his age, but we wish it hadn’t taken us so long to figure out these needs and find the experts at Easter Seals.  They imagined a future beyond what we had been told to expect by other professionals and without any limitations.

leadership meetingI hear these same stories like mine, nearly every week.  Children who have been seen for years and aren’t reaching their fullest potential.  When they find their way to Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley they often can’t believe what they have missed out on.  The progress their children are making so quickly surprises their families, their doctors and sometimes even us.

If you are looking for a therapy center or therapist for your child, here are the top 10 questions to ask:

  1. Is the center CARF Accredited and have a Medical Advisory Board?
  2. Is the center directly affiliated with any major research hospital systems?
  3. Who are your primary referral sources?
  4. What are the published results of your satisfaction survey and where can I find them?
  5. Is the therapist NDT (Neuro-Developmental Treatment) trained?
  6. What diagnoses has the therapist personally treated?
  7. What is the average level of experience of the therapists at the center?
  8. How many children do you treat annually?
  9. What training do you receive on a regular basis?
  10. How do you support parents and siblings?

As parents, we all want the absolute best for our kids. I found it here at Easter Seals and you can too!

Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley is a CARF accredited facility with a medical advisory board and affiliations with University of Chicago, University of Illinois at Chicago, Northwestern University and RIC (Shirley Ryan Ability Lab). With 87 therapists and professional staff with an average tenure of 19 years, the majority of therapists are NDT trained and are required to receive on-going training. The therapists are specialized in many specific areas including feeding, motor, sensory needs and more.

Easter Seals serves more than 1,000 families a week with locations in Naperville, Villa Park and Elgin.  Through an annual client survey, 99% of families report satisfaction with the services they receive and 98% of families report progress. The parent liaisons and social workers on staff provide support and family activities for all members of the family. Learn more at eastersealsdfvr.org. 

Get Your Little One Walking

By: Bridget Hobbs PT, DPT

A child’s first year of life is so full of milestones… first smiles, first solid foods, and the first time s/he sits up on his/her own.  As the first year is coming to a close, many parents desire to see their little one taking their first steps around the time of their first birthday.  The typical window for children taking their first steps is anytime between 9 and 15 months, which is a big spectrum of time.

Below are some things that parents or caregivers can do with their child to help them get walking when they are showing signs that they are ready.

  • Set a good foundation for your baby. Walking involves strength from the entire body, not just the legs.  Believe it or not, creeping on hands and knees is an important milestone to achieve before walking.  Also, climbing over obstacles, such as couch cushions or parents’ legs is another good way to help build a solid core, or base for walking.  You can also help build strength in the core, arms and legs by teaching your child to crawl up steps. Try placing a favorite toy on the landing as motivation.
  • 01_Lucas_Vasquez2After a child learns to pull up and stand at the couch or coffee table, place toys away from their body so that the child has to rotate their body away from the support surface to reach for the toy. This technique will not only help build important rotator muscles in their trunk but will also gradually encourage them to stand with less support.
  • Once your child is standing supported holding onto furniture, have them practice little squat to stand movements. For example, motivate your child by placing a stacking ring at the height of their knees. While supporting them at their waist, encourage them to bend at their knees and hips to pick up the ring and then stand back up to help them place the ring on the stacking toy.
  • When your child is pulling up to stand, cruising side to side along furniture and starting to experiment with standing on their own, they are likely ready to start taking some steps. Hold onto one end of a hula hoop or small ring and encourage your child to hold onto the other side. While facing your child, encourage them to take a few steps while holding onto the ring for support.  You can also use a motivator, such as walking to pop bubbles or to grasp a puff snack as encouragement to get your child to talk some steps.
  • Weighing down a push toy, such as a small shopping cart or ride on toy will provide them the support they need to take forward steps. Often times these toys will move too fast, causing a child to face-plant forward if they are not weighted down, so place a gallon of milk or carton of orange juice in the shopping cart or ride on toy to help with this.

02_Josephine_Huard.jpg_waterIf your child is not showing any signs of pre-walking skills, such as pulling up to stand, walking along furniture or walking with hand held assist, and they are at the age when many of their peers are starting to walk, it’s always good to talk to your pediatrician about possible reasons why they are late to walking.

To learn more about  Physical Therapy and play-based therapy services at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley, visit our website.

 

Recommendations for Pacifiers

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

Babies show a natural tendency to suck on fingers and thumbs from the time they are in utero.  Sucking provides comfort and is a natural way for babies to explore the environment.  Allowing a baby to suck on a pacifier can have the advantages of helping to sooth a fussy baby, providing a distraction and helping a baby fall asleep.   Additionally, pacifiers may help minimize reflux.  The Mayo Clinic suggests that a pacifier could help reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome when used at nap time and bedtime.

Baby nico on swingThe problem with pacifiers comes when little ones become dependent on them.  As a speech-language pathologist, seeing kids more frequently in their toddler years and beyond, I see some of the detrimental effects that persistent pacifier use can cause.  The preferred oral rest posture is having the lips closed, tongue placed up against the roof of the mouth, a slight space between the teeth and nasal breathing.  This oral rest posture supports dental alignment and wide rounded dental arches. Prolonged pacifier use (or other sucking habits) can cause a child’s teeth to be misaligned or not come in properly.

A study from Van Norman, 2001 found that 60% of dental malocclusions were related to sucking habits.  When the shape of the roof of the mouth is changed and dental malocclusions are created, kids can develop articulation errors such as a forward tongue position for production of /s/ (lisping).  Obstructing the mouth with a pacifier can negatively impact babbling and imitation of sounds.  Additionally, there is a correlation between pacifier use and increased incidence of ear infections.  Frequent ear infections are a common cause of speech and language delays.

Guidelines to follow for pacifier use:

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting to offer a pacifier until a baby is 3-4 weeks old when breast feeding is well established.
  • Don’t use the pacifier as a first line of defense. Try other strategies such as changing positions or rocking the baby to sooth them. pacifier
  • Use the appropriate size pacifier for your babies age in order to help maintain correct jaw alignment.
  • Recommendations vary between 6 months and 2 years for when it is appropriate to discontinue pacifier use. It can be easiest to wean the pacifier by the time a baby is 12 months.
  • Use pacifiers that are rounded on all sides. This allows for a more natural position of the tongue during non-nutritive sucking.

For help with discontinuing pacifier use: http://www.orofacialmyology.com/StopPacifier

To learn more about speech language-pathology and Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley visit eastersealsdfvr.org

Tips for Practitioners and Specialists: Considering the Full Reality of Patients and Clients’ Lives

By: Sharon Pike, Parent Liaison & Jordyn Holliday, Communications Intern

Many parents will tell you that trips to the doctors office, specialists, etc. can sometimes make for stressful moments for children and families. When a child has complex needs, the level of stress can be increased. Once you consider factors and obstacles such as medical emergencies and other personal issues that a family may be dealing with, those appointments become tougher to make.

25_SheddJAMES.jpgIt is important for doctors and other specialists to be mindful and reevaluate the judgments they make on parents and caregivers. Before drawing conclusions on why a child may be missing appointments, it is imperative to consider the entirety of that child’s life.

Here are a few tips on how specialists can be more understanding of families:

  • Be Mindful: One important thing to remember is that in the vast majority of cases, no one is more concerned with the well-being of a child than that child’s parents and family. If there are appointments being missed or a lack of communication, there is likely a good reason behind it. Forming a solid grasp of this is a huge step in better understanding a client or patient.
  • Check for Signs: Often times, it is possible to gain a sense that something external may be happening in a child or family’s life. When you are visited by a patient or client, try to look for signals. Are there any noticeable signs of stress? Are there any patterns in appointment cancellations? Asking yourself these questions can lead to meaningful answers.
  • Appropriately Ask the Family: If you are unable to gain insight using the previous tip, think of a kind way to inquire information from the parent/caregiver. This can be done by simply asking how things have been going. By kindly asking how the child and family has been, or even asking about recent medical history, you are beginning dialogue that could help you understand the root of inconsistencies.

Acknowledging the lives of children and families outside of just the scope that you see them in as a specialist is a significant step in building better relationships with them. It’s important not to make assumptions, as they can often lead to uneasiness.

For more information on managing your child’s care and your own, connect with our parent liaisons and family services department at eastersealsdfvr.org/SocialServices.

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.

New Models of Patient Care

liuBy Dr. Ingrid Liu, D.O.

Who can keep track of all this? How are the independently insured going to get medical care?

Doctors are not happy and neither are patients. I have colleagues that have decided to stop patient care completely, changing to new careers in consulting, research, entering early retirement (if that’s an option), or any number of non medical options.

Unfortunately there are only so many hours in a day and insurance plans only pay so much for each office visit (no matter how much premiums cost or how much doctors beg and plead). A physician has to see on average 30 patients/day in order to succeed. This therefore translates to 10-15 minutes per patient in a 8 hour day. This, as we know, is not good for either the physician or the patient.

When physicians spend more time with each patient, we get to know them each individually and thoroughly, allowing for better decisions and treatment plans as well as guidance on preventive measures.

wellcomemdPrimary care physicians are changing their practices to offer patients options.  I am a family medicine physician and I switched my practice to a membership model 2 years ago. This has been called concierge medicine but I prefer to call it old fashioned medical care in today’s healthcare system. By limiting the number of patients under my care, I am not only able to address more questions from the patients, but my office staff also assists with coordinating care from specialists. We also assist in navigating this complicated insurance maze.

Because the health insurance policies are so complicated, another model that now exists is called Direct Primary Care, or DPC. This type of practice charges a small membership fee and does not accept any health insurance contracts, charging patients a set fee for services, similar to a menu at a restaurant or items at the auto repair shop. There are only a few of these practices nationwide but are growing in numbers.

Especially in this election year, health care reform continues to be a hot topic and I’m not writing to express my point of view other than that change needs to happen and is happening. There is growing concern over a shortage of primary care physicians. Please ask your family physician or pediatrician how he/she is doing. You may be surprised to hear the answer. I know the question would be welcomed and appreciated (as long as there’s time during the appointment to ask it)!

Editor’s Note:
Dr. Liu has provided family medical care for thousands of patients of all ages over two decades. She is board-certified in family practice and licensed without restrictions. She currently serves on the board of Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley and is also a member of the Illinois Academy of Family Practice Committee on Mental Health. Dr. Liu is proficient in all aspects of primary care, but holds special interests in women’s health and travel medicine. http://www.wellcomemd.com/. Learn more about her practice in the video below.

Just Breathe

 

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

The popularity of using breathing exercises with children is on the rise.  And, with good reason, because they work! When we focus on breathing fully and deeply, we move out of our sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) and into our parasympathetic nervous system (relaxation and receptivity).  Breathing exercises are effective for the frustrated 4-year-old, the anxious teenager, the overwhelmed parent and the stressed out teacher.  There are an abundance of fascinating studies that have found that our body posture, facial expression and breathing, send messages to our brains about how we are feeling.  Therefore, we can take control of our feelings by doing something different with our bodies.

Research has found that something as simple as mindful breathing can have the following benefits:

  1. Increase our focus
  2. Promote instant feelings of calmness
  3. Regulate our mood
  4. Increase our confidence
  5. Increase our joy

Some families find it helpful to have mindful breathing integrated into their regular routines.  For example, every time they are sitting in the car or at every trip to the bathroom they will participate in a simple breathing exercise.  Taking a few minutes at the beginning of an activity can also be an effective way to get a child in a calm, ready to learn state or to reduce stress in anxiety provoking situations.  Breathing exercises can also be an effective way of curbing a looming behavioral meltdown.

When teaching a child a breathing exercise, choose a time when the child is ready to learn.  If a child is in an anxious or frustrated state, he will have difficulty processing the directions.   Make the learning fun and multi-modal.

breathe blog
Image from theyogakids.com

Use a real object, picture or imaginative visualization to teach a breathing exercise.  I may show my little friend a stuffed bunny and ask:  “Do you know how bunnies breathe!?  A bunny takes 3 quick sniffs through its nose and then blows one deep breath through its nose.  I wonder if you could breathe like a bunny?” or “Imagine you had a balloon!  What color would your balloon be?  Let’s take a biiiiiiiig breath through our nose and blow the air out of our mouth into our balloon.  Wow, you made your balloon sooo big with those 3 big breaths!”

Here are my favorite, kid friendly, breathing exercises.

breathe blog 2

For more information on Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley visit our website.

7 Tips for Learning and Loving it!

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

Does helping your child with their homework ever feel like a laborious task?  These learning strategies will help you teach your child in a way that increases their understanding and retention.  Above all, these tips are meant to make the learning journey an enjoyable experience for all of those involved!

  1. Relate new information to known information.  Our brains are pattern-seeking devices.  They are always searching for associations between information being received and information already stored.  Linking new information with familiar information creates a connection that your brain will hold on to.blog
  1. Multi-Sensory involvement: the more varied experiences a child has with a new concept, the more neural pathways will be developed.  Whenever possible, teach the concept in a way that the child can experience.  If your child is learning about volcanoes, you can have them:

Role play being a volcano OR create a visual Venn Diagram comparing it to something they already know about.
volcan

  1. Active learning-the more a child is involved with the information, the more efficiently he will consolidate and recall it.  When a child passively receives information, he will understand and remember less.  Passively receiving informcloudation would be listening to a lecture or passing your eyes over the print from beginning to end in a chapter. Active learning would involve making predictions about the chapter, taking notes and discussing what was read or learned.
  1. Rhythm and Music: Rhythm and music stimulates both sides of the brain.  It activates our attention system and multiple neural pathways which facilitates memory and retrieval.   Create a song, set to a familiar tune that reviews key concepts in a curricular area.  Memorizing the 50 states, days of the week, or spelling words can all be easier when taught within a song or chant.
  2. Movement: Adding movement to an activity provides extra-sensory input and enhances attention.  Movement helps increase cognitive function while also helping children get rid of “the wiggles”.

It is also beneficial for children to have downtime for movement built into their days. Many studies have found that students who exercise do better in school.   Exercise triggers the release of a substance that enhances cognition by boosting the ability of neurons to communicate with each other. Below are some ideas to incorporate movement into learning:

  • Air writing letters
  • Playing charades to act out a history lesson
  • If the answer is correct, make a sign like a referee
  •  Jumping on the trampoline while doing math facts
  • Playing catch while reviewing information
  1. Humor– Humor wakes up the brain cells!  It also encourages attention and relieves stress.  Humor keeps learning an enjoyable experience for teachers, parents and children.  Using humor lets students have an increased feeling of safety in making an error or getting an answer wrong.  Make time for laugh breaks to keep your child alert and attentive while learning
  2. ReflectionDowntime is important to help the brain process new information and strengthen neural connections.  Have your child learn and study in small chunks of time.  Implement breaks for movement, listening to music, doodling or having a snack.

For more information on strategies for learning and about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley, visit: eastersealsdfvr.org.