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Staying Sane while Staying Home

By: Kelly Nesbitt, MOT, OTR/L, Occupational Therapist

Response to Coronavirus (COVID-19) 

Kids are finishing up the school year, you are still going to work/working remotely, running your home, and keeping your kids entertained during their summer! All this change can be very disorienting and stressful for everyone.  I wanted to put together a list of some suggestions that are “occupational therapist-approved” to help you navigate staying sane, keeping a good routine, carving out “family time”, and receiving therapy services remotely while being stuck inside the house! 

Routines

Probably the largest disruption to all of us at this time is that all of our daily routines are completely changed! Daily routines help provide structure to our lives, whether you are a child or an adult. Research by Ruth Segal, OTD and Assistant Professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy at New York University, reports that daily routines give families as sense of identity, organization, and provide socialization opportunities (Segal, 2004). Our kids are used to having a predictable day involving school, extra curriculars, play dates, and therapy appointments which help them organize their days and have meaningful interactions with family and friends. With this change to e-learning and staying home, it’s completely understandable that kids may feel stressed, anxious, and aimless without their routines. This stress may be more exacerbated for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Children with ASD can be heavily reliant upon predictability and routine, which have been thrown off because of the Coronavirus. For both neurotypical and children with ASD alike, using visual schedules, timers, and social stories may be good techniques to help your child cope with a new routine. 

Visual Schedules

Visual schedules can be as complex or simple as you need; they can be simple drawings on a piece of paper, an excel spreadsheet, or printed words/pictures from an online generator. For some of my clients, they are comforted and reassured when I draw 3 pictures of activities we are going to do in OT.

Honestly, whatever works for your kid and helps them feel organized is correct.  Whatever way you decide to create a visual schedule, it’s important to build in both structured and unstructured time for your children. They should have time built in for their academic work for school as well as a few hours for play time that is completely unstructured. Some kids may want to put a sticker next to an activity they completed, erase it on the whiteboard, cross it out, or just put a checkmark next to it. The sky’s the limit! Below are some examples of visual schedules and who it may be appropriate for:  

(Written schedule with times, appropriate for older elementary children who can tell time) 

(visual picture or words, as they are able to read. You can draw your own pictures or just print some off for younger children who cannot read.)  

More resources at: Free Templates for Daily Visual Schedules 

Timers

In conjunction with visual schedules, it can be helpful to utilize timers (sandtimers, timer on the microwave, on your iPhone, etc.) to help your children keep organized. The timer you use will have to be dependent upon your own child’s level of development as well as what they personally need to feel supported. Apps you can use: 

  1. Children’s Countdown App: Great, free time app on smart phones that shows a picture countdown on the screen. The coundtown clock can be set for any amount of time and children do not need to understand how to tell time or have understanding of numbers to comprehend it.
  2. Timed It! App: App for older children in which you can put in personalized tasks in minute increments and the app will help the child count down until they need to move on to the next task.
  3. Timer on smart phone: just about all smart phones have a “clock” application in which there are capabilities for setting a timer. This would be good for older children who have a better sense of what an hour, minute, second is. Although, some younger children will understand the concept that they are only “all done” when the timer makes a sound.

Social Stories

For some children with ASD, social stories are a good way to help explain why their routine has changed or what the “story” of their day. Social stories are third person stories in which the child is the main character and different themes can be explored. Ask an Occupational or Speech therapists for help creating a social story, if needed. 

Here’s a link to example social stories and one of the final links on this page has a social story template: https://www.andnextcomesl.com/2018/07/free-social-stories-about-transitions.html.  

Reducing Stress Activities

 In this uncertain time, it’s important to have some outlets for both you and your children to decompress and still have fun together. Building in sensory activities into your daily routine will help your child remain calm and regulated throughout the day.  

Physical Activities and Heavy Work

Taking movement breaks throughout your day will help both you and your child stay sane while you are cooped up at the house.  Occupational therapists often discuss the benefits of heavy work and how this push, pull, or carry input (or proprioceptive input) to the muscles and joints has a regulating and calming affect. There are a multitude of heavy work activities you can do indoors. Such as:

  1. Build a pillow fort with blankets, pillows & stuffed animals
  2. Pull siblings on the hardwood floor while they are sitting or laying on a blanket
  3. Do animal walk races across the room (bear walk, frog hop, crab walk, etc. Make up your own silly walk!)
  4. Jumping Jacks or jump on a trampoline
  5. Pull siblings in the wagon around the block
  6. Have a wall push-up competition and find out who is the strongest in your house
  7. Play towel tug-of-war
  8. Plant flowers in the backyard or help with yard work (using little shovel, pull weeds, dig in the dirt)

My helpful tip to parents is, if the activity includes pushing, pulling, or carrying something; that’s heavy work! Get creative and come up with your own ideas!

Family Game Night/Nightly Mealtime Tradition

Keeping special family routines will be important to make sure kids feel safe and supported when everyone is kind of stressed. Set aside time in your routine where you can all sit down and have a meal together with the television off. A family tradition at my house growing up was to play “Pot Boils Over” where one member of the family starts a silly story and after a few sentences says “pot boils over” and “passes” the story-telling to another family member to add on as they please. It’s a simple game that gets all family members involved, laughing, and thinking creatively.

Another mealtime routine I have heard of, is going around and saying one thing each family member is thankful for, what the best part of their day was, share a good joke, etc. This is also a great time for families to all sit down together and have game nights. You are going to be all home together, why not build some special memories and encourage social learning. Here are a few favorite games that can be played with multiple people, for different ages:

  1. Games for younger children: Shoots and Ladders, Simon Says, Twister (help them with right and left), Follow the Leader, Go fish, Memory (match pictures by turning over cards), Jenga, Kerplunk
  2. Games for Older children: Twister, Uno (each color you play can correspond to a fun activity such as “Make up your Own Dance Move” or “Do 2 Pushups”), Clue, Scrabble and Scrabble Junior, Telestrations (like telephone, but with drawing pictures), Apples to Apples, do a 200+ piece puzzle as a family, Guess Who?

Here’s another resource with more games: Our Favorite Board Games for Kids

Unplug

I am personally feeling inundated by COVID-19 news and I can get overwhelmed quickly, so I can imagine you and your children are feeling the same. I think it’s healthy to be aware of the evolving situation and current precautions, however it’s beneficial to “unplug” every once and a while when you are at home with your kids. Your children are very perceptive and can pick up on your stress and anxiety as they read your non-verbal cues and affect. Young children especially need their parents to “co regulate,” meaning they read your affect, mood, facial expressions and adjust their own regulation accordingly. If you exude a calm, cool, collected attitude when they are anxious, this will help them calm down and feel secure.

Therefore it’s important to turn off the news at some point and focus on having quality and uninterrupted play time with your kids. Do finger painting, make a fort out of blankets, play board games, read stories by flashlight, sit together and do a puzzle or color! Even just being available to your children, not distracted by technology or work, can be extremely beneficial to your kids.

As May is Mental Health Awareness Month, the CDC also recommends to take time to pause and breath during stress. Notice How you Feel. Take Breaks. Make time to sleep and exercise. Reach out and stay connected. Seek help if you are feeling overwhelmed or feeling unsafe. If you or your child needs help, our social work team can help.

Tele-Therapy Services

COVID-19 does not have to stop your child’s progress toward their goals! Your child can still receive therapy services remotely via tele-therapy.  Tele-therapy is a unique service delivery method in which your friendly Easterseals therapist will arrange a time and will send you a link via the Microsoft Teams app. From there, you just click on the link at your pre-arranged appointment time and you can have a video call with your therapist. Your therapist can then work on therapy goals with your child with you, the parent, being the therapist’s “hands” in the session. An occupational therapist will help coach you through appropriate handling techniques, sensory strategies, exercises, fine motor activities, feeding session and more remotely!  

All our therapists adopted this technology so your child will continually receive services with minimal interruption. It is our hope to keep providing exceptional therapy services to all of our clients during this difficult time. If you have any questions or concerns regarding tele-therapy, please reach out to one of your therapists or contact us at 630.620.4433.

Also stay tuned to our blog for more resources and tips from our therapists on helping families cope with increased time at home during COVID especially during the summer.

Sources:

Boy with Speech Language Pathologist in Tele-Therapy

Tele-therapy at Easterseals

By: Valerie Heneghan, M.A., CCC-SLP/L, Director of Speech-Language, Feeding, and Assistive Technology

Tele-therapy for All! 

Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley has been at the forefront of serving children and their families in a way that meets their current needs through clinical expertise, a team-based approach and integrating technology to ensure maximum independence. As an organization, we have been offering tele-therapy opportunities for the past 10 years as a service delivery model to those it would serve optimally (i.e., a generalization of skills to home environment, transportation issues, medically fragile or at-risk health, to accommodate busy schedules, etc.). 

In response to COVID-19, all 87 therapists were trained to transition to tele-therapy services within two days with support from experienced tele-therapists within the agency.  

How Does Tele-Therapy Work? 

Once evaluated to determine eligibility for skilled therapy services, your therapist would follow up to plan your child’s tele-therapy session and schedule a time to meet. They will work with you to review treatment plans and establish your priorities. 

Laptops or desktop computers are preferred for best overall experience. But tablets, iPhones and Android phones can work too as long as the device has a working microphone and camera. A stable internet connection is needed via a hard-line/Ethernet cord, WiFi or using your cellular plan (your standard data rates may apply). Screen sharing is available to increase participation, engagement and utilization of resources throughout the session. 

Boy in Physical Therapy with Tele-Therapy

Tips for Making the Most out of Online Therapy

  1. Get comfortable with the technology: Immerse yourself in the platform you are using. There are often a lot of features available such as audio adjustments and visual displays, screen sharing, chat features, etc. The more comfortable you are with these features the easier it may be to modify or troubleshoot if a technical problem occurs.
  2. Make a plan: Plan out a time and a designated space in your home that would work best for your child. Have the computer, phone or other device propped up on books or a stand that has a wide view of the room. If possible, the therapy time should be away from other family members or pets. Work with your therapist ahead of time to prepare a few materials or resources like balls, pillows, mats, or games. 
    • Ex: For a young child, find a space where the child can sit comfortably to view the screen but also has space nearby for movement breaks. Bring your child’s favorite toy to show to their therapist and board game to keep their engagement with the parent between exercises. 
  3. Be flexible: When plan A doesn’t go accordingly, be willing to change course.  
    • Take the child’s lead and adapt as necessary. Let the therapist guide you in facilitating therapy strategies through real-life reactions and experiences. 
    • Use items in your home to replicate therapy equipment. Ex: Use couch cushions and pillows to create new surfaces for climbing and crashing. 
  4. Make it fun: Be creative and try new things! You may be surprised by new interests and breaking from the same routines. See how much your child can do! 
  5. Make it matter: Use this as an opportunity for your therapist to see your child in your home to incorporate therapy strategies and techniques in your daily routine. Let your therapist see what is important to your child and how to motivate them to achieve their treatment goals. 
    • Ex: A child is experiencing difficulty with mealtime; let the therapist observe seating and position at the table, mealtime structure, and how you communicate to your child during a typical mealtime. Pick a food that is important to your family and ask about strategies to incorporate it into your child’s diet. 
  6. Give your therapist feedback: It may be more difficult to pick up on social cues, be direct about what went well and what could be improved. Share ideas and problem-solve together to plan for the next session.   

COVID Response

As we try to be one step ahead of the COVID-19 crisis and care of your child, we are committed to keeping our programs running. Our tele-therapy services are available to maintain your child’s therapy schedule, help your family navigate this new routine and manage the difficult emotions that may come with it.  We can also help parents that have a concern about their infant or toddler’s development now. There is no need to wait, as the early stages of a child’s life are the most important in their development.

We are pleased that tele-therapy has already helped many children eat a new food, stay active, and improve their regulation and play skills while building a stronger relationship with their caregiver. 

We understand the immense stress of balancing your child’s needs with the demands of work and school while also keeping your family healthy. We are here to ensure that each child and their caregivers have the support they need to adopt this technology and continue therapy progress. 

While much has changed, our commitment to you remains. If you have any needs, we are actively monitoring our main phone number, 630.620.4433 and info@eastersealsdfvr.org. Contact us at any time (please include your full name, child’s name, phone number and email) and a member of our team will return the response within one business day. 

How to Plan a Sensory Friendly and Accessible Vacation

By: Kelly Nesbitt, MOT, OTR/L, Occupational Therapist

Summer vacation is in full swing, along with all the stress and planning that parents feel as they try to make a great relaxing vacation for their whole family. For parents of children with disabilities, these feelings can be very overwhelming as they have to take into account how to travel efficiently and safely while accommodating their child’s needs.

To make your trips a little easier, I’ve compiled a list of resources about air travel, cruises, and US-based destinations that are perfect for a family with a child with disabilities.

Air Travel

TSA Cares is a national program through the Department of Homeland Security that offers one-on-one assistance navigating the airport and security for people with disabilities. Services include escort by a Passenger Support Specialist who can meet you at a specific point in a chosen airport, help with baggage through security, assist in security checks, and just be another support system navigating a chaotic environment such as an airport.

Click here to learn more about TSA Cares. You can also contact them with further questions at (855) 787-2227 or TSA-ContactCenter@tsa.dhs.gov

Open Taxis is a new wheelchair accessible taxi service in Chicago. It is open 24/7, so it is perfect for quick taxi rides to the airport without parking your own accessible vehicle at the airport for the entirety of your trip. You can call to prearrange a trip or call the day of the trip. You can schedule a ride by calling 855-928-1010.

Two children wait to embark on the airplane

Travelers Aid Chicago is a service in Chicago O’Hare that provides support and protection for “vulnerable at-risk travelers who need guidance, support, or advocacy” as well as crisis intervention for passengers with cognitive or developmental disabilities. Information desks are located in terminals throughout O’Hare.

Travelers Aid Chicago provides the option to schedule an Airport Practice Experience. You can take a “practice run” through O’Hare airport including going through security and the terminals to help children know what to expect on the actual travel day. They even have visuals to provide to families so that the child can have their own visual schedule of their trip to O’Hare.

I would especially recommend this for a child who may have Autism and/or an Anxiety disorder and has not experienced anything like flying before.

To inquire about Travelers Aid Chicago’s services or to set-up a practice day, contact them at (773) 894-2427 or travelersaid@heartlandalliance.org

Cruises

A boy looks over the side of a cruise ship with binoculars

Autism on the Sea is an international organization that creates cruise experiences for children and adults with Autism, Down Syndrome, Tourrette Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy and more. These experiences are currently available on well-known cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruises, Carnival Cruises, and Disney Cruises.

With this service, cruise members who are experienced and background checked can accompany you on the cruise and adapt activities in order to fit the special needs of your family. This organization will also collaborate with you in order to contact cruise lines to adapt your vacation to fit the dietary, physical, mental, and emotional needs of your child.

They even provide images of common used “cruise ship words” to be used as part of a child’s Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) so that you can create a social story to prep your child for their trip.

Click here for additional information on Autism on the Sea and their services.

Disney Cruises offers many special services for passengers with special needs, such as accessible suites, access to medical equipment, sharps containers, and a variety of other accommodations. Disney Cruises also offer American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters for on-board entertainment and shows. Please contact Disney Cruises 60 days before your cruise to arrange accommodations.

For more information or to request accommodations call (407) 566-3602 or email SpecialServices@disneycruise.com

“Stay-cations” in Chicago

As Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley is based in the western suburbs of Chicago, here are some tips for exploring the Windy City!

The Chicago Children’s Museum Play for All program offers free admission for the first 250 visitors with disabilities the second Saturday every month from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. to experience exhibits via a private tour. You must pre-register in order to get this special offer. The museum also has sound reducing headphones, pictures for a visual schedule, and lap trays for wheelchairs so that children with disabilities can experience the museum.

For more information on the Play for All program, call (312) 464-8249 or email partnerships@chicagochildrensmuseum.org.

Children attending Play for All at the Chicago Children's Museum

Calm Waters at the Shedd Aquarium offers extended hours on selected days especially for children with disabilities. They have specially designed shows with novel sensory experiences, a “quiet room” for sensory breaks, and an app in which there is information about noise levels in different parts of the Aquarium to help you plan your trip.

Click here or call 312-939-2438 for additional information on Calm Waters at the Shedd Aquarium!

Sensory Saturday at the Field Museum: The Field Museum opens early on select Saturdays in which children with disabilities or sensory processing issues can enjoy the field museum without loud crowds as well as access to hands on experiences to learn through tactile play and exploration.

Click here or email to learn more about Sensory Saturdays at the Field Museum!

Want more inclusive event ideas for children with disabilities in the Chicagoland area? Click here!

Walt Disney World

It really is the happiest place on earth. Disney World offers numerous services and accommodations for children with special needs at each of Disney’s parks.

Services include:

Disney has many guides to help guests with disabilities enjoy their experience.
  • Access to Break Areas for children who need a break from the sensory overload of Disney. You can ask any cast member to help you locate a break area.
  • Sensory Guides for each park’s rides and shows that have strobe lights, scents pumped in, loud noises, have a lot of unpredictability, bumps, go fast, etc. It even lists what type of restraint is used in each ride for safety as well as how long each ride is.
    This guide can help families of children with special needs decide which attractions would be most enjoyable for their child. If you are planning to go to Disney, it may be helpful to show this list to your Occupational Therapist, as they can help you figure out which rides will best suit your child’s unique sensory system.
  • Resources for Children with Autism Spectrum disorders in booklet form. This booklet lists FAQ’s about Disney for children with Autism, what Disney recommends bringing to the parks (ID bracelet, a sensory toy, earplugs/headphones, etc.)
  • Rental wheelchairs
  • Empathetic, warm staff : Many blog posts from parents of children with disabilities rave about how warm and engaging Disney staff and characters are with their children with special needs- meeting them where they are and not overwhelming them. Click here to read our past blog, The Magic of Disney and Your Special Needs Child
  • Sign Language interpreters
  • Handheld captioning/video captioning
  • Braille guidebook

Morgan’s Wonderland

Morgan’s Wonderland in San Antonio, Texas is an amusement and waterpark that has 25 “ultra-accessible” attractions. Opened in 2010 by parents of a daughter with physical and cognitive disabilities, Morgan’s Wonderland is the world’s first theme park designed specifically for children with special needs. This unique theme park has a variety of amazing attractions such as the Sensory Village (which is a replica small town for children to engage in imaginative play), wheelchair swings, a large sand box, a musical playground, and more!

Morgan’s Inspiration Island is a waterpark addition to Morgan’s wonderland that provides an opportunity for guests with limited mobility to experience the fun of a waterpark. They have access to waterproof chairs and compressed air operated power wheelchairs so that all children can play in the water without having to worry about ruin their personal power wheelchairs.

There are also hotels that are partnered with the amusement and water park that offer discounts and accommodations to make the entirety of your trip accessible. Morgan’s Inspiration Island was listed as one of TIME Magazines 2018 “World’s Greatest Places.” Best of all? Admission for guests with disabilities is free.

Morgan's Wonderland and Island Inspiration

National Parks

The National Park Service has a list of the most wheelchair accessible hiking trails so that guests with limited mobility don’t have to miss out on the beauty of our national parks. There are wheelchair accessible hiking paths at the Grand Canyon, Sequoia, and Zion National Parks.

Whether you decide to go on a cruise, roadtrip, or fly somewhere this summer, bring up your vacation plans with your child’s therapists for further accessibility tips and sensory strategies that can make your trip more enjoyable for everyone involved. Happy travels!

For more information about Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley and our services, visit: https://www.easterseals.com/dfv/our-programs/

The Magic of Disney and your Special Needs Child

Guest Blogger: Michele Boroughf, Renee’s Mom

Michele is the mom of an 11-year-old daughter with special needs.  She is always seeking out fun activities and adapting them to create new experiences for Renee and her family. She shares how she planned an accessible and memorable Disney vacation.


I won’t deny that for the longest time as a parent of a special needs daughter, I had put off a trip to Disney World. Why?  I said to myself, how could she enjoy the rides?  How would she manage the travel?  How would she do in the heat?  She has seizures!  How will we manage?  Well this past May we went on a family trip to Disney.  First & foremost was to honor the memory of my Dad who was such a fan of Mickey.  My mother has had this on her bucket list for some time now and all the stars were aligned this May that eight members of our family decided to make the trek to Disney.

I’m happy to say our family survived the trip.  Disney was magical for so many reasons, but for our family it has a different meaning.

I have a friend who summed it up best.  Disney’s motto (although not official and appears nowhere in print).  “It’s not our fault, but it is our problem”.  Disney bent over backwards in every way to ensure our trip was not only enjoyable, but memorable.

Why is it magical?  Because I have never been on a vacation where everyone is NICE!  Not just nice, but pleasant, cordial, and can’t do enough to help you.  Assistance is everywhere!

So here are a few helpful hints for those of you who might be considering a visit to this magical place:

  1. Traveling with a wheelchair? No problem!  The bus transportation for Disney on the property provides two spaces for a wheelchair and scooter.  There are retractable seats.  There’s a handicapped lane for boarding.  You’re accommodated first on every single occasion.  If it’s overlooked, just pleasantly bring it to your bus driver’s attention.  And everyone else has to wait until you’re accommodated.
  1. The Monorail also has a separate boarding line for those in a wheelchair or scooter. They even pull out a ramp for easy boarding.  You’re first yet again!
  1. With regards to accommodations, we stayed at Art of Animation in a family suite and we set up a mattress on the floor to accommodate Renee’s need for sleeping.
  1. Groceries? Who needs special food?  We do!  Coconut milk is what she drinks.  And I was able to find an online grocery store that delivers right to the Bell Hop at the hotel.  Order early enough and you qualify for a discount.  Not only will they deliver to the hotel, they’ll actually put the groceries in your room and perishables in your fridge.  Our mini refrigerator and microwave helped with feeding her daily meals.  Did I mention wine?  Yep, they have that too!  gardengrocer.com
  1. For our family, meal plans don’t work for us. But for a lot of people they do.  Either you’re all on a plan or you’re not.  May was still a very hot month for our daughter and what we learned is we need to go earlier in the season.  At best, create an itinerary so that a sit down meal can be experienced at lunch & dinner which allows time for your special needs child who’s sensitive to the heat index a time to cool off inside.
  1. By using the Disney app on your phone you can avoid wait times for dinner by booking ahead! Definitely do this!  This gets you in and seated right away.
  1. You already know that your child might not be able to keep up with a busy schedule. So check out booking fastpass+ early in the morning hours.  Your options are to cool off with lunch indoors or perhaps head back to the pool to cool off.
  1. Our visit to Magic Kingdom resulted in a trip to the Emergency Quick Care. With a personal escort from the Castle’s Princess Breakfast straight to the walk-in clinic.  Thanks to the heat, Renee suffered from dehydration.  They offered us a private room without hesitation to cool her off and use it as long we needed it.
  1. No matter where we dined, all we had to say was “wheelchair accommodation” on the app and they gladly accommodated.
  1. Lastly, we needed an emergency run to a CVS Pharmacy for Renee. We have no car!  Were on Disney property…what to do?  Call UBER!  Yes, UBER picked up my husband in minutes to take him to the CVS in downtown Disney area.  Just load the UBER app on your iphone, and you’re good to go!

I’m so very happy we finally made this journey and we look forward to our return soon.  The time spent with family and Renee with her cousins are priceless.  Would we change some things? Absolutely, but I say find the itinerary that works for your family.  But know that it will be magical for your family because nowhere else on earth will someone go to the ends of the earth to make sure you’re are one hundred percent happy.  I hope these tips are helpful to you.  My biggest lesson is it doesn’t have to be perfect, but just learn to live in the moment!  Good luck to you on your travels!  May you enjoy every minute of the magic!


The social services staff at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley can recommend resources and pointers to help you plan your family’s next trip.  Click here to get in touch.

My Child is Stuttering; Will He or She Grow out of it?

By: Valerie Heneghan, M.A., CCC-SLP/L

You may have noticed that your child appears to be getting stuck on words or repeating words and sounds recently, what do you do?  Your friends and/or family may have told you not to worry about it as they will likely grow out of the problem, is this true?  How can you tell if my child is stuttering?  When do I seek help for this problem?

In this post, you will be provided with a brief summary addressing questions related to childhood stuttering.

Prevalence

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), in preschool age the prevalence of stuttering can be as great as eleven percent. The prevalence of stuttering is also greater in boys than girls up to 4:1 as the stuttering progresses.

Characteristics of Stuttering

Disfluency is anything that interrupts the forward flow of speech. Stuttering occurs when this disruption occurs within a word.

There are two forms of stuttering:

1) Sound/Syllable Repetition: repeating a single sound or syllable (e.g., g-g-g-going, bi-bi-cycle, etc.) and 2) Sound Prolongations; pausing or stretching out single sound (e.g, g__oing, ____bicycle).

Associated and/or secondary characteristics may also be present for a child who stutters.  These are described as movements as a reaction to the stuttering including but not limited to: distracting sounds, facial grimaces, head movements, movement of the extremities, etc.

Risk Factors

Stuttering is a disorder of childhood with typically emerges between the ages of two and a half and five years old. While genetics and neurophysiology appear to be related to the underlying causes of stuttering, environmental factors, temperament, and speaking demands may influence a child’s reactions to stuttering.

Recovery

80% of children will outgrow stuttering within four years.  During the first year however, 12% recover spontaneously.  Indicators that your child may continue to stutter includes but not limited to: no changes in frequency of stuttering, changes in stuttering type, duckpersistence of associated behaviors six months post onset, family history of stuttering, increased communication demands, etc.

When therapy is recommended

If you notice that your child is stuttering, mark when you first noticed the problem begin.  Initially, do not draw attention to the stuttering, decrease the communication demands and model slow and smooth speech when speaking to or near your child.

If you are concerned about your child’s stuttering, have them evaluated by a Speech-Language Pathologist who specializes in assessing and treating children who stutter.

Future Budget Outlook: Early Intervention

By: Scott Kuczynski, Senior at University of Wisconsin, Political Science major

Read part 1 in this budget series here. In part 2 of this Illinois budget series we take a closer look at the future outlook of the state Early Intervention program.

The ongoing budget impasse has had profound consequences on nonprofits throughout the state of Illinois. Court orders, laws and federal money have funded many state services and programs.  However, 10.6% of the budget currently remains unfunded as the state is not authorized to spend money on these programs without a budget in placepattiThese unfunded programs primarily involve higher education and human services which include child care and many other grant funded programs.  Up to this point, there’s been a lack of urgency between the two sides in resolving the budget impasse sparking fears that a budget won’t be reached into the spring or much later.

Unfortunately, the prospect of ending the budget impasse early in 2016 looks bleak.  This concern is confirmed by Illinois State Representative Patricia R. Bellock who notes:

“My most important priority in 2016 is to help pass a responsible budget that meets our essential priorities in securing a safety net for the most vulnerable children and families in our community.

Budget negotiations are still ongoing, but I feel it is unlikely that anything will happen until March.  The reality that we work with is we cannot tax our way out or cut our way out of this budget shortfall.  A balanced budget can only be achieved with a responsible combination of new revenue and long overdue reforms and agreement by the leaders of the General Assembly and the Governor.”

The budget stalemate has created an atmosphere of uncertainty in Springfield that has trickled down to individuals in need, human service agencies and communities causing permanent harm in the process.

What can you do?

One of the most important things you can do is to communicate the importance of Early Intervention and reaching a budget agreement to State Representatives (Click here for Legislature Mailing List).

This involves emphasizing the importance of keeping Early Intervention funding at current levels. Previously there were discussions in Springfield of potentially raising the definition of a developmental delay from 30% to 50%.  Increasing the definition of developmental delay would deny thousands of children early intervention services in Illinois.

Early Intervention is a crucial program serving more than 20,000 infants and toddlers EI Costsfrom birth to three-years old.  In addition to the developmental benefits of Early Intervention for children, it’s critical that policy makers understand the fiscal benefits the Early Intervention program provides. Potentially restricting eligibility for Early Intervention will escalate the number of children who need more intensive and costly services in the future.  It’s estimated that every $1 spent in Early Intervention saves up to $17 in future costs.  By conveying to our elected officials the importance of Early Intervention services we can help ensure its proper standing in the next budget agreement.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Email Governor Rauner through his constituent page and let him know you oppose potential Early Intervention cuts:
  • Email / fax / call your Illinois General Assembly Legislators to let them know the importance of protecting the Early Intervention program! Don’t know who your rep is? You can look it up online through the state’s board of elections site:
  • Send a letter to your Legislator.
  • Continue to raise awareness on social media using the hashtag #EImatters.

Our commitment

Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley remains committed to continuing services.  While we are committed to service continuity, we question our ability to do this if the budget stalemate continues. It’s also important to understand how the budget impasse might be impacting families and human services throughout the state.

Learn more about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley here: https://eastersealsdfvr.org/.

 

Stir Crazy Kids: How to Stay Active this Winter

By: Laura Bueche, Occupational Therapist

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Oh the weather outside is frightful, and we are going crazy indoors. Just because there is snow and ice on the ground, does not mean your child’s arousal level is any lower.  On the contrary, it’s probably reaching a boiling point and you are looking for ways to get your kids the sensory stimulation and gross motor activity their little bodies are craving.

Getting your kids up and moving has a lot of benefits. The Department of Agriculture’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that children and adolescents engage in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity on most days of the week, preferably daily. As an occupational therapist, I love physical activity because of the regulating aspects of proprioceptive input*, as well as development of coordination skills and strengthening opportunities.

*Proprioceptive input are sensations from joints, muscles and connective tissues that underlie body awareness. Input can be obtained by lifting, pushing, and pulling heavy objects, including one’s own weight. For example, climbing on a jungle gym, swinging across monkey bars, or pulling a wagon.

15_Brady PembrokeWhy is it helpful? Providing your child with more proprioceptive input throughout the day can help them:

  • Tolerate sensations and situations that are challenging
  • Regulate emotions, alertness and increase attention span
  • Reduce unwanted sensory seeking and sensory avoiding behaviors
  • Handle transitions with less stress (sensorysmarts.com)

For more information about sensory processing check out the post, How Sensitive is Too Sensitive?

In these bitter winter months, it is difficult to get your kids the physical
activity they need. Here are just a few ideas for indoor activities to give you and your family a much-needed break from being stuck at home.

Ideas for Local Indoor Activities

Ideas if You Can’t Leave the House

There is a crazy blizzard outside, what can I do with what I have at home? Here are some ideas to get kids some movement breaks when stuck indoors:

  • Build a furniture fort by pushing and pulling furniture and cushions from around the house.
  • Make an obstacle course by army crawling, jumping and doing jumping jacks to get to the finish line in record time.
  • The floor is hot lava! We all know this favorite.
  • Animal walk relay races: bear walk, crab walk, wheelbarrow, and penguin waddle across the room to roll the die of a board game or get stickers for a craft project.
  • Jump and crash into a pillow pile or onto the bed.
  • Jump rope with rhymes and songs.
  • Squeeze, squish, and smash Play-Doh.
  • Use a scooter, tricycle, or scooter board to propel through the house.
  • Squish your kids in a pillow pile; making sandwiches.
  • Swing your toddler in a blanket between you and another adult.
  • Push a vacuum or mop, collect the garbage, wipe down the table, load the laundry, and push the laundry basket.Cooper

#GivingTuesday

Today, is Giving Tuesday, a global day of giving. This international movement started four years ago to follow the commerce focused Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  Giving Tuesday was created to channel the generous spirit of the holiday season and inspires action around charitable giving.1

Each week, more than 1,000 infants, children and young adults with developmental disabilities come through Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley’s doors to receive the personalized services that help them build a foundation for future development and independence.

Click here to view a video which gives you a glimpse into the impact of Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley. It features Quinn, who has cerebral palsy.  He has made great strides because of the therapies he receives.  quinn

On this Giving Tuesday, please consider a gift to Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley. Your donation will help us to provide therapy and services to infants and children, so that they can reach critical milestones, achieve their goals and live their best life.

Even better, every new dollar raised this Giving Tuesday will be matched 2:1! Thanks to a generous grant and our Board of Directors, we can triple your impact.

Click here for more information about Easter Seals and how you might choose to contribute!

 

Fine Motor Fun

By: Laura Bueche, Occupational Therapist

You have probably heard about fine motor skills from your child’s teacher, occupational therapist, or child development book. But what exactly are fine motor skills? Why are they important to develop? What should my child be able to do at their age?

What are Fine Motor Skills?

Fine motor tasks involve small movements of the hands and fingers and are necessary for performing many daily occupations.

Why Are Fine Motor Skills So Important?

Fine motor skills are essential to performing everyday tasks.

As your child grows and learns, fine motor skills are crucial in the education and participation in school. Your child will be learning concepts through using their fine motor skills to color, cut with scissors, and paint with a paintbrush. Later on, they will need more precise fine motor skills to write letters and numbers, operate a calculator, and type on a computer.

Play is also an area that requires fine motor skills, such as constructing legos, kenix, duplos, stringing beads, playing board games, manipulating play doh, and making crafts. 20150320_ES-LegoRoom-22.jpg

Self-care activities also require fine motor skills. Tying shoelaces, buttoning buttons, zipping up a jacket, and using a knife and fork to eat food, opening and closing containers, opening doors, all require fine motor control.

What Are Some Fine Motor Milestones?

The following list describes SOME activities that your child should be able to do at their developmental age level.

0-3 Months                  Can hold object involuntarily when placed in palm

2-4 months                  Swipes at objects independently

3-3.5 months               Clasps hands together often

3.5 – 4 months            Begins purposeful, visually directed reaching

3-7 months                  Can hold small object in hand

4-8 months                  Can transfer objects from one hand to another

4-10 months

  • Accurate forward and side reach
  • Rakes or scoops small objects to pick them up
  • Intentionally releases object

Age 1

  • Transfer items from one hand to another
  • Accurate forward and side reach
  • Able to grasp small object with finger tips of thumb, pointer, middle finger
  • Pokes and points with fingersNicholas_T

12- 18months

  • Hold crayon with whole hand
  • Emerging skill in picking up a small object with fingertips and moving it to the palm of the hand

Age 2

  • Take off socks
  • Take off shoes
  • Finger feeds self
  • Scoops with spoon or fork and brings it to mouth
  • Uses a fork and spoon well
  • Holds utensil with thumb and all fingers, thumb pointing down
  • Can draw and copy a vertical and horizontal line
  • Snips paper
  • Turns single pages of book
  • String large beads

Age 3

  • Fastens Velcro or elastic laced shoes
  • Completes simple puzzles (5-6 pieces)
  • Build a tower of 9 small blocks
  • Drink from cup with one hand
  • Holds pencil with 3 fingers (tripod grasp)
  • Copies circle, traces square
  • Draws person with head
  • Unbuttons small buttons

Age 4

  • Prepares tooth brush with toothpaste
  • Obtains soap from dispenser
  • Can cut straight, curved lines, and simple shapes
  • Draw and copy a cross, square
  • Folds paper in half
  • Dominant hand has better coordination (no longer switches)

Age 5

  • Puts on and zips up jacket
  • Uses a knife to spread, dull knife to cut
  • Laces shoes
  • Colors within lines
  • Cut out complex pictures
  • Draws a complete person

Age 6

  • Brushes hair
  • Brushes teeth well
  • Completes all dressing including fasteners and belt
  • Unlocks and opens doors
  • Can fasten a safety belt
  • Complex puzzles
  • Prints uppercase and lowercase

Age 8

  • Uses personal care devices such as contact lenses, glasses, hearing aids, and orthotics

Age 9

  • Folds laundry well
  • Uses small kitchen supplies for meal prep
  • Uses key to open door

How Can I Help my Child?

Besides the resources at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley, there are some great websites with ideas for home activities that work on fine motor skill development.

If you are concerned about your child’s fine motor development, an occupational therapy evaluation will be able to assess your child’s fine motor skills, and compare them with what is developmentally appropriate for their age. An occupational therapist can recommend ongoing therapy or a home program to help your child catch up to their peers.

 

Holiday Gifts and Toys For Kids

holiday

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

With the holidays right around the corner, everyone is beginning to purchase gifts for their loved ones. Christmas is a special time for kids (Santa is coming!) and you are probably looking for toy/game ideas that are worth your money. Not only do we wish to purchase toys that are children want, but also toys that are developmentally and educationally beneficial as well. Before you run out to the stores to get your hands on those “hot toys” (and fight those crowds!!), lets consider a few guidelines.

  • Is the toy developmentally appropriate for your child?

Just because a certain toy is the “it” toy, this doesn’t mean all children should have it.  Does your child have the skills to play with the toy in a productive way? You should buy toys that the child can play with functionally at this point in their development.

  • Will this toy grow with your child?

Toys can be very expensive nowadays, so we want to purchase toys that will grow with a child. Will your child enjoy this toy not only right now, but in the future? Are there a variety of different ways this toy can be played with? An example of a toy that may grow with a child is an animal set and barn. Toddlers may play with this toy by placing the animals in and out of the barn or learning the animal sounds. Older children may play the animals by creating stories or more complex play schemes with the barn.

  • How expensive is the toy?

Just because a toy is expensive does not mean it is the best toy for a child! Many of the best toys for children are in expensive such as blocks, balls, pretend play musical instruments, stuffed animals, etc. If you are on a budget, here are some toys you can make at home for next to nothing and even use some of those old things you have laying around the house! Click here for ideas!

  • Does the toy require batteries? Is it electronic?

My favorite toys for younger kids often don’t require any batteries!  Sometimes the toys do everything and anything and do not allow for the child to learn or do something independently. I think the best toys are old fashioned, basic toys. These toys don’t always make sounds, move, or have flashing lights!

  • Does the toy promote exploration and problem solving skills?

Toys that allow your child to figure out something by themselves should be given! E.g. Puzzles (for all ages), shape sorters (younger children), Playdough, building kits, etc.

  • Other questions to ask: Does the toy promote/allow for physical activity? Is the toy safe for child’s age/developmental level? Does the toy/game promote educational concepts? Is the toy durable?

Toy Ideas by Age

1-3 years

  • Musical instruments
  • Bubbles
  • Balls
  • Fisher Price play sets (bus, airplane)
  • Farm with animals (here) OR zoo with animals (here)
  • Elefun Game (here), Elefun ball popper toy (here)
  • Fisher Price Spiral Race Track (here)
  • Cause/effect type toys
  • Blocks (here or here)
  • Ball/hammer toys (here)
  • Stacking buckets (here)
  • Books with simple illustrations and early vocabulary
  • Basic wooden puzzles with early vocabulary (animals, vehicles, food, etc.)

*Note- Due to the “electronic age” many toy companies are pushing electronic/computer/ipad based activities for children under the age of 2 years. The American Academy of Pediatrics does NOT support the use of electronics for children under the age of 2 years.

For more information visit: http://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/Babies-and-Toddlers-Should-Learn-from-Play-Not-Screens.aspx

3-6 years (preschool and kindergarten age)

  • Dollhouse (any with family)
  • Pretend play dress up outfits- firefighter, cook, police officer, vet, etc. (here)
  • Doll/stuffed animal/puppets with clothes/accessories
  • Farm/zoo with animals
  • Play food with microwave
  • Stove, grocery cart, cash register, tea set, sandwich making set, etc.
  • Train set with city
  • Basic turn-taking games (Barnyard Bingo 3+, Zingo 4+, Candyland 3+, Chutes and Ladder 3+, Hi Ho Cheerio 3+, Diggity Dog 3+, etc.)
  • More complex puzzles that require higher level problem solving
  • Toys/games that target academic concepts (colors, shapes, numbers, letter, etc.)
  • Books with more pictures and words (compared to toddler books)
  • Play-doh and play-doh sets
  • Block set that allow for more creative/complex building
  • Art supplies, crayons, coloring books, etc.

6-9 years

  • Lego sets (look at age and complexity)
  • Board games (HedBanz, Operation, Zingo, Guess Who, Monopoly Junior, Charades game, Blurt, memory games, Trouble, Don’t Say It, etc.)
  • Books with more complex story lines- beginning chapter books
  • Games that encourage physical activity- basketball nets, soccer goals, baseball equipment, etc.
  • Art/craft materials to improve creativity

9 years +

  • Thinking games such as Chess, Sodoku, crossword puzzles, Checkers, Scrabble, Jeopardy, Catchphrase, Bop it!, Boggle
  • More complex Lego/building sets
  • Apple/Android apps or computer games (they aren’t all bad!) that target executive functions such as problem solving (apps- Cut the Rope, Rush Hour, Tetris, apps that aren’t just a game but actually make you THINK!) Click here for more on “executive functions” (here)
  • Check out Marbles-the Brain Store or other stores like it for unique games/activities that workout your brain! (Here)

Other Resources:

Click here for Toys R Us guide for differently abled kids!

Safety tips for toys: http://toysrusinc.com/safety/tips/

Please visit my previous post on 3 classic games for targeting speech and language skills! here

Want ideas for speech and language? Please visit the Easter Seals DuPage Speech/Language Department’s Pinterest page! here