Tag Archives: children

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
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What is a “Sensory Diet”?

By: Laura Van Zandt, OTR/L

A “sensory diet” is a treatment strategy occupational therapists use to help children learn to process and understand sensory information from their environment and their own body to more effectively interact within the environment and with others. The term sensory diet was first coined and originated by occupational therapist, Patricia Wilbarger. A sensory diet is meant to be individualized to the child so that the activities provided are a ‘just-right’ challenge for the child. The “just right” challenge is defined as “a challenge that is on the edge of competency and engages the drive for mastery.”

A sensory diet is not too hard, yet not too easy. An effective sensory diet should include a wide variety of activities within the child’s day that provide a variety of sensory input for play and learning. An effective sensory diet should also be a collaboration with the client, family, and caretakers.

Occupational therapists often use the analogy of comparing a sensory diet to a balanced food diet to help parents and caretakers understand we need a variety of activities that feed all our sensory systems to allow them to work well together. Just like a well-balanced diet is often tailored to our individual bodies for different nutritional needs at different points in our lives, a sensory diet is an ongoing list of activities that is established over time and modified as needed to help address the imbalance in the child’s sensory processing abilities or as the environment changes and the demands shift.

A sensory diet is designed to help keep the child calm and organized via activities that based on a child’s preferences which then helps them to be able to learn, attend, and fulfill social expectations. As a child learns to remain calm and organized, they learn to better self-regulate and hopefully move from depending more on others to being more independent in managing their sensory needs. The goal of any sensory diet is to help overtime retrain your child’s brain to process sensory information in a more typical way so that can perform at their own unique best.

Each child has a unique set of sensory needs. Generally, if a child is more sensory seeking, they may benefit from adding more movement and stimulation that includes heavy work as well as other sensory stimulation (e.g. tastes, colors, smells) to help achieve a calm, organized more focused state so they are not constantly on the go looking for input. If a child is more sensory avoiding, they may also benefit from heavy work but may need it more graded and introduced slowly over time. The child may benefit more from activities that focus on reducing sensory input and breaking tools that allow them to limit information from their environment. One of the trickiest aspects of developing and implementing any sensory diet, is beginning to recognize your child’s signs and signals as well as starting to recognize when your child is over-reacting, shutting down, or under-reacting and adjusting the sensory input so your child remains just right and able to function.

Ada
When occupational therapists provide ideas for a sensory diet, they keep in mind several different guiding principles:

  • Frequency of input: The frequency of need varies for each child and should be guided by observations of the child before and after each activity.
  • Intensity and duration of input: How much time you spend on each activity and how much sensory input (e.g. how much weight to use to push/carry/drag/lift, how loud to play the music, what type of tactile media to present, how much tactile media to present, etc.) is directly related to the child and how the child is doing not only on a specific day but also at a specific moment in time.
  • Timing of activities: Sensory diet activities are meant to be proactive and are best used before as well as during activities that are known to be tricky to the child.

    For example, if you know sitting for a mealtime is difficult for your child, you might want to help prep your child’s body and sensory system prior to sitting down. These activities should be tailored to your child; however, heavy work activities that actively require the child to use their muscles to push, pull, carry, drag, climb, bury, dig, suck, etc. are usually beneficial to many children. Sitting for a mealtime is a very complex sensory activity that involves all your sensory systems working together. You can try prepping your child’s sensory system prior to sitting down by re-arranging the chairs around the table and cleaning the table with spray bottles and towels to dry. You can try exploring different options for their chair- maybe your child might do well with a move-n-sit cushion or having a band around the legs of their chair to kick against. Your child might be bothered by the sounds of other people chewing their food and might benefit from noise cancellation headphones. Your child might be bothered by the sights of all the different foods or by all the foods touching each other. There are many different ideas and strategies to help both of those difficulties.

Your occupational therapist may ask you to become the detective and create a daily log of behavioral changes. You are your child’s best advocate and are the best expert in your child’s abilities and areas of growth. By creating a log of activities and your child’s responses to activities over the course of different days and different times, you can help better curtail some of the trial and error process that is inherent within any sensory diet due to our own individuality.

The sensory diet activity that might have worked well for another child with a similar difficulty, may not necessarily work for your child. The various times of the day and different environments may be work better for certain activities. Not all strategies work all the time. It is important to keep track of all the different activities your child responds positively to, so that you can create variety and have more than one strategy to help your child.

With help from an occupational therapist, your child can develop the ability to process sensory information in an adaptive manner and learn strategies to help him or her cope with everyday experiences. Learn more about our program. 

Resources:

  • Shiela Frick and Julia Wilbarger – “Creating Effective Performance, Precision, and Power in Treatment and Sensory Diets”
  • The Out of Sync ChildThe Out of Sync Child Has Fun, Growing an In-Sync Child by Carol Stock Kranowitz
  • childdevelopment.com

What is Sensory Processing Disorder?

By: Laura Van Zandt, OTR/L

As an occupational therapist, I have heard sensory referred to as many different things. Just a few examples include “sensory integration, sensory processing, sensory disorder, sensory dysfunction”. Not only is this confusing as an occupational therapist, but it has to be extremely confusing to parents too.

Sensory processing is a broad term that is used to refer to the way sensations are received and organized by the brain and how our bodies respond to this sensation and appropriately use it to interact within our environment. Our brains not only process information through the senses of touch, taste, smell, sight and sound but our brains also process information from our inner ear, muscles, joints, and ligaments to help us with movement and body position. All the sensory systems need to work together for effective sensory processing.

Overview of these sensory systems

  • Visual sense: is the ability to interpret what is seen regarding contrasts of light and dark, color, and movement.
  • Olfactory sense: is the ability to interpret smells
  • Auditory sense: is the ability to interpret what is heard regarding volume, pitch, and rhythm.
  • Gustatory sense: is the ability to interpret to receive taste sensations
  • Tactile sense: is the ability to interpret touch sensations like pressure, vibration, movement, temperature and pain.
  • Proprioceptive Sense: is the ability to interpret where your body parts are in relation to each other.
  • Vestibular sense: is the ability to interpret information relating to movement and balance related

If there is inefficiency in processing sensory information, a child’s ability to function is compromised and there be difficulties in the child’s arousal, alertness, attention as well as play, self-care, fine motor and gross motor skills. This difficulty has increasingly become known as sensory processing disorder and was first recognized by Dr. A. Jean Ayres, occupational therapist, educational psychologist, and neuroscientists.

Sensory processing disorder can be a confusing term. No two children are alike. Symptoms of sensory processing disorder, like most disorders, occur within a broad spectrum of abilities. While most of us have occasional difficulties processing sensory information, for individuals with sensory processing disorder, these difficulties are persistent and can significantly disrupt everyday life.

22_Everett_MazzieSome children may experience difficulties processing sensory information in all or only a few areas of sensory processing. Likewise, it is also common for some children to not experience difficulties in any one sensory system but have difficulties combining the sensory systems to develop a meaningful response. A child’s response to a certain type of sensory input or activity may vary from one instance to the next and is impacted by the events preceding the activity, how the child feels (tired, fidgety, ill, healthy), and the context in which the activity occurs (quiet, noisy, busy, structured). When describing a child’s sensory processing, it is important to remember that anyone’s sensory processing patterns are merely a reflection of that person’s ways of responding to sensory experiences in the course of everyday life (at home and school). Knowing a person’s patterns creates a tool for gaining insights about what settings and activities are likely to be easier or more challenging and reveals possibilities for navigating successfully in everyday life.

Sensory processing disorders can be divided into three main areas: sensory modulation, sensory-based motor, and sensory discrimination.

Sensory modulation disorder refers to the ability to filter sensations and to attend to those that are relevant in a graded and adaptive manner whereas sensory discrimination disorder refers to difficulty interpreting subtle qualities of objects, places, people or other environments.

Sensory modulation disorder can further be broken down into children who are over-responsive, under-responsive, or sensory cravers/seekers. Children who are sensory over-responsive are often predisposed to respond too much, too soon, or for too long to sensory stimuli most people find quite tolerable. These children are often in ‘fight or flight’ to common daily sensations and may try to avoid or minimize sensations or act out to counterbalance feeling constantly bombarded.

20150320_ES-LegoRoom-19.jpgFor example, a child who is over-responsive to touch sensation may find physical contact, clothing, and other touch sensory input difficult. Children who are sensory under-responsive are often unaware of sensory stimuli, have a delay before responding, or responses are muted/less intense as compared to the average person. They may appear withdrawn, difficult to engage, or self-absorbed because they do not detect the sensory input to the environment. For example, a child who is under-responsive to touch sensation may not be aware of clothing twisted on their body or messes on their face. The child who is sensory craving is driven to obtain sensory stimulation but getting the stimulation results in disorganization. They tend to be constantly moving, crashing, bumping, and/or jumping. They may “need” to touch everything and not understand what is their space versus other space. Sensory cravers can be difficult to decipher between children with ADHD.

In children whose sensory processing of messages from their muscles and joints is impaired, posture and motor skills can be affected. Children with a sensory postural disorder may have a poor perception of position of body, poorly developed movement patterns that depend on core stability, and appear weak with poor endurance. When posture is impaired these children might seek additional support by leaning on walls or resting their head on their hands when working at the table. When motor skills are involved these children often have difficulty with the ability to make a plan to execute an action as well as execute the necessary actions supporting the performance.

Click here to link to our sensory processing intake form to see if your child might benefit from an occupational therapy evaluation to determine if there is a sensory basis for your child’s difficulties.

With effective treatment provided by an occupational therapist, your child can develop the ability to process sensory information in an adaptive manner and learn strategies to help him or her cope with everyday experiences. Our occupational therapists are trained to use a variety of different standardized tests and clinical observations as well as caregiver input to help put all the pieces together of the puzzle and make appropriate referrals. Then our therapists expertly look at the match between the child, the activities and expectations, and the context to determine when there is a mismatch that needs intervention attention.

For more information visit our sensory processing webpage and visit the links below.

 

How to Talk to Your Baby: Tips for Parents Expanding Speech/Language Skills

By: Valerie Heneghan, CCC-SLP/L

Each baby’s development is unique and magnificent! However, parents will often ask us these questions:

  • How do I know if I am doing enough to foster speech and language development to keep my baby on track?
  • What communication milestones should I be looking for?

In general, these are a few communication milestones that you should be looking for in the first year of life from the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA). 

Birth-3 Months

  • Seems to recognize your voice and quiets if crying
  • Makes pleasure sounds (cooing, gooing)
  • Cries differently for different needs
  • Smiles when sees you

baby34-6 Months

  • Moves eyes in direction of sounds
  • Babbling sounds more speech-like with many different sounds, including p, b and m
  • Vocalizes excitement and displeasure

7 Months – 1 Year

  • Begins to respond to requests (e.g. “Come here” or “Want more?”)
  • Babbling has both long and short groups of sounds such as “tata upup bibibibi”
  • Uses gestures to communicate (waving, holding arms to be picked up)
  • Has one or two words (hi, dog, dada, mama) around first birthday, although sounds may not be clear

Here are 8 tips to help meet these milestones, engage, and expand your child’s ability to communicate.

  • Child-directed communication. The amount and quality of language has a huge impact on your child’s communication development. Research has shown that babies benefit greater from child-directed communication rather than language that is overheard (e.g., asking your child a question vs. listening to the TV in the background) Take the time to smile and enjoy your child through communication exchanges.

 

  • Imitate your child’s sounds and actions. Imitation is a very important skill for your child to learn.  Imitating your baby encourages him/her to notice you and even imitate your actions and/or words. This skill is vital for expanding babbling to initiating first words (e.g., “Mamama”, “babo”, etc.).

 

  • Put the child’s message into words.  When your child sends you a message by reaching, pointing, looking, or making a sound; put into words what you think he is trying to tell you.  Be repetitive, children learn through repeated exposure to target words. (e.g., Do you see the ball? Ball, Here is the ball.).

 

  • Talk with your child during every day routines and activities. When your child hears familiar words and sentences in the same contexts every day, it helps to build his understanding of language.  This is one of the best ways to learn more difficult concepts as well such as verbs, prepositions, etc. (e.g., Look the dog is running. He is running so fast!)

Baby nico on swing

  • Be face to face. When playing with your child, get down to his/her eye level.  Sit facing him/her when he is in his high chair or while playing on the floor.  This way, your child can see and hear you better fostering communication and imitation attempts. During this time, use gestures such as pointing, and imitating daily routines (e.g., washing hands, stirring spoon, kissing babies, etc.)

 

  • Offer your child choices. Hold up two objects and show each object as you name it.  You can ask, “Do you want crackers or bananas?”  Observe how your child communicates his/her choice-looking at the one he/she wants, reaching toward it, pointing to it, making a sound or saying the word.  As soon as your child lets you know what he/she wants, give it to him/her which will allow him/her to experience the power of communication!

 

  • Pause during a familiar routine to tell your child it’s his turn. When you and your child are doing something repeatedly (e.g., swinging, tickling).  Pause during the activity from time to time.  For example, after you have tickled your child, stop the game and WAIT for him/her to let you know that he/she wants more.  Don’t say anything-just look expectantly.  See if your child will tell you to continue in anticipation for that desired activity.

 

  • Sign Language. Sign language is the use of a gestural system to communicate. Signs can be used to reduce frustration and give the child a way to communicate his wants and needs while he/she is still coordinating their speech production system. (My personal favorites are “more”, “all done”, “milk”, and “up”).

    all_done
    From babysignlanguage.com

 

In summary, the best way to foster speech-language development with your child in their first year of life is to: TALK, PLAY, READ, and SING!  If you have any questions or need additional support, please contact a speech-language pathologist for more information.

If you are concerned about your child’s language or other development, take our free online developmental screening tool for children birth to age five. The Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ) will showcase your child’s developmental milestones while uncovering any potential delays. Learn more at askeasterseals.org. 

 

My Kid is a Picky Eater and I Need Help!

By: Laura Van Zandt, OTR/L

peblog2Around 2 years of age, children enter the age of autonomy where they become aware of their individuality and become increasingly independent. This is also the age where they become increasing comfortable testing limits. Around this age, kids are most likely to start becoming “picky eaters.” By the time children enter preschool, many have begun to move past this phase and start to expand their food preferences; however, some children don’t move out of the picky eating stage and continue to refuse foods. Foods once liked may become dropped and not added back into their diet. The big difference between typical picky eating and avoidant /restrictive food intake disorder (AFRID) is that typical picky eating fades away in conjunction with repeated food exposure and a positive mealtime environment.

Children with ARFID may also have other health issues or conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, sensory processing, food allergies, constipation, and/or anxiety. Some children who were born prematurely may have required breathing and feeding tubes during hospitalization which can increase oral sensitivity. A child who had a choking episode in the past, was forced to eat, or who had multiple respiratory infections at a time when she was learning to eat may have developed negative associations with eating. Some children may have a sensory system which is offended by the texture, smell, odor, or appearance of food. These sensitivities may alter how kids experience food and result in their refusing to eat many foods. Anxiety can stem from the food itself, especially if it’s unfamiliar or disliked, or it can result from other factors such as pressure to eat at mealtime or a negative memory of eating. Older kids may experience social anxiety around their peers.

Parents often have good intuition and know when something is not right with their child’s eating patterns. Some signs of AFRID include refusing food due to its smell, texture or flavor, or a generalized lack of interest in eating. Children may have poor eating or feeding abilities, such as preferring pureed foods or a refusal to self-feed. They may be underweight or demonstrate slowed growth due to inadequate or poor nutrition. They may also show signs of anxiety or fear of eating. If you feel like your child’s eating patterns is moving beyond typical picky eating, please schedule an appointment with a pediatric occupational or speech therapist that specializes in feeding.

What can be done:

  1. Schedule a comprehensive evaluation with an occupational or speech therapist can assist you in helping rule in/out other medical conditions which may also be influencing your child’s eating behaviors and patterns. A therapist may also be able to make recommendations to further evaluate nutrition or evaluation for gastrointestinal issues causing discomfort or pain influencing feeding. They will help develop a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses all different angles of feeding.
  2. Read occupational therapists Maureen Karwowski’s blog regarding playing with your food. Research suggests that when too much negative pressure is placed on the child for eating, the child’s appetite may also decrease and could spur an emotional response leaving the child to dread mealtimes. Vice versa, additional research also suggests that when children are allowed to mess with their food and are given permission to touch, handle, and even squash foods they are actually more likely eat them. Allowing your child to handle food without the expectation to eat the food allows them to gradually desensitize their body to the sights, smells, and feeling of a variety of food. Allowing your child to play with food helps to build new brain pathways that help to reshape prior negative experiences with food.
  3. peblog1Recruit your child’s help. If you do not already meal plan, start meal planning and involving your child as much as possible in the process. When at the grocery store, ask your child to pick out food on the grocery list (even if it is not food your child regularly eats). At home, encourage your child to help rinse fruits and vegetables, stir batter, use scissors to cut herbs, or set the table. During mealtimes, serve dishes family style where everyone passes the different food bowls.
  4. Be patient and start very small. Your child might need repeated exposure to try a new food. You may also need to start by presenting a single bite of a vegetable or a fruit versus presenting a lot of the food immediately off the bat. Sometimes, even reading books about different foods, might be the place to start with your child.
  5. feast for 10.pngThink of fun and creative ways to present the same food. For example, if you child is learning how to like pizza, you can try serving pizza on a tortilla shell or on an English muffin. The following are a few books on food that are good to read with children:
  • Eating the Alphabet: Fruits and Vegetables from A to Z by Lois Ehlert
  • Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett
  • I Will Not Ever Eat a Tomato by Lauren Child
  • The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman
  • Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert
  • Feast for 10 by Cathryn Falwell
  1. Enroll your child in a food group. Easter Seals has routinely been offering an occupational therapy and speech therapy group called “Fun with Food” that helps children learn how to explore foods using all their senses, including touch, smell, sight, and taste. Each session will utilize sensory “warm up” games prior to heading to the kitchen for our snacks. Parents are encouraged to continue with food exploration at home based on weekly recommendations following each session.

Learn more about our occupational therapy services at http://www.easterseals.com/dfv/our-programs/medical-rehabilitation/occupational-therapy.html. 

All About Adaptive Bikes

By: Bridget Hobbs, PT, DPT

img_7454.jpgWant to see pure joy in a child’s face?  Put him on a bike!  Children of all abilities love the freedom, weightlessness and fun that bicycles (and tricycles) provide.  Just like children, bicycles come in all varieties and can be adapted for children with special needs.

Bicycle riding provides not only the physical benefits such as leg strengthening, increased balance, coordination and endurance, but also the social benefits of riding with family and peers.  Below are just a few examples of modified cycles that are made to assist children with special needs in their bike riding goals.

bike

Adaptive tricycle: The three wheels on this tricycle provide a wide base for increased stability which helps children feel safe not only when riding the bike, but when getting on and off it as well.  The high back and seat belt also provide proper trunk support to help a child stay upright and midline.  There are also Velcro foot holders to prevent feet from sliding forward.

Rhys

Tandem bicycles: Tandem bicycles allow for a parent to propel the bicycle with the option to turn the child’s pedals on or off, which enables a child to rest and enjoy the ride when they are tired. The tandem bicycle also allows for communication while simultaneously enjoying the benefits of exercise.

IMG_2952

Bicycle Trailer: A bicycle trailer is a good option for longer family bike rides where everyone in the family can be included.  The bicycle trailer allows for a lot of leg room and a child or adult can be easily transferred in and out of the trailer and positioned in many different ways.

cycle

Hand and Foot Cycle: A hand and foot cycle can be used for children who have lower extremity weakness, spina bifida, cerebral palsy or low muscle tone. This type of tricycle has the ability to be propelled with either arms and/or legs.   A benefit of this type of tricycle is that children can increase their range of motion in their arms as well as work on a reciprocal motor pattern of their upper extremities.

Your child’s physical or occupational therapist is a great resource to help you and your child learn what kind of bicycle or tricycle would be good for your child.   A few companies/websites that may be helpful in adapted cycles are below:

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Thanks to a generous donor, we are pleased to launch the Jonathan Goers Bike Club at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley. This program was established to share Jonathan’s joy of biking with children who have developmental delays and/or disabilities and may not otherwise have the opportunity to ride or own a bicycle. The program will provide a child with an adapted bicycle free of charge.

Any family of a child with a developmental delay or disability is eligible to apply to this program. The bike must be returned to Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley if the child outgrows or no longer uses the bike. This will allow another child to enjoy the benefits of biking. Speak with your Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley therapist for more information on the application.

The first bike giveaway will be at our 2nd Annual Bike for the Kids event on September 17 in Elgin. Adapted bikes and trailers are welcome and all ages and abilities are encouraged to participate. Choose your distance from 100 Miles to the 2.5 Mile family ride. Learn more at www.EasterSealsDFVR.org/BikeForTheKids.

What is Tinnitus?

By: Cynthia Erdos, Au.D., CCC-A , Audiologist

When I was about 7 years old, I remember lying on my bed listening to my brain work. I cannot remember a time when I didn’t hear a little humming, or buzzing in my ears.  Not until I was in graduate school did I realize the sounds I heard was considered a “symptom” of a possible problem in the ear or within the entire hearing system.  When the professor starting discussing something called “tinnitus”, I turned to my fellow grad student and said, “Do you mean when it is quiet, you don’t hear anything?”  She just gave me a funny look and nodded.

For me, the humming or sounds of crickets is just something I have always heard. If the sounds were suddenly gone, I might be worried and wonder what was happening.  I can only imagine if your ears have been quiet since you can remember, and suddenly you heard a buzzing, humming, ringing or any new sound in your ears, it could be disturbing.  The American Tinnitus Association reports over 45 million Americans struggle with tinnitus, making it one of the most common health conditions in the United States.

What is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is the clinical term used for a sound heard in the head or ear when no external source is present.  It can be constant or intermittent and can be heard in one ear or both ears.  Tinnitus is usually not a sign of something serious.  Tinnitus is a symptom of a dysfunction with the auditory (hearing) system and is usually associated with some degree of hearing loss.

For some individuals, tinnitus can be a debilitating condition.  It can negatively affect a person’s overall health and social well-being.  Tinnitus has been associated with distress, depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances or even poor concentration.

What causes tinnitus?

There are many causes for tinnitus.  Almost any condition that can cause hearing loss can cause tinnitus.

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The most common cause of tinnitus is exposure to loud noise-it is very important to protect your ears from noise.  Some other causes include:

  • Meniere’s disease
  • TMJ disorders
  • Head injuries or neck injuries
  • Obstructions in the middle ear
  • Ear wax
  • Middle ear fluid
  • Tumors of the head or neck
  • Blood vessel disorders
  • High blood pressure
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Medications, including over the counter
    • Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
    • Certain antibiotics
    • Certain cancer medications
    • Water pills and diuretics
    • Quinine-based medications

Treating the cause of tinnitus often eliminates tinnitus.  Unfortunately, often the cause of tinnitus is related to permanent damage to the hearing system, such a noise exposure, or the cause is unknown.

Is there a cure for tinnitus?

It is important to understand that tinnitus is a symptom, not a disease or condition.  The most effective way to treat tinnitus is to treat the underlying cause of the tinnitus.  For many people, however, it is impossible to know the exact cause of tinnitus.  If you have tinnitus, you should be evaluated to determine if there is a treatable medical condition.  A thorough tinnitus evaluation often includes a medical examination by an otolaryngologist and a hearing evaluation by an audiologist.   Currently, there is no safe and consistent way to cure tinnitus.  There are evidence-based practices to help patients improve quality of life by learning to manage tinnitus, or manage their reactions to the tinnitus.

There are many ways to learn to manage tinnitus.  Research studies show the best ways to manage tinnitus include education, sound therapies and counseling. For example, be aware of the toys your child plays with, as some can be very loud for little ears. The Sight & Hearing Association releases an annual list of the loudest toys that you can check before making holiday or birthday gift lists.

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If you or a loved one is suffering from tinnitus, the first step is a complete hearing evaluation.  To find out more information about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley’s audiology services and scheduling an evaluation visit our website: http://www.easterseals.com/dfv/our-programs/medical-rehabilitation/audiology.html .

Simple Strategies for Picky Eaters

By: Mandy Glasener, Lead Preschool Teacher and Danni Drake, Teacher Assistant

As pre-school teachers, we are all too familiar with this battle. How do you get a 3-year-old to try something new or eat their vegetables? We will share with you some of our tried and true secrets!

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The key is to disguise it!

We managed to get a whole classroom of preschoolers to eat their peas and want more! Crazy! Right?

We made pea pancakes.  A savory treat full of fiber, protein and fun!

Focusing on the aesthetics makes it fun for all kids to eat. Can you eat the nose? Who will eat his eyeballs first?

Not only are you making it a learning experience, you are eating healthy right along with your child.

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Also, we LOVE Pinterest. We have found many easy recipes that are quick and healthy that the children love and ask for us to make together. Some of our favorites are below!

  1. The rice cake face.  You can change it up and use fruit and yogurt too! The possibilities are endless!
  2. A favorite pre-school activity is mixing and making zucchini bread is a winner to make for snack time every time!
  3. Dips are popular too! This ranch hummus dip is a winner!

peblog4.jpgWe use the hummus as “glue” and go fishing for goldfish with our veggie stick rods! Not only are you eating an amazing, fiber, protein packed snack, you are also having fun playing a game!

Growing a garden (even a few small containers) is a rewarding experience even for the youngest of gardeners. Everything is more delicious when you grow it all by yourself!

We grow our own vegetables here at “The Lily Garden” and harvesting is always a very exciting time. We have tomatoes, pumpkins, cucumbers, zucchini and broccoli  growing this year. In the past we have done rainbow carrots, kale and potatoes too!

Involve your kids in the food preparation and it will make them want to try it too. Research shows that if your child is involved with the meal prep they are much more likely to eat it. Also be a role model and show them that you like to eat your fruits and veggies too!

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Please share your favorite healthy snacks in the comments.

Happy snacking!

The Lily Garden Child Development Center incorporates a play-based program philosophy. We understand that children learn best when provided with experiences in an environment that is positive, nurturing and developmentally appropriate. Learn more about the Lily Garden Child Development Center here.

 

 

Myths and Facts About Raising Bilingual Children

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

There are many misconceptions about raising bilingual children.  Many well-meaning professionals can perpetuate myths that scare parents away from speaking to their children in their native language.  However, research supports the many benefits of being bilingual.  Let’s disprove some of these perpetuated myths:

MYTH: Parents should primarily speak English to their children regardless of their native language.

01_Lucas_VasquezFACT: Parents should be supported to speak in the language they feel most comfortable.  Speaking their primary language will provide the most complex language models.  If a parent is learning English himself, he will not provide rich vocabulary and grammar models.  The child will be exposed to simpler linguistic models than if the parent spoke to the child in their stronger language.  Providing a more complex model in the stronger language is more beneficial to the child than reducing to just speaking English.

MYTH: Raising my child bilingual will cause a delay in language development.

FACT:  Children all over the world learn more than one language without developing speech or language problems. Bilingual children develop language skills just as other children do. If a child has a speech or language disorder it will show up in both languages.  However, these problems are not caused by learning two languages.

MYTH: Raising my child bilingual will cause him to suffer academically.

FACT:  Research indicates that being bilingual makes your brain healthier and more actively engaged.  It leads to better executive functioning skills, enables one to learn more languages easily and have more job opportunities in the future.

MYTH: My child will feel different than his classmates if he speaks another language.

FACT: Your family’s heritage and culture is a valuable part of who your child is.  Keeping him connected to your community and feeling secure in his identity will give him more self-confidence.

MYTH:  I shouldn’t expose my child to my family’s native language because he has a language disorder.

FACT:  It is a common misperception that when a child has a language disorder, its better to reduce to one language.   It may seem counterintuitive to continue to expose the child to two languages but the evidence does not indicate that bilingualism will impede a child’s English language learning growth.  If it is important to the family, they should feel supported in their decision to raise their child with two languages.

MYTH: I should only speak English to my child until he starts school so that he is ready academically.

FACT: The younger a child is, the easier it is for them to learn a language.  The most effective ways to raise bilingual children are:

Successive language learners: Speak to your child exclusively in your family’s native language. Developing a strong foundation in the first language will pave the way for developing the second language of English.

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Simultaneous language learners: Use two languages from the start.  Some families choose to have one parent speak their native language and the other parent speak English.  Some families choose to speak a given language on certain days of the week or certain times of the day.

If you are concerned about your child’s language or other development, take our free online developmental screening tool for children birth to age five. The Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ) will showcase your child’s developmental milestones while uncovering any potential delays. Learn more at askeasterseals.org.