Tag Archives: children

General Tips for Selecting Developmental Toys for Children

By: Laura Van Zandt, MS, OTR/L and Sarah Peabody, Physical Therapist

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Time to decorate your home with seasonal decorations, listen to cheerful holiday music, start baking lots of yummy goodies, spend time with friends and family, and shop for the perfect holiday gifts. This time of year can bring merriment and stress! Especially when considering gift ideas for children.

If you are buying a toy for a child, it’s important to select something that is based on his/her individual need. Every child is unique. Purchasing a toy for a child with special needs involves taking into consideration the child’s unique developmental profile.

IMG_2343Children who lack fine motor skills often have trouble doing things with their hands, like holding a crayon, so they might enjoy toys with large knobs or big levers that will enable them to grasp them more easily. Children with social learning difficulties or sensory processing difficulties might prefer toys that offer movement or heavy work.

Children with physical disabilities might enjoy toys that have buttons and don’t require a lot of fine motor manipulation. They might also enjoy more arts and crafts that allow them to just move their arms without having to worry about holding onto something.

Choosing a toy that is age-appropriate, promotes healthy development, and encourages positive behavior works best. Use these tips below to help guide you for buying gifts for your child, a niece or nephew or other child:

General Tips for Selecting Developmental Toys for Children:

  1. Spanning multiple age ranges

Finding a multipurpose toy that spans multiple age ranges is a great investment. Toys that are meant for several ages and stages of childhood will be kept around and cherished for a long time.  For example, this Shape Sorter, can be used in late infancy as you place the shapes in and out of the box with the lid open. As your child grows into the toddler stage and enhances their fine motor skills, he or she will learn how to manipulate the shapes and place them in the appropriate spot. You can then incorporate colors, shapes, etc. all into one piece as they advance even more. Another example is magnetic letters. A child can use these at a young age to learn letters and sounds and as they grow into elementary years use them together to make words.

2. Be cautious of age recommendations

Many toys have a suggested age range based on the safety and developmental appropriateness for a child. These recommendations are based on the developmental abilities of an average child and may serve as a starting point for you when selecting a toy for your child. A toy should be challenging, but not frustrating. Likewise, if a toy is too simplistic and beyond your child’s abilities, he or she will quickly lose interest. Children learn and grow at various paces, and what might be an appropriate toy for one two-year-old child may not be for the next.

3. Promoting Exploration and Imagination

17_LilyPennyMaddy2.jpgResearch has found that toys that do “too much” don’t encourage children to use their imaginations. Stuffed animals that talk and sing only prompt the child to press a specific button which takes charge of the play scheme. Instead, look for a toy like blocks. Blocks can be stacked up to build a tower, knocked down by a dragon, lined up to make a city, the list goes on and on. The more your child has to problem solve and use his or her imagination, the more your child will learn through play.

4. Think, Move, and Interact

This generation loves to be entertained with screens. Instead of getting that Ipad or other video console, look for toys that provide opportunities for cooperative play that encourage the development of social skills and positive behaviors like taking turns. Board games are a great example!

5. Sensory Considerations

Toys that are tactile or visual can often help improve how a child processes the information. Music, varying textures, flashing lights, and colors can all improve the sensory appeal to your child. It is important to know the needs of your child because what is appealing for one child may be overstimulating for the next.

6. Promoting Inclusion

Toys that promote groupwork and peer interaction with other children are great to promote social skills and improve self-esteem and overall quality of life.

7. Think outside the box.

Toys don’t always have to be used in the conventional manner. For example, that food puzzle might be a little hard for your child to sit still and focus to complete, however, maybe your child would be motivated to find the pieces hidden in a tactile bin or exploring the house on a gross motor adventure to find the food. For children with physical disabilities, many battery operated toys can be adapted for switches. Check out this blog for directions and this link for purchasing battery interrupters.

If you child is younger, can you use that ring stacker to look through the circles together at each other. Or maybe the rings fit on different body parts. If your child is older, think about using the toys within movement activities.

8. Will the child make memories with it?

Giving experiences is becoming a new, more popular trend (for multiple reasons!). Taking time to explore local attractions can create long lasting memories and even new post-holiday traditions. Most businesses and even public libraries offer gift certificates to local attractions. This is a great way to really personalize a gift for your child.

9. Fun!

Last but not least, make sure the toys are engaging and fun. Do not force a toy upon a child. If they appear not interested in a certain toy, leave it for a few days and re-introduce it at another time. Keeping the toys fun will ultimately make the learning fun for your child.

Visit this blog next week, for more of our specific toy recommendations! You can also search our previous blogs for each year’s toy recommendations like here and here. Happy Holidays! For more information on Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley visit eastersealsdfvr.org.

 

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What is an Augmentative and Alternative Communication Evaluation?

By: Laura Van Zandt, MS, OTR/L

Did you know October was National Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) month? AAC is a specialized area of clinical services. Here at Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley, we are very lucky to have several therapists who specialize in helping individuals find their voice through AAC. We have both Occupational Therapists (OT)  and Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) involved in a multidisciplinary team evaluation to determine the best strategies and/or communication systems to help a child learn to communicate.

As an OT, I first became interested in AAC when I was working with a little boy with autism who received a high tech speech output device. It was amazing to see how having his new voice provided so many new opportunities for him. It helped with his overall regulation as he now had a system to share his wants, desires, and needs.

assist-with-communicationAAC looks different from person to person and varies from low tech options, light/mid tech and high tech systems. If you think your child might benefit from AAC, our team evaluative approach may be helpful. Below is more information on what each team member does to best help your child.

  1. Many parents often have questions about whether or not a device will hinder their children’s ability to speak. This is absolutely not the case. Research demonstrates that AAC does not keep children from learning to speak.  In fact, users will make gains in language AND speech because AAC helps a child connect with others, produce successful communication, and provides consistent speech models. The child I described above, went on to learn a ton of new words after he got his device! When we begin to use AAC with toddlers, it doesn’t mean we believe they are never going to talk; instead, it often means, we believe they need a way to have a meaningful connection to others through a common language which helps serve as a bridge to spoken language.
  2.  Do try and introduce forms of AAC early. Using AAC can be very helpful for a toddler who is beginning to make gestures, eye contact or sounds to communicate messages, but isn’t yet using spoken language. Often these toddlers are frustrated they can’t communicate certain thoughts and messages. Once they start to see and learn the power of communication through signs, pictures, or more formal AAC apps/devices, they begin to feel a little less frustrated.

blog_visual3. Model, model, model. When using any type of AAC, we can never model enough. This means that everyone in a child’s life should use AAC too! As with all language learning, AAC is learned because those around the child speak the same language. If you think about it, early communication development (between birth – 12 months) is only modeling – caregivers communicating without any expectation while being connected with their baby using a common language. I love it when my clients bring their devices to therapy. If your child is already receiving therapy services, ask the therapist to use your child’s communication system during sessions to connect and engage with your child. When using AAC, continue to use verbal speech to model and help children understand the pictorial representation of language and develop the words.

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4. When you schedule an evaluation, you will see both an occupational therapist and a speech therapist trained in AAC. Both therapists are knowledgeable in a variety of access methods such as hand access, switch scanning, and eye gaze technology. The occupational therapist will specifically look at:

  • the child’s overall posture and strength to allow for upper extremity (or any other extremity) use while accessing the communication system
  • determine optimal positioning of both the child and the device to ensure the most efficient method of access
  • the child’s vision, auditory, and sensory processing needs
  • the child’s visual and/or auditory scanning ability
  • the child’s visual/auditory tolerance
  • any adaptations to engage different sensory systems, as well as monitor for sensory overload and/or assist in sensory regulation for device access.

The speech therapist is extremely knowledgeable in the vast array of AAC communication systems and AAC strategies available. They will help determine the communication system and language page best suited to bridge the gap between the child’s receptive and expressive communication skills. The evaluations are done in a play based manner to help the child feel comfortable. And play is how children learn!

DSC_1Here at Easterseals we offer a team approach for evaluating children for AAC needs. For children that could additionally benefit from AAC, we will see them for co-treats to help expand their language within play based therapy sessions.

When the child’s specific goal is to assist in overall regulation and play to support device access, then a co-treat can be extremely valuable between Occupational Therapy and Speech Therapy. OTs are trained in setting up sensory rich environments to support regulation and drive play. These activities can be very motivating for your child’s communication. There are endless opportunities to model language depending on your child’s unique development.

To learn more about Assistive Technology at Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley, click here. 

 

Additional resources: www.speechscience.org

How Physical Therapy Supports Children with Down Syndrome

By: Joanne Pygon, PT, MS, PCS

Physical therapy plays a crucial role in helping a child who is diagnosed with Down syndrome (DS) reach their highest potential.  What that therapy looks like through a child’s life changes as he/she transitions from newborn to teenager.  Hypotonia, weakness, cardiac and respiratory issues are some of the challenges a PT will address.

0 – 24 months:  The physical therapist (PT) is one of the first healthcare professionals to work with a parent and their child to help build a strong foundation of strength and movement.  Depending on the medical complications a child faces, the PT works regularly with the child to build strong muscles so he/she doesn’t develop compensation that can affect their abilities later.

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The parents or caregivers will have activities to work on daily to help their child reach gross motor milestones.  The child may need special braces for their feet to improve alignment so that muscles can maintain length to function efficiently.

Compression garments such as a SPIO, Benik or an abdominal binder, may be considered to aide postural alignment and respiratory function.  Aquatic therapy can be beneficial if a child enjoys the water.  This gives him/her an opportunity to be challenged in new and fun ways, while also building strong swimming skills and an enjoyment of water for future exercising.

2 years – 5 years:  During the preschool years physical therapy continues to address higher level gross motor skills.  It may be appropriate for a child to be involved in group therapy sessions where peers motivate each other, along with providing social and communication opportunities.

Easterseals has groups like Mighty Movers, Build Your Muscles, Build Your Brain (TAAP), Get in the Game and more that enhance a child’s gross-motor skills. Most children start in a school program upon turning 3 years old.  PT is provided in the school to address issues that interfere with academic success.  This might be enough therapy for a child or the parent may choose to continue private therapy depending on the child’s needs and goals.  If the child has orthotics (foot braces), then a PT should be following the child periodically to check for fit and continued need.  During this time, families can explore park district programs in their area, especially gymnastics classes or swimming in order to build balance, strength and coordination.

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5 – 10 years:  Throughout these years, a child involved in community-based programs could seek PT consultations.  Some children may enjoy a summer PT group to build strength and confidence such as our rock climbing group.  Biking can also be a great opportunity for fitness and socializing.  There are several “learn to bike” programs in the community and a PT can help a child develop this skill.  Many children become involved in swimming and this becomes their life long fitness.

Jake mom machine.jpgTeenage years:  Encourage physical fitness, which is important for any teenager or young adult. Hopefully as the child faces the challenges of being a teenager, they have confidence in their abilities and can continue to be a part of a sport community, like a swim team, running group, or special rec team.  The child may need to check in with their PT a bit more to update home programs, as growth may affect their posture.  While braces may not be needed anymore, foot inserts may be necessary to support his/her feet in the best possible position.

 

Most importantly, set high expectations and enjoy all the gifts children bring to families!

For more information on our Down Syndrome services, visit http://www.easterseals.com/dfv/our-programs/downsyndrome.html.  To get started or learn more, call us at 630.282.2022.

Protein and Vegetables: What’s the Big Deal?

By: Nutrition Graduate Student, Cristal Medina and Pediatric Nutrition Therapist Cindy Baranoski MS, RDN, LDN

Most parents know it is important for children to eat a balanced diet. What exactly does a balanced diet mean? Generally, it means eating a variety of foods and getting enough of each food group. The five food groups are fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and dairy. Although every food group is important, it seems as though protein foods and vegetables receive the most attention. You may be wondering why these two food groups are so important, how much of each is needed, and how to get your child to meet the recommendations. We will cover all this, but let’s start with how much food your child needs.

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Protein

Protein is a key nutrient for everyone from growing babies to elite athletes. It is necessary to build, maintain, and repair tissue. We need protein to form healthy bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and nails, as well as to make enzymes, hormones, and other chemicals. Protein foods are also important sources of nutrients such as iron, niacin, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, riboflavin, selenium, choline, phosphorous, zinc, copper, vitamin D, and Vitamin E. These vitamins and minerals offer a myriad of benefits to a growing child.

leafy greensA common misconception is that protein is only found in animal-based foods, like meat. However, protein can also come from plant-based foods, like beans (example: pinto, black, kidney beans) and soy products (example: tofu, tempeh, edamame). The protein food group includes meat, poultry, seafood, beans, peas, eggs, processed soy products, nuts, and seeds. Dairy foods such as milk, cheese, yogurt, and cottage cheese will also provide your child with protein. Your child’s protein needs vary based on age, sex, and activity level. (Please see Table 1 above for recommended intake amounts.)

A serving from the protein food group, also referred to as an ounce-equivalent, is 1 ounce of meat, poultry, or fish, 1 egg, ¼ cup cooked beans or peas, ¼ cup tofu, 1 ounce of tempeh, 1 falafel patty, 2 tablespoons of hummus, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, or ½ ounce of nuts or seeds. Please see Table 2 for common protein food portions.

Table 2. Common Portions and Servings of Protein Foods*

Protein Food Common Portion and Servings  
Meats 1 small steak = 3.5 to 4 servings
1 small hamburger = 2 to 3 servings
Poultry 1 small chicken breast half = 3 servings
½ Cornish game hen = 4 servings
Seafood 1 can of tuna, drained = 3 to 4 servings
1 salmon steak = 4 to 6 servings
Eggs 3 egg whites = 2 servings
3 egg yolks = 1 ounce-equivalent
Nuts and Seeds 1 ounce of nuts or seeds = 2 servings
2 tablespoons peanut butter = 2 servings
Beans and Peas ½ cup cooked beans (example: pinto, black, or kidney) or peas = 2 servings

1 cup split pea soup = 2 servings
1 cup lentil soup = 2 servings
1 cup bean soup = 2 servings
1 soy or bean burger patty = 2 servings

2 tablespoons of hummus = 1 serving

*Adapted from https://www.choosemyplate.gov/protein-foods

A couple examples of convenient and kid-friendly protein foods are hamburger patties (examples: McDonald’s, White Castle [yes, fast food is okay]), fish sticks, chicken nuggets, Boca vegan burgers, and milk (examples: cow’s milk, Ripple milk, hemp milk). If your child prefers to drink rather than eat, try supplementing with a nutritious drink (examples: Kate Farms, Vega, Orgain, PediaSure). If your child does not eat solid foods, you can puree meat, poultry, seafood, and tofu, mash beans and peas, and provide foods like creamy nut butters, hummus, blended soups, and smooth yogurt. If your child relies on formula given through a feeding tube or drinking a supplement for most or all of his/her daily nutrition intake, s/he may be getting enough protein if s/he is consuming enough. Make sure to speak to a registered dietitian if you have any concerns about your child meeting his/her protein needs.

QUICK RECIPE: Black Bean Quesadilla*

INGREDIENTS

  •  ¾ cup pico de gallo
  • 1 can (15.5 oz) black beans (great protein source!)
  • ½ cup shredded Colby and Monterey Jack cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 4 eight-inch flour tortillas
  • ½ teaspoon olive oil

DIRECTIONS

1.      Using small-hole strainer, drain liquid from Pico de Gallo; discard liquid. Transfer leftover tomato mixture to medium bowl. Mix in black beans, cheese and cilantro until combined.

2.      Divide black bean mixture evenly over half of each tortilla (about ½ cup each). Fold tortillas in half.

3.      Heat large griddle or skillet over medium-high heat. Brush with oil. Place filled tortillas on griddle. Cook, carefully flipping once, until tortillas are golden brown and crisp and cheese filling melts, about 5 minutes. Cut quesadillas into wedges. Makes 8 servings.

Optional: For additional protein, add chicken or your favorite meat!

*Adapted from: https://choosemyplate-prod.azureedge.net/sites/default/files/misc/GOYAcookbook-EN-HealthyTastyAffordableLatinCooking.pdf

Vegetables

Vegetables are full of nutrients including dietary fiber, potassium, iron, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, copper, magnesium, vitamin E, vitamin B6, manganese, thiamin, niacin, and choline. These nutrients can help your child build healthy bones, heal cuts and wounds, protect against infection, support heart health, promote healthy aging, and maintain healthy eyes, skin, teeth and gums.

The vegetable food group is made up of vegetables and 100% vegetable juice. Vegetables come in a variety of forms to fit any diet. They can be raw, cooked, fresh, frozen, canned, dried/dehydrated, whole, sliced, mashed, pureed, or juiced. Please see Table 1 above for recommended intake amounts.

spinach
Dr. Praeger’s Food

A serving, or cup-equivalent, from the vegetable group can be 1 cup of raw or cooked vegetables, 1 cup of vegetable juice, or 2 cups of raw leafy greens. There are some great brands out there that sell kid-friendly, veggie-containing foods. Two examples of brands are Dr. Praeger’s Purely Sensible Foods and Happy Family. Dr. Praeger’s line of foods includes a variety of “Puffs”, “Cakes”, and “Littles” (these are shaped liked stars, dinosaurs, and bears!) that are made with ingredients like broccoli, spinach, kale, and carrots. Happy Family sells everything from bars, to squeeze pouches, to puffs (some of these are also shaped like dinos!). These foods can have veggies like tomato, kale, spinach, and carrots. Their foods are appropriate for all ages, from infants to adults.

You can also try incorporating vegetables into other foods at home. Combine leafy green vegetables, celery, carrots, or beets with fruit to make a juice or smoothie. Store-bought, single serving vegetable juices and smoothies (example: Bolthouse Farms or Naked Juice) are also an option if you are on-the-go. You can also try blending pureed cooked cauliflower in mashed potatoes and mixing pureed cooked sweet potato or carrot into a cheese or pasta sauce. Blending cooked pumpkin, carrot, squash, or sweet potato into a tomato or vegetable soup can also increase your child’s vegetable intake. These ideas are also appropriate for children who do not eat solids.

If your child relies on a tube feeding formula or an oral supplement, s/he may be meeting all vitamin and mineral needs if s/he is consuming enough. If not, your child may benefit from a multivitamin. A registered dietitian can help you plan on the best way to get more nutrients into your child. If you are interested in adding blended vegetables to your child’s tube feeding regimen, a registered dietitian can also help you get started with blenderized tube feedings.

QUICK RECIPE: Pineapple and Spinach Smoothie*

INGREDIENTS

  •  2 cups pineapple
  • 1 cup baby spinach (great way to consume veggies!)
  • 1 banana
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 cup ice
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon

DIRECTIONS

  1. Combine pineapple, spinach, banana, almond milk, ice and cinnamon in blender. Cover; blend until smooth. Makes 2 servings.

*Adapted from: http://www.dole.com/recipes/p/Pineapple-Pit-Stop-Smoothie

To learn more about nutrition therapy through Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley, please visit eastersealsdfvr.org/nutrition.

 

References:

  1. https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/
  2. https://www.choosemyplate.gov
  3. http://www.dole.com/en/recipes
  4. https://drpraegers.com/
  5. https://happyfamilybrands.com/

 

 

Back to School Organization

By: Laura Van Zandt, MS, OTR/L

With many of our children returning back to school, I thought this would be a good time to review some strategies to help with school organization. Kids need organization skills in order to function during their school day as well as to get their homework done efficiently at home. If your child struggles with a messy desk, overstuffed backpack, keeping homework and classroom assignments organized, or lost and missing parent/teacher communication slips then hopefully you can find some tips and tricks in this blog. Remember every child is different and what works well for you or another child may not necessarily work well for your own child.backpack

  • Most importantly develop routines and stick to them as closely as possible. Some children might benefit from additional support to help learn the routine such as checklists, picture schedules, and/or social stories. Younger children might also benefit from turning the routine into a fun song.
  • Create backpack organization systems. Look for backpacks that offer multiple compartments to denote separate spaces. A backpack with at least two compartments is highly recommended. Use a zippered pouch (clear is the best) for pencils, erasers, calculators, etc. in the backpack.
    1. Please check out my previous post on backpack safety.
  • Place a laminated checklist clipped to your child’s backpack zipper that lists what needs to be brought home each day. This one from Understood.org is great. 
  • Go through the backpack on a regular basis with your child until he/she gets the hang of keeping it organized. Gradually give your child more responsibility and continue to check in even when you have turned in all the responsibility to your child.
  • Create a simple schoolwork folder system. A simple 2 pocket folder often works best. Use a bright sticker to place on one side for “KEEP AT HOME” and another bright sticker for the opposite pocket for “BRING BACK”. If your children are older, you can create a color coded system that corresponds to each class. Books and notebooks can use prefabricated book covers or you can use colored paper to create book covers in a variety of colors.
folder
Picture from caffeinatedconclusions.blogspot
  • Depending on the age of your child you might start to create a really good binder system. The best ones have a locking rig. Some binders have a clear plastic cover which can be used to create large labels on the outside for different subjects (if you are using a different binder for each subject) or you can use it to hold assignment sheets.
    1. If you are going to start a binder system, then you should invest in a few more organization assistants. Things like subject dividers, a zippered pencil pouch, sheet protectors, two pocket three-hold punched folders, and a portable three-hold punch are really helpful. You can organize each subject section the same. Label each subject divider tab and then include an empty sheet protector immediately behind for important handouts. Behind the sheet protector you can include a folder which follows the same simple schoolwork folder system idea above.
    2. A different option could also be to continue to use the subject divers, zippered pencil pouch, sheet protectors, two pocket three-hold punched folders, and a portable three-hold punch; however, instead of using the simple schoolwork folder system idea above with the two pocket folders, you can create one global folder that is in front of the binder where your child put homework for each class in front. At the end of the day, when at home, you can then sit with your child and help organize their homework when completed back into each individual subject folder.

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  • Some children might do also better with an accordion file based system. One suggestion for organized would be using the front section to keep your child’s homework planner or global two-pocket folder homework folder. Each additional pocket would be labelled with the different subjects and might include a separate pad of paper for that subject. I like to avoid loose sheets of paper as much as possible with an accordion system as I find they tend to slide down.
  • Create an organization system for lockers. Some children like to create a container system where they use separate containers for different belongings which are labeled with pictures on the outside to know what goes inside each bin. You can also add a picture to the locker for a visual cue for where each item belongs which the locker to further help keep things organized. Shelves are also helpful to better divide the space.
    1. lockerTo help you and your child determine the most logical and efficient way to organize the locker and backpack, here are some helpful questions (source: The Organized Student)
    2. What is your child’s schedule like? If the schedule is consistent, you can probably just separate the locker into two sections, morning and afternoon. If it changes every day, you might want to organize differently
    3. What extracurricular activities does your child participate in and what supplies/equipment is needed?
    4. Does your child keep supplies and equipment in a locker at school or do they travel back/forth between school and home on a regular basis?
    5. How many books is your child required to keep track of throughout the day
    6. Does your child’s school offer a second set of textbooks on loan?
    7. What type of storage and accessories does the locker already contain?
    8. Does your child have time to go back to his/her locker between classes?

 

  • Create a homework station at home. Include all necessary school supplies such as pencils, pens, crayons, markers, glue, scissors, paper, etc. You can use everyday items (mason jars, muffin tin) to help organize items. Containers available at any office/home good are great ways to help organize. You can attach labels made from a label marker or also just use post-its and adhere using clear tape. Every item has its own place and it is easy to spot. Ask your child’s school if it is possible to get a second set of textbooks to eliminate the need to bring books back and forth between school and home. Mark off spaces for items like books and pencil box using painter’s tape. If your child is older, you might think about creating a “desktop file box” which is described in a lot more detailed in The Organized Student book.

 

  • Help your child learn to breakdown assignments into manageable chunks. One example includes folding worksheets into sections that can be completed before moving onto the next section.
  • Invest in some telling time systems. It is often helpful to breakdown into the concept of telling time, daily time, weekly time, and monthly time. I prefer to use analog’s watches or timers for this as you can see the passage of time which is missing from digital systems. When first learning to tell time and gauge time, create from fun activities to experiment with by guessing how long it will take and then compare guess to actual. It might be useful to have several timers. One for the global amount of time your child/you think he/she needs to complete the assignments and an individual one to break down individual assignments into manageable chunks and to add a spot for a quick break. If you can find an analog clock that also allows for a quick glance to see the time digitally, that might also help.clock
  • Finally, if you have read any of our previous posts on executive functions or attended our executive function client group, then you might be familiar with the group Cognitive Connections. They developed an app that allows users to create a time marker to get ready for work, a timer marker to check in during work, and a marker when the work is planned to end. There are tones activities when the time reaches each marker. This could also be a good choice for some children.
  • The key to any organization system is be flexible to your child’s unique organizational style and needs as well as be consistent and offer check-ins until your child has mastered the system. Even when your child has mastered the system, continue to offer periodic support.References and Helpful Resources:

Audiology Intervention for Children with Down Syndrome

By: Karyn Voels Malesevic, AuD, CCC-A, Manager of Audiology and Family Services

Children who have Down Syndrome can often have hearing loss, so a therapy center that also has an Audiology Department onsite can make coordinating care easier. Their hearing loss may range from permanent and needing hearing aids to having frequent middle ear infections and require consistent hearing tests.

According to the research article Understanding Hearing and Hearing Loss in Children with Down Syndrome, “Children with Down Syndrome are at a greater risk for permanent and transient hearing loss as compared with their typically developing peers. Long-term consequences of late or failed diagnosis, particularly in this population, can significantly affect quality of life, including school performance, speech and language, behavioral challenges, community engagement, and safety. Therefore, ongoing audiologic monitoring and otologic management is highly recommended for this group into adulthood.”
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Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley has Audiologists in our Elgin and Villa Park centers who are experts at working with children that may have been considered “difficult to test” by other clinics.

We are able to fit hearing aids and make repairs and earmolds on children and adults through state programs such as Early lntervention, Medicaid, DSCC, ORS, and via private insurance or private pay options with very competitive pricing.

At Easterseals we work with the local educational Audiologists, who serve children with hearing loss that are in school. That work allows for cohesive coordination between school testing and any hearing aid or other specialized services that may be needed at an outside clinic.

We are also proud that we can continue to see the children in our care as they grow up into adulthood via our audiology clinics.

For more information on our hearing services, visit eastersealsdfvr.org/hearing.

 

Routines and Why They Can Help

By: Laura Van Zandt, MS, OTR/L

Routines are very important for all children, but they can be particularly important for children with developmental delays. Routines help provide a sense of certainty and security for children by offering them a predictable pattern that allows them to know what to expect, which will result in less frustration as well as fewer tantrums or meltdowns.

Certain routines are almost universal, such as morning and bedtime routines, but others may exist for specific circumstances or stages of life, such as your family’s weekend morning or school or summer routine.

A great place to start a routine is having a set bedtime. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children ages 3-5 should get 10-13 hours of sleep a day (including naps) and children ages 6-12 should get 9-12 hours of sleep each night. The benefits of getting enough sleep are numerous and include mental/physical health, attention, memory, learning, behavior, and more. The AAP also recommends no screen time 30 minutes prior to bed, no electronics in children’s bedrooms, and having a set bedtime routine.

Setting up a bedtime routine:

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Photo from Take Three Photography

Bedtime routines can be anything you want them to be, as long as they are familiar and predictable. For my infant son, he takes a bath every other day. After his bath (or mom and dad quiet playtime on non-bath days), he gets a nice massage and we read a couple goodnight books. When he shows us signs of being tired, we turn off the bedside lamp, swaddle, and turn on the white noise machine.

This routine is something I hope to keep as he gets older. For an older child, you can do a similar routine but you will need to add in time for personal hygiene and perhaps next day activities such as pick out your clothes, pack your backpack, etc. You can use a similar routine for naps, except they would just be shorter.

Aside from bedtime, morning routines, can also be beneficial. Some families have different weekday and weekend morning routines, but other children may need to have one routine that stays the same regardless of the day.

Mealtime can also present an important routine. An easy place to start is to try to have meals around the same time each day. I know this isn’t always possible- but getting as close to a specific time each day can be beneficial and having everyone sit together to eat.

Additionally, having chores to do in family routines helps children develop a sense of responsibility and some basic skills, like the ability to manage time. These are skills children can use for later in life that you can begin at a young age. One great example is singing the “clean up” song when it’s time to finish an activity and move onto something different.

“Clean up clean up
everybody everywhere.
Clean up clean up
everybody do your share.

Clean up clean up
everybody everywhere.
Clean up clean up
everybody do your share.”

Routines can also be great for teaching personal hygiene. Ever heard a parent sing the ABC song while their child washes their hands? This is just one great example.

Here are some tips if you are looking to introduce routines into your daily life:

  1. Only change one part of the day at a time.

2. Come up with your basic non-negotiables and then give your children some                    choices (bedtime stories together or separate?).

3. Make a poster with the routine, including photos in the right order, to allow for              self-monitoring. In a good routine, everyone understands their roles, knows what              they need to do and sees their roles as reasonable and fair.blog_visual

4. Follow the same routine every single day for at least one month, after which it will         become habit and your older kids should be able to keep themselves on schedule for         the easy routines.

Establishing routines has lots of great benefits that can help both you and your child develop scheduling abilities, and increase the likelihood that your family will have a smooth day.

For more information on Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley, visit eastersealsdfvr.org. 

Pretend Play Activities

By: Laura Bueche MOT OTR/L

26_Jack and Kathleen

Pretend play is an important piece of development. It promotes social skills, cognitive flexibility, imagination, language, and helps kids process the world around them. When your child participates in pretend play, they are learning the social and emotional roles of life in a fun, hands-on manner. It can stimulate creativity and help them grow to be more comfortable with themselves and the role they play in their everyday lives.

Included below is a list of potential pretend play scenarios to get your creative parent ideas flowing:

Doctor: This is a great pretend game to teach your kids about responsibility, while encouraging them to be proud of “taking care” of someone else!

Kitchen/restaurant/coffee shop/ ice cream shop: This is a great way to help your children learn about food and nutrition, and get them interested in what goes in their bodies and how it fuels their energy.

Grocery store: Another fun way to help them learn about nutrition, while also helping them improve math skills by counting and setting prices for different items being “sold”.

Animal shop/vet: A fun hands-on approach to learn about animals and the important role they play in many peoples lives

Airport: This is a great way to help children understand the different means of transportation and travel people utilize, especially if they have never gone anywhere far from home

Beach vacation: Similar to playing airport, this can help kids understand about travel and the vast and different climates many people live in, especially if your family does not live near a beach.

Brownie Miliana2.jpg

Baby bath time/ feeding baby/ baby diaper/ baby bed time:

Similar to playing Doctor, this is a great way for kids to foster an interest in responsibility and taking care of others, while also boosting their confidence in discovering their helpful abilities!

Camping adventure: This is a way to improve kids outdoor skills, while teaching them about nature and the environment they live in.

Pirate treasure map adventure: This is a fun way to get kids creativity flowing and help them learn about adventures they can take and create in their mind

Haunted house: This can be as scary or safe as your child is comfortable with, and can allow them to explore and set boundaries in their mind for what makes him/her comfortable

Dress up/fashion show:

dress up

This is a fun way to let kids try on a new role for size, and to help give them the experience of “walking in other peoples shoes”

Police man/woman: Similar to playing dress up, this gives kids the impression of what kind of jobs people in their community hold

Gardening/ making mud soup/ building sand castles: A very hands-on way to explore nature and learn about the plants and trees they see everyday

Making toy/Lego cities: This allows kids to be totally free-spirited in constructing what they think a fun space to live/play in would be.LEGO Run Pre-Party 029.JPG

Making puppets/puppet theater: This is a healthy and fun way for kids to express their emotions and feelings, while also allowing them to explore new emotions they may not be familiarized with yet.

Firefighter: Identical to playing police officer, this allows children to try out the role of what a firefighter does for their community.

Pretty mixed race girl and Caucasian boy pretending to be superh

Super hero/ defeat bad guys and save good guys:

This helps kids understand right from wrong and the values you as a family have, while also helping them feel good about the choices they make.

Tea party: This is a fun way for kids to make up their own rules and find out what it means to be “in charge” of a dining situation

Post office: Kids can learn about roles in their community and better understand a job they see people enact daily.

Car washplaying carwash.jpgPerfect for a summer day, playing car wash can show your kids real life chores in a positive way, while also making for a fun water activity.

Fishing boat: This is a great way to get your kids to explore nature in their minds, as well as understand a fun hobby many people enjoy.

Santa’s work shop: If you and your family celebrate Christmas, this is a wonderful way to introduce the holiday to your children and help them understand the tradition of Santa Clause and what that means to your family.

Farmer: Similar to playing police officer or firefighter, this can help children understand a job people either in or out of their community hold, while also helping them develop a healthy relationship with food and animals.

 

Doll house: This is a great way to get your children interested in how a household runs and the work it takes to sustain a healthy lifestyle, as well as be a fun outlet for them to get creative and cultivate different personalities and traits for each doll.

23a_Brady_and_Cooper_CoulterRace track/ train tracks:

Similar to playing airport, this helps demonstrate to children the different means of transportation available to them, as well as foster a desire to explore and travel

Many of these pretend activities/games include props, but always feel free to encourage your children to use their imagination and create props in their mind or with another item in your house, especially if the props are not readily available to you.

5 Tips for Keeping Hearing Aids on Babies/Toddlers

By: Beth Rosales, Au.D, CCC-A.

hearing1

As both an audiologist and a mother of 2 young children who wear hearing aids, I definitely understand that keeping hearing aids on your child can be a very difficult task. Young children and babies seem to love to get their hands on those hearing aids and pull them right out of their ears! I often hear from parents of babies and toddlers that they have tried to keep the hearing aids on their child, but it seems impossible. As a result the child doesn’t wear the hearing aids regularly, which means he or she is not hearing very well most of the time, and this will likely delay oral speech and language development.

When 2 of my boys ended up needing hearing aids, I knew I had to do everything I could to keep their hearing aids on their ears when they were awake. Well, I can say from personal experience that the struggle is very real when it comes to keeping hearing aids on young babies and children, but utilizing some helpful tools and tips can make it a lot easier.

Tip #1 – Pilot hats

Baby nico on swingThis is best for babies up to 18 months old or so. I fell in love with pilot hats and here’s why you should too. Not only are they cute, but they will make your life so much easier!! For my boys, pilot hats worked better than anything else when they were very young. The pilot hats should be lightweight and ideally have mesh sides or very thin material that will not block the sound from entering the microphones of the hearing aids. It’s important to get a pilot hat that fits well. If it is too loose, then it will be too easy for your little one to get his hands under the hat.

Here are some great places to get pilot hats that work well with hearing aids:

  • LilNells: https://www.etsy.com/shop/LilNells  My personal favorite shop! The hats fit my sons very well, and she makes them with snap closures, as well as ties. I love the snap closure because they are harder for toddlers to undo (tie up closures can work too, but tie closures are easier for kids to play with and untie). The shop owner also has options with mesh sides available and unlined (thin) hats, both of which are good for hearing aids. She is great at making custom orders, so if you see a hat you like that doesn’t have mesh sides, send her a message to see if she can make it with mesh sides, or if you have an idea or color you’d like, just send her a message to see if it is possible. Hats cost about $15 – $18.
  • Anchor Your Hearing shop: etsy.com/shop/AnchorYourHearing. These hats come with mesh sides which are very breathable so there won’t be too much material covering the microphones of the hearing aids. You can email the owner of the shop through etsy with any questions about orders, sizes, etc. Hats cost about $15-$18.
  • Emmifaye shop: etsy.com/shop/emmifaye. Another etsy shop that sells pilot hats for hearing aids with mesh sides. Cost per hat is about $12.
  • Hanna Anderson hannaandersson.com. These hats are also an option ($14 for the Pilot Cap – not the “winter” pilot caps which are lined, but rather the regular pilot caps which are thinner, not lined, and less expensive than the winter hats).
  • Silkawear silkawear.com. Cost is about $28 per hat.

Tip #2 – Crochet type of Headbands

baby headbandIf pilot hats don’t work, but your child tolerates wearing headbands well, then consider trying crochet type of headbands (worn over the ear, somewhat like the mesh pilot hats). Some patients have found that tight fitting, crochet type of headbands are useful to hold the hearing aids on and these can sometimes be found at stores like Target or Walmart. They can also be found online at stores or on etsy.com.

Tip #3 – Toupee Tape

toupee tape.jpgHooray for toupee tape! Some children benefit from using toupee tape on the behind-the-ear part of the hearing aid. I use this on my 4-year-old son’s hearing aids when he has gymnastics class! It helps stop his hearing aids from flopping off his ears. This is basically like 2-sided tape that you can use on skin. You can cut the tape into a small square or rectangle to fit onto the hearing aid. Place the tape on the behind-the-ear hearing aid, and then tape it to the child’s head since it is meant for skin contact. Some people have found this helpful to use along with the hats or headbands. My 4-year-old no longer needs a pilot hat, so this is a nice solution for when he is doing sports activities. You likely need to replace the toupee tape daily or whenever you take the hearing aids off your child and then put them back on him. Toupee tape can be purchased at places like Sally’s Beauty Supply (local stores carry this). www.sallybeauty.com.

Tip #4 – Otoclips

octoclips.jpg

I love otoclips! Otoclips are helpful in preventing the loss of hearing aids when a child pulls them off. An otoclip is attached to the hearing aid and it has a cord and clip that is attached the child’s clothing so that if the child pulls the hearing aid off, it will be hanging from the cord attached to the clothing.

Here are some websites that sell otoclips:

  • Westone: www.westone.com. Search for “otoclip” and if your child wears one hearing aid, he will need “monaural” and if your child has 2 hearing aids, he will need “binaural”.
  • ADCO Hearing: http://www.adcohearing.com/. Website offers a very large variety of tools for hearing aids and hearing loss, including otoclips (under “hearing aid supplies”, “clips and loss protection”).
  • The Bebop Shop (etsy.com): https://www.etsy.com/shop/thebebopshop. Very cute otoclip options, as well as some matching hair clips.

For additional tips and resources, visit Hearinglikeme.com. 

Tip #5 – Positive attitude

Have a positive attitude about your child’s hearing aids! Young children pick up on how their parents feel about things. Remember, hearing aids are a very good thing. Hearing aids will help your child hear speech and other sounds that they otherwise would not detect. This will help your child develop oral speech and language skills. So if oral communication is what you want for your child, then hearing aids will help them move toward reaching this goal. Hearing aids are wonderful things!

For more information on hearing services for children or adults, visit eastersealsdfvr.org/hearing.

Communication Breakdown

By: Courtney Leonard, MS, CCC-SLP/L

Editor’s Note: Please welcome, Speech-Language Pathologist, Courtney, to the blog. She is a big fan of music and has sprinkled references to a number of songs below. See if you can spot them all!

The road to verbal communication is a long and winding road. This road is often met with many roadblocks (i.e., mismatches in communication) or “communication breakdowns” as well as many repairs which can then “lead you to the door” of effective and efficient verbal communication. Each breakdown affords us another opportunity to broaden and engage in a wider variety of communication opportunities.

Communication is happening all around you every minute of the day. From a baby cooing in response to a loved one’s verbalizations, a toddler pointing and grunting to his favorite snack, a teenager expressing frustration with the boys her age, to adults imparting wisdom on the next generation- communication is something we do day in and day out. We communicate for a wide variety of purposes including expressing wants, needs, thoughts and emotions. We communicate to build relationships, repair relationships, and grow relationships. We communicate to advocate for ourselves, to forgive, and to make promises. Communication often, becomes such a natural part of our day that we often forget just how complex communication is.

Communication comes in a variety of forms both verbal and non-verbal. The term “communication” often brings pictures of spoken words and conversation to mind; however, communication is so much more.

baby with block .jpgBefore we reach our destination of verbal communication, we have to learn how to be effective non-verbal communicators. We begin growing our non-verbal skills as infants and young babies by learning to regulate our bodies with loved ones, learning to attend to faces, maintain attention to faces, and responding to faces to which we are attending (e.g., smiling when smiled at, frowning when frowned at, cooing when talked to, etc.). As we continue our road to verbal communication, we learn to initiate engagement with our caregivers using our voices and smiles and learn to continue engagement with our caregivers by continually responding or initiating to maintain attention. As these circles become more frequent, natural, and smooth, purposeful non-verbal communication begins starting with gaze shifting (i.e., moving eyes toward preferred activity/toy), and joint attention (i.e., making eye contact with caregiver, shifting gaze to preferred toy/thing to comment on, and shifting gaze back to caregiver). I like to refer to “joint attention” as the skill we acquire so we can say “Did you see that cute guy!?” to a friend without having to use words. As gaze shifting and joint attention strengthen reaching, pointing, and gesturing begin to emerge. Once these skills are strongly in place, then we begin to see first words.

The crazy thing is all of this development happens within the first year of life! These skills often develop without much thought or ado and as parents, therapists, and caregivers, we are hardwired to receive and foster these very sophisticated communication opportunities just as children are hardwired to develop them.

There are times, however, that these skills don’t appear to have developed in children. This may happen for a variety of reasons including: physical limitations, sensory difficulties, early trauma, neuro difficulties, etc. Whatever the reason for the delay in developing these early communication skills, there are a few things you can do in order to begin working on developing these skills.

  1. Find times when your child is calm and regulated before interacting. This may be while you are swinging them in your arms, during diaper changes, bath times, laying on the floor or on the couch, or any other time your child is calm. Having calm and regulated bodies provides the foundation for meaningful interactions.
  2. baby2Be silly! Use big facial expressions and lots of intonation in your voice to catch your child’s eye. You can sing songs, blow raspberries, play peek-a-boo, or just talk with your child. When you notice they are attending to you, stick with the thing you are doing. Your child may need a break from the interaction at some point (i.e., they may look away or walk away) but you can use the same intonation and facial expressions to try and woo them back into the interaction. This takes a lot of practice and attempts to find what will work. Don’t give up, keep trying new things until you find what works best for you and your child.
  3. Move slower. Many times I find that kids need a slower pace in order to engage and maintain interactions. You can still use fun, giant intonation and facial expressions but use them more slowly and more exaggerated. This will give the child a chance to keep up with you and an opportunity to maintain engagement for longer periods.

Mmttfc comany things can impact a child’s development of his non-verbal and verbal skills. At times, it may be appropriate for a child to receive an occupational therapy or physical therapy evaluation and start a treatment plan to work on their sensory systems and/or strengthening of their bodies in conjunction with working on increasing their language skills.

Take our free screening tool, the Ages & Stages Questionnaire , to help measure and keep track of your child’s growth and development.

By detecting developmental delays early, you have the power to change lives and educational outcomes for children! If delays are identified, Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley can offer the support needed to be school-ready and build a foundation for a lifetime of learning. Learn more at eastersealsdfvr.org.