Tag Archives: education

10 great books to help you talk to children about disabilities

By: Karyn Voels Malesevic, Au.D., CCC-A

Many of us have struggled to find the right words when talking to our kids.  Knowing how much to say, or how little, or what type of words to use can be a challenge.

Enter the power of a good book!

Sitting down and reading a book about a character that may have the same disability as your child can be a great way to start the conversation.  Sharing stories is also a great way to help siblings and classmates understand and appreciate differences, or to help your child(ren) prepare for a big transition or difficult news.  A good book helps finding the right words much easier.

We’ve complied a list of ten great children’s books to help confront tough issues.

To view our complete list of book recommendations for parents, caregivers and children, follow us on Goodreads.

  1. Rolling Along with Goldilocks and the Three Bears by Cindy Meyers- In this story baby bear uses a wheelchair, goes to physical therapy, and ultimately makes friends with Goldilocks. The story unfolds many of the familiar scenes of the classic tale ending on a hopeful note.349042
  2. Wonder by R.J. Palacio- August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity preventing him from going to a mainstream school that is until now. He’s about to start 5th grade and being the new kid can be hard. Auggie’s just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, despite appearances?
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  3. We’ll Paint the Octopus Red by Stephanie Stuve- Bodeen- Six-year-old Emma is gladly waiting for  the birth of her new baby brother or sister. She imagines all of the things they can do together. They’ll go to Grandpa’s farm to feed the calves, ride in the back of the mini-van making faces at the cars that go by, fly on airplanes, and someday, they’ll even go to Africa on a safari.264878
  4. Kids Talk about Bullying by Carrie Finn-  People make fun of me for wearing glasses. What should I do? Super Sam the problem solver will give you some strong advice on bullies.1172876
  5. The Way I Act by Steve Metzger- This vividly illustrated story is a fun way to show children how their actions may affect others. This book explores a variety of attitudes and traits, like compassion and bravery. Children will instantly recognize and identify scenarios such as meeting new kids, romping on the playground, and finishing a puzzle. Each scene illustrates proper ways to act and encourages readers to do the right thing.10253343
  6. Rolling Along: The Story of Taylor and His Wheelchair by Jamee Heelan- Taylor and Tyler are twin brothers and best friends. But the twins are different in one significant way: Taylor has cerebral palsy, while Tyler does not. Taylor explains to readers why wheelchairs allow many people to be more independent. This triumphant story offers a valuable look at both adjusting to a wheelchair and facing physical limitations with boundless energy and determination.1403392
  7. No, David! by David Shannon- When author David Shannon was five years old, he wrote a semi-autobiographical story of a little kid who broke all his mother’s rules. He chewed with his mouth open (and full of food), he jumped on the furniture, and he broke his mother’s vase! As a result, all David ever heard his mother say was “No, David!” Here is his story.1062516
  8. Nobody Knew What to Do: A Story about Bullying by Becky Ray McCain- This story tells how one child found the courage to tell a teacher about Ray, who was being picked on and bullied by other kids in school.805575
  9. Sara’s Secret by Suzanne Wanous- This author skillfully manages to go beyond the message to the heart of Sara’s guilt and embarrassment. Sara and Justin are more than stiff cardboard characters, and their humanity poignantly validates the feelings of children who have disabled siblings. Haas’ fluid, striking watercolors convey Sara’s emotions with an intensity that is well matched to the text.3937661
  10. Let’s Talk about It: Extraordinary Friends: Let’s Talk About It by Fred Rogers- How do you get to know someone in a wheelchair? Sometimes it’s hard to know where to begin. In his characteristically wise and gentle way, Rogers challenges the stereotypes that often plague children with special needs and celebrates six children who are extraordinary friends.

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There are many great books out there, too many to list here!
Click this link to take you to our virtual bookshelves.  Here you will find the entire list of our recommendations, all available to check out in person at our Parent Resource Library.  Your local library should have many of these as well.

Another extensive list of books can be found HERE.

If you find your family confronted with a serious  issue or unexpected change that impacts your child, it’s important to prepare yourself before having a difficult conversation.  Here are some resources to help guide your first steps in talking about illness, death, divorce or autism:

  1. Helping children when a family member has cancer HERE.
  2. Helping your child deal with death HERE.
  3. An age by age guide for talking with kids about divorce HERE.
  4. Telling your child that they have autism HERE.

It often helps to connect with a professional who can answer questions and recommend an approach.

 

To connect with a social worker or parent liaison at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley visit: http://www.easterseals.com/dfv/explore-resources/for-caregivers/family-services.html


 

SpellLinksLearn more about how Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley is supporting literacy for children with special needs, check out our latest course offering in partnership with Dr. Jan Wasowicz and SPELL-Links.
Building the Brain for Literacy: Prerequisites for Successful Spelling & Reading A Multi-Linguistic, Prescriptive Assessment and Speech to Print Instruction

A Checklist for this Year’s IEP

By: Sharon Pike, Family Services Parent Liaison

As one of the Parent Liaisons at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley, I have experienced many years of not only my own children’s IEP’s, but countless families from our centers.   Here are some strategies that have helped our families feel like a true member of the team and confident that this year’s IEP is a well written plan that will meet their child’s needs.

Prepare for the meeting

  1. Make a list of your child’s strengths and needs. Bring it with you to review during the meeting to insure they are covering things that are important to your child’s success in school. Think about and write down strategies that work at home and with your private therapist to share with the staff.
  2. Know what the law requires. Section 614 of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) sets out the process and elements of what needs to be explored to develop and revise and IEP.  States and local school districts add their own policies on top of what is required under the federal law. That being said it doesn’t mean you need to know the letter of the law.   Bottom line… the more you know and understand the easier the process is.
  3. Never attend this meeting alone. It’s important that you and your spouse attend if possible.  If not then ask a grandparent or a friend. Their role is to be support for you and another set of ears!  Often at these meetings we can get stuck on something one member of the staff said and miss important information.  Make sure you inform the school that you are bringing someone with.
  4. Start the meeting with a positive statement about your child even if you’ve had a difficult period there is ALWAYS something positive to say… he has the best smile, she is caring and kind, he loves other children!
  5. When talking to the team, focus on your child’s needs and NOT your wants! Take the I out of IEP. Avoid, I want him to work on, I want her to be in this class, I think she needs….  Rephrase everything. He needs to have these supports in order to be successful. She needs to have sensory break before being expected to do table top activities, as it helps her focus.  The goal of special education is to meet the child’s needs, not the needs of us parents.
  6. Placement is not the first decision. This is determined after the team has decided what services and supports are needed.  This is hard; as it is often the first thing you want to know!
  7. 01_Mason EsquivelTrust your gut. If a piece of the IEP doesn’t feel right, and you can’t reach an agreement with the school, make sure it is documented that you do not agree.  Remember, just because you disagree doesn’t mean it will be changed.  The whole team has to agree to change it.  But I always say, ask for the moon and hope for the stars!
  8. Think about your child’s future! Aim HIGH.  Don’t wait until high school to start planning for what your child can do as an adult.  Every skill your child achieves in elementary school will help him or her be an independent adult.
  9. Establish a clear and reasonable communication plan with the school and your child’s teacher. Stick to the plan.  You and the school are partners in your child’s development and learning.
  10. Remember the IEP is a fluid document and can be amended at any time by requesting another IEP meeting.

After the IEP meeting

Pat yourself on the back for another successful IEP under your belt.

Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley Family Services provide information, education and support that address the concerns and stressors which may accompany having a child with special needs.  Our parent liaisons are highly trained parents of children with special needs.  They provide parents and caregivers with support from the unique perspective of someone “who has been there” in both informal one-on-one and group settings. For more resources and information click here.

Knowledge is Key

By: Amy Liss, Relationship Coordinator

Every month we seem to have a day that brings awareness to a specific disability. For example Friday, March 25, is National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day encouraging people with cerebral palsy to share the many things they enjoy and can do using the hashtag #CerebralPalsyCan.

11182119_10104980955721620_7285392519176070049_nWhile I think these days are great, I personally believe that every day should be Awareness Day. My dream had always been to be an elementary school teacher. Although I may not be teaching in a classroom, my goal is to “teach” every day. Whether I’m giving a speech in the community, giving a tour of our building to someone that hasn’t heard of Easter Seals and its mission, driving up and down our hallways meeting new families, or engaging in conversation with long-time friends, I feel that I am always trying to educate.

For those of you reading this that may not know me, I’m 33 years old and have Spastic Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy. There are many different types of Cerebral Palsy. I am lucky to be able to speak and have a mind that works pretty well most of the time. 🙂

Next time you come in contact with a person with a disability, here are 5 things I believe you should keep in mind:

  1. Just because a person is nonverbal doesn’t mean they don’t understand what you are saying. Treat them normally. Talk to them at a level they understand. Do not talk down to them.
  2. Most people with a severe disability need a companion to help them. It is important that you remember to talk to the person and not to their companion. For example, people tend to ask my companion questions instead of directing them towards me. They say “does she like college basketball?” If the question was formed, “do you like college basketball?”I could talk for hours about March Madness.
  3. I’mMarchMadness.jpg an identical twin and I have a younger sister who is 28. My family did a wonderful job of including me in all family activities. Throughout my life, I’m grateful that I’ve always been accepted and included. Sometimes your special needs child can occupy a lot of your time and that is understandable but it is important to remember that siblings need attention too. Try to spend one-on-one time with each sibling. In my family, we call these “you & me kid days.”
  4. Patience is crucial. Sometimes others don’t take the time to get to know people with disabilities because it may take them longer to do things. If you take the time to get to know someone with a disability and include them in your group, you may quickly notice that we’re more alike than different.
  5. Be as open as possible. Tell others about you or your child’s disability. That’s how we educate.

amy group.JPGYou may be surprised at how much YOU can teach!

Amy works as the Relationship Coordinator at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley. Learn more here: http://eastersealsdfvr.org/about.

Future Budget Outlook: Early Intervention

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What can you do?

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

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

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

Here’s what you can do:

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

Our commitment

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

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

 

New Year, New Budget?  Understanding the State’s Budget Stalemate 

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

Illinois is entering its seventh month without a state budget.  A lack of a budget for this extended period of a time is unprecedented in the state’s history.  The prolonged stalemate has resulted from political and ideological differences between Republican Governor Bruce Rauner and Democrats who hold a supermajority in both chambers of the state legislature.

Negotiations between the lawmakers have made little progress since the July 1, 2015 budget deadline as there is very little middle ground between the two sides.

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Representative Patricia R. Bellock

This is confirmed by Illinois State Representative, Patricia R. Bellock, who notes, “Budget negotiations are still ongoing but I feel it is unlikely that anything will happen until March.” There’s concern in the state that the budget impasse could continue well into the spring or not at all as Governor Bruce Rauner and Speaker of the Illinois House, Michael Madigan, have been unable to make progress towards a budget compromise.

Despite the lack of a budget, the state is currently receiving a majority of its funding due to court orders, laws and federal money.  This has funded 89.4% of the total budget, leaving the remaining 10.6% unfunded.  The unfunded percentage primarily consists of higher education and human services such as child care and many other grant funded programsThis has put enormous strain on nonprofits, many of whom are receiving delayed payments from the state and operating on the premise that they’ll be paid back for human services provided.

Until that time, many nonprofits are forced to make tough decisions which have already resulted in cutting the number of clients they serve, cutting staff, utilizing their full cash reserves, and tapping into lines of credit to continue operations.  In order to avoid further irreparable long-term consequences for human services agencies across Illinois, it’s critical that the state reaches a budget agreement as soon as possible.

Budget Stalemate effects:

The lack of a state budget has created uncertainty and put tremendous stress on nonprofits during the past seven months. United Way of Illinois recently released a survey of human service agencies across Illinois putting the impact of the budget impasse into perspective.  The survey describes the impact on individuals and communities as:

  • 85% of agency respondents have cut the number of clients they serve, up from 34% in July.
  • 84% of agency respondents have cut programs, most impacting children and working adults.

The survey also reveals the fiscal condition of many human services agencies has deteriorated since the budget impasse, forcing these agencies to take measures to ensure the continuation of operations for their clients:

  • 49% of agencies have tapped into their cash reserves
  • 26% of agencies have tapped into lines of credit.
    • Taking on a combined $35 million in debt
    • The average credit extension taken on by respondents was $300,000
  • 27% of agencies have laid off staff as a result of the budget impasse.

The protracted budget stalemate has caused lasting long-term impacts on human services throughout Illinois. Some agencies have already closed their doors while others are in danger of doing the same the longer the budget impasse endures.  They have continued to operate in an atmosphere of uncertainty over delayed payments and potential cuts to critical programs.

What does this mean for Easter Seals Dupage & Fox Valley?

OElectionsne of the biggest concerns for Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley is the uncertainty in relation to the State Early Intervention program and whether Early Intervention will face small or large cuts in a potential budget.  Early Intervention programs are essential to enhancing the development of children across Illinois and their services are considered 2 ½ times less costly than special education services in preschool and elementary years. Lawmakers need to recognize the importance of the Early Intervention services and reflect its significance in a final budget agreement.  Here’s what you can do:

  • Email Governor Rauner through his constituent page and let him know you oppose potential Early Intervention cuts:
  • Email/fax/call your Illinois General Assembly Legislators to let them know the importance of protecting the Early Intervention program! Don’t know who your rep is?  You can look it up online through the state’s board of elections site:
  • Send a letter to your Legislator.
  • Continue to raise awareness on social media using the hashtag #EImatters.CI110442953630484434

Our commitment

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

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog series about the budget outlook. Learn more about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley here: https://eastersealsdfvr.org/.

6 Tips for a Smooth Transition Back to School

By: Laura Van Zandt, OTR/L

School is right around the corner if it isn’t already here for many of you. With school starting again, gone are the lazy days of summer and once again the hustle and bustle of getting you kids out the door and getting them to do their homework is resuming. Whether your child is just starting school or is nearing the end of his/her K-12 educational career, here are some tips to help ease the transition back to school. You won’t be able to avoid the business at the beginning of your day, but you can try to ease the morning stress to make the day go smoother.

1. Decide when you have to get up. It will be much easier to decide what time your child needs to go to bed if you know what time they have to get up in the morning. Most experts agree children need between 9 and 10 hours of sleep each night to be at their best. If you know your child must be up at 6 a.m. in order to be ready for school by 7:30 a.m., you would want your child to begin getting ready for bed around 7:30 p.m.

You may want to explain to your child the importance of a good night’s sleep. Getting enough sleep is important for the body to heal itself and allow ourselves to have enough energy to stay awake during the day. It also helps us focus and be less cranky when we have to do tasks we are not particularly interested.

2. Call a family meeting and decide who will be responsible for which tasks each morning. For example, dad will make sure the kids are dressed and their teeth are brushed while mom will take care of breakfast and lunches. Don’t forget to assign these tasks or similar tasks to your children too! This will not only help ease the stress of the morning but it will also help develop their executive function skills which will help serve your child well throughout all grade levels in school. For developmentally appropriate ideas for your children click here.

3. Draw up a schedule or start a family calendar. Designate a spot if possible within your home that is consistent for the family calendar. The family spot can also be used to help make returning back from school easier. If you have young children include photos or illustrations representing the task they need to do. Clipboards are an excellent resource for individual family members to have to list his/her own chores.

Family calendars help to keep things organized
Family calendars help to keep things organized.

4. Do what you can the night before. The more you do before you go to bed, the less frantic you are likely to feel in the morning cramming in as much as possible.

  • Run the dishes overnight (bonuses this sometimes can save money!) or run the dryer to have clean clothes. Lay out tomorrow’s clothing.
  • Maintain a steady supply of quick breakfast foods for this days when it just happens and you are running late. Kid’s growing bodies and developing brains need regular refueling. When kids skip breakfast, they don’t get what they need to perform their best.
  • Hang complete outfits together in your closet or put outfits in bins to quickly grab. Keep your children’s matching shirts and pants in the same drawer or on the same hanger so they can find them easily without help.
  • Gather everything that you will take with you the next day and assemble them in one place near the door your exit from in the morning.
  • Teach your children to get everything ready for the next day before they got to bed. Make lunches, distribute lunch money, and pack backpacks. Take a picture of a completed backpack and attach to a luggage tag so all your child has to do is “match the picture” to make sure everything is included.
  • “Match the Picture” is a concept taught by Sarah Ward where the adult can take a picture of the desired end product and assists the child in breaking down the steps to create both a written and visual to match when completing a goal. This concept can be very helpful in eliminating the need to “nag” your child though every step as well as support independence.

5. Ease the transition back from a full day of school to home by allowing your children a break to move and be active. Go for quality, not quantity with after school programs. Your child will benefit most from one or two activities that are fun, reinforce social development, and teach new skills. Remember children need movement. After sitting for an extended period of time during a school day, giving your kids an opportunity to need can be extremely beneficial.

Regular movement has been shown to increase focus in children of all ages. Movement also helps all children regulate (i.e. adjust their energy) and lower rates of behavioral problems. Research shows that physical exercise influences the central dopaminergic, noradrenergic, and serotonergic systems. Together those systems help manage our mood, appetite, sleep, learning, as well as alertness, focus, and motivation.

Ideas for active play might include tossing a ball/back and forth with a peer, playing tag outside, going for a bike ride on the sidewalk, exploring how your body moves by climbing/cartwheeling/summersaulting/etc., or just taking a short walk. Other active play ideas include exploring different textures or drawing with sidewalk chalk. Here is a link to some fantastic indoor play ideas.

6. Set up a time and place for homework. Having a set place to study and complete homework helps send the signal to your children that learning is important. As much as possible, try to make yourself available during homework time….even if that means you still might be cooking dinner or doing the laundry.

One example of a homework station.
One example of a homework station.

Wherever your homework station is in your house and whatever your homework station looks like in your house, make sure you have all the essentials readily available. This will help avoid time robbers (e.g. getting up to find stuff) and help eliminate any headaches over missing supplies. Pinterest has many great ideas for creating a homework station. Right now the bargain bin section in Target also has great supplies for organization. Purchasing a tri-fold poster at Staples is another fantastic idea to eliminate visual clutter and help your child focus.

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

Top Reasons Kids Make Great Gardeners

By: Vanessa Doyle, Lead Teacher in the Lily Garden Child Care Center Infant Room & Horticulture Coordinator

Pop quiz! Which of these would you like your child to improve on?

  1. How to make healthy food choices.
  2. How to cooperate well with others and engage in teamwork.
  3. How to increase their confidence and self-awareness.
  4. How to interact and connect with the natural world.

If you agree with one or any of these statements, your child would be a great gardener.

Gardening Blog1Gardening has been around for so long that people may not realize the positive effects it can have on our children and us. With more processed and highly sugared foods hitting the table, we are further away from where our food comes from than ever before.

Everyone agrees that eating healthy is good. It makes you feel better, gets you a good doctor’s report and prevents disease. But it can be really hard sometimes. After working all day and picking up the kids from school, going to soccer practice, therapy and homework; taking a swing threw the drive-thru seems like the only option available. But this option is causing a worldwide epidemic of obesity and metabolic disease not only in us but also in our children.

So what can we do to turn that around?

We can start by establishing healthy eating habits young. These habits will last a lifetime.

Garden Blog3.jpgGardening is a great way to incorporate real fruits and vegetables into your home. It provides a learning opportunity for children to see where their food comes from. School or community gardens also offer an opportunity to interact with a group to practice socialization and teamwork. Once youth are involved in the growing process, they gain a sense of pride and ownership of what they created. This makes them more willing to try new foods and share. Often school can be an overload of sensory input. The garden provides a relaxing environment for everybody. Children can explore their senses by smelling flowers and hearing the sounds of nature around them.

How do I get started?

  • Gardeners are great sharers! Ask friends, family and even us here at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley. Somebody usually has an extra plant or two to spare or a packet of seeds to share. If you can’t find any, your local nursery can help or you can order seeds online at Rare Seeds.
  • Dedicate an area of your yard to be the garden. If you don’t have a plot of land to dedicate to a whole garden, that is okay too. Containers work well and can grow plants such as tomatoes and peppers.
  • Make it easy on yourself. If you have never gardened before, it is as simple as putting a seed into the dirt, giving it sunlight and water and watching it grow.

Happy Planting!

Come by and check out our very own school garden grown by the kids in the Lily Garden Child Care Center at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley in Villa Park.

Other Resources:

http://www.letsmove.gov/eat-healthy

http://www.chicagobotanic.org

http://www.earlysprouts.org

Why Treat the Rib Cage?

By, Laura Znajda, PT,  Manager of Community Based Therapy and Continuing Education

Photo by McKenzie Burbach
Photo by McKenzie Burbach

When I went to Physical Therapy school, the entire unit on respiration and the musculature that supports it consisted of a self-study chapter.  With so little importance placed on this subject in school, I was surprised to see what an impact treating the rib cage has on my pediatric clients.  Learning about the way the rib cage changes in structure and function through normal development, and then what happens when a baby is born prematurely or has poor trunk strength, was a big eye opener for me.  Delving into this topic, the most important thing I realized is how rib position could affect not just breathing, but so many other areas of development, including motor skills like sitting, dressing and talking.

If you have put off learning about the rib cage because you think it won’t have a productive impact on your clients’ outcomes, ponder these reasons to add rib cage treatment to your repertoire:

  • The ribs are connected to the spine and need to move properly in order for the spine to move in all directions—we all know spinal movement is needed for everything from sitting up straight to swinging a baseball bat.
  • The ribcage needs to move downward, usually between 8 and 24 months of age, in order to gain a more efficient breathing pattern.  (the newborn pattern uses the diaphragm only; this normally changes over time to include using muscles all around the trunk to expand the ribcage in 3 directions, which allows the lungs to expand fully.  When the lungs can expand fully, the child can take deeper breaths and move air in and out more effectively.)
  • The rib cage is connected to the shoulder via the collar bones and shoulder blades.  The ribs need to move downward after infancy in order to allow the shoulders to work properly for activities such as reaching overhead and dressing.
  • Normally, a baby or child can change his breathing pattern when the body needs more stability for difficult tasks or when he needs to breathe faster under stress.  If the ribs do not move normally or are not in the right position, the child will only have one breathing pattern and might learn to hold his breath to gain stability.

    Photo by Petra Ford
    Photo by Petra Ford
  • The lower ribs need to move inward when lower trunk musculature contracts to produce an effective cough, which clears secretions from the lungs and upper airway.  When mucous is not cleared from the lungs, it can become infected and cause a pneumonia.
  • When trunk musculature is working properly to contract the rib cage with control, airflow over the vocal folds is controlled in such a way that allows the ability to produce sounds properly for voicing.

Normal development of motor skills that typically occurs from birth until the age of 2 facilitates the muscle lengthening and strengthening that moves the ribcage into its mature position and provides effective breathing patterns for the child.  When motor skills develop atypically, muscle lengthening, strengthening, and rib mobility must be provided by a Physical Therapist, Occupational Therapist, or Speech-Language Pathologist trained in this type of therapy.  The therapist must also instruct parents in exercises to do at home for the very best result.

The therapy staff at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley are invested in learning more about this frequently overlooked area of treatment and are hosting a continuing education course this month to expand our skill base. Click here to learn more from Rona Alexander, PhD, CCC-SLP, BCS-S, C/NDT.

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

Holiday Gifts and Toys For Kids

holiday

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

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

  • Is the toy developmentally appropriate for your child?

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

  • Will this toy grow with your child?

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

  • How expensive is the toy?

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

  • Does the toy require batteries? Is it electronic?

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

  • Does the toy promote exploration and problem solving skills?

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

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

Toy Ideas by Age

1-3 years

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

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

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

3-6 years (preschool and kindergarten age)

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

6-9 years

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

9 years +

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

Other Resources:

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

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

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

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