Tag Archives: independence

Commonly Asked Questions About Down Syndrome

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

Down Syndrome, or Trisomy 21, is one of the more common genetic disorders in which children are born with 3 (instead of the normal 2) copies of chromosome 21.

There are common physical characteristics of children with Down Syndrome, such as upwardly slanted eyes, short fingers, small facial features, and a flattened nasal bridge. Children with Down Syndrome also may have varying degrees of intellectual disability, may develop heart conditions, and are at risk for visual impairments. Many children with Down’s Syndrome also have low tone (meaning that their muscles have less of a “taut” quality to them, making their joints appear “loose” or “floppy”).

Because of these physical and intellectual challenges that children with Down Syndrome live with, many children with Down Syndrome receive Occupational, Physical, and Speech therapies in order to address these concerns and make them as independent as Parker2possible.

That was the very medical analysis of Down Syndrome… but if you are a parent of a child who was recently diagnosed with Down Syndrome, you are not thinking of statistics, factoids, and medical jargon. You would be thinking, “What does this mean for my child?”

While I am not a parent of a child with Down Syndrome, nor do I pretend to be the holder of all the knowledge on Down Syndrome, I’ll try to answer common questions from my perspective as a Pediatric Occupational Therapist and a person who is proud to have friends with the condition.  

What services to I need to look into for my child?

Young children with a new diagnosis of Down Syndrome (under 3 years old) can qualify through Early Intervention Services through the state of Illinois. Early Intervention brings trained specialists into the home of eligible children with disabilities or delays and provides high-quality therapeutic intervention.

To start services, a parent schedules an evaluation through a Child and Family Connections provider closest to their home (featured in the link above). After the evaluator determines a child qualifies with a 30 percent delay in development in any area, or are at risk of developmental delays, he/she will set up An Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP). The IFSP lists child and family strengths, needs, resources, priorities, and concerns. It also identifies services to be provided to your child.  

Many Easterseals therapists are trained and credentialed by the State of Illinois Early Intervention System. Parents can request an Easterseals therapist when qualifying for services and speaking with the EI Case Manager. 

Team members could include Developmental therapists, Occupational therapists, Physical therapists, Speech therapists, Audiologists, Social Workers, Nursing, Assistive Technology, and nutritionists, just to name a few.  These therapists can help your child with global strength, communicating effectively, sensory processing issues, fine and gross motor skills, and getting around in the community.

Once a child “ages out” of Early Intervention at 3 years old, many children with Down Syndrome continue to get services as needed through schools and outpatient based clinics, such as your local Easterseals.

Why would my child with Down Syndrome need Occupational, Physical, and/or Speech therapy?

I have worked with children with Down Syndrome as an Occupational Therapist for a number of reasons and most often to address the following:

  • sensory processing difficulties Jake mom machine
  • trouble with transitions
  • behavior management
  • feeding difficulties
  • handwriting
  • dressing
  • manipulating fasteners
  • bathing
  • social skills
  • global strength
  • participating in family and school routines
  • access to community activities
  • navigating their physical environment safely

I will refer children with Down Syndrome to Physical Therapy and Speech Therapy as well. Physical Therapists can help children with Down Syndrome ambulate and have sufficient strength to be able to crawl, squat down, skip, climb stairs, propel their walkers/wheelchairs or walk.

Speech Therapists can help a child with Down Syndrome improve articulation (intelligibility of spoken language), oral motor skills for feeding and speaking, pragmatic language skills, improving receptive language skills, and accessing augmentative forms of communication (picture boards or high-tech communication devices).

Will my child be able to go to school?

Yes! Whether it’s through an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or a 504 plan, there are federal and state laws set in place that require schools to make education accessible to children with disabilities.  These plans set specific goals and help place children in the best environment at school to support their specific needs. Just because your child has Down Syndrome does not mean that they cannot have the same educational opportunities as their peers for K-12.

Can my child go to college?

College can be in the cards for your child. Click here for a list of some Illinois universities/colleges that have programs for adults with disabilities. 

Do children with Down Syndrome have friends?

Certainly! Children with Down Syndrome are sweet, funny, kind, and loyal friends. There are organizations that help give kids with Down Syndrome more exposure to similar-aged peers in the context of fun outings and school events.

I am proud supporter of Best Buddies International, whose mission is “to end social, physical, and economic isolation of the 200 million people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.” Best Buddies programs at elementary, middle and high schools pair students with intellectual or developmental disabilities with a similar aged peer and facilitate friendships between them!

My involvement in Best Buddies was one of the most positive experiences of my life and helped inspire me to become an Occupational Therapist. I am still friends with my high school buddies and we regularly keep in contact, even a decade later! Want to learn more? Visit https://www.bestbuddies.org

Do people with Down Syndrome date and get married?

Absolutely! I know people with Down Syndrome who are in long-term, committed relationships. There are even dating apps to help people with disabilities find that special someone.  Like all relationships, it’s important for people to set boundaries, expectations, and have mutual love and respect for one another, so why can’t people with Down Syndrome experience dating and marriage?

Can someone with Down Syndrome have a job and live alone?

Yes! There are job-training classes available through local community colleges and different companies that can lead to employment for people with Down Syndrome.

As for a living situation, people with Down Syndrome have a variety of options depending on their independence levels.

Options include:

  • living at home with family
  • living at a partially-independent living facilities
  • living in “shared living” arrangements in which adults with Down Syndrome can share an apartment with a roommate
  • living independently 

Additional housing resources are available through the National Down Syndrome Society.

Will my child have anyone like them to look up to in the media?

Of late, there are more actors with Down Syndrome in the media being celebrated! Some examples include:

    • Lauren Potter from “Glee” – Lauren Potter has amazing videos/PSAs and works a lot
      Lauren Potter glee
      Lauren Potter in her role as Becky on Glee.

      on advocating for people with Down Syndrome – I highly recommend following her on social media

    • Sarah Gordy from “Call the Midwife” and “Upstairs, Downstairs”
  • Born This Way – Reality show on A&E that follows the lives of young adults with Down Syndrome through their experiences in their careers, friendships, family, dating, and marriage.

What organizations are there out there to support my child?

There are a wealth of organizations in the Chicago area that are designed to help children with Down Syndrome, both medically and socially. Here are just a few!

How can I show my support for children with Down Syndrome?

In addition to getting involved with the organizations mentioned above, the simplest way to show your support is to wear mismatched socks on World Down Syndrome Day which is March 21, 2019! 

The goal of World Down Syndrome day is to raise public awareness and create a single global voice for advocating for the rights, inclusion and well being of people with Down syndrome

world down syndrome day

While it’s impossible to depict the complexities and life experiences of people with Down Syndrome as someone without the condition, I hope I gave a brief peek into what a child with Down Syndrome’s future could look like. The road ahead may seem daunting once a child receives the initial diagnosis, but parents should take comfort in knowing that there are many resources available to help during every step. The parents I work with have told me of both the amazing successes and the difficult days their child has experienced. 

When it comes down to it, a child with Down Syndrome is still a child who wants the same things in life as anyone else: to be loved and accepted. So let’s show our love and acceptance of people with Down Syndrome by wearing mismatched socks on March 21!

I think that actress Lauren Potter puts it best, “Someone once told me that different isn’t bad – different is just different!”

For more information on the services Easterseals provides for children with Down Syndrome, visit: http://www.easterseals.com/dfv/our-programs/downsyndrome.html

Visual Supports

By: Laura Bueche, MOT/OTR

Visual supports are concrete cues that provide your child with information about a routine, activity, behavioral expectation, or how to learn the component of a new skill. They may include pictures, symbols, written words, objects, visual boundaries and schedules.

Goals that can be addressed by using visual supports include:

  • Increase frequency of smooth transitions.
  • Decrease amount of time to transition.
  • Increase predictability.
  • Reduce inappropriate behaviors associated with a task or transition.
  • Increase independence.
  • Minimize teacher and adult support (e.g. prompts and reinforcement).
  • Increase understanding of expected task or activity to complete.
  • Maximize understanding of environment.
  • Decrease distractions.
  • Reduce self-injurious behaviors.
  • Increase social interaction skills.
  • Increase demonstration of play skills.
  • Increase understanding of behavior expectations.

There are three types of visual support: visual boundaries, visual cues, and visual schedules.

Visual boundaries are a helpful way to help your child make sense of the world around them. It will help your child to stay on task, understand personal space, and stay organized. Visual boundaries can include:

Floor tape

floor-tape

Spot markers

spot-markers

Visual Cues are helpful for a variety of different applications. For example they can help with:

Breaking down the steps of a task.

breaking-down-steps-fo-a-task

Organizing concepts and ideas.

organizing-concepts-and-ideas

Assisting with communication.

assist-with-communication

Organizing materials.

organizing-materials

Time Management.

time-management

Visual Schedules – Visual schedules can increase your child’s understanding of expectations and provide support for transitions in between activities.

When developing a visual schedule, there are a lot of components to consider:

  • schedules-jpgForm of the visual (picture, photos, words, phrases).
  • Length of the sequence (one item, two items, half day, full day).
  • Presentation (left to right, top to bottom, technology based).
  • Manipulation of the visual (child carries object to next activity, “all done” pocket, marks).
  • Location of the schedule (on a wall, desk, notebook).

Be sure to work with your child’s speech and language pathologist, occupational therapist, or special education teacher to determine what the most appropriate type of visual schedule is for your child.

For more information on occupational therapy services including helping children and adults with sensory-processing abilities, coordination, peer interaction, play and self-care skills to participate in daily life activities, visit eastersealsdfvr.org.

 

Getting Ready For Fall by Teaching Your Child to Dress a Coat

By: Maureen Karwowski, OT

As the leaves begin to turn, it will soon be time to break out those sweaters and coats. This is a great time for your child to practice dressing their coat independently.

As an occupational therapist, I am always looking for ways to help my clients reach their maximum independence. As children become more independent, they develop more confidence and are more likely to try other challenges as well. For my clients that have fine motor difficulties, practicing dressing skills is a natural and routine way to help them develop their fine motor abilities.  Independence with dressing occurs one step at a time, so we can start with dressing a coat as the first step.

Once a child is able to stand securely, or sit securely if they have postural difficulties, it is a good time to start. Here is the “over the head” method that I would start with:

  1. Place the coat on the floor or a low table
  2. Lay the coat flat with the inside facing up
  3. Stand facing the top or collar of the coat
  4. Bend over and place the arms in the sleeves
  5. Lift the entire coat up and overhead
  6. When the arms come down you are all set!

Zipping up a coat requires more precise fine motor skills and strength. I would start by having the child zip up the coat once you have engaged the zipper. When assisting your child with any fasteners, always stand behind them to give them perspective on how their hands should work. You can use a zipper pull to make it easier for your child to grasp the zipper. A quick online search yields many cute options, but you can also use a key ring that you have at home. A magnetic zipper is also a nice alternative while your child is working on manipulating a zipper. Several clothing companies offer this.

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It is important to assist your child, while not jumping in too soon. Be sure to leave extra time, and focus on one step at a time. Once they are independent with this, then you can focus on promoting another dressing task. Good luck and stay warm!

To learn more about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley occupational therapy services, visit eastersealsdfvr.org.

Getting Back to the Basics this 4th of July

By: Kelly Lopresti, Director of Child Development, The Lily Garden Child Care Center

The warm summer weather is perfect for a Fourth of July celebration that incorporates easy patriotic activities. Think back to your own childhood outdoor experiences in the summer months with nights playing kick the can and flashlight tag.  4thWe can show our kids how to have a great 4th of July celebration by adding a few throw back activities from our youth.  Below is a list of list of easy activities that will keep kids busy, laughing and having a ton of fun during your holiday weekend.

Potato Sack Race: Bring back the classic potato sack race for your Fourth of July party. All you’ll need is a handful of bags (even old pillow cases will work) and a group of people. Line up the bagged participants and send them on their way laughing toward the finish line.

brady bunch sack race.png
Fun with the Brady Bunch kids.

Fun Tip: Choose festive bags, such as red, white, and blue pillow cases, or decorate your own potato sacks with the image of the flag or the Statue of Liberty.

IMG_1410Spoon Race: We named this Fourth of July game for one of our nation’s founding fathers, and it’s sure to be a hit. It’s the Abraham Lincoln Spoon Race.

  1. Divide the kids into two teams and designate a starting point and finish line.
  2. At the starting point, place a bowl of pennies and two spoons or ladles (one for each team); at the finish line, place two empty bowls (one for each team).
  3. One at a time one person from each team must fill the spoon with as many pennies as possible and then race to the finish line to discard them into the team bowl.
  4. Here’s the catch: Any dropped pennies must be picked up and returned to the spoon, and the player must return to the starting point. The first team to transfer all the pennies to the bowl at the finish line wins.
small-american-flags-on-wooden-sticks-5_161
Photo from Oriental Trading

American Flag Relay: Fill two large plastic buckets or bins with sand and insert small American flags. Use the same number of flags as participants.

  1. Designate a starting point and a finish line, placing the buckets at the finish line.
  2. Split the kids into two teams and have them form two lines at the starting point.
  3. On your “Go,” the first person in each line races to the bucket, grabs a flag, and marches back (for safety reasons, don’t allow children to run with the flags).
  4. The next person in line cannot go until the previous person has returned with his or her flag.
  5. The first team to capture all of its flags wins.

 

Other ideas:

  • Bike Decorating contest: Get the streamers and balloons ready and start decorating.
  • Hula Hoop Contest: Grab some Hula Hoops and a few wiggly participants to get the contest started. The person who can continue to hula the longest wins.
  • Baseball Throwing Contest: Incorporate America’s favorite pastime in your 4th of July celebration. The person who can throw a baseball the farthest wins. This game is best played at a park with an adult marking the distance each time.
  • Tug-of-War Contest: Create two teams to tug on opposing sides of a rope. Make three knots in the middle of the rope and a line on the ground between the teams. The team who tugs the furthest knot across the line wins
  • kiteFly a Kite: Let your patriotic spirit fly high into the sky this July Fourth. Make and decorate kites as a family and fly them in the backyard or at a park.
  • Baseball: Baseball is widely considered the all-American sport, which makes it a perfect Fourth of July game. Designate team captains and mark bases with bags of sand or painted twigs.
  • Patriotic Scavenger Hunt: For a festive and fun July Fourth game, send players on a scavenger hunt around the neighborhood. Include patriotic items on the list, such as red, white, and blue items; a nickel, in honor of Thomas Jefferson, who drafted the Declaration of Independence; and mini American flags.

For more ideas for a fun 4th of July weekend visit:

To learn more about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley’s Lily Garden Child Care Center visit eastersealslilygarden.org.

Can your child benefit from Constraint-Induced Movement Therapy?

By: Emily Muzzy, Occupational Therapist

What is Constraint Induced Movement Therapy (CIMT)? 
Constraint-Induced Movement is a therapeutic approach for children with one sided weakness such as hemiplegia, brachial plexus or other unilateral impairment. CIMT was originally utilized in the adult rehabilitation setting to treat post-stroke patients.  However, it was found that children with one-sided involvement could also benefit from this type of treatment. Numerous research studies have shown that by restraining the unaffected limb and intensifying  use of the affected limb, pediatric constraint induced movement therapy produces major and sustained improvement in motor function in children.

Children with one-sided involvement often experience “learned non-use” of the affected side.  Forced use of the affected side helps to regenerate neural pathways back to the brain, increasing awareness of that side.  This leads to increased spontaneity of use of the arm and improved function.  The forced use is attained by the child wearing a constraint cast on his/her uninvolved arm for a period of time each day (preferably a minimum of two hours).  The cast is made by an Occupational Therapist and is removable.  When the cast is worn, this allows for mass practice of therapeutic activities with the involved arm.

What should a child hope to gain in an intensive program utilizing CIMT?

  • Typical goals of a CIMT program include improved quality of gross and fine motor skills and improved bilateral hand use for daily living tasks.
  • Family education will be provided on use of the cast at home, and home program activities will be provided to promote successful use of the involved arm and hand.
  • A skilled occupational therapist will help to develop specific functional goals for your child based on his/her specific needs.

Who is appropriate for constraint therapy?

  • Typically, children with a diagnosis of hemiplegia, cerebral palsy or brachial plexus injury (though any child with one-sided involvement could be considered).
  • This is generally used with children from 18 months to 10 years of age.  Younger children have a more plastic neurological system and greater gains may be seen with them than with older children.

CIMT

After finishing a session of CIMT, one parent couldn’t believe her child’s progress after four weeks of therapy.

My child’s time in constraint camp improved his fine motor skills and he had fun while doing it!  He will always use his right side, but by putting on the cast, it strengthened his weak side and now he uses it more to support activities.

What does a session of constraint therapy look like?

  • At this center, a child is seen for 4 weeks of intensive therapy, 3 times per week.  Each session lasts 2 hours per day.  The fourth week focuses on bilateral training without use of the constraint cast in order to practice functional activities with both hands.
  • The therapy sessions of the CIMT program offered at this center should look like FUN!  We work hard to provide a variety of play-based activities that promote repeated use of the affected limb.
  • Messy tactile play is used to promote increased awareness.  Activities like giving farm animals a bath in shaving cream, building sand castles, and finding play bugs in dirt are just some examples of the way kids can get messy with their involved hands.
  • Activities to promote shoulder strengthening are incorporated through climbing over obstacle courses with ladders, slides, and tunnels.
  • A variety of grasp and release activities are used.  Use of the “just right” size of objects is needed so the child can be successful.cimt2
  • Activities on a vertical surface such as finger painting on the wall are beneficial for getting shoulder movement along with wrist and finger extension.
  • The child will be constantly engaged in activities that will require use of his/her affected arm.

Two sessions of CIMT are offered this summer as part of our Community Based Therapy Programs.  For more information on registering, contact our Intake Coordinator at 630.261.6287. Check out the additional Community Based Therapy programs like Aquatic Therapy, Fun with Food and social skills programs  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.

#GivingTuesday

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Summer in Chicago

The Importance and Impact of the ADA

By Shannon Kelly, Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley Development Intern

This past Sunday was a huge milestone for the disability community as the Americans with Disability Act turned 25. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the purpose of the ADA which was enacted in 1990 is to “prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, public accommodation, communications, and governmental activities. The ADA also establishes requirements for telecommunications relay services.”

This month really made me think about the power that the ADA has in society and what an impact it has on people with disabilities. I was born four years after the ADA was established, so I never experienced sidewalks without curb cutouts or inaccessible government agencies. While these may seem like small matters, the reality is that they make a huge difference.

And since the act was passed 25 years ago, it easy to take these things for granted, but it is important to remember the
advocates that fought diligently to make things like accessible public transportation and employment equality a reality. Their hard work and success in passing the ADA is still affecting millions of people with disabilities each day.

Accessible Metra train.
Accessible Metra train.

The ADA has made a profound impact on my life as a wheelchair user, and my ability to be independent. During the summers, I live at home in Elmhurst with my family and often spend time in Chicago. Last year I had an internship in the city and I often went to Navy Pier, Millennium Park, and attended different concerts and events. Driving into Chicago is not the most exciting thing to do, so I normally take the Metra train to the Ogilvie station and then take buses to get around downtown. The Metra is equipped with lifts and cars with more room for easier access and the CTA buses all have ramps that allow people in wheelchairs to get on. These features make it so much easier for me to get around and do everything I want to do.

Ramps at Millennium Park
Ramps at Millennium Park make it easy for everyone to access.

The ADA has also required buildings and public areas to become more accessible. I went to the Art Institute of Chicago recently, and was pleasantly surprised with their level of access. There was ramps and elevators to every exhibit as well as accessible restrooms. Millennium Park is also one of my favorite places to go in Chicago and it is very accessible for people with all disabilities. The Jay Pritzker Pavilion is a great place to check out events and it has resources to accommodate many different needs.

While the ADA has helped many people with disabilities lead independent lives over the past 25 years, the fight is not over. There is still much to be done in order to ensure people with disabilities have equal access in the community and to opportunities.

Public transportation has been greatly improved since the passing of the ADA, however only 69% of Chicago’s CTA train stations are currently accessible. The city of Chicago is working towards updating these stations, making sure they are more accessible to everyone, but it is a process and doesn’t happen overnight.

Additionally, the ADA requires all buildings built after 1990 to be accessible, but there are many older building and housing complexes that are hard for people with disabilities to access. And while the ADA prohibits companies to discriminate against applicants requesting reasonable accommodations, there is a very high unemployment rate among people with disabilities. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says that “17.1 percent of persons with a disability were employed, and in contrast, the employment-population ratio for those without a disability was 64.6 percent.”

Moving forward I believe it is important to continue to improve the infrastructure of buildings and public transportation to make them more accessible. Acceptance also plays a key role. When members of the community and employers become more open minded towards differences, it will help society become more inclusive of people with disabilities.

During the past 25 years there has been great successes and accomplishments through the ADA, there’s no doubt about that. We have come a long way and I can’t wait to see everything that is to come!

The Bean at Millennium Park.
The Bean at Millennium Park.

Interactive Metronome

By: Laura Van Zandt, OTR/L

Did you know that our brains have an “internal clock” that keeps time? This timing is critical for attention, executive functions, speech and language, social skills, reading and other academic skills, motor control and coordination, sensory processing and integration, as well as many other areas common to childhood development.

Interactive metronome is an evidence-based, intensive computer centered assessment and training tool that can help improve timing, rhythm, and synchronization in the brain. Interactive metronome is used around the globe in hospitals, pediatric and adult clinics, school, and homes.  It can be used to improve a child’s processing abilities that affect attention, motor planning, sensory processing, and sequencing. Children who have been diagnosed with ADHD/ADD, Apraxia/Dyspraxia, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Brain Injury, Auditory Processing Disorder, Cerebral Palsy, Dyslexia, Language-Learning Disorders, Non-Verbal Learning Disorders, Sensory Processing Disorder, Stuttering, and much more can all benefit.

The goals of Interactive Metronome include:

  • Improve independence with activities of daily living
  • Improve physical endurance and stamina for performance in sports and leisure activities
  • Improve overall whole body coordination
  • Improve focus and attention for longer periods of time related to daily function and filtering out internal as well as external distractions
  • Improve academic function performance and ability to follow directions
  • Improve self-esteem and social skills
  • Improve behavior and impulsivity

interactive metronome  interactive metronome2

Interactive Metronome is available through Easter Seals DuPage Occupational, Physical, and Speech Therapy Departments. The therapists at Easter Seals use this program to tailor a treatment plan specific to the child’s needs and family priorities. Interactive Metronome challenges the child to precisely match a rhythmic beat, which can be customized to your child’s unique learning style and challenges, with synchronized hands and feet exercises. Feedback is then is given auditorally or visually based on the child’s goals that tell the child how close they are within milliseconds to the reference tone. This feedback guides the child to attend and problem solve how to stay to the beat for improving their timing and overall coordination.

During Interactive Metronome, the child treatment activities can be customized based on your individual child’s areas of needs. Exercises can include working on crossing midline for integrating both sides of the body together, improving standing balance for strengthening and endurance, improving both upper and lower extremity range of motion for reach and gait, improving impulse control by ignoring specific stimuli, improving attention to increasing longer and more complex exercises, improving working memory  by recalling a series of exercises to shift between with either upper extremities, lower extremities or both, as well as improving coordination tasks with all extremities. The goals of Interactive Metronome are vast and largely customization.

If your child if already enrolled in therapy, talk to your therapist about this exciting new opportunity! If you are not currently enrolled in therapy, discuss this with your pediatrician and obtain a script for a discipline specific evaluation and treatment.

interactivemetronome8

“Interactive Metronome helps me coordinate things. It helps me get better going to the speed of things and getting used to more things. I feel proud of myself and all of my great work and effort. I even ask my parents if they can order it for me.”

More information can be obtained from www.interactivemetronome.com. For more information about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley please visit EasterSealsDFVR.org.

Accessible Family Vacations Part 2: 5 Tips for an Accessible Trip to Disney

By: Heather Barilla, Center parent & Travel Agent

Heather Barilla is a mom of 3, one having special needs. I have been traveling to Walt Disney World all my life, visiting over 40 times (but who’s counting?). I have also been traveling to Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley for almost 10 years! I loved planning Disney Trips so much, that I started my own business, Palm Tree Travel Agency, an Affiliate of Magical Moments Vacations.

Now I’m booking and planning Disney trips (and more!) for families just like yours. I have found Walt Disney World is by far the best place to travel with special kids.  The cast members are welcoming and understanding, the parks and resorts to be accessible and easy to navigate.  I have found a place where we can be with our special family, and not be that different after all.  It’s truly become our vacation destination.

When To Go:

A question I hear often is, “When is the best time to visit Walt Disney World?” Anytime is great!  Disney has planned special events throughout the year that are all enjoyable, including the Flower and Garden Festival that starts in March and Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party in the fall.

Flowers at Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party
Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party

While traveling in the peak seasons can be manageable, planning trips to Disney in less crowded months may provide a more enjoyable experience. My daughter didn’t walk until she was almost 3.  We chose to vacation in September, when it was mostly preschool families and adults. May and October have great activities and less crowds, and can be some of the best times to visit.

Whenever you decide to go, planning is essential in getting the most out of your Disney Vacation.  Dining reservations can be made 180 days in advance of your arrival date, and if you are booked at a Disney Resort, you can make reservations for your entire stay, up to 10 days.

Resorts:

One of the first things to consider when planning a family trip to Disney is accessible accommodation. Disney offers many types of rooms and resorts for all family sizes and any budget.

Each Disney resort has handicapped rooms.  This isn’t just for wheelchairs, there are rooms especially created for visual and hearing needs as well.  For families that need a place that is super wheelchair friendly, I’d choose the Contemporary Resort or the Bay Lake Tower.  The Contemporary Resort has a wheelchair friendly layout with a variety of dining options and the Bay Lake Tower’s pool has a zero depth entry, with a handicapped chair lift.

Disney Resorts have all sorts of transportation options.  Moderate and Value Resorts will offer buses to all the parks.  Some Deluxe Resorts offer monorail, boat and bus service.  Bus drivers will lower the buses to accommodate wheelchairs if you can’t transfer.

Theme Parks:

With multiple parks at Walt Disney World, there is always something exciting going on. Once you enter the park, head for Guest Services where you can obtain the Disability Access Service Card.  You don’t need a doctor’s order, all you need is your personal information, and be willing to have a photo taken. Once inside, you have access to all the different parks.

Magic Kingdom
Beautiful day at Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom is one of the main attractions at Disney World and is where Cinderella’s castle is located. Getting to Magic Kingdom is easy by monorail and buses. So many rides at Magic Kingdom are for the whole family and many don’t require a transfer.  A great escape is Tom Sawyer’s Island.  There are paths and caves and areas to explore and run.  Or, you can sit quietly on a rocking chair and enjoy the view.

Epcot is my kids’ favorite park.  Here you can experience nature, science, and the world. Our favorite exhibit is the World Showcase, where you can interact with cast members from different countries and there is an accessible boat ride in the Mexico exhibit. We also recommend The Seas attraction which is based on the movie Finding Nemo. Each evening at Epcot there are Illuminations which includes a firework show. Accessible seating is available near the Port of Entry shops.

No matter what theme park you go to during your time at Disney, the FastPass+ makes it easy to pre-plan and be prepared.  All parks use the FastPass+ system, and the My Disney Experience App is simple to use on your phone or computer.  I have found that planning FastPass+ selections an hour apart has kept my family moving with minimal waits, and occupied for the morning, ready for our afternoon break.

Dining:

When it comes to dining while in Disney World, there are a variety of options to choose from. Disney s chefs and staff are accommodating when it comes to special nutrition needs.

When booking a dining reservation, you are able to select certain allergies that may be present in your dining party. Once you check in at the hostess desk for your reservation, always mention again that you have a special dietary need.  Your ticket that is taken to your table should have the word allergy stamped on it which alerts your server and the chef.

If you go to a restaurant with a buffet, you can always request that your children’s food is prepared and brought out separately. This will ensure it is not taken from the buffet to eliminate cross-contamination.
In order to ensure that all your dietary needs are taken care of when you arrive, contact Special Diets at Walt Disney World before you travel.

Cruises:

Disney cruise ship
One of the many Disney Cruise ships

Taking a Disney Cruise gives you the opportunity to see destinations such as the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Europe, Hawaii, and Alaska. Disney’s Staterooms are large, as they have families in mind.  The handicapped rooms on Disney Cruise line are huge.  You have tons of space to move around, store your chair, and easily access all your room’s amenities.

One of the unique things that Disney Cruises includes is the Kid’s Clubs. They are designed for kids of every age level and you will have an opportunity to talk with the counselors to make sure all your child’s needs are met, and what extra procedures might be necessary.

Disney Cruise Line gives you a wonderful all inclusive experience with your family unlike any other.  It truly is an opportunity to play with your kids, or have some alone time for just you parents.

Want more information? Email me at heather@palmtreetravelagency.com or check out and like my business Facebook page at facebook.com/palmtreetravelagency.

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