Tag Archives: special needs

How to Plan a Sensory Friendly and Accessible Vacation

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

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

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

Air Travel

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

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

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

Two children wait to embark on the airplane

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

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

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

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

Cruises

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Stay-cations” in Chicago

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Walt Disney World

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

Services include:

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

Morgan’s Wonderland

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

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

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

Morgan's Wonderland and Island Inspiration

National Parks

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

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

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

Gross Motor Play- Why Some Kids Won’t Participate

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

Summer is the ideal time for outdoor play, and children who love to run and climb are in their element. But children with very mild developmental challenges– or even no diagnosed problem at all— can have a great deal of difficulty learning new motor skills and keeping up with their peers on the playground.  Some children are mistakenly thought to be “clumsy” or “lazy” when they don’t try the advanced motor skills other children their age are mastering.

Physical and occupational therapists sometimes receive referrals to work with these children to strengthen their bodies so that they can gain skills more easily and keep up with their peers.  However, there is more to motor skills than just strength.  Pediatric therapists must analyze a child’s performance and consider all factors that might be impacting their success:Hannah_T

Flexibility
:  We all need normal range of motion in our joints to perform daily tasks, but outdoor play can require extreme ranges of movement as kids stretch their limbs to make that great play of the game or to access new parts of a play gym.  A restriction in range of motion at the hip or shoulder might make climbing the slide ladder difficult.  A neck range limitation could make it challenging for a child to scan the playing field for a teammate that is open for a pass.

Motor Planning:  Paraphrased from Jean Ayres, PhD, motor planning is defined as the act of planning movements inside the brain to complete a series of actions in the proper sequence.  Before a child even starts to move, the sequence of action is planned out in the brain.  When the child lacks experience with a particular skill, like pumping herself on a swing or hitting a ball with a bat, she might hesitate in order to give her brain time to make a plan for this novel task.  Typically, the time it takes to get started will decrease as the task becomes more familiar, but for some children this motor planning component does not come naturally and needs assistance.

Emmett_T.jpgBalance:  Children need to be able to balance on one leg long enough to lift the other leg to a raised surface or to kick a ball.  Even more importantly, they need dynamic balance—that is, control of their bodies while they are moving and balanced on one limb in order to reach out to the side to catch a baseball or make a soccer save.  A child with balance difficulties will seek out stable objects to hold when he has to lift a foot for any length of time or will avoid these activities altogether.

Coordination:    According to CanChild, a research center at McMaster University that organizes clinical  research concerning children with developmental conditions, coordination is a sequence of muscular actions or body movements occurring in a purposeful, orderly fashion (smooth and efficient).  We often think of coordination as the ability to use both sides of the body at the same time.  We need coordination to make the same movements with both arms and legs when we do exercises like jumping jacks.  And we need coordination to do different things with each body part, but all at the same time, such as dribbling a basketball while walking or running.  A child with coordination difficulties might need these advanced motor skills to be taught in a more graded manner before she can master them.Robbie_T.jpg

Motivation:  It might seem obvious that a child must be interested and motivated in an activity in order to be successful with it, however this important component of motor skill performance is sometimes overlooked.  Although research is inconclusive as to exactly how many repetitions are needed, we do know that a new skill requires at least hundreds of repetitions in order to become proficient.   If a child is not motivated to play a particular sport, he will not have the determination to practice a skill over and over and will not see the success that comes from that critical repetition.

Finally, strength is important. Just as necessary as all of these motor skill components; but not the only factor to consider when a child is hesitant or unsuccessful with outdoor play.

Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley therapists are expanding their ability to get to the bottom of why children don’t participate in outdoor play and develop new strategies to help them through a continuing education course taught by Lezlie Adler, OTR/L, C/NDT and Jane Styer-Acevedo, PT, DPT, C/NDT on September 22-23, 2016 at our Villa Park center.  Registration is open to all therapists at:  http://www.eastersealsdfvr.org/ce

References

Can Child, Institute for Applied Health Sciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada L8S 1C7  www.canchild.ca

Ayres, A. Jean, Sensory Integration and the Child, Western Psychological Services, 2005.

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.

Down Syndrome Enters a New Era

By: Dr. Peter Smith, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, University of Chicago

Editor’s Note: Through a partnership with the University of Chicago, developmental- behavioral pediatrician, Dr. Smith leads a new Neurodevelopmental Disability Clinic at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley which provides support for children with Down Syndrome, ADHD or Autism, disabilities that may include complex medical and emotional issues.

Dr. Smith also leads Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley’s multi-disciplinary team including an occupational therapist, speech-language pathologist, developmental therapist, audiologist and parent liaison in the Medical Diagnostic Clinic. This clinic specializes in early diagnosis of young children.

Current Processes Are Not Working

Individuals with Down syndrome (DS) are living longer and healthier lives than ever.  There is consensus that complete information needs to be offered to all parents of children with Down syndrome (both pre- and postnatal) regarding the current experiences, health outcomes, lifespans, and quality of life for individuals with DS.  DS represents a dramatic “success story” and the lives of individuals with Down syndrome are improving in every way measurable.  Unfortunately, this good news is too often not being shared with new and expectant families.  Doctors are not prepared for this task and parents report frustration with the process.

Maggie_1.jpgOn the Cusp of Potentially “Game Changing” Therapies

In addition to the dramatic changes that have already occurred, DS as a clinical and research arena is on the cusp of developing even newer therapies that have the potential to improve cognitive outcomes.  Multiple research teams have protocols already enrolling study subjects.  For example, the team at the Jerome Lejeune Institute in Paris has an active study underway  that employs a combination of folic acid and thyroid hormone, targeting infants and primarily measuring cognitive performance during and after therapy.  Their preliminary work has shown significant promise and preliminary results might be released later this year.  Because of their early successes, there are ongoing efforts to mount a similar study here in the United States.  The NIH has recognized this new era and has launched an international registry (see https://dsconnect.nih.gov ).  However, this “breaking news” has not been widely disseminated.  Many worry that recruitment to these studies could be diminished due to the lack of awareness by primary care providers and the general public, which would slow the progress of the studies.

01_Lucas_Vasquez.jpgA Growing Number of States Have Addressed the Issue: Including Illinois

Because of the lack of general knowledge of both the dramatic improvements in the lives of individuals with DS and the emerging clinical trials in DS, a coalition lead (of course) by family support organizations has emerged.  They have initiated a new “information rights” movement that includes clinicians, policymakers, legislators, and researchers that has worked to enact new state laws addressing the problem of misinformation.  The first to successfully pass legislation was Massachusetts: in 2012, a coalition helped to pass a state law, mandating that clinicians provide accurate information and Referral to parent support organizations.  Most recently, Illinois, passed unanimous legislation in 2015, which proves that this is truly a bipartisan issue.

To learn more about our specialty clinics including the Medical Diagnostic Clinic, visit eastersealsdfvr.org.

Communicative Temptation: Arranging Your Environment Can Get Your Child Talking!

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

Communicative temptation is a speech therapy technique I use consistently during my sessions with children who are late to talk. It is an easy strategy that can be implemented across environments, not just in therapy! Communicative temptation was coined in 1989 by Wetherby and Prizant in order to use a creatively engineered environment to facilitate communication in young children.

In short, communicative temptations are what they sound like. You are going to tempt or entice your child to communicate by setting up your environment in a specific way. Sometimes we do not give late talkers a chance or an opportunity to learn/use communication. Not because we do not want them to talk, but more so because we anticipate their needs way too frequently.

Is your child ever struggling to open a container full of a preferred food and you jump in and open it for them? Do you ever anticipate the type of snack your child would like without allowing them to tell you? Are all of your child’s preferred toys in reach? Here are a few examples of ways you can tempt your child to communicate! 

  • Placing a highly preferred toy or food item out of reach for the child. Key is in sight but out of reach!
  • Placing highly preferred objects inside a clear plastic container that the child cannot open on their own
  • Placing a lock on a cabinet door where a preferred object is located
  • Eat a desired object in front of the child but don’t offer it to them
  • Take the batteries out of a preferred toy and wait for the child to communicate the toy is not working properly
  • Initiate a reciprocal interaction game such as “peekaboo”, then stop and wait
  • Blow bubbles with the child a few times then place the bubbles out of reach or hand the child the bubbles container without the wand
  • Push the child on the swing a few times and then stop
  • Block the entrance of the slide they want to go down
  • Change a familiar routine

Hopefully these examples, will allow you to think of other creative ways to engineer your home, daycare, toy room, etc. to allow for more communicative opportunities! The outcome is not always “talking”, it can be ANY type of communication! A gesture (e.g.

Nicholas_T
Photo by: Christine Carroll

pointing or reaching), a facial expression, a word, a phrase, etc.! The key here is WAITING. Often times, we do not give children who are learning language enough time to communicate. We jump in quickly and eliminate that opportunity to communicate independently.

Depending on your child’s language level you may need to model what is expected first (a gesture, a word, etc.). For example, if a child is attempting to open a locked cabinet you may first need to model the word “open” and then slowly fade this model. You eventually hope that the child will independently use the word after they are “tempted.”

Take a quick look at your home today. How can you make a few small changes to facilitate communication in your environment? How you can change how you interact with your child to increase communicative opportunity?

For more information about our speech services and other programs at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley, click here.

A Super Sensory Summer

By: Laura Bueche MOT OTR/L

Summertime is the best time for some creative sensory play outside. Your child will have a blast learning and exploring with these sensory summer activities that won’t break the bank.

IDEAS TO INSPIRE YOUR LITTLE SPROUT

Garden Party!

Fill a tub with soil. Hide plastic bugs, coins, or dinosaurs.
Use shovels or hands to find the treasures.

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Paint pots, plant seeds and watch them grow.
Overturn rocks to search for bugs and worms… or play with fake worms. Recipe here.

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Photo Credit: Learning4kids.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is real mud a difficult texture for your little one?  Start with “ghost mud”.
Recipe here

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Photo Credit: TreeHouseTV.com

Make a Splash with these Water Activities

Water Fun!

Fill a tub with water beads and ocean animals for an awesome, hands-on aquarium.

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Freeze toy animals, foam puzzle pieces, or pretend jewelry in ice. Have your kiddos use squeeze bottles, and eye droppers of warm water to get them out. Instructions here.

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Photo Credit: LittleBinsForLittlehands.com

Green gross swamp sensory table. Recipe here.

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Photo Credit: NoTimeForFlashCards.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shaving Cream Car wash. Recipe here.

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Photo Credit: TreeHouseTV.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s go to the Beach!

Feel the sand between your toes with these fun tactile activities.

Sand Slime. It’s ooey, it’s gooey…and sandy? Recipe: Here

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Photo Credit: GrowingAJeweledRose.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drawing letters in the sand, a perfect pairing of visual motor and tactile. Recipe here.

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Photo Credit: AnyGivenMoment.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kinetic Sand…semi sticky, and super moldable sand. Get it here.

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Good old sand box play…because nothing beats the classic, pale and shovel.

For more summer sensory ideas, or ways to adapt these activities to your child’s needs and goals, ask your occupational therapist at Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley. For more information about occupational therapy visit our website.

Have a great summer!

 

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.

5 Reasons To Enroll Your Child in Private Therapy

By: Jennifer Tripoli, M.S., CCC-SLP

A question I am often asked is about working at a private, non-profit pediatric therapy center. What makes us different?! Well some unique qualities that compliment other services! Below are the top five reasons to enroll a child in private therapy (primarily from a speech-language perspective!).

  1. Enhancing School Services

Many children have significant issues that require more frequent, intense services in order to progress. Unfortunately, the public school districts are limited by the hours in the school day. Participating in outside therapy services allows for a child to work on similar goals or additional goals.

For some children, the repetition of school goals helps them progress faster and allows them more time to understand concepts. For other children, the school therapist may be working on one area of need where the private therapist is targeting another area of need. We are happy to collaborate with school therapists. I find that this is the best recipe for success!

  1. Your child did not qualify for Early Intervention Services (EI)

Currently, the Early Intervention Program for the state of Illinois requires a child (0-3 years of age) to have a 30% or more delay in 1 area of development in order to qualify for services, have a qualifying underling medical diagnosis (e.g. Down Syndrome), or have 3 or more risk factors for delayed development. In many cases, children do not meet the criteria as listed above for services through the Early Intervention system, but still present with developmental delays.

For example, a child may be evaluated for speech and language delay

Frank in therapy
Photo by: Nancy Kerner

through the early intervention system and only found to have a 20% delay in expressive language. In most cases, a child with a 20% delay would not receive services through EI, but may benefit from private therapy in order to improve their expressive language skills to a more age appropriate level. Just because your child has not qualified for EI does not mean they will catch up to their peers without assistance. A private speech and language evaluation may be warranted to determine if your child would benefit from speech therapy services.

  1. Your child has feeding or oral motor issues

Often, feeding and oral motor skills are not addressed in the school system as these skills may not be considered as educationally relevant as other skills. It can also be difficult to find a Speech Pathologist who has experience in working with children with oral motor and feeding deficits. Private speech therapy services can address your child’s feeding and oral motor deficits as these skills are extremely important. Here at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley our speech pathologists have an extensive knowledge of oral motor and feeding deficits in pediatrics.

  1. Your child can participate in co-treat Sessions

When appropriate, co-treat sessions may be of benefit for your child. A co-treat session is when 2 therapies are rendered simultaneously. Often children may be receiving speech therapy along with occupational therapy or occasionally physical therapy. This allows both therapists to work together in order to improve different skills.

For example, the occupational therapist can assist with improving sensory regulation so the child is better able to attend and understand speech and language concepts. The physical therapist can assist the speech pathologist with body positioning/posture to achieve the best speech/voice possible for a child with motor deficits. This is a strength at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley. We often have multiple disciplines work together to get a holistic picture of a child’s needs. Voice Box Photo

  1. Your child has minor speech/language deficits that are not addressed by the school

Some children may present mild articulation issues that may impact their ability to communicate, but are not severe enough for a child to qualify for school therapy. Private speech therapy can address these issues if found developmentally inappropriate through a private speech and language evaluation.

If you feel your child would benefit from private speech and language intervention, please visit our website here. Let me know in the comments if you have additional questions!

Holiday Travel Anxiety

Anxious about the upcoming holiday travel? Here are two great resources and perspectives to help you prepare.

The first is a blog post from the Easter Seals Inc. blog with “12 holiday travel tips for families with special needs” by Sara Croft.

Sara Croft compiled “tips from behavior analyst, therapists and respite providers to make holiday traveling a more enjoyable experience for everyone involved.

Before the airport: 

  1. Make sure you pack everything your child might want/need in a carry-on bag, including a change of clothes. Create a sensory pack with their favorite calming toy, stuffed animal, object or blanket. Sensory items are a great relief for kids who may become anxious due to first time traveling and fear of the unknown.
  2. Discuss what the experience of the ticket counter and the security check might be like to the child before you arrive at the airport. You could simply talk to the child about it, discuss it with them, or use social stories to aid in the explanation.01_Mason Esquivel
  3. Make sure you call TSA Cares at 1-855-787-2227 at least 72 hours before boarding the plane to ask any questions you may have. A TSA Passenger Support Specialist can be requested to provide on-the-spot assistance. The TSA has a helpline for individuals with special needs.
  4. Try to book flights when your child is generally the most able to handle a change in routine. For many children this may be in the morning when they are not tired and overwhelmed from a long day.
  5. Ask your doctor for a letter describing your child’s condition especially if your child has an “invisible condition” such as autism. It might be helpful to show documentation of the disability to airport security or flight attendants. Visit the TSA’s website and print the disability notification card that you can present at the TSA screening.

At the airport and on the plane:

6. To make your walk to the gate easier, approach the check-in or information desk to ask for a ride or shuttle to your terminal.

7. Inform TSA of your child’s disability and how they might react to security screening or waiting in long lines. Most airports have a family line or will allow the parent and child to be screened together.

8. It might be a good idea to bring noise cancelling headphones for the airport and the plane to help drown out some of the loud noise in the airport and the airplane. Sunglasses can block out the harsh bright light in airports and create a calmer environment.

9. Bring your child’s favorite music or no mess activity to keep them entertained on the plane. Colorful string beads, bags of beads, and items that light up are great additions for the traveling sensory pack.

On the road trip:

10. If your child escapes from their seat easily consider getting covers for the seat belt buckles and remember to check the child locks on the door.

11. Make sure your child is prepared for the road trip by creating a social story about the trip to read for them. This story may need to be read several times prior to the actual trip.

12. Have a visual aid to represent how many hours you have traveled and how many are left. A timer can help your child countdown the hours or minutes until the next stop or activity.

These are excellent tips from Sara to make holiday traveling easier for the whole family.

Another great perspective is from a local parent, David Perry, who writes in today’s “On Parenting” section of the Washington Post ,”When traveling with children, all needs are special.” David shares his family’s experience with traveling to Italy over Thanksgiving. It is a terrific story and a good reminder that travel with all children takes some improvisation.