Gift Buying Guide

Gift Buying Guide                            Author: Krista Flack, MS OTR/L

Only 38 days until Christmas!  The holiday season always sneaks up on us, as we balance visiting with friends and family, preparing wonderful meals, participating in fun and heartfelt family traditions, and exchanging gifts with loves ones.  As children make wish lists for Santa, and friends and family request gift ideas for your young ones, it can be hard to come up with the perfect gifts.  When deciding on gifts for my own or other children, I like to consider a few details:

 

  • Quality over quantity: Rather than having mountains of toys, several of which will be neglected while new favorites are discovered, invest in a few toys that are of high quality, and will last.  This also helps to reduce sensory overload, both on Christmas morning and in the days and weeks that follow as you attempt to organize a play area. 
  • Multiple ways to play: Toys are expensive, and children’s skills and interests are always changing.  Find a toy that can be played with in multiple ways so that play can develop as your child grows and changes.  
  • Developmentally appropriate: Think about the age of your child, but also consider where they are developmentally.  Does your child need more practice with fine motor skills?  There are plenty of fun games and toys to develop specific skills.  Is he a sensory seeker?  Christmas is a great opportunity to give him the tools he needs to self-regulate!

  

 There are some great blogs and resources out there that suggest toys and gifts for children at specific developmental stages and with a variety of special factors in mind.  Here are a few of my favorites:

When it comes to where to shop, you don’t have to go to a special retailer to find toys for children with special needs (although some of the toys, games, and equipment available at sites like Fun and Function and Special Needs Toys are awesome!). The blogs listed above name numerous ‘mainstream’ toys that can cater to specific needs and skills.   

For a little extra guidance, check out Toys“R”Us’s Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids.  Using this guide, you can search for toys that promote skills development in numerous categories, including auditory, creativity, fine motor, gross motor, language, self-esteem, social skills, tactile, thinking, and visual. The website also includes links for Tips for Toy Buying and Toy Safety Tips.

Another great resource is the National Lekotek Center, a nonprofit organization that provides an array of services to improve the lives of children with special needs through the utilization of toys and play.  They publish the AblePlay website, which offers research, ratings, and reviews of toys and products appropriate for children of all abilities, focusing on the developmental areas of physical, sensory, communicative, cognitive, and social/emotional abilities of a child. 

Tips to Reduce Holiday Stress!

Tips to Reduce Holiday Stress!

The holidays can be a stressful time for everyone. Long car rides, lots of people, loud noises, and various other stimulants can make the holidays exhausting and make you feel overwhelmed. This can cause children with sensory difficulties even more stress and anxiety than normal. Below are a few tips and tricks to help you and your child have an enjoyable holiday season without the stress.

It is important to give your child a schedule of events for the day. Whether it be a picture schedule or a written schedule, knowing what is coming next and what the day holds can help your child be more prepared and feel calmer. It is also important to talk to your child before events like parties, parades, etc. Talk about how long you plan on being there, how they should behave, and any other details about the event so that they know exactly what is going to happen. Packing sensory friendly items can also help make the holidays go by smoother. For example, pack ear plugs if you are going somewhere loud or a fidget toy if they are going to have to be sitting still for long periods of time. If your child does not like dress clothes but they are going to have to dress up then pack a pair of comfy clothes for them to change into as soon as possible. Also be sure to pack lots of treats and snacks if you have a child with lots of food allergies or sensitivities. Limiting holiday decorations is another way to keep easily over stimulated kids calm, and have them help decorate as much as possible so that they are involved in the changes that will be made to the house.

 

These are just a few of the tips and strategies to use to help reduce holiday stress. Here are some websites with more tips and tricks

https://www.autismspeaks.org/docs/holidaytips.pdf

https://www.brainbalancecenters.com/blog/2013/11/6-tips-to-help-kids-avoid-sensory-overload-this-thanksgiving/

https://www.understood.org/~/media/407b01f8c35047c3b7757dbb0a28914a.pdf

 

Happy Holidays!!!

 

-Matthew D’Antonio, PT, DPT

Pediatric Physical Therapist

November is National Epilepsy Awareness Month

November is National Epilepsy Awareness Month                            Author: Krista Flack, MS OTR/L

 

Epilepsy, or a seizure disorder, is a neurological condition which affects the nervous system.  It is usually diagnosed after a person has had at least two seizures that were not caused by some known medical condition. 

 

Did you know???

  • 65 MILLION: Number of people around the world who have epilepsy.
  • 3 MILLION: Number of people in the United States who have epilepsy.
  • ONE-THIRD: Number of people with epilepsy who live with uncontrollable seizures because no available treatment works for them.
  • 6 OUT OF 10: Number of people with epilepsy where the cause is unknown.

 

What should I do when someone has a seizure?

The most important thing is to keep the person safe and comfortable. For most seizures, giving basic seizure first aid is all you need to do:

  • Always stay with the person until the seizure is over.
  • Pay attention to how long the seizure lasts.
  • Stay calm. Most seizures only last a few minutes.
  • Prevent injury by moving nearby objects out of the way.
  • Don’t hold the person down.
  • Don’t put anything in the person's mouth.
  • Make sure their breathing is okay.
  • Know when to call for emergency medical help.
  • Be sensitive and supportive, and ask others to do the same.

 

Many children with epilepsy can benefit from physical, occupational, and speech therapy.  Occupational therapists commonly evaluate and treat people with epilepsy and other neurological problems.  They can help find out why people have problems with tasks of daily living and teach them ways of adapting or compensating for the problems.  They can also offer strategies to persons with epilepsy who also have additional disorders that affect their ability to perform fine-motor tasks, such as writing, buttoning clothes, or picking up small objects.  Physical therapists can help people who have problems with moving and walking around.  This may include helping people regain function or strength after a broken bone or a long period of not moving around.  PTs can help people improve their balance, coordination and learn safer ways of walking.  Ways to compensate for other neurological problems may include how to use adaptive equipment or make your home, school or work environment safer.  Speech therapists specialize in evaluating and treating people with speech and language problems.  People with epilepsy may have language problems that arise from an underlying neurological problems, or seizures affecting language areas of the brain.  Other cognitive problems can affect language abilities too.  Rehabilitation strategies will depend upon the type and cause of the problems as well as the age of the patient.  Speech therapists often work with children to address how language and other cognitive problems affect academic function and daily living.  

 

To learn more about epilepsy, visit http://www.epilepsy.com/

GERD Awareness

GERD Awareness

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is when the stomach backflows with stomach acid or non-acidic contents back into the esophagus. GERD is characterized by symptoms, with or without tissue damage, that result from repeated or prolonged exposure of the lining of the esophagus to acidic or non-acidic contents from the stomach. GERD is often accompanied by symptoms such as heartburn and regurgitation of acid. But sometimes there are no apparent symptoms, and the presence of GERD is revealed only when complications become evident.

 

What is the difference between reflux and GERD in children? In babies, reflux is called spitting up. In older kids the signs of GERD and reflux are burping, stomach aches, and heartburn. Most people experience reflux from time to time and it is usually not a problem. However, in some people reflux is so severe it develops into a condition called GERD. GERD occurs when reflux causes troublesome symptoms or complications such as failure to gain weight, bleeding, respiratory problems or esophagitis. There are some differences in the symptoms, management, and treatment in teens and babies with GERD.

 

With infants it is not uncommon for the baby to reflux or spit up. This happens for the majority of infants for the first year of life, and most of them are completely healthy. However, poor feeding, vomiting, irritability, and breathing problems are symptoms of pediatric GERD and you should consult your pediatrician as soon as possible. In many cases simple lifestyle changes can alleviate the GERD. Here is a link for more information GERD in infants http://www.gikids.org/content/22/en/refulx-gerd/infants

 

Kids and teenagers can also experience GERD. The signs and symptoms of GERD in kids and teenagers are hoarseness, coughing, wheezing, frequent regurgitation, difficult or painful swallowing, and recurrent pneumonia. Here is a link for more information on GERD in teens http://www.gikids.org/content/27/en/refulx-gerd/teens/symptoms

 

Here are some links for more information about GERD:

http://www.gikids.org/content/8/en/Reflux-GERD

http://www.aboutgerd.org/gerd-awareness-week.html

 

Here is a link for a research article on how to manage GERD in children:

http://www.aafp.org/afp/2014/0301/p395.html

 

-Matthew D’Antonio, PT, DPT

Pediatric Physical Therapist

 

November is Diabetes Awareness Month

November is Diabetes Awareness Month                            Author: Krista Flack, MS OTR/L

 

 Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which a person’s pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone that enables people to get energy from food.  It occurs when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, called beta cells.  In the United States alone, 1.25 million people are living with Type 1 diabetes, including about 200,000 youth.  While often referred to as Juvenile Diabetes, Type 1 diabetes strikes both children and adults at any age.  It comes on suddenly, and its causes are not yet entirely understood.  While scientists believe that both genetic factors and environmental triggers are involved, its onset has nothing to do with diet or lifestyle. 

Do you know the warning signs to watch for?  Symptoms may be mild at first, but often progress quickly, which is why it is important to know the signs and symptoms to watch for, including:

  • Extreme thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Drowsiness or lethargy
  • Increased appetite
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Sudden vision changes
  • Sugar in the urine
  • Fruity odor on the breath
  • Heavy or labored breathing
  • Stupor or unconsciousness

 

There is nothing you can do to prevent Type 1 diabetes, and—at present—nothing you can do to get rid of it.  While there is no cure for Type 1 diabetes, it can be managed.  Managing Type 1 diabetes requires consistent, daily care, including:

  • Insulin replacement through insulin injections (up to 6 per day) or use of an insulin pump
  • Monitoring of blood glucose levels regularly (up to 6 times every day or as directed by a doctor)
  • Following a healthy diet and eating plan
  • Participating in regular exercise

 

While people with T1D rely on insulin therapy to control their blood sugar, insulin is not a cure nor does it prevent the possibility of the disease’s serious side effects.  Even with intensive disease management, a significant portion of their day is still spent with high or low blood-sugar levels, placing people with T1D at risk for serious complications. 

Organizations such as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation support and advocate for those affected by Type 1 diabetes, and fund research to manage, prevent, and cure this disease.

Prematurity Awareness Month

Prematurity Awareness Month

In 2003, the March of Dimes launched the Prematurity Campaign to address the crisis and help families have full-term, healthy babies. Premature birth occurs when a baby is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy. This can cause babies to have more health problems and cause a longer stay in the hospital. According to the March of Dimes, each year in the United States 1 in 10 babies are born prematurely.

What effect can prematurity have on a child? Studies have shown that premature babies are at an increased risk for learning and behavior problems which may lead to having a more difficult time at school. According to the March of Dimes, in the last few weeks of pregnancy, a baby’s brain is still developing and growing, and only weighs only two-thirds of what it will weigh at 39 to 40 weeks. This is why if your pregnancy is healthy, it’s best to stay pregnant for at least 39 weeks. This gives your baby’s brain and other organs the time they need to develop before birth.

Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait® is a comprehensive initiative by the March of Dimes to prevent preventable preterm birth, with a focus on reducing elective deliveries before 39 weeks gestation. It is important to wait until at least 39 weeks if possible because major organs like the brain, liver, and lungs are still growing. Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait® has a ton of information on why it is important to wait, risks of premature birth, facts and stats about preterm birth, toolkits for parents, and much more. Here is the link to the Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait® page http://www.marchofdimes.org/professionals/healthy-babies-are-worth-the-wait.aspx

For more information on the March of Dimes, their mission, and how to get involved click on the link below:

http://www.marchofdimes.org/mission/prematurity-campaign.aspx

  

-Matthew D’Antonio, PT, DPT

Pediatric Physical Therapist

October is National Physical Therapy Month

October is National Physical Therapy Month

 

Every year since 1992, the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) has used this month as a way to help raise awareness and educate the public on various topics. This year the APTA has chosen to educate the public on the use of physical therapy as a safe way to manage pain. Physical therapists treat pain through movement, helping patients improve strength, flexibility, and range of motion. Physical therapists also can educate their patients about pain, which has been known to improve outcomes.  

So why choose physical therapy? First physical therapy has been found to be as effective as surgery for some conditions such as osteoarthritis, meniscal tears, and rotator cuff injuries. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Physical therapy is effective for numerous conditions and there is high quality evidence supporting exercise as part of physical therapist treatment for familiar conditions like low back pain, hip and knee osteoarthritis, and fibromyalgia. Second, physical therapy plans are individualized. This means that everyone’s pain management therapy is different and tailored around you, your needs, and your pre-existing conditions. Lastly, physical therapy can help identify other potential risks and health issues beyond what the patient initially reports.  

In June of 2016 the APTA launched their new campaign titled #ChoosePT to help educate the public on choosing physical therapy as a way to manage pain. Click here for more information on the #ChoosePT campaign and other resources on how physical therapy can help with pain http://www.moveforwardpt.com/choose-physical-therapy-over-opioids-for-pain-management-choosept

  For more information physical therapy in general check out the APTA’s website here https://www.apta.org/Default.aspx

 -Matthew D’Antonio, PT, DPT

 Pediatric Physical Therapist

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month                  Author: Krista Flack, MS OTR/L

 

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month!  According to the National Down Syndrome Society, this is “a chance to spread awareness.  During the month of October, we celebrate people with Down syndrome and make people aware of our abilities and accomplishments.  It’s not about celebrating disabilities, it’s about celebrating abilities.” 

 

What is Down syndrome?

In every cell in the human body there is a nucleus, where genetic material is stored in genes.  Genes carry the codes responsible for all of our inherited traits and are grouped along rod-like structures called chromosomes.  Typically, the nucleus of each cell contains 23 pairs of chromosomes, half of which are inherited from each parent. Down syndrome occurs when an individual has a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21.  This additional genetic material alters the course of development and causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome. A few of the common physical traits of Down syndrome are low muscle tone, small stature, an upward slant to the eyes, and a single deep crease across the center of the palm - although each person with Down syndrome is a unique individual and may possess these characteristics to different degrees, or not at all.

 

How can children with Down syndrome benefit from speech, physical and occupational therapies?

Occupational therapy practitioners work with persons with Down syndrome to help them master skills for independence through self-care like feeding and dressing, fine and gross motor skills, school performance, and play and leisure activities. During infancy, occupational therapy practitioners can help mothers whose children are having feeding problems because of weak muscles in their cheeks, tongue, and lips. During early childhood, therapy can focus on mastering motor skills for independence, focusing on low muscle tone, loose ligaments at the joints, and visual and auditory deficits.  School-aged children with Down syndrome benefit from an occupational therapy practitioner’s ability to address self-care skills like zipping a jacket, and fine and gross motor skills like cutting with scissors or completing multistep classroom routines to facilitate participation in school activities.  Occupational therapy practitioners can also assist in the classroom by enhancing the child’s communication skills through printing, handwriting, and keyboarding. Other issues addressed are adaptations to the classroom—such as the position of desks and chairs—for optimal performance, based on the child’s physical abilities.

 

Because of certain physical characteristics, which include hypotonia (low muscle tone), ligamentous laxity (looseness of the ligaments that causes increased flexibility in the joints) and decreased strength, children with Down syndrome don’t develop motor skills in the same way that the typically-developing child does. They find ways to compensate for the differences in their physical make-up, and some of the compensations can lead to long-term complications, such as pain in the feet or the development of an inefficient walking pattern.  The goal of physical therapy for these children is to help the child develop good posture, proper foot alignment, an efficient walking pattern, and a good physical foundation for exercise throughout life.

 

Speech and language present many challenges for children with Down syndrome, but there is information that can help infants and toddlers begin learning to communicate, and help young children progress in speech and language. Although most children with Down syndrome eventually learn to speak and will use speech as their primary means of communication, they will understand language and have the desire to communicate well before they are able to speak. Total communication, using sign language, pictures, and/or electronic synthesized speech can serve as a transitional communication system.  Children with Down syndrome have strengths and challenges in development of communication skills, including receptive (understanding) language and expressive (speaking and composing sentences) language skills and reading. Speech-language pathologists have information and expertise to help address the speech and language problems faced by many children with Down syndrome. 

 

For more information on therapies that can be beneficial to children with Down Syndrome, read here.

 

Additional Resources:

The Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society is a local family support group to benefit people with Down syndrome and their families through local leadership, outreach, education and advocacy to champion and celebrate acceptance and inclusion.

The National Down Syndrome Society is the leading human rights organization for all people with Down syndrome.

The National Association for Down Syndrome supports all persons with Down syndrome in achieving their full potential.

Halloween Costume Contest!!

 

Halloween Costume Contest!

 

LTC is excited to announce that this year we will be holding a costume contest for our kiddos!! The contest is open to all children that attend LTC. First prize will receive a $25 gift card to target. Here is how the contest will work:

 

1) We will make a post on facebook on 10/27.

 

2) Comment on THIS post with a picture of your child in their Halloween costume.

 

3) The picture with the most likes is the winner AND the winner with receive a $25 gift card to Target!!

 

Voting will end on November 2nd at 11:59pm and the winner will be announced on November 3rdIf you have any questions or concerns you can ask any one of our therapists for more information.

 

Check out these links below for some fun and creative costume ideas for children with special needs

https://www.babble.com/toddler/special-needs-halloween-costumes/
http://www.oneplaceforspecialneeds.com/main/library_halloween_costumes.html

https://www.pinterest.com/unitedangels/best-special-needs-halloween-costumes/

 

 

-Matthew D’Antonio, PT, DPT

Pediatric Physical Therapist

Halloween for Everyone!

Halloween for Everyone!

While Halloween is a fun holiday enjoyed by many, it can also be stressful or overwhelming for family members with special needs.  Here are some ideas for preparing for and enjoying Halloween with your family:

Prepare your child for the holiday by discussing some of the associated traditions and activities.  Read a book, create a story, or role play.  Many Halloween traditions clash with established rules, like taking candy from strangers.  To help your child understand what Halloween is – and is not – review your values and establish rules and boundaries.  Visual schedules and social stories can help to set these limits and boundaries, and create expectations for the event.

While shopping for a costume, think about your child’s comfort – children with sensory sensitivities can become overwhelmed by an outfit that is too scratchy, tight, slippery, or stiff.  Test your child’s comfort when walking, reaching, and sitting.  If your child has facial sensitivity, avoid make-up and masks.  On the other hand, hats, earmuffs, and glasses could help reduce sensory stimulation if your child usually tolerates them.  Be creative with incorporating comfort items into their costume.  A superhero’s belt could have weighted added for proprioceptive input, or tight spandex can be worn under, or as part of, a costume.

If you want to try trick or treating, focus on a quiet street with sidewalks.  Trick or treating while it’s still light out helps to reduce anxiety and increase safety.  Practice the sequence of walking to the door, saying “trick or treat,” putting the treat in the bag, and saying “thank you.”  If your child is nonverbal or has difficulty communicating effectively, think about having a note card that states something like, “I may not be able to say ‘trick-or-treat,’ but I’m trying!”  If possible, go only to homes of family and friends to keep the comfort level high.  Skip homes with flashing lights, loud noises, and scary decorations.  If trick-or-treating sounds too overwhelming, remember that many children enjoy handing out candy as much as receiving it.

If your child has a food allergy, look for teal pumpkins as an indicator of houses that have allergy-friendly items for trick-or-treaters.  If your child does not have a food allergy, consider putting a teal pumpkin out and offering glow sticks, tattoos, or small toys to help make trick-or-treating a fun experience for all kids in your neighborhood.  For more information, check out FARE’s Teal Pumpkin Project.

Krista Flack, MS OTR/L

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