Tips for Feeding a Picky Eater

IMG_0751.JPG

Children can be tougher critics than Michelin inspectors at meal time, making it difficult to figure out how to get necessary nutrients off their plates and into their tummies. Chronic pickiness becomes even more concerning when worrying whether your child is a typical picky eater or has a selective eating disorder. Some signs to look for to help determine if your child is more than just a picky eater include:

  • A restricted range of foods willingly eaten (usually less than 20).

  • Crying when presented with new foods as opposed to simply pushing the food around or away.

  • Refusing groups of foods with similar characteristics (no soft textures, no vegetables, etc.)

  • Never eating with the family and/or always having a separate meal.

If you suspect your child’s picky eating goes beyond what’s healthy for a varied, balanced diet, and your child isn’t showing signs of growing out of their pickiness, a pediatric therapist can help. Therapists, like those at TLC, can help children learn to tolerate new textures and tastes in food, help decrease a child’s anxiety at mealtime, address physical hindrances to eating safely, and more.

Wherever your child lands on the spectrum of pickiness, here are a few tips to help your child better enjoy mealtime, embark on new food adventures, and ingest more nutrition from a wider variety of foods:

  • Keep meals and snacks on a schedule. Kids will be more likely to try new foods if they’re hungry and know the mealtime routine. Set daily times for three meals and two snacks, so your child will learn to anticipate when food is coming, and how long they’ll have to wait if they choose not to eat what’s on their plate.

  • Let children feed themselves. Children like the independence of being able to feed themselves, and can better self-monitor their portion sizes and when they’re full. If there are multiple offerings on the plate, the child can also have the power to choose what items on the plate they wish to eat.

  • Wait. This one may be the hardest on the list. If you push the child to eat, they’ll resist. If you make a show trying to encourage the child to eat, they’ll not eat to keep the show going. If you applaud and reward when they do eat, they’ll learn that delaying eating merits praise. So the best thing to do? Set the food down, and wait for the child to show interest (or not) on their own.

  • Don’t allow old standbys to be an equal option to new foods. When plating, add a mix of new and favorite foods (while keeping a balance of protein, veggies, fruits, and high-fiber starches in each meal), while keeping the serving size of an old favorite small enough that won’t be enough to fill up on and ignore the new food. The more new foods you introduce to your child early on, the less picky they’re likely to be when they’re older, so keep those new foods in rotation.

  • Put dinosaurs on the table. Or a book. Or a small toy. My daughter likes to alternate between eating her food and dancing rubber dinosaurs across the table. This helps keep her happy when she wants to take a break from eating. She’s also been known to use the dinosaur’s tail to stab the food like a fork.

  • Let kids be involved. Whether it’s standing at the counter with you and “cutting” up a banana while you cook or letting them choose from two options what they’d like to eat, having a child involved in the meal selection and preparation process increases their investment in mealtime, and thus their engagement.

  • Tell a story before or along with the meal about the meal. Children are wired for stories, and incorporating the meal prep process, the eating process, and how the food nourishes the body into a story can help get kids excited to eat their food.

  • Make meal time play time. Let a child touch, poke, smash, and explore new foods. Helping a child get used to new foods is the first step towards taking a bite. Encourage play by letting children roll peas across a table, build with carrot sticks, mold rice into shapes, make faces on their plate, and more. Help your child associate meals with joy.

  • Let your child determine when they’re finished. Even if you don’t think your child has had enough to eat, respect their communication of “finished,” whether its verbal, a head shake, sign language, or another signal.

  • Feed each other. Allow your child to give you a bite of food (or three), then see if they’ll let you give them one.

  • Sneak the vegetables in from time to time. My toddler never turns down a banana zucchini muffin.

  • Start early, be patient, and model healthy eating habits. It takes repeated exposure to some new foods for a child to begin to tolerate, and even like, that food. Present new foods often as soon as your child is eating solids, be patient if they refuse to try the food and don’t force them to eat it, and model eating it for them (with gusto).

It may try your patience, but for the typical picky eater, repeated exposure and working to make meal time enjoyable will pay off as a child grows and their palate expands. If your child continues to insist on an extremely limited diet, demonstrates continued extreme resistance toward new foods, isn’t getting the proper nutrition or is failing to gain adequate weight, it may be time to get some help. Talk to your pediatrician and schedule a consultation with a pediatric therapist.

Here’s wishing many licked-clean plates in your child’s future!
 

Finding Calm through Yoga

By Mia Girard, TLC Occupational Therapist & YogaKids Instructor

During my routine Monday morning yoga class, I was reminded that my favorite part of practice is savasana. To me, this final pose is like a delicious dessert, something to savor at the end of a really yummy meal. I found myself lying there thinking about springtime, change, and new beginnings, and wishing I could recruit and share this fantastic, relaxed, connected, and organized feeling whenever I so desire!  The spring is a time of year full of transitions for myself, my family and also the kids that I work with at the TLC Learning Center.  Savasana, such a nourishing, sweet, soul-satisfying pose, helps me feel as though I can take on anything that life dishes my way! 

Finding Peace in a Busy Schedule

So then, after class, I began to think about how I can accomplish this task, using yoga like the YogaKids pledge reminds us: “anytime, anywhere to calm myself, energize myself, and make myself feel better.” I am reminded of my most difficult time of day, the after-work pre-dinner time frame when I am running low on patience, life gets briefly super busy, and my sensory system is most sensitive and fragile. Doesn’t it seem like everyone needs a bit of you then? To help with homework, answer the phone, cook dinner, pick up a something at the store, go through the mail, see who is at the door, answer a text message, etc.? Sometimes I feel as though if one more person needs my attention I am either going to run for the hills or cry like a baby. Not a very pretty picture, is it?  As an occupational therapist I am more aware than most of my sensory system; what calms and soothes it when I am frenzied, what alerts it when I am drowsy, and what disturbs it and sends me into a fight or flight response. Most of the time I have enough wits about me to remember my strategies: take a break for a minute or two, spritz myself in a calming essential oil mist, do some alternate nostril breathing, a forward fold, a sun salutation or two. While I might not be able to enjoy savasana at this time there are other yoga poses and tools that I can access to find the serenity within me. I have ways to regroup and re-enter my world with a refreshed mind, an open heart, and a calmer sensory system.  

Sharing Calming Choices with Children

Not all children are able to do this. In fact, many are not. One of my favorite things about YogaKids is that it gives us the opportunity to teach children about the art of self-regulation – the ability to calm or energize to meet the demands of the environment at that moment. More and more often children need strategies to learn how to calm and center themselves. While we adults may have developed many strategies without even being aware of them, children benefit from learning strategies from us! So maybe in my kitchen in the evenings, I can more openly share that I am about to enter into a fight or flight response, and communicate with my family what I am doing when I start my ‘Finger Flowers’ deep breathing and why it helps me! Maybe I create a spot on my fridge or wall for pictures or hand-written sticky notes of my favorite calming choices to remind myself and empower my family to build upon and use them!  

So put on your detective spectacles over the course of a day or so and see what your children do to calm themselves. Do they rock in a rocking chair, chew gum, take a bath, swing on the swing set, ask for a hug? From their choices, see what you can glean to enrich the sensory opportunities they are seeking and expand upon them. For example, if they like rocking chairs think of yoga poses that involve rocking like Rocking Horse or Rock ‘n Roll. Do you own a child-sized rocking chair, and might this be a perfect gift at a birthday? If they self-regulate through the use of their mouth, consider if deep breathing through Take 5, Finger Flowers, or Polar Bear Pose might be good choices for them. If they like the warmth and feel of being in a bath, try offering them a 2-3 pound heated and scented rice pack as a strategy to calm. In your time with your child, notice what helps him or her to settle down.  Share these observations with your child so that you have encouraged the ability to self-regulate within AND outside of the coziness of your home.  Empower children to develop for themselves the art of self-regulation!

Finger Flowers

The Benefits of Tummy Time for Infants

importance of tummy time

By Amanda Boldenow, TLC Development Manager & Parent

A few minutes in tummy time for infants is the equivalent of a few hours sweating it out at the gym for an adult. While on their tummies, babies work hard to lift their head, look left and right, and lift their feet, all movements that help prepare them for holding their head up, rolling over, sitting up, and crawling. With ample tummy time, an infant approaching twelve months should have a rounded head, S curves in the neck and low back, and flexible legs that help move the tot in and out of sitting positions. When a child spends too much time on his or her back (usually in cribs, bouncy seats, swings, or car seats) they risk developing positional plagiocephaly (flattening on the back of the skull), a C curve in the spine that may prevent transitioning to hands and knees to crawl, and tight hips and legs that prevent straightening the knees. Internally, too much time on a baby's back puts excessive pressure on the spine and vision centers of the brain, both of which can be detrimental to development.

TLC's Therapeutic Services Manager, Occupational Therapist Shari Karmen, says:

Tummy time is important for eye-hand coordination, and is a prerequisite for crawling. In the therapy world we are seeing kids with misshapen heads and part of that is because they are put on their back so much. Tummy time is important for shaping the head. The other thing we’re seeing is that babies who don’t spend time on their tummies have difficulty rolling. It takes a lot more work to correct the development delays that happen without tummy time, than to put your child in tummy time for a few minutes a day. There’s a natural progression for infant development, and skipping tummy time and crawling can lead to fine-motor problems and disabilities down the line. For these reasons and more, tummy time is critical for infant development.

Unfortunately, many infants are not fans of tummy time, (the same way I'm not a fan of crunches or push-ups, although adult social stigmas prevents me from crying and screaming while doing them... usually). When a kiddo doesn't like being on their tummy, they won't hesitate to let you know. Regardless, parents and guardians should persevere in tummy time for healthy development.

The good news is that there are a variety of ways to practice tummy time besides laying baby on the floor. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends starting tummy time as soon as baby is home from the hospital. Sessions can be as short as 30 seconds to one minute in the beginning. By the time baby is two months old, try to have increased tummy time sessions to a minimum of three five-minute sessions per day. Fifteen minutes of tummy time per day is a good rule of thumb as babies age past two months, but try to encourage longer playtime and enjoyment while baby is on their tummy through play and engagement, working up to 40 to 60 minutes of tummy time daily.

How to Have Tummy Time With Your Infant

Place a clean blanket, baby gym, or mat on the floor and place baby on his tummy. Some baby gyms come with small, crescent shaped pillows to place under baby's chest and elbows to help prop them up, but the same effect can be achieved with a small, rolled towel used a bolster, although this isn't always necessary.

To make tummy time fun, place toys that engage your baby on the floor. Shake rattles, crinkle sensory toys, or roll rainsticks across the floor to encourage baby to reach, grasp, and roll toward the objects. "You can also place a regular closet mirror on its side on the floor for babies to see their reflection while on their tummy," Shari says. 

Each stretch, roll, lift, and scoot helps baby develop muscles needed for movement and head stability. To make tummy time safe, always supervise an infant on their tummy, make sure their breathing passages are unobstructed by pillows or blankets, and make sure they are not on a high surface they could roll off of.

Different Tummy Time Positions to Try

  1. Tummy to floor: the traditional tummy time placement, where baby is on his or her tummy on a flat, safe surface.

  2. Tummy cuddle: place baby on your chest or tummy while laying down on a bed or couch. Be sure to hold baby by firmly.

  3. Reverse football hold: you may be familiar with the football hold from breast or bottle feeding. In the reverse, have baby's tummy down against your arm and nestle them close to your body.

  4. Tummy lap time: Place baby face down across your knees while sitting, with a hand holding baby steady.

Does your baby like or dislike tummy time? What do you do to help make tummy time fun and beneficial for your baby?
 

Teaching Handwriting in the Digital Age: Is it Worth it?

by Christy Griffith, TLC Occupational Therapist

In the age of technology with kids texting, clicking, and typing on a computer from a young age, do we really need to continue focusing on teaching good handwriting?  Many schools have decreased their focus on teaching this skill, and many no longer teach cursive letters at all. However, current research shows that handwriting is still a crucial skill and offers great advantages to those children who do practice and master both printing and cursive writing.

Here are some of the top reasons to make sure your child learns to write properly by hand:

It improves their brains. Research has shown that children  who have formal handwriting training learn their letters faster,  have improved language fluency, and  their acquired knowledge becomes more stable. Handwriting training also helps coordinate the right and left sides of the brain, stimulates intelligence, and builds pathways in the brain that improve mental effectiveness. Handwriting engages different brain circuits than keyboarding does. Children who received structured handwriting instruction and practice regularly had brain scans that looked more similar to an adult’s than their peers who did not participate in handwriting instruction.

  • Cursive handwriting is faster. Studies show that cursive handwriting is faster than printing or keyboarding, so allows children to write better. Research has shown that elementary students tend to write more complete sentences, give longer answers, and complete their work more quickly when they use cursive writing. High school and college students can take notes during class lectures faster as well.

  • It improves the memory and understanding of content. Just the physical act of writing something down, whether it is a list, a sticky note to ourselves, or notes in class, improves our ability to remember what we wrote down. And when our handwriting is efficient and effortless, we can focus more on the content of what we are writing rather than the physical act of forming the letters. This comes with lots of practice, which is not always provided in school to the necessary levels.

  • Some things still require handwriting, like taking notes in some classes, exams such as SAT still have essay portions that are completed by hand, some college professors and teachers still require handwritten assignments, tasks such as writing checks, medical prescriptions, quick lists or reminder notes, etc. are usually still completed by hand. Legibility is very important for these types of tasks. Students score higher grades and test scores when teachers can easily read their handwriting.

At TLC, our preschool classrooms offer age appropriate pre-writing activities in fun, multisensory ways to introduce letters, drawing and writing to children. Our teachers utilize the Handwriting Without Tears curriculum as well.  On-site occupational therapists help children learn to write both print and cursive, and improve handwriting delays in children ages 5-12. 

How to Help the Pickiest Eaters

By Shari Karmen, Occupational Therapist and TLC Therapeutic Services Manager

Oh the picky eater! Some kids are super picky, some are “normally” picky, and some are selective or problem feeders.

Normal picky eating typically begins between 18 months and three years and is usually over by six years old. These kids will have food jags where they want to eat PBJ for lunch every day. They are looking for control and typically thrive well despite their picky eating habits.  Some kids are more picky and will want PBJ for lunch every day, and then will switch it to grilled cheese, but with an occasional PBJ thrown in.  Selective or problem feeders will want a PBJ, but it must have a certain type of bread, peanut butter, and jelly. Then they will decide they no longer want it. The difference is they will not add a new food to the repertoire, but instead will limit what foods they will eat even further.

Picky eating can be stressful for a parent who worries about their child's nutritional intake and teaching them to eat and try a varied diet. There is help for the parents of picky eaters, though. Below are a few ideas you can try at home.

Ten Ideas for Feeding Your Picky Eater:

1.    Involve your child in meal planning and preparation. This includes making a shopping list together, going to the store together, wearing an apron to help prepare food, and then letting your child help in preparing the food. The child's task can be as simple as tearing lettuce for a salad, as long as they are involved with the process.

2.    Use fun props and place settings for mealtimes such as colorful cups, fun placemats, and curly straws. Give you child choices and control in what utensils they use (the color of their plate, etc.)

3.    Keep a mealtime routine. Have meals at the same time every day. Create routines within the meal such as washing hands, setting the table, and then clearing food away after the meal.

4.    Eat with your child. Mealtimes are social so talk at the table, but not about what your child is not eating! For tips on engaging your child in conversation, see some of our previous posts on speech and language activities for kids.

5.    Use the timer on your phone so that your child knows how long the meal will last. Have an alert go off 2-5 minutes before the 20-30 minutes dedicated to mealtime is up. This helps everyone know that there is an ending to the meal.

6.    Watch mealtime language. Don’t bombard your child with questions or constantly say “take a bite”. Talk about the color of the food, how you can hear him crunching, and the texture of the food. Read some of our tips on using responsive language with kids.

7.    Focus on the meal rather than the TV, smart phones, and other electronic devices. You can have music playing, but keep the TV and toys away from mealtime.

8.    Reward your child for positive behavior outside of the mealtime with non-food items. Feeding can be very emotional, and linking food with a system of rewards can have a negative outcome for some kids.

9.    Only put a small amount of food on your child’s plate. Sometimes seeing three servings of three different foods can be overwhelming. 

10.    Encourage your child to try new foods. If he can tolerate the food on his plate without eating it, that’s success. Slowly up the ante by having your child touch, lick, and/or kiss the food. Eventually he will take a bite. Remember it takes 20 tries before a child likes a food.

If you feel like there are other factors impeding your child’s ability to eat, seek help from an Occupational Therapist or Registered Dietitian. An Occupational Therapist addresses motor skills, sensory components of eating, how to use your muscles in your mouth from feeding, and much more to help children move away from the habits of selective or problem feeding. 

 

Surviving Halloween & Having Fun With Your Child

By Lindsey Blechle, MOT, OTR

The excitement and anticipation of Halloween is building at TLC Learning Center, but for some children who are easily overwhelmed or with sensory processing disorder, this is a very stressful time of year. Halloween is a night that is full of novel and potentially over-stimulating sensory input, but it can be fun and successful for all children provided it is met with patience, planning and some creative thinking.

Below are some ideas to help you plan a fun Halloween, no matter what your child's threshold for sensory input, activity, and stimulation:

  • Plan your child’s costume in advance and practice wearing it often. Choose a costume that will not irritate your child (for example, costumes with itchy or hot fabrics, scratchy tags, heavy or full-face masks, etc.), and a costume that can be easily removed if needed at some point in the night. Have your child be an active part of this process so he or she feels comfortable and confident that their costume will work for them. Remember that less is more, and that it is okay if your child would just prefer to wear a Halloween shirt, a simple cape, or attach a tail to a pair of sweats.
  • Consider building sensory strategies into your child’s costume. If your child will have a hard time with auditory input, try building headphones or ear muffs into their costume. If your child is going to need deep pressure throughout the night to remain calm, try having them wear Under Armour beneath their costume for consistent proprioceptive input.
  • Create a schedule of the day’s activities with your child so they know what to expect. See previous TLC blog posts for great ideas on creating and using visual schedules.
  • Set expectations with your family to help your child prepare for the night's activities. Decide if you’ll be using walking feet (this is a term we use at TLC to positively discourage running in the hallways), if the family will go trick-or-treating together or if the parents will wait on the sidewalk, if candy can be eaten when received or if it has to be sorted first, how to ask for a break, etc. Setting up these expectations in advance will help avoid any meltdowns or power struggles in the moment.
  • Limit the number of houses you will visit, or stick to familiar houses if trick-or-treating. End the night successfully and when your child is ready. Honor any requests to go home and be observant of when your child has had enough.
  • Decide as a family if you’ll be out while it is dark or if you will be coming home at that time. The lights, noise, and a dark environment may be too much for your child to handle all at once. Know when to call it a night before things get overwhelming.
  • In advance, create a safe spot for a break with your child. A wagon, stroller or bike may provide your child with some quiet time and help them refocus for more activities.
  • Think creatively when decorating pumpkins. Your child may not be open to touching the inside of a pumpkin but may enjoy decorating with stickers, painting or attaching accessories.
  • End the night with some quiet time in a safe spot that your child loves. A snuggle at home with calming music and hot chocolate will help reset, calm, and end the night on a positive and peaceful note.

I hope these suggestions help make your night a Halloween success! Do you have other tips for a successful and happy Halloween?  Please share them with us in the comments!

Are you looking for a childcare center, preschool, or therapy services that are familiar with children who experience a sensory processing disorder? TLC integrates pediatric therapy for children with sensory processing disorder and other needs into our inclusive classrooms. TLC therapists see older children and non-TLC students in their homes and on our campus. Learn more about TLC's programs for kindergarten-readiness in all students by emailing Cindy Wickham at cwickham@learningwithtlc.org. Learn more about TLC's pediatric therapy program for children with sensory processing disorder and other developmental delays or disabilities by emailing Shari Karmen at skarmen@learningwithtlc.org

Kids & Transitions

By Kathy Keith, TLC Occupational Therapist

Transitions can be hard… for all of us. This is something I am acutely aware of during this current season we like to call “back to school.” As a mom and an Occupational Therapist, I regularly see the challenges associated with transition periods in kids (and sometimes, grown-ups too).  These can range from the transition of going from kindergarten into 1st grade, to transitioning between play activities, to transitioning from just getting out of the house and into the car. Personally, I see the flurry of disorganization and dole out hundreds of reminders trying to get my own crew out the door in the morning (do I really need to remind a 12 year old to brush her teeth?). Professionally, I often see families with children who are unable to seamlessly transition from activity to activity. 

The following strategies are a few ways that may help with difficult transition times, and will hopefully help with increasing independence as well!

  • Create a routine

Children crave routine and structure! It helps them feel safe and understand what will be happening next, or what to expect. For example, a bedtime routine could be: jammies on, brush teeth, one book, then bed.

If bedtime always looks the same, it can increase the child’s independence in completing the steps themselves, and decrease struggles with caretakers.

A schedule to help make transitions run smoothly

  • Make a schedule

Kiddos also respond well to visual schedules. At TLC, we use pictures to show the kids what the day will look like. The pictures are arranged in order of when parts of the day happen (circle time, snack, outside, free play). If the day will look different from a typical day for any reason, the change is noted in the schedule. A child I see at TLC was very anxious about what he would be doing during our sessions. He would ask questions repeatedly and become very upset if there was something in the room that was unfamiliar to him when he walked in. We have a routine now, of sitting together first thing and drawing our schedule on the board.  It allows him to understand what his time with me will look like, gives him some control of the activities, and keeps him organized as we mark off the activities that we have completed together.  His anxiety has lessened significantly throughout his time coming to TLC, and now he is much more able to try novel things.

Schedules can be as specific or as general as you need. Some kiddos benefit from a personal schedule that they keep with them, while others can check in with a general schedule to help keep them organized and knowledgeable throughout the day. At home, you can experiment with something as simple as a white board that allows you to draw pictures or write words depending on what is appropriate or works for your child.  It can be specific like the morning routine, or it can be more broad, as in what will happen that next day, or week (or both!).

At our house, typing up a general list of “to-do’s” before getting out the door helps immensely. Instead of me needing to ask what has and has not been done (“Did you brush your teeth?  Did you pack your lunch?  Did you get your book?  Do you have your backpack?”), my one direction is: “check your list.” 

A photo routine that can be used at home

  • Give consistent cues

Transitioning between activities can be challenging, too. Giving a consistent visual cue (turning off or dimming the lights), giving a “2 minute” warning or singing a transition song, can help prepare the child for change.  These transition songs are nothing complex.  Mine often consist of a silly song about what we are completing and what will be next and is regularly sung to the tune of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” or “BINGO”.

We all benefit from the comfort of predictability.  For our kiddos, providing routines and schedules not only helps with some of the struggles related to transitions and change, but helps them develop a sense of security and control, and supports increased confidence and independence.  This is what we all want for all our kids.

A photo schedule on Velcro in a TLC classroom

To learn more about how working with an Occupational Therapist may help your child, or to learn about how our classrooms help build independence in children, contact TLC at (303)776-7417.

The Power of a Pledge: Yoga with Kids

by Mia Girard, TLC YogaKids instructor and Occupational Therapist

Maya Angelou once said, "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

I love this quote and want people to remember from my interactions with them that I made them feel good on some level. Often I am reminded of this quote as I am planning and teaching my YogaKids classes, thinking of ways to help my YogaKids feel confident, celebrated, and validated in a memorable way.

For me, the YogaKids pledge is an important part of how I create a loving, safe and memorable community within my classes. I make a point to recite the pledge with the kids regularly. I find that it not only has special meaning for me, but also special meaning for them. For me, its importance lies in the fact that it delineates some of the expectations of our class, as well as the overall purpose for participating. For the kids, it becomes a consistent and routine activity that they can anticipate and participate in. It allows them to feel purposefully connected to the class, to their peers, to me, and to people and things in their world.

I also feel it is important to live by the pledge myself. If I simply treat the kids as the pledge suggests, I see that I have made them feel celebrated and honored in a memorable way. This is my job as a YogaKids teacher and I find it extremely important. As an Occupational Therapist, my classes include children of all abilities and our pledge has morphed and changed as the need arises. The pledge is as follows: 

  • I believe in myself.
  • I love and honor my body. 
  • I will do my personal best.
  • I will stay on my mat to keep us all safe.
  • I will be kind and gentle to myself and others. 
  • I can use yoga anytime, anywhere to calm myself, energize myself, and make myself feel better. 

I have found that if I treat children in a way that honors and shows fidelity to this pledge, they not only remember me but more importantly, the pledge and the connectedness that we share in yoga. After all, yoga means to join together or unite. So, for me, the pledge is: 

  • I believe in them.
  • I love and honor their bodies. 
  • I acknowledge them doing their personal best (often).
  • I help to keep us all safe in class.
  • I am kind and gentle to myself, the children, and others.
  • I model and teach them to use yoga anytime, anywhere to calm themselves, energize themselves, and to help them feel better!

I remember realizing the meaning and importance of the pledge years ago in one of my first YogaKids sessions. One of my students was a beautiful child with cerebral palsy. She had limited use of her legs and feet and yet participated beautifully with modifications in every aspect of the class whether it was balancing poses, or Michaelangelo's Drawing with My Feet activity.

Her mother shared with me that one day she found her daughter upstairs with her dolls, playing. The girl had arranged her dolls in a circle just like the one we sit in during YogaKids, and was pretending they were in the midst of a YogaKids class. She picked up one doll, moved it gently up and down as if giving it life and movement, and said "I believe in myself.” She then picked up another doll, moved it up and down and said  "I love and honor my body.”  She continued this way, until the dolls had recited the entire pledge, word for word.

To hear that she incorporated the pledge into pretend play with her dolls made me realize that she felt connected, comfortable, and confident in our class. While her body presented her with significant challenges, she was able to rise above that and, at least in those moments, love and honor her body, her grace, and her beauty. When children bring yoga home and practice off the mat, it validates for me the connection between our classes, the YogaKids pledge, and Maya Angelou's quote, that "people will never forget how you made them feel." I hope that all children who take a YogaKids class leave feeling as strong and good as that little girl.

------------------------------------------

TLC offers YogaKids classes throughout the year for all full-day preschool students, and as an after-school enrichment class for children up to age 12. To learn about TLC's programs for children eight weeks - 6 years old or YogaKids after-school program, call TLC at (303)776-7417. 

Early Intervention & Occupational Therapy

SONY DSC

By Shari Karmen, TLC Therapeutic Services Manager & Occupational Therapist

I believe in Early Intervention; I don’t believe in the motto “wait and see what happens in a year." Parents should trust their gut feeling when worried about their child’s development because parents know their children best. Early Intervention and screening for developmental delays and disabilities can make all the difference in setting a child on course for healthy growth.

Helping kids and their families screen for delays and address areas of concern to build strong, happy kids is what I love to do. I want all parents to know what Early Intervention is, and how it can benefit their child.

 My son, K, as a baby

When I think of the successes of Early Intervention in children I've worked with, so many faces come to mind. I remember when a little girl with a serious heart condition ate her first cheerio without choking, a huge feat for a toddler with a history of feeding difficulties and poor weight gain. I remember another little girl who was sent home from her long hospital stay with bottles and nipples from the hospital that were not available to the public. Her mom was panicked, but we worked together to find the right combination and a comfortable feeding position. Together, we were able to help the little girl move to a commercially available bottle and nipple. Her mom was overjoyed, and the little girl was able to eat a healthy amount and gain weight at a healthy pace, and that made me smile. I have so many stories like these.

I also have a personal story. My son, K, was delayed. I was probably the nightmare mom – the one who knew just enough to drive the doctors nuts. I brought my son in to the doctor's at four days old and said he had low muscle tone. Of course at the time he was crying his eyes out and stiff as a board, making the process of observing him more difficult. But my pediatrician believed me when I voiced my concerns, and referred me to the Early Intervention program in Tucson.

K is truly an Early Intervention success story. We started Physical Therapy for his low muscle tone at six months, followed by Occupational Therapy, and then Speech Therapy. With help building his strength and muscle tone, K was able to sit upright, as well as crawl a crooked path at nine months. He walked at 18 months. He did not use verbal language, but learned some sign language between 12-18 months. He was very sensitive to movement, noises, and touch, which made car rides, going to the grocery store, and getting dressed a challenge. Our therapists worked with K and us on each of these difficulties.

My husband and I followed through with every recommendation and exercise demonstrated by our therapists, working with K at home following appointments. My son graduated from Physical Therapy, then Speech Therapy (speaking in full sentences), and lastly, Occupational Therapy within three years. I am happy to report that today he is a talented, soft spoken, and loving 18 year old, getting ready to leave the nest to pursue degrees in classical piano performance and music education. We couldn't be prouder parents.

I know not everybody’s story is the same, but in all of my years working, I can honestly say that I always see positive changes with Early Intervention services. I was friends with my son’s therapists, and now I have made friends with my client’s families, and I love seeing the progress their children make long after they've graduated from Early Intervention therapies.

So, what is Early Intervention?

Commonly referred to as EI, Early Intervention is a nationwide system that helps identify, and then helps treat babies and toddlers with developmental delays or disabilities. EI focuses on five areas of development:

  • Physical (rolling, crawling, using hands to play with blocks)
  • Cognitive (problem solving how to get to a toy, playing peek-a-boo, figuring out a toy)
  • Communication (babbling, talking, following directions)
  • Social/Emotional (feeling secure, smiling, playing with other children)
  • Adaptive (eating, dressing, sensory processing)

Eligibility for EI services is determined by an evaluating team. If eligible, EI services can be put in place from birth up to a child’s third birthday.

Anyone can refer a child to EI. If you as a parent have a concern about your child’s development, you can call a center like TLC (a pediatric therapy office specializing in EI services and physical, occupational, and speech therapies for children up to 12), the local Child Find office through your school district, or the Part C agency in your county. Physicians and daycare providers are also great referral sources.

Early Intervention services include:

  • Physical Therapy – to address gross motor skills such as rolling, crawling, and walking, issues with balance, strength, and coordination.
  • Occupational Therapy – to address fine motor skills, sensory processing, self help skills (feeding, dressing), and play skills.
  • Speech and Language Therapy – to address understanding of language, expression, social communication, and speech intelligibility.

EI is based on routines. That means that we, the therapists, help you, the parent, to provide therapeutic activities during your child’s daily routine. EI therapists can see children in the hospital, in homes, in childcare settings, and out and about in the community.

If you have any concerns about the development of your child, don't hesitate to have your child screened. It's easy, and can make a world of difference in helping your child be the happiest and healthiest baby it can be. I'm proud to say, Early Intervention works!

Summer Sensory Fun for Kids

SONY DSC

Happy Summer! The warm months are a time for relaxation - naps in the hammock, reading a book on the beach, long walks at the park, and escaping to the mountains. At least, that is our perception as an adult. However, for a child who is home from school for the summer, their routine has been thrown upside down. The schedule and predictability that once dictated their days is gone, and often they are left struggling to regulate, and desperately craving a routine. As an occupational therapist, I look at a child’s environment, routines, activities, and sensory input, all of which change dramatically in the summer. I see a number of children whose behavior and response to their environment is also impacted due to the summer's change in routines, environment, and activities.

While I can’t promise you will never hear “I’m bored” again this summer, I hope that this list of sensory summer fun activities will provide you with ideas to increase regulation, routine, sensory input and overall summer enjoyment!

The following activities can be alerting, organizing or calming. Each individual child is unique in their response to activities. Please consult a therapist at TLC Learning Center if you have specific questions regarding your child’s sensory processing.

Movement Activities (Vestibular Input):

  • Swimming
  • Swinging
  • Running, Jumping, Skipping, Hopping, etc.
  • Team Sports
  • Hiking – nature walks, new adventures
  • Water Play – run through sprinklers, jump in puddles, have a water balloon fight
  • Get Up and Move Dice

Deep Pressure and “Heavy Work” Activities (Proprioceptive Input):

  • Ride a bike, scooter, roller skate
  • Build in wet sand. Don’t have a sand box? Fill up a Rubbermaid container with sand from a hardware store.
  • Gardening – digging, pushing a wheelbarrow, planting, etc.
  • Push and Dump Ice Relay
  • Stomp Paintings

Touch Activities (Tactile):

Taste & Oral Activities:

Please let us know your favorite sensory activities for kids in the comments! If you have questions about Sensory Processing Disorders or Occupational Therapy, please contact us to discuss an evaluation for your child.

Lindsey Blechle, MOT, OTR