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

Welcome to TLC's 61st Year Serving Children!

TLC preschooler Oliver paints in Ms. Jen's classroom.

TLC preschooler Oliver paints in Ms. Jen's classroom.

Welcome to 2017 at the TLC Learning Center!  We're a little late on the new year's welcome, but we've been busy growing (we have a new toddler classroom and full or nearly-full preschool classrooms and infant nursery) and learning. Whenever you arrive, we're glad you're here!

For over 60 years, TLC’s mission has been to provide, in a fiscally responsible manner, comprehensive early childhood education and therapeutic services to assist each child in reaching his or her highest potential. For this first blog in 2017, I am very pleased to announce that TLC Learning Center will finish our fiscal year 2016 with a positive net ordinary income bottom line! This is a huge accomplishment and only happens when you have a strategy-minded board of directors, focused and competent leadership, dedicated teachers and therapists, and a supportive community. Because of the success of our two fundraisers (2nd annual Kentucky Derby Party and 35th annual Christmas Tree Festival), full classrooms and caseloads, excellent turnout for Colorado Gives Day, and public and private foundations awarding us with much needed resources, along with conservative spending and operations, we were able to achieve a positive bottom line for the first time since we moved into our new facility in 2005.

We have lofty goals for 2017, but we need your help.  Here are the top 10 things you can do to support TLC Learning Center:

1.     Mark your calendar now and plan to attend the 3rd annual TLC Kentucky Derby Party Saturday, May 6th at Schlagel Farms.
2.    Contribute to TLC through your company’s matching gift program, or sign-up to support TLC on a monthly basis at ColoradoGives.org (you can also contact us at 303-776-7417 to set up a monthly gift, as we can only accept one-time gifts on our website at this time).
3.    Commit now to sponsoring a tree at the 36th Annual TLC Learning Center Christmas Tree festival using this form.
4.    Refer a friend to TLC for any child eight weeks to six years old and that family will get 50% off their first month of tuition. See our flyer for more information.
5.    Have your employer call TLC Learning Center and become a corporate partner and all employees will get 10% off tuition!
6.    Connect a new business that is moving to town with TLC Learning Center and help them become a part of the TLC community as an event sponsor or financial supporter.
7.    Invite me to come speak at your Rotary club, church mission’s committee, or civic group.
8.    Donate a monetary gift or item to our classrooms or pediatric therapy rooms. Visit our supply wish list to see what we're most in need of right now.
9.    Contact us with information about family foundations, community grants, or other philanthropic opportunities to share the mission of TLC Learning Center.
10.    Be an advocate for all children in our community and partner with TLC as we ensure every child is able reach his or her highest potential.  
Thank you for your support and feel free to come visit us anytime!  

A Scary Story by TLC Alum Hunter

Hunter is a TLC alum who received pediatric therapy services from age two to 12. Hunter's mom reports that he's doing great in school and recently wrote a Halloween story he was very proud of. We're proud of the story and of Hunter, so thought we'd share it with you!

Scary Story

John can see the old, abandoned lighthouse from his bedroom window. One night, the lantern in the lighthouse flicks on, and begins rotating. In front of the light, walks a shadowy figure…spooky. Is it the old lighthouse keeper, the one who disappeared years ago? John is so spooked that he yells for his parents. His dad comes into the room and John points at the lighthouse. “Look at the lighthouse!” he screams.

His dad turns on the bedroom light and looks out the window. The lighthouse is dark and the light isn’t spinning anymore. “What are you pointing at?” his dad asks.

John looks at the lighthouse, but there’s nothing there. “There was a really creepy ghost. He had a really creepy cloak on,” John says.

“Calm down. It’s nothing. Go back to sleep,” dad says, but John can still feel the creepiness as dad leaves the room and shuts out the light.
John doesn’t go back to sleep. He is worried the lights on the lighthouse will come back on again and he keeps thinking he sees a ghost near his window. He thinks the doors might open automatically. 

Something hits his window and the window glass shatters. John screams. Dad comes running back into the room. 

“What happened here?” he asks, but before John can answer a creepy shadow passes by the broken window. Dad reaches to turn on the lights but they don’t come on. 

John, shivering in fear, just points at the window.

Dad stays in the room with John until 3 in the morning when the power comes back on. The lights turn on, and the water in the sinks in the bathroom and kitchen starts running. 

“Why is the water running?” Dad asks. He tries to shut off the water but it won’t shut off, so the house starts flooding. Dad grabs John and starts to run outside. After three minutes, the water stops. The floor is wet but they go back in the house to clean things up. The clean up takes a long time, and by the time they’re done, John has to go to school.

At school, all of John’s friends are talking about the power being out. At all of their houses on the same street, glass shattered, power went out, and flooding happened. 

“It can’t be a coincidence,” John says.

After school, John and his friends are talking in the hallway and trying to figure out the mystery. John tells them what he saw at the lighthouse, so they decide to investigate. They reach the lighthouse but they notice something is wrong. There is a fence around the lighthouse when there never was one before. The friends decide to climb over the fence. Once they are inside the fence, they hear a bell ring, and the fence becomes electrified. They are completely surrounded. After five minutes, the bell goes off again and the fence is not electrified. They think they have five minutes to get over the fence. They go as fast as they can. As they are running away from the lighthouse, they hear a ghostly voice say, “Get out of here and leave me alone!”

The friends decide that’s a good idea, so they never go back to the lighthouse again.

TLC kiddos have fun with Executive Director Matt Eldred on Halloween last year. Kids are welcome to bring their costumes on Monday, October 31st, for a TLC Costume Parade.

TLC kiddos have fun with Executive Director Matt Eldred on Halloween last year. Kids are welcome to bring their costumes on Monday, October 31st, for a TLC Costume Parade.

Help for Riley, a TLC Kiddo

Because TLC is a combined preschool and pediatric therapy center, we work with both healthy, thriving children and medically fragile children. Sometimes our medically fragile children make huge strides in gaining strength and independence, but sometimes the challenges they face are far greater than any a child should ever be asked to overcome.

Riley is a seven year old boy with bright blue eyes and an infectious giggle who has been part of the TLC community since 2010. In 2013 he was diagnosed with PKAN, a progressive neurological disorder that causes progressive degeneration of specific areas in the central nervous system, affecting movement and muscle tone. Recently, Riley has had rapid progression of this disease and has been at Children’s Hospital for two weeks in and out of medically induced comas to try to help bring him relief.

Seeing Riley shift from a vibrant, healthy child who wants to do normal things like play and be with his family to a child who can't leave his hospital bed has been extremely difficult both for Riley and those who love him, including his family and the TLC staff who have worked with him for six of his seven years.

Riley's family has partnered with the Martyred Angels charity out of Boulder, who is sponsoring a GoFundMe campaign to help pay for Riley's medical expenses, expenses that are consuming most of the family's income (Riley's primary caregiver is his mother Erin, a single mom). Right now the primary focus of Riley's care is on making him comfortable for the time he has remaining with his family. Please keep Riley and his hope for recovery in your thoughts, and be thankful for everyday your children are healthy.

As Riley is part of the TLC family, we're sharing his story and GoFundMe page here, should anyone be interested in helping him and his family during this very difficult time. 

 

Hear What Parents are Saying About TLC!

TLC celebrates all of our families! Recently we welcomed new Speech Therapist Grace to our staff, and her daughter Daphne to our infant room

TLC celebrates all of our families! Recently we welcomed new Speech Therapist Grace to our staff, and her daughter Daphne to our infant room

We love when our parents and families share their thoughts about how TLC has impacted their children. Below are a few comments we've received from current parents, and we are so thrilled to be such a positive experience in their family's lives! You can read what other families have to say on our Testimonials page.

Isabel Cardoza, TLC preschool parents

I am really happy with TLC. I've noticed my son's improvements while coming to school - he wakes up energetic and happy to attend school. He also loves his teacher Ms. Caitlin. Everyone is so nice and kind and very supportive.

Robin Newman, TLC preschool parent

We are very happy with TLC. My son enjoys coming to school each day. We have a great support system here and I am thankful for each and every person - Caitlin, Lupe, Lindsey, Cindy, Breck, Cynthia and Kelly. TLC is a fantastic preschool! Thank you for all that you're doing for my son.

Marley & Jason Woods, TLC toddler parents

We love TLC. Our son just turned two and can already count to 20 and knows his alphabet. The teachers at TLC are amazing. My son is excited to go to school everyday!

TLC parent to a preschool four year old

I am very happy with TLC! My daughter has always loved school, but had a bad experience at a different school. I switched her to TLC and within a couple of weeks she was back to loving school again! TLC is so loving, patient, and genuine. So grateful to TLC!

We're Growing!

Our intrepid toddlers are sailing into new territory... a third classroom!

Our intrepid toddlers are sailing into new territory... a third classroom!

In response to community need, TLC will be opening a third toddler classroom by the end of June! The renovations were completed over spring break (thank you so much to our partners and grantors who contributed to the project) and we plan on opening the new room on June 20th. TLC will welcome new staff Karianne as the room's new lead teacher, and Mera as the new assistant teacher.

With the opening of a third toddler classroom, there will be some transitions for students in June. If your child will be affected by this change at TLC, you will be notified by your child’s teacher. 

Thank you to the support of the parents and community who have trusted us with the care and education of your children. We hope to continue to serve as many children as we are able with high quality, fully inclusive early childhood education programming, and this expansion is another opportunity for us to open our classroom doors to more families.

 

Fundraiser for TLC Student Ximena Mendoza

Ximena Mendoza was a beloved four year old student at TLC. You might recognize her in this photo we used on our postcard for Colorado Gives Day, because her smile was beautiful and infectious. She passed away unexpectedly at home on Monday morning. She was the only child of her parents, Eridany and Juan, and TLC is raising funds to help cover the funeral expenses. We can't imagine the pain of losing a child, but hope to help in whatever small way we can. Ximena had been with TLC since she was an infant, and will be incredibly missed by the staff, her friends, and the TLC community. If you'd like to help us support her family in this difficult time we thank you from each and every one of us at TLC.

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?
 

Super First Foods for Baby

By Amanda Boldenow, TLC Development Manager & Parent

Introducing baby to his first solid foods can be far more exciting than presenting bland rice cereal in a bowl. There are a whole world of delicious fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and proteins that can be offered to baby in a safe and engaging way, no spoons and pretend airplanes necessary! 

Before six months of age, babies can taste small flavors of new foods on the tip of a caregiver's finger. "Flavor" means strictly that - a small taste of the juice from a solid food, like a fruit, smeared on a fingertip that baby can suckle off, or that can be dabbed on baby's tongue. By six months of age, a baby's digestive system is ready to handle small introductions of solid foods. But what foods are healthiest, that a baby is most likely to enjoy and be enticed by into trying more?

To start, let your baby try new foods gradually. If baby has a negative reaction to a new food, the offending item will be easy to identify if new food introductions have been spaced out over several days. Nurse or bottle feed baby before offering new foods, as early solids are an opportunity for experimentation and fun more than they are suitable for meal replacements.

Ready to try solids? Here are some healthy choices that push the produce envelope beyond the bland and the boring (looking at you, mashed bananas and cereal):

The Basics

Pears: Fruits that can be steamed until they are soft (including apples, peaches, apricots, and plums) and then mashed are a sweet treat for budding palates. 

Avocado: Rich in healthy fats, avocados are easy to mash with a fork. Plus, avocados are fun for little hands to squish - let them try these utensil free.

Squash: Steamed squash of any variety, whether winter options like butternut, hubbard, or acorn, or summer squashes like zucchini can be easily steamed and mashed. They have a mild, sometimes sweet flavor, that can be made adventurous through the addition of herbs or pureed leafy greens.

Grapes: Grapes and other small "finger" fruits, like berries, are delicious first foods, but be sure to slice them before presenting to babies. Round fruits (like any solid food) can present a choking hazard.

Sweet Potatoes: Like squash, sweet potatoes (or yams) can be easily steamed and eaten plain or with flavor boosters like turmeric, basil, or light sweeteners. Steamed sweet potatoes are also fun for little fingers to smoosh and squish!

Carrots: The most common root veggie to introduce as a first food, carrots have a naturally sweet flavor.

The Adventurous

Eggs: New research suggests that common allergies, such as eggs, nuts, fish, and soy, can be prevented through early introduction. Eggs can be hard boiled and chopped, scrambled, or mixed into an omelette and diced for baby to try.

Salmon: Fish is full of healthy fats and, like eggs, brain-building omega-3's. Try mashing cooked, flaked fish for baby to try.

Turnips: Give the carrots a break and let baby try a variety of healthy root vegetables, including mashed turnips, parsnips, and beets. There are a rainbow of root vegetables to try, and early introduction can help prevent turned-up noses at unfamiliar fare later.

Kale: Leafy greens, including kale, spinach, arugula, frisee, and others are both fun to touch (especially the frisee), and healthy additions to a baby's expanded diet. Greens are easily assimilated into other dishes, including scrambled eggs and squash purees. 

Lentils: Healthy proteins like lentils cook in minutes, and can be mashed together for an easy protein boost to veggies.

Sauerkraut: Want to really go out on a limb? Try fermented foods! Try sour foods! Let baby experience a full range of flavors as they learn that the world is full of delicious flavors, most of which can come straight from the produce aisle, as opposed to the boxed fare in the middle of grocery stores.