Author Archives: Easterseals

Measuring Accomplishments

by Susan Lowenstein, MSPT

Booker T. Washington, American author, orator, educator, and advisor to many presidents once said, “You measure the size of the accomplishment by the obstacles you have to overcome to reach your goals.” 

So, that being said…let me tell you about a little boy I know named Miles. He is a 6 year old that is currently a student of mine at Easterseals of Southeastern PA, Bucks County Division. I have had the pleasure of watching him fight to overcome obstacles for the past 9 months, but he has been fighting an uphill battle for all 72 months of his young life.

Miles attending virtual therapy!

OBSTACLE #1: Born 8 weeks early.

OBSTACLE #2: Shared birthday with his twin brother so he was already small for his gestational size.

OBSTACLE #3: Has a mutation on his COL2A1 gene that causes several types of skeletal dysplasia, and his is closest to what is called hypochondrogenesis.

OBSTACLES #4,5,6,7 and 8: Has spinal instability, ongoing joint issues, hearing loss, significant vision issues, and a floppy airway.  

OBSTACLE#9: Intubated at birth

OBSTACLE#10: Received a tracheostomy at 3 months of age

OBSTACLE#11: Transferred to the ICU at Nemours DuPont (an hour away from home!)

So… why am I sharing all of this with you? Well, this is just the beginning of Miles’s story. He may have encountered countless obstacles… but he continues face each one head on and works to overcome them.

So…let’s look at all that Miles has ACCOMPLISHED so far in his 6 years of life.  

ACCOMPLISHMENT #1: Became strong enough to be supported by a home ventilator and home nursing support to go home, just 6 days shy of his and twin brother George’s 1st birthday! 

ACCOMPLISHMENT #2: Learned to taste foods by mouth (even though he needed a g-tube for nutrition) during the first year of his life

ACCOMPLISHMENT #3: Used his hands to gesture and request for food like yogurt and applesauce during his first year of life

ACCOMPLISHMENT #4: Re-learned how to accept some food orally again after cleft palate split at 18 months of age.  

ACCOMPLISHMENT #5:  Started sprinting (practicing time off the ventilator) when he was around 3 years old. Now he is at the point where he can spend nearly all of his waking hours without the ventilator.

ACCOMPLISHMENT #6: Sat upright in a highly supportive activity chair at 2.5 years old (despite his large head and short arms and trunk)

ACCOMPLISHMENT #7: Sat upright on the floor without any back support while playing with toys and watching the classroom smart board or TV at home at 5 years old

ACCOMPLISHMENT #8: Transitions from lying down into sitting up all by himself at almost 6 years old

And…just in the time that it has taken me to put this blog together…Miles has accomplished yet another 2 more feats!!! He can now pull himself up into a supported standing position at his walker all by himself (that’s #9), and has gotten strong enough to crawl over to a large couch cushion and pull all of his body weight up onto it (that’s #10).

Every accomplishment that Miles has achieved is testimony to his resilience, his amazing family and his team of health care and educational professionals. Together, we continue to imagine what he CAN do, not what he CANNOT do.

When people ask me what I do for a living, I tell them that I am a pediatric PT that works with children with complex physical and medical needs. Frequently, I am asked, “ Doesn’t your work make you sad?”  But to the contrary, I find it wondrous to work with children like Miles who are able to overcome obstacles and accomplish so much more than some people may have ever thought would be possible.

Miles, thank you for being such a fighter. We at Easterseals are behind you 100%, and we will continue to watch you hurdle through more obstacles and accomplish so much more accomplish in your future!

Miles proudly displays a certificate of accomplishment

Bilateral Coordination

by Suzanne Gladstone, MS OTR/L

In this two-video series, Suzanne, an Easterseals of Southeastern PA Occupational Therapist, created two virtual occupational therapy sessions. In the first video, Suzanne explains bilateral coordination and how it is part of our everyday lives and activities. In the second video, Suzanne shares a fun activity for kids, in which they make snack with simple ingredients and use bilateral coordination.

Suzanne shared her video with her students recently and they were a hit!

Communication Board for Older Students/Adults

The Assistive Technology team has created an older student/adult language board to use during this pandemic period of time. They have also created an alphabet board set in Qwerty that can be printed separately or on the back.

These visual supports can be useful in trying to facilitate communication. He hope you find this helpful.

Visual Support for Communication

 

Sleep Strategies and Toilet Training Webinars

Our Behavior Therapy Department is pleased to present training webinars for all who are interested. There are two webinars available. See below for description and registration information.

Sleep Strategies:

Learn about sensory processing and self-regulation and how it relates to sleep, as well as behavioral interventions for common sleep difficulties such as delayed sleep onset and night awakenings. Presented by Daniellle Franchini-Muir (BCBA), Adrienne Krysuik (OT), and Nequetta Alford (LBS).

 

You are invited to a Zoom webinar.
When: Jun 10, 2020 03:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Topic: Sleep Strategies

Toilet Training:

Learn about toileting/potty training strategies no matter where your child is developmentally! We will discuss where to start as well as readiness and motor skills. Presented by Daniellle Franchini-Muir (BCBA),Isabel Kats (LSW), Rachel Rosenblum (OT), and Braelyn Beaver (BCBA).

You are invited to a Zoom webinar.
When: Jun 9, 2020 03:30 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Topic: Toilet Training

Mindfulness Activities for All!

by Lisa S. Wzorek, MA, OTR/L

I wanted to share a few activities that can be done to help our children (and ourselves) practice mindfulness, based on last week’s post.  One activity is a tried and true one in my family, and the other is a new one that we tried over this past week.

One thing that I loved doing as a shy and introverted kid to be calm and away from my loud family was building a fort.  It was usually a small, dark space but it was my own space and a great getaway.  Lots of people and classrooms these days use tents as a “calm corner” for our children to have a place to be calm.  When my son was younger, I discovered a fun and easy way to make a tent without the need to purchase another item:  simply putting a sheet over our table!  Then we would pile blankets, pillows and stuffed animals inside.  Calm and relaxing!  The one we made in the picture below is using a lighter sheet.  You can make use a dark sheet or blanket to make the space darker.  You can also put your child’s favorite toys, books, light up toys and wands, and flashlights.

Screen Shot 2020-05-28 at 11.18.51 AM

Another activity is making a Mindfulness Jar.  You can google this and find different names for it, such as Calming Jar, Meditation Jar, Time-Out Jar, etc.  I found two simple recipes that work really well and, if you are a crafter, you may already have all of the ingredients at home.

Screen Shot 2020-05-28 at 11.19.13 AM

 

For the calming jar, you can use an empty plastic bottle or a glass jar.  If you have a child that tends to throw objects, the plastic bottle may be your best option.  You can use white glue if that is what you have, too.  This activity is, in itself, very calming!  Fill your container about 1/3 of the way with glue, add about 2 tablespoons of glitter (or however much you want!), then fill the rest of the way with warm water from the tap.  At this time, you can add 1-2 drops of food coloring into the mix if you like.  Cap it and shake it up until all of the ingredients are mixed together.  Here are some of our finished products:

You may be wondering…what do you do with the jars and how do they work?  Sit with the jars when you need a calm moment and give them a good shake.  Set the jar down and watch the glitter swirl.  Focus on the movement of the glitter and take some nice, deep breaths.  Focusing and breathing helps to calm our brains and our bodies.  Do this until the glitter settles down; then do it again, if you like!  When you do this with your child, describe what is happening in the jar.  This will help them to focus just on the movement of the glitter and to be mindful.

The act of “doing” with both of these activities has both strengthening and healing components.  We’ve already pointed out the aspect of mindfulness and calming.  But making our tent and our jars also taps into problem-solving, motor planning, visual motor skills, visual perceptual skills and fine motor skills.   Maybe even some math if you are able to work on measuring with your child.  If your child cannot participate in building the tent or making the jars, talk out the steps you are doing and bring them into the activity in this way.  Talk about the colors you are using, the textures (sticky, wet, warm, messy) and help them to experience it, too.  Maybe you can try different positioning with your child inside the tent to read books together and play flashlight tag.  Hope you enjoy these mindful activities!

Mindfulness

by Lisa S. Wzorek, MA, OTR/L

A positive mental health strategy many of us are hearing about these days is mindfulness practice.  Personally, I have been exploring it myself, and am feeling the benefits that are being touted for this simple activity – better focus and concentration, positive mental health, etc. (Ackerman, 2020).  But what exactly is mindfulness, and importantly, can we teach this to our young children and our children with special needs?

Mindfulness is defined as “creating space for ourselves – space to think, space to breathe, and space between ourselves and our reactions (Mindful.org, 2018).”  Being mindful means that one is aware of sensations and feelings in the moment without passing a judgment on it – it is noticing without judging.  Googling how to practice mindfulness leads to an abundance of sites that instruct adults on how to practice…mostly sitting quietly, eyes closed, focusing on the breath, noticing our thoughts but not judging or trying to chase them away.  So, can we help our young children to be mindful?  Turns out, we can! And we don’t have to make them sit still to do this.  We can guide our children in a mindful practice on nature walks, listening to music or sounds, or moving their bodies.  Mindfulness activities can be customized to what will work best for your child.  It can involve yoga poses but doesn’t have to.  Some ideas to help our children with special needs practice mindfulness are as follows:

  1. Take a nature walk with your child.  Tell your child that it’s time to look for a given object, for example, birds.  Model looking for birds in different directions for your child by labeling and pointing (ex. “look to the right” while you point).  Limit your talking but focus on the birds.  If your child has a communication device, perhaps you can place a photo of the object you are looking for so that they can activate the icon when the see (or hear) the object.  Or, if your child uses picture exchange communication cards (PECS), you can have them point to the picture as they see/hear the object.  You can do this with flowers, insects, leaves, rocks, etc.  Choose something that will interest your child the most.  If a nature walk is not their style, but vehicles are, you can do the same with cars and trucks.
  2. Blowing dandelions, bubbles or pinwheels. Help guide your child to focus on taking a deep breath in and blowing the air out of their mouths.  As the air hits the dandelion, bubble or pinwheel, guide them in watching it until you can no longer see the dandelion seeds/bubble floating in the air or until the pinwheel has stopped.  If your child has a communication device or PECS, perhaps you can access pictures of these objects for them to activate or point to before you begin.
  3. For our kiddos that are movers, try guiding them into a pose that they hold. For example, standing tall like a tree with hands on the hips (or if more motivated by a character, use superman/batman etc.).  Guide them to taking a nice deep breath and hold for a few seconds in the pose.

Some tips to remember:

  1. Start practicing when your child is happy and feeling good. Once they get it, then you can start using mindfulness to help them to feel better and more organized.
  2. Use pictures as a visual aid if you are focusing on a particular object or action as you begin the activity and show them each time that you see the object.
  3. If your child has a visual impairment, try listening for sounds instead of locating an object with sight. For example, when outdoors you can listen for birds or cars going by.  Indoors, you can play calm music or a bell and focus on that sound as it begins and fades.
  4. It’s ok if you have to help your child to activate the icons on their communication device or locate the correct PECS. Guiding them in this will help them to understand the activity.
  5. It’s ok if your child can only do this for a few seconds at a time. The key is not to judge the activity as a success or a failure, but to continue practicing.  Recognize your own thoughts during the activity but let them go.
  6. Be the model for how to be mindful for your child. Guide them with your actions.  Give lots of praise when it is over for participating.
  7. Use the internet! If you have access to the internet and a tablet, computer or phone, there are many YouTube videos that can guide both adults and children through this practice.  Here are several you can check out:

 

Friendly Wishes guided meditation by Cosmic Kids Yoga  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HtYIQiXyrsE

Be the Pond Meditation by Zen Den  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wf5K3pP2IUQ

Fading Tone Meditation (Bell tone) by My Life * help your child to hold their hand over their heart during the sounds   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hzuaKhkwskw

Enjoy experimenting and share your experiences with the Easterseals community!!

References:

Ackerman, C.E. (2020).  25 fun mindfulness activities for children and teens.  Retrieved from https://positivepsychology.com/mindfulness-for-children-kids-activities/

Mindful.org (2018).  How to practice mindfulness.  Retrieved from https://www.mindful.org/how-to-practice-mindfulness/

Mini Music Session

Miss Amanda has another mini music session to share! And since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, we are especially loving “It’s Okay Not to be Okay”

– Hello (with scavenger hunt)

 

– Snail and Mouse:

 

– 5 Green and Speckled Frogs:

 

– Play the Drum:

 

– It’s Okay Not to Be Okay:

 

– Ili Ili Tulog Anay:

– Goodbye (with scavenger hunt):

 

May is Mental Health Month……OT Mental Health Series Part 1

by Lisa S. Wzorek, MA, OTR/L

As we enter another month in quarantine due to Covid-19 and our focus on maintaining our physical health continues, what about our mental health? Making sure we are mentally healthy is equally important, and many of us are facing challenges in doing just this.  Our mental health is being challenged whether you are an essential worker and must be away from your family, or you are a stay at home parent navigating distance learning or are working from home while navigating distance learning with your children.  Maybe you have a child with special needs or medical needs that causes you extra worry during this time.  These, and there are many more, can challenge the mental health of any individual.

May is Mental Health Month, and I wanted to talk about this very important issue.  Our mental health is always important but seems to be extra important during the Covid-19 quarantine.  But let’s talk about it from the perspective of maintaining mental health of an occupational therapist.  Occupational Therapists see “occupations” as a way to health and well-being.  Occupations are not just our “job”, but the things we do throughout the day.  These could be our morning routines, caring for our children, distance learning, exercising, leisure activities, etc.  To help us engage in our occupations throughout the day, I’m suggesting that we take a few moments to focus on our breathing.  Breathing sounds like such a simple and basic thing, but how we breath can have either a negative or positive effect on our well-being.  We don’t pay much attention to our breath, but if you take a moment to do so right now, you may notice that your breathing is short and shallow.  What if you expand that breath, taking in a full deep breath and feel your lungs fill? How does this make you feel?  Often when we are stressed, angry, frustrated, sad, etc., our breath becomes shallow.  Taking some deep breaths can help calm the mind and the body before we act on our feelings.  Being in a more calm and relaxed state can help us engage in our occupations more successfully and purposefully.

Here are some guided breathing exercises that you can do yourself and with your children that are already posted on YouTube.  The videos are short, 3-5 minutes.  Doing these breathing exercises at the start of the day, when you are feeling stressed or frustrated, or just needing a break, can help you power through the next few hours of your day.  I hope you will try them and let me know what you think!  Let’s keep a focus on our mental health!

Videos for breathing exercises:

Adults:

“Stop, breathe and think” by Mindful Breathing

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEfs5TJZ6Nk  Guided breathing exercises

2:1 Breathing by Tufts Medical Center

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CQjGqtH-2YI

4-7-8 Breathing

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=737vA-okV5E

Kid Friendly:

5 finger breathing by Mindful Breathing

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DSgOW879jjA

4-7-8 Breathing-geared to kids by Fablefly

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PmBYdfv5RSk

Rainbow Breathing by Go Noodle

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O29e4rRMrV4

Breathing and Stretching by Moovlee

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cyvuaL_2avY

*For very young children, you can practice “smelling the flowers, hold 1-2-3, blow out the candles”

A therapeutic gift from a friend!

by Kathryn Murphy, MSPT

My name is Kathryn and I am a Physical Therapist at Bucks. With all of the virtual services going on now, I do not have all of the tools at my home that I need for my sessions. I had a friend of mine, Mike, come to my rescue. I met Mike a few years ago at the indoor rock climbing gym where I climb. He recently purchased 3-D printer. He printed me a red shaker and even did a non-contact drop off!

This shaker filled with rice will help me:

  • Get the visual attention of my students with decreased vision.
  • As a teaching aide for parents. I can now show them exactly where to place a toy with their child when working on gross motor skills. I use a doll to help teach parents and now I have a toy!
  • Get the attention of the student using their hearing.
  • Cheer for my students in a fun way when they do something great!
  • Participate in music class with Ms. Amanda 😉

 

THANK YOU MIKE!