Water Safety

This guest blog post was written by Heather Hagstrom, Aquatics Supervisor at the Schaumburg Park District.


Ahh, the pool! We are all familiar with the atmosphere of a swimming pool on a hot, sunny summer day.Water Safety  The sound of the water flowing over the grates, children laughing and squealing, the smell of chlorine and sunscreen, and then…a sharp whistle blast and it seems like the whole world stops for those brief seconds that we all stop and stare at a lifeguard jumping in the pool to rescue a struggling child. You frantically look to make sure it isn’t your child that is being pulled out of the water, and you notice that your child is right next to you and in perfect health and blissfully unaware of the hazards involved in this seemingly relaxing day at the pool.

As a parent, we are, unfortunately, hyper aware of the dangers associated with swimming. Between the years of 2005-2014, the CDC (Center for Disease Contol) estimates that nearly 3,500 individuals died from unintentional drowning. That breaks down to about 10 deaths from drowning PER DAY! Additionally, accidental drowning has been ranked as the leading cause of accidental death for children ages 1-5. These statistics are daunting and we may ask ourselves why do we even risk it? The answer is simple, IT’S FUN!

Besides being one of the only outdoor activities that can be safely performed on a hot summer day, it has also been researched and proven that water therapy can be very beneficial when working with a child that has special needs including autism, sensory disorders and down syndrome. The pressure of the water provides consistent deep pressure to the largest organ in the body-the skin. This phenomenon provides information to the central nervous system to describe where the individual is in space. Water is also known to help reduce the amount of weight the individual’s body frame is supporting, thus reducing any pain or pressure on the muscles or bones that may be due to their condition, i.e. tense extremities, bad posture, etc.

The intention of this article was not to scare anyone away from a lifetime of fun and effective therapies utilizing one of our greatest resources. However, there are concerns as far as safety goes that should be addressed.

Here is a list of best water safety practices that are effective in keeping your family safe:

  • Teach your children to NEVER enter the water without you
  • Enforce no running or horseplay policies
  • Encourage children to listen to lifeguards if they are present
  • Encourage children to take breaks every 2-3 hours to prevent exhaustion
  • If children are weak swimmers, utilize coast guard approved lifejackets
    • The lifejackets will state on the label that they are coast guard approved
    • Inflatable water wings are NOT coast guard approved as they are not proven to keep an individual’s head above the water
  • Always stay within an arm’s reach of your child while they are swimming
  • Avoid distractions like cell phones and IPADs when supervising your children near a pool
  • Swim lessons save lives! Enroll your child in a swim lesson class as soon as possible
    • Most swim lesson organizations provide resources if your child has special needs and requires an aide to help them in a class setting
    • Most will require you to request one, so please ask when registering!
  • Even if you’re an adult and a good swimmer—never swim alone
  • Never let your guard down-always stay vigilant

I supervise a staff of 150 lifeguards and I always tell them to never allow themselves to become complacent. In the blink of an eye- a life can be lost and there is no substitute for supervision when it comes to aquatic safety.

I hope you all have a safe and fun summer and last one in the pool is a rotten egg!

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood,Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

Heather biopicHeather Hagstrom is the Aquatics Supervisor for the Schaumburg Park District. After starting out as a lifeguard at Magic Waters (Rockford, IL) when she was 16 years old, Heather decided that aquatics was the career path she would take. She worked a variety of part time supervisory positions in aquatics at the Rockford Park District and then was hired as the supervisor at Schaumburg in April of 2014. Heather is a new mom to Mia, 6 months, and is enjoying passing on her love for the water and passion for aquatics with the little one who also is already a fish in her own right. Heather continues to raise the bar in her department as far as quality of aquatic programming and the highest level of safety for all her participants as well as water safety awareness programs for the community.

To learn about helping children with sensory issues at the pool, watch our Facebook Live recording:

What Are Disorders of the Corpus Callosum?

This guest blog post was written by Amy Connolly, RN, BSN, PCCN of a community hospital in Chicago.

The corpus callosum is the large bundle of nerve fibers that serve as a pathway, connecting the right andCorpus Callosum left hemispheres of the brain together. Disorders of the corpus callosum, or DCC’s, are “conditions in which the corpus callosum does not develop in a typical manner.” This important brain superhighway is usually formed by 12 to 16 weeks after conception. However, there are some people born without a corpus callosum at all, this is otherwise known as agenesis of the corpus callosum. My 4 year old son has hypoplasia of the corpus callosum, which means that his corpus callosum is thin and therefore may be less efficient. A few other included disorders are partial agenesis, as in partially absent, and dysgenesis, or malformation, of the corpus callosum.

DCC’s, like Autism, are a spectrum disorder, where there is no textbook answer to how happy or healthy someone will be just based off of diagnosis. Many parents are finding out during pregnancy due to the advancement in technology and equipment. Unfortunately, they are not always getting the best advice or support, due to the lack of knowledge on provider’s part. My best advice to them is to be proactive with recommended testing and therapies, but not to stress over the diagnosis itself. Having a disorder of the corpus callosum is nothing to fear in itself.

Every individual with a DCC, will have their own paths and abilities. The diagnosis should not define them or stop them from reaching their true potential, whatever that may be. There are plenty of people who found their diagnosis after a MRI or CT scan was done due to headaches or some type of accident. Someone with a DCC may live a pretty ordinary life and you would never have even been able to tell that they had a “special” brain, if they did not have a diagnostic test for some reason or another. Many people with a DCC have trouble keeping up with their peers when they get closer to their teen years. They may be socially awkward and they may not get the punchline of jokes right away.

For others with a DCC, a lot of therapy and repetition will help them to tell their story. Many of those with a DCC may also be diagnosed with ADHD, Autism, depression, anxiety, and so forth. Some who haven’t had an MRI or CT scan may only be diagnosed with one or more of the other things and do not even know that they have this disorder. Many people with the disorder may also have seizures, low muscle tone, and sensory disorders. Other midline defects can also be common such as eye or vision problems, heart problems, thyroid or growth disorders, and the list goes on. Some people with a DCC may also have feeding tubes as children and they may or may not still need them as they get older.  There is a lot we still do not know about disorders of the corpus callosum, but what we do know is that people with them are pretty awesome! They may usually have to work harder to make those important brain connections, but they always continue to put smiles on our faces no matter how big or small their accomplishment may be in someone else’s eyes!

The National Organization for Disorders of the Corpus Callosum, NODCC, is a nonprofit organization that strives to find out more about people like my son and to spread awareness about the disorder. The NODCC holds a conference every other year in a different U.S. location for individuals living with a DCC, families, professionals, and anyone else who would like to attend. There are multiple sessions on different tracks going on at the same time. This year approximately 600 people are expected to attend. Attendees will be from all over the U.S., with some even flying in from abroad. The conference is at the Marriott O’Hare in Chicago from July 22-24, 2016. For many with the disorder, and their families, conference is like a home away from home. A place where everybody gets each other without having to say a word. High functioning, low functioning, we are all functioning. Together.

To learn more about disorders of the corpus callosum, please go to www.nodcc.org.



Amy CAmy Connolly RN, BSN, PCCN lives in Franklin Park, Illinois.  Amy is a registered nurse at a community hospital in Chicago.  Amy is also stepmom to Patrick (16), mom to Jesse (6), Jake (4), and Marcey (2).  Jake, now age 4, was diagnosed with hypoplasia of the corpus callosum at ten months of age, after a MRI was done due to delayed developmental milestones and a lazy eye.  Amy’s nursing experience did not prepare her to navigate the world with a child with special needs.  She has learned a lot over the last four years and enjoys sharing and learning more with other families.  Amy is also actively involved as a volunteer for the National Organization for Disorders of the Corpus Callosum due to her strong belief in their mission and values.

Toilet Training While in Preschool? Communication is Key!

Megan Sexton, director of Creative Scholars Preschool in Chicago, shares important insights about how to approach the topic of potty training with your child’s preschool.

The toddler years are joyful, busy times of great growth for children! These are the years where children Blog-Toilet-Training-Main-Portraitare finding their sense of self, exerting their will, and discovering what effects they have on the world. With these new discoveries comes a toddler’s desire for independence driven by a desire to find a sense of control over themselves and their world. Because of this, learning self-help skills such as toilet training can be a stressful time for children and their families especially when you also consider that approaches to teaching a child to use the bathroom independently vary greatly from family to family.

When a child is enrolled in preschool and is in the process of toilet training, the potential for differences in approaches multiplies and another layer of anxiety can build up for children and families. This is where the importance of frequent and clear communication between you and your child’s teachers comes into play. In fact, this ongoing communication should begin even before the toilet training process begins! Some parents are unsure about when is the best time to begin potty training and will rely on the recommendation of a toddler teacher who has likely helped many children and their families with the toilet training process. Other parents have a clear timeline of when they would like to begin the process for their child. Whichever way works the best for you, it’s important to have those conversations with your child’s school. This helps get everyone on the same page and sets the child up for success.

What do teachers want to know?

In order to best support children and families, there are a few pieces of information that are helpful when shared with your child’s school.

  • What words does your family use when talking about body parts and elimination? If a teacher doesn’t know a family term for something, your child may become confused when the teachers use different vocabulary.
  • Does your boy sit or stand when trying to use the toilet? Some little boys find it uncomfortable to sit because they don’t like having to direct their penis down and accidentally getting their finger wet. Others don’t like to stand because they become nervous about the potential of falling forwards.
  • What signals does your child’s body give when they have to use the bathroom? Do they wiggle? Do they stand in a corner? Will they use words to let someone know they need to use the restroom?
  • How do they react when they have an accident? Let your teachers know if they get embarrassed or afraid that they will get in trouble if they have an accident.
  • How often do you want your child to try to use the toilet? Some children are able to inform teachers when they have to go, others get so involved in their play that they need reminders to try.
  • Is your child wearing pull-ups or underpants? If your child is wearing underpants, do they use pull-ups at nap?
  • Is your child nervous about anything, for example, when the toilet is flushed?
  • What can your child do independently and what do they need support with? Can they pull up their pants, but struggle with buttons or zippers?
  • How do you want soiled clothing to be handled? Do you want teachers to keep underpants that have had a poop accident or just throw them away? Do you have a dirty clothes bag you would like the soiled clothes placed in or can teachers put the clothes into a plastic grocery bag? Where do you want the soiled clothes placed to make it easy to find at dismissal time?

Make a communication plan.

Whether your child attends a half day program in which all children are picked up at the same time or they attend a full day program in which children are picked up at various points in the evening, it is important to make sure that teachers and parents are able to connect regarding your child’s day and their progress with using the restroom during the day. Maybe your child has the same teachers the entire day or maybe they have a different set of teachers in the afternoon than they do in the morning. How do you make sure that everyone is on the same page?

Some ideas to help maintain this two-way communication, in addition to face-to-face conversations, include:

  • Keeping a notebook in your child’s cubby where each teacher and parent can write notes including how many times your child tried to use the toilet, how many times they were successful, and any notes regarding soiled clothes or questions.
  • Having a toilet use log with times across the top in which teachers and parents make check marks under the times the child tried and went to the restroom.
  • Sending the teachers a follow up email at the end of the day asking how things went.

When parents and teachers work together and have clear communication, the stress of toilet training can be greatly reduced; everyone ends up working together to help the children feel successful and proud of their latest accomplishment!

Megan-Sexton-1Megan Sexton has a master’s degree in child development from the Erikson Institute. She has taught children aged toddler through first grade and is currently the director at Creative Scholars Preschool. Megan believes in the power of play, inquiry, and relationships in shaping a child’s early years.

Zika Guidelines | What You Need To Know During The Outbreak

This Guest Blog Post was written by Dr. Kudus Akinde, MD FAAP of Glencoe Pediatrics.

Today, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a public health emergency (AAP News). There is strong suspicion that recent clusters of fetal microcephaly are occurring in babies of infected mothers in areas where Zika virus transmission appears to be common. The CDC & the AAP have become involved in issuing recommendations to health care providers and to the general public in the matter.

Zika is a mosquito-borne flavivirus with RNA as its genetic material. It is transmitted by Aedes aegypti mosquitos. An estimated 80% of all people infected have no symptoms according to the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) from Jan 22, 2016. The report goes on to explain that symptoms are usually mild with usually a few days of fever, rash, joint aching and pink eyes without mucus or pus buildup. No antiviral medicines exist to treat Zika virus. Treatment is supportive (acetaminophen, rest, oral fluids); avoid aspirin or ibuprofen in pregnant women.

So what’s the big deal about the Zika Virus? Infections happen all over the world. Right?

Well, it turns out that there are areas in the Caribbean, North and South America where children are being born with microcephaly (heads. therefore brains, that are abnormally small for their gestational age) or intracranial calcifications. This is a problem because these findings can be associated with a whole host of neurologic and developmental delays that can be lifelong in duration.

Since the outbreak is currently ongoing, it is difficult to make associations and good reliable information about infection during pregnancy is unavailable. As a matter of fact, pregnant women aren’t known to be more susceptible to infection with Zika virus than anybody else. It seems to infect people of all ages across the board. However, it can infect pregnant women in any trimester and if they are infected, the virus can be transmitted to the developing fetus in any trimester as well.

How To Prevent The Zika Virus?

All pregnant women should be screened for travel. If they haven’t traveled, they should strongly consider postponing travel to all endemic areas. If they do travel, they should practice strict mosquito avoidance. This includes:

  • Long-sleeved shirts and pants are preferred to the shorter varieties
  • EPA-approved insect repellants
  • Permethrin-infused clothing and other equipment
  • Using screens and air conditioning as much as possible

Pregnant women who have travelled to areas of ongoing Zika, dengue and chukungunya (similar flaviviruses with similar symptoms and also transmitted by Aedes mosquitos) infection should be tested according to CDC guidelines if they have symptoms consistent with Zika (fever, rash, pink eyes within 2 weeks of travel OR fetal microcephaly or intracranial calcifications after travel). Women wtihout symptoms and with normal fetal ultrasounds do not need to be tested according to current recommendations. If lab testing confirms Zika by Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR), then prenatal ultrasounds to diagnose and monitor problems are recommended as well as Meternal-Fetal Medicine (MFM) specialist (high-risk obstetrics) or an Infectious Diseases specialist with expertise in the care of pregnant women. An antibody test also exists but the decision for which test to order should be made with/by the treating provider.

What Testing Can Be Done For The Zika Virus?

RT-PCR can be done on amniotic fluid but there are limitations to the testing. Amniocentesis carries higher risk of complications early in pregnancy (at 14 weeks or less) so it should be done at a minimum 15 weeks gestation. For babies born with evidence of Zika, testing should be done on available tissues (umbilical cord and placenta). In cases of fetal loss, RT-PCR should be done on fetal tissues as well (cord and placenta). There are no commercial tests available for Zika virus infection. The CDC and state public health agencies are the ones who can help with testing. ​

A Summary of the Zika Virus:

  • Zika virus infection is suspected of an association with clusters of fetal microcephaly and intracranial calcifications in many countries in North and South America as well as the Caribbean Islands.
  • Most infected people don’t even know they’re infected (up to 80%).​​
  • Pregnant women are being cautioned not to travel to areas Zika virus transmission. Pregnant women should be asked about travel at their pre-natal visits. If they have traveled and felt no symptoms of illness, they do not need testing.
  • Testing should be done for Zika virus (also dengue and chukungunya) on symptomatic pregnant women who have travelled to endemic areas.
  • ​​If testing is positive for Zika, serial ultrasounds and very specialized care with MFM or Infectious Diseases specialist with focus on pregnancy should be obtained.
  • If a baby is born with evidence of Zika virus infection, testing of the umbilical cord and placenta by RT-PCR should be done.
  • ​​If fetal loss occurs in a symptomatic mother with known travel to an endemic area, RT-PCR should be done.

*Special thanks to the CDC, WHO, and AAP for their leadership in this emerging matter.


Dr. AkindeDr ​Kudus Akinde, MD FAAP is the practicing physician at Glencoe Pediatrics in beautiful Glencoe, IL. Glencoe Pediatrics provides services including: sick or urgent visits, minor scrapes & bumps, annual check-ups, school physicals, camp physicals, sports physicals, pre-surgical physicals and more.  Dr. Akinde graduated from University of Illinois with a Bachelor of Science Degree in 1995. He attended the University of Illinois College of Medicine and obtained his MD in 2002. He completed his Pediatrics Residency at Rush University Medical Center in 2005.  He has practiced in various locales from small to large communities, urban, suburban and rural (including Rockford, Belvidere, Evergreen Park, Oak Lawn, Highland Park & Chicago, IL).  He has never met a kid he does not like.  His interests include newborn care, immunizations, nutrition, gastroenterology and adolescent issues.  He loves to spend time with his children when he is not at work.  He enjoys web browsing, bike riding, football, basketball, music and traveling among other things.

Losing Delilah: Rebuilding a Life for Siblings after the Loss of a Child

Today’s special guest blog by Stacey Porter, President and Founder of The Tangerine Owl Project, puts words around the indescribable event of losing a child and how she rebuilt her life with her family.

It’s the world you never imagined you’d have to live in as a parent. The world where you wake up and your child is no longer with you. I don’t just mean that they’re not a kid anymore or they’ve gone off to college and aren’t living at home anymore. I am talking about the world you’re in when your child has died.

Various sets of circumstances will define how this situation came about for your family; but in the end, losing a childthis group has experienced a flawed reality. It’s one that is unnatural, traumatic, and unfair.  Being left to pick up the pieces after a loss like this is more than difficult, it’s a rebuilding effort like nothing else you’ve ever experienced before.  It’s trying to find a shred of the person you were before you had your heart ripped away. It’s enduring the memories of happier times and wanting to master the art of time travel, so that you could go back and alter your reality, searching mindlessly for clues, wondering where things could have gone wrong. It’s riding the roller coaster of emotions as you wade through the ups, downs, halfways, and zig-zags of your grief…back and forth, over and over again, dizzying and disorienting.  It’s the new lens through which you view yourself, your family, and your life. And that’s just for YOU.

Now, imagine that you also have to tell your living child(ren) that their brother or sister has died. How does one even go about that? To many it sounds like a simple task, “Just tell them the truth”…yes, but nothing is simple. The act of even saying the words is complex, because we are still processing everything ourselves, and saying it out loud makes it real.  You may know and love your children, but you are not them. Not knowing how they will interpret the words, how they will react, and how it will effect them is not so simple at all. Truthfully, nothing can prepare you for that conversation. Since they are a wild card, allowing them the opportunity to express their feelings can go a long way.

I suffered from preeclampsia at 25 weeks gestation with my third child. It was severe enough to cause my hospitalization, where the doctors saw a continued downward trend in my health and decelerations in our baby’s heartbeat. We were faced with the decision to allow the baby to stay in utero as long as possible or to schedule a C-section for that evening. If the baby stayed in utero, they warned that things would likely go very badly, very quickly. If we did the C-section that would give us at least some control over the situation; however, chances of survival were lingering around 40%.  We chose to have the C-section and for 27 days I stayed in the NICU with our little girl.  That was an experience all its own. Then, just when things looked to be heading in the right direction, she caught a very aggressive hospital acquired bacteria. She was not able to fight it off and she became septic.  We got the earth-shattering news that there was nothing left to be done and that we should start making preparations.

Both my husband and I had called our parents and our pastor, asked them to come down, knowing that things were not looking positive.  I honestly don’t remember how our other kids got to the hospital, but I remember very clearly trying to gather up the strength to go out into the waiting room that everyone was gathered in. We had to deliver the news that we were going to turn off the ventilators…. I don’t think I spoke, I wasn’t crying because I had already sobbed enough. Instead I sat speechless and listened as my husband spoke.  I watched as my mom walked away trying to hold back her emotion and my dad followed her, while my husbands parents gave hugs and took in the information.  THEN it was time for the children to hear.  They had been there, but were happily engaged in something else that was diverting their attention and there was nothing I wanted to avoid more than causing them pain.  What would we say?  Would they understand?  How MUCH would they understand?  How do we answer the complicated questions that were bound to come in a way that would make sense to them?  Why was this happening?  Would they blame themselves?  Would they fear hospitals?  A laundry list of other questions continued to race through my head.

At the time our son was 4 ½ and our daughter was 3.  We explained (again) that Delilah was really sick and that the medicine the doctors had given her was not able to help her – she was not going to be able to come home with us. That she was so sick, she was going to die.  Our daughter wasn’t really able to understand such a heavy concept and what that really meant very well, but she saw everyone else she loved in tears and therefore welled up with tears too.  Our son gave the most surprising reaction of all…. I expected that he would kind of grasp the concept, but it affected him much more than I’d imagined.  We sat with him and he took in the words that we had said….and I remember the second it clicked for him, his expression altered from pondering to deep sadness and he began bawling.  He then said the words that haunt my memory when I think about that moment, “But I wanted to play with her and share my toys with her.”  It wasn’t a complaint; it was an astounding realization that this was reality. HIS hopes and dreams for her as his sibling were now completely dashed, and that is when my tears started again.  He asked why the doctors couldn’t make her better – a question that no one had the answer to, other than that they had tried and the bacteria that had made her sick had also made her too weak to fight.  The kids were quiet then as we continued to digest all that was about to happen, and then it was time to go say our goodbyes.

After Delilah died and we returned home, we spent a lot of time on autopilot as parents. My husband and I both did our best to return them to normalcy.  The kids were both in pre-school, so we dropped them off and picked them up, we made sure that their basic needs were met, but we really weren’t capable of much else for about two months following Delilah’s death. We did make sure to let them know they could talk about her any time they wanted and they could ask any questions they wanted.  They saw us grieve in front of them.  We chose not to hide anything from them.

When it comes to children, we often underestimate their understanding of things like this. Our first instinct is to protect them, so our gut reaction is to hide the horrible ugly messes that life throws at us. We want to shield them from the pain, anger, and confusion that we are going through, but if we do that, how will that effect them later?  My personal opinion is that it’s more damaging to “stuff it away” and not discuss at all.  Just as adults need a safe space to discuss traumatic things, kids need the same.  There are parents who will not be able to deal with that discussion right away, and there is nothing wrong with that.  It’s difficult to sort through your own processing, let alone try to communicate with your child about it in a way that is beneficial.  To the parents experiencing this, I would encourage you to find someone who your child trusts and who is ok with talk of sadness/grief to reach out and connect with them, and give them a place to talk when they need to.  Sometimes, this means a professional, but it doesn’t have to be.  Family members and friends can fill this role too.

It has been three years so far since Delilah’s death, and for us it’s been a comfort to know that she is still (and will always be) a part of our family.  We have a few pictures up at home, and the kids asked for one to have in their rooms.  We don’t discuss Delilah on a daily basis, but she’s far from forgotten. Our children still talk about her, and sometimes they ask questions about when she was in the NICU. We talk as honestly as we can about that time with them. They include her sometimes in family pictures that they draw of their own accord, which melts my heart a bit each time it happens. For children, experiencing death is part of living, and even when it is outside the natural order, it’s important to allow them to explore it and to acknowledge that they too have suffered an unimaginable shift in their lives.


recreational therapies for ASD

Recreational Therapies: A Guide to Keeping Your Kids with ASD Active

Today’s guest blog by Vanessa Vogel-Farley of ACEing Autism explains the importance of recreational therapies for children with ASD.

Keeping children physically active and involved in activities outside of traditional therapies as theyrecreational therapies for ASD develop has proven to be very beneficial in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  We know that all developmental domains are intrinsically connected and impact each other, motor development is key for social communication skills, so enhancing motor skills can help in all areas of development, especially early in life. The availability of programs that specialize in the flexibility needed for children on the spectrum has increased tremendously over the past couple years.  Horseback riding, tennis, and soccer are all options. Picking the program that is right for you and your children can be tricky and expensive.

In addition, increased BMI in children with developmental disorders has become a huge issue that further complicates the life of the child as well as their families.  Physical activity is a solution to this growing problem, but keeping kids with ASD active is easier said than done.  As a person who has been running an Autism specific tennis program for 8 years, even getting some children on the court is nothing short of a miracle.  Below are some tips I have found to be beneficial over the years.

Tips to Keep Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Active:

  1. Continuity from program to home- Choose a sport or activity that you can enjoy as a family outside of the organized activity. Parental enthusiasm and joy in the activity has profound effects on how a child reacts to a new activity.
  1. Equipment- For some kids, the thrill of getting new equipment can be a useful tool in getting and keeping them engaged. There are programs that provide equipment while participating; asking if you are able to use that equipment between sessions can help to develop your child’s interest in that activity, while saving you the money of having to buy your own set.
  1. Down-time- There is a lot of waiting in most childhood activities and the patience that turn taking requires is even tougher in children with ASD. Attention to task and stimming behaviors become inhibitory. We have found that physical activity or routine during the time that waiting is required is helpful to keep kids engaged an attentive to the next task.  Use sit-ups, push ups, running in place, jumping jacks, toe raises, neck rolls, or anything that your child enjoys and helps to keep their heart rate up goes.
  1. Competition- Friendly competitions in safe environments can be easy ways to get kids active. Saying things like, “Beat you to the park,” “Race you to your room,” or “How many push-ups can we do in 30 seconds?” can increase physical activity on a daily basis as well as engaging you as a parent in a bit of a different light.  The aim is to have both of your giggling by the end.  Any child’s push up form is hilarious, not that mine, as an adult, is any better.
  1. Communication- If you choose an organized physical activity program, communication with the organizers and any one-on-one coach is essential.  Goals for each child can differ so much and your satisfaction with the program and the progress within that program is so important. If you do not feel like the program, which you are paying for, is working, communicating with the organizers can turn a bad experience into a successful one.

Finding a recreational program that works for you and your child may not be financially possible or if adding another thing to your family schedule makes you want to scream, increasing physical activity at home can be easy and fun.  Adding a walk after dinner or kicking a ball around for 15 minutes during the day can help to get everyone in the family more active.

Check out ACEing Autism to get your family and child with Autism moving with tennis lessons. Click here for one free class for North Shore Pediatric Therapy Affiliates!

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

the benefits of dance therapy

Therapy That ‘Moves’ You: Dance/Movement Therapy with Children

Dance is known to some as a performing art, to others as a way to exercise, or a way to engage an active child, but what about dance as a therapy?  What about using dance as a way for children to communicate and express themselves when traditional forms of communication are hindered by behavioral or cognitive difficulties?

What is Dance/Movement Therapy?

Dance/movement therapy (DMT), according to the American Dance Therapy Association, is the “psychotherapeuticthe benefits of dance therapy use of movement to further the emotional, cognitive, physical, social, and spiritual integration of the individual.”  DMT supports that mind, body, and spirit are connected and that individuals should be treated in such a way that supports integration of these three entities.

DMT focuses on movement behavior as it emerges in the therapeutic relationship allowing the child to develop a positive and realistic self-image.  Dance/movement therapy has been effective in stimulating social interaction, enhancing mood, reducing anxiety, and increasing self-awareness and self-expression.  The focus of communication is on non-verbal attunement and mindfulness, both of which support acquisition and maintenance of language and cognitive skills.

Movement interventions can help set limits whereby children can learn to control impulsive behavior and to increase their ability to maintain focus and attention.  Movement serves as a catalyst for contact and paves the way for communication between the therapist and the individual.

What does a dance/movement therapist do?

Dance/movement therapists use body movement, as the core component of dance, to provide the means of assessment and the mode of intervention for therapy.  Dance/movement therapists’ unique abilities allow for better understanding which aid in reflecting and expanding nonverbal expressions.  This can help individuals improve socialization and communication as well as build body awareness which can directly affect motor deficits.    The therapist helps to enhance communication skills, creating pathways from the nonverbal to verbal.  As a result, awareness of self and others, coping skills, and the ability to form relationships can all be improved.  Verbalizing movement is another means of positively reflecting the child’s appearance, improving body image as well as helping the child organize and structure experiences in the brain. Integration of the child’s own body parts and awareness of others’, builds the child’s movement vocabulary.  This in turn increases their ability to communicate their wants and needs.

In a dance/movement therapy session, music and props are often incorporated to encourage extension of movement, self expression, and socialization.  Many movement styles and approaches can be used to attain interaction and authentic expression including, but not limited to, creative dance, expressive movement, relaxation techniques, role-playing, improvisation, and interactive games.

Who are dance/movement therapists?

Dance/movement therapists have completed graduate degrees at programs approved by the American Dance Therapy Association.  The course work includes biological, social, psychological and behavioral sciences, research methodology, movement assessment and observation, history, theory, and techniques of dance/movement therapy.  Entry level dance/movement therapists have completed 750+ hours of supervised clinical practice.  Board certification is earned upon completion of 4000 hours of supervised clinical work, 48 hours of clinical supervision, and acceptance of a theoretical framework by the Dance/Movement Therapy Certification Board.  The National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC) has recognized dance/movement therapy as a specialty of counseling since 1998.

Where can I find Dance/Movement Therapy?

DMT with children is often used in the home environment, in schools, day programs, hospitals, and residential facilities.  It is provided in individual, group, and family sessions, in order to best support the development of the child.

For more information:

Contact Erica Hornthal at (847) 848-0697 or visit www.northshoredancetherapy.com.

Will Learning Another Language Delay My Child’s Speech?

Guest Blog Submitted by our friends at Language Stars

Language Stars

It’s a common myth in the US that introducing an additional language to your child will cause them to develop speech delays or maybe even have academic difficulties.  We often forget that bilingualism is the norm in much of the world with over 66% percent of children growing up bilingual.  While many parents believe multilingual children will start speaking later than monolingual peers, extensive research has shown that children still start speaking within the normal milestones.  As Colin Baker, a prominent researcher in childhood bilingualism, noted in his book The Care and Education of Young Bilinguals:

“Raising children bilingually is sometimes believed to cause language delay, though evidence does not support this position. Raising children bilingually neither increases nor reduces the chance of language disorder or delay.”

In addition, once they do start speaking, they’ll start speaking in two languages – an amazing gift to your child!

Of course, you still want to check with a professional if you have any concerns.  Usually your pediatrician will know a good speech pathologist as the younger you catch something, the more easily you can address it.  However, you can rest assured that speaking or introducing another language to your child will not cause or exacerbate any issues.

Learning another language is even beneficial for many children that actually do have a diagnosed learning disorder.  Unless your child has a language processing disorder where there is an issue with the way the brain is receiving or producing language, language learning will actually help your child in life by giving them an additional skill to help overcome other obstacles.  The flexibility and advanced cognitive benefits created by learning another language may actually help your child deal with other learning issues.  As always, talk to your childcare professional about what the best approach is for your child.  North Shore Pediatrics has many specialists that can help you diagnose and treat a wide range of developmental issues with your child.

Language Stars teaches Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, Italian, French, and German to children 1-10 in a fun and immersive environment.  To find out more information or register for programs call 866-55-STARS.

You can also follow them on social media where they love sharing language learning tips, tools, and resources for children and families on FacebookPinterestGoogle+, and Twitter!

push-ups child

Signs of a Concussion In Youth Athletes

What is a concussion?[1]

A concussion is a type of brain injury that can occur from a blow to the head, a blow to the body that causes a jerking motion of the head and brain, or fall resulting head impact. A concussion is a serious event requiring medical attention. Signs and symptoms of a concussion may present immediately following a head injury, or days or even weeks after initial injury.

Signs of a Concussion

  • Loss of consciousness:  A loss of consciousness is not required for a concussion diagnosis. However, if a child loses consciousness, they should be removed from sport until cleared to return by a physician.
  • Confusion:  A child may appear dazed, be confused about his/her position, or be unsure of the score.
  • Changes in memory: A child may forget events that happened directly preceding the incident, or may forget events that happened directly after.
  • Reported changes in vision:  A child may report double vision, sensitivity to light, or blurry vision.
  • Balance problems:  A child may report balance issues or dizziness; a parent or coach may observe an increase in clumsiness or falls
  • Changes in activity level:  A child may report feeling sluggish or groggy; he/she may also report “not feeling right.”

Warning Signs of Emergent Injury

  • One pupil is larger than the other
  • Cannot recognize familiar faces
  • Child cannon be awakened
  • Unusual behavior
  • Worsening headache
  • Loses consciousness
  • Repeated vomiting or nausea
  • Weakness or numbness
  • Slurred speech
  • Becomes increasingly confused or agitated
  • Convulsions

If you see one or more of these signs, dial 9-1-1 or take the child to the emergency room immediately!

If you feel your child has had a concussion, it is recommended that they are cleared by a physician prior to return to sport. A physical therapist can help treat post-concussion symptoms, such as neck pain, balance deficits, and vision/vestibular issues. Please contact North Shore Pediatric Therapy for a return-to-sport physical therapy evaluation. 


[1] “Heads Up, Concussion in Youth Sports.” CDC. Center for Disease Control, n.d. Web.

How I Plan to Eat this Holiday Season without the Guilt Trip

Christmas and New Year celebrations are just around the corner and we’re bound to meet old friends, families, and enjoy good food. Yes, the holidays, especially Christmas and New Year is all about home-cooked meals—those scrumptious delights we’ve been hoping for throughout the year. But, we also feel guilty after eating these foods. So, how can we have fun, eat heartily, and live healthy? In this article, I’m sharing my plans to enjoy eating during the holidays, while also keeping lean.
tips to stay healthy for the holidays

Healthy Holiday Eating Plan:

Plan #1: Always Check Ingredients

Most people think that the food that they eat is what makes them fat. However, this isn’t entirely true: there are certain substances or “hidden ingredients” that can make you fat.  In an article for Save Our Bones; writer Vivian Goldschimdt, MA, warns people of these hidden ingredients:
  • Soybean Oil
  • Yellow # 5 (a food dye)
  • Propylene glycol alginate (E405)
  • Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
  • Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT)
These ingredients have been found to cause nausea, heart irregularities, migraine, seizures, and skin rashes. Aside from these side Read more