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Sensory Tips for Sporting Events

Summer is a great time to enjoy sports! Whether it’s going to a Bear’s pre-season game at Soldier field, aSensory Tips ball park, or even a sibling’s soccer game, sporting events come with a large variety of sensory experiences. This can be a great part of the event, or one that makes some children want to run for the hills. If your child has sensory processing difficulties, you may need to prepare your child (and be prepared!) for what’s ahead.

Here are some sensory tips for kiddos whose ideal Saturday may not be spent cheering in a roaring crowd at a sporting event:

For the child with auditory sensitivities:

  • Bring along noise canceling headphones or ear plugs to help drown out the loud sounds.
  • Tell your child when to expect a loud buzzer so they can cover their ears (e.g. watch the clock count down at the end of a quarter/half/period).
  • Give them “quiet breaks” where you take them to a quieter part of the stadium/arena, like the bathroom or concessions, to allow them to regulate.

For child who just can’t stop moving:

  • Give them movement breaks! Let them walk up and down the stairs and time them to see how fast they can do it; take them with you when you’re going to get food or to the restroom.
  • Give them a wiggly cushion seat that allows them to wiggle while still staying seated.
  • Make sure to incorporate a lot of movement activities before the event to help them be able to sit longer (e.g. animal walks, wall pushes, hokey pokey)
  • Let them stand. Some kids can pay attention better when they’re allowed to stand. Let them stand at their seat or find an area where they are allowed to watch while standing.

For a child who is sensitive to tactile input:

  • Let them be comfortable. If they insist on wearing a particular type of sock or their shirt inside out, this is not the time to say no (within reason). Allow them to be as comfortable as possible so there are no meltdowns in the middle of the 2nd
  • Let them sit in the middle of the family; some children are sensitive to light touch and may become upset if they are constantly being brushed by passers-by while sitting on an aisle.
  • Wear long sleeved lycra shirt: rushing through crowds bring along a lot of unwanted light touch. Wearing-sleeved shirts (i.e. Under Armour) can help lessen that aversive sensation.

For a child sensitive to visual input:

  • Bring sunglasses. Even if the event is indoors, the bright lighting may be overwhelming if they are exposed to it for long periods of time.
  • Bring a hat. A jacket with a hood also works and gives the option of blocking out bright lights and other distractions.

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!

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A Sensory Friendly Fourth of July

The Fourth of July can be an exciting and eventful time for most children, but for a child with sensorySensory Friendly processing difficulties, it can become overwhelming. Children with hypersensitivities to visual and auditory input may have a difficult time staying regulated and engaging in the activities that this holiday has to offer.

Here are some strategies for you and your child to have a sensory friendly holiday:

  1. Although fireworks can be a fun event for your family to attend, many children find the excess noise to be overwhelming. One strategy that might be helpful is to utilize noise-canceling headphones. If these are unavailable to you any type of ear buds you may have lying around the house could also help to muffle the sounds of fireworks. The bright flashing lights of fireworks can also be discomforting to a child with visual hypersensitivities. Bring along some shaded glasses to help block out some of that excess light.
  2. Parades may also be a very overwhelming activity for your child to engage in. The large crowds, loud music and bright colors can all be very stimulating and your child may have difficulties handling this overstimulation. One strategy that you could implement would be to avoid the crowd and watch from afar. Look around for a nearby building that you could watch from a window or find a designated area with fewer people.
  3. For a sensory seeking child you may want to create some sensory bins or activities for your child to engage in to help them feel more regulated. Mix red and blue paint into shaving cream (or uncooked colored rice or noodles to avoid the mess) and hide 4th of July themed items for your child to find. Your child may also need to engage in some heavy work activities before going to fireworks, parade, etc. so that he/she is regulated before these events. Some heavy work activities may include animal walks, carrying, pulling or lifting heavier objects, climbing, or crashing into pillows/cushions.
  4. Bring familiar items with you to these events to provide your child the comfort of home. Bring a favorite blanket or toy and let your child utilize it at times when they are feeling overwhelmed.
  5. Also remember to set expectations for your child. Let them know what the plan is for the day so they are more prepared for what they may encounter. Let them help you in planning out what to do for the day. This will make them feel more comfortable in these settings and can also give them the feeling that they have a choice. Having a plan will reduce anxiety for a child who is rigid or struggles with change. Visual schedules can also help to prompt your child as to what activities you have planned for the day. You can bring this along with you and take it out while transitioning from one activity to the next as a reminder.

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 today!

For additional information, watch our Facebook recording of A Sensory Friendly Fourth of July:

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Horrible Haircuts and Terrible Toothpaste: Helping Your Child With Sensory Processing Disorder Tolerate Hygiene

Children of all ages often find basic hygiene tasks boring, annoying, and tedious. Who wants to brush their teeth when they can go play outside? While it can be difficult to get any child to perform these tasks, it is exponentially more difficult for a child with Sensory Processing Disorder.  Sensory Processing Disorder

What is Sensory Processing Disorder?

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) involves atypical processing and integration of incoming sensory information. A child with SPD may have difficulty processing any of the five senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell). They also may have difficulty processing the two “hidden senses,” proprioception (processing input from muscles and joints) and vestibular processing (processing input regarding movement and head position). Children with difficulty modulating incoming sensory input often have strong sensitivities to certain sensations, which can interfere with their ability to participate in age-appropriate activities.

Why Do Children with Sensory Processing Disorder Struggle with Hygiene?

Many children, especially those with tactile and auditory processing difficulties, have difficulty with hygiene and grooming. Engaging in these activities with children with SPD can often feel like a fight. This is because children with sensory sensitivities often go into “fight or flight” mode when presented with aversive sensations. While the buzz of an electric trimmer, the cold metal of a nail clipper, or sticky soap that just won’t seem to rinse off may not be your favorite, for a child with SPD if may feel like walking the plank!

How Can I Help My Child?

The good news is there are many strategies to help your child with SPD tolerate hygiene tasks with fewer outbursts. Below are a few steps involved in creating a grooming routine that works for you and your family.

Step 1: Figure out what your child is afraid of.

It is very important to determine which particular sensations are the problem. If your child is old enough, you can ask him or her about which specific sensations he or she dislikes or fears. This may also help you find some quick and easy solutions; perhaps the smell of the particular brand of soap or taste of toothpaste is the culprit.

If your child is too young or does not have the self-awareness or communication skills to discuss hygiene tasks, it will be your job to figure out what is bothering him or her. Think of yourself as a “sensory detective” and examine your child during these tasks. Does she pull away at the touch of a brush? Does he cower at the sound of the hair dryer? Observing your child and spending some time analyzing what bothers him or her will get you closer to finding a solution!

Step 2: Change your routine based on their particular sensory sensitivities:

If your child has tactile (touch) processing difficulties or sensitivities:
– Engage in deep touch pressure activities before and after the hygiene task. By providing deep touch pressure to a child’s body, he or she becomes less sensitive to undesired “light touch” inputs. There are many ways to provide deep touch pressure: firm massage to the limbs, upper back, and head; use a therapeutic body brush if you have been trained by an occupational therapist to use one; apply firm pressure on a large pillow or blanket to give your child’s body “squishes.” And don’t forget- tight hugs are a highly underrated mechanism for deep touch pressure!

– Provide pressure during the task. Try applying more pressure to the head when brushing hair. Utilize a weighted or heavy blanket on your child’s lap during a hair or nail trim. Have your child wear a compression shirt or compression vest during activities.

– Consider temperature. If a cold nail clipper feels sterile and uninviting, warm it up. If the faucet is normally on cold when your child washes hands, add some hot water and give a few minutes to warm up. Temperature can make a huge difference!

– Consider purchasing an electric toothbrush. For some children with tactile sensitivities, vibration can be a very regulating sensation. If you are unsure how your child will respond, experiment with a vibrating oral massager (e.g. Z-Vibe, Jiggler) before investing in a pricy electric toothbrush.

If your child has auditory (sound) processing difficulties:
– Warn the child before your turn the device on. This allows the child to mentally prepare for a hair dryer, electric toothbrush, or razor to turn on.

– Allow the child to wear headphones, if it does not interfere with the activity.

Step 3: Build a consistent grooming routine.

Children with SPD rely on routines to help them make sense of the world. The more your child can expect and rely on a familiar routine, the calmer he or she will be.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff 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!

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Tackling Haircuts with Sensory Sensitivities

Performing everyday tasks can be especially challenging for children with sensory sensitivities. Going to the grocery store, running errands, getting dressed, and using the restroom are just a short list of activities that may be particularly daunting for your child.BlogTacklingHaircuts-Main-Landscape

As a pediatric occupational therapist, I hear about the most challenging everyday tasks for children with sensory sensitivities and am asked to give suggestions on how to make these tasks achievable for children. One of the most common concerns I get from parents of a child with sensory sensitivities is a child’s inability to tolerate haircuts. This is often accompanied with words like: screaming, having a fit, and inability to remain seated. The good news is that there are things you can do to make this experience more tolerable for your child.

Here is a list of some suggestions I have given to families and that I recommend for others to try. Select items to use depending on your child’s level of sensitivity, age, and ability to follow directions.

6 Tips to Help Sensory Sensitivities with Haircuts

  1. Have your child engage in a lot of heavy work and deep pressure input the weeks leading up to his/her haircut. Heavy work includes: pushing and pulling items, jumping, performing animal walks, etc. If you aren’t familiar with heavy work, read this NSPT blog that includes some ideas for activities at home. You could also search “heavy work for sensory processing” on Google and you will find many ideas. This should be done for approximately 10-30 minutes a day, 1-2 times per day depending on your child’s age and level of sensory sensitivity. This will help “wake up” the tactile system in order to process sensation better.
  2. Write a social story with images of what the child should expect when getting his/her hair cut. This will be a step by step guide to getting a haircut. Go through each step such as arriving to the hair saloon, sitting in a chair, putting a cloth around the child’s neck, etc. Read this to your child often, going through each step of the process.
  3. Play pretend barber shop. Take turns with your child sitting in a chair, wrapping a cloth around each others neck, and pretending to cut each others hair with safety scissors. Do this saying that we are practicing for your hair cut on X day. Do this at least a few times before the child gets a haircut. When doing this, take special note of things your child may have difficulty with. For instance, if he or she has a difficult time remaining seated, experiment with some fidget toys such as a stress ball or having the child hold his/her favorite stuffed animal. Does your child respond well to use of a weighted blanket or weighted vest? If your child has a difficult time sitting still you may want to experiment with these items during play to see if it helps. Provide these same tools during the time your child gets a haircut. Time the child while he/she is seated during play and applaud them for any amount of time they are able to sit still (a visual timer is best). Build up to having the child remain seated for the approximate time the hair cut will take. Again, applaud them for any amount of time achieved!
  4. Make a sensory tool kit with your child that includes items that calm him/her. Bring this tool kit with you on the day of the haircut and practice using it while playing barber shop.
  5. Start playing with your child’s hair a few weeks before the hair cut. If your child can tolerate hair brushing, engage in play with his/her hair a few times per week. Spike it up and do another hair style that the child enjoys or comes up with. Have the child do this independently (after providing them with the tools) the first time (if possible) and see if they will let you do it the next time. This may be a slow process with you only being able to help slightly. Build up to you doing it without the child’s assistance. If the child cannot tolerate hair brushing, start with one brush with the hair brush, and move up to 2 the next day, 3 the following day, and so on.
  6. Go to the barber shop one time before the child gets his/her hair cut. Have the child meet the person who will be cutting their hair and ask if the child can look around the barber shop.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff 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!

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How To Make a Weighted Animal

Here at North Shore Pediatric Therapy, we utilize weighted objects for a countless number of activities. They can be used as a self-regulation strategy, providing deep proprioceptive input to your child’s muscles and joints.  Various weighted materials, including vests, belts, blankets, wrist-weights and ankle-weights, are utilized in the clinic multiple times throughout the sock puppetsday. For all of you crafty parents, as well as those who (like me) are “creatively challenged,” below are some DIY instructions to follow so that you can create your very own, personalized weighted animal.

4 Steps To Create Your Very Own Weighted Animal:

Step 1: Find an old knee-high sock. You can choose a sock that is your child’s favorite color or has their favorite cartoon characters on it.
Step 2: Fill the sock with a grainy material, such as rice or sand. Put enough rice in your sock so it is four-fifths of the way full. Tie the open end of the sock closed. There should be enough rice in the sock so when it is draped across your child’s shoulders, it droops down onto their chest. This activity has the added benefit of incorporating direction-following and tactile play into your daily routine.
Step 3: Finally, decorate the sock with “googley eyes” and markers. The sky is the limit as far as whether your sock animal has polka-dots, stripes, zig-zags or checkers.
Step 4: Kick back and relax with your very own personalized weighted animal.

These strategies can be utilized when your child is feeling frustrated or having a difficult time organizing their thoughts. Your child’s weighted animal can also be used for strengthening. When at home, have your child carry the animal around the house or encourage them to sustain various Yoga poses while holding their animal friend. The added resistance while sustaining these poses will only help build muscle strength and improve motor planning. Whether your weighted animal is used as a self-regulation strategy or a strengthening tool, it is up to you and your child’s interests. In either case, creating the animal is a wonderful craft to save for a rainy day and a great way to get the whole family involved. Make one, make two or make a whole zoo of weighted animals. Your child’s new friend is sure to be a hit and cherished companion for years to come.

7 Reasons to Attend NSPT’s New Bucktown Clinic Open house!

The Chicago Clinic has recently expanded to a new and improved space! We would like to celebrate and introduce ourselves by opening the doors to the community. We are so excited to share our new space with both our existing families and also hope to meet some new faces!

New Clinic Open House

  1. It is hard to find fun for the whole family, without paying a high price in the city. The open house is a FREE event that you can bring your family and friends to!
  2. There will be endless entertaining fun for your children of all ages, including a magician, face painter, balloon maker, and games.
  3. Kids will have an opportunity to explore their creative side by making various crafts!
  4. A sensory table will provide an outlet for the children to explore their senses while engaging with other kids and having a blast. There will also be Occupational Therapists to answer any questions regarding various sensory strategies and tools.
  5. Parents will have an opportunity to speak with experts in fields such as speech therapy, physical therapy and occupational therapy, as well as counselors, academic specialists, and more.
  6. Learn more about North Shore Pediatric Therapy’s multidisciplinary approach to treatment.
  7. Check out the new state- of- the- art facility, with over 4,000 square feet of therapy rooms and equipment.

Event Details:

Date: Saturday, September 15th
Time: 11:00-2:00
Location: 1657 W. Cortland St. (corner of Cortland and Paulina; 1 block south of Armitage)
Chicago, Il 60622

For more information regarding this event please contact Lauren at 877-486-4140 or LaurenW@NSPT4Kids.com

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“Love, 15, 30, 40, game”- Why Tennis is a Great Summertime Activity for Children of All Ages

Tennis provides an excellent opportunity for your child to get outside and practice a wide variety of skills, such as sportsmanship, turn-taking, eye contact, and ball skills.  Tennis is a great partner activity, as it can be played with one player on each side of the net (singles) or with two players on each side(doubles).  Similarly, players can be rotated out, which works on waiting and patience, if there are more than 4 children who want to play with one another.

How Tennis Improves Your Child’s Muscles, Motor Skills and Coordination:

  • Muscle tone: Tennis is a sport which requires constant quick muscle responses to move towards the ball. The child must stabilize her trunk and arm muscles to hold the racquet and hit the ball.Children at the tennis court
  • Hand-eye coordination: The player must keep her eyes on the ball (tracking the ball on the court) in order to keep the game going (a rally) and have the best chance of scoring points. Ideally, the player is able to throw and catch a ball consistently to have the greatest success, as playing a game of catch without the racquets is a prerequisite skill to maintaining a rally.
  • High energy: Tennis is physically demanding, as the player must be constantly moving during the tennis match to keep up with the ball and protect her side of the net. This requires the player to have a good amount of endurance, strength, and breathing control.
  • Muscle grading: The player must be able to determine the appropriate amount of force needed to hit the tennis ball when the ball is moving, in order to return the ball to the other side of the net. For instance, when serving the tennis ball to begin the game, the player will need more force to hit the ball a longer distance, as the server is required to stand behind the baseline (farthest back). On the other hand, when the player is rallying the ball, she may want to hit the ball softly, to place the ball in a spot which will be challenging for the opponent to get to.
  • Sensory: Tennis is usually played outdoors. Therefore, many sensory components are involved. For instance, the outdoor smells (e.g. grass, sunscreen, bug spray); the feel of the ball (e.g. fuzzy/rough; can get soggy/dirty/muddy if it falls into a puddle); and the environmental noises (e.g. insects, airplanes, others nearby, traffic). The player is required to take in all of these sensory components, while also staying focused on the task at hand.

Overall, tennis is a great sport for any age:

Tennis can provide both a cardiovascular and a strength workout, as the player must chase after the ball and protect her side of the net, while also stabilizing and manipulating her racquet.  Tennis is a perfect sport for families to play together, and an easy way to work on sportsmanship and social skills with same aged peers.  If you have any concerns about your child’s ball skills, hand-eye coordination, or bilateral skills, or any other skills mentioned above, please reach out to your child’s occupational therapist or physical therapist for further support and collaboration.

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6 Ways Aquatic Therapy Can Help Your Child

Aquatic therapy is a wonderful activity for children and adults of all ages. If your child likes the bath and is motivated by water, aquatic therapy is aqua therapygreat way to build their skills and confidence.

Below are 6 ways that aquatic therapy can help your child reach their full potential:

1. Gains in range of motion:

After an injury, such as a broken leg or an ankle sprain, joint movement is often limited by swelling or decreased strength to muscles. Aquatic therapy pools are generally set to a comfortable 80-90 degrees, which is warmer then a normal pool. Using the warm temperature of the water, joints will be able to be more flexible and stretch to new limits.

2. Increased strength:

Once proper range of motion is achieved at a joint, proper strengthening is needed in order for the muscle to perform well at its new length. Using the principle of resistance, muscles are able to gain strength by performing simple actions in the water, such as lifting a leg to the side of the body.

3. Achievement of gross motor milestones:

Children have an easier time completing gross motor milestones, such as rolling, walking and jumping in the water secondary to buoyancy principles. For example, a child with cerebral palsy may learn to roll in the water with the assist of a therapist and the buoyancy of the water. Once the nervous and musculoskeletal system in the child’s body learn how to roll in the water, it will be easier to learn on a mat table in the clinic and then transfer to rolling in bed at home.

4. Increased tactile input:

For kids with sensory processing disorders, the water can provide the deep pressure input that they crave. This deep pressure and overall increased tactile input will help a child who has difficulty processing sensory input transfer into a more organized, calm child.

5. Helps with breath support:

For kids with speech issues, aquatic therapy can be very helpful. By using techniques such as holding their breath under water, deep breathing and by raising their arms up and bringing them down with the resistance of water can all help with proper breath support for speaking.

6. Better social interaction:

Completing gross motor activities can often help to decrease social anxiety. Often times, jumping into the water or swimming across the length of the pool can encourage speaking in children who have anxiety. Kids can also learn a swimming stroke from watching each other, share toys and participate in fun games together in the pool setting.

Aquatic therapy can be a great way to help your child reach their full potential. Not only can it help with gross motor skills, but can also help with speech and social interaction. So, if your child is motivated by the water, encourage them to jump on in!

Have aquatic games you would like to share? Leave us a comment and let us know!

How to Prepare a Child for a Visit to the Dentist

Going to the dentist, whether for the first time or the tenth time, can be an intimidating event for both children and their parents-especially children with sensory processing disorders. Children and parents usually have a lot of questions about what is going to happen at the appointment.Kid visiting the dentist

Parents wonder: Will my child have a meltdown? Have we been brushing his teeth enough? Will my child have cavities?

Children wonder: Why do I have to go to the dentist? Will it hurt? What will is smell like? Will it be loud? How long will it take? Do I get a prize at the end?

Below are some simple tips to try out the next time a dentist appointment is approaching, so that everyone has a worry-free experience.

5 Simple Tips to prepare your child for a dentist appointment:

1. Make sure to talk to your child ahead of time. Let them know which day they will be going to the dentist and tell them some of the events that may occur (e.g. sit in a special chair, clean their teeth with toothpaste, look in their mouth with a small mirror and other silver tools).

2. Talk about their 5 senses. Let your child know what noises they may hear with their ears, see with their eyes, taste with their mouth, touch with their hands or mouth, or smell with their nose (e.g. bright lights above their chair so that the dentist can see all of their teeth; cold water from a little hose to rinse out their mouth).

3. Drive past the dentist office a day or two prior to the appointment so that your child can see where they will be going. Talk about landmarks nearby, especially if they have been to that area before or have a special interest in something nearby (e.g. “There is the grocery store we go to each week to buy our food” or “there is the post office where all of our letters go”).

4. Have your child mark off the days on the calendar or create a countdown on a wipe-off board one week prior to the appointment. This will give your child a visual cue and help them to take an active part in the upcoming appointment. Click here for more information about the benefits of visual calendars.

5. Make your child comfortable.  Allow your child to bring 1 comfort item with them (e.g. small stuffed animal/blanket, squeeze toy or favorite car etc).

Feel free to share some of your Dentist Tips with us by leaving a comment below!

Go Outside! The Many Benefits Of Outdoor Play For Children

These days, technology has made everything more convenient for us, including play. Children don’t have to leave their house as they have a wide assortment of video games and educational Outdoor Play Blogcomputer games to choose from, as well as educational toys that talk and move and as a result, we see a decrease in outdoor play. These advances can be great and very beneficial for a developing child; however, technology cannot replace what is most important- the real, natural experience.

The benefits of outdoor play on children:

Children need to engage in outdoor play to experience the smells, textures, sounds and movement of the world in order to help their nervous systems develop. Children need the natural sensory experiences to learn about the world, and how to react to and adapt to their surroundings. Sometimes children really want to stay inside to play video games and sleep, but when they do this they are deprived of these developmentally important, sensory-rich experiences.

The tactile sense, for example, is a very important sense as we need steady tactile stimulation to keep us organized, functioning and healthy. Tactile information helps to develop visual perception, motor planning, body awareness, social skills and emotional security, among others. The vestibular, proprioceptive, visual, and olfactory senses are very important as well, and children need to utilitze these in order to help the development of their gross and fine motor skills.

Some fun activities to stimulate children’s senses during outside play include:

  • Splashing and playing in puddles
  • Playing in the mud and making “mud pancakes”
  • Picking flowers to make a wreathe, or to play “flower shop”
  • Climbing trees
  • Running around barefoot in the grass
  • Playing in sand and making sand castles
  • Swimming in a lake
  • Riding a bike on a bumpy driveway outside
  • Crunching dried leaves with your feet
  • Raking leaves and jumping into the piles
  • Making snow angels, snowmen, igloos, forts and having snowball fights in the winter

The benefits are many; one mother has even said that her “picky eater” child “is so much more willing to try new foods after he comes home from playing outside.” Children also need some time for relaxation and unstructured play to learn about the world and to help develop their imaginations. So go ahead, relax, and let your children go outside!

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonDeerfieldLincolnwoodGlenviewLake BluffDes PlainesHinsdale and Mequon! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140!

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