Nutrition Therapy & Nutrition Clinic - Easterseals
Excellent nutrition is one of the most basic requirements for a child to grow and thrive. Research shows that as many as 90% of children with a developmental disorder have at least one nutrition risk indicator. The goal of Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley's Nutrition Therapy & Feeding/Nutrition Clinic is to provide optimal nutritional therapy to children with developmental disabilities through an interdisciplinary approach, addressing their nutrition risks and disorders and helping them to lead healthier lives.
Why Begin Here?
Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley's Nutrition Therapy provides care that is difficult to find elsewhere in a community or medical setting. We know it can be hard for parents to figure out if they have a “picky eater” versus a child with more significant issues. Our program features dynamic, committed, licensed and experienced professionals who can assess each child’s needs and determine whether nutritional services are necessary. Services are available at our centers or through tele-therapy.
Our pediatric nutritionists are registered dietitians, who work closely with a knowledgeable and certified interdisciplinary team to assist caregivers with providing the best nutrition possible for their children. Because each child's needs are different, we create an individualized treatment plan based on parent concerns and integrate the most current treatment approaches for children who may exhibit a variety of conditions, such as:
- Chronic diseases or syndromes
- Disorders of oral motor structure or development
- Growth disorders, failure to thrive, growth concerns
- Tube feedings and transition to or from oral feeding
- Food allergies, sensitivities, or intolerances.
- Gastrointestinal disorders
- Sensory related feeding problems
- Autism related feeding concerns
How To Get Started
Contact our Intake Coordinator at 630.261.6213 to ask questions or schedule an appointment.
For more details and information on criteria for the program and our team of experts, read our blog for more information.
For parents of children with sensory difficulties, our Fun with Food program provides sensory-based feeding approaches in a socially supportive environment. Parents seeking assistance with a feeding evaluation or toddler feeding therapy can also explore our Feeding Clinic.
For children on the Autism spectrum, experts agree that early childhood intervention leads to positive outcomes. New guidelines released by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) emphasize the importance of early screenings and diagnostic evaluations. Difficulties with feeding or nutrition can sometimes be an indicator of evolving needs and a more comprehensive evaluation may be useful in identifying next steps. All of the diagnostic screenings recommended by the AAP are provided by our Medical Diagnostic Clinic and Autism Diagnostic Clinic.
Conditions Aided by Nutrition Therapy at Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley
Some parents may already have a diagnosis for a specific condition and may be wondering if the Nutrition Clinic is right for their child. Children with conditions that may benefit from a Nutritional Therapy assessment include, but are not limited to:
To learn more about treatment and therapy options, please visit the link for each condition.
It’s Summer! Let’s Go Ride A Bike!
Friday, July 1, 2022, 9:52 AM
It’s Summer! Let’s Go Ride A Bike!
Friday, July 1, 2022, 9:52 AM
By: Josephine Hipolito, Physical Therapist Summertime is approaching, and around this time, caregive…Read this Post
By: Josephine Hipolito, Physical Therapist
Summertime is approaching, and around this time, caregivers often ask me to work on bike riding with their kids as one of their goals. As an avid cyclist, it’s one of my favorite things to teach because of the joy and freedom children feel when they learn to ride. Let’s start with a few tips on teaching children bike riding.
Things to Consider When Starting
- Determine whether the child knows how to pedal. If they do, skip the next section and go to the balance section to work on the balance aspect of bike riding .
- Remember you don’t have to follow this step by step. It’s more of a guide to see where your child is in the bike riding process and then proceed.
Teaching Children Pedaling:
- Start with teaching “Air Cycling.” Most kids don’t understand the concept of extending one leg while the opposite leg is relaxed if they have never pedaled before. Their usual instinct if you tell them to push with their legs is to have both legs push simultaneously, so they usually get stuck when on a tricycle.
- To practice the motion of pedaling, place your hands at the bottom of their feet and tell them to push against it on their bent leg. Use a little resistance when you do this. On a tricycle, kids often stop pedaling and move backward when they encounter resistance, so you want them to get used to resistance.
3. Once they master air cycling, start them on a tricycle with a pedal block (a device that holds their feet on the pedals) or strap their feet on the pedals using an ace wrap or velcro straps. Children usually tend to over-push with their feet at first, so their feet slip off the pedals. Wrapping their feet will keep them on the pedals. You can also get commercially available pedal straps like this one.
4. Once they master the pedal block, take off the straps so they can learn to control their leg movement and keep their feet on the pedals.
5. Make sure they master pedaling with a tricycle so that it becomes second nature to them when they graduate to a bicycle.
Balance Bike Versus a Bike with Training Wheels
I often tell families ready to progress their children from a tricycle to a bike, to start with a balance bike. A balance bike is simply a bike without pedals where children use their legs instead of pedals to move.
Skip the step of learning with training wheels because children can get dependent on leaning on them for balance. The Balance Bike enables the child to learn to find their center of balance on their own
NOTE: Not everyone will be able to get a balance bike and a bike with training wheels, so I recommend taking the training wheels AND the pedals off of a bike to convert it to a balance bike.
Biking with Training Wheels
The problem with a bike with training wheels is the braking system. They use coaster brakes which means pedaling backward to activate the brakes.
Kids tend to start pedaling backward when they encounter resistance which activates the brakes. It’s always difficult for kids with motor planning issues to figure this out. That’s why you ensure they master the pedaling part of bike riding before moving on.
Keep an eye out for the following:
- Some kids tend to push with their legs while pulling on the handlebars, which causes the bikes to turn – as a PT, this signals to me that they need core strengthening
- Some kids will over push with their legs causing them to slip backward on the bike seat – I put a dycem (non-slip pad) or tie a theraband on the seat to prevent this .
Tips to Use a Balance Bike
- Start with having the child walk with their legs while sitting on the saddle. See if they have the control to keep the bike from tipping or even recognize that the bike is tipped while they are riding it. They need to integrate this part. Children with body awareness issues will not even recognize that they are tilted when propelling a balance bike.
- Watch out for kids who walk the bikes, but they are standing and not sitting on the seat. I sometimes use an ace wrap to secure their pelvis on the seat to prevent this
- Once they master keeping the bike upright, work on gliding .
- Gliding – have them take three steps: 1, 2, 3, then bring their feet up to glide. Challenge them and ask them to see how far they can glide before they put their feet down.
- I sometimes use floor markings like chalk on the surface to mark a certain point. Children can work on balancing better if they have a visual cue on how far to glide.
- Once a child can glide for 10-20 feet consistently, I move them to a bike with two wheels (or put the pedals back on the bike).
Steps to Help Children Ride a Standard Bike
- Work in a parking lot of a school or a park early in the morning so that it will be empty and there are no distractions – avoid the sidewalks or hallways because the child needs to worry about staying within the confines of the space (it can become too stressful for them).
- Try to find a parking lot with a little downward incline to help them get a little momentum to balance.
- Let your child walk the bike out to the parking lot while holding the handlebar. This way, they learn to handle the bike and how to motor plan to keep it balanced.
- Work on pedaling forward first. Worry about turns later.
- Have a gait belt (or Dad’s belt) around their trunk, so you have something to grab onto when they are riding (if they are not using a bike with a parent’s handle).
- Give them a little push to start them up – they will usually start slow because they are apprehensive but what children don’t realize yet is they need momentum to be able to balance.
- Give them frequent breaks, and maybe bring a snack, as bike riding can be stressful while learning. Let them know that they have to do 2-3 laps then they can take a break. Break for 1-2 mins, get a drink or snacks, then return to bike riding. Use a timer so they know break time is over when it rings. This way, they may be more cooperative when they know they have a break.
- Once they master going straight, you can work on turning – put cones on each end of the parking lot and ask them to turn around the cones. This way, they can practice tight turns.
- Once they master turning, work on tighter areas (e.g. a hallway, sidewalk) to narrow their space.
- Once they master tight areas, work on going up inclines.
Biking From a Complete Stop
- Determine the child’s balance leg – it’s usually the first leg they put down when they stop.
- Once that’s determined, the balance leg is the leg that will stay on the ground and will be pushing to get the bike going. The other leg goes on the pedal (pedal leg).
- Teach the child to position the pedal (pedal leg side) in front of their shin so they can easily put their foot on it.
- Ask them to have the balance leg push on the ground while the pedal leg is pushing down on the pedal to start the bike .
I hope this blog has been helpful wherever your child is on their cycling journey! Teaching children to cycle has numerous benefits to their development, including improving motor skills, strength and balance. It’s also a fun exercise that can be enjoyed with a sibling or friend!
if you ever have concerns about your child’s mobility, strength, or motor skills, Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley is here to help! Learn more about our physical therapy services by visiting:
We also invite your family to join our annual Bike for the Kids in Elgin!
Cyclists of all ages and abilities are welcome to ride distances ranging from 12 miles – 50 miles or join us in reaching a 100-mile goal throughout the summer on the Strava app. Adapted bikes and trailers are welcome. All ages and abilities are encouraged to participate.
We are excited to take this ride to the Fox River Trail and celebrate together at Festival Park in Elgin with food, refreshment, entertainment and more!
Learn more and register here: https://www.givegab.com/campaigns/bikeforthekids2022
Positioning and Mobility Clinic Overview
Thursday, June 2, 2022, 10:33 AM
Positioning and Mobility Clinic Overview
Thursday, June 2, 2022, 10:33 AM
By: Allie Katsiris, PT, DPT What Does the Mobility Clinic Do? The Positioning and Mobility Clinic at…Read this Post
By: Allie Katsiris, PT, DPT
What Does the Mobility Clinic Do?
The Positioning and Mobility Clinic at Easterseals provides a comprehensive evaluation of a child’s adaptive equipment needs. It is a collaborative clinic consisting of a physical therapist (PT) and an assistive technology professional (ATP) from a durable medical equipment vendor. Of course, the child and their family members are also valued members of the team. The two vendors that attend clinics at Easterseals are Numotion and National Seating and Mobility. There are a lot of options for seating and mobility devices available on the market, so the PT and ATP will utilize their knowledge, experience, and expertise to recommend the most appropriate equipment for your child.
At the initial evaluation, the PT and ATP will complete a comprehensive evaluation of the child including assessment of posture, range of motion, functional mobility skills, home assessment, and child/caregiver goals. Recommended mobility equipment may include: adaptive strollers, manual wheelchairs, power wheelchairs, or power assist wheelchairs. The clinician will also assess the need for specialized car seats or adaptive bathing equipment.
Following the initial evaluation, the PT will write a letter of medical necessity for the device. This letter will be sent to the child’s physician to be reviewed and signed. The vendor will submit the order and the letter to this insurance company for approval. Once approved, the device is ordered then delivered to the child. The PT and ATP work closely upon delivery to ensure the child is positioned appropriately and that the family understands all features for safe and effective use of the device. We recommended yearly rechecks to ensure that the device continues to properly support the child.
Home and Environmental Factors we Consider
There are many factors that are considered when deciding on a mobility device. In addition to evaluating postural alignment and medical history, the team will ask about your child’s current mobility skills and goals. We will consult with primary therapists as needed to best understand your child’s abilities, functional goals, and endurance level in order to best recommend a mobility device. The team will also ask about your child’s home and school environments. Some considerations include: whether your home has stairs, location of the child’s bedroom/bathroom, and width of doorways.
It is important that the child be able to utilize recommended equipment in all environments to promote his/her best alignment and independence. Another important factor in recommending a mobility device is how the child is transported. Do you drive a compact car or SUV? Do you have an adapted vehicle? Does your child ride the school bus? The answer to these questions will help guide to whether a folding or non-folding option and transit accessories are required. Due to insurance limitations and expectations that mobility equipment will last 5-10 years, it is important that all of these factors, growth, and future needs are considered in order for the equipment to support the child for years to come.
Quick facts about the various types of equipment:
- Provide support for children who have decreased postural control, endurance, or safety in the community.
- They are typically lighter weight than wheelchairs and fold more easily.
- There are some limits to the customization of these devices.
- Provide postural support for children who walk with limited endurance or who are unable to walk.
- A child can push/ move this device independently.
- There are folding and non-folding options.
- Can be customized to fit a child’s needs.
Tilt in Space wheelchairs:
- Provide postural support and can tilt backward for rest breaks or medical needs.
- Children are dependent on caregivers to propel the device.
- There are folding and non-folding options; although they tend to be bulkier than manual wheelchairs.
- Can be customized to fit a child’s needs.
- Provide postural support and power control
- Can be operated by the child.
- These are unable to fold so the family should consider home and car accessibility.
- Can be customized to fit a child’s needs.
How to Get Started
At Easterseals DuPage and Fox Valley, we appreciate the importance of providing children with a safe means of mobility. This allows children better access to their communities and increases overall participation with their family and peers. We also recognize that the equipment ordering process can be overwhelming, so we are here to support you and help your child obtain the equipment he/she needs to thrive! Please contact us to schedule an appointment: 630-282-2023 or click here to learn more.
Formula Concerns & Availability
Friday, May 20, 2022, 1:56 PM
Formula Concerns & Availability
Friday, May 20, 2022, 1:56 PM
…Read this Post
by: Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley Nutrition Team
Given the shortage of formula in the country (a combination of supply chain issues and product recalls), we know many families are looking to us for help. We understand the ability to feed your child shouldn’t be a concern. For many, this is a scary and anxious time. It has been hard during our nutrition evaluations to recommend any specific type of formula, as the availability is hard to control. A can today may not be available the next time you need it. No one should be without the nutrition they need, and we are here for you.
To help, we have talked with all of our formula contacts to give you resources to find formula and recommendations. We did our best to get you access and an insider view on what steps you can take. Scroll to the manufacturer you need for QR codes, guides to switch formula and more.
We know that manufacturers and legislators are doing everything possible to make more options available. But it will still take 6-8 weeks to get availability at a more comfortable level. In the meantime, please only take what you need for a week or two. Leave formula, especially specialty formula for children with allergies, on the shelf for those that truly need it. And please don’t dilute formula to make it last longer. This results in a lack of nutrition and not enough calories for infants. This can have serious consequences, such as increase risk of seizure.
Finally, please be cautious with recipes that are floating around to make your own baby formula, without consulting with a medical professional first. Many homemade recipes contain ingredients that are not safe for young infants, are low in calories, and are not nutritionally complete. Feeding a baby homemade formula can cause problems with growth and nutritional deficiencies.
About Formula & Brands
Just like adults, babies need protein, fat, and carbohydrates in their diet. Infant formulas sometimes differ in which specific proteins, fats, and carbohydrates they feature. Breast milk has two protein sources: whey and casein. Some infant formulas have both of these proteins, while others only have whey. All meet the FDA’s requirements. Similarly, infant formulas can differ in the type of fat they use. All infant formulas sold in the U.S., whether they are name-brand or store-brand, must meet the FDA’s standards to ensure proper nutrition for your baby.
Generic or store brand infant formulas are very similar to national brands. They even use similar marketing terms, including:
- Advantage = Advance
- Gentle = Gentlease
- Sensitivity = Sensitive
- Tender = Gentle
Most store-brand baby formulas contain DHA and ARA, prebiotics, and nucleotides, just like brand-name infant formulas. Almost all—including store brands made for Walmart (Parent’s Choice), Target (up & up), Walgreens (Well Beginnings), and Kroger (Comforts for Baby), etc.—are made by the same manufacturer: Perrigo Nutritionals. Read more from verywellfamily.
Some children have no issues with transitioning to a new formula, while others may need a little time to adjust. For some children, new adjustments to their diet may cause gastrointestinal (GI) changes. If you need support for your baby’s allergies, constipation or other emerging GI issues, please contact a pediatric dietician for support.
Due to the shortage, now may be the time to move a toddler or older child off of formula and transition to another option. We know this change can be scary. But many families have found this has been a needed push with a beneficial outcome.
See below for a formula comparison chart that you can use to find comparable formulas if your usual brand is sold out. Again, generic brands are perfectly okay to feed your baby.
The support from communities to help those in need of formula is so heartwarming. Consider reaching out to friends and family to help find formula for your baby as they shop. Purchasing donor breast milk from your local milk bank, may be an option. While there is a high demand they are also experiencing more donations of extra milk. One such resource is the Mothers’ Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes.
Use caution with milk sharing or buying milk over the internet from places other than an official milk bank as these may contain contaminants. If someone is offering extra formula they no longer need, please be sure the formula is not expired and has been stored in a temperature controlled location (i.e. not in a garage).
Instacart is a helpful resource that shows where formula is on shelves. You don’t have to shop on Instacart, but use as a locater in your area.
Community Facebook groups like local Mom Groups, parenting groups and more can help share tips or resources for formula. Chicagoland Formula Finders is a recent and helpful resource for many.
Scroll down to find more information from Enfamil, Gerber, Kate Farms, Nutricia, Similac and WIC programs (alphabetized).
Enfamil.com has a store locater that is updated three times a day. They also share this qr code and product comparison chart below.
Nutramigen is an extensively hydrolysed formula for the dietary management of infants with mild to moderate cow’s milk allergy. It is hypoallergenic, which means it has been specially formulated to not cause allergic reactions in most infants with cow’s milk allergy. This formula has been more available at this time, but please only purchase if necessary.
At Reckitt/MJN, we see this as a very serious issue, because we understand the responsibility we have in making the single source of nutrition for so many infants, therefore can be no short cuts for this vulnerable population. Our manufacturing facilities are operating 24/7. This has allowed us to supply 30% more product to market YTD, which allows us to provide formula to an additional 200,000 babies per month since the Abbott recall occurred.
It is important to note our manufacturing is near pharmaceutical grade and quality and safety are paramount. Our goal is to get as many feedings to shelf as possible, but our highest priority are those mothers and infants in the WIC program as they are the most vulnerable in our society. Where Abbott can no longer meet their commitments, we are filling the gap as much as we can.
We’re continually looking for more ways to increase supply, while ensuring the highest levels of safety and quality. We’re also working closely with President Biden, the FDA, and the USDA to expedite approval for us to use a factory outside of the U.S., access key ingredients, and make it easier to ensure the most vulnerable babies have access to the formula they need. We know parents and caregivers are concerned about formula supply on the shelves, we are working with our retail partners to support limiting purchases to 1- week supply per household and always recommend buying formula from a reputable source.
This is the highest priority for us as a company and the entire industry. We are confident that by working together and remaining focused on this problem, we will solve it, ensuring that parents and infants have access to the nutrition that they need.
Helping Hand for Special Kids Program
This program can help with a one time gift of formula in cases of financial assistance or multiple births. With help from a medical professional or one of our dieticians, choose from one of the three applicable programs. Offer is limited to one formula gift per household, per birth. Programs and offers subject to change without notice. Only parents and/or legal guardians who meet offer qualifications are eligible. View the program application.
While we are a small player in the U.S. infant formula market, we are absolutely committed to doing everything we can to help get parents and caregivers the formula they need so their babies can thrive. We have significantly increased the amount of our infant formula available to consumers by ramping up production and accelerating general product availability to retailers and online, as well as in hospitals for those most vulnerable. We are also working through our Parent Resource Center, website, social media and industry groups to help make sure essential information is available for those parents and caregivers seeking it.
Demand for Gerber formula has increased due to a national infant formula shortage. This increased demand may result in some temporary out of stock issues at certain stores. Each retailer has the best estimate of when specific products will be on their shelves. For information about which retailers in your area carry Gerber formula, you can visit https://www.gerber.com/shop-by-product/formula.
While individual stores may be temporarily out of stock, it should return soon, or you can order from our website.
Our Parent Resource Center is available 24/7 to help parents with any feeding queries, including help in finding our formulas and suggesting recommended alternatives, as it is generally okay to switch routine infant formula brands (800-4-GERBER). If an infant is on a specialty formula for a medical condition or for treatment of allergy, switching infant formula should be discussed with your health care provider before doing so.
We understand that patients, caregivers, and healthcare professionals are pressed to find alternatives. Kate Farms formulas may be a solution for patients affected by the Abbott recall. Our formulas are only for children one and up, but could be appropriate for kiddos aging out of an infant formula including those who are appropriate for a peptide challenge and were formerly on an amino acid product. Below are a a few crosswalk tools which show which Kate Farms products would be considered “equivalent”, and we have a dedicated out of stock webpage here: https://www.katefarms.com/customer-service/out-of-stock-support/.
The Nutritional Applications Pediatric Formulas is also a helpful resource to show what may be appropriate by disease state. The pediatric transition guide is also helpful for tube fed patients. Learn more about transitioning to a new formula with this guide in partnership with a Registered Dietician.
Kate Farms formulas:
- Indicated for ages 1 and up
- No common allergens. Do not contain milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, or soybeans —but are not tested to be hypoallergenic
- Unlike powdered formulas, Kate Farms formulas use aseptic processing and are commercially sterile
- Offer pediatric peptide formulas made with organic hydrolyzed pea protein (HCPCS B4161) and pediatric standard formulas made with organic intact pea protein (HCPCS B4160)— not amino acid or elemental
- Nutritionally complete, taste great, and designed for oral or tube feeding (flow smoothly through tubes down to 6.5 Fr)
- Eligible for insurance coverage: Medicare, Medicaid, private plans, and select WIC* programs
- Samples arrive within two days to healthcare offices or patient homes at the request of a healthcare professional. Visit katefarms.com/samples.
Kate Farms formulas are broadly eligible for insurance. Your home medical supplier will check your coverage and ship Kate Farms to you. Or you can purchase any one of our formulas online with free 2-day shipping at katefarms.com.
We offer nutritional solutions that positively impact the health from early life and onwards into old age.
- Nutricia Navigator contains information on the service which can investigate coverage options and locate DMEs or pharmacies in their area that may have product available.
- Neocate.com. Always provides updated information on ordering directly from Nutricia. Parents can enter in their email addresses to receive a notification when it is back in stock at Nutricia.
- Walgreens.com. They will indicate if they have availability in any store. If they see it is available, you can call the store first before going.
For families whose babies require specialty, metabolic formulas, the FDA recently informed Abbott Nutrition that the agency has no objection to releasing urgent, life-sustaining supplies of certain specialty and metabolic formulas on a case-by-case basis. Abbott has established a request line for patients and caregivers seeking access to their specialty formulas: 1-800-881-0876.
We know that our recent recall caused additional stress and anxiety in an already challenging situation of a global supply shortage. We are working hard to help moms, dads and caregivers get the high-quality nutrition they need for their babies.
Abbott is working closely with the FDA to restart operations at the Sturgis, Mich., facility. We continue to make progress on corrective actions and will be implementing additional actions as we work toward addressing items related to the recent recall. In the meantime, we are working to increase the supply of infant formula by prioritizing infant formula production at our facilities that provide product to the U.S. market.
Below is a QR code that is updated regularly to show availability of infant formulas at different large box stores. More will be available in the next few weeks.
We have a special obligation to WIC families. About one-half of babies born in Illinois participate in WIC in the first year of their lives. We will continue to do everything possible to safeguard their development and access to safe, nutritious formula.”said IDHS Secretary Grace B. Hou
The state of Illinois is taking a series of steps in response to the current, nationwide infant formula shortage. Senate unanimously passed the House’s bill to add flexibility to WIC benefits. The federal nutrition program for women, infants, and children is the largest infant formula buyer in the country — making up about half of all formula purchases. The approved legislation would waive the contract requirements for emergencies (like during a formula shortage), and allow mothers to purchase other formulas available without having to pay out of pocket.
In coordination with the USDA Food & Nutrition Service, Illinois retailers are being encouraged to set aside formula for low-income families enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children program.
The Illinois Department of Human Services has also trained caseworkers to assist families with formula questions. The IDHS Help Line at 1-800-843-6154.T he Help Line is designed for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and WIC customers primarily but is open to all residents of Illinois. Read more here.
For more information on our Feeding Clinic, nutrition and feeding services, visit: https://www.easterseals.com/dfv/our-programs/medical-rehabilitation/nutrition-therapy.html.
Dealing with Sensory Overload
Friday, May 13, 2022, 9:48 AM
Dealing with Sensory Overload
Friday, May 13, 2022, 9:48 AM
By: Megan Fickert, Therapy Aide What is Sensory Overload? Simply put, sensory overload is when one…Read this Post
By: Megan Fickert, Therapy Aide
What is Sensory Overload?
Simply put, sensory overload is when one’s senses become overwhelmed to the point that a person is negatively impacted. Sensory overload can affect anyone but is particularly common among those with developmental disabilities like ADHD or autism that cause difficulty with filtering external input that other people might find perfectly tolerable.
Sensory overload can be a physically painful experience. As a small child, if I was outside and someone a block away was mowing their lawn, I would crouch low to the ground and clasp my hands over my ears. I used to run out of the bathroom in elementary school because of the automatic toilets, and to this day, I still have to cover my ears whenever I flush!
To an observer, it will often be obvious what is happening to a person experiencing sensory overload, but other times people may simply appear distracted or disengaged from their surroundings or may lash out in frustration instead.
For many disabled people, sensory overload becomes an everyday challenge. Let’s go over some ways of dealing with it.
The ideal scenario is preventing instances of overload from happening in the first place. This means being mindful of your surroundings and planning ahead. Know how certain stimuli affect you or others. Have an escape route in mind and a way to communicate your needs. Avoid situations you know will lead to sensory overload if you can.
But of course, life doesn’t work seamlessly and there will always be unexpected scenarios that bring on overload. Here is how you can help yourself or someone else when it arises.
1. Remove Yourself
If possible, one of the quickest ways to handle overload is to remove oneself entirely. If you begin to feel overwhelmed, excuse yourself or ask someone to help you get out of the area. If you are assisting someone else, keep an eye on their reactions and give them chances to escape their environment if it seems like they have become overloaded.
Some adults and children may not have the self-awareness or communication skills to let others know they have become overloaded, so check in with them often when you are in especially stimulating or busy environments, and remember to take breaks even if sensory overload hasn’t occurred yet.
2. Block Incoming Senses
If leaving is not an option, the next best thing is to block stimuli. Wear earplugs or headphones if sound is an issue. Cover your eyes, look to the floor or even hide under a blanket to block visual input. Plug your nose to keep smells away. Have alternative clothes in case you become irritated by tags, seams or textures.
3. Ask for Help
In some cases it may be possible to ask for help. Admittedly this can be a scary task and isn’t always feasible, but some venues may be able to accommodate your needs if you speak up! Ask for the volume to be lowered or lights to be turned down, ask to be seated away from others. This is often best done as part of prevention, but sometimes it’s necessary to ask for help on the spot, too.
4. Override External Input
When it comes to sensory overload, sometimes the most overwhelming part is experiencing excess stimuli that we have no control over. To counter this, it might help to create your own stimuli to focus on instead. (Be mindful that in public scenarios, this might not be possible if it will be disruptive for others).
Stimming, or self-stimulatory behavior, is often a natural reaction to sensory overload. If external sound is bothersome, listen to music or make sounds of your own to focus on instead! Draw a picture or focus on a specific object to drown out other visual input. Flap your hands, wiggle your toes, or stomp your feet to express control over how your body feels. Use a weighted blanket to control proprioceptive input.
Basic Sensory Overload Kit
Here is a list of some good items to keep on hand for situations when sensory overload may be expected. Because different things work for different people, make sure to customize your own kit with what works for you based on the situation and circumstances.
- Ear protection (headphones, earplugs)
- Eye protection (sunglasses, hats, eye masks)
- Hand fidgets (tangles, stress balls, marble mazes, etc.)
- Chewable fidgets (handheld or wearable “chewelry”)
- Weight/pressure tools (blankets, vests, compression garments)
Sensory Overload Summary
Ultimately, how one deals with sensory overload will greatly depend on the individual and the situation, but these are the basics on how to help yourself or others when faced with it in daily life.
Remember that instances of overload are inevitable, but being proactive and utilizing tools at your disposal can minimize these unpleasant experiences for yourself or someone you care about.
To learn more about sensory processing disorder and how we can help, visit: https://www.easterseals.com/dfv/our-programs/sensory-processing-disorder.html
A Therapist’s Review on The Rabbit Listened
Wednesday, March 2, 2022, 4:29 PM
A Therapist’s Review on The Rabbit Listened
Wednesday, March 2, 2022, 4:29 PM
By: Natalie Donald, Social Worker It’s Read Across America Week! This week, led by the Nationa…Read this Post
By: Natalie Donald, Social Worker
It’s Read Across America Week! This week, led by the National Education Association (NEA) and guided by a committee of educators, is the nation’s largest celebration of reading. This year-round program focuses on motivating children and teens to read through events, partnerships, and reading resources that are about everyone, for everyone.
Readers who feel included, recognized, and a part of the world are engaged readers. As we celebrate Read Across America, we invite you to read one of my favorite books, The Rabbit Listened, or our other recommended books to start conversations about disability and inclusion.
When I first discovered The Rabbit Listened, it moved me to the point of promptly buying 10 copies for friends and family in my life (child and adult alike). At its core, it is a picture book about empathy and kindness, a skill everyone needs, especially when others in your life need support.
Taylor, the main character, is a child who has something unexpected and challenging happen. With that challenge comes confusing feelings that Taylor doesn’t know what to do with. Many animals like the bear, the elephant, and the ostrich come along and try to help Taylor feel better, but nothing seems to help. Eventually, the rabbit comes along and gives Taylor exactly what he needs. It’s a simple yet profound message about choosing to be “with” someone in their pain. It’s a story that resonates with grief and loss, moments of dysregulation, and those days when you feel like nothing is going your way.
The story provides a beautiful lesson on one of the best things we can do for others. Some call it co-regulation, attunement, affect matching, or mirroring. Others call it listening with warmth, care, and calm. It’s uncomfortable to resist the urge to fix a problem and instead choose to sit with someone and listen.
This connection is the chief thing that calms down the nervous system. It’s what makes someone feel seen, heard, and understood (and isn’t that what we all want after all?). It makes our bodies and brains feel like we can take a deep breath, that we’re not alone, and that we don’t have to feel bad for the way we feel. Sometimes we just have to stop what we are doing, get to the child’s level, and give them our full, undivided “I’m not going anywhere” attention and choose to ride the wave with them until they feel back to themselves again.
In the book, we see that Taylor’s brain and nervous system weren’t ready yet for laughter, or to try again, or feel better. It’s a reminder to all of us (*hand raise- myself included) that we must try to meet others in their pain before we can help them move on to feeling something new. This is true empathy. And again, this connection is the fastest way to get kids (and adults) back into their “thinking brains.” Once the thinking brain is back online, we can then access coping strategies like the animals in the story offer to Taylor.
But remember, coping strategies are not one-size-fits-all. Today one strategy might work great, and by next week… it might not work at all. Some days, I need a good laugh with my husband to shake off the day. Some days, I need to scream into a pillow or need movement to discharge those stressful feelings in my body. Other days, I need a bubble bath or some alone time to myself to reset. And for all of us, there are just those days when NOTHING seems to work at all and on those days, we have to be gentle with ourselves and others. Maybe those are the days we need our own rabbit.
The Lesson in Practice
So with all of that, my challenge for you is to find someone in your life and BE THEIR RABBIT. Being a human is hard sometimes and one of the best gifts you can give to someone is your presence. RESIST THE URGE TO FIX.
Here are some ways to to increase connection when someone is in a challenging moment: (This works for both adults and children. Sometimes you have to repeat multiple times or in different ways.)
- Sitting with someone
- Mirroring their body language
- Offering a hug
Saying something like the statements below (with genuineness or as much care as you can offer in the moment):
- “I am right here with you”
- “I hear you”
- “I’m not going anywhere”
- “I’m listening”
- “You are not alone”
- “I don’t know what to say, but I’m here”
- “I’m here for you now and I will be here whenever you’re ready to share”
- “Take as much time as you need
- “I have felt that way before too (share example)”
- “I think everyone feels that way sometimes”
- “I haven’t been through what you are going through but I imagine that it’s so hard”
*REMEMBER: Give yourself LOTS of grace with this practice. This is hard, and we are all still learning. And remember, even when you mess up, making a relational repair is just as important and powerful!
Social Services at Easterseals
The Easterseals’ Social Services team strives to provide children and families with the mental health support they need to help in these unexpected and challenging moments. We strive to help caregivers and children experience more joyful interactions through attunement and connection. For more information on our services you can contact us at email@example.com.
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