Category: Utah Community

CAPES! (Children’s Adaptive Physical Education Society) at Weber State University

If I’d happened to have a bad day, I still wouldn’t have been able to stop smiling the night I attended the CAPES! Luau Celebration this spring at Weber State University. Children, families and Weber State student volunteers were spending their last night together before the summer break. Families and friends cheered on children, some wearing purple capes, resembling young superheroes, as they knocked down bowling pins, attempted the limbo, threw beanbags at targets and colored pictures.

I talked with families and volunteers about the program and only heard fabulous things about the CAPES! program for children ages 5-12 with developmental disabilities. As a pediatric occupational therapist in Ogden, Utah I’ve seen so many families of children with developmental disabilities struggle to find activities in the community for their children to fit into. But the night of the CAPES! celebration, these little superheroes, with their friends by their side, were fearless with nothing standing in their way of care-free childhood play.

One mom told me that her daughter often stays home while her siblings play with friends or participate in extracurricular activities. But CAPES! is all about her, and she and her parents love the fun, safe place that this program has created without any fear of feeling left out at anytime.

CAPES! is supported by Weber State University students who are enrolled in or have taken either Adaptive Physical Education or Introduction to Special Education classes with the facilitators of the program, Dr. James Zagrodnik and Dr. Natalie Williams. Each child is assigned to a student volunteer throughout the semester. They’ve created a program that builds important experiences and skills for children with developmental disabilities and students who are studying to work with this population in the future.

Drs. Williams and Zagrodnik shared students’ written experiences with me and the stories seemed to follow a similar trend. At the beginning of the semester, students were nervous, unsure of their abilities and chance of enjoying the experience, many having had very little experience with children with disabilities. Quickly, after the first or second time, students were attached to their new, younger friends and celebrating small successes with them. By the end, most students were sad their time was coming to an end, having learned valuable lessons and thoroughly enjoyed their time working with the children.

I watched the children find their student volunteers with excitement to try a new activity, which was followed by beaming faces as the student volunteers gave their full attention and enthusiastic praise. The relationships between the students and children become beneficial to both sides, with a sense of satisfaction and growth for each.

The program has spots for about 35 children each semester. If the program is a good fit, children can continue to participate for 5-6 semesters (spring and fall semesters) or until they age out of the program. They meet for an hour and 15 minutes on Tuesday nights for 10 weeks each semester, where half the time is spent in the pool and half the time doing land-based activities. Each student volunteer plans fun activities for their child to work on any skill they feel is beneficial for the child. The cost is only $25 per child for each semester to help cover costs for the use of the Weber State University facilities.

CAPES! If you are interested in having your child with a developmental disability apply to CAPES!, you can do so at weber.edu/capes/registration. You may be placed on the CAPES! waiting list if the program is full, but I believe it’s worth the wait! Take advantage of this one-of-a-kind program in our Ogden, Utah area!

April 2016 Tube Feeding Support Group with Marsha Dunn Klein

If you can make it to April’s Tube Feeding Support Group for families of “tubies” (the affectionate nickname for those fed by feeding tubes), you are definitely in for a treat! If you would like to learn more about this support group for families, you can visit my original post, Tube Feeding Support Group in Utah.

Marsha Dunn Klein, an internationally-known occupational therapist specializing in feeding, will be the guest speaker for April’s Tube Feeding Support Group!

I’ve attended a couple of Marsha’s conferences for feeding therapists and own some of her books she has co-authored in my feeding therapy reference library. She shares great and helpful information and does so with sincere compassion, understanding and enthusiasm for families and children with feeding difficulties. I’ve always found Marsha a delight to learn from!

Don’t miss this discussion with Marsha Dunn Klein on April 21, 2016 at 6:30 pm at Primary Children’s Hospital on the 4th floor in the Millcreek Conference Room! You may contact Garrett, the parent support group leader, with any questions at 801-554-0184.

Great Santa Clara, Utah Park for Children with SPD

I love finding great parks that promote active play and sensory integration for all children! My plan is to continue to find and share great playgrounds from a pediatric occupational therapist’s perspective to help families in their communities. Great play spaces with a variety of sensory input are so important for children with sensory processing difficulties!

Our family visited Archie H. Gubler Park in Santa Clara, Utah (west of St. George) last winter for a soccer tournament and I saw this great playground! (This park actually was my inspiration to share great play spaces and playgrounds on this blog!) Gubler Park is located next to the Santa Clara fire department at 2735 Rachel Drive. (The link above has directions.) GPS directions were a little sketchy when we went winter 2015, probably because of the new housing developments in the area.

SWINGING!Santa Clara, UT Park

  • 2 traditional sling seat swing seats with room to swing high
  • 1 infant full bucket swing seat
  • 1 high back seat and firm harness, ideal for an older child that may need more trunk support (To whoever designed this playground: Thank you for thinking of children with different abilities!)

CLIMBING!

  • a vertical rope structure to climb across between 2 different play structures
  • climbing structures designed to look like the red mountains in the southern Utah area

SPINNING!Santa-Clara, UT Park

  • 3 angled vertical structures that use your body weight to get you spinning
  • 1 raised small platform with a rail encircling the top, angled to use your body weight to spin and was big enough for 2 small children to climb in together
  • 1 large spinning “umbrella” where several children can sit on the poles or hang from their hands or upside down from their knees (Upside down spinning is the most intense vestibular input you can get!)
  • 1-2 small single seats supported by a single pole that spin (these were quite difficult for children to spin themselves and I wasn’t too impressed with these)Santa-Clara, UT Park

OTHER SENSORY!

  • small hiding spaces in the play structure
  • 2 small slides and 1 tall slide
  • splash pad across from the playground, open April-September
  • walking and biking trails around the entire park
  • open grass areas to run and play
  • softball fields
  • basketball courts
  • shaded areas over the playground and picnic tables
  • gorgeous southern Utah red rock scenery surrounding the area

Enjoy your sensory input! Our family loves exploring this area in Utah! Please share if you have more great playgrounds or play spaces!

If you are concerned with sensory processing for your child, I provide in-home OT services in Weber, Morgan, Davis counties in Utah.

Dylbug Products for Creative and Fun Food Exploration During Mealtimes

Mealtimes are meant for shared fun, enjoyment and exploration! Is this true in your household? Or are your children plugging their noses, turning their heads, covering their mouths and hiding under the table? I’ve seen the entire spectrum of refusal-to-eat behaviors in my 15 years of experience as an occupational therapist specializing in treating children with feeding difficulties.

When I first see a child for feeding therapy, my first step and recommendation to parents is to create a stress-free, enjoyable, engaging mealtime environment where their child can explore and interact with all types of food. Each child is unique in their temperament and abilities and parents should work to build a relationship of trust with their child to create a safe and nurturing place to eat.

With my own children, after coming home to dishes piled in the sink from yesterday’s meals, backpacks and homework scattered across the kitchen, dirty lunchboxes, basketballs bouncing on the tile floor, begging for piano practicing to be finished, trying to put together dinner with my own growling tummy, my patience and creativity are pretty well depleted. Once I’ve finally gotten the food prepared and on the table to eat, it’s time to make the meal stress-free, enjoyable, engaging and fun through exploring and interacting with food and children who aren’t too impressed or excited with the green things in their pasta. Does this sound vaguely familiar? Compared to families of children who struggle to eat, I know I have nothing to complain about because this scenario would be a dream come true for their child to turn their head at only the green things!  

Recently, a friend sent me a video clip of Leslie Mingo showing her Dylbug children’s mealtime products. I especially love her plates, food cutters and placemats! These plates, bowls, cups, cutters and placemats encourage food exploration and interaction in a fun, enjoyable, engaging way without mustering up large quantities of your own creative energy as you sit down to the table. Sometimes parents and children just need a starting point for creativity to encourage food exploration. Dylbug’s products could be one of those creative starting points!

During food exploration and interaction that I use during my feeding therapy sessions, I encourage looking at the colors and shapes of food, smelling the food as it slowly gets closer to the face and touching the food with hands, arms, face and lips to help children ease into being comfortable with the sensory properties of a challenging food before eating it. Dylbug’s products can be a great addition to feeding therapy tools for feeding therapists and families encouraging their children to eat at home.  

In addition to allowing your child to help use the food cutters and placing food on the plate to decorate it, they could try to recreate it again, such as holding the food “hat” up to their own head to encourage touching closer to their face. The placemats have fun designs and places to draw on it. I would encourage drawing with food for more interaction, using dipping sauces, food pieces or crumbs to “color” in the blank spaces. Those are just some beginning ideas to start off the creativity and exploration with your children. (But, please remember that you are creating an environment of trust, so be sure to read your child’s cues and not push too far.)

Leslie is a mother of three, including one that she describes as a picky eater. She wanted to make healthy eating fun, so used her artistic background and love for creativity to do just that. Her children will eat new foods with the playful way they are displayed on her plates. She’s also heard that other children are doing the same thing with her products. “Parents are amazed at how excited their children are to eat what is on their plate. It just makes mealtime happy,” says Leslie. Dylbug has an Instagram feed of photos of ideas from Leslie and other parents who are using Dylbug’s products. Leslie said, “Parents are so proud of what healthy ideas they create. It’s a great way for everyone (including me) to get ideas and support on how to feed our children.”

Dylbug is a Utah-based company that started about a year ago. Dylbug products are currently only sold online at dylbug.com, but Leslie is hoping that in the near future she can start selling in local boutiques. You definitely need to check out all the fun and creative dress-up designs that can be customized with hair, skin color, names and the car or train designs with matching food cutters and placements. At least follow dylbug on Instagram to be inspired for food exploration to make mealtimes enjoyable and fun for everyone!

If your child continues to struggle to eat, please read my blog post, “When Does Picky Eating Become a Problem?” to determine if your child may benefit from feeding therapy or further professional intervention. I offer feeding therapy services in children’s homes in Utah in Weber-Davis-Morgan counties. Happy exploring, creating and eating!                

Tube-Feeding Support Group in Utah

UPDATE: June’s Tube-Feeding Support Group will be held Thursday, June 30, 2016 at 6:30 pm at Primary Children’s Hospital on the 3rd floor in Classroom D & E.

I’m excited to share the only tube feeding support group that I’ve ever of heard of in Utah in my 15 years as an occupational therapist treating children with feeding difficulties! I’ve worked with many families whose children cannot eat enough by mouth and have no other option than to place a feeding tube so their child can get the nutrition they need. Sometimes this lasts only a few weeks, but many children require tubes for many years to even life. Feeding tubes are a wonderful medical advancement that have saved millions of lives, but I have always been acutely aware of the emotional bombshell for every family when a feeding tube is considered, placed and then sent home to become their own child’s tube feeding expert. This group will be a great resource to help families affected with this overwhelming process.

Our community has many great families with wonderful knowledge and perspective that are willing to share with others in the same situation. For healthcare professionals, it is an almost impossible task in our current healthcare environment of privacy, time and budget constraints to logistically coordinate connecting parents who can support each other. I’m thrilled we have great parent advocates in our community willing to launch this support group!

This tube feeding support group will be run by parents of children with feeding tubes. Garrett is the parent support group leader and father of a daughter with a feeding tube. He has been a tenacious advocate for his own daughter, Lucy, and has extended that tenacity to the larger community of families who have children with feeding concerns. Garrett has also been involved with Feeding Matters, an advocacy organization for children with feeding struggles. Lucy has struggled with eating by mouth since she started eating solid foods as an infant and currently has a G-tube for her nutritional intake.

If you are interested in learning about Lucy’s feeding story, here is a link to a short video: Meet Lucy.

Topics will initially range from navigating the insurance system, to finding and sharing feeding resources, to effectively collaborating with healthcare professionals (doctors, feeding therapists, dieticians, etc.) for the benefit of children with or who are in the process of the placement of a feeding tube. This support group is primarily for families to share and seek support without the pressures of healthcare professionals’ judgment that may be present in other settings.

The second meeting will be Thursday, March 31, 2016 at 6:30 pm at Primary Children’s Hospital on the 3rd floor in Classroom D & E. They are currently planning to meet once a month.

Garrett has graciously provided his phone number if you have questions. He can be reached at 801-554-0184.

If you know of other community resources in Utah for children with feeding difficulties, please share!