All posts by Stephanie Lageman

Stephanie Lageman

About Stephanie Lageman

I began working with children and adults with special needs at Camp Spearhead when I was only 16 years old. From the very first day of camp, I knew that these special children and their families would be my life’s work. I hold a BA in Early Childhood Education from North Greenville University, and I taught first grade for a couple of years before pursuing work with Bright Start. I have worked as an Early Interventionist since 2010, and I absolutely love my work.

Is it Sensory or Behavior?

Children throw tantrums. Although undesirable, this is very normal. Tantrums usually occur when a child doesn’t get their own way – they are testing the boundaries of their independence. Sometimes, these tantrums can be especially intense…and for children with special needs it can be hard to tell if the kicking and screaming are something more than just a tantrum.

Toddler Tantrums:
Children throw tantrums due to behavior when they don’t get their own way – this may be made worse if the child is tired or hungry. These tantrums can often be quelled by simply ignoring the behavior, or removing a child to change their environment for a few minutes.

– Child has a goal
– Watches for reactions
– Will avoid getting hurt
– Ends quickly/fast recovery

Sensory Meltdowns:

Our bodies take in all kinds of sensory information all throughout the day, every day. Sights, sounds, tactile sensations, tastes, smells, movement. Sometimes, for some children, the brain interprets this information in a different way. Busy environments may be overwhelming, or some sounds or touches may be actually painful.

For a child who has a sensory processing disorder, what looks like a tantrum may actually be much more. When the brain takes in and misinterprets or becomes overwhelmed by sensory information, the child’s ‘fight or flight’ can actually be activated. When a child is screaming because of sensory – they actually feel high levels of anxiety or panic. This is not behavior related and “discipline” is not appropriate. A child in this situation needs help to calm down. If you think your child is experiencing ‘meltdowns’ due to sensory problems, talk with your EI or Occupational Therapist about ways to help your child calm down.

– No identifiable goal
– May hurt themselves
– Not concerned with reactions of others
– Slow to recover

This is a complex topic – sometimes sensory meltdowns can turn into behavioral episodes, and sometimes behavioral tantrums can become overwhelming and cause a sensory incident. It can get complicated – which makes dealing with the tantrum or meltdown difficult. This is just the beginning and a quick guide to get you thinking about whether your child’s tantrums are just behavior, or if sensory may play a factor. Your EI is happy to help with behavior issues and can set you up with an Occupational Therapist if needed.

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Food Fights!!

Food Fights

Toddlers are picky little people! Some picky-ness is normal, but some toddlers actually cross a line into problem feeding territory. This can be particularly scary and frustrating for parents. Here’s a list to help you decide if your child is just a picky eater, or if problem feeding needs to be addressed by a therapist.

Picky eaters:   

  • Have at least 15-20 different foods that they will eat
  • Tolerate new foods on their plate and may be able to touch the new food
  • May be able to taste new foods
  • Eat different textures of foods
  • Eat foods similar to favorite foods – for example, will eat many different brands of chicken nuggets

Problem feeders:

  • Have less than 15-20 foods that they will eat
  • Will have intense tantrums or become panicked at the sight of new foods
  • May gag or vomit at the sight, smell, or taste of new foods
  • Will only eat certain types/brands of foods or foods prepared a specific way
  • Refuse large categories of foods – food groups, textures, etc.

 

If you are concerned about your child’s feeding habits and think your child might be a problem feeder – please discuss this with your EI. If you already have Speech Therapy or Occupational Therapy involved, please discuss this with your OT or SLP as well – they can help!

Veggies seem to be particularly difficult for many children (and adults) to get enough of! If you are concerned that your child is not getting enough vegetables, try hiding (shh!) the veggies in something your child already likes. A quick search on Pinterest of “hide veggies” will yield hundreds of recipes. Smoothies, popsicles, pasta sauce, pancakes, cookies! Many things your child likes may be able to have veggies added – and they will never know!

Continue to offer new foods. Some children need to see new foods many times before they are comfortable touching it or taking a taste. Often, toddlers may be prone to throw foods that they don’t want to eat or don’t want to have on their plate or tray. Try showing your child the “no thank you napkin.” Just place a napkin beside or above your child’s plate. If they don’t want the food, they can place it on the “no thank you napkin” rather than throwing.

It can be really frustrating if your child is a picky or problem feeder. It’s deeply-rooted in us that we must make sure our children have enough to eat! This is a good and right instinct! Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Your EI can help you connect with a Speech or Occupational Therapist that can help!

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Dental Health

February is dental health month! Love your child’s teeth! It can be tricky trying to figure out how to care for your child’s teeth – when do I start? When do they need to go to the dentist? Where? My child’s special needs cause him to hate brushing! Oh dear!

Infants and Teething
It seems like they teethe forever! Those sweet little chompers begin to come in when your child is about 6 months old, and the last molars arrive between ages 2 and 3. Teething can be painful for babies – some even run fevers, have upset tummies, or runny noses.
There are a ton of products out there to help with teething pain – the choices parents have is wider than ever. Teething toys, amber necklaces, teething jewelry for mom to wear, teething tablets, Tylenol or Motrin, essential oils.
Find what works for you and your child, but please do your own independent research before using any of these products and use an abundance of common sense and caution.
Always supervise your child with teething toys and when wearing teething jewelry/necklaces. Always remove the necklaces while your child is sleeping. Some sources specify that only specific essential oils should be used for infants and children under a certain age. So just always do your research and/or talk to your pediatrician, and then make a decision that you feel comfortable with for you and your child.

Make Brushing Fun
“Open your mouth! I think I saw something! What?! – is that an elephant in there?! Let me get him!”
This little game makes brushing fun at our house. Before I discovered it, my son thought it was more fun to close his mouth tight and giggle at me through gritted teeth. Toddlers are tricky little ones! I “find” all kinds of things in his mouth now – Bob the Builder, dump trucks, Mickey Mouse, etc.
Bonus: this helps at the doctor’s office when he wants to look at my child’s throat.
Other ideas:
Try singing songs while you brush. They can be songs about brushing or just songs your child likes.
Have 2 toothbrushes and give one to your child to use while you use the other one.
Let your child brush and then you have a turn.
Watch a YouTube video about brushing – there are tons! And this may just hold your child’s attention long enough for you to get in there and do what you need to do! Here is one of my favorites! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pd4WnsXwdqw

Special Sensory Needs
Some children who have sensory processing issues absolutely hate to have their teeth brushed! Please speak with your occupational therapist if this is a problem for your child. Your OT will not know unless you tell them – but if they are aware they can help! Also, try some of the ideas listed above under “Make Brushing Fun.” You may have to tackle sensory defensiveness along with behavior.

Choosing a Dentist
You can begin taking your child to the dentist as soon as they have teeth! Many families wait until the child’s first birthday unless they are having problems. Your child may not cooperate at their first visit to the dentist, but this is okay – taking them will get them used to the idea and will help the next visit to go better. Some dentists’ offices will allow you to bring your child prior to the first visit to let them explore the office – that way they will feel more comfortable on the day of the appointment.
Choose a pediatric dentist, if one is available near you. They have special training on working with children that a regular dentist does not have. Your EI can help you find a pediatric dentist in your area.
Let your dentist know of any special needs your child has before the visit, so they can plan how best to meet those needs.

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Childcare Choices

Childcare Choices

Finding quality childcare is something that many of us struggle with. It’s so important to feel good about the choice you make and to be able to work or attend school without worrying.

What do you look for when choosing childcare? How do you go about finding information?

First, look for places in your area and ask friends and family for recommendations. Then, look online at www.scchildcare.org. You can search for child care by zip code and find out information about the licensing type. Also, daycare centers that accept ABC vouchers have been given a “grade.” Although a grade of “C” does indicate adequate care, we recommend choosing a center with an “A” or “B.” You can find out the details of what each grade means at http://www.scchildcare.org/parents/what-is-abc-quality.aspx

When you have a list of places you’d like to learn more about, think about what you’d like to see and what you definitely don’t want to see when you visit. Obviously, cleanliness is important. You may not want to see a TV on in every room, or hear completely quiet classrooms. You might want to see art projects on the walls, or pictures of smiling children.

When you’re ready to visit, I recommend doing a pop-over. Just visit unexpectedly, during a non-busy time. Not during drop off or pick up, or between the hours of 11-3. I know that doesn’t leave much time, but I think it’s worth getting a first impression. Just say something like “oh, I was just in the area and have been thinking about this place, is there someone I can speak to?” They may offer to show you around on the spot, or they may ask to you make an appointment for a tour. Either is valid, in my view, as long as they are welcoming and excited to have you look around.

When you are given a tour, ask what kinds of activities are planned for the children? How many children are in each class? Are lunch and snacks provided? Do parents send blankets for nap time? Anything you can think of is a great question.

You can find a checklist of what to look for here. http://www.scchildcare.org/media/34616/Parent-Checklist_Revised_OCT_27_2014.pdf

 

Many children that receive Bright Start services may qualify for ABC Special Needs Vouchers – these vouchers provide for care in a participating child care center or at home through the Friend, Family, or Neighbor program.

Your EI can help you apply. Your Ei may also have experience visiting daycares in your area and can possibly recommend a place that will be a good fit for your child.

We hope you find the perfect place!

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“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” – Melody Beattie

What a year it has been! There have been ups and downs as always, and everywhere you turn there is another new scary news headline. Holidays are filled with busyness and frantic present-buying as we rush toward the new year.  Thankfulness seems to be a great way to pause and just enjoy he season!  Some of our families have submitted things to celebrate from this year, and we wanted to share them here!

Things to Celebrate for 2016!

An awesome EI and lots of progress!

We love that Matthew has made great progress and Natalie has been an important part of that.

Zainab started to walk, is talking, playing more and progressing!

Happy and Healthy! Being with family and welcoming a new baby!

Making new friends, school, Ms. Crystal, Christmas, family

Ellie became a big sister to Mac and started typical 4K…scoring highest in her class in PAL testing for 1st 9 weeks! So proud!

 

“Feeling gratitude and

not expressing it is like

wrapping a present

and not giving it.”

– William Arthur Ward

 

Bright Start Celebrates

Another year of growth!

Fantastic EIs, Speech Therapists, and Case Managers

Wonderful Supervisors

Amazing Office Managers

And most of all – the families that we serve!

 

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HALLOWEEN is almost here!

This month’s blog entry is all about Halloween and how to help your sweet little pumpkin participate and enjoy the festivities!

 

Trick or Treating can be a lot of fun, but it can also be difficult for children who are nonverbal and/or have Autism. There are several online freebies from Positively Autism that could be really helpful! There is a social story about trick-or-treating that you can print out and read many times in the days leading up to Halloween, so that your child will know what to expect. There are also some sweet little cards that your trick-or-treater can hand to people to let them know that they are working hard and want to say “trick-or-treat.” (*Thanks to our Autism EI, Crystal, for finding this great resource!)

http://positivelyautism.weebly.com/freebies-community—halloween.html

 

Here are a few other tips to help make Halloween fun and safe for everyone!

Ÿ Start early and try to keep as much of the rest of your nightly routine the same as every night.

Ÿ Plan ahead – if it’s more comfortable, trick-or-treat at the homes of friends and neighbors who know your child. They will love seeing your child in costume and your child will feel more comfortable. Also, be up front about if your child has any dietary restrictions – so they can have appropriate treats for your child.

Ÿ Prepare – try on the costume a few times before the big night. Also, use the social story from Positively Autism, or talk with your child about what they will do and see on Halloween. Be sure to discuss the fun points, and things that could potentially be scary.

Ÿ Play – make costume items and pumpkin baskets available early and play pretend trick-or-treat to allow your child to practice in a safe space. Make it a game and involve friends when you can!

Ÿ Relax and have fun! Don’t stress about getting to a certain number of houses or having things go absolutely perfectly. Have a good time!

 

blog

Image courtesy of halloweenclipart.com

http://www.halloweenclipart.com/

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Social Media Safety And a Note About What We Post

 

 

Facebook – Instagram – Snapchat – Twitter

It’s everywhere – and we are so connected all the time! It’s a well-established fact: parenting is, straight up, really hard sometimes – and feeling connected is sometimes what we need right in the middle of the five. hundredth. tantrum. this. afternoon. Because it’s easy to feel like you’re all alone in the middle of those hard moments – and a like or an emoji or a comment can be that small hint of empathy that makes it a tiny bit easier.

But the internet is a vast and scary place if you aren’t careful – and what you post is pretty much out there forever. So, for safety’s sake – let’s consider a few things!

Remember to check your privacy settings periodically. I say periodically, because privacy practices can change. The website is usually required to notify you when they change, but I don’t often even notice those emails. I like to set a reminder on my calendar at least 2 times a year to check my privacy settings on Facebook and other media I use often.

Try to avoid posting information that can identify or locate your child: such as where they attend school or church, what time dance class is, or their full name. Avoid posting pictures of your child when they are not fully clothed (intentions are no doubt innocent – but, again…the internet…).

Also consider whether your child might one day be embarrassed or even hurt by the post or picture. Will he feel embarrassed by a story you told? Or will she read a hasty rant and wonder if you were sad you had children? Of course that isn’t how any of us want our kids to feel! Again, there’s no judgement here: parenting is hard. This is just a reminder to all of us, myself included, to pause before you post.

Social media is a fantastic invention that most all of us enjoy – and that “timehop” app – well, that’s really neat! Let’s hope all of our “timehop” memories are happy ones and all of our #tbt posts get lots of likes and hearts!

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Back to school!! Set your routines for the BEST YEAR EVER!

 

It’s back to school time! Or, maybe, to school for the first time! Maybe your sweet baby 3 year old is off to a new preschool program! It’s a bittersweet time – with a little worry, lots of hope for a great year, and a couple of good shakeups of changing routines! It will take a couple of weeks for everything to settle down, but with a little planning, you can make the transition easier, or wrangle in the out of control craziness (it happens to the best of us)!

Prep in the Evenings

Prep for the morning the night before – the idea is to have as little to do in the morning as possible.

Lay out breakfast dishes and materials

Go through the backpack – read and sign anything that needs attention and put everything back in the backpack before going to bed

Lay out clothes for yourself and your child/children before bed

Pack lunch or snack if needed the night before – you might even make a lot of lunches/snacks on Sunday evening, to last the week!

Bedtime!

Get the bedtime routine down pat, and get to bed early enough!

–Supper, play, bath, jammies, story, night night–

The National Sleep Foundation recommends children aged 3-5 get a total of 11-13 hours of sleep per 24 hours – with some children doing well with only 8 hours and some needing as much as 14! Get to bed early and give your child a chance to sleep until fully rested.

https://sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need

Sometimes this is easier said than done. Try to keep your routine the same each night and do things around the same time. Talk to your doctor if your child snores, or is having a lot of trouble sleeping, even after a couple of weeks keeping the routine.

Support circadian rhythms. Get some sunshine early in the morning, right after waking. Also, consider limiting screen time to before the dinner and bedtime routine starts – or find a way to block the blue light from screens that tricks our brains into thinking it’s daytime.

For PCs, Macs, iphone/ipad, and Android devices, you can install f.lux, which automatically dims the screen at sundown, the new versions of iOS offer a setting that does the same.

https://justgetflux.com/

Rock the mornings

Plan to wake up before your child, so that you have time to get yourself ready and have a little quiet time before they wake up. Hopefully there isn’t a lot to do that requires much brain power, if you planned well the night before. Just take a moment and savor that cup of coffee! When your child wakes, follow your routine for getting dressed, breakfast, and out the door to another great day at school!

Connect with the Teacher

If you can, try to attend any meet the teacher type events – if you are not able to and there is a time that is better for you, ask if the teacher would be able to meet you at that time.

Use your child’s folder. Most schools/teachers designate a folder for each child where announcements and homework are sent back and forth from school and home. Write a note to the teacher here if needed.

Also, check in through email. Maybe once a month or every six weeks or so, just send a friendly email to keep in touch with the teacher and let her know that you appreciate all that she is doing for your child. You might share a few new things your child is doing at home, as well as any concerns you have. Your teacher will appreciate your involvement!

We hope you have a fantastic school year!

 

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Organizing medical information for children with special needs

Organizing Medical Information for Your Child with Special Needs

By: Stephanie Lageman – Early Interventionist

It can be a whirlwind. Suddenly, your child has 12 different doctors, an EI, several therapists who seem to keep changing; and it’s easy to get confused and overwhelmed and to feel like you’re being overrun!

Let’s break it down. Organizing can seem like another daunting task, but it’s one that will bring a degree of peace and freedom once it’s in place. Having your ducks in a row will also help you advocate for your child. Remember, your EI is here to help!

Below we will explore several ways to organize and keep track of information. We’ll cover:

Important Basics

Sharing calendars with other caregivers

Therapist communication book

What to do with all those paper records

Important Basics:

The first thing that I would suggest, would be to sit down and make a list of all of the professionals involved with your child. This includes the pediatrician, other specialists, EI, therapists, home nursing, medical supply company, pharmacy, etc.

After your list is complete, you can begin finding contact information for all of these providers. You can use this printable to make a paper list to keep in the car and at home – in case someone other than you needs to reference the list. Now would also be a good time to check that each provider is entered correctly into your phone contacts.

Also, please go ahead and make a page with current medications. This will be handy to take with you to doctor’s appointments, so that every doctor you deal with will be aware of all of the medications your child is taking. You can use this printable to keep it organized.

Sharing Calendars:

In order to keep track of your child’s appointments, I recommend sharing calendars with others in your family or others who provide care for your child – such as in-home nursing, or PCAs. Some parents love using a dry-erase calendar, which they update each month. Others love to use technology. Google Calendars can be shared, as well as iphone calendars. Cozi.com also offers an online calendar system and has won awards for being a great family organizer. They offer an app for iphone and android.

Therapist Communication Book:

Organizing a therapist communication book can be especially helpful if therapists are seeing your child while you are working during the day. Use a 3 ring binder and make a divider for each therapy and EI services, and place a few sheets of notebook or blank paper in each section. Your Ei will be able to clip the yellow copy of her summary into the correct section. Speech, OT, and PT will be able to write you a note in their section about that day’s therapy session.

You might decide to keep a paper copy of your child’s evaluation results and plan of care for each therapy, as well as the current copy of your child’s IFSP from the EI in each section.

Organizing paper records:

Some of us love to hold paper in our hands when we are working on something. To tame that box of papers, you could get a large 3 ring binder (or binders) and make a divider for each professional on your contacts list from the first step. Behind each divider, clip in the records. Try to keep them in order, with the most recent on top. If you don’t have records for some doctors, please ask your Ei. Your Ei may already have a copy of the records you need; and if not, they will be happy to request them for you.

You may also be able to access records online through your local hospital system. For example, Greenville Health System, in the upstate, uses a secure online system called MyChart. You can access medical records and even send secure email to your doctors to ask questions, request medication refills, or set up appointments.

You Can Do It – We Can Help!

Don’t forget that your Ei is there to support you – and that can include getting organized! We want you to understand everything that is happening with your child and feel confident in advocating for them. Please let your Ei know if you need help organizing – we aren’t afraid of paper cuts!

Blog Printable 1

Blog Printable 2

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