You Don’t Know How it Feels to be Me

By Michaela E. Gordon, OTR/L

Do you ever hear a kid say, “You don’t get it. You don’t know how it feels to be me!” That is the truth. We don’t know what it feels like to be them. We can only empathize and try to relate based on what we are experiencing. When it comes to sensory defensiveness, children are over responding to sensory input, which causes a fight, flight, or freeze response. It is not necessarily the actual stimuli that is the issue, but rather the way the sensory signal is being processed when it reaches the higher level pathways of the brain.

We all have some degree of sensory preference and sensitivity. And some sensitivity is good. If you were walking across a street and noticed that a car was both close and coming at you, it is a smart move to run as quick as you can! However, if you are walking across the street and you hear a car way off in the distance, but your brain says, “Run, you are about the get hit!” when that is not the case, then the brain has just sent you a false alarm, which can be confusing and distressing. If the brain is constantly misinterpreting  non-threatening sensory input as a danger, this can impact the child’s confidence while interacting with the world and can give them a sense that the world around them isn’t safe and at the very least, uncomfortable.

Here are the types of sensory defensiveness one might be feeling:

  1. Tactile defensiveness. This is the most recognized type of defensiveness. These children have strong reactions to touch information. They may complain about hygiene routines. These complaints can include brushing their teeth or hair hurts, bathing is uncomfortable, clipping their nails or getting a haircut is painful. These children complain about their clothing, refusing to putting on their socks and shoes or only wanting to wear a specific piece of clothing. These children may also have difficulty with accepting touch from others so they avoid hugs or they will report that others have hurt them because normal touch felt like a push or some other assault.
  2. Auditory defensiveness. This is also a widely recognized sensitivity. These children put their hands over their ears to block loud noises. They may refuse to go into public places or use the restrooms because of loud sounds like music or the toilet flushing. These children may be bothered by everyday sounds at home and school so they avoid situations, have meltdowns, or become aggressive due to the noise.
  3. Movement defensiveness. In the OT world, we call this gravitational insecurity where the child develops great anxiety when experiencing movement. These children do not feel comfortable moving through space, especially if their feet leave the ground. In babies, they may be fearful to stand or walk. In toddlers and children, you might see them avoiding riding their bikes, climbing playground equipment or using swings. These children usually crawl upstairs versus standing. You will often seem them keeping both their hands and feet on the ground when scared or unsure. They often cling onto parents and teachers for dear life and can’t bring themselves to go enjoy play with the other children.
  4. Visual defensiveness. These children are often sensitive to light. They may ask to turn the lights off or you’ll see them squinting or rubbing their eyes.  Their parents may need to put a screen up in the car to block the sunlight. These children may become overwhelmed with fast moving environments or fast moving television shows. These children can be easily startled by visual stimulation, especially peripheral stimulation they weren’t expecting.

If you are someone without defensiveness, these scenarios may not make sense to you. Perhaps you are a good integrator of sensory stimulation, but your child or student is not. Instead of the sensory signals informing the various parts of the brain in a rational way so the child can learn, play, and relate, these signals are heading right to the watchdog of the brain, the amygdala. The brain tells the child, “Danger, danger! You must protect yourself!” These constant false alarms can be overwhelming over time and can impact the child’s emotional well-being and their ability to participate in everyday life tasks. It can take a toll on relationships and make the child feel like there is something “wrong with them”. So when a child says, “You don’t know how it feels to be me,” you may want to answer, “You’re right, I have no idea how it feels to be you AND we are going to figure out how make this better.” In other words, we are going to figure out how to get your brain and body working in a more integrated manner.

Here’s the good news! We know that using sensory integration treatments and tools, we can retrain the brain to better understand the sensory signals so they are correctly informing the child as they interact with the world. Several things need to happen in order for this to be accomplished. The right tools need to be identified, the tools need to be implemented with frequent consistency, and the child needs to want to participate on some level. If that can happen, it is amazing how the nervous system can shift and the defensiveness can either be reduced and in some instances completely resolved.

It is an honor to help children overcome these challenges. It can really have such a positive impact on their quality of life, yielding to a more comfortable and confident child. If your child or a child you know presents with sensory defensiveness I encourage you to get them to an occupational therapist.

“Dwell in possibility.” Emily Dickinson

For more information on the author, please go to http://www.michaelagordon.com 

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Real Food on the Go

By Dr. Kneale

Your foods choices are great—when you are at home. But, what if you have to spend the day driving your children from activity to activity.  Or, you have a family wedding to attend and will be away from your kitchen for a few days.

 

Not surprising, your food choices go down the drain; you eat whatever is available at the next stop light.

 

Many of my clients have told me they have been unable to figure out how to eat real foods while on the go, resulting in complete havoc with their food choices.

 

Here is a list of quick nutritious snacks:

 

A small cooler is great for daily outings while a large cooler is ideal for longer trips.

 

So you left the house and did not plan at all. Don’t worry. Here are some more tips for eating on the run!

 

Eating out at restaurants:

When at a restaurant order a double helping of vegetables. Avoid eating too much bread or chips, if too tempting, ask to skip it. Skip fried food as much as possible. Restaurants are usually happy to accommodate your needs. Some good choices would be steak, chicken, turkey, chicken enchilada, salmon, salad, gluten-free sandwich, soup, lamb, bison, etc.

Many health food stores such as Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods Market have healthy meals already prepared. My local health food store makes gluten free sandwiches with organic meats and vegetables. They also have rotisserie chicken and vegetables already cooked, along with other meals.

 

Traveling for a few days or more

Another option, if you’re going to be gone for a few days or more—and you are not flying– is to bring your pressure cooker, electric steamer or and/or crock-pot. I have done this many times when visiting family in Southern California and Arizona.  If you choose this option make sure to get a hotel room with a kitchenette or rent a place with one. You can also research the area you’ll be staying to find out what stores are going to be available to you. That way you do not have to bring all of the ingredients with you. With the Internet it is so easy just to look up pressure cooker and/or crockpot recipes on the go.

 

Where to get recipes for crockpot: Foodnetwork, Allrecipes, Well Plated. Crock-Pot I use which has lasted many years: Crock Pot

Where to get recipes for pressure cookers: Pressure cooker Foodnetwork, Skinny Taste, All Recipes Pressure Cooker  Instant pot I use:  Instant Pot

 

Slow-Cooker White Chili with Chicken

 Ingredients

6 boneless, skinless chicken breast fillets

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon ground coriander

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon paprika

Sea salt

1 pound dried Great Northern beans, soaked overnight and rinsed

4 stalks celery, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 cans green chiles, chopped

2 medium onions, diced

1 jalapeno, sliced

4 cups chicken broth

1 cup whole milk

1/4 cup masa

1 1/2 cups frozen sweet corn

Juice of 1 lime

1/2 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese, plus more for serving

Sour cream, for serving

Chopped fresh cilantro, for serving

Corn tortillas, warmed, for serving

 

Directions

  1. Add the chicken breasts to a slow cooker. In a bowl, mix the cumin, coriander, oregano, paprika and some sea salt, then sprinkle over the chicken. Add the beans, celery, garlic, canned chiles, onions and jalapeno. Pour in the chicken broth, put the lid on and cook on low until the beans are cooked, the vegetables are soft and the flavors are combined, about 7 1/2 hours.
  2. Mix the milk with the masa and add to the slow cooker. Add the frozen corn straight from the freezer and continue to cook until the sauce has thickened, another 30 minutes.
  3. Remove the chicken to a board and shred using 2 forks. Return to the slow cooker, then add the lime juice, sprinkle over the Monterey Jack cheese and stir to melt.
  4. To serve: Ladle the chili into bowls and garnish with a dollop of sour cream, extra cheese and cilantro. Roll up warm corn tortillas and serve on the side of the bowl.

 

Pressure Cooker Chicken Soup

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil

5 medium carrots, cut into 1/4-inch-thick diagonal slices

3 large stalks celery, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 large yellow onion, cut into a large dice

Sea salt (Baja Gold Sea Salt has lots of minerals!)

One 3-pound whole chicken

One 3-inch piece peeled ginger, halved lengthwise (optional)

6 ounces rice noodles (about 4 cups)

Directions

Special equipment:

6-quart Instant Pot

  1. Turn a 6-quart Instant Pot® to the high sauté setting. Add the oil and once hot add the carrots, celery, garlic, onion, 1 tablespoon salt. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are slightly softened, 4 to 5 minutes.
  2. Add the chicken, ginger, if using, and 8 cups water. Follow the manufacturer’s guide for locking the lid and preparing to cook. Set to pressure cook on high for 20 minutes.
  3. After the pressure cook cycle is complete, follow the manufacturer’s guide for quick release and wait until the quick release cycle is complete. Be careful of any remaining steam, unlock and remove the lid. Remove the ginger and discard. Use a pair of tongs to remove the chicken from the pot and put into a large bowl and allow to cool for several minutes.
  4. Switch the Instant Pot® to the high sauté setting and bring the soup to a boil. Once at a boil, add the noodles and cook until al dente, 4 to 5 minutes.
  5. While the noodles are cooking, use 2 forks to remove the skin and bones from the chicken and shred the meat into bite-size pieces. Season the chicken generously then add the meat back to the pot. Yummy! Ready to eat!

What if you are traveling with your family and everyone is starving. The only “restaurants” are fast food. Now what? It may not be the best case scenario but ALL of us have been there.

 

Here is a list of healthier choices for fast food stops:

  • Chick-fil-A: Grilled chicken nuggets, chicken salads , multi-grain breakfast oatmeal, grilled market salad
  • Chipotle:Burritos, tacos, salads with a variety of meats, veggies, beans, rice and guacamole, vegetarian salad
  • Cheese Factory: Steaks, fish, seafood, salads and various appetizers.
  • Dunkin Donuts: egg and cheese English muffin
  • Wendy’s: Many chicken salads, as well as grilled chicken wraps, chili, Jr. hamburger
  • McDonald’s: McDonald’s offers several healthy salads, mostly made with chicken, vegetables and fruit, small hamburger
  • KFC: Grilled chicken pieces and a side of green beans or corn cobs, Kentucky Grilled Chicken Breast (on the bone) and a side of Green Beans
  • Subway: whole grain bread and include plenty of vegetables in your sub. Veggie Delite (6-inch)
  • Taco Bell: veggie power meal bowl, Fresco Grilled Steak soft taco, power meal burrito, chicken soft taco fresco style, bean burrito, breakfast burrito, spicy tostada
  • Carl’s Jr: charbroiled chicken salad, 1/3-pound lettuce-wrapped thick burger,  low-carb charbroiled chicken club
  • Burger King: tendergrill chicken sandwich, tendergrill chicken garden salad, Whopper Jr., veggie burger

 

Just take your time to read through the menu. You will most likely find something that is healthy, or can be made healthy with simple modifications.

 

I hope this makes your day trips and travels healthy and happy!

More information about Dr. Kneale

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Healthy Snacks to Pack for Your Kiddos

By Joy Feldman

 

Need some healthy food ideas to pack for your kiddos? Don’t stress, these are easy.

Here you go:

 

  • Mozzarella or cheddar cheese sticks
  • Rolled slices of turkey or chicken breast
  • Thermos filled with hot soups or chili
  • Quinoa Tabouli with blue corn chips
  • Mini Turkey meatballs on a toothpick
  • Apples with almond butter
  • Fresh fruit with whole milk yogurt
  • Hummus with veggies
  • Snap Peas
  • Green Beans with yogurt dip
  • Assorted nuts
  • Kale chips
  • Mozzarella with basil and cherry tomatoes on a toothpick
  • Mashed egg and avocado on gluten free bread or crackers
  • Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
  • DIY Applesauce
  • Sliced Turkey and Chicken
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Baked Sweet Potato Fries
  • Roasted Chickpeas

 

 

Here’s to your health!

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Energy Drinks: Not for Children

By Joy Feldman NC, JD

 

Children as young as twelve years old are guzzling energy drinks. They have a long day of school, then sports practice and late nights of studying ahead of them. How do these young people make it through?  Ah, yes, those Energy drinks- sexy, sparkling and sweet. Yet many do not realize that 1 energy drink has the equivalent of 12 teaspoons of sugar and 2 shots of expresso.  And even more alarming, kids often imbibe more than one of these drinks a day.

 

What they don’t often realize is that these fizzy high-caffeinated energy drinks, can cause negative health, social, emotional and behavioral issues which can include dehydration, heart complications like irregular heartbeat and heart failure, anxiety and insomnia.  In fact, “Hospital ER visits by 12- 17 years olds linked to energy drinks increased from 1145 in 2007 to 1499 in 2011.” ( Nutrition Review,2011) And sadly, drinking too many of these super powered drinks in a daily dose, can even result in death. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that “energy drinks are not appropriate for children and adolescents and should never be consumed.”

 

So what are your options? Try replacing your afternoon energy drink with these healthier alternatives:

 

 

  1. Drink Water– Best energy drink. When you are dehydrated, metabolic actions slow and you feel sluggish.
  2. Healthy Protein Rich Snack- Food is fuel and lean proteins along with healthy fats and complex carbs will deliver nutrients to your body and promote energy.
  3. Drink some vegetables-Dark green vegetables such as spinach, parsley and kale used in green drinks are a great source of B vitamins which your body requires for metabolism to run at its peak.
  4. Take a nap -A 30 minute snooze can relieve stress and bolster the immune system.

 

Here’s to your health!

 

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How am I ever Going to get my Child to eat Fresh Foods?

By Michaela E. Gordon, OTR/L

 

I am sure that there are many parents out there that have the struggle of getting their children to try new foods and adding those foods consistently to their repertoire. Literature shows that approximately 25-40% of typically developing children and up to 90% of children with disabilities have issues related to feeding and eating (Clawson, et al, 2008, O’Briend et al., 1991). A child’s acceptance of food is influenced by their biological make up, their culture, and their individual experiences they have around food.

 

There is a developmental, sensory-motor process to introducing different food consistencies to an infant and child. The infant will start with breastfeeding or bottle feeding since they are suckling and sucking with very primitive fine motor abilities. As the baby’s head and trunk stability develops, pureed foods can be introduced. From there, more solid foods can be added as the baby’s ability to manage and chew food becomes more efficient. As the baby ages, they begin to pick up food with the fingers, manage a sippy cup/open cup, and begin to use utensils. Challenges with recognizing or managing food textures, temperature, and tastes as well as oral motor or fine motor challenges, can all influence your child’s ability to try new foods and to continue to expand their food repertoire.

 

Children also go through developmental phases of rejecting previously accepted foods and they can also become picky with trying new foods. These phases are not long -term and if they continue for a long period of time, these issues could be related to other sensory-motor or social-emotional difficulties.

 

Interestingly, there is literature indicating that taste buds are influenced by what we eat. For instance, if the child eats processed foods and then you try to introduce a whole food such as a piece of fruit or vegetable, the child may perceive the whole food in a completely different way due to the processed items their taste buds are accustomed to. The child may not accept the food you’d like them to try because of the other foods included in their diet. It’s similar to when you try to eat healthy. At first, it’s so hard to stop eating the processed food. Once you get on a roll, you wonder, “Why was it so hard for me to stop eating that? I love vegetables!” Then after a while, you might start to eat “cheat foods” again. Next thing you know, you feel like you are picking up your baby spinach like a stack of hay and painfully enduring every bite, while you dream of your next favorite splurge. Kids are no different!

 

Lastly, food and drink consumption is not just a part of our survival mechanism, but it is also a social experience. We commune and celebrate life through food with friends and family. We begin to create associations between our emotions and the foods we eat. Some associations can lead to unhealthy eating habits, taking us away from food for nutrition and positive communing with others. Some of us comfort ourselves and our children with sugary or salty processed foods when we feel sad or lonely. Some of us have intense conversations during mealtimes, leading to negative associations, which affects the food experience. A parent may become upset and get involved in a power struggle over the child eating his/her food, which leads to mealtimes becoming an enduring experience rather than a relaxing, enjoyable experience.

 

That’s a lot to think about right? Here are some tips to help you to start work on increasing your child’s food repertoire:

 

  1. Walk the walk! If you want your children to eat fresh, wholesome food, then you, the parent needs to be an example of that. It’s good for you and it’s good for them. If you don’t eat fresh foods, you will realize that your taste buds aren’t necessarily craving those vegetables, but rather something processed liked a bagged snack or sugary treat. It’s a group effort to train the taste buds in the family so your bodies recognize the food that will keep them vibrant and healthy!
  2. Shift your mind from the American children’s menu! Yes, children tend to prefer more bland, simple foods as they are developing, but it doesn’t mean we should feed them fried foods, processed foods, and sugar-filled foods. You can make simple foods and keep them healthy. I love Joy Feldman’s cookbook, Joyful Cooking: In The Pursuit of Good Health. It has a wealth of information about preparing fresh foods and she also has a section of fun ideas for kids.
  3. Some children like the spicy, salty, sour and more flavorful foods! It’s also important to know that some children need the extra taste in order to recognize the food they are eating. There are many spices and herbs to enhance the taste of food.
  4. Children are smaller than parents so you want the meal to be appropriate to their size. Some kids will feel overwhelmed by the expectation of eating a lot of food and just won’t eat it all if the plate looks as big as them!
  5. Your child’s plate should exude compromise! What I mean is that the plate should have 1-2 things they like to eat and 1 thing you’d like them to try. There is no bribing or guilting them if they don’t eat the food. However, there is also no extra food given to them if they are still hungry and they haven’t eaten what was offered. If you have a child that is strong-willed and refuses to eat the offered food or you have a child that is not ready to accept that food for other reasons , you will want to plan for healthy, smaller meals or snacks in between so they have more intervals of eating.
  6. Don’t give up! It can take up to 25+ times of food exposure before a child might eat a food. That’s a lot of times. So just be patient as you expose them to the foods.
  7. Eat at the good ‘ol kitchen table! Some parents don’t realize how much their kids are snacking and drinking because they don’t sit for a proper meal. Parents are usually busy and on-the go, so I realize this is hard, but it’s a good habit to teach children to stop and eat. It is also a good habit for you too!
  8. Move those bodies! Mealtime can feel long to a child and you may find that your child doesn’t want to sit to eat. You may even find yourself chasing your child around the house trying to get them to eat their food. Instead of that, have your child jump on a trampoline, rock back and forth on a therapy ball, get some bike riding or swinging in, or wheelbarrow walk them to the table so they get out all their wiggles out before they eat.
  9. If you feel you are having a really hard time getting your child to eat, you may need a referral to an occupational therapist or other specialists to rule out other aspects that may be impeding their eating development. You can contact your local occupational therapist and inquire about feeding supports.

 

In today’s world, we have many food options (or at least we are led to believe we have “food options”) and it’s no wonder that parents are up against so many food struggles. Be patient and kind with yourself and your children. Your job is to present them with opportunities to eat fresh foods and their job is to eat it. May you and your children be vibrant and healthy!

 

For more information about the author, please go to http://www.michaelagordon.com/

 

References:

Clawson, B., Selden, M., Lacks, M., Deaton, A. V., Hall, B.,& Bach, R. (2008). Complex pediatric feeding disorders: using teleconfereing technology to improve access to a treatment program. Pediatric Nursing,  34(3), 213-d216.

Feldman, J. (2012). Joyful Cooking: In The Pursuit Of Good Health.

O’Brien, S., Repp, A. C., Williams, G. E., & Christophersen, E. R. (1991). Pediatric feeding disorders. Behavior Modification, 15, 394-418.

 

 

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Simple Tricks to Add More Vegetables to your Child’s Diet

Simple tricks to help you add more vegetables to your Childs Diet

By Joy Feldman NC, JD

 

 

Most American’s today shy away from filing one half or more of their plate with vegetables– especially our children. Yet, these magnificent marvels should be the high point of your family’s meal because they are so nutrient rich. They do not require much time to cook and most of them offer excellent benefits to the body. Almost every vegetable study conducted shows how this food helps the heart, blood and some even fight cancer.

 

The following ideas are simple suggestions to creatively add more of these foods into your diet. Play with these ideas, adding your own creative spirit.

 

  1. Vegetable Chili– Instead of making chili mainly with beans, substitute many more cooked vegetables such as chopped onions, garlic, broccoli, cauliflower, greens or others. You can still have turkey, lamb, or beef in the chili, but it will now be much richer in vegetables.
  2. Vegetable Pizza- Children and adults seem to love pizza. Try making your own pizza with a thin, wheat free crust that can even be store bought if needed, followed by a thick layer of chopped up pre cooked vegetables. Top this with some oregano or to the spices a little tomato sauce and some tasty cheese.
  3. Vegetable Enchilada or Taco- Instead of filling taco shells or enchiladas with salad, beans or pork; fill them with chopped up cooked vegetables. One can also add a little chicken, a few sardines, cheese, a little rice or other filings to disguise the cooked vegetables.
  4. Thick Vegetable Soups- Adding loads of vegetables to all kinds of soup is a simple and excellent idea. For fussy eaters, disguise the vegetables by cooking them for 10-20 minutes, then puree the soup so the vegetables blend in the rest of the soup.

 

Here’s to your Health!

 

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