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Hearing Loss in Children

About 2 to 3 out of every 1,000 children in the United States are born with a detectable level of hearing loss in one or both ears! Hearing loss can occur gradually over time and parents may not even realize their children have it. Children may simply adjust to the changes in their hearing and not realize they are missing out on important speech sounds and words. 

What is a hearing screening

Pediatric Audiology 101: Your Child's Hearing Health

A hearing screening is frequently used to check a person’s ability to detect the loudness and pitch of sounds. You can either “pass” or “fail” the screening. If your child passes and there are no other concerns, then you can continue with your child’s regularly scheduled hearing screenings. If your child “fails”, or if you have other concerns about their hearing, then an appointment for more in-depth testing may be necessary to see if there is a hearing loss and what treatment options are best to help support your child. These hearing screenings can help identify people who may need a more thorough hearing evaluation that can be completed by medical personnel such as ENTs or audiologists. Pediatric hearing screenings may take place in early intervention, school audiology, medical, and/or home settings. 

How can I tell if my child has hearing loss? 

  • Difficulty recognizing familiar voices
  • Delayed or absent speech sounds (not making cooing noises, babbling less, few words, distorted speech sounds, etc.)
  • Not turning head toward interesting or startling sounds
  • Delayed language (difficulty understanding simple words, following directions, etc.)
  • Delayed or absent emergence of first words as by two years old children should start combining words into 2-word phrases)
  • If child is older, they may frequently asks others to repeat themselves for clarification
  • Child is speaking louder than others
  • Lack of attention to others, conversations, environmental surroundings
  • Struggles with academics

 

What causes hearing loss in young children? 

  • Frequent ear infections (otitis media; most common)
  • Measles or meningitis
  • Head injuries
  • Exposure to loud noises 
  • Genetic disorders

Interesting Fact… 5/6 children experience ear infections (otitis media) by the time they are 3 years old!

 

What should I do if I suspect my child has hearing loss? 

If you suspect your child has hearing loss, speak with your healthcare provider and discuss your child’s current hearing abilities and address your concerns if you suspect signs of hearing difficulties at home. Early hearing detection and a formal evaluation completed by an audiologist, ENT and/or other qualified medical professional can help determine specific needs and appropriate treatment goals to further support your child’s success. It is important to regularly check on your child’s hearing health to monitor potential changes in hearing!

 

How can Speech therapy help?

Speech-Language Pathologists can play a role in your child’s hearing health by completing hearing screenings as a part of a formal speech and language assessment. If your child does not pass a hearing screening completed by the Speech-Language Pathologist, then a referral will be made for further evaluation with audiological/medical professionals to provide the best of care to your little one. Language acquisition is an essential component of your child’s overall development. Significant hearing loss, if undetected early, can lead to a speech and language delay, further putting your child at risk of falling behind same-aged peers. Given that our hearing plays a significant role in living our daily lives, it is crucial to have your child’s hearing formally evaluated at key milestones, beginning at birth to help lead them to better speech, language, and educational outcomes in the future!

Schedule a screening at Carolina Therapy Connection today!

 

Blog By: Lindsey Bryant, SLP

Not Your Average Toy!

Not Your Average Toy offers a transformative approach to pediatric therapy, catering to the different needs of our pediatric patients in occupational, speech, and physical therapy within our clinic. These specialized toys aren’t just playthings; they motivate children to develop essential skills like fine motor control, visual perceptual abilities, grasping techniques, following multistep directions, stimulating ‘what’ questions, fostering color and shape recognition, encouraging problem-solving, and refining hand-eye coordination. What makes these toys exceptional is their unique ability to grasp the children’s attention while integrating therapeutic goals into engaging activities tailored to each child’s journey toward progress and achievement. Check out some of our favorite “Not average toys!” 

Examples of Not Your Average Toy:

Water Beads: 

What sets water beads apart? Water beads stand out for their fun way of developmental skills. They offer an enjoyable sensory and messy play while enhancing color recognition and sorting abilities. These beads serve as a tool for reaching milestones. Children can play by using a spoon for scooping into a cup, counting exercises, and even hiding items like toy fish or other objects within the beads to engage both hands in a tactile search. These toys facilitate various developmental goals, from color recognition and sorting to refining fine motor skills, in-hand manipulation, bilateral coordination, and sensory play. They also stimulate counting skills and engage in figure-ground activities.

 

Building Blocks: 

Building blocks are known for making a tower and watching it fall, but did you know that they offer various developmental opportunities? These square toys build structures with two hands, allowing a child to work towards bilateral coordination, midline crossing, and fine motor skills. Playing with blocks can also help with color recognition, shape learning, spatial orientation, and teaching concepts through block positions. 

Building blocks can also help with emotional regulation. If a task is challenging or the tower does not stay quite the way intended, this is an excellent opportunity to discuss the feelings raised and allow your child to have a voice.   

 

Puzzles: 

Puzzles are a fun, versatile learning tool for children. They can help children learn about shapes and colors, expand their vocabulary, and identify different types of animals. Puzzles also help children learn to act like put in and take out. You can add a multi-step direction to make a puzzle more challenging, like putting the cow and horse puzzle pieces together in their correct spot. For more engaging questions, ask your child, “What does a cow say?” or “Where is the cow?” Puzzle helps achieve milestones that involve enhancing visual perceptual skills, grasping technique, mastering multi-step directions, and developing problem-solving abilities. 

 

How can Carolina Therapy Connection Help? 

At CTC, we are committed to supporting our families and the child’s developmental journey and helping them achieve these goals at home. Please explore our website (https://www.carolinatherapyconnection.com/) or our Amazon Storefront (https://www.amazon.com/shop/carolinatherapyconnection). These are not your average toys; they are carefully innovative toys that can help foster growth and development. To further understand these toys’ impact, ask your therapist if you can sit in during a session. By watching the interaction between the child playing and the therapist, parents can gain insights into how effective these tools can be and bring these Not Your Average Toys into their home.

 

By: Lauren Hodges, COTA/L, and Allison Hicks

What are primitive reflexes?

A reflex is an automatic and instantaneous response to a sensory stimulus. Remember when you were a child at the doctor’s office and they tapped your knee with a small mallet to check if your leg kicked upwards? You didn’t decide to kick your leg, it just kicked. From infancy, reflexes are vitally important for proper development of the brain, nervous system, body and sensory systems. Some reflexes are meant to stay with us our whole lives. Others are designed to be dormant after their function is fulfilled – also called integration. Check out this awesome resource from Tools to Grow to learn more about specific reflexes and how they impact a child’s function during their daily life. Primitive reflexes are adaptive responses that develop before birth and typically integrate as the brain matures. Primitive reflexes are important for survival and development early in life; however, it is also important that they become integrated as the child grows. Retained reflexes can cause sensory issues, postural disorders, decreased motor skills, and attention/behavioral issues.

What causes retention of primitive reflexes?

Some potential causes of retention of primitive reflexes include c-sections, trauma during birth, exposure to toxins, decreased tummy time during infancy, decreased time crawling, chronic ear infections, or head injuries during infancy among many other unknown causes.

Five Commonly Retained Primitive Reflexes and their Impact on Occupations

1. Moro Reflex

The Moro Reflex is known as the “startle” reflex. This reflects is a fight or flight reaction. It is present at birth and should be integrated by four months. Common effects of retention include emotional outburst, motion sickness, and difficulties with vision, reading, and writing.

2. Asymmetric Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR) 

The Asymmetric Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR) is known as the “Fencer’s pose”. It assists in the birthing process. It appears at birth and should be integrated by nine months. Common effects of retention include decreased eye-hand coordination, poor handwriting, poor balance, difficulty with reading and math, and difficulty focusing.

3. Symmetric Tonic Neck Reflex (STNR) 

The Symmetric Tonic Neck Reflex (STNR) is an essential foundation for crawling. It appears at six to eight months and should be integrated by nine to eleven months. Common effects of retention include poor posture, W sitting position, poor eye-hand coordination, messy eater, and low muscle tone.

4. Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex (TLR) 

The Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex (TLR) is commonly seen in children with ADHD diagnoses. It appears before birth and should be integrated by three and a half years of age. Common effects of retention include decreased balance, poor spatial awareness, toe walking, weak muscles, poor posture, and difficulty with climbing.

5. Spinal Galant 

The Spinal Galant Reflex also assists in the birthing process. It appears at birth and should be integrated by three to nine months. Common effects of retention include bed wetting after potty training, hyperactivity, postural issues including scoliosis, attention issues, and decreased endurance.

What are integrated reflexes?

Integrated reflexes are important for developing motor control. A child needs motor control to maintain proper posture at a desk in school, ride a bike, read a book, cross midline, write, and get dressed. A child with integrated reflexes has normal movement patterns to complete these functional tasks at home and at school. A child with unintegrated reflexes could benefit from skilled reflex integration therapy which will essentially train a child’s brain by establishing an efficient movement pattern that supports higher level motor skills or cognitive tasks.

How do you know whether or not your child has integrated these reflexes?

There are many common areas of difficulty that may suggest a retained reflex including the following:

  • “Bouncing” Child: Constantly moving, can’t sit still on a chair, hyperactive
  • “Noodle” Child: Leans on everything, rests head on table
  • “Shirt Chewers”: Constantly chewing on shirts or pencils, and touches everything
  • “Emotional Child”: Challenges with regulating emotions, easily frustrated or upset, difficulty with utilizing age appropriate coping strategies to calm body
  • School Performance Challenges: difficulty with reading, handwriting, language/speech, poor sitting balance and immature grasp on writing utensils
  • Coordination Challenges: Chronic body aches, poor endurance, fatigue, muscle weakness, poor concentration, fidgeting, disorganization

How do I know If My Child Has Retained Primitive Reflexes and What Can I Do?

Once your Occupational Therapist suspects a retained reflex, he/she will educate the caregiver on the importance of carryover for treatment recommendations. Caregivers play an important role in seeing progression in their child’s everyday activities. It is typically recommended that the child completes a set of tailored exercises to meet your child’s needs, 5-10 minutes per day, for 30 consecutive days in order to see any progress. Your therapist may recommended a reward or sticker chart in order to keep your child motivated towards an end goal. Progress can be noted short term and over 9-12 months. In addition to exercises, your Occupational Therapist will make recommendations for modifications in the school and home environments which may include changing positioning during school work, movement breaks, sensory techniques, relaxation techniques, decreasing auditory and visual stimulation, and organizational skills, just to name a few!

In order to determine whether your child would benefit from direct treatment for Reflex Integration, it is recommended that your child be evaluated or screened by an Occupational Therapist at Carolina Therapy Connection. Give us a call at 252-341-9944 today to schedule your FREE occupational therapy screening with one of our experienced and knowledgable OT’s. 

What is AAC?

AAC stands for Augmentative and Alternative Communication. It encompasses all of the ways in which an individual may communicate outside of speaking verbally. Augmentative communication means to add to someone’s existing speech skills, and alternative means to be used in place of verbal speech. There are many different kinds of AAC including, but not limited to: gestures, facial expressions, writing, pictures symbols (e.g., picture exchange communication system/ PECS), drawing, sign language, high-tech speech generating devices, communication boards, etc. Some people may use one of these modalities, and some may use multiple modalities depending on the way in which they can most quickly and clearly communicate the topic.

Who Needs AAC?

Many different people use AAC throughout their lifetime. It can be used across the lifespan by any age, at any time, and for a variety of different reasons. Some people use AAC for their entire life, and some use it for only a short period of time. AAC can help any person who has difficulty fully or partially meeting their daily communication needs such as expressing wants and needs, socializing, asking questions, and a variety of other functions.

 

 

How can AAC help your child?

AAC may be able to help your child if they have difficulty being understood by others, have a limited vocabulary, demonstrate limited spontaneous speech, are non-speaking, and a variety of other different reasons. There are no prerequisite skills to your child beginning to use AAC. One common misconception is that AAC will hinder language development or cause your child to become dependent on it for communication. While some children may have minimal to no verbal speech throughout their lifetime, there is research to show that AAC can actually help children to develop language. Using AAC can also help to reduce frustration surrounding communication attempts, and help your child to communicate their needs more clearly, quickly, and effectively.

 

 

Parent’s Role in AAC

When introducing AAC to your child, it is important for family members/ caregivers to make the commitment to help the child succeed with the chosen AAC device. Your input is crucial in helping to choose and develop an appropriate AAC system, and using the device at home and in the community is a vital step to help both you and the child continue to learn the system. According to Jane Korsten, SLP, the average 18-month-old has been exposed to 4,380 hours of oral language at a rate of 8 hours/ day from birth. A child who has a communication system (AAC) and receives speech/language therapy 2 times/week for 20-30 minutes will reach the same amount of language exposure (in their AAC language) in 84 years. It is our role as professionals and caregivers to help minimize the communication gap between oral language users and AAC users. 

Modeling:  Modeling is an awesome way to both learn your child’s AAC system, and teach them an example of how they can use it. The best way to model is to speak and use the system at the same time, although you do not always have to select an icon for every word you say. For example, you may verbally say “time to go to school” while modeling “go” and “school” on the AAC system. A general rule of thumb is to model the number of icons your child is currently using, plus one. If your child uses 1 icon at a time, you may choose to model 1-2 icons at this time. It is important to model without expectation, meaning that you use the AAC system without expecting or requiring the child to respond, withholding items or activities, or “testing” their skills. The goal is to provide an example to the AAC learner, which they will then learn by watching and listening to what you do/say.

 

How can CTC help you and your child?

Whether your child is already receiving speech/language therapy services at our clinic or not, CTC is ready to help support both parents and children through their own individual journey with Augmentative and Alternative Communication. If you believe that your child may benefit from the use of AAC, talk to one of our many incredible speech-language pathologists to begin the process of figuring out what type of system (no tech, low-tech, mid-tech, high-tech) will work best. This process can take time, but with your support and the support of your SLP, it is possible to find the right system for your child! 

Down Syndrome Awareness Month!

October is filled with so many exciting things, the start of fall weather and holidays approaching; but did you know that October is also Down Syndrome Awareness Month? Established for over 40 years, it is a time to recognize and celebrate our friends with Down Syndrome and the amazing abilities they have!

 

What is Down Syndrome?

Down Syndrome is often called Trisomy 21, though there are actually three types: trisomy 21 (nondisjunction) which makes up 95% of cases, translocation (4%), and mosaicism (1%). It occurs in approximately 1 out of every 691 births, and more than 400,000 people are living with Down syndrome in the United States. These individuals are born with an extra copy of the 21st chromosome. They are able to work, go to school, develop meaningful relationships, make their own decisions, and participate in society however they wish! According to the National Down Syndrome Society, “Quality educational programs, a stimulating home environment, good health care, and positive support from family, friends, and the community enable people with Down Syndrome to lead fulfilling and productive lives.”

 

You are welcomed here!

Here at Carolina Therapy Connection, we are honored to serve our families who have children with Down Syndrome! One of our special friends, Hannah Hill, has made tremendous progress in her therapy. Her mother stated, “Because Hannah is very verbal, people often ask me if she has a ‘mild’ case of Down Syndrome. It’s not commonly known that there is no ‘spectrum’ of Down Syndrome! You either have it or you don’t! While the extra chromosome does impact their lives, people with Down Syndrome are unique, and have their own strengths and weaknesses. They have physical features, personality traits, abilities, challenges, interests, successes, and failures just like everyone else!”  

Hannah: Age 8

 

How can therapy help?

  • Speech therapy services provided by a speech-language pathologist reap great benefits. Many children with Down syndrome develop language later than same-age peers. Low muscle tone could also impact the ability to produce speech sounds accurately, and therapy is paramount to helping a child develop the ability to confidently and effectively communicate their thoughts, feelings, wants, and needs. SLPs can provide assistance with prelinguistic and oral-motor skills, as well!
  • Physical therapy can help a child with Down Syndrome starting at a young age to increase strength and gross motor development. From rolling and sitting, to developing an efficient walking pattern, and even participating in sports, physical therapy can make a huge difference in a child’s life. In a physical therapy session, our PT’s will focus on things such as: gross and fine motor development, balance, coordination, and age-appropriate daily living skills. 
  • Occupational therapy can assist people with Down Syndrome in learning to complete many everyday tasks. Occupational therapy will provide support specifically in three areas, motor, cognitive, and sensory integration. Specifically, an occupational therapy session may include activities that promote self-care, fine motor, play, and social skills!

 

A Total Communication Approach 

Many parents are excited to begin therapy and learn ways to promote and enhance communication for their children. According to our colleagues at the Boston Children’s Hospital Down Syndrome Program, a Total Communication Approach can be beneficial! The Total Communication Approach means using any functional means of communication; this could include: verbal speech, ASL, gestures, pictures, and/or simple or high-tech communication devices. Many children with Down syndrome are visual processors, and the goal of Total Communication is multi-sensory (i.e., visual, auditory, tactile, etc.) in order to encourage any form of expression. What are some ways to facilitate this approach at home?

  • Visual input: Pointing to objects and pictures that you are naming or describing. 
  • Use sign language for basic words (eat, want, bath, play, etc.). Research shows using signs increases understanding and offers an additional method for communication. 
  • Incorporate music into pretend play.
  • Joint book reading. Follow your child’s lead!

 

How can Carolina Therapy Connection help?

Children with Down Syndrome often benefit from therapy from skilled professionals, including speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, and physical therapists. At Carolina Therapy Connection, our treatment is highly individualized to your child’s needs. A standardized assessment will be administered to detect any delays, and our therapists will work with you and your child to develop a plan for enhancing skills to  build confidence across all social environments (home, school, social groups, etc). If you have any concerns or questions regarding your child’s development, call our clinic at (252) 341-9944.

By Ashley Holloway, MS, CCC-SLP, CAS

Teaching Kids Independence With Life Skills

Chores or Life Skills?

Kiddos may ask themselves this question: Why do I have to do these chores? Here at CTC, we call chores “Life Skills” because that is simply what they are. Although not always the most preferred thing for your child to do, washing dishes, washing clothes, making the bed, vacuuming, sweeping, mopping, grocery shopping, cooking, and many more are essential life skills that are necessary when becoming an independent adult. Not only are they necessary, they are also very helpful for the development of time management skills, executive functioning, sensory regulation, and even emotional regulation. 

You may be wondering how you can gauge what skills are appropriate for your child. Below is a short list of age appropriate chores to get you started based on your child’s age:

Life Skills for 2-3 years old

  • Picking up toys
  • Wiping up a mess (wiping off the counter after eating or messy play)
  • Putting laundry in the hamper after taking off dirty clothes

Life Skills for 4-5 years old

  • Making the bed (even if it is assisting you with the task!)
  • Starting simple meal preparation (putting thing into bowls, stirring, etc.)
  • Helping wash/rinse dishes

Life Skills for 6-8 years old

  • Feeding pets
  • Vacuuming, sweeping, mopping
  • Folding laundry/putting away own clothes

Life Skills for 9-12 years old

  • Prepare simple meals (heating up a hot pocket, TV dinner or oven pizza)
  • Taking out garbage
  • Cleaning areas of the home other than own bedroom (bathroom, living room, outdoor areas)
  • Helping make a shopping list and helping to find items in the grocery store

13-18 years – Include all listed above with increased to total independence!

So your child may be age appropriate for the tasks at hand, but what if you wonder whether they are developmentally, emotionally, physically or cognitively appropriate for the task at this age? Recently CTC held a Life Skills camp with 4 days of fun while completing tasks that increase independence within the home environment. The kiddos in this group worked on grocery shopping, meal preparation, cleaning up after themselves, household life skills, taking care of pets and plants, team work and communication. During the camp, each child was asked to review their skills and determine the toughest part of doing “chores”. The #1 answer was time management and feelings of overwhelm when presented with multiple tasks to complete. We all worked to develop either written or visual (picture) schedules for each kiddo to take home to aid in these concerns, making getting these life skills done easier and less frustrating!

Talk to your child’s occupational therapist to see if these could be options to help your child regulate their emotions, plan their time with greater efficiency and learn new skills after mastering current ones! If your kiddo struggles to complete their daily activities, call our clinic at (252) 341-9944! Your child may benefit from an occupational therapy screening or formal evaluation!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is 2 recipes of foods that were made during the camp:

  1. Rice Kripsy Treats – The Original Rice Krispies Treats™ Recipe | Rice Krispies® 
  2. Soup (written by a kiddo in the camp)

Ingredients

  • 3-4 boneless chicken thighs
  • 1 medium onion
  • 3 carrots, sliced
  • 2 chicken stock boxes
  • 1 small rice pack (boil in a bag)
  • 1 can black beans

Add a pinch of…

  • Pink Himalayan Salt
  • Chili powder
  • Seasoned Salt
  • Black pepper
  • Red pepper flakes

MIX TOGETHER IN A SMALL BOWL

Steps:

  1. Make the rice according to directions on the rice bag
  2. As the rice is cooking, cut chicken into 1 inch cubes
  3. Sprinkle seasoning onto chicken
  4. Cut carrots and onion into preferred size and cook until preferred texture
  5. Cook the chicken until done in saucepan
  6. Once all ingredients are finished, combine with stock in a pot and boil for 2-5 minutes
  7. Simmer for 10-15 minutes
Written By: Shelby Godwin, COTA/L, AC 
TEACHING CHILDREN LIFE SKILLS Carolina Therapy Connection Greenville Goldsboro New Bern NC

CTC Ranked in North Carolina’s ‘Best Employers 2023’

Who ranks North Carolina’s Best Employers of 2023?

Carolina Therapy Connection is now ranked one of North Carolina’s Best Employers of 2023, who were ranked by market research company DataJoe in four categories! DataJoe created and implemented a survey that polled employers and their employees. The survey covered essential workplace topics, including organizational health, leadership, engagement, work-life balance, pay, training, benefits and corporate social responsibility.

See Our Ranking Below Under ‘Medium Sized Employers’

 

 

Best Employer 2023 Carolina Therapy Connection

See the FULL issue of Business North Carolina’s annual list of Best Employers HERE

What sets Carolina Therapy Connection apart from other Employers?

Carolina Therapy Connection is a therapist-owned, growing private pediatric outpatient practice with sensory clinic locations in Greenville, Goldsboro, and New Bern, North Carolina.  For the past 12 years CTC has been providing OT, PT, ST, and educational services to children of all ages and diagnoses including: autism spectrum disorder, sensory processing disorder, cerebral palsy, feeding disorders, and developmental delay. Children are served within our newly expanded, state-of-the-art sensory clinics, within the community, and within school settings. In 2023 we added Mental Wellness and Counseling to the umbrella of services CTC offers.

Carolina Therapy Connection is the first outpatient therapy clinic Certified Autism Center™  (CAC) in Eastern North Carolina. Carolina Therapy Connection covers the cost of all staff to complete this professional certification within their first year of hire. Our culture at CTC is faith-based, built around serving others while creating a fun and exciting place to work that will motivate you! 

Just a few reasons to join our team …

  • Competitive Compensation with weekly and monthly incentive bonuses (salary or pay per visit- based on yourpreference and goals!)
  • Flexible schedules perfect for therapists with families (all staff choose their own schedule- what works best for you?)
  • Fun, social clinic setting with company sponsored events every month (team building, potlucks, snack bars, ice cream socials, etc!)
  • Prizes that reward team members who carry out our core values and supportive culture (monthly core value cash prizes!)
  • Multi-disciplinary setting with supervision and mentorship programs to help you grow and based upon the support you need!
  • Supportivefaith-based culture that values teamwork as well as individual team member goals (meetings on a monthly and quarterly basis to check in on your personal and professional growth!)
  • Opportunity for growth within the company including management and leadership opportunities (clinical and administrative ladder programs)
  • Web-based, electronic documentation system (document anywhere that suits you!)
  • Simple IRA with retirement matching (no vesting period!)
  • Health, vision and dental group insurance through BCBSNC with Company contribution
  • Disability insurance
  • Life insurance and Employee Assistance Program (free mental health/wellness services) paid 100% by employer
  • PTO and all major holidays observed (let’s hear it for no weekends or holidays!)
  • Continuing education compensation and company sponsored CEU opportunities
  • We invest in every team member to receive credentialing as an Certified Autism Specialist or Autism Certificate through the IBCCES certification program
  • We credential all of our interested clinicians in becoming certified in the Interactive Metronome treatment modality
  • Private offices for speech language pathologists (and SLP assistants)
  • Clinical Fellowship program with close mentorship and training
  • Relocation assistance and sign on/retention bonuses for certain positions
  • Annual licensing fees and professional liability costs covered
  • Referral bonuses
  • Travel reimbursement
  • Computers and other technology options (iPads) for each employee
  • 15,000 sq.ft. clinic with state of the art sensory spaces for enhanced therapy experiences
  • All treatment equipment and assessments provided by company
  • Amazing administrative staff that handle all scheduling, billing and insurance authorizations (YES… Let’s hear it for less time spent documenting!)
  • A variety of settings offered based on clinician preference (schools, homes, daycares, clinic)

Interested in joining our team? Head over to our Careers Page to apply NOW!

CTC Best Employer 2023

Mealtime Tips For Your Picky Eater

Why Is Mealtime So Important For Children?

The 3 most important things for humans to survive is: food, water and oxygen. For some parents, the concern for their kiddos health and well-being becomes heightened when they notice their kiddo isn’t eating as much food or as many types of foods as they may have at one time. Some kiddos who are referred to Occupational Therapy are considered “Picky Eaters” and others may be referred to as a “Problem Feeder”. We all know a picky eater. This is a person/kiddo who has at least 30 foods in their repertoire. Whereas a “Problem Feeder” is a person/kiddo who has less than 20 foods in their repertoire. There are many reasons this could happen such as trauma, sensory related challenges, anxiety, behavioral challenges, and more. As Occupational Therapists, we are trained to assist these kiddos by addressing these challenges which can increase their tolerance for trying new foods! Keep reading to learn more picky eater tips we have below!

So why is MEALTIME so important to assist with this?

One of the first things we will ask as OTRs or COTAs is “What does mealtime look like at home?” Some parents may say, 

“We all sit down as a family every night for dinner but we are busy or gone for breakfast and lunch”, “We are so busy that we are lucky to eat all at the same time”, or “(The child) eats all day but won’t eat the food I cook at dinner”. Of course these are just examples, but can you relate to any of them? It’s a possibility! 

Asking about mealtimes is very important to your therapist because this gives us an idea of how your child eats during the day. Kiddos need fuel to keep their bodies going. However, WHAT they are taking in and HOW/WHEN they are taking it in will make a huge difference in behavior, attention, ability to process/retain information and regulate emotions/emotional responses. To give you an idea of why the “what”, “how” and “when” are so important, I’ll follow up on the questions above.

1. “We all sit down as a family every night for dinner but we are busy or gone for breakfast and lunch”

This could be a beneficial time to incorporate feeding techniques and build interest in the foods around the table. Interest always comes before action. A child must first be interested in the food before they will interact with it. This is one reason that mealtime is so important for kiddos. It can be an opportunity to build interest in various smells, sights, and textures of foods provided by parents in a supportive and positive manner.

2. “We are so busy that we are lucky to eat all at the same time”

How can you work your schedule to have a least one meal together every other day? We understand that this busy world requires busy people to keep it going. However, when you are overwhelmed and exhausted your child may pick up on that. Children are very intuitive. Incorporating as many mealtimes as possible may assist with parent/child interaction and decreasing anxiety and overwhelming emotions in adults which can in turn make eating less stressful for a “picky eater”.

3. “(The child) eats all day but won’t eat the food I cook at dinner”

Grazing is when a kiddo eating little snacks all throughout the day. Have you ever seen a child leave a snack on the table, go play for 30 minutes, then return to finish the snack? If your child is doing this all day, it may explain why they are not eating at mealtimes. Typically, the brain lets us know when we need to refuel because the digestive system sends signals saying, “I’m empty in here!”. When grazing, a child’s brain will begin to have a hard time distinguishing when the child is hungry due to constantly having food in the digestive system. This can effect metabolism and the ability to regulate hunger. When given mealtimes, the body has time to regulate, digest and filter out what it needs for fuel. Additionally, if given processed snacks that are high in sugar or carbohydrates throughout the day, the body will begin to crave them. This can create a difficult loop to break when introducing thing like vegetables, meats and some fruits. Positive interactions at mealtimes can assist with parent/child interactions, lowering anxiety and stress levels, giving the child’s body time to process what it needs for fuel and providing learning opportunities for the sensory system. This can be a major changing factor in how your child engages with food! 

Additional Mealtime Picky Eater Tips

Picky Eater Tips #1: Don’t force foods on children

As parents, we want our children to eat a variety of foods, including vegetables, fruits and other healthy snacks to help them grow to be strong and healthy. Studies show that forcing a child to sit and eat until they have cleared their entire plate is not the best method for achieving this goal. Instead, parents should promote foods that may have not been a hit the first time around. You can model this yourself by trying a food you haven’t liked in the past, and explain that you’re giving it another chance because your tastes may have changed. We want to show kids that we are adaptable. Remember: It can take as many as 10 or more times tasting a food before a toddler’s taste buds accept it. 

Picky Eater Tips #2: Get Creative With Food Bingo

You can also put together a list of new foods for the family to try and make a game out of it—what will we try tonight? You can make it interactive and fun by doing something creative like Food Bingo. There are many free printable online similar to the image shown below. You can even make your own! Hang it on the fridge and have your child place a sticker or check off the new foods they have tried. You can even add in a reward for them getting “bingo” – a trip to their favorite place, a new toy, a play date, or something else they really enjoy!

Food Bingo

Picky Eater Tips #3: Don’t Make a Second Meal

When you serve a meal to your family and your kiddo refuses to eat it, we recommend having simple and consistent back up options, such as yogurt, a cheese, nut & fruit snack pack, apple sauce, cereal etc. It’s important for children to know that if they can not eat the meal you have prepared, they will receive the standard option – rather than the usual chicken nuggets baked quickly in the oven. We should also teach kids that a meal isn’t ruined if it comes in contact with something they don’t like. Finding an unwanted pickle on your cheeseburger will not contaminate it. Children should be encouraged to push food they don’t like off to the side, or onto another plate, or offer to share it with someone else.

Picky Eater Tips #4: Involve Your Kiddo in the Meal Prep Process

Some cooking tasks are perfect for toddlers and small children (with supervision, of course): sifting, stirring, counting ingredients, picking fresh herbs from a garden or windowsill, and “painting” on cooking oil with a pastry brush. Allowing our children to interact with the foods they are going to eat will help to promote and encourage them to try it!

Picky Eater Tips #5: Food Chaining

Once your kiddo tries a new food and that food is accepted, use what one our Occupational Therapist’s favorite pickle eater tips call “food chaining” to introduce others with similar color, flavor and texture to help expand variety in what your child will eat. Children with sensory concerns have difficulty with leaping from the types of food they are willing/able to eat. Food chaining builds a bridge to get to those foods you really want your child to eat one step at a time through links to food they’re already eating. Examples include:

  • If your child likes pumpkin pie, for example, try mashed sweet potatoes and then mashed carrots.
  • If your child loves pretzels, try veggie straws next, and then move on to baby carrots or carrot sticks. Carrots are hard, crunchy, and stick shaped, but are cold and have a different taste.
  • If your child loves French Fries, then give a try to Zucchini fries.
  • Move from cookies to Fig Newtons, to jam toast, to jam sandwich, to bread with sliced strawberries, and lastly to fresh strawberries
  • If chicken nuggets are the fan favorite, try to first change the brand of nuggets, then move to homemade chicken nuggets, then to homemade tenders, and lastly to a baked chicken breast.
  • Maybe your kiddo love goldfish crackers. Next give Cheeze Itz a try, and then move on to saltine crackers, and lastly to saltines with cheese slices.

How Can Carolina Therapy Connection Help?

In addition to utilizing the tips above at home, we know that sometimes children need an extra push to expand their food repertoire. At Carolina Therapy Connection, our occupational and speech therapists provide feeding therapy that uses a collaborative approach to work closely with you and your child to determine the source of a child’s feeding difficulties, and develop specific intervention plans to make the entire eating process easier and more enjoyable. Often times, feeding therapy happens on a weekly basis and may consist of working on difficulty with trying new foods, chewing, swallowing, sensory issues, irritability at meal time and so much more. Our goals are to broaden your child’s scope of foods, teach them the benefits of healthy eating, and develop oral motor skills needed for optimal growth and nutrition.

Our Occupational Therapists take a sensory-based feeding approach to therapy.  They focus on: oral motor skills, sensory sensitivities, progressing through food textures, and using adaptive equipment and tools to develop self-feeding skills. They also use a process called food chaining, which is a child-friendly treatment approach that helps introduce new foods while building on the child’s past successful eating experiences. In this process, the child is presented with new foods that may be similar in taste, temperature, or texture to foods the child already likes and accepts. Our occupational therapists are certified in the SOS Feeding Approach, a nationally and internationally recognized approach for assessing and treating children with feeding difficulties.

Our feeding therapists have 15-20 years of experience with children of all ages and a variety of feeding disorders. They have certifications in SOS and AEIOU approaches and significant training from around the country on feeding approaches, treatment strategies, and focused plans. We also having consistent collaboration with other professionals in the community to guarantee the best care. Call our clinic at 252-341-9944 for a free phone screening with one of our feeding therapists and schedule an evaluation today!

Blog Written By: Shelby Godwin, COTA/L, AC & Morgan Foster, MS, OTR/L

 

Autism Center and Autism Resources

CTC Continues Commitment to Serving Autism Community and Provides Resources for Families

Since becoming a Certified Autism Center™ in 2020, Carolina Therapy Connection Greenville (CTC) has built upon the certification principals by collaborating with other resources to create a stronger community. Its therapists are now going into ABA clinics to provide occupational and physical therapy services.  As part of CTC’s ongoing commitment, team members recently completed additional training through IBCCES to meet renewal requirements and ensure staff have up-to-date knowledge and resources to enhance their skill sets.  Part of Carolina Therapy Connection’s mission is to provide valuable and specific autism resources for families that will help them throughout their daily routines.

Inclusive Programs

CTC also has a Prep Academy that provides a kindergarten readiness program that integrates typically developing children as well as children on the autism spectrum into the same learning environment.  Cindy Taylor, owner of Carolina Therapy Connection Greenville said, “The team’s hope and passion is to take the knowledge of our training and provide a safe space for kiddos to begin to engage in reciprocal play, be able to tolerate various sounds, and to begin to trust their environment.”

“Families have numerous and various reasons for the  ‘why’ behind what leads them to CTC.  Part of the ‘why’ for both the families we serve as well as potential new hires, is the Certified Autism Center™ designation and the individualized therapist training that comes with that.  Families feel comfort in knowing that owner, Cindy Taylor has taken the extra step to ensure that we as therapists receive ‘a little extra something’ to assist and better serve their kiddo,” shared Stevi M. Smith, COTA/L, AAC, HR Manager at CTC Greenville. “A lot of families who come to us may have had unpleasant experiences through other venues, be it school, a daycare, or another facility. So, when families see that we take time out to learn more about their kiddos, it means a lot to them.”

About CTC

Carolina Therapy Connection is a pediatric private practice serving children birth through adolescence and the team consists of occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech language pathologists, and educational specialists. Since becoming an autism certified practice employees have shared their excitement for IBCCES’ discipline specific training and certification options!  Many staff members shared comments like, “Sometimes we attend training, it’s nice and informative, but we have to think about how it applies to us professionally. This is not the case with IBCCES’ training.  Specific treatment scenarios are given throughout the training.”

  “It’s wonderful to have long-term partnerships with dedicated teams such as the professionals at Carolina Therapy Connection Greenville. Our programs require renewal and are updated with multidisciplinary experts as well as autistic individuals to ensure we can support professionals as best practices emerge” said Myron Pincomb, IBCCES Board Chairman.

For more than 20 years, IBCCES has been the industry leader in cognitive disorder training and certification for education, healthcare, and corporate professionals around the globe. IBCCES provides evidence-based training and certification programs created in conjunction with clinical experts and autistic individuals in order to provide professionals better understanding of how to communicate and interact with individuals with cognitive differences or sensory needs, industry best practices, and the latest research in these areas.

IBCCES also created CertifiedAutismCenter.com, as a free online resource for parents that lists certified locations and professionals. Each organization listed on the site has met Certified Autism Center™ (CAC) requirements.

About IBCCES

Delivering The Global Standard For Training and Certification in The Field of Cognitive Disorders – IBCCES provides a series of certifications that empower professionals to be leaders in their field and improve the outcomes for the individuals they serve. These programs are the only training and certification programs endorsed by the largest grassroots autism organization in the world, The Autism Society of America, and recognized around the world as the leading benchmark for training and certification in the areas of autism and other cognitive disorders.

Autism centerAutism center greenville, nc

Autism Center

The Vestibular System in Pediatrics

What is the Vestibular System?

Vesti-what?!? The vestibular system is made up of the inner ear, vestibulocochlear nerve that communicates between the inner ear and brain, parts of the brainstem, and cortical areas in the brain. The vestibular system responds to head movements like when you nod your head “yes”, shake your head “no”, or tip your head to shake the water out of your ears. It also responds to movements like when you move forward or backwards when you’re sledding, move up and down like when you’re jumping, or when you spin around in circles. Overall the vestibular system helps you figure out where you are in space as you move around your environment so that you can… 

  • Maintain your gaze on a target while moving your head (vestibulo-ocular reflex)
  • Maintain postural control or balance
  • Orient yourself to your environment
  • React appropriately to your surroundings
  • Avoid falls

Check out this helpful resource from Integrated Learning Strategies, who breaks down the vestibular system as an internal GPS system for the body!

Vestibular Therapy Carolina Therapy Connection

What is vestibular dysfunction?

Vestibular dysfunction may be attributed to deficits or impairments of the inner ear, vestibulocochlear nerve, brain, or brainstem. As adults we may notice difficulties with our vestibular system due to symptoms like dizziness, vertigo, trouble keeping objects in focus while moving our head, or changes in our balance. Children who have vestibular concerns may not realize that they are dizzy or that movement of letters when reading is atypical if they have always experienced these symptoms. This can make diagnosing vestibular concerns hard and can often times be mistaken for other issues (learning disabilities, behavior problems etc.) due to a child’s inability to explain the symptoms they are experiencing.

Migraines, Benign Paroxysmal Vertigo of Childhood (BPVC), and Traumatic Brain Injuries are the most common causes of childhood vertigo. Ocular disorders, inner ear malformations, labyrinthitis (inflammation of the inner ear), and neuritis (inflammation of the vestibulocochlear nerve) are also common causes.

As a parent, here are a few signs and symptoms to watch for regarding vestibular dysfunction:

  • Head tilted to the side
  • Easily stressed, anxious, or upset with quick changes in movement or being on unstable, uneven, or taller surfaces
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Imbalance or frequent falls
  • Vertigo or dizziness
  • Reduced cognitive performance
  • Decreased consciousness or arousal
  • Poor spatial awareness, navigation, or orientation
  • Ringing in ears
  • Spontaneous and involuntary eye movements
  • Motion/car sickness
  • Constant need for movement or taking unsafe risks for various positional changes or movement patterns

What should you do if your child is experiencing vestibular dysfuntion?

First and foremost, consult your child’s pediatrician to discuss your concerns. You may be referred to a neurologist for further evaluation and recommendations. If your child’s pediatrician or neurologist determines that your child would benefit from Physical or Occupational Therapy treatment, your child may be referred for an initial OT and/or PT evaluation.

How can a pediatric occupational therapist or physical therapist help with vestibular concerns?

  • During the initial evaluation your therapist may…
    • Assess how your child’s eye move in a variety of situations
    • Screen for abnormal eye movements
    • Assess your child’s visual acuity
    • Test your child’s balance while static or standing still, as well as their dynamic balance while on a variety of surfaces, while they are moving, or while they are performing a task
    • Assess how your child responds to various positional changes and movement patterns
    • Assess for seeking or avoidance behaviors of various positional changes or movements
  • During treatment your therapist may…
    • Use balance beams, obstacle courses, balance boards, single leg stance activities, etc. to challenge and improve your child’s balance.
    • Use stair training, climbing a rockwall or ladder, standing on a platform swing, etc. to address gravitational sensitivities and challenge balance at various heights.
    • Use swinging, spinning, rolling in a foam cylinder, sliding down slide, riding on a scooter board, etc. to help strengthen your child’s vestibular system. These activities will also potentially help delay the onset or reduce the severity of your child’s dizziness.
    • Use specific activities involving movement of their eyes and head to strengthen their vestibular system.

If you have concerns about your child’s vestibular function, motor development, sensory difficulties or anything else, call Carolina Therapy Connection at 252-341-9944 or email us at info@carolinatherapyconnection.com to get started today! We accept all major insurances and would love to help your family and kiddo maximize their independence and potential to grow healthy and strong!

Blog Written By: Joann Flaherty, PT, DPT and Jessica Reynalds OTD, OTR/L

References:

  • Casselbrant ML, Villardo RJ, Mandel EM. Balance and otitis media with effusion. Int J Audiol. 2008;47(9):584-589.
  • Christy, J., Beam, M., Mueller, G., & Rine, R. (2019). Just Screen It!! (Part 2): Developmental Disability, Vestibular Deficit, or Both?. Presentation, APTA Combined Sections Meeting.
  • Christy, J., & Rine, R. (2019). Just Screen It!! (Part 1): Developmental Disability, Vestibular Deficit, or Both?. Presentation, APTA Combined Sections Meeting.
  • Lin, C. (2019). Vestibular Rehabilitation Intervention. Presentation, East Carolina University.
  • Salami, A., Dellepiane, M., Mora, R., Taborelli, G., & Jankowska, B. (2006). Electronystagmography finding in children with peripheral and central vestibular disorders.International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology, 70(1), 13-18. doi:10.1016/j.ijporl.2005.05.001
  • Wiener-Vacher, S. R. (2008). Vestibular disorders in children. International Journal of Audiology, 47(9), 578-583. doi:10.1080/14992020802334358
Pediatric Vestibular Therapy Greenville, NC Carolina Therapy Connection