The “eyes” have it! Vision, learning and behavior, oh my!

When it comes to reasons why your child might be struggling with reading or writing, having poor attention in school or exhibiting decreased eye contact, vision problems are an often overlooked possibility.  All children, especially children under the age of 5 years old, should have a developmental vision examination to determine if vision is a part of or even the source of the issues.

We are excited to begin our Community Education Program Fall 2013 Series with a presentation on this important topic.  Dr. Crystal Hoffert of Brenart Eye Clinic in Yorkville will be at the STEPS for Kids clinic on Wednesday September 25th to provide important information about vision.   Dr. Hoffert will talk about common childhood vision problems, how they can impact on learning, behavior and motor development and what can be done to address these vision problems.

Joining Dr. Hoffert will be Samantha Hoffert, Vision Therapist at Brenart Eye Clinic. Vision therapy provides structured exercises and activities designed to improve a person’s ability to control fine movement of the eyes, selectively focus on visual targets, use the eyes together in a coordinated and functional manner and process visual information more accurately and efficiently.  Vision therapy is sometimes prescribed as part of the total plan for remediation of visual deficits which may also include prescription glasses, patching either eye during activities, home exercises and activities and sometimes coordinating efforts with Occupational Therapists and teachers to support the child’s success in learning.

If you would like to learn more about vision and how it may be affecting your child then please join us on September 25th at 7:00 pm for this information filled program.  This program is offered by STEPS for Kids as a community service and is FREE for parents and professionals. Space is limited so registration is required.  Download or print a flyer for more information and to share with others.

Contact us by phone (630-552-9890) or email ( to register and reserve your spot for this program.  We look forward to seeing there!

Nutrition, Behaviors, Learning and Health

Back in June we had the pleasure of hosting Heather DeGeorge, CHC/AADP, PMP at the clinic talking about how what we eat really does matter.  The information she shared with us brought new meaning to the old saying “you are what you eat.”  I am looking forward to having Heather back in the future to talk more about this topic but for those of you who missed her presentation, here is an overview of how nutrition can impact development, learning, behaviors and health.  I’ve used some of Heather’s information and added some from other sources.  This information is provided as an educational tool only and you should consult with your physician before making any dietary changes for you or your child.


Physical growth, development, emotional balance and well-being are driven by what we eat.  How our body uses and responds to the food we ingest influences all aspects of our being.   Some people experience reactions to food that may or not be true allergies but influence our health significantly.  Food intolerance can trigger immune system responses and metabolic disorders or disruptions can result in the body’s inability to use food efficiently for energy and growth.  Sometimes our bodies are unable to handle the food substance but sometimes it is related to what has been added to the foods when processed.  Understanding how one’s body reacts to various foods or additives is imperative to understanding how to correct the issue.  Allergy testing may be inconclusive or inaccurate and is not typically recommended for young children.  Assessment through elimination diets can be helpful and other testing can be completed by your doctor.

2.  Nutrition issues can produce or contribute a wide variety of symptoms.

The following behavioral and developmental challenges are worth attempting to correct through modifications to diet or nutritional supports.  You should consult with your physician if you believe that any of these issues present in your child may be influenced by dietary concerns.

3.  Changes to dietary intake and nutritional supports can sometimes improve symptoms. (Always consult with your physician prior to making dietary changes)

  • Eliminate the problematic food ingredient, whether naturally occurring or added through processing.  The most common irritants are diary, soy, gluten and food preservatives and dyes.
  • Use dietary changes to balance blood sugar. Improve the balance of fats, carbohydrates and proteins in each meal (including snacks) for better metabolism and use of food energy.
  • Use dietary supplements when appropriate to address nutritional deficits.

When we are trying to determine how to support behavioral, learning and developmental challenges, it is important to consider the food we eat as one possibility influencing these areas.  While food allergies, sensitivities or intolerances are not always the answer for every case, they can be one part of the puzzle.  Often overlooked and underestimated, the impact of food should always be considered when assessing our children’s developmental challenges.  Changing diet and helping picky eaters is the next challenge. We’ll talk about that soon!

Eating right for behavior, learning and development

Please join us on Monday June 3rd at 7:00 pm for a presentation on healthy eating and how food can impact behaviors, learning and development.  We are happy to host Heather DeGeorge presenting “Healthy Eating for Developmental and Behavioral Challenges” and invite you to join us for this information packed evening.

Heather DeGeorge, CHC/AADP, PMP has worked in private practice as a health and wellness coach and is committed to helping individuals and families improve their health and change their lives by addressing nutritional issues.  Heather has followed a long personal journey into health, first with her own needs and then with those of her developmentally delayed son.  Drawn to learn more about the impact of nutrition on overall health, Heather now teaches others about how true it is that “you are what you eat.”

On June 3rd, Heather will be talking about the complex relationship between food, digestion, allergies, neurological system function and the immune system. She will discuss researched based ways to put changes in place that can help your child eat healthier and change their behaviors while supporting healthy development.  Come learn how food may be influencing your child from within and, more importantly, how you can make changes for the better!

This class is FREE but registration is requested. Please contact us at the clinic by phone or email to register today!  630-552-9890  OR

Toddlers, Tantrums and Transitions

One of the biggest challenges in parenting young children is helping them move smoothly from one developmental stage to the next.  Change can rock anyone’s boat, especially for children who may not have the skills in place to handle the demands of change.  When your child has exceptional needs, the challenge for parents includes adapting your techniques to fit each child’s needs.  Parents often discover that what worked for one isn’t working for the next.  A daunting task, indeed. Who said parenting was going to be easy?!

If you are looking for support and guidance to navigate the milestones of giving up a pacifier, moving your toddler into a “big bed”, potty training and more, we have information just for you!  We are pleased to welcome Dana Burke, M.S.Ed, BCBA of ABC Moms, Inc presenting on Tuesday, May 7th, 7:00 pm at the clinic on this very topic.  Leading Through Life Transitions will focus on the importance of routines and give you practical strategies for helping children cope with the changes brought on by growing up.

Dana has presented at STEPS for Kids before, sharing insight and wisdom about the most important tips for parenting.  With a professional background in speech/communication, special education and behavior management, and her own parenting experiences, Dana’s presentations are chock full of strategies and techniques that are immediately applicable in your “every day.”  Dana will share proven ways for you to maintain a calm and cooperative atmosphere in your home.

This program is part of our Community Education Spring 2013 series and is FREE to both parents and professionals.  Registration is requested as space is limited. Please call or email us to register today!  630-552-9890  OR

Small Business Wish Grant – YOU can help us Win!

STEPS for Kids has entered a wish into the Intuit’s Small Business Growing Strong Spring 2013 Campaign!  Intuit will be granting wishes with $5000 to each of the winning 15 small businesses. Follow the link to vote for us now!

Then share the link to help us grow our business so we can provide more services and better services with new computers and software for the clinic!

We opened our doors in 2010 with just myself, Deb Johnson, providing OT.  The community demand is great and we have grown to meet the need. We now have 3 more great therapists (Kristin, OT; Julia, PT and Nicole, SLP) as well as a terrific office manager (Paula) all working hard to help the kids who come through our doors.  As we have grown our technology has not kept pace. We sure could use that $5000 to buy new computers and tablets so that we can provide even better therapy services!

We would then be able to use computers in therapy, taking advantage of all the great apps out there as well as computer based programs.  We would also be better able to provide families with needed resources such as picture schedules and home activity programs.  Lastly, more computers would mean that our little clinic could move into using electronic medical systems that will streamline our documentation and improve our business operations so that we can spend more time with the kids!

Please go to the Small Business Growing Strong website and vote for us now! You can vote one time every day so please come back often and vote! With your support we can keep growing and help even more kids!

Community Education Spring Series Continues!

It was great to see such a wonderful group of parents and professionals at our program on April 3rd.  We are pleased to be continuing our Community Education programs with two more presentations coming up in May and June.

On May 7, 2013 we will be hosting Dana Burke, MS, Ed, BCBA  from ABC Moms, Inc in Naperville.  ABC Moms provides parenting support for families from the newborn years through teens. Dana is a board certified behavior analyst and specializes in infant care. She also has experience as a speech therapist assistant, educator and parent which provide her with a rich perspective when helping families.   Dana will be speaking about helping children through transitions and offer insights and tips for making changes such as potty training, sleeping in a “big bed”, getting rid of the pacifier, and more.  Read more about the program and call or email us to register!

On June 3rd, Heather DeGeorge, CAC/AADP, PMP will be here to talk about how nutrition affects behaviors and development.  Heather is a health and wellness coach who provides support for individuals and families who are looking for answers to health and nutrition related issues.  Heather brings personal experience, her own journey and that of her son, and a wealth of professional knowledge to the topic of how food and nutrition impact our behaviors, learning and health.  Join us to learn how food can impact the neurological and immune systems, how it can cause health issues and behavior challenges and how you can support your family toward changes that make a difference!  Read more about the program and call or email us to register!

These presentations are FREE and open to the public but space is limited.  Contact us at 630-552-9890, email us at to register today!

New Community Education Program! Is It Sensory or Is It Behavior?

STEPS for Kids is again offering Community Education programs at the clinic!  Join us on Wednesday April 3rd to explore one of the most often asked questions related to SPD: Is It Sensory or Is It Behavior?   You can read some thoughts on this topic here and learn more about the presentation here.

Geared toward both parents and professionals, our Community Education programs are designed to provide practical information for improving the daily lives of children and their families.  This presentation if FREE to the public but registration is required.  Please register by contacting the clinic by phone (630-552-9890), FAX (630-552-9891) or Email ( )

Babies Positioned for Development: Tips for “Tummy Time”

These days there is a lot of conversation on parent forums, in pediatrician offices, and between friends about babies and sleep habits.  One of the biggest shifts in parenting habits in the US has been the result of the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation in 1992 that parents lay babies on their backs for sleeping.  Since that time, infant deaths from SIDS have dropped more than 50%.  But along with that great news, there has been a corresponding increase in conditions such as plagiocephaly (flattened areas on the head) and torticollis (an imbalance in neck muscles).  Furthermore, there has been a rise in the number of infants displaying decreased strength in the trunk, neck and upper body, resulting in delays in gross motor skills.  Research supports the need for parents to be educated in the importance of “tummy time” as a means to support infant development.  Time spent sleeping on their backs, riding in carriers, and sitting in positioning devices has significantly decreased the amount of time babies spend on their tummies, which is crucial to the development of upper body strength and subsequent motor skills.

Why is “tummy time” so important?  Continue reading

Choosing the “Just Right” Toys

‘Tis the season for kids wishing, gift giving and shopping!  Lots of parents at our clinic ask for help in choosing toys.  It’s wonderful when you can find that perfect toy that not only meets the child’s wishes but also supports developmental skills – a magical combination, indeed!  So, just in time for your holiday shopping, here are a few tips for finding that special something for your special someone.

1.  Consider you child’s strengths and struggles to choose toys that are best for his or her needs.  Think about what your child loves as well as how your child is able to play with a toy.  Make a list with three categories: What the child loves (interests, motivators, etc), what the child is good at (skills), and what the child needs to work on (weakness, delays).  Then find a balance by providing toys that address each category.  Be sure your child has toys that can be used easily and independently as well as toys that require a little help and present the “just right challenges” in play without frustrating the child.

2.  Pay attention to recommended ages for toys and consider your child’s developmental levels to get a good match.   Remember that a child’s skill levels may be scattered among different developmental areas. For example, your 6 year old may be incredible at doing puzzles and can handle those indicated for ages 10 and up.  But the same child may  struggle with gross motor skills and do better with those types of toys that are recommended for ages 3-5 years.  Remember to advise family and friends of any discrepancies or needs in this regard lest they generalize that your child needs the same level of toys across the board.

3.  Think about how the toy is used and how much flexibility is inherent in the toy related to what your child enjoys and what you want to encourage developmentally.  The best deals for your money are those toys that offer a lot of flexibility in terms of how it can be used. This may mean that the toy can be adapted for play in different ways (for example, modifying board games to simplify rules) or whether the toy addresses many developmental areas.

4.  Make sure that your child’s toys include a variety that provides for quiet time, social interaction, pretend play, motor skills development (gross motor and fine motor), cognitive and perceptual (visual) skills development.  Sometimes children will get “stuck” and ask for only one kind of toy or toys with a very specific focus, such as trains or a favorite movie. It’s up to us as parents to help guide those choices, providing the right mix of toys that open up opportunities for new experiences and learning.

If you are looking for some resources beyond or your favorite department stores, here are four sites I love for toy shopping:

Toys R Us has a wonderful Differently-Abled Toy Guide

Achievement Products has a wide variety of toys and gift ideas for special needs

Constructive Playthings has lists by type of toy, age or skill

Fat Brain Toys are wonderful products and they provide a detailed list of toys for special needs.

Infant Massage: The Power of Touch

Every mother waits eagerly for that first moment after their child’s birth to hold the baby close.  For the infant, “being touched and caressed…is food…; food as necessary as minerals, vitamins and proteins” ( Frederick Leboyer ).   Infant massage harnesses the power of touch to bring life-long benefits for both babies and parents.  Early sensory input, emotional and physical bonding are essential for the development of all infants.  Infant massage is a wellness technique that provides a loving touch right from the start.

What is Infant Massage?

Infant massage is a combination of stroking movements that provide massage to the baby’s muscles and positive behavioral reinforcers, including eye contact, vocalizations, facial expressions, and mutual interactions that enhance bonding between parent and child.  The techniques used are based on centuries old practices that have been used by parents in diverse cultures and times.   Parents learn the techniques through instruction provided by certified instructors and then use massage at home as part of a daily routine.   While Infant Massage is incorporated into therapy for children with special needs, it is an excellent tool for well babies and those at risk (ie: premature, immune compromised, etc) that all parents can learn

How important is touch for babies?

Child development research has long ago proven the importance of touch for health and wellness.  Psychologist Harry Harlow’s classic experiment with rhesus monkeys  was crucial in helping us understand just how important infant/mother contact was.  Later research has shown that touch is instrumental in influencing metabolic function, release of hormones and neurochemicals that are critical for growth and development.  Many experts agree on the importance of touch as related to parent/child bond, stimulation of cognitive, social and language development and how it influences growth.  For more information on research specifically related to infant massage, the Touch Research Institute provides a lengthy list.

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