Arsenic found in over 200 rice products tested, including infant rice cereal!

Recently, Consumer Reports released their findings of arsenic in rice and rice-containing foods that are commonly eaten, including infant rice cereal, Arsenic in Ricerice cakes, white rice, brown rice, organic rice, rice pasta, and more. When I heard about this on the news, I thought about three sectors of the population I work with who would be affected based on their dietary intake of rice: infants who eat rice cereal as a staple in their diet; kids on gluten-free diets who eat rice products as an alternative grain; and ethnic groups who traditionally eat rice daily.

What did the study find?

Click here to see Consumer Reports‘ results table with all the foods tested, including brands, and the level of arsenic found per serving. There are two types of arsenic: inorganic arsenic which is known to cause cancer, and organic arsenic which is also considered toxic. Both types were found in all of the rice products in the study.  The question is what level of arsenic in foods is safe? There are no federal standards set at this point for acceptable levels of arsenic in foods; however, there are arsenic regulations for drinking water.  New Jersey has the most conservative allowed amount of arsenic in water which is 5 ppb. In the table of results, Consumer Reports used 5 ppb as a standard of comparison, and found that many rice foods had levels >5 ppb of inorganic arsenic per serving and many foods having total arsenic levels in the hundreds ppb. Brown rice was found to have more arsenic than white rice, which is because white rice has had the outer layers stripped in processing, thus stripping some of the absorbed arsenic.

What does this mean for your family?

It is important to consider how much rice you or your child is eating. If it’s daily, you should consider decreasing that intake to weekly instead, until the FDA responds with regulations for arsenic in foods. In the case of infant rice cereal, switch to baby oatmeal cereal or make your own infant cereal by grinding whole, dry quinoa, millet or amaranth in a coffee grinder, then cook with water per the directions. Once cooled, stir in breastmilk or formula to desired consistency. Talk to your pediatrician or registered dietitian about more sources of iron in your child’s diet if taking out iron-fortified rice cereal is a concern. On another note, although brown rice was found to have higher arsenic levels than white rice, brown rice is better nutritionally than white rice because it has more fiber, naturally occurring vitamins and minerals, and small amounts of healthy fats.

How does this affect children?

As I mentioned, inorganic arsenic is a known carcinogen. Children and especially infants have immature organs and detoxification processes compared to adults, so exposure to toxins like arsenic can be more harmful for the very young. At any age, eating a variety of grains is healthy and based on the study results, decreasing rice intake and replacing with other grains would be advisable.

Here is a list of different types of grains that could substitute for rice:

  • quinoa
  • amaranth
  • millet
  • oatmeal
  • buckwheat
  • corn or grits

This study demonstrates the need for regulations on allowable levels of these kinds of toxins in our food supply. This would need to include regulations on arsenic and other potentially harmful toxins in pesticides, fertilizers, as well as drugs and feed given to animals. To find out more about what is being done and how you can get involved, go to ConsumersUnion.org/arsenic. We all need to have a better awareness of what is in the foods we eat and feed to our kids, even beyond the major nutrients and ingredients. For nutrition counseling to evaluate and improve your family’s diet, contact North Shore Pediatric Therapy for an appointment with one of our registered dietitians.

How To Make A Large Floor Pillow

Floor pillows, which might also look like large bean bag chairs, are a common piece of equipment used during your child’s therapy sessions. These girl on a floor pillowlarge pillows or cushions have several different purposes. Floor pillows are a wonderful tool for self-calming and regulation for a child because they provide a defined relaxation spot. Floor pillows also provide a safe area for your child to jump or crash into, which is helpful for kids who are constantly on the go and seek the high sensory input from crashing into objects. And the great thing is that large floor pillows are an easy ‘do it yourself’ project that you can make with your child at home.

How To Make A Floor Pillow:

Materials: 2 large duvet covers (1 to hold the foam and 1 for the outer layer to wash), soft foam pieces

Directions:

  1. Fill the inside duvet cover with as many foam pieces as you would like to create the desired shape and size (e.g. The more foam the safer it will be when used for crashing into).
  2. Tie or sew the ends of the inside cover securely.
  3. Then place this filled duvet cover into the second duvet cover (choose a fun color or pattern for the outside one, to match your child’s personality and/or favorite color).
  4. Tie the ends into a large knot (this will allow easy maintenance and clean-up, as it can be easily untied and thrown into the washing machine).
  5. And begin using your new floor pillow!

Do it yourself projects are a perfect way for your child to work on following directions and completing a project from start to finish. Projects are also a great family bonding experience, as they require teamwork and social skills. Stay tuned for my next blog on uses for your large floor pillow.

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What is Baby Sign and how it can help a Child’s Speech and Language Development | Pediatric Therapy Tv

In today’s Webisode, a Pediatric Speech Pathologist explains what Baby Sign Language is and how it can be helpful for an infant’s ability to speak, contributing to their overall communication.

Learn how sign language can help late talkers in our blog!

In this video you will learn:

  • How do babies use gestures to communicate
  • What skills do babies develop using gestures and signs
  • What age is appropriate to use gestures and signs with your infant

Video Transcription:

Announcer: From Chicago’s leading experts in pediatrics to a worldwide
audience, this is Pediatric Therapy TV, where we provide experience and
innovation to maximize your child’s potential. Now, your host, here’s
Robyn.

Robyn: Hello, and welcome to Pediatric Therapy TV. I’m your host, Robyn
Ackerman, and today I’m standing with a Pediatric Speech and Language
Pathologist, Kay Connolly. Kay, can you tell our viewers what exactly baby
sign language is?

Kay: Sure. It’s a very natural part of development. Gestures are absolutely
what we use when communicating. You’ll see your baby doing those very early
signs of pointing or lifting up their arms to be held, waving goodbye.
Those are all early signs, and baby sign language is teaching some of those
more common gestures that also have words associated with them. They can
use those as building communication, building vocabulary, building a means
of communication that isn’t necessarily verbal.

It’s very appropriate for those infants aged about 9 to 18 months. That’s
when you’re really starting to see those communications, those gestures,
and you start to see them using some vocabulary, too. It’s a really great
way to increase their overall vocabulary, and help them really communicate
effectively without using their voice, because your child will develop
their comprehension and their gross motor skills, like the pointing and the
gestures, earlier than they are actually ready to speak.

This is a great tool to use to help them communicate with you and describe
their wants and needs. As far as there’s some concerns that maybe, this
would replace verbal communication, and that’s absolutely not the case. In
fact, there’s some research supporting that this will actually increase
their overall vocabulary instead, which is really some nice research there.
That said, it should be used as a link between the gesture and the verbal
word. So when you’re teaching it, it should absolutely combine both and
really help your child to make that connection to increase their
vocabulary.

Robyn: All right. Thank you so much, Kay, and thank you to our viewers. And
remember, keep on blossoming.

Announcer: This has been Pediatrics Therapy TV, where we bring peace of
mind to your family with the best in educational programming. To subscribe
to our broadcast, read our blogs, or learn more, visit our website at
learnmore.me. That’s learnmore.me.

10 Signs at School Suggesting a Student May Benefit from Physical Therapy

Children develop and improve their gross motor skills significantly during their early school years, between three and ten years of age. A lot of gross motor development occurs at school while playing at recess or doing activities in gym class. School offers the opportunity to recognize if a child needs extra assistance from a physical therapist in expanding or improving their gross motor skills.

Physical therapist treats child

Here are some tips for teachers that will help determine if a child would benefit from physical therapy:

  1. The child prefers to sit and play instead of run or participate in gross motor activities during recess or gym class.
  2. The child has difficulty jumping, skipping, or galloping when compared to their peers.
  3. The child has an atypical gait pattern (for example, they walk on their toes or they are “knock-kneed”)
  4. The child prefers to w-sit (with their knees bent, feet by their bottom, and bottom on the floor) instead of crossed-legged on the floor.
  5. The child frequently trips, falls, or bumps into objects.
  6. When walking up and down the stairs, the child does not alternate their feet, instead placing both feet on each step.
  7. The child is unable to kick a soccer ball.
  8. The child is unable to catch or throw a playground ball.
  9. The child runs significantly slower than his peers or has difficulty running for more than one minute.
  10. The child complains of pain or tightness in their ankles, knees, hips, or back.

If you see any of these characteristics in children at school, they may benefit from a physical therapy evaluation. Without fully developed gross motor skills, a child is going to have difficulties keeping up with their peers during recess or gym class. It will also affect their ability to participate in gross motor games and sports. Also, it is important to note that many children will exhibit the above behaviors and may or may not require physical therapy (PT) intervention therefore it is important to consult with a PT first.

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How Household Materials Can Be Used For Occupational Therapy Goals

In occupational therapy sessions, we often use common materials and games to make our sessions therapeutic and fun.

Here are some ways that you can use materials and equipment that you may have lying around at home to help your children reach their occupational therapy goals:

Children play household games

  1. Board Games Board games are a great way to help your children develop their social skills and fine motor skills. Board games can be a way to improve eye contact, turn taking, and sharing. Many board games, such as Battleship, Trouble, and Perfection, involve small pieces that need to be placed into the game board. By having your child use his fingers to manipulate these pieces, it can help him understand how to hold small objects which can facilitate learning how to properly hold writing utensils. In addition to helping to hold small pieces, it can also assist your child to develop other fine motor skills, such as manual dexterity and in hand manipulation skills. For example, you can have your child hold onto several of the pieces with one hand and put them into the game board one by one. Using board games that also have cards, such as Sorry, can also help improve manual dexterity by means of shuffling, dealing, and manipulating the cards without dropping them or revealing them to the other players.
  2. Play-Doh Play-Doh is a wonderful tool to improve fine motor skills in children. Play-Doh can be used as a medium to practice writing, drawing, and cutting. You can trace different geometric forms (circle, square, and triangle) into the Play-Doh with a pencil and have you child copy the shapes in another piece of flattened Play-Doh and cut them out with scissors. Using Play-Doh to practice drawing and cutting is often a good precursor to writing with a pencil and paper as the texture of Play-Doh is more resistive which makes cutting and tracing easier. Play-Doh can also be used to help strengthen the small muscles in their hands by rolling it into a snake, ball, and flattening it into a pancake.
  3. Puzzles Puzzles can be used to help your children improve their visual-perceptual skills which is important for many school tasks, such as copying things from the board and finding items in their desk. The complexity of puzzles can very greatly, from simple large peg puzzles in a wooden form to 100 piece jigsaw puzzles. If you have an older child, using a complex jigsaw puzzle can be a great way to work on planning, sequencing, organizing, and problem-solving skills.
  4. Playground equipment Using the playground or the jungle gym in the backyard is the perfect way to help your children increase their core strength, upper body strength, and bilateral coordination. This will help build up the strength in your children’s larger muscles so that when they have to work at their desk or a table, their core and upper body will have the stability and endurance to sit and complete fine motor activities.
  5. Balls Playing catch, kicking, dribbling, and volleyball are just a few of the many ways balls can be therapeutic. All of these activities involve using eye-hand coordination, balance, and core strength which are great skills to have for a variety of gross motor and fine motor activities. These activities can also help with ocular motor skills as your child needs to track the object through space.

There are many types of equipment and materials used during therapy that can be adapted to meet the needs of your child. You can find these materials and many more around your house in order to improve your child’s skills so he or she can be successful in school and play activities!

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Differentiating Between Sequencing and Memory

Oftentimes sequencing and memory can look the same. However, there are some activities that require memory and not sequencing. It is important to memory gamepractice both skills, as both are required to complete tasks at school and at home, and in order to learn new skills.

What is Sequencing?

Sequencing involves completing an activity in the proper order (e.g. following a recipe). It might also look like a routine (e.g. getting dressed: first undergarments, then shirt/pants, then socks/shoes). Sequencing helps a child to complete an activity from start to finish in the correct order. It also helps a child to know how to do new activities (e.g. first _____, then ______).

All sequencing activities require memory:

  • Creating a pattern (e.g. beads on a necklace/bracelet)
  • Recalling a color pattern (e.g. blue, green, yellow, green)
  • Steps to shoe tying

What is Memory?

Memory requires auditory and visual processing to hear and/or see the directions of an activity (e.g. recalling steps to an obstacle course; memorizing facts for a test). Memory helps a child to remember what he should be doing and why. It also helps a child to do the task the same way each time.

Memory is required for sequencing:

  • Memory game (finding matching cards)
  • Listening to directions and repeating them back
  • Studying a picture, and recalling items in the picture (when picture is taken away)

Sequencing and memory activities are important for people of all ages, young and elderly. These skills help to keep our minds sharp and active. Stay tuned for my next blog on creating a ‘Treasure Hunt’ to incorporate both sequencing and memory into one fun child-friendly activity!

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How to Build a Positive Relationship with your Child’s Teacher | Tips from Moms and Teachers

As a mother of 3 children, and having been a teacher myself for many years before having my own kids, I find it interesting to be on “the other end” ofthe parent/teacher relationship. So how does a parent build that positive relationship with teachers? Here are a few tips that I picked up along the way as both a parent and a teacher.

How to Build a Positive Relationship with Your Child’s Teacher:

  • Start out right. Send an email a week or two into the school year outlining the positives you have seen from your child. Simply write something along the lines of, “I am really impressed with how Jacob came home yesterday knowing all of the planets!”. This simple stmom and teacher with boyep will open up lines of communication with the teacher early on, while at the same time showing the teacher that you are paying attention to what is going on at school and that you care.
  • Ask the teacher what you can do to help! Is there something you can volunteer for in the classroom? Are there activities you can help organize? Are there donations you can make to optimize the room? How can you make life easier for the teacher? By offering your services and time, you are showing the teacher that you truly care about helping her have an easier year.
  • Do not overwhelm the teacher! It is good to make sure your child’s teacher is well versed in everything they NEED to know about your child. But you must also give them space. It can become hard for a teacher to prepare, learn and teach your child if you are contacting them every day telling them what to do or not do. You may even be surprised when they are able to help your child in innovative ways that you never thought were possible before!
  • Show appreciation. Everybody likes to know they are appreciated, and teachers are no exception. You don’t have to break the bank buying them tons of gifts. However, teachers do not get paid as much as they should, and they do not just work on your child’s education only during school hours. Most work at nights and on weekends in order to complete everything they need! So yes, it is nice to get them a little something during the holiday break and at the end of the year. It is even nicer if you have your child draw them a picture or write them a letter to show appreciation. This, of course, can be done throughout the year!
  • Be prepared in case something goes wrong. In most cases, there will be something that you are unhappy with at school. You must speak up right away. Do not wait to say something, or just hope that the problem will go away on its own. Explain to the teacher that you would like to problem solve with her/him and your child all together. This way you aren’t putting all the pressure on just the teacher. If you child has certain special needs or has his/her own education plan, read this blog on how to further help: http://nspt4kids.com/therapy/start-the-school-year-out-right/ .

Tips from Teachers on How to Make The Year Successful For Your Child:

Preschool Tips | By: Mrs. Alexandra Feiger, 2-3yr old Preschool Teacher at the Jewish Community Center of Chicago

  • Communication is key when sending your child to preschool. If there is something that you feel is important for us to know about your child, let us know right away. Talking with your child’s teacher about your child’s needs will help the teacher have a better understanding of who your child is and how to make sure the environment is set up in a way that will allow your child learn and feel comfortable.
  • When both parents are working, it is common for babysitters to drop off or pick up the child from school. This means that you finding out how and what your child did in school that day is based on what you hear from your 2 year old or the babysitter. If you are concerned that you are not getting enough information, or you would just like to hear from the teacher yourself how your child’s day went, the best thing to do is call or email the teacher. It is never a bother for us; in fact, we encourage parents to stay updated with what their child is learning and doing in school so they can talk about it at home and participate in the child’s learning.

Elementary School Tips | By: Mrs. Jennifer Cohn, 3rd Grade Teacher at Woodland Elementary East in Gales Lake

  • Teach kids to be responsible for their own actions and hold them accountable. So many parents continue to do things for their kids instead of teaching them to be in charge of themselves. I ask parents to check homework, but also to have their child do it him/herself and pack his/her backpack him/herself.
  • Parents should support their kids, yet let them learn how to be a successful student on their own. They will benefit in the long run and be proud of themselves when they have accomplished their goals on their own.

Middle School Tips | By: Mrs. Suzanne Mishkin, 7th Grade Special Education Teacher at McCracken Middle School in Skokie

  • Find out who your child’s advisor is before school begins. This is most often the point person for questions that are not related to a specific class, and knowing who it is will help both you and your child stay afloat of information for the whole year.
  • Parents should find out how teachers post assignments and where they can see their child’s grades. This information should be given out at Back-to-School Night. If it wasn’t, just ask!
  • Ask to see your child’s assignment book. Most teachers take care to have the students write assignments down in their assignment book each day, so you can learn a lot by looking.
  • Let the school know immediately about any changes that could affect the child, such as changes in medication levels. It is not uncommon for children in this age group to change medication or medication dosages from time to time due to hormone changes, and any information you can give the schools would be helpful.

Finally, remember that a teacher’s success is based on your child’s success. The teacher wants the best for your child, and as long as you and the teacher are working towards the same goals and have a positive relationship, you are both bound to provide your child with a great year!

Using Games as Fine Motor Practice to Improve Handwriting | Pediatric Therapy Tv

In today’s Webisode, an Occupational Therapist introduces us to beneficial games and tools to aid efficiency of handwriting practice for children.  For more on your child’s handwriting, click here.

In this video you will learn:

  • How certain game pieces prepare your child for writing
  • Which games are recommended to use for handwriting practice
  • Useful tools to warm up hands for writing

Video Transcription:

Announcer: From Chicago’s leading experts in pediatrics to a worldwide
audience, this is Pediatric Therapy TV, where we provide experience and
innovation to maximize your child’s potential. Now, your host, here’s
Robyn.

Robyn: Hello, and welcome to Pediatric Therapy TV. I’m your host, Robyn
Ackerman and today I’m standing here with a Pediatric Occupational
Therapist, Lindsay Miller. Lindsay, can you explain to us what are some
games that you can play with children to help with their fine motor and
handwriting?

Lindsay: Sure. Some of the games that I like to play with children involve
small pieces and small pegs, such as this piece right here. This is from a
game called HiHo CherryO, and you use it by holding your thumb and your
index finger and middle finger to hold onto the piece. So that kind of
mimics the way that you would hold a writing utensil, such as a pencil.
Other games include Lite-Brite and Battleship. This is a piece from Lite-
Brite, and, again, you can see that I’m holding it with my thumb, index,
and middle finger. So it’s kind of a way to warm up the hands, before we do
handwriting tasks.

Some other games that I like to use with children involve tongs or
children’s’ chopsticks or tweezers. These are tongs, and, again, you can
see that I’m using it with my thumb, index, and middle finger, which mimics
the way that you would hold a writing utensil. Some examples of games that
use tongs and tweezers would be Operation and Bed Bugs. So those are just
some of the ways that I like to warm up the hands before we do handwriting
tasks.

Robyn: All right. Thank you so much, Lindsay, and thank you to our viewers.
And remember, keep on blossoming.

Announcer: This has been Pediatric Therapy TV, where we bring peace of mind
to your family with the best in educational programming. To subscribe to
our broadcast, read our blogs, or learn more, visit our website at
learnmore.me. That’s learnmore.me.

What is GERD and how does it affect babies’ eating habits?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is a fairly common condition in infants. To be clear, almost all babies will have typical infant reflux, or Acid Reflux Baby“spitting up” to some degree, because their gastroesophageal sphincter muscles are still developing. More severe infant reflux will be painful, causing fussiness and sometimes interfering with successful feeding and weight gain.

Signs that an infant has more serious reflux issues are:

  • Frequent spit ups, with crying and fussiness before, during and after spitting up
  • Back arching during feeds
  • Eyes watering during feeds
  • Face turning red, along with grimacing and signs of pain during and after feeds and/or spit-up episodes
  • Frequent hiccups
  • Fussiness when lying down that improves when upright
  • Baby refusing breast or bottle feeds
  • Infant not meeting weight gain or growth goals at pediatrician visits

Most of the above symptoms are a direct response to the burning pain the baby feels when acidic stomach contents are refluxing up into the esophagus. In severe cases of reflux, the infant begins to develop a strong negative association of pain with breast or bottle-feeding. The infant will begin to refuse feeds in order to avoid this pain. This response becomes a learned habit, and over time, results in lower intake, slower weight gain, and dehydration in extreme cases. A baby who is refusing feeds can cause alarm for parents, who then might try forcing feeds in desperation, which can be distressing to the infant and cause further negative association with feeding. Parents should be aware of these signs of GERD and contact the pediatrician right away.

Diagnosis and Treatment of GERD:

Reflux is more common in premature infants since their gastrointestinal tracts are immature compared to term infants. It can also be a symptom of food allergies, in which case the infant may be allergic to the milk proteins in formula, or proteins from foods passing through mother’s breastmilk. In any case, a pediatrician can discern symptoms and diagnose GERD. Treatment protocols for infant GERD usually include a medication, such as ranitidine (also known as Zantac) or lansoprazole (also known as Prevacid). In some cases, the infant needs a special formula or mom may need to eliminate food allergens from her diet. A registered dietitian can help moms navigate special diet needs related to GERD, as well as ensure proper growth and transition to solids if these areas have been affected. Also, the pediatrician can educate parents on “reflux precautions”, which include feeding the baby at a more upright angle, not lying baby flat on their back after feeds, burping baby well, etc.

Sometimes the painful association of GERD creates long-term feeding issues with infants and kids. In these cases, children will continue to have “oral aversion” to eating. Signs of oral aversion stemming from reflux include difficulty transitioning to solids, very picky eating, refusal to put objects in their mouths in general, etc. If your child has signs of feeding difficulties, or if his or her growth has been impacted by GERD, contact North Shore Pediatric Therapy. A multi-disciplinary team including registered dietitians and speech therapists can work with your child to ensure adequate nutrition, growth, and development related to feeding skills.

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Differential Diagnosis: Autism versus Aspergers

Autism and Asperger’s Disorder are diagnoses which both present with a hallmark feature of social impairment. There are several differences between Asperger's Childthe two diagnoses which help classify the two disorders.

Autism Diagnosis:

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revised (DSM-IV-TR), which is the diagnostic guidebook published by the American Psychiatric Association, indicates that there are three domains of diagnostic criteria for a diagnosis of Autism. Impairment with social relationships is the first domain which includes impaired nonverbal communication (poor eye contact and lack of gestures), poor peer relationships (lack of social interest when young to one-sided social interactions when older), poor joint attention (lack of pointing to show interest, not bringing items to show parents), and a lack of emotional reciprocity (failure of the child to notice parents and peers emotions). The second area is impairment in language which includes: language delay (not speaking at a year, or not speaking in sentences at two years), inability to carry on a give-and-take conversation, perseverative and repetitive language (repeating lines from television shows or the same thing over and over), and absent or delayed pretend play. The final area of Autism is repetitive behaviors which include: preoccupations or over-interest with favorite objects or topics that are unusual for the child’s age, routines and rituals that cause distress if interrupted, stereotypical movements (rocking, hand flapping, spinning), and interest in parts of objects (playing with only the wheels on a car). According to the DSM-IV, the main differential between the diagnoses of Autism (as described above) versus Asperger’s Disorder is that children with a diagnosis of Aspergers do not evidence impairment in language.

Asperger’s Diagnosis:

Neuropsychological studies have documented that children with Asperger’s Disorder often exhibit relative strength with regard to their verbal skills with deficits in their visual spatial and visual motor ability. Whereas children with Autism will often exhibit the opposite profile; strength with visual spatial and visual motor ability and weakness with verbal skills (Wolf, Fein, Akshoomoff, 2007).

Overall, the diagnoses of Autism and Asperger’s Disorder are quite similar in that they both feature impairment with social relationships and repetitive behaviors. The main exception between the two diagnoses is that children with Asperger’s do not exhibit the concern with language functioning.

If you believe your child would benefit from an evaluation from an expert, please click here.

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