News/Blog

Meet Greyson

Life is a journey, and it’s nice to have people to take that journey with.

Greyson and his family have been on an 18-month journey with Kids Who Count’s early intervention services and recently shared their experience with us.

Around Greyson’s 18-month well-check, his pediatrician noticed that certain milestones weren’t being met, including his verbal milestones as he was only saying two to three words at most. That’s when his family was referred to Kids Who Count, and as his mom said, “It has been one of the very best decisions we, his parents, have ever made.”

Over the last 18 months Greyson has blossomed and the whole family has learned so much. He is still non-verbal, but after working with staff and learning new tools and techniques the family has learned to communicate in ways that they can all understand.

Not only that, he has learned new skills like pointing, sign language, socialization, eye contact, playing make-believe and even some new words.

The team at Kids Who Count also him helped through the process of getting a diagnosis and transitioning into preschool services with the school district.

“Greyson’s early development has been such an eye-opening experience and we’re so glad we had the resources and services from Kids Who Count to help us along in this journey,” said Samantha, Greyson’s mom. “Our family is so extremely happy that we can understand and communicate with Greyson and have discovered how he learns best.”

If you are concerned that your child isn’t meeting certain milestones, contact us! Early intervention services may begin at any time between birth and age three; however, when early intervention is needed, the earlier it is provided, the better outcome for the child and family.

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Meet Connor

We don’t all learn in the same way. Knowing how our kids learn can make all the difference.  

 Connor’s family was concerned when he was saying very few words at the age of two. Connor began Early Intervention at Kids Who Count, and his family told us that the improvement in his speech and understanding has been amazing! 

Connor’s mom, Emily, said, “Connor is able to communicate with us now and we have loved watching him learn.”   

Early Intervention helps families find strategies to support their child’s learning through daily routines and activities, and Connor’s mom agrees.   

“I feel like we have been more focused on ways to help Connor learn. Having activities that are fun, but also teach him, have been great for him and for us,” she said. 

Way to go Connor!  

 

 

If you have concerns about your child’s development, don’t wait to get help. Call us at 801.423.3000 or go to https://kidswhocount.org/ Early intervention services may begin at any time between birth and age three; however, when early intervention is needed, the earlier it is provided, the better the outcome for both the child and the family.

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Meet Blair

Language is an essential part of a child’s development. When your child struggles to express themselves, it complicates a parent’s ability to share, engage and help them learn. When Blair was two and half, she only said about five to ten words and began receiving early intervention services. “Because of Kids Who Count we can communicate with our daughter. It’s seriously been such a blessing to work with them., says Blair’s mom. Today, Blair is constantly talking and saying new words, and her parents attribute her success to the speech therapy services they received from Kids Who Count. “The knowledge and skills we gained from our speech therapists will help us support our younger children’s speech development too.”

 

If you have concerns about your child’s development, don’t wait to get help. Call us at 801.423.3000 or go to https://kidswhocount.org/ Early intervention services may begin at any time between birth and age three; however, when early intervention is needed, the earlier it is provided, the better the outcome for both the child and the family.

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How to Help Your Child with Transitions

Kids with special needs—especially autism—can struggle with the many transitions they have to make throughout the day. Kids tend to hyper-focus on what they are interested in or what they are doing, and don’t welcome disruptions or abrupt changes. Attention shifts require flexible thinking—something that can be challenging for kids.

Children who have autism also have trouble with nonverbal cues, so they may not pick up on things that other children do to prepare them for transitions. That’s why it’s especially important to spell things out clearly and give them visual cues as well as verbal ones.

By helping your child prepare for transition during their day, they will gain a sense of predictability rather than disruption to their routine. Here are a few ideas to make their day go more smoothly.

Create Visuals: Use visual prompts like a timer to let your child know the current activity will be ending soon. You can add visual clues like turning off the light or audio clues like a chime. You can also make a poster with pictures of a day’s activities so your child can follow along.

Plan More Time: Don’t rush their transitions. Allowing more time during the transitions that are difficult will make them go more smoothly. You can also add a sensory break like jumping, skipping, wiggling, or dancing for a couple of minutes between activities.

Establish Routines: There is no guarantee that things will always go perfectly to plan, but setting a daily schedule can help your child feel safe and secure, which helps keep their emotions (and meltdowns) in check. As much as possible, try to stick with the schedule you have laid out. When your child gets fair warning for transitions they don’t feel as pushed around, so they will naturally be more cooperative.

Use Social Stories: For children who have a particularly hard time with transitions, preparing them with relevant social stories ahead of time can be beneficial. These short, simple stories illustrate what will be happening and will help your child understand how to deal with it. These stories allow kids to mentally “practice” the transition in a calm, non-threatening way.

Give two choices: Offering your child a choice can make them more cooperative. Instead of saying: “Do you want to put on your shirt?” say, “Would you like to put on the red shirt or the green shirt?”

Offer Praise: Children will really respond when you tell them they are doing a good job. Don’t forget to recognize when the transitions go well. Be specific with your praise and offer a reward–even something simple like saying, “Great job putting away your toys and brushing your teeth. Now we have more time to read.”

With the right support and strategies, children can learn to change gears without resorting to whining or tantrums. And you can transition to a reward of your own!

Written by Nate Lyon, MS, BCBA, LBA

 

 

Holly BushnellHow to Help Your Child with Transitions
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Helping Your Child Adapt to Wearing a Mask

Many children with special needs, especially autism, have sensory sensitivities. Because of this, your child may be reluctant to wear a mask.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children 2 years old and older wear cloth face coverings when they are unable to socially distance in school and other community settings. The guidance also states that children under age 2 and children who are unable to remove a face covering without assistance should not wear masks.

Here are some ideas that may help your child adapt better to mask wearing for their protection and the safety of others.

Tell them a story. You can find several good children’s book online about wearing a mask. Many of them explain why we wear them (to keep away germs and keep all of us healthy). Or, you can make up your own story—often called a “social story” for kids with autism—and describe how we wear a mask using pictures, visuals, or a doll/stuffed animal to show the behavior.

Make practicing fun. Start slowly and make incremental steps. First, have your child hold the mask in their hand while doing an activity they enjoy and offer a reward and gradually increase the time. Second, have them wear it on their hand with the ear loops on their thumb and pinky and again offer a reward when you increase the time. Next, you could have them brush the mask on their cheek, then face. Place the ear loop on one ear only for a while and then move to the other ear. Eventually, you can try to move to wearing the mask for short spurts, setting a timer and offering rewards.

Try super soft fabric. Try lining the mask with the fabric your child prefers. For example, some kids love silky fabrics while others enjoy burying their faces in the soft fur of a teddy bear.

Start with a cool mask. If your child feels that their mask feels hot, you can keep their masks in the freezer so they start out cold. Or, try a bandana type mask or a neck wrap that pulls up from below

Model mask wearing. You can make it more normal for a child to wear a mask if you wear one yourself at home while you are practicing. The exposure to seeing masks will help normalize the experience for them.

Give plenty of positive reinforcement. Praise your child for each step they make toward wearing a mask. Try high fives, hugs, or other reactions that your child enjoys. Make sure they know how proud you are of them for wearing a mask!

 

 

 

Holly BushnellHelping Your Child Adapt to Wearing a Mask
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How to Help a Bilingual Child Going Through the “Silent Period”


Are you trying to teach your child two languages at the same time? Is your child not really showing a lot of progress and, in fact, showing that he or she is regressing or not really talking? Trying to teach your child a foreign language plus keeping up with the home language can be an overwhelming task!

What is the “silent period” and why is it important?

The Silent Period is a concept developed by Stephen Krashen and it simply refers to the period before a child starts speaking a second language in which he or she spends time watching and listening to people using the language. During this time, it might appear that your child is just passively sitting there or that he or she is showing a language delay. In fact, although the child is not verbally participating or interacting with others, or rarely does so, she or he is actually absorbing the structures and vocabulary of the second language. Learning is definitely happening and their brain is certainly working hard!

This stage of second language learning is also called the pre-production stage. The silent period is a crucial time that must happen before a child can speak another language; our brain must learn to process things before we can speak. The length of the silent period varies from child to child, depending on different factors like personality, culture background, support received, etc. But, no worries! Your child will speak when he or she is ready! Studies show that the secret to a child learning a second language is the frequency in which that child is exposed to the new language.

Do not worry, there is help! Here are some activities to help during the silent period:

Repetition and Labeling: Talk to your child as much as possible. Describe what you are doing throughout the day. Label and emphasize main objects and/or actions in both languages. For instance, if you are teaching your child Spanish, you might say “Oh, you want the blue car, el carro azul, the blue car”.

Singing and Reading in Both Languages: Sing simple songs and fingerplays in both languages. Do the same actions for both. For example, “The Itsy, Bitsy Spider” or “Happy Birthday to You!” have versions in other languages. When reading, point at simple pictures and label them in both languages. You may also find a variation of bilingual books at your local library.

Modeling During Play: Play pretend with another family member like waiving and saying “Hi” in both languages, or eating different items as you name them in both languages. Use exclamation in your voice and include different sounds and expressions used in the two languages. For example, in Portuguese, you may say, “Mmmm, yummy”, “Que gostoso!”

Support Your Home Language: If you live in the United States and your home language is something other than English, focus on using mostly your home language. This is an important concept since your child will have plenty of opportunities to be exposed to the English language (school, friends, TV, etc.)

Helping bilingual children go through the silent period can be an arduous task. However, with the proper support and strategies, it will become an easier thing—part of your daily life. Have fun with it! Enjoy those magical learning moments with your little ones. Then, learning a second language can be a rewarding experience.

 

By Virginia Di Stefano, Child Development Specialist at Kids Who Count

Resource: The ESL Nexus “Integrating Language and Context for Academic Success”https://www.theeslnexus.com/2017/10/what-is-silent-period-and-why-is-it.html

 

 

 

Holly BushnellHow to Help a Bilingual Child Going Through the “Silent Period”
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Managing Family Stress in a Post-COVID World


Raising a family blessed with a special needs child is uniquely overwhelming. Special needs families understand multitasking, joy, heartache, and stress in ways that transcend common understanding. Disruptions to any child’s routine can sometimes be difficult, but disruptions in the routines of special needs children can usher in weeks, if not months, of challenging behaviors, regression, and incredible amounts of stress.

Prioritizing our emotional well-being under this new COVID reality feels particularly important. Children are excellent observers. They tend to model their parents’ behaviors, including those related to managing stress. Parents who deal with stress in unhealthy ways may inadvertently risk passing those behaviors on to their children. Intentional parenting, on the other hand, can help parents model healthy coping behaviors that will contribute to their child’s overall self-confidence, sense of safety, and management of anxious/stress responses.

Investing in our emotional well-being is a worthwhile endeavor. Self-compassion involves giving ourselves the same kindness that we would offer to others. As special needs families, our unique superpower is empathy. We understand how difficult, how long the days can be. We understand the loneliness. We understand the grief. We also understand the joy and the beauty in those quiet moments when your baby finally responds to your efforts. We feel everything so deeply. We can exercise an incredible about of compassion when we see others on similar journeys. Our hearts knit almost instantly. Exercising self-compassion means reserving some of that empathic superpower for ourselves.

Our families deserve an intentional effort to stay healthy. Here are a few helpful ways that families can manage stress in this post-COVID era:

Identify Stressors.

Stressors are different than stress itself. Stressors are situations that are experienced as a perceived threat. They activate the body’s stress response and we respond by either fighting, running, or hiding. Stressors are unique to every individual and family unit. The stress response that one member in our family can have to a particular stressor can impact the family as a whole if that individual family member’s stress response is an unhealthy one. For example, a dirty kitchen might be a stressor for one member of the family but not for others. If the family member affected by the stressor responds by fighting, then those in the immediate vicinity of that situation might experience the negative repercussions of that stress response. By managing our stressors (i.e., working together to keep a clean kitchen as in our example) families can mitigate unhealthy stress responses and lower the overall stress of the family. If you can name the stressor you can work as a team to change it.

Make a Plan.

Some stressors are within our control, others are not. The loss of a family’s main income, or the sudden injury or illness of a family member, for example, are life events that we can plan for, but little we can do in terms of prevention. When life stressors like these arise, it is important that we are prepared not only for our physical needs but also for our emotional needs. Our bodies naturally find ways to cope and we tend to gravitate to those things that have worked in the past. Making a coping plan means thinking through how we manage stress and ensuring that our bodies are reaching for healthy responses. For example, if our stress response is to turn to food (guilty party of one here), managing our portions and balancing between a good mix of healthy and more comforting foods can help us feel better long-term. Other healthy ways to cope with stress can include: creative or artistic activities, going for a walk outside (vitamin D from the sun is difficult to supplement, our bodies need time outside), listening to calming or inspirational music, meditation or yoga, and serving someone in your community (human connection can have a wonderful, calming effect). You can engage in these as a family to help the family unit as a whole cope with a sudden stressor. If we already have a healthy go-to plan in place, we are more likely to recover quickly from the perceived or real threat.

Change One Thing at a Time.

No need to swallow the entire elephant at once! Stress will always be part of our lives. Managing stress is a marathon, not a sprint. Focusing on improving one thing at a time will help us navigate this task in a healthy way. Working towards changing one thing at a time can also help us avoid burnout and will likely keep us more motivated. If we can successfully change one thing, we are more likely to approach more and more tasks with the same enthusiasm and success. Even if you choose something small to change, if you are consistent in your progress you are likely to see big, cumulative changes. Consistency will always be more powerful in the long run. Remember, progress is more important than perfection.

Focus on Connection.

If all else fails (or even when it does not), focus on connection. There are some days, weeks, perhaps even months that are simply too overwhelming to do anything well. When those heavy moments hit, engaging in activities that will bring you closer together as a family will be worth the investment. Our children need us to be okay in order to feel secure and they are more likely to remember the happy times playing a game or spending time as a family than the days when mom or dad’s to-do list was completed flawlessly. Stealing away quiet moments to connect with family members individually is another positive way to grow your family connection. If you are making mistakes along the way that just means you are trying. Our homes should be places of refuge and peace. Focusing on connections can contribute to building homes of respite.

Stress is a Constant—a Fact of Life.

We cannot eliminate stress completely, but we can manage it in healthy and productive ways. Our mental health is a continuum, sometimes we are in crisis other times we are excelling. The key is to manage our responses to life’s stressors, be prepared for when stress rises, and connect with the people in our lives that are most important.

By Nancy Y. Miramontes

Nancy Y. Miramontes, Ed.S., NCSP (she/her/hers), is a Kids Who Count Board Member. She is the Internship & Practicum Coordinator at Brigham Young University, and is an Assistant Clinical Professor —School Psychology, Counseling Psychology, and Special Education.

 

 

 

 

Holly BushnellManaging Family Stress in a Post-COVID World
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When will EARLY INTERVENTION and AUTISM SERVICES return to normal?

This is a question we have been asking a lot in the last couple of months. While we are anxious for things to get back to “normal” our first priority always is the health, safety, and wellbeing of our employees and the children and families we serve. We have extensively revised our service delivery approach to adhere to COVID-19 guidelines from the CDC, Utah Department of Health and Utah County Health Department. We have enhanced cleaning protocols for our building, we require masks and temperature checks, and no more than 10 people occupy our building at any time. Staff meetings are being held virtually and no group services for children or adults are being held in our center.

In late May, we were cautiously optimistic that we could resume in-home services for both Early Intervention and Autism with safety modifications. But, as long as COVID-19 cases are on the rise, we do not feel it is safe or appropriate to provide all services to children and families in the home.

Early Intervention

As part of Utah Department of Health Baby Watch Early Intervention Program, Kids Who Count Early Intervention services follow guidance from state and local public health officials. At this time, our Early Intervention services are provided via tele-intervention or “virtual” visits.  We are no longer providing group services in our center, but we are accepting referrals, conducting assessments, developing Individualized Family Services Plans (IFSP’s) and offering ongoing therapeutic support to optimize children’s developmental outcomes through tele-intervention. Some families are unable to connect virtually, but we can arrange for a phone call visit. If a child or family has specific needs requiring in-person support or instruction, our providers can get creative. While the weather is nice, we have met some families in their yard or at the park, with masks, sanitizer, and social distance safety precautions.

Autism Services

We are accepting referrals for children in need of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) services. Like Early Intervention, our ABA services can be offered remotely through virtual platforms depending on the individual needs of the child and the parent’s ability to be involved in the telehealth therapy. Unlike Early Intervention, ABA treatment is deemed medically necessary and covered by insurance so it can be provided in person with parental consent and strict safety protocols. One-on-one ABA sessions in our center are provided in a designated sanitized area by one provider using the strictest safety precautions. In-home ABA services are also conducted with safety guidelines that are reasonable for each child. Regardless of the location, our providers wear face coverings, uses hand sanitizer and/or wear gloves while providing services to children. And, parents must be fully informed of the risk associated with the spread of COVID-19 before giving consent for any in-person services.

The decision to proceed with any in-person services during this pandemic are made on a case-by-case basis by parents, clinical professionals and KWC administration. Clients or employees with medical conditions that put them at higher risk are not participating in any face-to-face services. We will continue to adjust our plans to safely provide services as the current situation evolves and we learn more about how this virus is transmitted.

We are looking forward to the day when it is safe to resume in-person services in the home and group services at our center for both of our programs. Until then, we will continue following public health guidelines to serve the children and families in our community. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us by email at: info@kidswhocount.org or call us at: 801.423.3000.

Sincerely,

Kelsey Lewis, Executive Director

 

 

 

Holly BushnellWhen will EARLY INTERVENTION and AUTISM SERVICES return to normal?
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Tips for Weaning Your Child Off Their Beloved Pacifier

Pacifiers can be beneficial because they satisfy a baby’s natural sucking instinct, provide comfort and distraction, and can help your baby soothe and fall asleep. Pacifiers have been associated with a reduced risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), according to several recent studies. Researchers speculate that pacifiers may keep babies from rolling onto their faces or may keep their tongues forward and away from their airways.

On the other hand, after 6 months of age, babies who regularly use pacifiers have a higher chance of developing middle ear infections than those who don’t. Doctors believe this is because continuous sucking causes pressure changes within the ears and can potentially prevent fluid drainage, causing it to build up, creating an infection.

Frequent pacifier use, past 12 months old, could interfere with a child’s language development skills, say some experts. The reason is two-fold: A child might be less likely to practice making sounds and words when they have a binky in their mouth. Plus, the act of sucking might cause the tongue and lip muscles to develop abnormally. It’s possible prolonged use of a pacifier could contribute to the development of a lisp.

As for dental problems, before age two, your baby won’t suffer any long-term damage to her teeth, according to WebMD. Any problems that do develop before that time will likely self-correct within six months of kicking the pacifier habit. After age two, problems including slanting teeth can begin to occur. And pacifier use beyond age four, when adult teeth begin to form, can mean long-term dental issues.

Pick an uneventful time to start weaning.

Avoid trying to wean during major life events like the arrival of a new sibling, starting a new daycare, or before a road trip, when you baby could use the extra soothing.

Get all your child’s caregivers on board.

Make sure all caregivers are aware of your plans for the pacifier. You want the message and experience regarding pacifier use to be consistent at home, at daycare, and at grandma’s, or you’ll risk confusing your child. So, if you want the pacifier used only at naptime or bedtime, for example, be sure to communicate to all adults involved.

Gradually limit use.

Sometimes a gradual approach will make transitions smoother. Start by removing the pacifier in “zero-distress” situations, like when your child is home, happy, and playing. Once she’s used to not having her pacifier at home, eliminate its outdoor use by telling your child that the binky doesn’t go outside.

Stopping “cold turkey” may work, but it could make for a rough couple of days. Remember that your child probably treasures his pacifier, so be sure to treat it like a good friend to whom you must bid a fond adieu.

Offer alternative comforts.

When you first take away the pacifier from your baby, you’ll probably need to soothe them in other ways. Rocking, a gently swinging motion, soft singing, and gentle massage are some ways you can help ease your baby’s discomfort and help them settle down without the aid of a pacifier. For older babies, blankets with soft, satiny edge or a snuggly stuffed animal could provide the comfort your little one wants. These transitional objects will relieve stress and help your baby adjust and self-soothe at night.

Be sure you don’t scold or use any negative reinforcement if your child does resort back to the pacifier. Negative reinforcement will create fear, stress, and distrust, often leading to regression.

Make their pacifier unappealing.

If your little one is very attached to his pacifier, it might take making their pacifier unappealing to help them break the habit. One way to do this, dip the pacifiers in white vinegar or lemon juice. The terrible taste could make your child swear off their pacifier for good.

Another way many moms try is to pierce a hole in the tip of the rubber nipple, which disables the sucking power of the pacifier. Just be careful when altering a pacifier and be aware that it could become a choking hazard if small pieces come apart.

Elicit your child’s help in giving the pacifiers away.

Some moms have success using reason with their young child. You could explain that your child is now a big kid and that there is a baby out there who needs a pacifier to stop crying. Engage your little one in decorating a box for the baby, then gather up all of the pacifiers and place them in it. If you have a friend with a baby, make a big deal about handing over this box for the baby. Be sure to offer a lot of praise and a small gift to your toddler for being such a kind and generous “big kid.”

Have a farewell ceremony that includes a reward.

Introducing a “Binky Fairy” or other fun character is a fun way to say goodbye. Tell your child the imaginary friend will come as soon as they are ready to be done with their pacifier. Help them collect all of the pacifiers and place them in a box on the doorstep, or in a basket you can hide outside. Make this ritual as big of a production as you feel is necessary to help your child let go. You might even want to put the date on a calendar that then countdown the days with your child until it’s time to give their pacifier away. The new friend or fairy will then leave a comforting surprise in place of the box.

You deserve a reward too!

You may want to give yourself a well-earned reward for enduring this transition as well. Remember to relax about your child’s own timeframe. When is the last time you saw a teenager running around with a pacifier?

Written by Darla Davis, Speech-Language Pathologist, Kids Who Count

 

 

 

Holly BushnellTips for Weaning Your Child Off Their Beloved Pacifier
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Activity Calendar

Need some ideas for easy, at-home activities? Try these! We’ve put them into an activity calendar you can print out. Just click on the PDF version here.

 

 

 

Holly BushnellActivity Calendar
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