New program is helping children with autism in Utah County

The prevalence of autism spectrum disorder among children in the U.S. has increased in the past decade. In Utah, the number of children diagnosed with autism is even higher than the national average. A staggering 1 in 54 Utah children are diagnosed and the need for autism services has never been more critical. These kids desperately need intense therapy at a very early age.

Tiffany Millar, Registered Behavior Technician with Kids Who Count, works on new vocabulary with Brookson Measom in the Kids Who Count playground.

That’s why, Kids Who Count, a non-profit organization serving families and children in South Utah County, decided to expand their services to include comprehensive autism treatment along with their early intervention services for children, birth to three years of age.

“Since 1986, our early intervention program has helped thousands of young children with developmental delays and disabilities,” Kelsey Lewis, Kids Who Count Executive Director, said. “Now we’re ready to expand those services to include treatment for children on the autism spectrum.”

Kids Who Count, located in Salem, Utah, would like to help more kids like Miles Jones who at 18 months wasn’t talking at all. He was missing most of his developmental milestones and his family was getting frantic. Fortunately, Miles was receiving early intervention at Kids Who Count and the timing couldn’t have been better. His early intervention providers referred him for further evaluation and he was diagnosed and able to get help quickly when his family became one of the first to start Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) through the brand new program: Autism Services at Kids Who Count.

“Miles is responding so well to ABA therapy and continues to make such rapid progress,” Miles’ mother, Kohleen Jones, said. “We are so grateful that Kids Who Count was able to expand their services and start providing ABA therapy. There is such a great need in our community!”

The need for autism treatment services is outpacing the number of providers in South Utah County, Lewis said. “It’s concerning to know young children are not getting the ABA therapy they so desperately need.”

ABA therapy helps young children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder increase their communication skills and decrease behaviors that are not beneficial to their life. It focuses on the fact that not being able to communicate is frustrating and kids will act out as a result. Hundreds of studies have shown that ABA therapy is also the best treatment to improve social skills, develop play skills, and teach self-care for children with autism.

“Researchers have compared ABA to other programs and their results consistently show that children who receive ABA treatment make greater improvements in more skill areas than children who participate in other interventions,” Lewis said. “And, it’s also shown to significantly reduce the daily stress for parents of kids with autism.”

Sara Madsen, Board Certified Behavior Analyst with Kids Who Count, works with Calvin Hansen to develop hand and eye coordination at their facility in Salem.

“Early Intervention has been absolutely key for Miles and our family,” Jones said. “Miles started signing words and then moved on to speaking and is now able to form three- to four-word sentences. Miles has improved in how he interacts with his peers, and we learned skills on how to help Miles transition more smoothly from one activity to another. We even got help with teaching

Kids Who Count now has a staff of highly trained behavior analysts and technicians who are experts in this subject and certified in providing ABA treatment, Lewis said. “They know what works and what doesn’t, and they are achieving pronounced results already.”

Those results are being deeply felt by Miles and his family. “We are very optimistic that our whole family has a happy and bright future ahead of us,” Jones said.

To contact Kids Who Count about autism services, visit their website at, or call them at (801) 423-3000. Read Serve Daily Article 

Holly BushnellNew program is helping children with autism in Utah County
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Figuring out the alphabet soup of autism

Many families who seek help for a child with development delays or who get an autism diagnosis are faced with a whole bowl full of acronyms or “alphabet soup,” as we like to call it. The vocabulary can be intimidating, the abbreviations mystifying, and the labels confusing. We even get stumped ourselves once in a while.

Because our autism program is brand new, it’s the perfect time to help demystify some of the jargon so prevalent in the autism, disability, and special education community.

So, let’s get started with a few of the basics.

What is behavior analysis?

Behavior analysis is a natural science that seeks to understand the behavior of individuals. That is, behavior analysts study how biological, pharmacological, and experiential factors influence the behavior of humans and nonhuman animals.

What is applied behavior analysis or ABA?

Used as a scientific approach to understanding different behavior, applied behavior analysis (ABA) is a method of therapy used to improve or change specific behaviors. In simple terms, ABA changes the environment in order to change the behavior. It’s not just used to correct bad behavior. While we often think of the word “behavior” as meaning bad behavior, that’s not always the case. In reference to ABA therapy, behavior is what we do and how we act. ABA therapy is used to improve behaviors like social skills, reading, academics, and communication as well as learned skills like grooming, hygiene, fine motor dexterity, job proficiency and even simple things like a child dressing herself.

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that affects communication and behavior including social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication. Although autism can be diagnosed at any age, it is said to be a “developmental disorder” because symptoms generally appear in the first two years of life.

There is not just one type of autism, but many subtypes, most influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Because autism is a spectrum disorder, each person with autism has a distinct set of strengths and challenges. The ways people with autism learn, think and problem-solve can range from highly skilled to severely challenged. Some people with ASD may require significant support in their daily lives, while others may need less support and, in some cases, live entirely independently.

What is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst or BCBA?

A Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) is a graduate-level certification in behavior analysis. Professionals who are certified at the BCBA level are independent practitioners who provide behavior-analytic services. In addition, BCBAs supervise the work of Registered Behavior Technicians (RBT), and others who implement behavior-analytic interventions.

Our BCBA will complete an assessment of your child’s skills and preferences and use this analysis to write specific treatment goals for both your child and your family. Your child’s treatment program will be individualized to address their unique needs, skills, interests, as well as the situation in your family.

Currently at Kids Who Count we have one full-time BCBA on our staff.

What is a Registered Behavior Technician or RBT?

A Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) is a paraprofessional who practices under the close, ongoing supervision of a BCBA. The RBT is primarily responsible for the direct implementation of behavior-analytic services. The RBT does not design intervention or assessment plans. It is the responsibility of the RBT supervisor to determine which tasks an RBT may perform as a function of his or her training, experience, and competence.

Our Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs) will work directly with your child to apply the principles of ABA to teach language, social skills, self-care, play and learning.

Currently at Kids Who Count we have two part-time RBTs on our staff.

What will by child’s ABA instruction play look like?

An ABA instruction plan will break down skills into small, concrete steps—taught one-by-one. Your child’s RBT will start with simple activities (like imitating single sounds) to learning more complex skills like carrying on a conversation.

The BCBA and your child’s RBT will collect data and measure progress so they can continue to help your child move toward goals and benchmarks. Your Kids Who Count team will meet regularly with you and your family to review progress with specific goals and objectives and adjust the treatment plan as necessary.

We want to help!

We’re always more than happy to help if you come across an acronym you’re unfamiliar with or some words or jargon that don’t make sense. Don’t be afraid to ask!

At Kids Who Count, we envision a community where children and families have access to local services that promote positive change and give children with autism spectrum disorder a chance to reach their unique individual potential. We hope we can help you!


Written by Sara Madsen, BCBA

Sara Madsen is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst or BCBA at Kids Who Count. She oversees and supervises all of the ABA treatments for the children we serve on the autism spectrum. She is currently in the PhD program in Applied Behavior Analysis at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. She loves the outdoors—fishing and camping—and is a Utah Jazz fan.






Holly BushnellFiguring out the alphabet soup of autism
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Your Child’s Developmental Milestones

The first three years are a critical time in your child’s development. Becoming familiar with milestones—or things most children do by a certain age—will help give you clues about your infant or toddler’s development. Each child is unique, and not all kids are going to hit milestones at the same time, but if you have concerns or questions, don’t wait to take action.

Free CDC Milestone Tracker App

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website is an excellent resource to learn more about specific milestones for children 2 months to 5 years of age. The CDC “Learn the Signs. Act Early” campaign materials describe milestones in all areas of development for specific age groups.

The CDC Milestone Checklist and FREE Milestone Tracker App provide great information to help you identify your baby’s important milestones. Click here for the Milestone Checklist.

The CDC’s free Milestone Tracker App can be found here:

CDC Milestone Tracker App CDC Milestone Tracker App SPANISH

If your child is under age 3 and you have any concerns about your child’s development, don’t wait. Contact Kids Who Count or the early intervention program in your area. We provide a complete developmental evaluation, at no cost to you, to determine if your child is eligible for early intervention services.

Intervention can help to put you on the path to getting the help your child may need. Services could include physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, social work, nursing, and nutrition. The sooner we start, the better.


Written by Kelsey Lewis, Executive Director

Kelsey Lewis is the Executive Director of Kids Who Count and is a dedicated advocate for resources and policies that improve the lives of children and families. For nearly 20 years Kelsey has worked as a nonprofit leader developing teams and leading programs that improve the lives of children and families. She received her Masters of Social Work from the University of Utah. She lives with her husband and her two very active and accomplished teenagers.






Holly BushnellYour Child’s Developmental Milestones
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Bedtime Routines: How To Get Your Toddler To Sleep

Bedtime with toddlers can be anything but routine, but having a regular nighttime schedule can make nights more pleasant and will help kids get the sleep they need to grow and develop. Tired tots can have a hard time handling life’s daily challenges—from losing their temper with siblings to figuring out their own bodily functions. Your little one doesn’t realize it, but she needs her sleep.

Some kids seem to be gurus of sleep while others struggle to unwind, but all children are influenced by their environment. The good news is, falling asleep is a habit that every kid can master.

Here are a few ways to make bedtime less challenging.

Be Consistent

Start by choosing an age-appropriate bedtime. The key is to choose a time well before the dreaded exhaustion stage. A good rule of thumb could be between 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. for toddlers. Try to be as consistent as you can and stick pretty closely to your selected bedtime—even on weekends or on vacation when other routines may be compromised. Toddlers actually really love routine because they feel safe and secure when they know what’s coming next. This consistency will help your kiddo make the transition from day to night.

Plan your routine in advance and try to make it relatively compact—30 minutes should be plenty of time. It’s helpful to communicate this routine as often as you can to reinforce the boundaries. For example, your routine could look something like: quiet down, choose pajamas, brush your teeth, read a story, get some snuggles, go to sleep.

You could make a picture schedule to help your child know what’s coming next, then point to the picture of the step you’re on. It’s great if you can print out pictures of your child doing the activities themselves. (We’ve also included a printable PDF here to give you another simple chart idea.)

You could make a picture schedule to help your child know what’s coming next, then point to the picture of the step you’re on. It’s great if you can print out pictures of your child doing the activities themselves. (We’ve also included a printable PDF here to give you another simple chart idea.) DOWNLOAD PDF

Lead your child through the routine and talk to them about what’s going to happen. You could say something like: “Now we’re going to put on pajamas, then we’ll brush your teeth, and after that we’ll read a story.”

Quiet Down

Begin the unwinding process early—before their first yawn. Toddlers can have a difficult time with transitions, and going from tickle fights and racing around the house to falling asleep might take longer than you think. Start quieting down playtime a good hour before bedtime to give your kid a chance to relax. Enjoy the roughhousing and wrestling with dad earlier in the evening.

During quiet time, it’s best to switch off the TV and put away phones, tablets, and other screens. For children especially, it’s best to avoid screen time at least an hour before bedtime. Anything that emits blue light can suppress the body’s melatonin levels and make it harder to get to sleep. Although TV can seem like a good way to wind down, it can actually be stimulating. Better choices are quiet music or audiobooks, simple board games, coloring, or even light stretching or yoga to help your child calm down. Dimming the lights as a lead up to bedtime can help cue the body to release helpful sleep hormones.

Give Them a Choice

As a parent, you probably already know that toddlers don’t like to feel bossed around. Giving them choices during the bedtime routine can help them feel like they are in charge, but remember to limit the options to two or three. For example, let them choose between the pajamas with feet or the ones without, or choose between two sleepy-themed books for you to read.

Try to avoid scary stories or books with lots of excitement, and don’t add too much animation to your reading. You want to lull them to sleep, so if books are too exciting, you could try singing a lullaby or snuggling and talking about your day instead.

Give Your Routine an End

Once you’ve completed your bedtime routine, try to be consistent about expectations. Your child may test the boundaries by asking for more books, more cuddles, or more snacks, but be firm and help them understand that our bodies need rest. Let them know that you believe in them and know they can fall asleep. Turn on their special nightlight or give them their comforting blanket, then, kiss them goodnight and leave the room. It won’t be long until they associate these special cues with falling asleep and drift into dreamland.

Written by Annie Buck, OT

Annie Buck is an Occupational Therapist with Kids Who Count. She specializes in helping children with feeding and sensory delays. She lives in a houseful of boys. She and her husband have four sons, from 8-months-old to 7-years-old. Things are always loud at home with fun that usually involves someone wrestling someone else.





Holly BushnellBedtime Routines: How To Get Your Toddler To Sleep
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As a frazzled parent, you are probably pretty motivated to teach your child to feed him or herself—if for no other reason than to give you a chance to enjoy your own meal again. But the motivation goes beyond having a nice, relaxing dinner. Utensil use is a practical way to help your child develop early fine motor skills. Using utensils to eat can even help prepare your child to write.

Mastering the Grasp

Children need to acquire finger dexterity and strength along with hand-eye coordination. Mastering that all-important pincer grasp, where they isolate their finger and thumb, is important groundwork for many other skills they will use continually. The pincer grasp represents the coordination of brain and muscles that’s necessary to help them gain increasing independence. Utensil use doesn’t necessarily require a mature pincer grasp (at least not in the initial stages of holding a utensil), but it is a skill that is still very important for self-feeding and more advanced grasping. This may sound daunting, but kids will pick up most of these skills just through repeating daily activities. And, they will have a chance to practice at every meal.

Get Food to Mouth

To master the idea of utensil use, your child has to first understand the concept of moving food from the table to their mouth. Kids will usually start feeding themselves by using a raking motion to scoop food toward them, curling their fingers toward their palm. In these early stages, you can help them develop their pincer grasp when you start their meal by giving them a few individual pieces of food—like a puff or piece of banana—on their tray. Or hold one piece at a time out to them and don’t let go until they grasp it with their index finger and thumb. They should pick this skill up relatively quickly over several days, but it’s best to only practice this skill for a few minutes at the beginning of a meal. You don’t want them to get too frustrated while they are learning.

One fun way you can help your child with the utensil to mouth concept early on is to playfully touch around your child’s face and mouth (like cheeks or nose) with a spoonful of food. Often, your kid will turn toward the spoon and reach up to help grab it and then, they will try to bring the spoon into their mouth.

Bringing a spoon to their mouth requires a child to develop the same skills as for bringing toys to their mouth, so it is appropriate (and beneficial) for young children to bring toys, hands, feet (pretty much everything) to their mouths. If a child isn’t “mouthing” items it can be a red flag for underlying developmental and/or sensory delays. If you are worried about your child mastering this step, it would be appropriate to bring it up with the child’s doctor and/or an early intervention service.

Try Out a Spoon

The next step is introducing a spoon. At first, you can give them their own spoon to hold while you are feeding them so they will start to associate a spoon to eating. Foods that will stick to the spoon are great to learn with. Think mashed sweet potatoes or oatmeal. They may even try to put the spoon to their mouth, so give them lots of praise if they try this on their own.

You can give them their own bowl with a little food in it and see if they will try using it on their own. You can use two bowl for a while, giving them more and more food to eat on their own and feeding them less and less. Eventually, you can move to having only their bowl and helping them occasionally. Most kids will start to pick this up themselves, but if your child seems especially frustrated with self-feeding, you could help by putting your hand on top of their hand and moving food into their mouth together. Be sure to let them try on their own too, and keep it positive and fun.

If your child is not excited or interested in self-feeding (and they are at an age where it is expected) you can try a variety of spoons or other utensils. Sometimes the grip of a certain spoon isn’t comfortable to your child, so trying different spoons could help. You can get creative too. You could try supervising your child with toothpicks, popsicle sticks, straws, or even different foods as utensils, for example, string cheese or crackers. Sometimes simply switching up the utensil your child is using can make a world of difference.

Move On to a Fork

Once they have spoon-feeding down, you can introduce a safe toddler fork. The best toddler forks have soft, wide gripped handles with flat-tipped, metal tines to allow for stabbing. Place the fork on their tray with a few pieces of easy-to-poke food, like a chicken nugget or cube of soft cheese. If spearing gets frustrating, you can help them for a while like you did with the spoon.

With any of these new skills, don’t feel like you need to step in too quickly to help. Your child needs some time to learn at their own pace.

Embrace a Messy Situation

Things are going to get grimy, and you are going to have to be okay with that for a while. Otherwise, you’ll be playing a never-ending, crazy-making cleaning game. To make the inevitable mess more manageable, try using a floor mat under their chair and opt for a bib with a deep pocket to catch the food that escapes their spoon. Another trick is to only give them a small amount of food in their bowl at a time. And, suction bowls that stick to the table can help you avoid most of the predictable bowl-throwing incidents.

Keep in mind that playing with food and making a mess is all part of the process. If you get overly anxious about messes—and over vigilant about wiping your child’s face—you could inadvertently cause (or add to) tactile defensiveness and food aversions. The tactile stimulation your child gets from playing in messy textures gives them important feedback they can process and develop more sophisticated responses to. Your toddler will actively seek out these experiences as part of curiosity, discovery, and exploration.

And, keeping mealtime positive will go a long way. If you are constantly fighting to keep your kid from grabbing the spoon or trying to pin them down to wipe their face after each bite, mealtime might not feel very positive to your child.

For a reprieve from the mess that won’t inhibit sensory experiences, you could practice with imaginary food during playtime to help your child understand the concept. Try pretending to feed dolls or animals and give your child a lot of praise when they start mastering the spoon-to-mouth idea.

The good news is that the really messy stage is usually pretty short lived.

Written by Annie Buck, OT

Annie Buck is an Occupational Therapist with Kids Who Count. She specializes in helping children with feeding and sensory delays. She lives in a houseful of boys. She and her husband have four sons, from 8-months-old to 7-years-old. Things are always loud at home with fun that usually involves someone wrestling someone else.





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Four Ideas to Make Bath Time Less Stressful and More Fun!

Sometimes bathing a toddler can be like trying to hold a fish—a wiggly, giggly, slippery minnow that can even run away from you. Here are four ideas to help you make bath time less fishy.

Don’t Pass on Prep Time

Before trying to corral your kiddo, make sure you have everything you need within reach. Don’t forget to pull together towels, soap, shampoo, and the all-important toys. If you encourage your child to help gather the bath-time items, he or she will feel more included and can even learn some skills like planning ahead and organization and you’ll avoid your kid standing in a cold, wet puddle while you search for that special towel.

You can also include a build-up to bath time as part of your prep. Give your child a few minutes warning in the lead-up to their bath like saying things like, “It’s just five minutes to bath time!” Toddlers don’t usually like to stop one thing and start another without notice. You can use these same kinds of signals when it’s almost time to get out of the bath too.

Make sure you test the water before helping your child climb in. The back of your hand is more sensitive than your palm. And, never run hot water when your child is in the tub to avoid scalding. Once your child is in the tub, always stay within arms reach.

Combat Fears of Water and the Dreaded Drain

It’s not uncommon for children to be a little apprehensive about a bath. Sometimes it’s feeling nervous about water getting in their eyes, and other times it’s a fear that they might get sucked down the drain with the rest of the suds. Kids can also be a little unnerved by the sound of rushing water or can be worried about slipping.

Identify the reason for your child’s concern first, and then use small steps to help calm their fears.

For a child with a lot of uneasiness about water, it’s sometimes helpful to give them a chance to put their hands in the sink water to learn that water play can be fun. For kids who are extra frightened around water, you can even start water play in the kitchen sink or in a bucket/tray of water outside the bathroom. Then, over several days or weeks move it closer and closer. For example, start in the kitchen and then move it to the bathroom. Finally, move the bucket into the tub so your child can play with water when the tub is empty.

Introduce new bath toys outside the tub too, and show him or her how much fun it is to float them in water. Try only filling the tub with a couple of inches of water at first—just enough to splash a little—then gradually add more water as he or she gets more comfortable.

Get a nonskid mat for the tub to make it less slippery and cover the faucet with a piece of pool noodle to avoid head injuries. And don’t forget the non-slip mat outside the tub to make the floor less slippery. Even a towel on the floor will work in a pinch. If the rushing water sound is scary, try filling the tub when your child is in another room.

If your child is afraid of getting pulled down the drain, try having him or her help fill up the bathtub and bathe a toy or doll. Practice cleaning and grooming the toy and then leave it in the water and unplug the drain. Watch together and see that the toy doesn’t get sucked away. And don’t forget to point out how much bigger they are than the toy.

If none of these ideas work, you could try washing someplace other than the bathtub. Fill a different kind of receptacle with water instead. Try a flexible tub with handles or even a laundry bucket. Sometimes smaller options will be a novelty and will help your child look forward to bath time.

Add Some Fun (and Some Learning)

Bath activities can be fun, and you don’t need fancy toys for a good time. Even funnels, plastic bottles, or measuring cups can make bath time interesting. Rotate toys to keep things fresh, or try singing songs and telling stories. Helping your toddler make up their own games and stories will fuel their imagination.

Because toddlers are constantly learning, bath time is full of opportunities. Try naming the different parts of the body as you wash them. You can also add new vocabulary by repeating and incorporating new words. Repeat words for actions like: splash, pour, splash, spill, or sit. Learn the words for toys like: duck, fish, turtle, boat, ball, etc. Or, try naming the colors all around the bath. But also remember that bath time doesn’t mean school time, so keep it natural and low-key.

Try adding a few drops of food coloring to the bathtub to catch a wary toddler’s attention. Or, freeze small bath toys inside ice cubes and watch how much fun your child has as the ice melts to reveal what’s inside. Ice cubes made with colored water are also fun to chase around the tub.

Communicate to Calm Nerves

Give your child a heads-up when you are going to pour water over their head. Help them tilt their head back, or have them hold a washcloth over their eyes. If you are having trouble getting them to look up, try putting a picture of their favorite character on the ceiling (like Mickey Mouse or Thomas the Train). Then have them look at or find the character.

You can talk through the process so they aren’t surprised by saying things like: “Now let’s wash your hair.” And, don’t skip the praise. Let them know how brave they are, or how calm they are being.

You also could invest in a bath visor to keep little eyes dry. Even a foam visor from the dollar store would work. And, make sure your bath products are gentle and “no-tear” formulas. But, keep the focus on fun. You can sometimes skip the soaping and shampooing when it’s too much of a stressor.

If your child is especially unhappy about a certain part of bath time (like washing their hair), try singing the same song during this part every time. This ritual will help your child know what is coming and it will also help them realize it will be over soon. They’re done as soon as the song is over.

When all else fails, maybe a little togetherness can do the trick. Try getting in the tub with your child. Your example goes a long way, so showing your toddler how much fun you think the bath is might be just the inspiration he or she needs. Plus, who wouldn’t want to take a turn dumping water on mommy or daddy’s head?

Written by Annie Buck, OT

Annie Buck is an Occupational Therapist with Kids Who Count. She specializes in helping children with feeding and sensory delays. She lives in a houseful of boys. She and her husband have four sons, from 8-months-old to 7-years-old. Things are always loud at home with fun that usually involves someone wrestling someone else.





Holly BushnellFour Ideas to Make Bath Time Less Stressful and More Fun!
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Junior high students focus on children’s special needs

When seventh-grade students, Stefan Omelchuk and Christopher Bruder, were trying to decide what they would do for their required service project, they knew it had to involve two things: their love for the game of hockey and helping kids with disabilities.

Stefan and Christopher attend St. John the Baptist Middle School, also known as Juan Diego Catholic High School, which requires that all students complete a “Catholic Connection” service project to further their understanding of the Catholic belief in service to others.

It was their love of the game of hockey and their connections with the Utah Grizzlies that led to them organizing a fundraising event to benefit Kids Who Count, a nonprofit early intervention program in Nebo School District that serves the special health care needs of children in Utah County.

When explaining why they chose Kids Who Count as the benefactor of the event, Omelchuk said, “Me and my teammates are pretty lucky to get to play hockey. Some kids need help just to walk or talk. We wanted to help them.”

The fundraising event will take place on Feb. 27 at the Maverik Center, where the Utah Grizzlies will take on the Maine Mariners. Discounted tickets to benefit Kids Who Count can be purchased by contacting them at (801) 423-3000. Additionally, volunteers will be selling foam pucks to chuck on the ice for a chance to win $100. Proceeds from these sales will go directly to Kids Who Count.

We most often hear stories about high school, college or professional athletes when they are negative. It is refreshing to know that many of our youth at many of our schools are encouraged to give back to their communities instead of just playing a sport. Whether the requirement comes from the school or from a coach who knows that the value of an athlete goes beyond what they can do on the field or the court, we need to encourage more schools and coaches to follow this lead.

I would also like to remind everyone about Utah Valley University men’s basketball “Night for Autism” at 7 p.m. on Feb. 23. Tickets are free and special accommodations are available for individuals with disabilities. Go to, create an account and enter autism19 for your free tickets.

Read Daily Herald Article





Holly BushnellJunior high students focus on children’s special needs
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Why You Might Want to Ditch the Sippy Cup

Sippy cups have quickly become synonymous with toddlers, but you might want to consider skipping the sippy altogether, and here are a few reasons why:

Sippy Cups May Cause Developmental Delays

Hard, spouted cups may not be helpful for your child’s development. Leading child development specialists say that because spouted cups are held on the front of a child’s tongue, he or she may not develop what is called a “mature swallow pattern.”

Young children are learning how swallow like an adult and are pushing up their tongue to the roof of their mouth. Cups with a hard tip can hold the tip of their tongue down when they swallow instead of letting the tongue tip rise. If something holds their tongue down, they could develop a tongue-thrust, (or immature swallow) which could delay progress both in speech and motor development. Also, they can have difficulty with producing some speech sounds, like the “s” sound.

Speech-language pathologists consistently agree that prolonged use of a bottle or sippy cup can cause abnormalities in mouth development.

Your toddler is also figuring out his or her own eye-hand coordination. Many great skills combine when a child uses a glass and learns to drink on his or her own. For many parents whose child seems to be having a difficult time transitioning from a bottle, a sippy cup may seem like a terrific solution. But really, this intermediate step may just delay the natural learning process for your child.

It can take time and patience to help your child learn to drink from a real cup, but it’s worth the effort and will give your child valuable life skills they will need anyway—even if you were to inadvertently delay this process with a sippy cup.

Increase the Risk of Tooth Decay and Decrease Healthy Appetite

Another reason you may want to eliminate the sippy cup step altogether is because it can encourage unhealthy habits that can cause tooth decay, interfere with hunger, and create unhealthy “grazing” tendencies.

Kids love to drink apple juice and milk because of their sweetness. However, when a child sips continuously throughout the day, the lactose from milk and fructose from fruits stays on their teeth and gums, putting your child at a higher risk for cavities in their developing teeth.

And, when kids always have a sippy cup full of calorie-dense liquids they may have a decreased appetite for healthy food at mealtimes. Nobody wants to add more stress to toddler meals!

What to Do Instead

Many parents don’t realize that babies can and should be introduced to regular, open cups at about six months when they begin eating solid foods (with a lot of help from you!) If they have a lot of trouble you can try starting with a thicker liquid like a smoothie at first. By the time your child is 18 months old they should be able to use a regular cup fairly independently without too many spills.

A cup with a half lid (or a cup without the valve or nipple installed), and even a cup with a short straw is a better choice for busy toddlers. Or, try starting with a very small cup (like a shot glass or play cup) and a limited amount of liquid. Another trick might be to use a travel coffee or hot drink cup that has a small opening at the top. Sometimes these types of cups will help to decrease the flow of fluid so your child can drink with fewer spills.

If you have tried some of these ideas and nothing seems to be working, talk to a doctor or pediatric speech or occupational therapist about different, more individualized options.

Remember, the sippy cup is a relatively recent invention. Your grandparents, and maybe even your parents, survived the toddler years without them. And, although it can be a bit messy at first, it is important that most children learn how to drink from an open cup by 18 months of age.

Written by Annie Buck, OT

Annie Buck is an Occupational Therapist with Kids Who Count. She specializes in helping children with feeding and sensory delays. She lives in a houseful of boys. She and her husband have four sons, from 8-months-old to 7-years-old. Things are always loud at home with fun that usually involves someone wrestling someone else.





Holly BushnellWhy You Might Want to Ditch the Sippy Cup
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Making mealtime easier: tips for feeding your toddler

Your toddler is learning to eat more solid foods and is becoming more active and independent. This is a time of exploration and discovery that sometimes doesn’t include being adventurous with food. You may even notice that your toddler refuses some of the foods he or she loved as an infant.

To make mealtime a bit easier—and healthier—have a few tricks up your sleeve. You may find that your child isn’t a picky eater, but may just take a bit more time to learn to enjoy different tastes and textures.

Variety keeps it interesting

When you offer your toddler a variety of shapes, colors, textures, and tastes at mealtime it not only keeps them interested, but gives them a more nutritionally balanced day. Try something crunchy, like whole grain crackers with something sweet like banana slices. Then add something with protein like cubed chicken or lean meat (cut into small pieces to avoid choking) and a bit of dairy like few pieces of string cheese or a cup of whole milk. You could serve salad as finger food with leafy greens without dressing, along with cut-up grapes or orange slices.

Use child-sized plates, cups, and utensils that fit their little hands and appetites. Then, pair unfamiliar food with a choice they already know and like to help them broaden their palate and enjoy more challenging foods. You don’t need to stick with the things you view as typical kid-friendly foods, but you can help them enjoy a bigger variety by serving them the same foods you are eating, just in smaller portions.

You don’t need to force your child to eat something he or she doesn’t like, but keep offering a variety of foods. The key is to keep exposing them to new tastes, colors, and textures. And, your example is critical. When your child sees you eating and enjoying veggies, they are much more likely to eat and enjoy veggies too. Sometimes your child just needs a model. When they see how much you like something they will be much more likely to try it themselves.

With your older toddler, it can be fun to take them to the grocery store with you and let them pick out a new fruit or veggie to try. Often when your child helped pick out a new food they will be more excited and willing to try it. Who knows? They may pick out something new to you too!

Make food easy to eat

Toddlers are enjoying their new independence. They like food they can hold themselves, like whole green beans, steamed carrot strips, or cubes of whole-grain bread. You can try things with different textures like avocado chunks, scrambled eggs, or even tofu. Noodles and pasta with different shapes and sizes are fun, and you can try cutting veggies in different shapes as well.

It’s best to avoid foods that are easy to choke on. Be careful with sticky foods like peanut butter and marshmallows, and watch out for small, hard foods like nuts, seeds, popcorn, raw carrots, and raisins. Slippery foods can also be troublesome, so avoid serving your child things like whole grapes and large pieces of meat or hot dogs.

Plan mealtimes and introduce a bit of structure

Keeping mealtime more structured can help to regulate your child’s appetite and attitude. Serve most meals and snacks in a designated area, like the kitchen table, and at about the same times each day. Avoid falling into the short-order-cook habit of giving your child requested items all day long.

Toddlers’ tummies are only about the size of their little fist and fill up easily. A common mistake is to allow children to drink milk and juice throughout the day or snack between meals, decreasing appetite and intake at main meals.

As your child grows, so will their love for different foods. Be patient and keep introducing new, healthy alternatives to keep them on track and happy.


Written on February 21, 2019 by Annie Buck, OT

Annie Buck is an Occupational Therapist with Kids Who Count. She specializes in helping children with feeding and sensory delays. She lives in a houseful of boys. She and her husband have four sons, from 8-months-old to 7-years-old. Things are always loud at home with fun that usually involves someone wrestling someone else.





Holly BushnellMaking mealtime easier: tips for feeding your toddler
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Honoring a Terrific Kids Who Count Employee-Peggie Lara

There are a number of ways that people choose their profession or vocation.

There are those who decide at a young age what they want to be, pursue it and do it until they retire.

Others may make the same choices and have the same pursuit and later realize it wasn’t what they wanted and do something else. Then, there is the group that really didn’t have a set course and are lucky enough to stumble into the perfect job with the perfect employer at the perfect time.

I think that is likely the case with Peggie Lara.

I do not know for sure if 27 years ago, Peggie joined the Kids Who Count team, an early intervention program in Nebo School District, purposefully or if she stumbled on to it by answering an ad. Regardless of what took her there, she has spent the last 27 years of her life making it purposeful.

When she joined Kids Who Count, the field of developmental disabilities had a lot fewer opportunities for employment, but Peggie stepped in and quickly found her place. She started by providing direct services to the Spanish-speaking families and conducting intake visits in their homes. She worked in other capacities and has been credited with contributing greatly to the success of the early intervention program. She understands the concerns of parents of children with disabilities and was able to communicate with them warmth, compassion and expediently scheduling initial evaluations.

Peggie worked with Latino and Hispanic families by creating meaningful connections with the community and ensured inclusion. She also expanded cultural awareness within the Kids Who Count team. Peggie has agreed to continue to facilitate the “Learning with Books and Play” class for Spanish-speaking families.

“Learning with Books and Play” is one of many programs offered through Kids Who Count and is co-sponsored through United Way. This is a fun and interactive class for Spanish-speaking children and families in the community. The class will meet on the fourth Wednesday of each month from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Kids Who Count building in Salem. The children will learn how to combine literacy and hands-on play to support learning and how to build in the four areas of child development: cognitive, physical, language and social-emotional. Information can be found at

It is unique for employees to commit to a job and stay for so many years,’ said Kelsey Lewis, executive director of Kids Who Count. “The longevity and dedication of employees like Peggie, make Kids Who Count more than a team. We’re a family and it’s hard to imagine this family without Peggie.”

Melanie Linford, associate director of Kids Who Count, added, “Peggie is an intelligent, kind and happy person. Thank you for the many years of hard work and dedication.”

By today’s standards, twenty-seven years is a long time to stay in one job with one company. Peggie’s longevity in this field and with Kids Who Count is a testimony to the value of serving others. She is a reminder of one of my favorite quotes by St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

Peggie, you undoubtedly did great things for many people with great love. Enjoy your retirement.

Daily Herald Extra Article

Holly BushnellHonoring a Terrific Kids Who Count Employee-Peggie Lara
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