Saturday, 30 June 2012

GF in Niagara Falls, ON

Good Morning and Happy Summer!

I was lucky enough to have a few days off in between school, and camp--I traveled to Niagara Falls (Canada side) and had a few days of adventure and relaxation. I am happy to report that the entire trip was Gluten-Free and allergy sensitive. I wanted to post my experience, so that other families traveling to Niagara that are working on a GF or allergy-aware diet, will have some sense of direction. I found the city amazing, and very knowledgeable; a far cry from my last carribean vacation when I learned the phrase LIBRE DE GLUTEN and still got responses like...No seniorita, there are no flowers in the soup.

So where to begin...on the way up, it was nothing fancy, but breakfast was apple sauce from a Wal mart we spotted on the drive; of course, no road trip is complete without a million Timmy's stops.

There are a surprising number of Starbucks locations as well, that was a special treat because they have soy milk, so I got to have lattes, americanos and pike's place, OH MY!

Once we got into Niagara we were ready for lunch; we had been tipped off that the local ma and pa places were a much better way to go than the touristy stuff; what a great tip that was! We chose a Greek place; the name is escaping me, Kitikoukous or something else amazingly fun to say with lots of hard k sounds. (Even on holiday I never forget my communication-training roots).

The waiter was so friendly, and had all the time in the world to chat about my allergies. He checked 3 times, about 3 separate ingredient allergies for each dish I ordered...all turned out to be safe bets on the chef's good word. So I ordered: A lemon-chicken-rice soup; it was so creamy I actually had the poor guy double check that there was absolutely no dairy...sure enough, none whatsoever. A GFCF miracle. I also had a skewer, totally GFCF and delish, and a side Greek salad. All in all, we ate so fast it must have been good; did not even stop to take a picture until I was just about finished. THAT good.

Next up we went to check into the hotel; walked up and down Clifton Hill and the strip outside our hotel to scout out some allergy friendly locations to eat at over our stay. Our first stop was Starbucks and for how many there were in Niagara, you would think they would be a little more allergy aware. I ordered a soy-frappaccino and got it served to me with whipped cream...then they tried to just "scrape it off"; I was quick to inform them that that was not going to work for me. They were apologetic, but proceeded to roll their eyes as I turned away (thank goodness for travel partners who look out for you :P). Considering how much time I spend at Starbucks in general life, I was not impressed.

That night we decided dinner would be at Old Faithful; that's what we call the Keg  because it is always safe, they are always amazing about allergies, and it is always delicious (even without gluten or dairy...and their bread...just fyi for the gluten-indulgent, LOOKS amazing). So I ordered a lobster and steak combo--I know right, who does that? It was amazing, and good to the last drop. So good, I once again forgot to take a picture until I was half way done.

The next morning we went to IHOP; it was in our hotel. They were so incredibly accommodating, and even offered to substitute my bread for fruit; this is a big deal because most breakfast places are pretty strict about no substitutions. Then I got the bill, and realized that for an $20 breakfast, they had better be accommodating ;). I ordered eggs which I specifically requested not be fried in butter; I made sure NOT to order an omelet, because they put their pancake batter in it to make the omelets light and fluffy...yum, right?
Not so photo worthy; but yummy and safe for my tummy. By this point it was breakfast of Day 2 and still no accidental gluten...this is BIG!

We stopped at a grocery store to get some items for a pic nic lunch, we were heading to Marineland. We spent the morning checking out Friendship Cove, and thinking about how THANKFUL we were that we had the idea to bring a pic nic. There was not a single allergy safe item to eat there; it was all corn dogs, and pizza and hot dogs and burgers...yum, but not for me.
We made it back to the hotel and desperately needed a coffee after all that walking; we were so thankful that Starbucks was right in our hotel lobby; with soy  milk!
That night we headed out to the main strip and found a Mediterranean place to eat at; the food was nothing short of amazing and gluten and dairy free without having to order any special procedures. Since we have travelled to Israel, we know all about the ingredients and were confident in ordering. I did not eat the fries because they seemed like they might have been coated in flour...but there was more than enough tomato, onion, beef, pickles, hummus and beets to fill me up. It was so nice to sit outside on the strip, watching the tourists and the hustle and bustle of Niagara.

We didn't eat or drink much after that dinner, which is always a sign that it hit the spot. We did check out some attractions, they were definitely something I would do if I went with kids.
The next day...We went for a pre-breakfast walk along the falls, so magical! We had Starbucks in hand, and yes still with soy milk :). We decided to venture to a local place for breakfast; we found a place with tons of gluten and dairy free options, and filled our tummies. We headed to Niagara on the Lake, where we did not eat a single thing. We were full from breakfast until about 2pm at which point we found a hero burger for some good old fashioned GF burgers. 

Monday, 25 June 2012

Yoga is a piece of the puzzle!

If you have not heard about our Whole Body Program at MM, I encourage you to keep reading! Our Whole Body Program targets development from a sensorimotor perspective, while remaining true to the principles of IBI/ABA methodology....Another semi-academic post....

It is widely known that nutrition and exercise improve cognitive and physical abilities (Kraemer & Marquez, 2009). I have placement students at work, who shadow my team and gain invaluable insight into the field. Recently, a placement student—they are always full of question, asked why I used yoga in teaching. Could there possible be evidence in this?! It’s certainly not standard practice for behaviour therapist, but it is one part of programming that specifically targets arousal levels and the ability to self regulate (a particular area of concern for individuals on the Autism spectrum).

Mr. Billy is one of our Whole Body Program coaches
Yoga teachings consist of three tenets: Breathing, posture, and meditation.  Each tenet has its usefulness; all tenets work together to combat fatigue, increase heart-rate, regulate breathe and understand the body in relation to the rest of the world.

From a psychosocial perspective, being tuned-in to your body is an essential factor in the establishment and maintenance of identity.  Yoga bridges the gap between mind and body and has usefulness that extends physical fitness; yoga can successfully decrease symptoms of anxiety and depression (Descilo, Vedmurtachar, Gerbarg, Nagaraja, Gangadhar, Damodaran, Adelson, Braslow, Marcus, Brown, 2010).
In a study conducted on tsunami victims, there was a reduction in depressive behaviour relative to the yoga-breath intervention technique (Descilo et al., 2010); yoga is an effective way to decrease the psychological symptoms associated with depression. When combined with a holistic intervention plan, yoga is one piece of the depression puzzle!

Descilo, T. T., Vedamurtachar, A. A., Gerbarg, P. L., Nagaraja, D. D., Gangadhar, B. N., Damodaran, B.
B., & ... Brown, R. P. (2010). Effects of a yoga breath intervention alone and in combination with an exposure therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder and depression in survivors of the 2004 South-East Asia tsunami. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica,121(4), 289-300. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0447.2009.01466.x
Kraemer, J. M., & Marquez, D. X. (2009). Psychosocial Correlates and Outcomes of Yoga or Walking
Among Older Adults. Journal Of Psychology143(4), 390-404.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Resources from the Amazing Autism Speaks

From Autism Speaks, via Autism beacon...what a blessing they both are to the ASD community!

Many Thanks!

Toileting Guide for Moms and Dads with ASD kids...

Behavioural Health Information ...

ABA is...

Personality from a Behavioural Perspective

The more I learn about personality, from a counselling perspective, the more I question the environmental variables. Let me back up a step, personality manifests in behaviour that is observable, and therefore measurable; that's a relief, right?

 Environmental factors are crucial in the formation of personality; they inform it, and even shape it. I am sure we have all experienced the child that is sweet as candy at his own home and then suddenly turns on a hyperactive switch when they get into any new environment, from Grandma's to a friend's house. Then there are the children that reliably exhibit certain behaviours in certain environments, and not at all in others.

For starters, I always tell teachers and parents that kids will always live up to the expectation you set for them; if you "write them off" because they are too this or too that, they will definitely pick up on it and act accordingly.

I reject the idea that kids with ASD are not perceptive and posit that they are very perceptive, but just don't' always know what to make of what they perceive. In my experience, non verbals kiddies are hyper aware of your demeanor, it speaks more than words.

Be positive, upbeat and genuinely engaged; if you don't love what you do, you can't fake it...

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Prader-willi Syndrome

Response: PWS
By: Alley Dezenhouse, BA ABS
Prader-willi syndrome (PWS) is often associated with certain characteristic cognitive profiles including a preference for sameness, consistency and routine (Woodcock, Oliver, Humpreys, 2011); perhaps this is motivated by inadequate adaptive behaviours. PWS is the result of insufficient chromosomal information (Woodcock et al., 2012); individuals with PWS often present with abnormal facial features, and a physical small appearance. Individuals with PWS typically demonstrate a mild cognitive delay, and a strength based treatment approach is recommended to manage quality of life (Woodcock et al., 2012). Individuals are impacted by their environment; according to Woodcock et al, (2012) frequent changes in routine and/or discrepancies between expectation and fulfilment result in increased behavioural issues like temper tantrums, repetitive behaviour and stereotypy  (Woodcock et al., 2012). A difficulty in the ability to shift attention, similar to what is often associated with ADHD, is often the cause of inflexibility and concerns pertaining to routine.
Whittington and Holland (2011) sought to determine what social delays exist in individuals with PWS; the Vineland Adaptive Scale of Behaviour can be used to highlight specific peer and socially based deficits (Whittington & vHolland, 2011). Understanding which social impairments impact individuals with PWS, will allow practitioners to produce individualized programs that make meaningful and socially significant change.

Whittington, J. J., &  Holland, T. T. (2011). Recognition of emotion in facial expression by
people with Prader-Willi syndrome. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, pp.  75-84. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2788.2010.01348.x
Woodcock, K. A., Oliver, C. C., & Humphreys, G. W. (2011). The relationship between specific
cognitive impairment and behaviour in Prader-Willi syndrome. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, pp. 152-171. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2788.2010.01368.x

Anxiety in the Teenage years

From me to you; if this is relevant for someone you know, pass it on! :)
For more information on the management of anxiety from a behavioural perspective, please reach me! Warm Regards.
Adolescence has become synonymous with self-invention, drug and alcohol experimentation and increased rates of anxiety (Pinel, 2012). On the cusp of child and adult, adolescence is about developing perspectives and testing limits. Culturally, angst and uncertainty have always gone hand in hand with adolescence, but at some point normal teenage angst can develop into a generalized anxiety disorder and require treatment. When anxiety impacts every aspect of a teenager’s life, it crosses the threshold from normal teenage insecurities, to social anxiety disorder.
However it manifests, anxiety is difficult to overcome without the right support system; anxiety has biological roots that need to be strategically considered (Pinel, 2012). Positive perceptions of self should be targeted proactively to avoid eating disorders, and other manifestations of anxious thought patterns. Coping strategies are essential; during adolescent experimentation can result in exposure to risky behaviour like sexual activity, self-harm, or smoking. Exposure paired with anxiety can lead to addiction.
 Are anxious adolescents crying out for parental attention? In an interview with Kate Fillion (2010), genetics specialist Dr. Leonard Sax says the answer is no. He suggests that most teenage cutters (like most users, and anorexics), are secretive and systematic. Most teenagers are trying not to get caught. Dr. Sax notes that in adolescence pressure is high; teens go to drastic measures to create identities with physical appearance and social status. Looking to establish identity, many adolescents fall into patterns of anorexia and bulimia, cigarette smoking, or other unhealthy habits.

Fillion, K. (2010, May 3). Inside the dangerously empty lives of teenage girls impressing each
Pinel, J.P. (2012). Basics of biopsychology. Boston: Pearson

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Home-Made Sensory Rooms

Browsing Facebook...yes I know, busted...I came across a post from a lady seeking support in developing..well actually expanding...her current sensory room for her son, on the Autism spectrum. It occurred to me that making a home-sensory space is probably something many parents seek to do; it is certainly something I recommend to many of my clients managing sensory integration issues at home. In order to put all my knowledge in one place, so that others may call upon it, here are some of my tips and tricks, acquired from consulting with professionals from OTs to naturopaths, to SLPs to psycho educational consultants and disability specialists. So here goes:

    Granted it does not usually look this oily;  pic was taken after a kiddo working for chips. The beauty is, the crash pad is fully washable.

  • Make a crash pad: If you have ever been to MM you know what a crash pad it. If not... what is Crash Pad...exactly what it sounds like. A giant pillow large enough to crash onto and into. In ours, we put small sensory objects of various textures; the kids loves to feel all of the soft items inside. All you need is a giant duvet cover; twin or larger, and some foam pillows (pretty cheap to buy, but you need a lot) which you cut up into squares. Insert the foam squares, along with any other soft plush items, and VOILA! Zip it up, and remove items for easy washing!
  • Make a ball pit; the sensory experience is unparalleled by any other. You do not need a lot of balls, just a space that is just big enough for your child to fit in. You do not have to spend 100s of dollars; use an old tent, a large plastic Tupperware box (no lid of course), or an old sandbox or kiddy pool. For a long time we used our Thomas Tent as our ball pit, our kids loved the lack of other sensory stimuli; entering the tent was like a private world only for the child (we made a rule: tent door stays open, so we can ensure no funny business lol). The only stimuli was colourful balls. Let the calm begin....
  • When it comes to visual stimuli, less is more...but that does not mean bare white walls, especially not in a sensory room. In our classes, we tend to pick 1 or 2 focus walls which have visuals. The others stay pretty much a blank canvas. As long as visuals are controlled, they will serve their purpose. Purchase a cork board, or use some old wallpaper (just sticky tac it up) to section off an area where visuals will go; even a Bristol board will create some structure and order. This will help create a sense of order not chaos. (Pictures to come!) We used old wall paper donated from a nursery, with lions, elephants and kangaroos!

  • Sensory Buckets: a bin or bucket, an assortment of sensory textures made from mostly edible products: pasta, lentils, beans, and some shiny colourful beads. We have several other sensory bins as well, including multi-coloured rice bins with buried treasure, and corn flour and kidney bean (yes, ALL gluten free).
  • IKEA inflatable bugs. BEST purchase of the entire room; kids love to lounge on the textured IKEA carpet (we have two red and green); they relax on their tummies on top of the giant IKEA bugs that are filled with what seems to be a mini yoga ball for the kids to roll around on. A bit pricey overall, close to 70 I think for the whole thing which comes separately (the bug pillow case and the inflatable middle). The good news is, ours has lasted pretty well...and we love it so much we got another one. 
  • Smell station: Cotton balls are your best friend. Use familiar flavours like cinnamon, banana, nuts (if there are no allergies), vanilla, lavender and other soothing smells. Fill a plastic bottle with the cotton balls which are all dabbed with the smell; place the lid on the bottle and poke some hole around the top. VOILA. Smell bottles.
  • Glitter jars: Very simple, be sure to use plastic containers...we once used glass and learned very quickly that was a disaster. Use water, oil, food colouring and sparkles to create a homemade glitter jar. Shine a light into the bottle in a dark room, and watch the magic!
  • Tray Play: This is something that developed because kids are the masters of losing small pieces, or getting stuff everywhere. We use trays to keep small pieces, like of lego, fine motor games like jawbones, kinects and others; the tray prevents roll away pieces while the child focuses on create play. We also use the trays for shaving cream play, and other messy stuff like goop, glorb or play doh.
  • Black lights make any room seem magical and there is tons of stuff to do with glow-in-dark fun! Make glowing glorb, play doh or stars to stick onto the ceiling; make them in white and you will only see them when the black light is on.... 
  • Art Table with all the fixings
  • Water: we have a water table, but a bucket or bin like one used for the sensory bins would be just as effective. If you have two, fill one with warm water and one with cool water for a nice contrast. Add food colouring for a magical feeling.
  • An Ikea crawling tube transforms into a sensory crawling tube by adding sensory items for your kids to crawl over and around. The kids love rolling around with the sensory balls, and especially love pushing senso-dot balls as they crawl from one side to the other.
  • If you use any of these ideas I would love to hear about it! Send pics too!

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Anorexia Nervosa

An examination of anorexia nervosa
By: Alley Dezenhouse, BA ABS
On one end of the epidemic, children, adolescents and adults are going to extreme measures to stay thin; on the other hand, more individuals are becoming obese than previously recorded (Pinel, 2012).  The role of culture (Sigelman & Rider, 2012), and perhaps perception (Pinel, 2012), are huge contributors to the both grossly over consuming and grossly under consuming populations.
In the case of anorexia nervosa, maladaptive behaviours contribute to the desire for extreme thinness, pursued at the expense of physical health and wellness (Pinel, 2012).  Pinel (2012) suggest that 2.5% of Americans suffer from anorexia nervosa; I would suspect that even more suffer from mild and undiagnosed forms of the disorder. From episodes of binge eating, followed by episodes of guilt and self-induced purging (Pinel, 2012) anorexics are often fixated on the idea of thinness and/or the desire to control caloric consumption.
Pinel suggests that there is currently no widely-used and/or most effective treatment for anorexia nervosa (Pinel, 2012); but, the psychological component of the condition requires a holistic treatment. Behaviour modification is often one piece of the puzzle (Sigelman & Rider, 2012); but, the condition cannot be targeted in isolation. Courturier and Isserlin (2012) posit a family-based approach as a suitable intervention for anorexia. Courturier and Isserlin outline the value of an approach that examines patient history and cite the urgency and crisis associated with the clients decline in health, as a factor which contributes to the families tendency to act rashly often going into crisis mode (Courturier & Isserlin, 2012). An important part of this phase of recovery, is the families willingness to take ownership over the ability to challenge the anorexic behaviours; viewing the condition as a pattern of behaviours that can be challenged, rather than a disease that is chronic is an important factor in recovery (Courturier & Isserlin, 2012). 

Isserlin, L., & Couturier, J. (2012). Therapeutic alliance and family-based treatment for
adolescents with anorexia nervosa. Psychotherapy, 49(1), 46-51. doi:10.1037/a0023905
Pinel, J.P. (2012) Basic of biopsychology. Boston: Pearson
Sigelman, C.K. & Rider, E.A. (2012). Life span human development (7e ).
Belmont CA: Wadsworth