The Teal Pumpkin Project

One of my favorite holidays is coming up: Halloween!  Not only are there SO many great sensory experiences to discover this time of year (from carving pumpkins to playing with goops and slimes), but it also means trick-or-treating! 

It is so much fun to dress up as a favorite character, cute animal, or scary creature.  Sometimes decorating and making the costume is half the fun for us adults, but I think most kids would agree that it’s all about the CANDY! 

Unfortunately, that is what makes this holiday stressful, or downright frustrating, for those with food allergies, sensitivities, and special diets.  Food allergies are a life-altering and potentially life-threatening disease, and a growing public health issue. In the U.S., one in 13 children has a food allergy – that’s roughly two in every classroom. For these children, even a tiny amount of their allergen has the potential to cause a severe reaction.

Virtually any food can cause a reaction. Many popular Halloween candies contain nuts, milk, egg, soy or wheat, which are some of the most common allergens in children and adults. Additionally, many miniature or fun-size versions of candy items contain different ingredients than their full-size counterparts and some miniature candy items may not have labels, so it is difficult for parents to determine whether these items are safe for their child with food allergies.

The Teal Pumpkin Project was launched as a national campaign by FARE in 2014, and encourages people to raise awareness of food allergies and promotes inclusion of all trick-or-treaters throughout the Halloween season.  FARE works to reach families across the country and around the world with the Teal Pumpkin Project’s messages of awareness, inclusion and community. 

The steps to participate are:

  1. Provide non-food treats for trick-or-treaters.
  2. Place a teal pumpkin – the color of food allergy awareness –in front of your home to indicate you have non-food treats available.
  3. Display a free printable sign or premium poster from FARE to explain the meaning of your teal pumpkin.

Non-food treats provide a safe, fun alternative for children with food allergies and other conditions for whom candy may present a problem.  

Author: Krista Flack MS OTR/L; Pediatric Occupational Therapist

National PT Month

Every year since 1992, the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) has used this month as a way to help raise awareness and educate the public on various topics. This year the APTA has chosen to educate the public on the use of physical therapy as a safe way to manage pain. Physical therapists treat pain through movement, helping patients improve strength, flexibility, and range of motion. Physical therapists also can educate their patients about pain, which has been known to improve outcomes.

So why choose physical therapy? First physical therapy has been found to be as effective as surgery for some conditions such as osteoarthritis, meniscal tears, and rotator cuff injuries. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Physical therapy is effective for numerous conditions and there is high quality evidence supporting exercise as part of physical therapist treatment for familiar conditions like low back pain, hip and knee osteoarthritis, and fibromyalgia. Second, physical therapy plans are individualized. This means that everyone’s pain management therapy is different and tailored around you, your needs, and your pre-existing conditions. Lastly, physical therapy can help identify other potential risks and health issues beyond what the patient initially reports.

In June of 2016 the APTA launched their new campaign titled #ChoosePT to help educate the public on choosing physical therapy as a way to manage pain. Click here for more information on the #ChoosePT campaign and other resources on how physical therapy can help with pain

For more information physical therapy in general check out the APTA’s website here


-Matthew D’Antonio, PT, DPT

Pediatric Physical Therapist

Down Syndrome Awareness

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month, a chance to spread awareness.  During the month of October, we celebrate people with Down syndrome and make people aware of their abilities and accomplishments.  It’s not about celebrating disabilities, it’s about celebrating abilities!

Below are some tips shared by those with Down Syndrome, and by their family members and advocates:

·         Use person-first language!  For example, instead of "a Down syndrome child," we can say "a child with Down syndrome." Feel free to add in other adjectives that describe the person (like “awesome,” “sweet,” and “kind,” as every child should be described by their positive attributes, rather that defined by a diagnoses).

·         Don’t assume that all people with Down Syndrome will have similar abilities or traits.  People with Down syndrome have an increased risk for certain medical conditions such as congenital heart defects, respiratory and hearing problems, Alzheimer's disease, childhood leukemia and thyroid conditions.  A few of the common physical traits of Down syndrome are: low muscle tone, small stature, an upward slant to the eyes, and a single deep crease across the center of the palm. Every person with Down syndrome is a unique individual and may possess these characteristics to different degrees or not at all.  If in doubt, always assume competence.

·         We are more alike than different.  People with Down syndrome are active participants in educational, social and recreational activities. They are included in the typical education system and take part in sports, music, art programs and any other activities in the community.  They work, participate in decisions that affect them, have meaningful relationships, vote and contribute to society in many wonderful ways.  People with Down syndrome are valued members of their families and communities, and make meaningful contributions to society.

·         Visit The National Down Syndrome Society website to learn more about Down Syndrome, advocacy, and participating in your local Buddy Walk (THIS Saturday in Savannah, sponsored by The Lowcountry Down Syndrome Society!). 

Fall Activities

Fall is here, and there are plenty of fun ways to incorporate seasonal crafts and activities into your life, which can focus on improving fine motor and visual motor integration skills, as well as to tap into the sensory system!  Here are a few of my favorite fall (and Halloween) crafts.

  1. Use different materials to create beautiful fall trees.  After drawing the branches onto paper (or tracing your arm and hand for the trunk and branches), try gluing buttons or wadded-up tissue paper to make the colorful fall leaves.  You can also paint them on using finger paint, or dot them on with the end of a cotton swab.  Get creative; this is a great way to add some tactile sensory play into your day.
  2. Use nature!  Trace or paint around leaves (or color over them with crayons for a fun textured stencil), stamp with apples, or turn a pinecone into a funny-faced critter or bird feeder.  See what else you can find in your backyard that can be glued, traced, or painted!
  3. Turn your handprint or footprint into a fun Halloween image.  Put your two hands together to form a spider, or your foot (turned upside down) can make a spooky ghost or monster.
  4. Use cotton swabs to make a skeleton on black paper.  Cut out a head from construction paper, then use cotton swabs to make the spine, ribs, arms, legs, and even fingers and toes!  Cutting or tearing the cotton swabs in half for the smaller body parts is a great fine motor task.  This is also a great opportunity to talk about body awareness where our body parts are located and how they connect to each other.
  5. Make scented dough. There are endless recipes online for making your own play dough.  You can search for ones that are edible, or allergen-free, or require little prep.  Its worth noting that the doughs that require some cooking are often the ones that last longest and maintain consistency best.  But if making it is half the fun to you, then go ahead and explore all of the different recipes out there to find the one you like best.  Here is one example of a recipe to make pumpkin spice and apple spice scented doughs.  

Backpack Awareness Day

Backpacks are worn to school every day by millions of kids around the world, but have you ever thought about the serious health effects that backpacks can cause children? The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) has stated a backpack awareness day to help raise awareness about how to properly wear a backpack and how heavy it should be. According to the AOTA, in 2007 over 2,000 backpack related injuries were treated in emergency rooms and physician offices. In one study with American students ages 11 to 15 years, 64% reported back pain related to heavy backpacks. Twenty one percent reported the pain lasting more than 6 months.

According to the AOTA there are 3 simple steps to backpack wearing to help reduce the risk of injury. The first step is to pack it properly.  Make sure to utilize all compartments and pockets of the backpack to help distribute weight, and keep the heavier items closer to the back center of the backpack. A backpack should weigh no more than 10% of your child’s total body weight. The second step is put it on correctly. Make sure your child is picking up the backpack by bending and lifting in the knees instead of the waist to prevent back injury. The third step is to make sure the backpack is adjusted and worn properly. Always use both shoulder straps and make sure the backpack rests snugly against the back. Make sure that the backpack does not go above your child’s shoulders or below the top of the hip bones.

National Backpack awareness day is September 20th.  Next week, September 25-29th, we  will be hosting backpack weigh-ins and fit checks.  Bring you backpack with you to your therapy appointments, and we will help to make sure your backpack is:

  • the right size and weight for your body, and
  • adjusted and packed correctly to distribute weight evenly.

We will also provide information on avoiding injuries during use and wear, tips on carrying other styles bags (including purses and briefcases), and general tips for school success!  You may even win a prize for participating! 

Backpack awareness links and more information

-Matthew D’Antonio, PT, DPT and Krista Flack MS OTR/L

Childhood Obesity

Childhood obesity is a major public health problem. According to the CDC, 1 in 6 children (17%) in the United States suffers from obesity. Children with obesity are at higher risk for having other chronic health conditions and diseases, such as asthma, sleep apnea, bone and joint problems, and type 2 diabetes. They also have more risk factors for heart disease like high blood pressure and high cholesterol than their normal weight peers. Children with obesity are more likely to have obesity as adults. This can lead to lifelong physical and mental health problems.

Childhood obesity is influenced by many factors. In the recent years, technology has had a huge impact on childhood obesity causing less physical activity. Another major problem is the ease of access to inexpensive high calorie foods and beverages.

It is important to provide your kids with healthier snack options like fruits and vegetables. Also limit screen time and encourage your children to go outside and play. Encourage your kids to drink water instead of sugary drinks. Be sure to check out Krista’s blog about the importance of eating fruits and vegetables.

Idea’s to help children maintain a healthy weight

CDC physical activity guidelines

Tips for proper nutrition

Rethink your drink

Matthew D’Antonio, PT, DPT

Pediatric Physical Therapist

Fruits & Veggies More Matters

Author: Krista Flack, MS OTR/L

September is Fruits & Veggies—More Matters Month, organized to help you focus your attention on eating MORE fruits and vegetables!  More than 90% of both adults and children do not eat the amount of fruits and vegetables recommended by the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the MyPlate nutrition guide. 

Why eat MORE fruits and veggies?

  1. Color & Texture. Fruits and veggies add color, texture … and appeal…  to your plate.
  2. Convenience. Fruits and veggies are nutritious in any form – fresh, frozen, canned, dried and 100% juice, so they’re ready when you are!
  3. Fiber. Fruits and veggies provide fiber that helps fill you up and keeps your digestive system happy.
  4. Low in Calories. Fruits and veggies are naturally low in calories.
    1. May Reduce Disease Risk. Eating plenty of fruits and veggies may help reduce the risk of many diseases, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and some cancers.
    2. Vitamins & Minerals. Fruits and veggies are rich in vitamins and minerals that help you feel healthy and energized.
    3. Variety. Fruits and veggies are available in an almost infinite variety…there’s always something new to try!
    4. Quick, Natural Snack. Fruits and veggies are nature’s treat and easy to grab for a snack.
    5. Fun to Eat! Some crunch, some squirt, some you peel … some you don’t, and some grow right in your own backyard!

10.  Fruits & Veggies are Nutritious AND Delicious!

Don’t forget!  Tomorrow is the last day to post a picture on your Instagram of you or your child trying a new food.  Use #IheartLTC and @lowcountrytherapycenter to be entered to win a Pikachu lunchbox! 

A note on feeding therapy:

A feeding disorder occurs when an infant or child has difficulty eating or refusing to eat. Feeding problems can be a result of underlying medical complications, but can also be related to hidden sensory and/or behavioral issues, or oral-motor deficits.  Symptoms of a feeding disorder may include: refusal, swallowing difficulty, taking a long time to eat/drink, vomiting, choking, gagging, behavioral problems during mealtimes, or just being a "picky" eater.  Lowcountry Therapy Center conducts feeding evaluations using a multi-disciplinary team approach that involves an occupational therapist and also a speech-language pathologist.  Sometimes a “behavior” (like refusal, picky eating, or meltdowns during mealtime) can be the result of underlying sensory or oral-motor deficits.  For example, jaw weakness can make chewing meat very difficult.  If a child refuses meat and fibrous vegetables, and is made to eat it anyway, it can cause fatigue or frustration, which will lead to behaviors!  Similarly, if a child has poor sensory processing to detect where a food is within the mouth, it can lead to gagging: a very scary experience when oral motor control is lacking!  By addressing these underlying problems, children will have the skills necessary to handle food, which will help them to be successful at trying new foods.  

Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

This month we want to raise awareness about childhood cancer. Cancer in children occur when formerly-healthy cells mutate, and replicate much more than they should. When that happens, they can also destroy nearby healthy cells and invade different parts of the body. Most children’s cancers are caused by random genetic mutations.

Each year 15,700 children are diagnosed with cancer. 50 years ago, childhood cancer had a 10% survival rate. Today the survival rate is 90%!

Cancer, and the treatments that cure it, can be accompanied with many symptoms that therapy can help with.  For example, physical therapy can help children maintain or get back strength, endurance, and movement skills.  Occupational therapy can help children to participate in self-care, play, and fine motor skills.  Speech therapy can help with language/communication and swallowing problems.  

There are many organizations that support and advocate for families affected by childhood cancer through research and events.  To learn more about them and to find out how you can get involved, check out their websites.  American Childhood Cancer Organization, Go Gold Fund, and Children’s Cancer Research Fund are just a few.

This year the MLB is joining the fight against childhood cancer. On Friday September 1st all Major League players, coaches, umpires, and grounds crew members with wear gold ribbon decals and wristbands. Each club will also be hosting different events throughout the month to help raise awareness about childhood cancer.

Matthew D’Antonio, PT, DPT

Pediatric Physical Therapist

National Yoga Month

Author: Krista Flack, MS OTR/L

September is National Yoga Month, designed to educate about the health benefits of yoga and to inspire a healthy lifestyle.  The following are just some of the recognized benefits of yoga for children (and adults):


  • Assists neuromuscular-development
  • Promotes development of the vestibular system
  • Encourages midline crossing motions; motor development on both sides of the body
  • Develops a strong and flexible body
  • Increases balance, body awareness and coordination
  • Improves posture and alignment
  • Develops core strength, essential for good posture and correct physical alignment
  • Reduces injuries and improves performance
  • Improves digestion, circulation and elimination
  • Strengthens the immune system
  • Relaxes the body, promoting better sleep


  • Calms and clears the mind, bringing us into the present moment
  • Relieves tension and stress
  • Increases concentration, focus and attention span
  • Promotes thinking and memory
  • Stimulates auditory processing and responsiveness
  • Expands imagination and creativity
  • Reduces stress and anxiety
  • Improves ability to be less reactive; more mindful of thoughts, words and actions
  • Balances energy (high or low)


  • Builds confidence and self-esteem
  • Supports character development and emotional intelligence
  • Enhances team skills and social interaction
  • Develops discipline and self-control
  • Supports individuality and self-expression
  • Encourages social and environmental awareness and responsibility
  • Supports a sense of universal connectedness
  • Inspires respect for self and others


  • Improves mind/body connection  
  • Encourages a fit and healthy lifestyle
  • Promotes an overall sense of well-being

Yoga can also have specific benefits for children with special needs:

  • Increases attention, focus and concentration
  • Builds self-esteem and confidence
  • Develops strong muscles
  • Strengthens hypotonic body parts
  • Loosens tight limbs
  • Fosters language and social skills

For more information, including additional reading and videos, check out some of this resources:

Each September, community events are organized nationwide in celebration of National Yoga Month.  Stay tuned we will post about any yoga-related community events that are free or discounted as we learn about them!  

Surfers for Autism

Author: Krista Flack, MS OTR/L

Surfers For Autism is coming to Tybee Island on September 16th!  This event is dedicated to the introduction of the sport of surfing to children with special needs.  At a SFA event, our surfers are provided a safe environment where two to four highly skilled and trained surf instructors carefully guide them into waves. Our surfers and their families are treated like rock stars and enjoy a day filled with a range of activities including stand up paddle boarding, kayaking, live music, face-painting, games, bounce houses, fire engine tours and much more. A catered lunch is also provided, all at no cost. This is a very special day where children with ASD interact with typical peers and wow families with their capabilities. These events are examples of inclusion at the highest level. 

For more details on this event, and to sign up as a surfer or as a volunteer, follow this link here

Additional information for first-time participants and first-time volunteers can be found at this links. 

You can also follow their Facebook page to see pictures, videos, and testimonials, as well as to receive updates and interact within the community!  

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