Author: Kenny Schultz

Holiday Picky Eating

Navigating Picky Eating Around the Holidays

Navigating the Holidays with a Picky Eater

The holidays can be a special time for family, traditions, and some of our favorite foods.  It can be challenging (and stressful!) going to a family member’s house, knowing that your child will not eat any of the foods.  It can be an anxious time for a child that knows they will be asked to try new foods.  We understand that holiday picky eating can take a toll on the whole family and we want to help. We will share some tips to help your picky eater (and you) have a positive and enjoyable holiday meal! 


Include your child in the preparation

We want kids to have as many positive exposures to new foods as possible.  The more a child can interact with a food without necessarily eating it, the less scary it becomes.  Have your child wash vegetables, mix, pour, etc. to allow for more exposure to novel foods.


 Have preferred foods available

Bring a dish or two to share that your child enjoys.  This allows your child to feel included in the meal while making sure there is something for them to eat.  Your child can pick the amount of each food they want on their plate to encourage autonomy and allow exploration without creating pressure and anxiety around the meal.


Keep the environment fun and positive for your child

Keep the pressure extremely low to try new foods.  Encourage your child to put what they want on their plate. It is not uncommon for kids to not eat a large meal on the holidays because of the atmosphere and commotion the holiday brings.  Not sure what to say to your aunt that insists your child try their dish?  We have a blog post for that!


Interact with food without eating it

Try touching, smelling, licking, pulling apart new foods to allow for a positive interaction with food without pressure to eat it.  Being silly helps!  


Model trying new foods

Discuss foods that are your favorite in neutral terms (e.g., “I like this! It’s sweet! That one is crunchy”) Use descriptive language like hot, cold, salty, spicy, sweet, crunchy, etc. instead of words like good, bad, yummy, yucky, etc.  If a food is not your favorite, model trying a small taste and use language similar to “I am still learning about this food” to encourage your child to continue to try new foods.


If you feel like your child has difficulty at mealtimes, please reach out to us to schedule a free 30 minute screening at our Aurora or Orland Park clinic here to seee how we can help. You can learn more about our feeding therapy services here


Molly Rademacher, MA, CCC-SLP/L

Spooktacular Inclusive Halloween

Do you want your child with special needs to be able to participate and make memories this Halloween season? Great news, you can! Here are some tips and tricks to help children of all abilities have a spooktacular, inclusive Halloween.

  • Read a social story about Halloween multiple times to your child
  • Watch silly music videos about the Holiday
  • Practice in your house or at families houses in the weeks prior
  • Provide a visual schedule of steps if needed (ring bell, say “hi” or “trick or treat!”, hold out bag, say “thank you!”)
  • If your child is shy, has anxiety, sensory differences, or has limited language or communication difficulties, create a pre-made card for your child to hand to the household to say what your child cannot. 
  • Keep it short and simple if needed (goal: make it around the block; only do 10 houses and have child countdown to increase tolerance to activity)
  • Food intolerances or special diets? Replace your child’s candy with special foods that are more appropriate or swap with a new toy. Do some research into the fun tradition of the Switch Witch!
  • Work in tolerated exercise for your child (example: walk to one house, ride in the wagon to the next…repeat)
  • If your child does not want to walk up to people’s houses, you can still have them walk around outside and show off their costume. This is a great way to get exercise and practice waving at others. 
  • Have them help hand out candy. This is a fun way to practice their social skills and to work on counting. Practice some phrases they can say to trick or treaters before hand or offer a no-pressure way to wave or smile instead. 
  • Make sure your child’s costume is sensory friendly to their specific tactile needs. 

October is a great time to start talking to your Occupational Therapist about ways your child can participate in the many holidays to come. If your child is having difficulty participating in the upcoming Holidays, our team of therapists is here to help you find ways to make the holidays more enjoyable, click here to schedule a free screening and we’d be happy to discuss ideas with you!

Rebecca Brennan, OTR/L

A girl races in the I Can Du It! Adaptive Duathlon using her wheelchair. The weather is rainy, but everyone has a smile on their face.

BDI’s Inaugural I Can Du It! Adaptive Duathlon

Sunday, September 17th was a big day for BDI Playhouse, who hosted their inaugural I Can Du It! Adaptive Duathlon. This race was the first ever adaptive sporting event hosted by BDI Playhouse and one of the only of its kind in the area. Adaptive sports are modified or adapted activities or sports that allow people with a disability or physical limitation to participate with increased independence, enjoyment, and self-confidence. 

The racers had been preparing for this day for a very long time and the day was finally here! The countless hours working on biking skills and building endurance was about to pay off. On this day, 22 racers, both children who have disabilities and their siblings, braved the rain and gathered at BDI Playhouse in Orland Park to race laps around the parking lot with a modified run-bike-run format in order to include kids of all abilities. Racers used assistive devices, adapted bikes, wheelchairs, specialized wheelchairs, bikes with training wheels, and two-wheel bikes to complete the 1-1.5 mile race course. Each racer had a buddy to race with, their choice of either a family member or therapist, to ensure safety and encourage the racers along the course. 

Despite the rain clouds above, you could feel the excitement in the air. Race t-shirts were worn, cheering was heard, and medals were awarded to all of our hard-working athletes. It was hard to tell if the smiles on the parents’ or the racers’ faces were bigger! One mother said that her daughter who raced “was on cloud nine from start to finish”. Meanwhile, her daughter excitedly shared that her “favorite part of the race was biking through all the puddles!” One of BDI Playhouse’s therapists exclaimed that today was “the best morning at BDI” that she’s ever had. 

To our greatest excitement and despite the rainy weather, the race went off without a hitch! Families, racers, volunteers, and therapists shared in the excitement following the race, excitedly discussing plans for the race next year. For the first year, registration was kept to invitation only as a first year test-run, so to speak. We look forward to growing the race next year with a goal of opening the race to more community members to further promote inclusion and access to adaptive sports of all varieties for kids of all abilities.

No amount of photos or words can accurately and fully describe the pride, excitement, and pure joy the day encapsulated. This day will truly live on in the memories of our clients and racers, families, and therapists minds forever. So until the planning process begins for next year’s Adaptive Duathlon, which will be here sooner than we know, please join us in reliving the day with these heartwarming and inspiring photos.

Keep scrolling to check out the photo highlights from the race!

Cassidy Bannon, PT, DPT

Prepare for Back-to-School with Occupational Therapy

Top 5 Tips to Prepare for Back-to-School from an Occupational Therapist

Top 5 Tips to Prepare for Back-to-School from an Occupational Therapist

As the summer draws to a close, it’s time to start thinking about heading back to school. For students, this transition can bring a mix of excitement and anxiety. Setting students up for success by helping them prepare for the challenges that lie ahead can make the transition go smoothly. Some things to start working on ahead of time are establishing routines, organizing workspaces and supplies, fine motor skills, social skills, and sensory supports. All of this preparation can feel overwhelming, but the occupational therapy team at BDI Playhouse can help you in any of these areas that you find to be tricky for your child. You can schedule a free screening with an occupational therapist just to brainstorm some tips that can help you prepare for back-to-school or to discuss how occupational therapy services might benefit your family.  

1. Establish a Routine: One of the most important aspects when you prepare for back-to-school is establishing a consistent routine. Over the summer break, sleeping schedules often become more relaxed, and days tend to be less structured. However, returning to school requires a regular sleep pattern and structured daily routines. Gradually adjust bedtimes and wake-up times to align with the school schedule, allowing the body to adapt to the changes. Establishing routines for meals, homework, and extracurricular activities will also help create a sense of predictability and reduce stress. Occupational therapists can help you develop these routines and can also provide help to make it easier for your child to follow their routine without assistance with tasks or a million pesky reminders from caregivers.

2. Organize and Prepare: Getting organized is crucial for a successful school year. Help your child set up an organized workspace, whether it’s a dedicated desk or a specific area for homework. Ensure necessary school supplies, textbooks, and materials are readily accessible. Organize backpacks or bags by creating designated compartments for different items. Teach your child how to use a planner or calendar to keep track of assignments, due dates, and extracurricular activities. By promoting organization skills, you can reduce anxiety and increase productivity. Occupational therapists can help identify the best way in which to organize materials to promote independence, modify supplies to best fit your child’s needs, and provide tools to help your child keep themselves on track. 

3. Fine-Tune Motor Skills: Fine motor skills play a significant role in various school activities, such as writing, using scissors, and manipulating small objects. They are also important for your child to be able to open their backpack, snack and lunch containers, and to complete other self care tasks during the school day without help from their teacher. Engage your child in activities that enhance fine motor skills, such as coloring, drawing, puzzles, and arts and crafts projects. Encourage hand strengthening exercises through play, such as squeezing stress balls or using play-doh or putty. These activities help improve dexterity, handwriting, and overall coordination, leading to better academic performance. During therapy sessions, occupational therapists help children to develop these skills through carefully selected and graded activities that provide a just-right-challenge for improving fine motor skills. An OT can also help you to identify some ways that you can modify activities in ways that either promote increased fine motor skills or that make a difficult task more accessible for your child. 

4. Foster Social Skills: Going back to school means interacting with peers, teachers, and other staff members. Social skills are crucial for building relationships and creating a positive school experience. Encourage your child to participate in social activities during the summer to help them practice communication, turn-taking, and problem-solving skills. Arrange playdates, join summer camps, or engage in team sports. Additionally, discuss and role-play social scenarios, teaching your child appropriate responses and behaviors. By fostering social skills, you can boost your child’s confidence and help them form meaningful connections at school. Occupational therapists commonly work with children to address these struggles and have so many great ideas for some strategies that you can try at home. 

5. Manage Sensory Needs: For children with sensory processing challenges, the school environment can be overwhelming. Take time to assess and manage your child’s sensory needs before the school year begins. Consult with an occupational therapist who can provide strategies and interventions to address specific sensory issues. Create a sensory toolkit containing items such as noise-canceling headphones, fidget tools, and stress balls, which can help your child self-regulate and stay focused in the classroom. Collaborate with teachers to create a sensory-friendly learning environment that accommodates your child’s needs. Interpreting your child’s sensory needs and identifying the best ways to support them can be tricky, occupational therapists can work with you to help meet your child’s sensory needs, create activities and routines to regulate their sensory systems, and discuss ways in which you can advocate for your child as they return to the school environment. 

Preparing for back to school involves more than just buying school supplies and new clothes. Focusing on establishing routines, organizing and promoting independence, fine-tuning motor skills, fostering social skills, and supporting sensory needs will help your child be their very best as they go back to school this Fall. By implementing these five tips, you can set your child up for success, ease the transition, and create a positive and productive school experience. The back-to-school period is an opportunity for growth, learning, and building resilience, and with the right preparation, your child can thrive academically, socially, and emotionally! Our team is ready to help you during any step of the way. You can schedule a free screening to discuss any road bumps you may have and we will be happy to talk about some specific strategies to try at home as you prepare for back-to-school!  

Written by: Kourtney Schultz, MOT, OTR/L

6 Benefits of Physical Therapy for Pediatric Cancer

Physical therapy has been shown to improve strength, range of motion, sleep, energy, and mood while reducing pain, anxiety, and symptoms of treatment-related side effects, such as neuropathy in children with pediatric cancer. Occupational and speech therapy can also be extremely beneficial for cancer rehabilitation depending on the diagnosis and side effects. 

Physical therapists are in your corner to join the fight!

  1. Maintaining or improving physical function: Cancer and its treatments, such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery, can often lead to physical side effects and complications. Physical therapy helps children maintain or regain their physical function, strength, flexibility, and mobility. It focuses on improving overall physical abilities and reducing the impact of cancer-related limitations.
  2. Managing pain and discomfort: Cancer treatment can cause pain and discomfort in children. Physical therapy techniques, such as therapeutic exercises, manual therapy, and modalities like heat or cold therapy, can help alleviate pain, reduce muscle stiffness, and improve joint mobility. Physical therapists can also provide guidance on proper body mechanics and techniques to minimize pain during daily activities.
  3. Preventing or reducing treatment-related complications: Some cancer treatments may have adverse effects on the musculoskeletal system, such as decreased bone density, muscle weakness, and joint contractures. Physical therapy interventions can address these issues and help prevent complications. For example, therapists can provide exercises to strengthen bones, maintain muscle mass, and prevent contractures, reducing the risk of long-term functional limitations.
  4. Enhancing the overall quality of life: Cancer and its treatments can significantly impact a child’s quality of life. Physical therapy not only focuses on physical aspects but also considers the emotional and social well-being of the child. By helping children maintain or improve physical function, physical therapy allows them to participate in activities they enjoy, interact with peers, and maintain a sense of normalcy.
  5. Supporting psychological well-being: Cancer can be emotionally challenging for children and their families. Physical therapy can provide a supportive and encouraging environment, promoting a positive mindset and emotional well-being. Through therapeutic activities, physical therapists can help reduce anxiety, improve self-esteem, and enhance a child’s overall psychological resilience.
  6. Facilitating a smoother transition to regular activities: After cancer treatment, children often face challenges when reintegrating into regular activities, such as school, sports, and play. Physical therapy can help bridge this transition by gradually increasing activity levels, providing adaptive strategies if needed, and monitoring progress. The therapist works closely with the child, family, and other healthcare providers to ensure a safe and successful return to normal activities.

It’s important to note that the specific goals and interventions of physical therapy may vary depending on the individual needs and circumstances of each child. Any level of exercise during and after cancer treatment can reduce side effects, help your body recover, and fight depression. Research from the American Society of Clinical Oncology has shown that physical activity can also lower the risk of cancer returning.

If you feel your child could benefit from PT, OT, or speech treatment, BDI Playhouse can help! Get started here! 

Written By: Dana Bukala, PTA

OT Outside Play

Let’s Play Outside – OT Approved Summer Activities

Let’s Play Outside!

Playing outside provides so many benefits to our little ones, it helps expand their sensory system, promote relaxation strategies, provides physical exercise, facilitates motor skill development, and it allows your child to be creative! Here are some outside OT play activities for this summer season. 


1. Chalk

Chalk is a fun way to be creative when outside but also allows you to work on your gross and fine motor skills as well! Your child can draw shapes or create sensory paths, or even draw a simple hopscotch design. 

TIP: You can also smash the chalk and add water to make a thick paint and have your child paint the driveway using a brush! 


2. Sensory Tables

Fill a bucket with water and sand, use shovels to scoop, build sand castles, or search for hidden underwater creatures or seashells in the sand! This sensory activity is perfect for developing hand strength, fine motor skills, tolerating various textures, and language development. 

TIP: Sensory tables are so easy to change out, depending on your child’s age. Water with cut up fruit slices is an easy way to explore various textures and smells too!


3. Jump Rope

Jump rope is a great way for your child to work on gross motor and motor planning skills. You can play multiple ways: use a single rope to start or use two ropes to complete double dutch if you want a challenge. 

TIP: You can use the jump rope to play a game of snake to facilitate jumping skills and visual motor skills too. 


4. Water Balloons

Fill up water balloons and play catch, throw at a target, or use rackets or baseball bats to hit them with! There are so many ways to facilitate eye hand coordination skills, frustration tolerance, and bilateral coordination skills using this simple activity. 

TIP: You can also dip your water balloons into paint and throw them or pop them on a canvas to paint. 


5. Bubbles

Blowing bubbles is a great way to work on oral motor skills but also provides your child with a way to regulate themselves as well through deep breathing. 

TIP: Have a popping contest and see who can utilize their index finger to pop all of the bubbles first or the fastest to facilitate visual motor skills or fine motor coordination skills. 

Give these outside OT play activities a try this summer! If you would like to learn more about occupational therapy, visit our OT webpage here  and if your child has difficulty engaging in any of the activities previously listed check out our milestones webpage  or free screening

Written By: Kiersten Robertson, MOT, OTR/L

Wait, My Child Has an Occupation?

Childhood Occupations

When we typically think of the term occupation, we think of the word job. Yes, kids don’t have “jobs” but they do have activities that they engage in day to day. Children engage in meaningful tasks on a daily basis, like play, self-care, educational tasks, leisure activities, as well as things like chores, and many other activities too. In occupational therapy, we work on helping children perform their childhood occupations in the very way best that they can! 

We help children engage in these important occupations by viewing the task and analyzing the various components that facilitate engagement. For example, a child might have difficulty engaging in a seemingly simple task like brushing their teeth. However, from an occupational therapist point of view, we would break the task down and analyze the components of brushing their teeth. These components could consist of grasp, sequencing the steps, range of motion, tolerating the tooth paste or bristles of the toothbrush, attention, ability to motor plan, as well as many other skills required.

What Do Kids Do at Occupational Therapy?

Once the occupational task has been analyzed, the pediatric occupational therapist can work on those underlying skills to further facilitate engagement in that meaningful activity. During our session, yes you will see a toothbrush in your child’s hand to practice that self-care task. But you might also see us completing an obstacle course, pulling squigz from a vertical surface, or engaging in messy play. Working on those underlying skills through play further develops and facilitates progress towards their meaningful goals. 

So in short, yes your child has many occupations. And occupational therapy will further increase their independence and participation in those meaningful tasks if needed. If your child has difficulty engaging in their day to day childhood occupations, call the office at 708-478-1820 or click here to schedule a free 30 minute OT screening. 

Written By: Kiersten Robertson, MOT, OTR/L