DLC Nurse & Learn

Where Anything is Possible

Seven Tips to Help Prepare your Child with Special Needs for Going Back to School:

by amybuggle

Summer break is coming to an end and the back-to-school season is a time of transition for any family, but it doesn’t have to be a time of tantrums and meltdowns if you plan ahead carefully. Here are some tips to help make it an easier time for your child:

1   Make a Transition Book
Take a camera when you tour your child’s school and take pictures of everything you can and use them to create a transition book. This is a book about your child’s new teacher and class. Look at the book regularly to help your child become familiar with the new environment. This will help them better visualize their environment, and be more comfortable throughout their day at school.

2  Learn the New Routine
Ask the teacher to go over the daily classroom routine so that you can review it with your child. Create social stories and review them often so that your child knows what to expect when school starts. DLC has a daily schedule in every classroom which is included in our enrollment packet. This is given to every parent when they first enroll their child at DLC.

3  Prep Slowly
It’s important to remember that kids will pick up on your stress, so make sure you have all your necessary supplies early. Have everything ready a full week before school starts — clothes, supplies, meeting the teacher, as well as have the bedtime routine down. It usually makes for smoother adjustment from summer schedule to school schedule again.

4  Snap Photos for Social Stories
You can have one for your morning routine at home, one about going to school, and one for situations your child may encounter at school, such as eating lunch in the cafeteria. Take pictures with your digital camera or cell phone, develop them directly into a book at a local drugstore, and then narrate them with your child again and again.

5  Schedule Your Well-Child Check up
Don’t wait until the school nurse calls to say she doesn’t have your child’s updated records. Schedule your child’s appointment as early as possible – and when you schedule the appointment, let them know you need immunization and other records for school. DLC needs an updated copy of your child’s shot and physical form every year.

6  Talk to Your Child
So often, adults know what’s going to happen, but they forget to share this critical information with kids. Sit down with your child, and talk about what he can expect. The first twenty (or two hundred!) times you say, “You’re going to a new school!” you may be greeted with a firm “No!” – but eventually the message will sink in.

7  Inform their Teacher of Any Important Information
Make sure you meet with the child’s teacher before the first day of school to discuss and share any information about your child that may be helpful for the teacher, and to better transition your child. Note any food allergies or medical needs the school should know about, things that are likely to set your child off, and things that will calm him down; If your child has a favorite blanket they nap with, bring it with them for their first few weeks to keep them comforted.

Sources: care.com


Ways to play safe and stay cool while you’re having fun in the sun with your child with special needs this summer.

by amybuggle

It is the beginning of June and for many families that means outdoor fun. However, it’s important to remember to take water safety measures to keep your child with special needs safe not only outdoors, but also in your home. May was Water Safety Awareness Month, but is important to stay aware of all the safety precautions not only in the month of May, but throughout the year.

Children with and without special needs are often drawn to the water, but they have a difficult time understanding that it may be dangerous.

To keep your child safe, use these helpful tips from the May Institute.

  • Find an appropriate typical or adaptive life jacket that best meets your child’s needs and ensure your child wears it anytime he or she is near any open water including pools, lakes, rivers, fountains, ponds or hot tubs.
  • Always be within arm’s reach of your child when he or she is in or near any open water.
  • Drain bathtubs and other small containers such as buckets of water when you are finished using them.
  • Install locks on toilet lids.
  • Install motion detector alarms/safety locks on all hot tubs, landscape ponds or other water sources around your home.
  • Take adaptive swim classes with your child to learn swim skills and water safety principles. If your child has difficulty learning conventional swimming strokes, teach him or her drown-proofing, a water survival technique that will help a child stay afloat until help arrives. You can sign up for classes through your local parks and recreation division.

Be sure to explain basic water safety practices to your child on a regular basis and remind your child to never go near or in the water without an adult. Ensuring the safety of your child near the water this summer will help keep them safe and bring you peace of mind.

Be safe, but remember to have fun! Summer is all about playing with friends and family, and the best way to stay safe is to follow these easy steps with can be applied to children with and without special needs.

At DLC we take water safety very seriously and teach our students to play safe around water. Many activates can be used with water, especially for children with special needs,  and it’s a fun way to stay cool and bring a more exciting family activity into your child’s life. Teaching children the importance of water safety early on gives them a greater chance of avoiding water related injuries. Please play safe this summer and remember to stay hydrated and wear your hats and sunscreen. If the area around the water has a tendency to be slippery, make sure your child wears aquatic shoes.

Physical Therapy Benefits:

For children with special needs moving in water provides them the ability to move extremities more feely. For those with weak or tight muscles movement without gravity is much easier. This also presents an excellent time for active and passive range of motion activities.

Please be sure to consult your doctor before dong these activities with your children, especially for children with special needs.

Fun Speech Related Activities:

There are plenty of new vocabulary words to explore while at the pool or beach. For example: you can do activities and see what objects will “sink” or “float.”  Let your child guess what will, and what won’t sink. You can also ask them more critical thinking type questions like “why is it cooler under the umbrella?” New experiences are wonderful for developing interest in the world around us.

Another fun activity could be to explain and demonstrate how to build a sandcastle or dig a tunnel under the sand until your hands meet in the middle. You can also point out weather patterns and dark clouds approaching, and the different types of clouds there are in the sky and why they are important.

As you leave the beach or pool, make sure your child helps you collect the water toys and items you brought with you and see if they can name the items as you help put them away. This will help them build their vocabulary, and teach them to clean up after themselves, which builds responsibility.

Source: Safe Kids Worldwide

Brrr… Don’t let the cold freeze your fun this winter!

by amybuggle

When winter hits there are still lots of fun activities for special needs children. It doesn’t matter what level your children are at, you can find something fun and creative to do together. Help them to grow both mentally and physically and create great memories together in the process. Make the winter season a memorable time of the year!

 Feel free to share other exciting winter activity ideas in the comments section below.

Sensory Snow – Playing in the snow is a great sensory activity. Okay, so we don’t much, if any, snow in Jacksonville.. but get creative! Get a bag of ice and smash it up, voila!  Children can make snowballs, snow men, snow angels,etc. Playing in the snow is a great activity, but have you ever tried painting it? All that is needed are squirt bottles filled with food colored water. This activity is a great winter activity that is loads of fun and reinforces gross motor skills. Just make sure to bundle up and wear gloves before you do, you don’t want to get too chilly!

Cooking – Cooking is a staple of the holidays, and even after they are over it’s a fun indoor activity. Getting your kids involved in cooking is a great way to keep them busy, having fun, and helping out. Cookies, pies, pretzels, cakes and more can be created with the help of your children. They learn a skill that they can use for the rest of their lives, have the ability to create new traditions and enjoy home cooked treats while reinforcing their listening and gross motor skills throughout the entire process. Have you ever hear of using apple sauce instead of butter to make cookies? you can’t even tell the difference and it’s a much healthier option!

Board Games – The winter is a great time to go in the basement or closet and take out your classic board games. Host a family game night, invite friends over and serve some of the homemade goodies you were cooking with your children for even more good times. Board games teach great team work skills, sharing, socialization, and are a lot of fun to play.

Arts and Crafts – There are so many creative arts and crafts that can be done in the winter time to fill up your winter days when going outside is not an option. Some of these crafts include making snowflakes out of paper, making Play Doh snow men, painting snow scenes and creating holiday decorations to name a few. There are limitless possibilities to the projects that can be done and arts and crafts are always enjoyed by the children. Let their creativity be seen with this great activity.

Community Activities – You would be surprised how many activities your local communities offer throughout the year. In the winter months a lot of museums in the area will offer discounted admission tickets, story times events are popular and of course ice skating is at the peak of it’s popularity. Research events in your local area to see what activities are offered in your area to make your winter days more enjoyable as a family. Check out Jax4kids.com, they stay up to date on tons of fun family outings in Jacksonville.

Tips for Having a Happy and Healthy Holiday Season with your Children

by amybuggle

The holidays offer a perfect opportunity for enjoying loved ones, celebrating life, being grateful, and reflecting on what’s important. They are also a time to appreciate the gift of health. Support health and safety for yourself and others by following these timeless holiday tips, thanks to the Center for Disease Control.

Wash your hands often.

 Keeping hands clean is one of the most important steps you can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. Wash your hands with soap and clean running water, rubbing them for at least 20 seconds. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. If you don’t have tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow, not your hands.

Stay warm.

 Cold temperatures can cause serious health problems, especially in infants and older adults. Stay dry, and dress warmly in several layers of loose-fitting, tightly woven clothing.

Manage stress.

 The holidays don’t need to take a toll on your health and pocketbook. Keep your commitments and spending in check. Balance work, home, and play. Get support from family and friends. Keep a relaxed and positive outlook. Make sure to get proper sleep.

Travel safely.

 Whether you’re traveling across town or around the world, help ensure your trip is safe. Don’t drink and drive, and don’t let someone else drink and drive. Wear a seat belt every time you drive or ride in a motor vehicle. Always buckle your child in the car using a child safety seat, booster seat, or seat belt appropriate for his/her height, weight, and age.

Be smoke-free.

 Avoid smoking and breathing other people’s smoke. If you smoke, quit today! Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or talk to your health care provider for help.

Get check-ups and vaccinations.

 Exams and screenings can help find potential problems early, when the chances for treatment and cure are often better. Vaccinations help prevent diseases and save lives. Schedule a visit with your health care provider for a yearly exam. Ask what vaccinations and tests you should get based on your age, lifestyle, travel plans, medical history, and family health history.

Watch the kids.

 Children are at high risk for injuries. Keep a watchful eye on your kids when they’re eating and playing. Keep potentially dangerous toys, food, drinks, household items, choking hazards (like coins and hard candy), and other objects out of kids’ reach. Learn how to provide early treatment for children who are choking. Make sure toys are used properly. Develop rules about acceptable and safe behaviors, including using electronic media.

Prevent injuries.

 Injuries can happen anywhere, and some often occur around the holidays. Use step stools instead of climbing on furniture when hanging decorations. Leave the fireworks to the professionals. Wear a helmet when riding a bicycle or skateboarding to help prevent head injuries. Keep vaccinations up to date.

Most residential fires occur during the winter months. Keep candles away from children, pets, walkways, trees, and curtains. Never leave fireplaces, stoves, or candles unattended. Don’t use generators, grills, or other gasoline- or charcoal-burning devices inside your home or garage. Install a smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector in your home. Test them once a month, and replace batteries twice a year.

Handle and prepare food safely.

 As you prepare holiday meals, keep yourself and your family safe from food-related illness. Wash hands and surfaces often. Avoid cross-contamination by keeping raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs (including their juices) away from ready-to-eat foods and eating surfaces. Cook foods to the proper temperature. Refrigerate promptly. Do not leave perishable foods out for more than two hours.

Eat healthy, and be active.

 With balance and moderation, you can enjoy the holidays the healthy way. Choose fresh fruit as a festive and sweet substitute for candy. Limit fats, salt, and sugary foods. Find fun ways to stay active, such as dancing to your favorite holiday music. Be active for at least 2½ hours a week. Help kids and teens be active for at least 1 hour a day.

Staying cool and giving your child with special needs a fun way to stay healthy this fall

by Caleigh Grahame

Summer has come to a close and we are excited that our school year has begun at DLC Nurse & Learn. We are experiencing some of the hottest months here in Florida, and it can sometimes be frustrating to find ways to stay cool, especially when we are playing outside with our students.

Water, of course, is one of the most obvious ways to keep the heat to a minimum in these relentlessly hot months, and it also opens a doorway to even more opportunities for our children with special needs. The article below talks about the benefits of Aquatic Therapy for Children with Cerebral Palsy, but these practices can be used to treat a wide variety of disabilities. Please note that these activities require the supervision of a licensed therapist, and should not be attempted without proper supervision.

What are the Benefits of Aquatic Therapy?

Aqua therapy benefits children with cerebral palsy in numerous ways. Called aquatic therapy, or aqua therapy, the use of water and water-induced resistance to improve physical functioning is accepted by the medical community as a method in which to rehabilitate, or re-educate, the human body. For children with cerebral palsy, water can be a healing force. All activities the child engages in takes place in a pool.
Aqua therapy is one of the best environments for a child with cerebral palsy to improve physical functioning, especially if the child is not ambulatory. What sets aquatic therapy apart from traditional physical therapy is that the water – which in and of itself is known for restorative and detoxifying properties – provides buoyancy that makes aerobic and anaerobic exercises easy to perform effectively, and safely. Additionally, if the water is warm, it has a massage effect on muscles, joints and ligaments that often times are over-used and in pain.
Aquatic therapy aims to:
• Improve physical function
• Develop and maintaining physical control
• Improve psychological outlook
• Enhance self-concept and confidence
• Increase independence and quality of life

Benefits of water therapy include:• Provides resistance
• Encourages a wider range of movement and opposition
• Alleviates stress and tension
• Reduces pain and tension in muscles and joints
• Protects against injury
• Improves cardiovascular conditioning since the heart pumps more blood per beat when body is submerged in water
• Decreases post exercise discomfort

Although traditional physical therapy can be immensely effective in teaching children with cerebral palsy how to move, water has the added benefit of hydrating, oxygenating and revitalizing the body’s musculoskeletal system. Gravitational pull is released, and weightlessness qualities are achieved. Range of movement increases and repetition, stretching and balancing is more sustainable.

Additionally, the viscosity of the water provides an excellent source of resistance, which can be incorporated into and aquatic therapy program. For instance, walking in water provides more than 10 times more resistance than walking on land, which means an aquatic therapy patient receives the benefit of deep, intense exercises while in a soothing and comforting environment.

The heart pumps more rigorously when the body is submerged. Hydrostatic pressure – or the pressure in water at rest due to the weight of the water above that point – benefits patients by decreasing swelling, reducing blood pressure and improving joint position. This in turn improves a patient’s proprioception, or body awareness.

Administered correctly, aquatic therapy can:• Improve muscle tone
• Increase core strength
• Enhance circulation
• Improve cardiovascular functioning
• Improve flexibility
• Increase endurance
• Extend range of motion
• Reduce muscle spasticity
• Elevate metabolism
• Reduce sleep disturbances
• Relieve joint stress
• Improve muscle tone
• Increase stability
• Decrease pain and discomfort

Aquatic therapy can also improve a child’s disposition and self-esteem by providing a sense of accomplishment as they master the exercises that take place in the pool. Pools are usually perceived as a source of enjoyment for children.

Psychologically, aquatic therapy can:
• Improves self-esteem
• Empower
• Increase confidence
• Enhance quality of life
• Encourage relaxation
• Provide comfort
• Increase socialization

Resources for Jacksonville residents:

Say “Hurray” for Safe Ways to Play this Summer!

by Caleigh Grahame

Tips and Ideas to help you plan a summer of fun for children of all abilities:

School has come to a close and many children have plenty of free time to play with friends and have get-togethers. Swimming in the pool and transporting children to and from their fun activities is a big part of summer, especially here in Jacksonville, Florida.

When it comes to child safety, nothing is more important than being proactive, and keeping an eye on your little one. Here are a few tips to be sure you are taking the right steps to prevent any accidents or emergencies that can happen when there isn’t enough adult supervision.

May was National Water Safety Month, and one of the most common accidents that occur during summer is when children are playing around the pool. Diving in the pool and horseplay is never to be allowed, and usually results in an accident. Be sure to explain and demonstrate safe pool behavior, and discourage any shoving, pushing or chasing. Diving should also be taken into consideration if the pool is shallow and isn’t deep enough to accommodate jumping. If you are in a hotel pool be sure to point out the “no diving” signs to your child. Here are some other ways to play safe this summer:

• When there are several adults present and children are swimming, use the Water Watcher card strategy, which designates an adult as the Water Watcher for a certain amount of time (such as 15-minute periods) to prevent lapses in supervision.

• Whether you’re swimming in a backyard pool or in a lake, teach children to swim with an adult. Older, more experienced swimmers should still swim with a partner every time. From the first time your kids swim, teach children to never go near or in water without an adult present.

• Remember that swimming aids such as water wings or noodles are fun toys for kids, but they should never be used in place of a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket.

• We know you have a million things to do, but learning CPR should be on the top of the list. It will give you tremendous peace of mind – and the more peace of mind you have as a parent, the better. Local hospitals, fire departments and recreation departments offer CPR training.

Children with developmental disabilities can benefit greatly from water activities if this type of play is permitted, depending on their condition. Some of the benefits that come with letting your child enjoy playing and having fun in the water can differ greatly depending on the child, but one factor that remains the same is the amount of stimulation and enjoyment it exposes them to.

• Children with special needs can potentially be over-confident around water as they can lack an understanding of the dangers present in water environments. Swimming lessons can provide important skills to help minimize these dangers.

• Swimming is a great leveler and can help children with special needs have fun in a non-competitive environment.

• Swimming is a sport and activity that parents can take part in too – so it’s a great, non-threatening activity where children can feel comfortable.


Of course, another way to bring safety into summer fun is to make sure you are using the correct child carriers when you are taking your child in the car. There are certain safety requirements depending on the size and age of your child. The regulations are as follows:

Birth – 12 Months
Your child under age 1 should always ride in a rear-facing car seat. There are different types of rear-facing car seats: Infant-only seats can only be used rear-facing. Convertible and 3-in-1 car seats typically have higher height and weight limits for the rear-facing position, allowing you to keep your child rear-facing for a longer period of time.

1 – 3 Years
Keep your child rear-facing as long as possible. It’s the best way to keep him or her safe. Your child should remain in a rear-facing car seat until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the rear-facing car seat, your child is ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat with a harness.

4 – 7 Years
Keep your child in a forward-facing car seat with a harness until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seats manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the forward-facing car seat with a harness, it’s time to travel in a booster seat, but still in the back seat.

8 – 12 Years
Keep your child in a booster seat until he or she is big enough to fit in a seat belt properly. For a seat belt to fit properly the lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should lie snug across the shoulder and chest and not cross the neck or face. Remember: your child should still ride in the back seat because it’s safer there.


Being aware of crib safety is also an important factor to consider when you are dropping your child off to be babysat, or stay at a relative’s house. To prevent accidents or injuries while you or someone else’s baby is in a crib please educate yourself and share the following guidelines:

• Educate yourself on how to set up the crib properly and how to use each section, including locks.
• Do not leave your child to sleep on sofas, recliners, waterbeds, bean bags, air mattresses or soft mattress
• Place infant on its back in the crib, higher incidence of SIDS when infant is placed on its stomach.
• NO pillows, soft toys, stuffed animals, or crib bumpers allowed in crib. Only firm mattress with tightly fitted crib sheet.
• If blanket is needed, put infant at the foot of the crib and tuck blanket under three corners and do not put blanket above chest because you could overheat the baby.
• Do not put infant in an adult bed with you, or let them sleep with you. They can roll off, get trapped, or adult can roll over on top of infant.
• SIDS are the leading cause of death among infants, most between 2 – 4 months of age.
• DO NOT SMOKE around your infant or in the infants environment
• No bed sharing with other children in the house
• Make sure your child care center/ babysitter also follows these guidelines!

The Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition of Northeast Florida (HMHBC) has started a new program called Cribs for Kids that is for any pregnant woman or family with an infant less than one year of age in need of a crib. They must not have any other crib/bassinet for that baby to sleep in or resource for a crib.

For more information please contact Tala Reynolds, Executive Director of HMHBC: Talareynolds@halethybabiesjacksonville.org

Children of all Abilities can Benefit from Being Outdoors this Spring

by Caleigh Grahame

April starts the beginning of spring and with this beautiful season comes the warm weather and a chance to enjoy being outdoors with your family. Playing with your children outside and enjoying the sunshine is important in order to create a healthy relationship between you and your child. With so many activities being offered in Florida, especially here in Jacksonville, there seems to be no end to the fun ways you can spend time together.

Staying active is an important part of a child’s wellbeing, and finding time to play and laugh throughout the week is an essential part of their upbringing. Building a strong connection with your children will give you both a lasting relationship that will only get stronger as the years pass. Giving your child the utmost care and nurturing is a vital part of their lives, and has the greatest impact when started early in life.

When most adults think about exercise, they imagine working out in the gym on a treadmill, or lifting weights. But for kids, exercise means playing and being physically active. Kids exercise when they have gym class at school, during recess, at dance class or soccer practice, while riding bikes, or when playing tag. Endurance, flexibility, and strength are three of the main areas of fitness that children should take part in daily. Endurance is developed when kids regularly engage in aerobic activity. During aerobic exercise, the heart beats faster and a person breathes harder. When done regularly and for extended periods of time, aerobic activity strengthens the heart and improves the body’s ability to deliver oxygen to the cells throughout the body.

Aerobic exercise can be fun for both adults and kids. Examples of aerobic activities include: basketball, bicycling, ice-skating, inline skating, soccer, swimming, tennis, walking, jogging and running. Of course these activities may not be appropriate for all children because they may have special needs that keep them from being able to participate in certain activities. However, many counties have sports teams that are dedicated to supporting children with disabilities, which are located at the bottom of this article.

Finding the Right Activity for Your Child

Joann Ferrara, a pediatric physical therapist, founded Dancing Dreams, a ballet program for kids with physical and medical challenges in 2002. “Our program has some therapeutic benefit, but the bottom line is it’s fun,” she says.

The first step is asking around your neighborhood. Talk with other parents of kids with special needs, and check with your child’s doctors, teachers, and therapists. They’re often aware of available programs. See the list of resources below, too. Then do a little investigating to determine if the program is right for your child.

“Check out who’s teaching the program (not just the director, but instructors or coaches too) and find out their qualifications specific to working with a child with a disability,” says Joann Ferrara. “If your child has seizures or a trach, for example, make sure the teacher has some kind of medical training.”

The program should also be individualized, says Ferrara. “Every child has different needs. In my program, every move is adapted individually for each particular child. Everybody dances; they just dance in their own way.”

Once you’ve found a program, try it out. It may or may not work for your child and they may need to watch from the sidelines for a while before they’re comfortable joining in, and that’s fine. Many programs pair up child participants with a teen helper, which can be very motivating.

Leagues, Sports Programs, and Other Resources for Children with Physical Disabilities

DLC Nurse and Learn offers its students and residents in the area the ability to play on their adaptive playground. Unlike other playgrounds, this has special swings and equipment that can be used for children in wheelchairs. This makes playing more interactive for children of all abilities, regardless of their condition.

Regarding sports teams, please refer to this list of popular kids’ sports; click on any to read more about the sport, including suggestions for players with special needs. Or follow the links below to adaptive sports programs and leagues designed especially for children with special needs.

Baseball: Miracle League, Little League Challenger Division
Basketball: Upward Sports (not just for kids with special needs, but very welcoming)
Cheerleading: The Sparkle Effect, Upward
Flag football: Pop Warner Challenger Division, Upward
Hockey: American Special Hockey
Horseback riding:  American Hippotherapy Association, Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International
Multiple sports: Special Olympics, BlazeSports, KEEN (Kids Enjoy Exercise Now)
Soccer: AYSO VIP Program, Upward, US Youth Soccer TOPSoccer
The National Center for Physical Activity and Disability, which has a searchable listing of hundreds of adaptive sports programs and camps (tennis, fishing, SCUBA).
PE Central, a resource for physical education teachers, which has a very handy collection of suggested adaptations for sports and activities.

About DLC Nurse and Learn

DLC Nurse & Learn is a nonprofit childcare center for children of all abilities. Children with Cerebral Palsy, Down’s Syndrome, Spina Bifida, Microcephaly, seizure disorders, g-tubes, apnea monitors and other special needs are welcome at DLC Nurse & Learn.

We have classrooms for infants – 5 year olds, including VP-K for 4 year olds. We also have after school programs for children up to 22 years of age. Scholarships are available for families that qualify. Our services include child care, preschool, extended day programs, registered nursing care, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, early intervention, developmental screening and low adult to child ratios for more one-on-one attention to individual goals for each child.

DLC provides an inclusion preschool environment for children with and without developmental delays where each child is taught at their own pace. DLC uses the Links to Literacy and Foundations for Success Curriculum’s. We are located on the Westside, but serve children all over Jacksonville and North East Florida. DLC Nurse & Learn offers a summer camp for school aged children. Contact us for more details and enrollment. DLC Nurse & Learn is also a “5 Star” Child Care Center, rated by Early Learning Coalition of Duval.