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Angel Mamas and Eliott’s Corner Partner Up!

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Eliott’s Corner has started a partnership with the non-profit organization Angel Mamas, which takes care of Chinese children with special needs from institutions in various parts of China. Through an arrangement that provides Angel Mamas with a lower rate for therapy in recognition of the work they are doing, one of our physical therapists, Marc Innerhofer, spends a half day every week at Angel Mamas in Bejing. In addition to conducting physical therapy assessments and providing therapy to children there, Marc is providing additional training to Angel Mamas’ three physical therapists. Angel Mamas relies on public donations and a large pool of supporters. They were founded a few years ago by a passionate Chinese woman known as Sister Deng who has an amazing heart for helping disadvantaged kids. If you or your family are interested in volunteering or donating to support their work please email John Giszczak, Eliott’s Corner General Manager, at and he can put you in touch with them.

Teenage Behavior: What to Expect and When to be Concerned

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The teenage years: The mere phrase can bring on anxiety for parents. The image of a moody, rebellious, angst-ridden teen is common on television and in movies. Luckily, this stereotype isn’t representative of how most teens actually think and behave. But even though the high school years aren’t always as dramatic as pop culture might promise, they can certainly be a rollercoaster as teens seek independence and grow into adulthood.

Teens can seem impulsive, rebellious, and irritable. You might ask yourself: Is he just being a teenager, or is this something I need to be concerned about? While professionals at your teen’s high school likely had the benefit of studying adolescent development in their training, it can be hard for parents to determine what behaviors are expected at this age and what behaviors might be “red flags” of a problem with behavior, attention, or learning.

What to expect from teenagers largely depends on their age—teens undergo tremendous growth and change from the ages of 13–19. Some of the feelings and behaviors common for younger and older  suggested by the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry include:

Middle School and Early High School Years (Approximately Ages 13–15)

  • Struggle with a sense of identity
  • Feeling awkward or strange about one’s self and one’s body
  • Moodiness
  • Interests and clothing style dictated by peer group
  • Improved ability to use speech to express self
  • Less overt attention shown to parents (occasional rudeness is common)
  • Complaints that parents interfere with independence
  • Mostly interested in the present, with limited thoughts of the future
  • Rule and limit testing
  • Increased capacity for abstract thought


Late High School Years and Beyond (Approximately Ages 16–19)

  • Increased independent functioning and self-reliance
  • Firmer, more cohesive sense of identity
  • Ability to think ideas through
  • More emotional stability (in comparison to early teen years)
  • Conflict with parents begins to decrease (in comparison to early teen years)
  • Increased interest in future plans and greater capacity for goal-setting

Remember, not all teenagers develop at the same pace or in the same ways. Variations in the course of development are to be expected! However, unevenness or lags in the mastery of skills or behaviors should not be ignored.

When to Be Concerned

You may want to seek help if your teenager:

  • Has difficulty sustaining attention in academic or work tasks and activities
  • Does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores or other tasks
  • Does not pick up on other people’s moods/feelings (e.g., may say the wrong thing at the wrong time)
  • Does not detect or respond appropriately to teasing
  • Has difficulty “joining in” and maintaining positive social status in a peer group
  • Has trouble “getting to the point” (e.g., gets bogged down in details in conversation)
  • Has difficulty dealing with group pressure, embarassment and unexpected challenges
  • Has trouble setting realistic social goals
  • Has trouble evaluating personal social strengths and challenges

In addition, you should be alert for the following behavioral “red flags” which can indicate trouble for teens:

  • Extreme mood swings, irritability or a persistently depressed mood
  • Loss of self-esteem
  • Abandonment or loss of interest in activities
  • Major changes in eating or sleeping patterns (e.g., sleeping excessively, eating too little)
  • Unexpected and dramatic decline in academic performance
  • Personality shifts and changes, such as aggressiveness and excess anger that are out of character

If you’re worried about any aspect of your teenager’s behavior or development, don’t wait to discuss your concerns with your teen’s pediatrician or family doctor, teachers and other school-based professionals, and if necessary, a specialist (such as a psychologist).

This article was written by Kaleigh Dumbach-Fusco, Program Associate at the US National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD).  It was originally published on the NCLD web site.

Healthy Kids: Promoting Physical Activity

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by Marla Balzer, Physical Therapist, Olivia's Place

by Marla Balzer, Physical Therapist, Olivia’s Place

For any of us it can be difficult to find the time and motivation to be physically active on a daily basis. Families, in particular, may find this challenging as they juggle the schedules of children’s school and leisure activities, parents’ work and personal responsibilities, as well as making time for the whole family. Living in Shanghai can also provide some unique challenges as we battle with traffic, air quality, and a constantly ‘on-the-go’ lifestyle for kids and parents alike.


So how do we make time to be physically active? How do we make physical activity fun and exciting? And, how do we help our children to develop a life long interest in keeping physically active?  These are challenges, but ones well worth taking on as we know that engaging in daily physical activity is not only beneficial for our bodies but for our minds as well.  As adults, we may see physical activity as a means to stay fit, to release stress or to get away from the daily grind. For children, physical activity can help to develop motor skills, enhance concentration, improve muscle groups important for sitting and performing academic activities such as writing, and allow a child an appropriate outlet for extra energy.


Making the Time

Most people view physical activity in a fairly static way. It takes place in a particular venue, such as a gym, for a set amount of time. When we view exercise only in this way, it can become increasingly difficult to find the time, especially with a busy family. A healthier approach to getting your family more physically active is to ‘add it up’ throughout the day.  You may walk with your kids to school, take the stairs in your building, dance in your living room, or attend a structured activity, but all of these moments can be added up throughout the day to achieve the goal of 60 minutes of physical activity. Keep in mind that you may not always achieve the goal of 60 minutes, however, setting the intention of performing some amount of physical activity daily and allowing yourself the ability to add up different types of activities will put you much closer to that goal than you may think.  If your family’s schedule doesn’t really allow for this type of informal adding up of physical activity then it will be important to identify several times throughout the week where some type of physical activity can be slotted in at a time when all or most of your family members are available.  This is where setting exercise goals for your family can be helpful in sticking to a routine.  It is easy to be quite general with your goals, such as ‘As a family we will find time to be physically active during the week’ but this goal is quite difficult to achieve as there is no real way to monitor your progress.  Creating goals that are specific, measureable, achievable, reasonable, and timely (otherwise known as S.M.A.R.T.) will allow your family to really know what they are striving for and will create a sense of greater success when the goal is achieved.  A family physical activity S.M.A.R.T. goal may look something like this: ‘As a family we will be physically active for 30 to 60 minutes three times a week for the next two months’.  You can then create a chart or use your calendar to log the types of physical activity you try as a family, check off the days of the week you are active, and keep the goal visually insight. Remember try to make the goal reasonable, achievable, and fun!

Make it Fun

The most important aspect of physical activity for children is to make sure that it is fun. While organized sports are a great way to keep some children physically active they may not always be appealing to all children.  Thinking of more creative and non-competitive ways to keep your kids moving as well as using daily activities such as walking, taking the stairs, and helping with chores can be a subtle means of introducing physical activity into your child’s routine.  There are a number of ways to get creative ideas for keeping your kids and your family physically active:


1. Activity Card Decks: these portable decks of cards describe physical activities and games that children and family members can participate in.  The cards can be used as individual activities for short breaks between homework or after school. Several cards can also be put together to create a longer activity to play with family and friends. With these cards as examples, kids and families can also start to create their own activity deck as well.

Some ideas to get you started:

- Move It Monsters – available through Olivia’s Place

- Yoga Pretzels: 50 fun yoga activities for kids and grown ups – Baron Baptiste; available through

- FitDeck offer Superman FitDeck Exercise Cards for Kids; available through

- Super Duper Publications offer a number of card decks including Yogarilla Cards and Activities and Move Your Body fun deck; available through or (click on Occupational Therapy)


2. Iphone and Android Apps: someone in the family most likely has a tablet or a phone on which you can download apps.  These days, there are a great number of physical activity and yoga apps designed specifically with kids in mind.

Some ideas to get you started (check out for other ideas):

- Super Stretch Yoga HD

- Iron kids

- Wiggle HD

- Zak & Zelda Wake Up


3. Take it outside: go outside with your kids when possible to reduce their ‘screen time’ and introduce them to the wonders of nature. Shanghai has a number of parks and outdoors spaces where kids can run around, ride a bike, or roller blade (check out Shanghai Family magazine or website for recommendations).  You can also take your activity cards and apps outdoors to add more natural elements to obstacle courses and other activities.  Alternatively, Shanghai also has a number of indoor activity venues that can help to keep your kids active on less seasonable days.


4. Have an adventure:  do some research as a family into an activity that you would all like to try but never have.  Some good examples may be indoor rock climbing, horseback riding, tai chi, or dragon boating. By making efforts to try new activities you demonstrate to your kids that physical activity is also about having fun and exploring new things.

By introducing physical activity to your children and family through fun activities we hope to create the desire to be active everyday. So go ahead and get moving!

Speech & Language Strategies for Parents and Educators: Social Communication

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by Sophia Guarracino, Speech-Language Pathologist

by Sophia Guarracino, Speech-Language Pathologist

One of the most important points to keep in mind when your child or a student in your class is receiving speech and language services is the importance of carrying over intervention in both the home and school settings. It is ideal for parents, therapists, and educators to work together and discuss the techniques that will be effective for each child. There are many strategies that can be incorporated into a child’s daily routine to boost their speech and language skills. In this post, we will focus on social communication.

Social Communication: These strategies are intended for students about whom you have concerns with social communication skills. Social and pragmatic skills can differ significantly from child to child.

  • Social stories are stories written to positively depict a situation in which a student has a difficult time,providing the student with appropriate ways to interact or respond. Please contact your speech therapist for assistance.
  • Visual schedules provide students who may need visual input to assist with transitions and expectations for the day. Your speech therapist will know more about making this schedule to suit the child’s needs.
  • Allow the student to work in a group with students who are accepting and supportive.
  • Search for opportunities that support appropriate social interactions, i.e., “Bobby, will you please go to Sue’s desk and ask her to bring me her Math folder.”
  • Avoid having activities where students ‘pick’ a partner. Assign partners instead to avoid feelings of rejection.
  • Board games and card games can be beneficial as they promote turn taking and sportsmanship. Be available to support sportsmanship and help to remember that playing the game is more important than winning the game.
  • Comment on positive models for targeted social skills when used by other students in the classroom (Jenny, I really like how you raised your hand instead of interrupting me when I was talking to the class.).
  • If you need to get a student’s attention say, “Are you thinking about me?” Reinforce this and say, “I know you are thinking about me because you are looking at me. I am thinking about you because I am looking at you.” Many of our students do not understand the perspectives of others and helping them think with their eyes will help improve this skill and their attention to the speaker..

SCIS Pudong to Host Inaugural SENISH Conference

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SENISH (Special Education Network in Shanghai) is a network of Shanghai-based educators, professionals, and parents dedicated to supporting students with special learning needs. It is a part of SENIA, an Asia-wide network, and was started by international school educators, special education providers, parents, and SENIA board members. School administrators, counselors, learning support staff, and parents are invited to this year’s SENISH Conference, which will be held on November 21, from 8:30 am – 4:30 pm on Shanghai Community International School (SCIS) Pudong’s Upper School campus. Please join SENISH and SCIS Pudong for an opportunity to learn more about the latest developments in the fields of education, special needs, and neuroscience.

The preliminary schedule for the day is as follows:

8:30 – 9:00 am

Coffee and snacks

9:00-11:00 am

Workshop: John Medina’s 12 Brain Rules for Surviving and Thriving – Elizabeth Noske, YCIS

11:00 – 11:15 am

Coffee break

11:15 am – 12:15 pm

Stream 1: Developing Play and Social Skills in Young Children: Strategies for Parents and Educators – Shari Rosen and Maureen Tanoy, Essential Learning Group                                  

Stream 2: Promoting Physical Independence in Children with Special Needs – Marla Balzer, Physical Therapist, Olivia’s Place                                    

12:15 – 1:15 pm

Stream 1: How to Improve your Learning Support Department – Liam O’Shea, SSIS

Stream 2: Communication without Words: How Art Therapy Can Benefit Your Child’s Learning – Zoe Andrews, Essential Learning Group                                  

1:15 – 2:00 pm


2:00 – 3:00 pm

Stream 1: Anxiety in Children –  Veronica McKibben, Child & Family Counselor, Olivia’s Place

Stream 2: Teaching to All – Assisting Classroom Teachers to Understand and Support the Learning of Students with Special Education Needs (Middle Years) – Lucy Burden, SSIS                                    

3:00 – 3:15 pm

Coffee break

3:15 – 4:15 pm

Stream 1:  Innovative Interdisciplinary Treatments – Specialists from Essential Learning Group

Stream 2: Raising a Happy, Successful, and Resilient Child with Special Needs – Dr. Andrew Adler, Clinical Psychologist, Olivia’s Place                                            

4:15 – 4:30 pm        Closing remarks


To register for the conference, please complete the registration form

If you have any questions, please contact Maja Kelly, SCIS Pudong Upper School Counselor.

Thanks, Shanghai Mamas!

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Move It Monsters

Many thanks to the Shanghai Mamas for working together at their 7th Annual Party to demonstrate fun ways to keep kids moving. It was a day we will long remember!

If you particpated at the party and are looking to complete a set of cards, please stop by the Olvia’s Place office to get the ones you are missing.

If you didn’t get a chance to check them out, learn more about Move It Monster Cards. Full decks of 26 physical activity cards are available for a suggested donation of 30 RMB. Proceeds benefit Olivia’s Foundation.

Olivia’s Place and Shanghai Mamas Team Up to Get Your Monsters Moving!

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A healthy body keeps the mind strong and clear, yet busy families can find it challenging to carve out big blocks of time for fitness. Complex schedules, pollution, bad weather, and lack of facilities can contribute to reduced physical activity. The good news is that a few simple additions of physical activity spaced throughout the day not only improves the body, but also the mind’s concentration, efficiency, and outlook on life.

To help families thrive in Shanghai, the physical therapists at Olivia’s Place have teamed up with Shanghai Mamas to demonstrate activities for both kids and parents to incorporate into their daily routines. At the upcoming Shanghai Mama’s Annual Party, kids get to experience a series of short activities specifically designed to be done indoors or out, with friends or alone, and with objects that they are likely to have at home already. For every activity completed, kids earn a collectible Move It Monsters activity card that they can reference to keep up the momentum at home.

Join the Shanghai Mamas for a laid-back family day of great live music, creative family activities, amazing food…and even have a chance to be in the Guinness Book of World Records! The Shanghai Mamas Party is Saturday, October 13, from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm, at the InterContinental Shanghai Expo in Pudong. Tickets are on sale now through Shanghai Mamas.

Community Outreach in September

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On Aug 20th, the Olivia’s Foundation Review Board gathered to review applications received since January 2013.  Out of 18 applications from non-governmental organizations and individual families, both local and expatriate, 8 received a financial awards worth 4,000 RMB each for therapy services at Olivia’s Place. Families may use the funds for various purposes, such as therapy or assessment services, and recipients are provided with recommendations from our therapy team to most effectively use the available funds.

Jamie Fanelli, Learning Support and Behavior Specialist, was invited to give an Applied Behavioral Analyis (ABA) workshop to over 60 local families at Shanghai Sunshine Rehabilitation Center in Songjiang District on Sept 15th.  The entire staff of the center’s pediatric therapy department attended as well.  The workshop was quite a success, as many of the parents who attended have children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and they were all very engaged and asked a lot of questions.  There are plans to provide additional training for parents and staff in this area in the fututre at Shanghai Sunshine.

In September, Marla Balzer, Physiotherapist, presented on physical independence for special education teachers and parents in ChangNing District, Shanghai.  Later in the month, Dr. Alice Fok-Trela, Clinical Psychologist, presented to the same group on promoting social and communicative behaviors for children with disabilities. Olivia’s Place was very honored to be part of  this collaboration between the public health and education communities in Shanghai.

Assistive Technology: Information and Resources

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What Is Assistive Technology?
Assistive technology is any kind of technology that can be used to enhance the functional independence of a person with a disability. Often, for people with disabilities, accomplishing daily tasks such as talking with friends, going to school and work, or participating in recreational activities is a challenge. Assistive Technology (AT) devices are tools to help to overcome those challenges and enable people living with disabilities to enhance their quality of life and lead more independent lives.

Assistive technology can be anything from a simple (low-tech) device such as a magnifying glass, to a complex (high-tech) device, such as a computerized communication system. It can be big — an automated van lift for a wheelchair — or small — a grip attached to a pen or fork by Velcro. Assistive technology can also be a substitute — such as an augmentative communication device that provides vocal output for a child who cannot communicate with her voice.

Meeting Challenges with Assistive Technology
Assistive technology helps to level the playing field for individuals with disabilities by providing them a way to fully engage in life’s activities. An individual may use assistive technology to travel about, participate in recreational and social activities, learn, work, communicate with others, and much more.

Here are several examples of AT that enable people with disabilities to enter into the community and interact with others.

  • For greater independence of mobility and travel, people with physical disabilities may use mobility aids, such as wheelchairs, scooters, and walkers. Adapted car seats and vehicle wheelchair restraints promote safe travel.
  • Hand-held GPS (global positioning system) devices help persons with visual impairments navigate busy city streets and use public transportation.
  • Building modifications at work sites, such as ramps, automatic door openers, grab bars, and wider doorways mean fewer barriers to employment, businesses, and community spaces.
  • Special computer software and hardware, such as voice recognition programs and screen enlargement programs, enable persons with mobility and sensory impairments to carry out educational or work-related tasks.
  • Education and work aids such as automatic page turners, book holders, and adapted pencil grips enable children to participate in classroom activities.
  • Bowling balls with hand-grips and one-handed fishing reels are a few examples of how technology can be adapted for sporting activities. Light-weight wheelchairs have been designed for organized sports, such as basketball, tennis, and racing.
  • Adaptive switches make it possible for a child with limited motor skills to play with toys and games.
  • Accessibly designed movie theaters provide closed captioning and audio description for moviegoers with hearing and visual difficulties.
  • Devices to assist a person with daily living tasks, such as cooking, dressing, and grooming, are available for people with special needs. For example, a medication dispenser with an alarm can be set to remind a child to take daily medication.


Choosing the Right Assistive Technology Device(s) for Your Child

To determine the assistive technology needs of a child, an assessment should be conducted. The assessment can be conducted by  This assessment should take place in a child’s customary environments — home, school, and community.

It is important that the assessment address the child’s strengths as well as his/her weaknesses. It is key, when discussing how the child participates in his/her world, to hear the perspectives of teachers, parents and siblings, as well as that of the child. The discussion should not be limited merely to what skills the child possesses but should include the ways in which a child communicates, what he likes and dislikes, and what kind of strategies and interventions are helpful in interacting with the child. Consideration must be given to how a child’s need for AT might change depending on the environment, for example on the playground, the classroom, a friend’s house or in a public place like a mall or library. This type of input will provide clues as to what technology might work and how well your child will respond to it.

The end result of an assessment is a recommendation for specific devices and services. Once it is agreed that assistive technology would benefit a child, issues related to design and selection of the device, as well as maintenance, repair, and replacement of devices should be considered. Training (to use the device) and ongoing technical assistance is necessary not only for the child, but also for family members, teachers, service providers, and other people who are significantly involved in a student’s life. It is also important to integrate and coordinate any assistive technology with therapies, interventions, or services provided by education and rehabilitation plans and programs.

Acquiring assistive technology does not just happen once in a lifetime. The type of devices your child needs may change depending on the child’s age, abilities, physical status, and features of the immediate environment. Change in your child’s life may require a re-assessment of his or her assistive technology needs.

Learning More about Assistive Technology
Parents can help to identify potential AT for their child if they learn about the choices that are available. A good place to start is often with speech-language therapists, occupational therapists and school professionals.

The Family Center on Technology and Disability (FCTD) offers a wide range of assistive technology resources for disability organizations, AT providers, educators, and families of children with disabilities.Funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs, the Family Center on Technology and Disability provides a wide range of resources on assistive technology, from introductory fact sheets and training materials to in-depth discussion of best practices and emerging research.

The information in this post was provided by the US Family Center on Technology and Disability (FCTD).  The FCTD has a broad range of free web-based resources.  Visit the FCTD web site.

Breakthrough Study Reveals Biological Basis for Sensory Processing Disorders in Kids |

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Breakthrough Study Reveals Biological Basis for Sensory Processing Disorders in Kids |