Interview Susan Swindeman, OTR/L, Author, Speaker and CEO of Wee Care Therapy

Interview Susan Swindeman, OTR/L, Author, Speaker and CEO of Wee Care Therapy

In this interview we have the pleasure of welcoming Susan Swindeman, OTR/L, CEO of Wee Care Therapy in Dyer, Indiana. A while back Diana A. Henry, MS, OTR/L, asked if Special Needs Book Review would write about their resource book, Tools for Tots: Sensory Strategies for Toddlers and Preschoolers.  The activities in Tools for Tots are designed for toddlers and preschoolers who have sensory processing disorder (SPD) leading to difficulties in learning, development, and behavior.

In my review I wrote, “If you are looking for expert advice to help children with sensory based behavioural challenges this is the resource book you need: Tools for Tots Sensory Strategies for Toddlers and Preschoolers by Diana A. Henry, MS, OTR/L, FAOTA, Maureen Kane-Wineland, Ph.D., OT/L, and Susan Swindeman, OTR/L  It doesn’t get better than this; advice for parents and caregivers from three very experienced occupational therapists condensed into one easy-to-use, family-friendly, fifty-three page guide book.Read the entire review here.  Let’s meet one of the three authors of Tools for Tots, Susan Swindeman.  We also have an interview with Diana Henry here.

Lorna: We are so pleased that with your busy schedule you made time to take part in our Author Interview Series! When parents talk or write about their lives bringing up a child with special needs,  they often mention reliable and indispensable occupational therapists that made all the difference in their child’s life and hence in theirs. Tell us why you chose occupational therapy and if you specialize in one certain area. 

<<Susan Swindeman:  I was born with passion for working with children. If you are passionate about anything, you know that the passion comes naturally. If you are lucky enough to find a career to fulfill that passion, you understand that the skills of the field are something that you learn later. Occupational therapy has a variety of options available when you specialize in pediatrics. I learned through my work in schools, therapy clinics, hospitals and early intervention programs. I had the pleasure of working with amazing teachers, psychologists, doctors, nurses, registered dietitians, behavior analysts, developmental therapists, physical therapists, speech/language pathologists and other occupational therapists. Skill development came through attending numerous continuing education programs. The children and families who have graced me into their lives, taught me love, kindness, patience, understanding, open mindedness, and the fact that there is always more to learn!>>

Lorna: You are the CEO of Wee Care Therapy in Dyer, Indiana. Tell us about your private clinic and what services you offer. What features did you try to incorporate in your clinic and in the treatment given there that parents and youngsters appreciate?

<<Susan Swindeman:  Wee Care Therapy offers pediatric behavioral services, developmental therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech/language therapy through individual and group programs. What makes us special is not just the expertise of our providers, but the atmosphere of warmth, positive energy and acceptance that you feel when you walk in our doors. Here is a description of our services from our website “Take a peek inside Wee Care Therapy, and you may hear a boy shouting “Go!” for the first time as his speech/language pathologist bounces him on a giant air log. Meander around our nature trail, and you may see an occupational therapist building a sand castle at the “sandy beach” with a little girl who never used to enjoy touching sand, or a physical therapist helping a young boy master each step up to the curly slide. Smiles abound. Parents clap and cheer for their children. But it doesn’t end there. What you can’t see is the cheerful developmental therapist finger painting with a tot in her home to teach colors, or the behavior analyst helping a family develop a support plan to address their son’s “challenging” behaviors. Children learn through play, the common thread used in our sessions. We help you discover how learning can be fun!”>>

Tools for Tots: Sensory Strategies for Toddlers and Preschoolers  by Diana A. Henry, MS, OTR/L, FAOTA, Maureen Kane-Wineland, Ph.D., OT/L, and Susan Swindeman, OTR/LLorna: Parents with a child with special needs are very busy and sometimes overwhelmed by all the sleepless nights, meetings, and appointments required. Could you please explain how Tools for Tots may help them?

<<Susan Swindeman:  Parents are often faced with challenges if they have children who have difficulty adapting to sensations from everyday situations. A parent may have to hold down a screeching three year old and fight “tooth and nail” through teeth brushing and nail clipping. Another parent may need to catch their two year old by the seat of the pants after he climbs onto a counter stool, across the counter and to the top of the refrigerator to get the treats that were carefully placed out of reach. And yet other parents feels worried because their child does not play with finger paints, or enjoy the playground like other children. They may not understand their child’s strong physiological responses to textures or movements. Some feel helpless because they have difficulty connecting or engaging with their children. Tools for Tots offers user friendly sensory based strategies to help parents and caregivers in these challenging situations.>>

Lorna: At your clinic, Wee Care Therapy, what are the youngest clients that you work with? How do parents reach you? Must they be referred by a family doctor or do they make their own appointments?

<<Susan Swindeman:  We work with children from birth through adulthood. As one of the few approved early intervention agency providers in Lake County Indiana, we serve children from birth to three in their homes and other natural environments. We also see babies and older children at our therapy clinic. Parents can call us to check availability and make an appointment at 219-322-1415. They could also check out our website, Facebook page, and twitter feed listed below.>>

Lorna: What “red flags” would new parents notice in a toddler’s development that warrant further evaluation by a professional?

<<Susan Swindeman: Besides looking at typical developmental milestones, we also evaluate sensory processing. “Sensory Processing Disorder exists when sensory signals don’t get organized into appropriate responses and a child’s daily routines and activities are disrupted as a result.” (Miller, 2006) A child may not exhibit all of these behaviors, and reactions to sensations may vary from day-to-day or even hour-to-hour. Some of these behaviors occur in typically developing children too. Look for patterns, intensity and disruption of routines to determine if you should seek the help of a therapist. Here are some “red flags” of SPD:

  • Covers ears with loud noises or makes excessive noise
  • Is sensitive to bright lights or seeks out flickering/spinning objects
  • Fears movement or craves movement/is always “on the go”
  • Avoids getting messy/has a poor tolerance to grooming or seeks messiness/hangs on people
  • Has strong clothing preferences or does not seem to feel clothing twisted on body
  • Is very sensitive to touch or has a high pain tolerance/seems unaware of hunger or wet pants
  • Is irritable, aggressive, impulsive, demanding and moody or seems unmotivated/withdrawn
  • Is very disorganized or is very rigid in routines
  • Does not seem to notice noxious odors or smells everything
  • Is a picky eater or stuffs mouth with food and objects
  • Holds things too tightly or holds them too loosely
  • Never tires or has low endurance/ decreased muscle tone/seems weak
  • Has delays in speech or has decreased motor skills/appears clumsy

Lorna: For students to be happy and successful at school, the way parents and teachers work together on a common goal usually makes a lot of difference. I would think the same thing applies to the successful outcome of occupational therapy sessions.  What helpful role can parents play when their child has OT sessions?

<<Susan Swindeman: Parent involvement is key! We encourage parents and caregivers to be active participants in their children’s therapy programs. What we do in therapy is only a small part of the changes that a child can make if activities are carried out at home in the child’s natural environment, during naturally occurring routines. We empower the parents and caregivers to help their children succeed.>>

Lorna: Thank you very much for telling us about your Wee Care Therapy clinic and about your work as an occupational therapist. Are there any more co-author projects in the near future or new challenges in the near future? 

<<Susan Swindeman: Our next exciting adventure is our soon to be released new book and cd (PDF reproducible version) of Tools for Infants: Sensory Based Strategies for Parents, Caregivers and Early Intervention Providers. Most would agree that raising an infant is never an easy task, but if you have an infant with sensory processing challenges, it raises the bar to a whole new level. Your infant takes in sensations from the body and environment, and tries to make sense of them. Difficulty adapting to everyday sensations can lead to baffling behaviors. You may have to deal with screeches during horrifying bath time, gagging or puking with new food textures (despite repeated attempts), or inconsolable crying and lack of sleep because of difficulty calming. Tired and frustrated, you may be willing to trade anything for a full night of slumber, not remembering what a good night’s sleep feels like. You may feel helpless and worried because you have trouble connecting or engaging with your infant. You face a quandary as you wonder if your infant is “spoiled” and “naughty,” or if there is a nervous system problem causing these reactions.

At times, all infants may exhibit some atypical behaviors and need support. However, when these behaviors are exacerbated or occur with such frequency and intensity that they present ongoing problems, they may be signs of a sensory processing disorder (SPD). Regardless if your infant is typically developing or has SPD, we recognized the need for easy to use explanations and sensory-based strategies that support parents, caregivers and early intervention providers in the home and other natural environments. This book was designed to offer you hope, guidance and support as you embark on the wondrous journey of raising your infant or working with infants.>>

Susan Swindeman co-author of Tools for Tots: Sensory Strategies for Toddlers and PreschoolersFollow Susan Swindeman:

 References

Henry, D., Kane-Wineland, M.,and Swindeman, S. (2007). Tools for tots: sensory strategies for toddlers and preschoolers. Glendale, AZ: Henry OT Services.

Miller, L.J. (2006). Sensational Kids: Hope and help for children with sensory processing disorder (SPD). New York, NY: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Published by the Penguin Group.

Swindeman, S., Kane-Wineland, M., and Henry, D. (SI Focus: Winter, 2010). Sensory strategies for toddlers and preschoolers: a peek into tools for tots.

CEO/Occupational Therapist/Public Speaker at Wee Care Therapy (www.weecaretherapy.com) in the Greater Chicago Area

Tools for Infants: Sensory Based Strategies for Parents, Caregivers, and Early Intervention Providers™ by Susan Swindeman OTR/L,Maureen Kane -Wineland PhD, OT/L, and Diana Henry, Ms, OTR/L, FAOTAToday, Nov.25th 2015, we are updating this post to add info about Tools for Infants

Buy Tools for InfantsSensory Based Strategies for Parents, Caregivers, and Early Intervention Providers™ (2015)  Tools for Infants’ Web Site

Buy Tools for Tots: Sensory Strategies for Toddlers and Preschoolers (2009)  Henry OT Services Inc.

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This post was written by Lorna
Lorna d’Entremont: Co-owner of SentioLife Solutions, Ltd. the company behind KidCompanions Chewelry (2007) and SentioCHEWS (2013), mother of three, grandma of 5 and wife. She is a retired teacher and special needs advocate. Throughout she has taught all levels from grade 2 to grade 9. Lorna loved teaching and enjoyed seeing the students progress in the school system. During her 30 year career she took a few years off to raise her three children.
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