Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Nutrition for Adult Special Needs Individuals

The Benefits of Nutritional Counselling for Special Needs Adults 

I want to share something with you that really concerns me...

The nutritional needs of people with various disabilities is not a focus for most health care providers.  Because the disability is looked at as a physical or genetic problem, the connection is not made to nutrition.  In addition to this, some may think the individual is unable to comprehend health information or that it will be too difficult to apply.

However, the problem with this is it is not always the disability itself, but the comorbidities and secondary health conditions that affect quality of life and longevity!

People with disabilities suffer the very same consequences to their health as the rest of us when they eat a nutrient-poor diet.  Poor eating choices are the root cause of many secondary health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, constipation, GERD, high blood pressure, 'foggy brain', fatigue, obesity, susceptibility to infections and more. 

This is what I believe: everyone should have equal rights and equal access to health information and healthy food.  This is a foundation for living our best life.  But what I observe far too often, is we choose to eat what is easiest and most convenient.  Junk food tastes really good and without the proper support and guidance, a special needs adult is going to naturally choose poor quality food without knowing what the consequence of that choice is, leaving them over-fed and under-nourished.

Working with a qualified nutritionist can help. 

We offer simple information and motivational support to help those with special needs make better choices to improve symptoms for chronic health issues and to prevent new problems from arising.  I will personally always work with the individual to create a plan that considers their preferences to ensure better compliance.

A nutritionist will teach life skills with regards to:
- meal planning

·       - grocery shopping

·       - food preparation and cooking

·       - food storage

·       - healthy eating strategies, including proper chewing and eating slowly

·      -  portion control

·       - specific dietary recommendations for their unique needs 

As a caregiver/parent you are likely concerned about your loved one’s health, but maybe don’t know where to start or how to help.  A nutritionist will help to educate independent special needs adults and their caregivers in supporting their loved one in a way that doesn’t feel overwhelming or time consuming.

 written by Kim Banting, Holistic Nutritionist - BODiWORKS Institute


Wednesday, 12 June 2019

AGP - Review of the most powerful 1 hour spent in the week

There are so many options for our kids these days. When I say that I mean there are many ways to have your kids spend their time, whether its therapeutic, recreational, athletic, academic, lifestyle or just plain entertainment.  How many of us really analyze the percentages of where they spend their DEVELOPMENTAL time?

According to many developmental psychologists, "normal" development occurs on a continual slope towards eventual adulthood.  Well...we support the concept that discontinuity (changes do not occur continuously on a predictable timetable) which is more true for those with special needs. In particular for 'developmental delays' that require interventions which contribute to gradual changes which promote neuroplasticity.

For those with children who have particular disorders and special needs we know that developmental progress is the key to 'time spent in program's or with respite, or in therapy and in school.

As a provider of services and programs for special needs children and adults we find ourselves assessing, evaluating and improving our techniques and quality to enhance the development of those we service.

In particular our Adapted Gym Program (AGP) which began in 2002 with a few children; whom we wanted to provide some physical-emotional release and improve motor skills.  Little did we know that after a few years of effort, education and experience it would enhance the lives of so many children and teens!

The AGP is a actually a "designed process"It directly bridges the gap between recreation and therapy. ..If it were strictly recreation(such as sport or fitness class), then it would not be intense or individualized enough for intervention. If it were only therapy (such as OT or PT), then it would be not incorporate engaging fantasy for social connection or developmental interventions for motor skills or be fun.

Why is the AGP the most powerful hour in a week for child?
  •  Individualized and one on one 
  •  Instructors who are trained and ready to provide care
  •  It challenges social cues with the Instructor prompts and directedness
  •  Intervention of all individual motor skills - six core deficits identified
  •  Improves emotional dysregulation
...and some less tangible AGP observed benefits:
  •  Increases self-esteem
  •  Children have the freedom to enjoy the interactions
  •  Develops relationships with the Instructor who identifies with your child
  •  Comfortable non-judgemental environment
  •  Specifically designed space and equipment use.
"Attending all day school or part-time ABA sessions cannot provide this much focus and intensiveness in a short time.  AGP time well spent!"

As our practice origins were in brain and neurological injuries/disorders it seemed to make good sense to help intervene with those within the Autism spectrum and related disorders.  Over the years we have accumulated the most experience and information regarding ASD physical-emotional development than anyone in the field. To our knowledge we were the first in Canada to identify and demonstrate the core motor deficits in ASD's.

Always learning...

written by Mr.Corey Evans HBSc.
Executive Director, BODiWORKS Institute
Founder of the AGP, ETR & BBAIM


Thursday, 11 April 2019

Nutrition and ASD - A brief post & Seminar segment

On April 4th, we hosted an Educational Seminar at BODiWORKS Institute on the topic of Nutrition and Autism.  It was an in-depth look at the connection between gut health and brain function and we talked about the latest research involving probiotics and their benefit to symptoms and behaviours associated with ASD.

Probiotics and diet have been studied for some time because it is believed to be a potential, risk-free and effective treatment for autism.  The microbiome of people with ASD has fewer strains and species of microbes than neurotypical people. Those with autism tend to have more pathogenic microbes that beneficial, which is playing a big role in symptoms and behaviours.  Why is this happening?

1.      A disruption of the microbiome means that there are too many bad bacteria producing toxic waste in the gut and this impairs the gut lining.

2.      When the gut lining is impaired, bacteria can migrate into the lymph tissues.

3.      This activates an immune response and inflammatory chemicals are produced.

4.      These inflammatory chemicals open up the spaces between intestinal cells and this allows undigested food molecules and toxic metabolites from the bad bacteria to enter the blood stream and travel to the brain where they cause problems.

Most of the current diets that are recommended to people with autism restrict carbohydrates because carbs feed bacteria and allow them to multiply, further causing GI symptoms.  However, these carbs also feed our residential good bacteria, and by removing all of them, we are reducing total microbe counts, which helps with symptoms, but over the long term it isn’t helping to improve the condition of the gut.

In an ideal situation, we would be offering up a broad range of foods and nutrients that will help to improve gut health and function: probiotics, fermented foods and prebiotic foods along with other supporting nutrients that help to heal and repair damage to the gut lining.  

While this is great news, we also have to recognize that there are specific and unique issues that come with feeding someone with autism.  Working with a professional can greatly reduce the stress that comes along with making changes.  We can help you put a step-by-step plan in place that is right for your family.

                                                                                      Above is a short segment from the Seminar -                                                                                                    Nutrition and ASD
written by Kim Banting, Nutritionist
and the team at the BODiWORKS Institute


Friday, 9 November 2018

Special Needs Exercise Prescription for older children and Adults

Our older teen and adult special needs children benefit from exercise and motor skill development programs, just like the younger ones.

There are two key differences in the approach however;

1. Identifying the developing health and mental changes

2. Educating on lifestyle habits and body awareness

The developing health challenges can include such things as being overweight, joint problems, high blood pressure, hormone issues, posture and muscle imbalances, low tone or strength and poor endurance.  Mental changes can include misunderstanding the above, poor self care, sexuality, social connectedness, depression and opposition.

Lifestyle habits can be educated regarding self-care, leisure, sexuality, social graces and activity.  Body awareness is an ongoing educational process. Teaching about the muscles, bones, proper activity, eating/food/nutrition, posture and exercise for their particular needs.  Something as simple as how strong are you, can lead to a conversation about how to feel stronger.

For parents, its having access to appropriate programs and professionals that is a challenge for this age group.  In our opinion, the one on one approach has always been the best way to address the above elements.  The importance of the relationship between the individual and the Instructor cannot be understated.  This is the social connectedness for many - especially those out of high school as the pool of others around them diminishes and their adult sense increases.

Keeping active frees the mind and provides self-esteem increases. Especially one on one exercise prescription - where an individual's needs are specifically addressed and a relationship developed.  Something to think about!


Thursday, 1 November 2018

Leisure - easy to cast aside but Important for Development


This group of occupations is the one that is most universally understood:
Leisure includes any activities that you might do in your free time and that you enjoy.

This can include more active recreation such as playing sports or going to the beach or can be quieter in nature such as gardening, listening to music or reading a book. Leisure can also encompass activities involving groups of people like attending a party or ones that are more individual-based.

Compared to self-care or productivity, leisure is often cast aside as ‘not that important’. While it is vital to address our basic care needs (eating, toileting, dressing), the importance of engaging in activities that we enjoy and that have a positive influence on our mental health should not be ignored. 
A fundamental tenet of Occupational Therapy is that every person, no matter their age, diagnosis, or any other factor has the right to and will benefit from having ‘occupational balance’: a balance in their daily life activities of self-care, work, rest and play.

Example: Going to the movies

Your 15-year old child expresses both a desire and an apprehension to wanting to go to the movie theatre to watch a movie with their friends. They have tried to do so once before in the past but experienced various difficulties in the process. The end result was that your child did not want to go back to the movie theatre for some time and the group of friends that they went with did not want to go see another movie with your child, who was left feeling hurt and  confused. 

In this instance, an OT would use their skills in activity analysis to gather information from the parent, child and observing the child in the relevant environments 
to identify the specific issue(s):

·       Transportation: Was the route to the theatre planned out in advance? Was the child familiar with the route? Have they been to this particular theatre before? Do they know the layout/how to navigate the signs? Do they have any physical limitations?

·       Money Management: Does the child have experience handling money? Do they normally use cash or a card? Do they have any cognitive delays which would hamper this aspect of the activity?

·       Environment: Are they able to scan information on screens to identify the theatre and starting time? Did they look up this information prior to arrival? How do they perform in other high traffic environments? Are there sensory challenges?

·       Do they understand the relevant Social Cues: standing in line to wait their turn, leaving enough personal space for others, not talking during movie, etc?

·       Emotions: How did their first experience affect their self esteem, sense of well being? What emotional barriers may be getting in the way?

Once the OT has a clear understanding of the issues, some relevant recommendations and strategies might include:

·       Transportation training: learning to navigate the bus system independently

·       Practice and strategies for managing money appropriately

·       Practice and strategies for dealing with busy environments, adaptations if possible

·       Social skills training to learn to understand and react to social situations

·       Supportive counselling to address the initial adverse experience and mapping out a new plan to ensure a future successful experience

This is just one example of what seeing an OT for a leisure concern might look like. If you or a loved one is experiencing challenges with any sort of LEISURE activities, please contact your Occupational Therapist today for more information.

Thank you for reading this blog series in support of Occupational Therapy Month. I hope it helped deepen your understanding of the value and benefits that OT can bring to life. I will leave you with a final quote, representative of the OT process:

“You need to be content with small steps. That’s all life is. Small steps that you take every day so when you look back down the road it all adds up and you know you covered some distance.”
—Katie Kacvinsky

Please feel free to leave comments below. We welcome all your input.

Written by:
Rachel Tavares, OT (Reg.) Ont., Registered Occupational Therapist, Bodiworks Institute

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Why Productivity? - helping for better successes

2nd blog of OT series...

Productivity refers to anything you might do to develop your skills, earn a living, manage a home or help others.

For adults this can take the form of paid/unpaid work or managing a family/home i.e. on the job skills such as conflict resolution, teamwork, time management or home tasks such as cleaning the dishes, doing laundry or caring for children.

For children and adolescents, learning through play and at school, encompasses their main productivity occupations i.e. writing/typing, taking turns, creative expression, socializing

People place a lot of value on productivity occupations as they often make up the fabric of who we are, or who we may or may not be one day in the future – their self-identity! For this reason, OT assessment and intervention for productivity type occupations can provide valuable insight. The process the OT would take is the same as described for self-care occupations.

...Let’s take a look at a more in depth example:
 Let’s say you child is having difficulties paying attention in class
An OT would start by observing the child in the environment they are experiencing the most difficulties in, which in this case is at school, to gather information on the specific challenges that child may be experiencing:

·       Is there a specific subject that is more challenging?

·       What is the child doing in the moment where attention is challenging?

·       Are other children experiencing difficulties as well?

·       What does their workspace look like?

·       What is their seating arrangement like?

·       Where are they positioned in relation to the teacher/other students?

·       What is the environment like – lighting? Noise level? Temperature?

In addition to observation, interviews with the teacher(s) and the parent(s) as well as the child, would be necessary for the OT to gain a clear picture of the issues and potential barriers. 

...As for solutions:

·       Sometimes frequent movement breaks throughout the day are what a child may need

·       Adaptive seating may also be required, seating that allows for more movement

·       The classroom environment is just to stimulating for some children, so working collaboratively with the teacher and other school stakeholders to mitigate this stimulation is sometimes what is needed

Similar to self-care occupations, each individual presents with their own set of unique circumstances that may be hindering their performance in productivity type occupations, so each treatment plan will vary according to the individual.

If you or a loved one is experiencing challenges with PRODUCTIVITY type occupations, please contact your Occupational Therapist today for more information. Stay tuned for the final week of our OT Month Blog to learn more about the most enjoyable type of occupations yet: leisure!

Written by:

Rachel Tavares, OT (Reg.) Ont., Registered Occupational Therapist, Bodiworks Institute

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Self Care - Help for this important part of life and development

October is Occupational Therapy Month! What better time to learn more about OT?   
...If you are not quite sure what Occupational Therapy (or OT for short) is, don’t worry, you’re not alone!

Occupational Therapy is a health profession that empowers people of all ages to overcome barriers in their everyday lives so they can do more and live better (OTOntario.ca, 2018)

Occupational Therapy looks at your ‘occupations’, or any daily activity/task that is meaningful in your life and works together with you to figure out ways to accomplish that task. Sometimes we might suggest an assistive device, other times we might modify your surrounding environment, or we may explore different ways of completing a task. The possibilities are endless!

OT’s tend to group occupations into 3 categories:

1)    Self-Care

2)    Productivity
3)  Leisure

In this series of blog posts, we will be exploring each of these 3 categories to help you better understand what they are all about and what OT can do to help.


Self-care encompasses everything that you might need to do to take care of yourself. This can include basic personal care such as getting dressed, toileting, feeding yourself or it can be more complex tasks such as shaving, taking medications or nail hygiene. Anyone can experience difficulties with self-care at any point in their lives, which can be due to injury, chronic disease, disability, age, mental health or a multitude of other concerns.

So what can OT do to help?... Well, an OT would start by looking at all aspects of your life, the activity in question and your surrounding environment to first establish what might be getting in the way of you being able to take care of yourself. From there, an OT would work collaboratively with you to determine appropriate solutions to the problem.

Let’s look at an example... Let’s say your child is having difficulties feeding themselves during mealtime.  An OT would start by observing a typical meal time and gathering information on the challenges:
  • Is the child having difficulties holding their spoon? 
  • Sitting in their chair? 
  • Do they understand how to feed themselves? 
  • Do they look like they are in distress?
What about their environment ? does the social and physical environment set the child up for success? What is the lighting like in the room? What about the noise level? The kitchen set-up? Further assessments are often necessary.

Then onto solutions! ...Sometimes a modification such as an adapted utensil or seating may be all that is needed. Other times, a more in-depth and routine feeding therapy involving gradual exposure to a food might be the answer. Often social-sensory issues are at play.  Each situation is unique and requires an in-depth look and evaluation. 

OT’s recognize that each individual presents with their own set of unique circumstances. This means that no single treatment plan will ever be the same! If you or a loved one is experiencing challenges with SELF-CARE, please contact your Occupational Therapist today. Stay tuned next week to learn more about productivity occupational therapy.


written by Rachel Tavares, OT (Reg. Ont), Occupational Therapist, BODiWORKS Institute