Sheila Allen’s Spinach Balls (Thanksgiving Recipe Series)

My daughters, who are now in their mid-twenties, began eating these spinach balls (nearly everyday!) as babies and still love them! A perfect recipe for kids to help make!


• 2 10-ounce packages frozen, chopped spinach
• 2 cups crushed Pepperidge Farm stuffing
• 1 medium onion , finely chopped
• 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (or ½ cup grated Parmesan and ½ cup grated or finely shredded mozzarella or cheddar cheese)
• 4 eggs, lightly beaten
• ½ cup butter, softened
• pinch garlic salt
• pinch ground thyme

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Defrost spinach and squeeze dry.
Mix all ingredients.
Form into balls 1½ inches in diameter.
Place balls on a cookie sheet.
Bake 15 minutes on top rack of oven. For lightly browned tops, broil (with oven door open) for 1 minute, watching carefully.
May be made ahead and reheated, or immediately frozen prior to baking.

Makes 60 balls .

To make this recipe gluten free, substitute 1½ cups crushed Corn Chex cereal and 3 tablespoons gluten free flour for the 2 cups stuffing.

–Sheila Allen

Liz Platt’s Cajun Cheese Dip (Thanksgiving Recipe Series)

If you’re looking for new dip, try this. It’s different and so TASTY!

• 2 cloves of garlic, grated
• ½ cup thinly sliced scallions, divided
• 1 tablespoon butter
• 1 lb. crawfish tail or lump crabmeat, drained and rinsed
• 1 (1 lb.) block of processed cheese (Velveeta)
• 2 (10 oz.) cans diced tomatoes with green chilies, drained
• Kosher salt
• Freshly ground black pepper

In a medium pot over medium-high heat, saute garlic and white parts of scallions in butter until slightly tender.
Mix in crawfish or crab and cook for about 5 minutes on low.
Pour mixture into a bowl and set aside.
Add cheese and tomatoes to empty pot and cook over medium-low heat until melted and combined.
Stir in reserved scallion mixture.
Heat on low until well blended and very warm.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Garnish with sliced green scallions.
Serve with seeded or seasoned crackers.

–Liz Platt

Miriam Cohen’s Chipotle Shrimp Wontons (Thanksgiving Recipe Series)

These are DELICIOUS! This is my husband’s go-to recipe that he’s made many a time over the years.


• olive oil
• 1 16 oz package wonton skins
• ½ pound shrimp, cooked, peeled, deveined and coarsley chopped
• 1 yellow bell pepper, roasted, peeled and chopped
• 1 red bell pepper, roasted, peeled and chopped
• ½ cup chopped cilantro
• 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, drained and finely chopped
• 8 ounces fontina cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350.
Brush mini-muffin tins w/olive oil.
Press 1 wonton skin into each cup.
Bake wonton skins10 min until tops are golden brown.
Remove from oven and cool slightly.
In large bowl, combine shrimp, roasted peppers, cilantro, chipotle pepper and cheese.
Remove cooled skins from muffin pan and place on baking sheet.
Fill each skin with reserved shrimp mixture.
Bake 7-10 min or until cheese is melted.

*Can be spicy so adjust with chipotle as needed.

–Miriam Cohen

Anne Toolajian’s Baked Brie (Thanksgiving Recipe Series)

This baked Brie is always a huge hit at our house and has become a Thanksgiving tradition. Looks beautiful and tastes incredible! Enjoy!


•1 egg
•1 tablespoon water
•1 sheet Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry (½ 17.3 ounce package Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets = 1 sheet), thawed
•½ cup apricot preserves
•1/3 cup dried cranberries
•¼ cup toasted sliced almonds
•1 13-16 ounce Brie cheese round

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Beat egg and water in a small bowl, using a fork.
Unfold pastry sheet into a 14” square.
Spread preserves on the pastry to within 2 inches of the edges.
Place cheese in center of the pastry.
Fold the pastry up over the chese to cover.
Trim excess pastry and press to seal the seam.
Brush seam with egg mixture.
Place seam side down onto baking sheet.
Decorate using pastry scraps, if desired.
Brush with egg mixture.
Bake 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Let stand 15 minutes.
Serve with crackers.

Serves 12.

–Anne Toolajian

Liz Duffy’s Turkey Platter (Thanksgiving Recipe Series)

I make one of these fruit and cheese turkey platters every year, with the help of my kids. There’s always a little variety of what we include, and it always gets eaten…and it’s healthy!

• Whatever fruit, cheese and vegetables you choose to use
• Crackers (optional)

A picture’s worth a thousand words here! The photo below gives you an idea what to do.
Alternate string cheese (cut in half) and apple slices for the outer layer of feathers.
Serve with a bowl of crackers.

–Liz Duffy


How can I help to make the most out of Halloween for my sensory sensitive child?

With October being Sensory Awareness month, it’s a perfect time to recognize the strong influence that sensation has on behavior, not only for special occasions, but in ordinary daily life.

Children with sensory sensitivities are more sensitive than most other children to at least one type of stimulation and generally less comfortable with sensory events of daily life; most often more than one sensory system is involved. Mysteriously, a person can be overly responsive to some types of stimulation and under responsive to others. A common combination is heightened sensitivity to sound and to touch or texture (often known as tactile defensiveness). And frequently, when a person with sensory sensitivities is overly responsive to one type of input, other sensitivities become more pronounced. Food allergies, or sensitivities to certain foods or ingredients, may also serve to accentuate sensory sensitivity. What’s more, the accumulative effect of sensory input over time is commonly seen with sensory sensitivity; in other words, the effect of sensory stimulation adds up over time, so by the end of the day discomfort or other adverse responses to sensory input may be demonstrated when everything may have seemed fine earlier on in the day. And guess what? – Just as sleep impacts just about everything, lack of sleep or changes in sleep routine may also seem to worsen sensory sensitivities and the ability to cope with them.

With October 31st being a Monday, Halloween 2016 is looking like a three day weekend of dress up, get-togethers, parades, and trick-or-treating, with all the special costumes, masks, hoods and accessories, disguises, spooky and often unexpected sounds, music and sights, out-of-the-ordinary group activities, crowds, social interaction and goodies that go along with this over 100 year old holiday. What does all this “fun” amount to? Overabundant, and often unfamiliar stimulation. And the net effect? – A tendency toward self-protection, which, for the brain and other parts of the nervous system, means fight or flight. And a tendency toward reduced discrimination, which means a lessened ability to perceive distinctions among stimulation needed for judgment and adaptive action. It’s no wonder that poor listening, reduced cooperation, and melt-downs also may accompany Halloween festivities.

How to keep the fun in Halloween?

1. Keep it simple for the sake of comfort, both in terms of attire and activities. Choose a costume that feels like most other ordinary clothes when worn, or add a few accessories to clothes already worn by your child. Be selective about activities – you don’t have to do everything or stay for the full length of all activities.

2. Arrange a few Halloween “previews”. Practice costume wearing, perhaps even working up to the full costume. Rehearse trick-or-treating at your own front door. Play some “scarey” music and sounds, increasing volume within a safe listening level with familiarity.

3. Instill a sense of safety. Plan all events for daylight and with at least one parent or grandparent. Hold your child’s hand (sometimes and all the time), perhaps even giving it steady slow squeezes and even asking for squeezes back in return. Go to doors with your child, or let him/her know exactly where you will be waiting, in plain sight, no matter what. Give your child a big, long hug every now and then. Check back in at home for breaks between activities, or after a few houses of trick-or-treating.

4. Think “sensory”. Based on what you already know about your child’s sensory preferences and aversions, take your child’s perspective and analyze the environment. What’s potentially itchy or too much on the skin, too loud, too much of an undesirable tone(s) (i.e a high scream, a spooky laugh, a siren), too bright, distracting, disruptive, disturbing? Avoid surroundings that include others’ inadvertent touch. Remember that sensory input can have an accumulative effect.

5. Keep it positive (aka quit when you’re ahead). It’s far better to return home before a problem occurs. For those kids who will still want to stay at an activity or do more trick-or-treating beyond your limit, plan for a Halloween surprise back home that’ll help motivate your child to head home with you.

Although intended for Halloween, these tips can be applied to other events or outings too. Older children with sensory sensitivities who have the social skills and judgment to be out without a parent can benefit from learning and using these tips themselves.

–Sheila Allen, MA, OT

John Chappel, PT (January 22, 1953 – August 29, 2016)


If you were lucky enough to have had John Chappel in your life, chances are that you’re in the midst of grieving his passing and your loss, and you’re recognizing that his influence on your life is not about to end. If anything, it may have become more evident.

Perhaps John took care of you or your child, or you took care of him! He may have been your esteemed colleague, your dear friend, your respected teacher, or your valued partner; or the guy who frequented and raved about your shop, bar or restaurant, that guy on the beach who gave you a hotdog, the man you saw body surfing, or that character driving an old white Chevy pickup.

Maybe he was the fellow next to you on the airplane who bought you a drink or a snack, or the person who recommended your new favorite book, movie, TV show or pen. He might have been who gave you that treasured one-of-a-kind toy or gadget. He could’ve been the one who helped you distinguish a birdcall or a feather, left you your funniest voicemail or email ever, or joined you in your most recent frustration with technology. It might have been his voice you heard talking, storytelling, joking or laughing over everyone else’s or whose voice you didn’t hear as he sat quietly, thinking and listening. He could’ve been the one who sent you that special letter you’re trying to find. You may have known his amazing touch, his incredible knowledge and know-how, his uncommon ideas or his gigantic heart.

In his 63 years of life and over 40 years as a physical therapist, John Chappel was a truly tremendous man. Being in his presence was an experience. And so it goes. Now John’s passing is our experience, with his spirit, compassion and lessons holding strong.

Read more about John’s life and his life’s work at

Feel the inspiration of John’s National Association of Neonatal Therapists Pioneer Award acceptance speech –

Share our gratitude for John and his enduring & endearing influence.


Routines & Wellbeing Pt. 2


Did you miss Part 1? CLICK HERE.

Many of the people who stand to benefit most from routines are the same people who do not develop positive routines for themselves and need help with doing so.

For starters, consider these five suggestions for helping establish routines, especially with children who present challenges such as those mentioned above:

1. Identify the desired outcome. If it’s broad (such as to be ready for school), you may need to consider mini-routines, based on either where (i.e. the bedroom) or when (i.e. before breakfast) the activities to be linked are going to take place, or the type of activities (i.e. dressing). Mini-routines ultimately will be linked.
2. Recognize that developing a new routine may necessitate breaking a less-than-desirable habit or routine (i.e. screaming when he wakes up); in these cases, you’ve got two tasks to work on, breaking the habit and replacing that behavior with a step to the routine. You may be able to work on both, or you may have to tackle what’s less than desirable by creating a new situation or context the child will come to experience as one that will regularly comfort him and relate to the desired outcome (i.e. being present in the bedroom before he starts screaming, playing music, turning a light on, cuddling, etc; Dad’s going to come in and go into the bathroom with me). It will probably be easier for you to begin working on establishing a routine in an aspect of daily living that is not already negatively impacted by a problematic habit or routine.
3. Start small and think achievable & motivating. What can your child already do or come closest to doing? What can you link on either side of that do-able step? Work on linking the two activities. And if your child needs help with controlling his/her movement or understanding what to do & when to do it, make sure your assistance is delivered in a regular, repeatable way, allowing time for him to initiate the desired step.
4. Remember that linking even small steps takes time, at least a few weeks and likely longer to become automatic.
5. Know that trying new things and new ways is also valuable, but when you’re working to establish a certain routine, try “new” things outside of the routine you’re trying to develop. Once a routine’s firmly established there’ll be opportunity to foster flexibility, balancing structure and variations.

I believe that routine is essential for the children and families of the children we work with at Pediatric Therapeutics. For more suggestions, or to discuss these ideas, please speak with your therapist or feel free to contact me at

–Sheila Allen, MA, OT

Routines & Wellbeing Pt. 1


If there’s any month that brings talk about routine, it’s September. Whether you’re welcoming the first weeks of a new school year or saying your goodbyes to summer, or both, you’ve likely been giving some thought to how your days are shaping up. And that’s where routine, a sequence of actions regularly followed, comes in. We all need them, especially when sensory processing, sequencing, motor planning, motor control, executive function, language or anxiety are challenging for ourselves or a family member.

Routines can be beneficial or problematic. They can form naturally as we find, repeat, and build upon behavioral patterns that help us reach our goals, or they can be deliberately developed. Routines are of benefit to mind and body in many ways.

Here’s a dozen ways in which routines are helpful:

1. Routines provide regularly recurring stimulation you can count on.
2. They provide stability and regularity or steadiness.
3. They are a way in which activity is ordered in time and space.
4. Successful routines ease the stress of transitions.
5. They are comforting.
6. They help automate actions over the course of repetition.
7. They link related activities.
8. Established routines save time and promote efficiency for activities that are performed daily.
9. Routines reduce motor planning (praxis) demands associated with novelty or unfamiliarity.
10. Routines reduce the need for decision making related to everyday tasks
11. They promote mastery and independence.
12. They free us up for creative thought and action.


–Sheila Allen, MA, OT

Therapeutic Fun With Dad

Summer activities are especially therapeutic and perfectly suited for dads and children to share. No matter the age or interest level, or whether it involves inside or outside play, the benefits to one’s motor and language systems cannot be underestimated. Let’s think about three distinctly different but enjoyable summer outings and ways to highlight and maximize their beneficial input.

For those who love to fish, consider this:
– Hold night crawlers or lures for powerful tactile stimulation. How many night crawlers can you find in that container of soil?
– Count the numbers of lures you have or fish you see and discuss their features. How do they feel? What do they look like? Are they shiny, rough? How many descriptive words can you use?
– Hold a fishing reel for excellent practice in maintaining a “functional” arm/hand position, which is ideal for most manual activities; also an excellent bimanual activity, with one hand holding the pool while the other operates the reel (yes, there’s such a thing as a leftie fishing pole).
– Practice being still and straight (and quiet!) while standing or sitting still calls for the senses of movement and position, and calls all postural muscles into action. The boat adds a greater dynamic balance challenge.
– A fish on the line? Lucky you…the postural and manual challenges increase exponentially.

If you are a barbeque master, consider this:

– Make a list of ingredients and assorted items you will need and discuss where to locate them.
– Mix a marinade together and make some kebabs as fun fine motor activities that also involve sequencing and tactile stimulation.
– Carry serving bowls and other tableware to the table with beautifully straight posture and arms (and objects) away from the body; carrying a tray is not only more efficient, but it requires extra strength – try it!

And for an awe inspiring trip to the bowling alley:
– Talk about the sequence of events, how is this different from other activities? How is it the same? What special shoes do you need and why?
– Check out the different bowling balls…which feels the lightest? heaviest? Discriminating the weight of bowling balls requires a keen sense of how much body parts have to work to hold them up.
– Whether strattling the ball and rolling it, or working on real bowlers’ form (holding the ball, taking two steps, dipping and releasing) – bowling is a real exercise in timing and coordination of the two sides of the body. And when you manage to knock down some pins it’s all the more fun!

–Anne Toolajian, MA, CCC-SLP