Inside Gillette Blog

Progressing From Concussion to Classroom With Occupational Therapy

Posted On: 04/24/2015

By Heather Forst, Occupational Therapist - Clinical Educator

A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury. It occurs when someone sustains a hit to the head or a force to the body. The force causes the brain and head to move quickly back and forth, disrupting the balance of chemicals in the brain. Although concussions require proper care and time to heal, most people recover fully.

Symptoms of a concussion can include headache, vision changes, dizziness, nausea, difficulty concentrating or sleep changes. You don’t have to be “knocked out” to sustain a concussion. A health care Progressing From Concussion to Classroom With Occupational Therapyprovider diagnoses the condition. Because children and teens might encounter challenges returning to the classroom, your provider might refer your child to occupational therapy to help with a successful return to school.

An occupational therapist will complete an evaluation, looking at your child’s:

  • Vision and how any vision changes could affect school performance or daily activities
  • Eye-hand coordination skills
  • Memory, organizational skills, and attention as they relate to independent actions at school, at home, and in the community
  • Sensitivity to light, sound, touch, or movement

Gillette’s Children's Specialty Healthcare's team of occupational therapists have developed a process to help your child recover from a concussion. Depending on your child’s age, he/she may progress through up to four stages, with a focus on the following areas:

  • Vision
  • Mind-Body Awareness (general coping strategies for headaches, stress, or other symptoms)
  • Cognition (as it relates to everyday function)
  • Daily Activities (following a daily routine at home/school, completing chores, managing time for homework, keeping track of homework, etc.). 
  • Your child’s occupational therapist (OT) may ask your permission to coordinate with your child’s school if your child is having issues with vision or if a deficit is noted on your child’s vision screening. Your OT might suggest school/classroom accommodations to help your child be successful at school while  brain and vision functions continue to recover.

Our therapists have a wide variety of tools to help your child heal.  We might offer standardized tests to help identify cognitive skills that are challenging for your child. We also use our clinical expertise while watching your child do things like cook, make Play-Doh, or go to a café. Such activities let us observe skills including time management, task initiation, emotional control and persistence. We can use technology (such as your child’s smart phone or iPad) paired with various applications to help develop memory, planning, or organization skills. Adding those activities to your child’s therapy sessions helps them carry over the skills successfully outside of therapy.

Click here to learn more about occupational therapy at Gillette.    

Occupational Therapy Month Weekly Recipe Submission: Gooey Lemon Bars

Posted On: 04/23/2014

In celebration of Occupational Therapy Month this April, our weekly recipe submission is Gooey Lemon Bars from Paul. Paul says that his daughter, Olivia, found this recipe online a few years ago. Since then, she has loved making this decadent and addicting treat! 

Gooey Lemon Bars

Recipe by Olivia



1 Pkg. Lemon Cake Mix

½ C. Butter at room temperature

1 Egg, slightly beaten

Combine and mix with a fork.  Press down in a 9X13” pan with a greased bottom.


2-1/2 C. Powdered sugar

3-4 Tbsp. Butter at room temperature

Lemon Juice

Yellow Food Coloring, optional

8 oz. Cream Cheese at room temperature

2 Eggs




1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

2. Mix powdered sugar and butter. 

3. Add enough lemon juice to form the right consistency for thick frosting.

4. Mix in the cream cheese and food coloring, if desired.  Set aside 1 Cup of frosting to spread on top later. 

5. Add eggs to remaining frosting mixture and beat til fluffy. 

6. Spread on top of cake mixture in pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, being careful not to over bake. 

7. Let cool completely and then spread reserved frosting on top.  Cover and store in fridge.


Occupational Therapy Month Weekly Recipe Submission: Chocolate Chip Cookies

Posted On: 04/16/2014

In celebration of Occupational Therapy Month this April, our featured recipe of the week is chocolate chip cookies from Kari.  She and her three-year-old daughter love to bake these cookies to share with Kari’s three sisters, all of whom have cerebral palsy.

Kari’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipe by Kari and her 3-year-old daughter



2 cups Crisco (yes, it must be this brand)

1 cup white or raw cane sugar

2 cups packed dark brown sugar

4 large eggs

4 tsp. Vanilla

1 tsp sea salt

4 tsp. baking soda

4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 bag of mini chocolate chips



1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

2. Cream together Crisco and sugars

3. Add eggs and vanilla 

4. In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking soda, and salt

5. Gradually add to first set of ingredients

6. Mix well and add chocolate chips 

7. Drop by the spoonful onto greased cookie sheets

8. Bake for 10-12 minutes

9. Cool and enjoy!


Occupational Therapy Month Weekly Recipe Submission: Crackerd Chicken

Posted On: 04/09/2014

In celebration of Occupational Therapy Month this April, our weekly recipe submission is crackered chicken from Jenny. Jenny said that her daughter Lindsey, at the age of 9, wrote this recipe. 

Crackered Chicken

Recipe by Lindsey



1 pkg skinless chicken breasts

1 egg

1 Tsp. water

1 sleeve of Ritz Townhouse crackers

EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)



1. Trim any fat from the chicken breasts and cut them in half. Crack the egg and scramble it up in a wide bowl with about a teaspoon of water.

2. Put a bit of olive oil in a frying pan and turn the heat on medium to medium high. While the pan is preheating, do the following steps. Make sure a parent is with you to watch the oil! You don’t want it to get too hot while you are smashing crackers.

3. Put the Ritz crackers between two sheets of parchment or wax paper. Use a rolling pin to smash the crackers down into tiny pieces. Have fun! Use a rubber hammer if you want. Then put the cracker pieces onto a cutting board.

4. Dredge the chicken in the egg mixture first, then roll it in the crackers. Once the chicken is coated with cracker pieces, put it into the hot oil. Turn the chicken frequently until it is brown on all sides.

5. If the pieces are rather large, you may need to bake it a bit in an oven to ensure it’s cooked all the way through. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and put chicken in a covered dish and bake for about 20 minutes or until juices run clear.

6. Serve with sautéed green beans and a baked potato.



Occupational Therapy Month Weekly Recipe Submission: Kid-Friendly Applesauce

Posted On: 04/02/2014

In celebration of Occupational Therapy Month this April, our weekly recipe submission is a kid-friendly applesauce recipe from Kay. She and her kids made this applesauce for the first time at an Early Family Childhood Education class last summer. She said that it was a lot of fun watching them use an apple peeler/corer and mix the ingredients. She added that the best part was that the kids were able to enjoy food they made themselves!


Kid-Friendly Applesauce 

Recipe by Kay and her kids



2 small red apples

2 tsp. sugar

2 pinches of cinnamon

2 tbsp. lemon juice



1. Peel the apples and cut them into small pieces. Throw out the core.

2. Put the apple pieces and lemon juice into the blender or food processor. Blend until the mixture is very smooth.

3. Pour the mixture into two small bowls and stir in the sugar and cinnamon.



Cooking with Kids — In Occupational Therapy and at Home

Posted On: 04/01/2014

By Heather Forst, OTR

Occupational therapists at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare are trained to evaluate and treat a child’s or adolescent’s ability to participate in day-to-day life. We focus on everyday activities that involve school/work/community life skills, vision, sensory processing, cognitive skills, hand use, and upper extremity strength. Our occupational therapists can help children work on any of these areas during their therapy sessions. Participation and returning to every­day activities plays an important role in children’s social development and can strongly influence long-term mental and physical health. 

For many children, being involved in meal preparation, cooking a meal, or eating a meal (or all of the above!) is an important part of their day-to-day family life. Occupational therapists at Gillette may incorporate cooking activities into treatment sessions with their patients to address a variety of therapy goals. For example, a child might participate in cooking during treatment sessions to learn kitchen safety, the ability to follow multiple-step directions, problem-solving skills, or even strengthening and endurance! Gillette’s rehabilitation therapies department has its own occupational therapy kitchen designed specifically for this purpose.

Involving your child in meal preparation can have many benefits, including:  allowing children the opportunity to practice their math skills using the fractions involved in measuring ingredients; exposure to new smells or tactile sensations which may be helpful for kids with sensory sensitivities; and learning important lessons early-on about kitchen safety.  In addition, research has shown that children who are involved in meal preparation may be more willing to eat the new food(s) they have helped to make.

What are some of your favorite recipes to make with your kids?


Your Picky Eater Questions, Answered!

Posted On: 05/03/2012

Tonya Rich, OT, Feeding Specialist at Gillette

Last week, we asked you to submit questions about your child’s mealtime challenges for Tonya Rich, OT, feeding specialist at Gillette. Today, we’re sharing Tonya’s responses and advice. Have a question we didn’t answer?  Leave a comment here.  Or, contact Gillette’s Feeding Clinic directly. By working to resolve feeding issues that children may struggle with, our clinic’s goal is to make mealtimes a positive experience for kids and their parents.

Q. My 8 y.o. rarely eats anything other than rice noodles, rice or tortilla shell with sour cream and cheese for dinner. If the noodles aren’t over cooked, or she feels a crunchy (or what she perceives to be crunchy) noodle, she spits it out and leaves the table crying. Same thing with any crunchy part she might find on a soft, flour tortilla shell. She’s allergic to eggs, pork, chicken, turkey, strawberries and cashews. Is there something that could help her deal with these texture aversions?

A. It sounds like you’ve really worked hard to manage your daughter’s allergies while continuing to expand her food choices. You might want to think about trying a  new food at snack time. That would allow you to maintain a more positive mealtime experience. Depending on how many flavors your daughter is able to tolerate, you might want to start by expanding the flavors that she’ll eat (noodles with a new sauce, cheese, or new red sauce).

Q. My 9 year old autistic boy is all about texture and color. He had a bad experience as a preschooler. They were righting letters with shaving cream and wont eat anything like it, mashed potatoes, cool whip. Wont eat lunch meat. No veggies. He only likes chicken nuggets, p.b. & jelly sands, most fruit (not strawberries or watermelon tho)any suggestions besides bribery?

A. Oftentimes we will start with what the child is most comfortable and then build towards stretching the child to new foods/experiences. You might want to start with changing the safe and less emotional parts of the meal such as the plates, tablecloths, utensils or having music on during the meal. It’s the same food but the environment has changed slightly. As your child is able to tolerate those changes, you can build towards tolerating having less desired foods on the table. I would also encourage safe non-food interactions with having your child look at pictures of food (google images works well) or read books about food/eating.

Q. My daughter who has Rett, has a hard time with pooling food in her mouth before swallowing, if she swallows it at all. We usually try mushy foods, or pasta, but have been trying pureed food too. Feeding time is for sure the most streeful time at our house.

A. Our therapists are able to help child learn how to manage food safely in their mouth. This could be by alternating a bite of pasta with a drink or some puree or placing the bite of food on the side of the mouth can be helpful for a child who is learning to eat as well.

Q. Five year old Naomi will eat noodles, tortillas and PB and honey, chicken nuggets with ketchup or honey mac and cheese and the occasional red sauce with pizza or spaghetti. Juice is the only was we can get any fruits or veggies. We thought she may have some allergies – but nope – just picky! She’s BASICALLY healthy weight wise and energy wise…but i long to give her a good salad or piece of fruit…..then again, not many kids dive on those I guess. In contrast her 2 year old sister eats Nori (seaweed) and hummus and peppers and oranges like she’s eating her last meal.

A. Family meals are one way to allow children to be exposed to a variety of sights, smells, and foods. Related to family meals, one strategy that can be helpful is encouraging children to participate in preparing meals and exploring food. This helps families to redefine what they mean when they say “try it” for their child. This could mean “trying it” is your daughter just starts out with looking at the other foods, helping to prepare them, tolerating them at the table or passing the dish to another person in the family. You can build up to her touching the food, having it on her plate, and hopefully steadily move towards her trying a new food.

Q. I’m having trouble getting my almost-two-year-old to eat squishy or wet foods. He is all about the crunchy. I really want him to eat more fruits and vegetables that aren’t pureed in a squeezable pouch. He has recently decided that cooked pasta is OK, so I have hope. Fresh or canned fruit is just out of the question, though.

A. It’s great that he will take the pureed fruits and vegetables! Now we can build off of that…Veggie sticks can be helpful for kids who like the crunchy. Sometimes engaging the child in making “food faces” on their plate with over-steamed vegetables can encourage a child to try a new food. That way they can touch a new food but it’s not too squishy or wet. Keep encouraging your child in play to explore wet/messy play (i.e. water table, in the bathtub, pudding painting, or finger painting).

Q. Any advice for parents whose kiddos overload on their preferred foods and then won’t eat them again for long periods of time? 

A. Slow and steady wins the race. Keep offering a wide variety of foods. Children often need a significant number of exposures to foods and this can be done in a way to minimize anxiety (putting foods in the grocery cart, helping with cooking, helping with menu planning, all the way to using a divided plate.

Meet Coral Karsky, Music Therapist at Gillette!

Posted On: 04/29/2012

Meet Coral Karsky, a music therapist at Gillette! Music Therapy at Gillette can be used to decrease anxiety, help a child cope with a hospital stay, and reach rehabilitative goals. Click to watch the Music Therapy video.

Q. What are some of your hobbies outside work?

A. I like to spend time with my husband, Andy, cook, take walks around the lake by our home, and play in the band at our church. I also love to cheer for the Minnesota Twins.

Meet Coral Karsky, Music Therapist at Gillette!

Q. Do you have any kids or pets?

A. No kids or pets just yet, but Andy and I hope for both in the future.  In the meantime, we are fairly successful at taking care of our four houseplants.

Q. If you could choose a superpower, what would it be?

A. She’s not really a superhero, but I thought Mary Poppins had some amazing “superpowers”. Mostly, I just wanted the ability to snap my fingers and have my bedroom be instantly clean!

Q. What is your favorite book and food?

A. I have always enjoyed Christy by Catherine Marshall.   My favorite food would have to be ice cream.

Q. If you could travel anywhere where would you go?

A. I would love to go to scuba diving or swimming with dolphins in Australia.

Q. What was your favorite subject in school?

A. English.  I always enjoyed writing and reading interesting books.

Q. What is your favorite type of music or band?

A. This is a very hard question!  I like all kinds of music. I grew up listening to the Beatles and James Taylor.  Right now, some of my favorite bands include The Weepies and Gungor.

Q. Do you have a favorite story or memory from Gillette?

A. My favorite memories at Gillette usually involve a patient accomplishing a goal or task that previously had seemed so difficult to achieve.

Q. What do you enjoy most about your job at Gillette?

A. I love so many things about my job!  I have fantastic colleagues and I appreciate the sense of team work and dedication that goes into patient care each day.  I love that my job allows me to have fun and be creative in using music therapy to help our patients heal, cope, and achieve their goals.


Meet Erin Tauscher, Occupational Therapist at Gillette!

Posted On: 04/22/2012

Our final Occupational Therapy Meet us Monday post is below. Today, meet Erin Tauscher an Occupational Therapist at Gillette!

Q. What are some of your hobbies outside work?

A. I like going to spin classes, going to concerts, trying new foods/restaurants, going kayaking/canoeing, and traveling. Really anything that is adventurous.

Meet Erin Tauscher, Occupational Therapist at Gillette!

Q. Do you have any kids or pets?

A. Not yet. I have a goddaughter, Cecelia, which is the closest I have to my own child (yet so far away). My parents have a yellow lab named Molly. I would like to get a puppy, but it depends on where I’m living next year!

Q. If you could choose a superpower, what would it be?

A. Hands down it would be Instant Teleportation. If I could just think about where I wanted to be and could get there that would be great.

Q. What is your favorite food?

A. My favorite food is Tikka Masala from Gorkha Palace in Northeast Mpls or Rama Thai at Navaya’s Thai Brasserie in Linden Hills.

Q. If you could travel anywhere where would you go?

A. Right now it would either be Brazil or Argentina. Those will probably be my next big trips. Then it will be subject to change after that.

Q. Favorite kind of music or band?

A. I love all kinds of music.  Currently, I’ve been on a more electronic/upbeat kick.  Right now, my favorite bands are Metric, Little Dragon, Cold War Kids, Bon Iver, and Polica.  Has anyone heard of those bands? Let me know, we should talk

Q. Favorite subject in school?

A. Math and science until I got to college. Then anatomy with cadaver lab!

Q. Who did you admire when you were a kid?

A. My brother. He’s 2 years older and I followed him around like a shadow.

Q. Do you have a favorite story or memory from Gillette?

A. I’m fairly new to the Gillette Team, but I’d say my favorite memory is when an 11 year old patient met me and said “oh I though you’d be prettier”. Guess I was having more than just a bad hair day.

Q. What do you enjoy most about your job at Gillette?

A. The diversity, challenge, and support. It’s really been great!

Meet Alyssa Dahlheimer, Occupational Therapist at Gillette!

Posted On: 04/15/2012

Since April is Occupational Therapy Month, we want to introduce you to Alyssa Dahlheimer, Occupational Therapist at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare. Don’t forget, we have an OT Coloring Contest happening this week on our Facebook page. Log on and vote by ‘liking’ for favorite picture. The winner will receive a Gillette Teddy-Bear!

Meet Alyssa Dahlmeimer, Occupational Therapist at Gillette!

Q. What are some of your hobbies outside work?

A. In my free time, I enjoy group cycling classes and running. I love to be outside, and in the spring and summer I like to work in my flower gardens. I also enjoy spending time with my family, going to museums and the zoo as well as plays and musicals.

Q. Do you have any kids or pets?

A. My family consists of my husband, Mike, and my two daughters. My daughter, Ella, is 8 and is in 2nd grade. My daughter, Annie, is 5 and is in preschool 3 afternoons a week.


Q. What is your favorite book or food?

A. My favorite foods are margherita pizza and cheesecake!

Q. If you could travel anywhere where would you go?

A. There are so many places in the world I would love to travel. I have never been to New York city and would love to see a Broadway play there someday. I would also love to travel to Africa and all over Europe.

Q. Favorite kind of music or band?

A. I really like many kinds of music. Generally, I like anything on Cities 97. I also love big band music and swing dancing to it.

Q. Favorite subject in school?

A. My favorite subjects in school were biology and English literature.

Q. Who did you admire when you were a kid?

A. I have always admired my parents. Even as a teenager, I genuinely liked them. They brought me to all of my sports practices and games, made our house a welcome place for all of my friends and put so much effort into being great parents.

Q. What do you enjoy most about your job at Gillette?

A.Working at Gillette is wonderful. I love the kids and families I meet, there are so many inspiring people. I love working with kids and their families to find ways for them to be more independent, successful, and more engaged in their lives. I am always impressed by the dedication and expertise of the staff I work with.

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