On the Horizons – 02/13/13

Welcome to "On the Horizon"

Issue 213:
Unplugged Time Together

On the Horizon is an award winning weekly ezine for parents of children with developmental disabilities who want simple, effective strategies to reduce stress, support their child’s development, and improve quality of life for the whole family.

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  • A Note from Dr. Beurkens
  • Feature Article:
    Unplugged Time Together
  • Ask the Horizons Team
  • Upcoming Events
  • Recommended Resources

Hi Everyone!

I’m very happy to be writing this from my office in Michigan, as opposed to being stuck on the East Coast where they experienced a major blizzard this past weekend.  I was in Connecticut and Rhode Island speaking last week, but managed to get on the last flight out of the Providence, RI airport before they shut down for the storm.  I felt very blessed to be able to spend the weekend and start this week at home rather than stuck in a hotel!  Those of you on the East Coast have just been getting hammered with bad weather these past few seasons.  Let’s hope that the Spring holds better news for all of you in the weather department!

My feature article today is about spending “unplugged” time together as a family.  Too often family members may be physically in the same place, but each individual is caught up in their own screen.  It is incredibly valuable and necessary to spend time together doing non-electronic activities.  For those of you in the schools, this matters for you as well.  I see too many kids spending their recess periods with their faces in a screen.  Use these times to promote physical activity and spending time together socially without electronics!

Make it a great week!

Looking to the horizon,

Unplugged Time Together

By Nicole Beurkens, PhD

Family eating dinner togetherIn a culture where our lives have become inundated with electronics, it is important for parents to teach children the value of spending “unplugged” time together.  Whether your children are toddler or teens, here are some simple electronics-free ideas you can implement to encourage the development of relationships, communication, and thinking skills:

  1. Play a game – Good old-fashioned board and card games provide excellent opportunities for building relationships, social skills, and problem solving abilities.  Dust off the checkers, deck of cards, or whatever other games you have at home, and have a blast playing together!

Click here to read the rest of this article…


My teenage daughter has severe sensory processing problems, and has never been able to brush her teeth well.  She gags at the smell or taste of mint, and we have been struggling to find any kind of brush that she can tolerate in her mouth long enough to clean her teeth.  She recognizes that this is a problem, as she had to have general anesthesia to fill numerous cavities less than a year ago.  Do you have any suggestions we could try to address this issue?

Thank you – Brenda in Grand Rapids, MI


Hi Brenda,

I can understand your concern over this, as dental health is an important part of overall health and wellness.  Having to undergo general anesthesia for dental work is definitely not something you or your daughter wants to be doing on a regular basis, I’m sure!  I have a few ideas that have worked with people in similar circumstances:

  1. Use a mint-free / flavorless toothpaste.  You can find an assortment of these at health food stores, online, or sometimes even in the regular toothpaste aisle.  I’ve had some patients would could tolerate the child toothpaste flavors of bubble gum or fruit, but others who cannot tolerate any type of flavoring.  Peelu and Squigle are two brands that offer tasteless options.
  2. Try using a mouthwash or rinse that is mint or flavor-free instead of a paste.  Sometimes people can tolerate swishing something in their mouths better than using a brush with paste.  You can look for options with Xylitol in them that provide additional protection again tooth decay.
  3. Instead of a toothbrush, she could try using a washcloth on her finger to run her teeth.  Another option that has worked for some people is a Toothette that is used in hospitals and other clinic settings for cleansing the mouth.  These can be ordered in mint-free varieties and are essentially a small sponge on the end of the stick.  The sponge can be used in the mouth to rub toothpaste on the teeth, or even alone or with a mouthwash if the paste is not well tolerated.
  4. The final piece of advice I have is to try to reduce sugar and artificial dye foods in her diet.  I realize this may be easier said than done, but the more she can eat healthier options the better off her teeth will be.  Drinking more water will also help to keep her mouth healthier, even if she’s not brushing often or well.

I hope some of these ideas are helpful.  Keep working at it until you find something that is successful, as dental health is important for overall wellness.

Take Care,
Dr. Beurkens

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Upcoming Events


Saturday March 9, 2013

We feel strongly that as part of our family-focused mission we need to attend to the needs of all of your children, not just the ones with disabilities. Siblings of children with autism or other disabilities have their own unique needs and experiences, and we will be using the renowned Sibshop model that is designed to provide them with support, education, and fun.

RESERVE YOUR SPOT TODAY by emailing our office info@horizonsdrc.comor by calling us at (616) 698-0306.


Hear Dr. Beurkens Speak

Upcoming dates and locations where Nicole Beurkens, PhD will be speaking:

Autism and Other Neurodevelopmental Disorders: Practical Strategies to Improve Processing

February 7, 2013 in Cromwell, CT

February 8, 2013 in Warwick, RI

April 10, 2013 in Tarrytown, NY

April 11, 2013 in Plainview, NY

April 12, 2013 in Manhattan, NY

Sibling Relationships of Children With Autism

February 21, 2013 from 6:30-7:30 PM at Kent ISD

Maintaining a Healthy Relationship With Each Other: Strategies for Couples

March 2, 2013 from 8:30-2:30 at Kent ISD


Do Something Daily Calendar

The Calendar offers a daily dose of inspiration and ideas for spending time together—whether you have 60 seconds or 60 minutes.

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