Is it just picky eating?!

Have you ever questioned if your child is just being a picky eater?  Do you have to prepare multiple meals in order to have everyone in your family eat?  Have you ever felt frustrated or overwhelmed that your child’s friends will eat anything, while your child refuses to eat certain foods or demonstrates brand loyalty preferences?  You are not alone.  And while it may just look like behavior, there may actually be other concerns that are causing your child to gag, spit out, or refuse foods.  What is actually happening, and does feeding therapy help?

Both speech and occupational therapists can address feeding and eating concerns, and often work together to assess the physical, emotional, behavioral, sensory, and social skills and habits that are involved with feeding and eating daily routines.  Feeding therapy involves a speech therapist or occupational therapist that looks at the various steps required for preparing and completing feeding and eating.  Age, developmental milestones, allergies, food sensitivities, gross and fine motor skills, self-feeding skills, oral motor skills, sensory motor skills, and typical feeding patterns, preferences, prior experience, and routines are all important factors that are analyzed by the therapist to determine and differentiate between anticipated, normal development patterns compared to unanticipated patterns of behavior that may be a concern for your infant or child.

Speech and occupational therapists are knowledgeable and well-trained on the typical developmental milestones from birth throughout adulthood, with specialized training and understanding of the incremental changes that occur from infancy to childhood.  Many children that demonstrate habits of a picky eater often have difficulty managing feeding on certain types of foods based on taste, texture, size, and the way the food is broken down and manipulated in their mouths before they ever even swallow.  Oral motor skills, meaning the way the muscles of the mouth and tongue work together to break down foods and swallow, require a high level of coordination, strength, and endurance that typically develops without someone ever thinking about this development occurring.  However, for many picky eaters, there is often an aspect regarding feeding that they find difficult to manage, whether it is taste, texture, the size, or how it moves inside their mouths.  When this break down occurs, our children refuse foods, and we often unintentionally reinforce this behavior by pressuring our children to eat and accept these foods.

So, what can we do if we cannot get our children to eat certain foods, and when we insist that they do they gag or refuse?  Well, what do our children do best? Play!  Yes, play is the most natural way to learn and try out new skills and reinforce desired behaviors!  Here are a few tips to try with your picky eater!

  • Use your fingers. Try finger painting with sauces, puddings, jello.  Allow your child to get messy and feel comfortable around new foods.
  • Through play, touch and explore the food. Poke. Kiss. Lick. Bite. If the child is uncertain he is ready to chew, let the child spit the food out.
  • Slowly encourage more exploration before letting the child refuse the food.
  • Provide a spot for the child to remove the uncertain food to know he or she is done with it. In therapy, we provide a cup or bowl and deem it the “all done” bowl.
  • Use positive reinforcement to encourage and facilitate participation in food exploration.
  • If the child refuses to sit at the table, start with food and sensory play on the floor, building trust to gain access to participating, and eventually eating, at the table.


While these are general tips and ideas for anyone to try with a child that may be a picky eater, there are many other issues that may occur that are causing your child to be unable to tolerate eating certain types of foods.  If you or a loved one has concerns regarding a child’s ability to eat, it is best to reach out to your pediatrician to discuss concerns related to feeding and eating.  Physicians often request referrals to specialists to help address concerns related to feeding and eating, including dietitians, nutritionists, speech therapists, and occupational therapists.  If you are a reader and have any questions regarding this blog, please contact us via e-mail at today!

The Therapeutic Benefits of Nature – How nature helps with therapy

Little girl in pink jumping into large puddle at end of hill, with house on top of hill.

Whether someone is a child or an adult, interactions with nature enhance overall health and well-being.  At Nature’s Edge Therapy Center, we believe that participating and engaging in nature is beneficial and vital for a person’s overall mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health.  As such, nature becomes an important aspect of how we provide our treatment services.  But what are the aspects of nature that benefit our patients (and ourselves) so much?

Young boy in dark shirt eating berry in front of vegetable and fruit garden.


Nature – A Perfect Balance

Nature provides a perfect balance of sensory experiences that stimulate our senses naturally, without overwhelming us, while promoting feelings of enhanced well-being.  Nature landscapes provide engaging environments for our many sensory systems, including sound, sight, touch, taste, smell, and movement.  While our playgrounds, stores, and movie theaters may provide engaging sights and sounds, these man-made environments often overstimulate or deprive us of certain senses our bodies rely on for the best interpretation of and engagement in what is going on around us.  Nature offers a balance of colors, smells, and sounds that produce an automatic calming response to our nervous systems, allowing us to feel relaxed and engaged in the present moment.  It provides a sense of calm and ease that both children and adults alike seek to experience.


Young girl in pink and young boy in green bending down to pet black pot-belly pig in green field.

Nature – The Right Environment

Nature provides the right type of environment to foster (and maintain) health and well-being.  For children, nature provides a perfectly balanced landscape to help them develop appropriate fine and gross motor skills, language skills, emotional regulation skills, and learn how to navigate social and cognitive skills.  Just by exploring and playing in nature, a child develops and engages their nervous system pathways. Their bodies learn how to interpret various sensations that improve strength, endurance, coordination and balance.  Without this exposure and engagement, a child does not learn how to self-modulate and control surrounding sensory information, making participation and mastery over daily life skills difficult.  When children are not given enough time to engage, move, and play in nature, we notice that these children may have difficulty focusing on daily life tasks, may not be able to express or understand their emotions or needs, may have a hard time staying engaged, and may not understand how to control themselves or how to interact with others.  This can also be true for adults, when deprived of the richness of nature.  Decreased mental and physical health and well-being are often reported for adults that do not get to spend adequate amounts of time engaged in nature.


At Nature’s Edge, we frequently hear reports from our program participants and patients that they are thankful for the opportunity to spend time out in nature.  Many patients that have not had previous success meeting therapy goals at indoor medical clinics have thrived under this model of care that incorporates the vast richness of nature.  Nature stimulates multiple senses simultaneously, providing as a direct result intentional engagement and presence that is both motivating and vital for success in therapy.

Check out these photos of our therapy clinic and how motivating nature is to promote overall health and well-being!











Come Run With Us! 2nd Annual “Running the Edge” 5K Trail Run/Walk — Sept. 14, 2019

Less than three months out — “Running the Edge” at Nature’s Edge on September 14

If you love the exhilaration and challenge of running through field and woods and up and down hills on a crisp Fall morning, this 5K race is for you!  But it’s more than just that . . .

If you love a professionally timed race where you’re running for place or if you love a run/walk where you choose your pace and just enjoy being out in nature, this event is for you! But it’s still more than that . . .

If you love giving a helping hand to others who have very real needs, this 5k run is especially for you!

Calling all runners, walkers and teams of all ages!

Please register for the “Running the Edge” 5K Trail Run/Walk which takes off on Saturday morning, September 14, at 9 a.m.! Here’s the link to the online event registration site:

A 1/2 Mile Kids Fun Run for runners 12 years old and younger takes places at 8:30 a.m. on the same morning.  Register here:  All participants receive a race swag bag and T-shirt, and all finishers receive a medal.

“Running the Edge” — Hosted on the Nature’s Edge 65-acre ranch

  • We host the “Running the Edge” event right at Nature’s Edge because this 5K course that runs the perimeter of the Nature’s Edge ranch is an unusual, exceptional, breathtaking (yes, those hills can take your breath away!) and exhilarating  run.
  • We also host it onsite at Nature’s Edge because it’s a race with a great purpose!  “Running the Edge” 5K Run/Walk is all about benefitting patients with disabilities who receive therapy at Nature’s Edge.  Every registration fee and all business sponsorships beyond the expenses of the race are designated to therapy scholarships for Nature’s Edge patients with financial need.  That means that patients who need therapy but can’t afford it have the financial obstacles removed through scholarships and are able to receive therapy.
  • We host “Running the Edge” at the Nature’s Edge ranch because when you’re out here to run or watch the 5K and Kids Fun Run, you also have the opportunity to see the Nature’s Edge facilities and terrain, to meet some of our staff, therapists and therapy animals, and to get a feel for the therapy work that we do.

It was Nature’s Edge staff that first dreamed up “Running the Edge.”  Several of our staff are runners who compete in area events. Recognizing the potential for a great cross-country trail run on the Nature’s Edge ranch and the possibility to grow an event that could raise funds to help patients overcome financial barriers, they did the work to plan and launch the 5K, which included carving out much of the 5K trail!  September 14th is our 2nd annual run.  We’d love to see at least 100 runners out to support this great cause!  Come on out and run with us!

All runners are encouraged to consider increasing the fund-raising reach of the 5K event by seeking pledges from friends and acquaintances for “Running the Edge.”  Pledge sheets will be mailed out to all registrants and are also available on the Nature’s Edge website.

Finish line photos will be taken and metals awarded to all finishers.  Prizes for the fastest male and female runner, as well as medals for age categories and the fastest two teams will be awarded.  The fastest boy and girl from the ½ Mile Kids Fun Run will also receive prizes.  The registration desk opens at 7 a.m. on race day and same-day registration will be available.  An awards ceremony will be held at 10:15 a.m.  The Nature’s Edge barn will be open with several therapy animals and horses in stalls, a DJ will be onsite, and Surge healthy shakes will be available for purchase.

Mark September 14 on your calendar for “Running the Edge,” and let’s meet up at Nature’s Edge for a great run!


H is for Hippos?! Exploring Hippotherapy

Have you ever wondered what in the world hippos have to do therapy?! I mean, we are talking about “hippotherapy” after all, right?  While the term makes it sound as though hippos are receiving therapy, the word could not mean anything further from it.  Hippotherapy does not involving hippos, nor does it involve counseling services.

Hippotherapy derives from the Latin word “hippo”, which means horse.  Wait…what?  So you mean hippotherapy is actually “horse therapy”, like riding horses?  The truth is hippotherapy is vastly different than just riding a horse or adaptive riding!  Hippotherapy is a very effective, medically skilled treatment strategy that can only be utilized by trained speech, occupational, and physical therapies for a patient’s plan of care.  Patients that experience hippotherapy strategies during therapy sessions do not need to have any prior experience riding a horse!  In fact, the more novel the experience is to the patient, the better the results can be.

So what is it about this experience with the horse that makes this treatment strategy so unique and powerful?  The horse, an incredibly powerful animal, is specially trained and schooled by horse handlers to generate purposeful movement.  Under the direction of the trained therapist, the horse handler directs the horse to manipulate their movement, addressing problems experienced by the patient and assisting in generating long-term functional outcomes.

But how?  The horse has a similarly structured pelvis as an adult human (just positioned differently), replicating the movement that a person would normally experience while walking without requiring the person to complete any standing or walking.

The horse’s movement simulates the movements a person needs to walk, but the horse is able to provide these movement impulses to a person astride a horse at a higher interval rate while remaining rhythmic, repetitive, symmetrical, and predictable, allowing up to ~3000 steps within 30 minutes (much more movement than walking exercises or therapy balls).  By manipulating the horse’s movements, a therapist can address multiple treatment area concerns for a patient related to both the human and environmental systems.  In short, hippotherapy is used as a treatment strategy to influence how a patient experiences his/her surrounding environment and to    improve/organize the patient’s own human systems, including motor, musculoskeletal, nervous, limbic, respiratory, circulatory, and sensory systems.

Such an amazing and powerful animal cannot be caught doing any horse play; this job is serious work!  Check out pictures of  Valebu (a Norwegian Fjord) and Svali (an Icelandic) hard at work helping our therapy friends below!


For more questions on who may benefit from using hippotherapy, please follow our link:

Speech, Occupational and Physical Therapy Innovative Treatment Methods

Hippotherapy: Takes place in a controlled setting, using activities on and with the horse to provide sensory input that elicits adaptive responses from the patient.

Horticulture therapy: Uses an appreciation of nature and gardening in a therapy session.

Animal-assisted therapy: Utilizes animals as part of a therapy session to accelerate progress and promote the human-animal bond.

"Evening in Elegance" Gala! Save the Date!

Nature’s Edge Therapy Center presents their
“Evening in Elegance” Gala
An Annual Fundraising Event
January 19, 2018

A warm & enchanted winter evening!
Nature’s Edge Therapy Center
cordially invites you to its
2018 “Evening in Elegance” Gala
An Annual Fundraising Event
Held on Friday evening, January 19, 2018, at the Rice Lake Elks Club
5:30 p.m. — Hors d’oeuvres and Social Hour
6:30 p.m. Dinner — Choice of Prime Rib,
Boneless Chicken Breast or Vegetarian Entree
Silent, Live and Delicious Desserts auctions with dozens of select items held throughout the evening!
9-11:30 p.m. –Dancing with the
Dean’s List Orchestra
Ticket Price is $50 per person
Invitation, R.S.V.P., and travel directions are available on our website

Rice Lake Community Health Foundation awards matching funds grant for patient scholarships to Nature’s Edge

IMG_0506Nature’s Edge Therapy Center has been awarded a $20,000 matching grant from the Rice Lake Community Health Foundation (RLCHF), designated for patient scholarships for therapy sessions.  Each eligible patient may receive up to 12 treatment sessions funded by the RLCHF grant.  The Foundation will disburse grant funding to Nature’s Edge for scholarship distribution as it is matched by contributions designated for Nature’s Edge.  Donors are invited to contribute to the Nature’s Edge match.
The RLCHF grant award provides an exceptional opportunity for patients with financial need to receive therapy at Nature’s Edge.  At Nature’s Edge, therapists focus on the development of skills necessary for each patient to achieve the highest possible level of independence and integration into school, family and society.  Incorporating the natural setting, therapy animals and especially horses into treatment motivates and accelerates progress.  Through the generosity and partnership of RLCHF and Nature’s Edge donors, this scholarship opportunity is available for patients.

Contribute to this match! Your gift will be matched at 150% . . .
Please consider making a donation to match the $20,000 grant.  Through the generosity of the Foundation, the entire $20,000 scholarship package comes to Nature’s Edge to assist patients for only $13,333 of contributions to be raised, because RLCHF has agreed to match $1.50 for every dollar designated to Nature’s Edge.  Every dollar that you contribute becomes $2.50 for someone waiting for therapy.  Write out your contribution to RLCHF (Rice Lake Community Health Foundation) and indicate “Nature’s Edge” on the memo line for patients to receive scholarships.  Checks can be mailed to Nature’s Edge, 2523 14 3/4 Ave., Rice Lake, WI  54868.  Your generosity places scholarships into the hands of patients who need them at Nature’s Edge.

At Nature’s Edge, licensed and certified therapists combine conventional treatment methods with innovative techniques such as hippotherapy (the horse as a treatment tool), animal-assisted therapy and horticulture therapy.  Treatment is provided on the Nature’s Edge 65-acre ranch, a natural setting that includes forest, field, river and hills and is home to 26 therapy animals available for inclusion in treatment sessions.  Therapists at Nature’s Edge treat a wide spectrum of disabilities while specializing in the treatment of autism, brain injury and cerebral palsy.

RLCHF Awards NETC Matching Grant

We are honored to announce that the Rice Lake Community Health Foundation (RLCHF) has generously awarded Nature’s Edge a matching grant of $20,000 designated to patient scholarships. This matching grant has the potential to benefit at least 11 patients with 12 therapy sessions each at no cost. The award of the $20,000 matching grant is a huge leap of progress, but it is “Step One” in a two-step process. In order to secure $20,000 of scholarships for our patients, Nature’s Edge donors must contribute matching funds. However, the match for every donation is better than dollar-for-dollar! RLCHF is offering to match every $1 contributed by our donors with $1.50 of scholarship funds. To bring home the entire $20,000 scholarship package, Nature’s Edge Therapy Center must raise $13,333. RLCHF is prepared to begin distribution of matching funds as of September 15, 2017. My special request to you is to respond as generously and quickly as possible with a donation so that we can begin to distribute scholarships to our patients right after Sept. 15! 

Community invited to Nature’s Edge on Sept. 9 to meet therapy horse won by Facebook votes

Nature’s Edge Therapy Center is hosting an Open House Celebration on Saturday, September 9, as a thank you to the community for their votes which helped to win Chloe, a Gypsy Vanner mare, during the LexLin Ranch “Gypsy Gift Horse” Facebook voting contest held earlier this year from April-June. The Open House Celebration will be held from Noon-3 p.m. at the Nature’s Edge ranch, 2523 14 ¾ Ave., Rice Lake. The community is cordially invited to meet Chloe “The Pale-Faced Mare” and to enjoy a complimentary lunch of pulled pork sandwiches, chips, Rootbeer and dessert. Adam Hutton of WJMC will be MC for the event. Presentations are scheduled during the afternoon, including Keith Dawson representing Thrivent Financial, a major sponsor of the event; Josy Wood, horse trainer for Nature’s Edge, who will demonstrate in the arena her training approach to horse handling; and Dr. Rebecca Blotz of Chetek Veterinary Clinic.
Chloe, the Gypsy Vanner horse that was donated to Nature’s Edge by LexLin Gypsy IMG_0015Ranch, was won with 11,790 Facebook votes. Voters cast votes via Facebook or by email daily during the 60-day voting period. The Gypsy Vanner horse, because of its engaging temperament, its strength, intelligence and movement, is ideal for therapy. Becky Payne, director of Nature’s Edge, and Barb Flouro, member of the Board of Directors of Nature’s Edge, received Chloe at the Passing of the Lead Ceremony at LexLin Ranch in Rockwood, TN, on July 21. Chloe will be presented to the community at the Open House with stablemate, Simba, also a Gypsy Vanner purchased from LexLin in January.
The Open House Celebration is sponsored free of charge to the community. Sponsors for the event include LexLin Gypsy Ranch, Thrivent Financial, Rice Lake Chronotype, WJMC, Cookin’ Up A Storm, Schilling Company, Reds in Chetek, Barron Bakery, Main Street Café, Brion’s Smokehouse Deli, Culligan of Rice Lake, Frito Lay and Village Hearth. Donations to Nature’s Edge will be accepted. For more information, call Nature’s Edge at 715-859-6670 or visit their website at