Monday, June 29, 2009

Brain Powered Mobility

Check out this video. Toyota has created a way to drive a motorized wheelchair using only brain waves. The wheelchair user wears a cap that sends brain scan signals to a computer which then steers the chair. Would love to see this tested on children. This would change lives! More info...

Moderately Preterm Babies, EI Services and School Age Function

Pediatrics reports in the current issue that children who were born at 32-36 weeks gestational age are at greater risk for special education services than full term children at 8 years of age. Of the 377 children studied who were moderately preterm (with no NICU care or congenital malformations), the special education rate was 7.2% compared to the general Dutch population of 2.8%. The 32-33 week gestational age group were at a significant risk for grade retention when compared to the 34-36 week gestational age group. The preterm children also exhibited more behavioural issues, ADHD characteristics and decreased attention. The researchers concluded that this group of children need to be monitored at a young age.

The June 2009 issue of Pediatrics reported on a study that indicated that preterm children (34-37 weeks gestational age) are two times more likely to be eligible for early intervention programs compared to full term children. Although, many physicians are not recommending services due to unacceptable screening tools. The researchers recommend that physicians lower their threshold for administering an acceptable screening tool such as the Ages and Stages Questionnaire.

van Baar, Anneloes L., Vermaas, John, Knots, Edwin, de Kleine, Martin J. K., Soons, Paul Functioning at School Age of Moderately Preterm Children Born at 32 to 36 Weeks' Gestational Age Pediatrics 2009 124: 251-257

Marks, Kevin, Hix-Small, Hollie, Clark, Kathy, Newman, Judy Lowering Developmental Screening Thresholds and Raising Quality Improvement for Preterm Children Pediatrics 2009 123: 1516-1523

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Video Activity Idea from New Book - Sidewalk Chalk Fun and Games

Your Therapy Source has just published a new book - Sidewalk Chalk Fun and Games. Here is a video of one of the activity ideas in the book. Get outdoors and enjoy this fun activity to encourage physical activity, gross motor skills and muscle strengtening in the hands. To order Sidewalk Chalk Fun and Games for only $4.99 visit

Friday, June 26, 2009


Summer is officially upon us. For some therapists, this means time off or reduced caseloads. If you are looking for some summer work (which I doubt you are but figured I would offer) how about plan a new, unique program to start up during the next school year. Maybe you have a special talent that you could teach to children. Perhaps you have a passion or hobby that you would like to share with others. Use the summer to plan the program so that it is ready to go in the Fall.

If you need some inspiration for specialized programs, here are some ideas to start for children of all abilities:

1. Digital arts program using assistive technology.
2. After school creativity club (explore arts, movement and music)
3. Physical activity club for preschoolers.
4. Bicycle riding club - plan group trips to parks, create lists of appropriate trails and more.
5. Movement and dance club - try ballet, hip hop, jazz, square dancing and more.
6. Outdoor club for children - explore parks, take hikes, plant gardens...
7. Drama club and produce a play or movie.
8. Healthy living club - encourage good nutrition and physical activity.
9. Video Game Work Outs - facilitate physical activity through the use of video games such as the Wii and Dance, Dance Revolution
10. Cooking Club - learn healthy recipes and a necessary life skill.

Now if you do have a great idea, how about applying for a grant. Grant money is available for almost anything imaginable if you look hard enough. Grants have different application deadlines each year and many have already past for this year. Perhaps some of your summer downtime could include preparing to submit a grant application for that special program you have always dreamed of running.

Grant writing takes a lot of preparation, time and energy. It can be an arduous task but with a great end result. Before you apply for a grant, make sure your program meets the requirements for the grant money. Most grants have specific guidelines for you to read prior to submitting your application. You will need to be very specific regarding: the goals of your program, how much money you need, how you will carry out the program and how you measure if it is effective. Keep in mind, most grants require that you submit the grant on behalf of a non profit organization.

If you do apply for a grant but get turned down, do not give up. Perhaps your program idea could be carried out by a group of volunteers. Parents and teachers may be more than willing to volunteer their time. High school and college students frequently need volunteer hours to for honor society membership, religious sacraments and college admissions. You may be able to get a local business to sponsor the activity with a donation in exchange for some advertising on t-shirts. Don't forget to check on insurance coverage for where you meet or ask parents to sign a waiver.

Have some more ideas to offer? Please leave your comments below.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Website for Life Skills

This website,, offers interactive lessons for daily life skills such as cooking, banking, shopping, schedules and more. The lessons allow learners to practice life skills to be successful in everyday life. This is definitely worth a look for any occupational therapist especially those that work with older children and young adults. Best part...all free!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

OT Blogs from Africa

OT Ghana 2009 is a a collection of blogs from an OT professor and several OT students who traveled to Ghana. They blog about the people they meet, the culture and of course OT. There are several student blogs on it as well. These are listed on the right side of the page. It is very impressive that they all took the time to share their knowledge. Sounds liked they all gained more from giving. Way to go! Thanks to @AOTAInc on Twitter for letting us know about this blog.

Monday, June 22, 2009

5 Unique Physical Activity Programs for Children with Disabilities

After writing many previous blog posts on the importance of physical activity in all children, I wanted to list some specialized programs for children with disabilities that encourage physical activity. These activities are not available everywhere but it does offer some suggestions of what you could be proactive in starting in your community.

Hippotherapy - this is obvious to most therapists but wanted to mention it anyway. The American Hippotherapy Association supports the use of equine movement to support therapy goals.

Adaptive Skiing - there are some well established adapted ski programs in all areas. Here is a website, Adaptive Ski and Sports Programs, that lists most of the facilities that offer adaptive skiing.

Sailing - The Heart of Sailing Foundation introduces sailing skills to children with disabilities.

Bicycle Riding - Lose the Training Wheels is a bike riding instructional program for children with disabilities.

Surfing - Surfers Healing is a free surfing camp for children with autism.

Do you know of more unique opportunities for encouraging physical activity in children with disabilities? Please add to the list in the comments section.

Early Physical Activity and Body Fat Mass

More and more research continues to be published supporting the idea that children need to be active. The benefits of physical activity are numerous. The American Journal of Preventive Medicine recently published research on early physical activity in young children and its effects on body fat mass. Boys and girls (333 children) physical activity levels were measured at age 5 and body fat mass was measured at age 5, 8 and 11. Moderate to vigorous physical activity at 5 years old was a predictor of body fat mass at 8 and 11 years of age in boys and girls.

Therapists need to continue to encourage all children to participate in physical activity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all children should participate in 60 minutes or more of physical activity. You do not need fancy or expensive equipment to encourage physical activity. Here are several suggestions to encourage unstructured physical activity in children:

1. Get outdoors whenever possible. Being outdoors usually creates movement automatically for children.
2. Stuck inside on a rainy day? Play freeze dance, musical chairs or create an indoor obstacle course.
3. Go bike riding.
4. Give children simple equipment to play with such a balls and jump ropes.
5. Walk to school, library or errands.
6. Plan a family outing such a hiking, swimming or boating. Active parents are excellent role models.
7. Visit a park with playground equipment.
8. Blow bubbles and chase them.
9. Run through the sprinkler, wade in a stream, jump in a kiddie pool or swim in a lake.
10. Plant a garden - digging, squatting and carrying watering cans is a work out.

Not only will children benefit from the physical activity you will be creating memories to last a lifetime.

Need more activities? Check out all of our titles that encourage sensory motor skill development.

References: Kathleen F. Janz EdDa, b, , , Soyang Kwon MSb, Elena M. Letuchy MSb, Julie M. Eichenberger Gilmore PhDc, Trudy L. Burns MPH, PhDb, d, James C. Torner PhDb, Marcia C. Willing PhD, MDd and Steven M. Levy MPH, DDSb, Sustained Effect of Early Physical Activity on Body Fat Mass in Older Children American Journal of Preventive Medicine Volume 37, Issue 1, July 2009, Pages 35-40

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Management of Congenital Hemiplegia

The current issue of Pediatrics has published a systemic review on the therapeutic management of congenital hemiplegia in children. Twelve studies and 7 systemic reviews were analyzed. Intramuscular Botox A injections and occupational therapy, neurodevelopmental therapy and casting, constraint induced movement therapy, and hand arm bi-manual intensive training all showed small to medium treatment effects. There were large treatment effects from the botox A injections and upper limb training.

Reference: Sakzewski, Leanne, Ziviani, Jenny, Boyd, Roslyn
Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Therapeutic Management of Upper-Limb Dysfunction in Children With Congenital Hemiplegia
Pediatrics 2009 123: e1111-e1122

Friday, June 19, 2009

Self Regulation Activities

A previous article discussed recent research on self regulation in children as a predictor of academic abilities. The researchers, Megan McClelland, Ph.D., Associate Professor Human Development and Family Sciences, and her student, Shauna Tominey, have allowed us to share the activities that they are working on developing to facilitate self regulation skills. The activities are still being developed and are currently being tested for their effectiveness in improving self-regulation. Thus, there are not any definitive claims about the effectiveness of the games in improving self-regulation at this point. Thank you very much to Dr. Megan McClelland and Shauna Tominey for sharing this resource!

Kindergarten Readiness Study Games

Here is a description of the games played in our study. These games were designed to help children practice paying attention, following directions, remembering rules, and demonstrating self-control.

Red Light, Purple Light. Like Red Light, Green Light, a teacher acted as a “stop light” by standing at the opposite end of the room from the children. The “stop light” held up different colors to represent stop and go. We used different colors, such as purple for “go” and orange for “stop” and then did the opposite. We also used different shapes to represent stop and go. For example a yellow square for “go,” but a yellow triangle was “stop.” Children also had a turn being the stop light!

The Freeze Game. Children and teachers danced to music. When the teacher stopped the music, everyone froze. We used slow and fast songs and had children dance slowly to slow songs and quickly to fast songs. Once children mastered these skills, children tried moving to opposite cues: children tried to remember to dance quickly to the slow songs and slowly to the fast songs!

Cooperative Freeze. Related to the Freeze Game, when the music stopped, children found a mat to stand on and froze. Teachers removed mats so that children had to cooperate with one another to find a space for everyone on fewer mats. We also taped different colored paper to each mat. When the music stopped, a teacher held up a specific color and children stood on the mat with the matching color.

Sleeping, Sleeping, All the Children are Sleeping. Children pretended to sleep when the circle leader sang, “Sleeping, sleeping, all the children are sleeping.” Once children were pretending to sleep, the circle leader said, “And when they woke up… they were [monkeys]!” Children woke up and pretended to act like monkeys. The circle leader then repeated the song and suggested other animals. Children who were pretending to sleep were called on to give suggestions for other animals. We made this more complicated by showing 3 different colored circles (ex: red, blue, purple). On the red circle was a picture of a snake, on the blue circle was a picture of a butterfly and there was no animal on the purple circle. When it was time to wake up, the circle leader pointed to one of the circles and the children acted out the animal on that circle. Pointing to the purple circle (the circle with no picture) allowed the leader to choose any animal. After a few rounds, we removed the pictures and children had to remember what animal was on each circle.

Conducting an Orchestra. Every child used a musical instrument. The circle leader used a drum stick as a conducting baton. When the conductor waved the baton, children played their instruments. When the conductor put the baton down, children stopped. Children played their instruments quickly when the baton moved quickly and slowly when the baton moved slowly. Children were also asked to respond to opposite cues. For example, when the conductor waved the baton, children stopped playing their instruments and when the conductor set the baton down, children played their instruments.

Drum Beats. Teachers used drum beats to represent different actions that children can do while sitting (e.g., clapping or stomping) or while moving around the room (e.g., walking or dancing). For example, children walked quickly to fast drumming, slowly to slow drumming, and froze when the drumming stopped. Teachers also asked children to respond to opposite cues (walk slowly to fast drum beats and quickly to slow drum beats). Teachers also associated different actions with specific drum cues. For example, slow drumming meant stomping feet and fast drumming meant jumping jacks.


Tominey, S. & McClelland, M. (2009). Red light, purple light: Initial findings from an intervention to improve self-regulation over the pre-kindergarten year. Manuscript in preparation.

Tominey, S. & McClelland, M. (April, 2008). “And when they woke up, they were monkeys!” Using classroom games to promote preschooler’s self-regulation and school readiness. Poster presented at the Conference on Human Development in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Pet Therapy and Sensory Processing Disorder

There are many benefits to animal assisted therapy for children with special needs. Hippotherapy is one of the most common therapies we hear of but there are plenty of other animals involved in this caring therapy. Here is a link to an informative video of the use of animal assisted therapy for children with sensory processing disorder. Click on the video entitled Dream Catcher.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

5 Ways to Get the Most Out of a Therapy Session

Pediatric therapy sessions last for only a short period of time. A common frequency of pediatric therapy is visit per week for a 30 minute sessions. It is very difficult to make substantial change during 30 minutes. Therefore, during each therapy session, therapists should be offering carry over of skills to the classroom and home. Here are 5 ways to get the most out of a therapy session:

1. Teach strategies that are appropriate for the child's level and the care giver's level. Certain techniques require several teaching lessons for an adult care giver. In addition, once a technique is taught do not forget to review it in the future.

2. Children learn new skills through multiple practice sessions. Offer suggestions on how specific skills can be practiced over and over during the course of a regular day.

3. Provide visual directions and hand outs that offer more information on specific techniques or activities. This can provide predictability for the children and review for the adults.

4. Be very specific on your expectations and suggestions by setting realistic goals for the week until the next visit. Teachers and parents have other children that they are responsible for on a daily basis. Make sure the goals set are achievable. For example, "Johnny will practice putting his shoes on at least one time per day each day this week".

5. Remember to allow children to be children. This might sound obvious but children enjoy playing and having fun. Boring tasks may result in non compliance or behavioural issues. Keep practice tasks fun and novel. Vary tasks when able and allow children to choose what activities to practice. Act like a child yourself and you may get better results. Follow the child's lead. You may land up learning more than the child.

For simple activities to carry out throughout the day check out Therapeutic Activities for Home and School.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Plan a Therapy Talent Show!

Why not try something different for the end of this school year or for during the summer programming? Plan a therapy skills show. Students can exhibit the skills that they learned in therapy over the school year to teachers, classmates and parents. Maybe showcase how to use a new piece of assistive technology or adapted equipment. Perhaps a child would like to demonstrate how they learned to cut out objects, walk across the room or drive his/her wheelchair up a ramp. Each act can just be a few minutes long. This would be a great self esteem boost for the children to show off what they have learned.

If you are working at a school don't forget all the important steps to plan an event.
1. Request permission from school administrators
2. Schedule a convenient time and reserve auditorium
3. Ask for volunteers to help the day of the show
4. Make flyers to invite teachers, students and parents
5. Create a program to pass out the day of the show

Don’t have time to plan a show? Have the children complete the following statement and hang their responses on a bulletin board or make a digital slide show of the results - “The most important skill I have learned in therapy is.....”. Schedule a time for the entire school to view the slide show to promote how therapy can help children.

Friday, June 12, 2009

5 Fun Physical Activities to do for National Get Outdoors Day!

Tomorrow is National Get Outdoors Day (June 13, 2009). Here are 5 fun activities to do with children outdoors.

1. Go to the playground - go visit a local playground and explore all
the climbing equipment, swings and slides. Supervise and assist
your child as necessary. Sometimes all a child needs is some
verbal reminders of how to use the equipment such as “try moving
your foot to the next ladder”. If your child is fearful of
movement, let him explore at his own pace. If your child has
decreased safety awareness, review all playground rules before
play and supervise closely.

2. Hit the pool or lake - Swimming is a wonderful fitness activity
for all levels. It is a great way to strengthen muscles and improve
overall endurance. Practice balance and jumping skills in the
water, it makes it fun if you do fall!

3. Take a hike - Go on an adventure in the woods. Look for hiking trails appropriate for children - level and smooth. Many trails that are handicap accessible are perfect walking trails for younger children. Create a list of things to look for on your hike such as three birds, one squirrel, turtle, yellow leaf, etc. See how many you can find.

4. Play games in the yard - Here are several fun games for the backyard:
Scavenger Hunt - ask your child to find three things in the yard such as brown leaf, green leaf and white rock and bring in back within one minute.

Green Hunt - cut up green construction paper into one inch by 8 inch strips. Hide the green paper strips in the grass. The child must find all the strips that you have

Bubbles, Bubbles, Bubbles - practice blowing bubbles and chasing them. Blow bubbles, catch it on wand and child can clap or kick the bubble to pop it.

Sidewalk Chalk Games - Hopscotch is always a great physical activity to practice jumping, bilateral coordination and motor planning. Draw long, twisty lines with the
chalk and child can try to walk on line without stepping off.

Ball games - play catch with a different sized balls, beach balls or even better water balloons. Practice dribbling a ball with your feet - use a beach ball or balloon for easier control to start.

5. Go letterboxing - Visit to read clues to hidden boxes near your home. Follow the directions to the hidden boxes (usually on hiking trails, in parks and on bike paths). Once you find the box, open it to find a stamp. Stamp the image in a small notebook and you sign into the log book. This is great fun for all ages!


Check out Sensory Motor Activities for the Summer.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Fine Motor, Gross Motor and Visual Perceptual Activity

Here is a video of a fun outdoor activity idea, Create, Hide and Lace, that encourages fine motor, gross motor and visual perceptual skills. The children can create paper circles, hide them outdoors and run to lace them on the ribbon. Looking for more sensory motor ideas? Try these electronic books:

Motor Magic: Turn Fine Motor Skills into Gross Motor Skills
Get Up and Learn: Incorporating Movement with Learning
50 Sensory Motor Activities for Kids!
$ensory Motor Fun on a Budget

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Self Regulation as a Predictor of Academic Abilities

Self regulation is the ability of a person to tolerate sensations, situations and distress and form appropriate responses to that sensory input. Simply stated, it is the ability to control behavior. In children, self regulation matures just like other developmental processes. Children get older and learn to think before they act. Research continues to develop in this area of self regulation and how much it effects other aspects of development. A recent article in Developmental Psychology reports that self regulation in children is a predictor of academic abilities. The researchers used the Head-Toes-Knees-Shoulders Task (HTKS) to evaluate 343 kindergartners ability to self regulate. The HTKS task measures the ability to listen, remember instructions and follow motor commands. It does not measure emotional responses. Children with higher levels of self regulation in the beginning of the school year achieved higher scores in reading, vocabulary and math at the end of the school year. The researchers concluded that improving self regulation in children can improve academic achievement and behavioral responses.

Now, for any therapist, teacher or parent who has knowledge of sensory integration knows how much deficits in self regulation effect behaviours, social skills and motor responses. We need to continue to educate school staff on the importance of this skill be developed in all children. Pre-kindergarten and kindergarten curriculum has changed it's focus to reading, writing and math skills at an earlier age. There is not enough practice time to learn self regulation during these early formative years. Now it appears as if this hard core academic curriculum in the early years needs to slow down. This study provides significant evidence to support teaching self regulation skills.

Here are 5 simple tips to encourage self regulation in all children:
1. Therapists, teachers and parents should model good self regulation and self control. Use a calm tone in stressful situations. Model self control during disruptive classroom or home time.
2. Partner children who lack self regulation with children who exhibit better control to act as appropriate role models.
3. Play fun games that require children to wait for directions before they act (i.e. Simon Says).
4. Play fun games that require turn taking.
5. Keep activities structured and predictable.

Something to ponder for OT's - Do you find that the majority of children with sensory modulation disorder exhibit deficits in all aspects of academic achievement? Does anyone know of any research on this topic? Would love to read it. Please comment.

References: Ponitz, Claire Cameron; McClelland, Megan M.; Matthews, J. S.; Morrison, Frederick J. A structured observation of behavioral self-regulation and its contribution to kindergarten outcomes. Developmental Psychology. Vol 45(3), May 2009, 605-619.

Oregon State University (2009, June 9). Self-regulation Game Predicts Kindergarten Achievement. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 9, 2009, from­ /releases/2009/06/090608162547.htm

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Free Communication on the Go

Came across this website with free communication software downloads for smart phones and PDA's (personal digital assistant) for autistic children. According to the website, it has been developed by a team of researchers and funded partially by Microsoft. It is meant to be used with young children or children with severe autism. You download the software of the picture images to your computer and it can then be transferred to a PDA or smart phone. Once on the PDA or Smart Phone the pictures can be moved around on the touch screen to create sentences. There are more than 400 picture cards that can be downloaded for home and school use. You can even upload your own photos. Another additional bonus, is that parents, teachers and therapists can track what symbols are being used to gather data on what is working. There is one catch though - the PDA or smart phone has to be able to run the Microsoft Mobile Windows operating system (therefore no Blackberries or Palm). Visit www.communication for more information and to get the free downloads.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Family TV Watching and Autism

I came across this article on TV watching and autism on Twitter from @cozycalm. Eileen Parker is owner of Cozy Calm Weighted Blanket Store. I really enjoyed reading this article because it is written from her own experiences (she has SPD, high functioning autism and OCD). Her blog offers interesting reading and helpful tips. She has given us permission to reprint her blog post here on this topic. In my opinion, this article offers some great suggestions for parents and therapists (to pass this info along). Thanks, Eileen Parker for your insight and helpful information.

Family TV Watching and Autism
By: Eileen Parker on May 8, 2009.

You can help your child with autism lower their stress level with some simple rules about family TV watching.

As a child and now an adult with autism and sensory processing disorder, I know that TV can be stressful to the point of jumping, tears, anger, confusion, and other reactions. As an adult, I have learned to contain some of my reaction in front of others, but children don’t necessarily have that regulation built in yet. Also, while watching TV, I will start to feel upset. I often don’t realize what is bothering me early on, but I have learned to identify my own signs.

When my hubby and his kids are talking and watching sports, I have to leave the room, close the door, and go away because my aggravation from the sound continues to elevate until it boils.

A child may not know that they can leave the room to a quieter place. A family member may even tell the child to stay in that room or the TV may be audible throughout the house, so the child has no escape from the sound. With the noises from the TV, the child’s irritability can climb all day.

Here are some TV rules that could make your child’s life much more relaxed:

1. No talking while the TV is on. More than one source of sound is not merely aggravating; it feels like a hurt in the brain.
2. Mute the commercials. The sudden jarring sound of a blasting commercial bashing into the ears can make your child jump, sweat, breathe fast, or make sounds.
3. If your TV has the capability, lower the treble. The higher register noises are more painful.
4. Put the TV in an enclosed room and close the door so your child does not have to hear it.
5. If you are not watching the TV, turn it off.
6. Have your child look away from the screen during commercials so the fast-moving visual stimuli don’t make it worse.
7. Turn the volume down.
8. Learn to make TV more bearable for your child by doing a brushing protocol first. Your child can also lie under a weighted blanket while watching TV.

Visit to view her blog or go to to check out her weighted blankets.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Can you name one simple activity that encourages 6 developmental skills?

The answer is...MUSIC! Most children love to listen and dance to music. Music and dance are a great avenue to promote motor skills, listening skills and sensory processing skills. There are few movement activities that incorporate all of the 7 senses with minimal to no preparation. Therapists, parents and teachers love how easy it is to carry out simple movements to music using interactive songs. All the adult has to do is simply turn the therapeutic music on and the fun begins. This type of fun encourages:
1. Sensory Processing Skills - Children have to use their auditory sense to listen to the directions. Children model other children in the room therefore using their visual sense. The proprioceptive and vestibular system are activated while jumping and spinning. Don't forget the tactile sense - touching hands to knees, dancing in bare feet, etc.
2. Motor Learning - Children learn gross motor skills through practice. Through the use of interactive songs, the children have opportunities to listen, follow directions and move over and over again.
3. Socialization - Children are able to play together while dancing to the music.
4. Learning - Children can learn how to follow multiple step directions.
5. Motivation - Music is motivating and fun!
6. Positive behavior - Interactive songs usually have structure and a routine. Children are able to know what to expect.

Therefore, here is one activity that covers many developmental areas all by just pressing the play button. It does not get any easier than that!

We have a nice selection of interactive songs available at Your Therapy Source.

Tuned Into Learning has created music with simplified song lyrics, simplified instructions and additioanl response time. Children with autism will really learn and enjoy the specialized songs and visual cues from Tuned Into Learning.
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