Monday, November 30, 2009

Sensory Motor Countdown to the Holidays

Here is a twist on the usual countdown to the holidays. This calender for December includes gross motor and fine motor activities for each day leading up to the holiday season. You can get a printable version at Your Therapy Source. Print it out and give to parents or hang up in your home to get children's hands and feet moving during this holiday season. There is a pattern to the calender - gross motor followed by fine motor. Some activities are outdoors. If the weather does not cooperate, just switch a fine motor day for a gross motor day.

Dec. 1: Talk a walk outdoors. Find at least 5 types of fir trees or bushes.

Dec 2: Create your own handmade holiday cards to mail to family and friends.

Dec 3: Go on a hunt and find objects that begin with each letter in the work HOLIDAY.

Dec 4: Use play clay to create a snowman and a holiday tree.

Dec 5: Use rolled up socks to create pretend snowballs. Have a snowball fight.

Dec 6: Play with red and green colored water in the sink or sensory table.

Dec 7: Decorate a tree outdoors with some popcorn garland that you have made.

Dec 8: Knead, roll and bake your favorite holiday bread.

Dec 9: Talk a walk and collect pines cones, acorns or rocks.

Dec 10: Put glue and glitter on pine cones and rocks. Place in bowl as center piece on table.

Dec 11: Go outdoors. Pretend to float like a snowflake and make pretend snow angels.

Dec 12: Make a miniature snowman using marshmallows and toothpicks.

Dec 13: Make you body into holiday shapes such as a tree, snowman, angel and candy cane.

Dec 14: Cut out paper snowflakes and hang in your home.

Dec 15: Put paper plates under your feet and pretend to ice skate.

Dec 16: Paint a holiday tree. Glue on small balls of tissue paper as ornaments.

Dec 17: Turn on holiday music and dance.

Dec 18: Create a paper chain with red and green paper. Hang up as a decoration.

Dec 19: Take a walk outdoors. Find 5 green objects and 5 red objects.

Dec 20: Cut up old holiday cards or pictures into puzzles.

Dec 21: Go caroling. Walk around your neighborhood and sing holiday songs.

Dec 22: Make a homemade gift for someone special. Try a bookmark or key chain.

Dec 23: Prance and run like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

Dec 24: Stir, mix and bake holiday cookies!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Motor Development Scores for Very Preterm and Very Low-Birth Weight

The Journal of the American Medical Association reported on infants who were born <32 weeks gestation and weighing less than 1500 grams and motor development. A review of the literature indicated that the children scored significantly lower on the Bayley Scales, the Movement Assessment Battery for Children and the Bruininks-Oseretsky Test of Motor Proficiency from birth through adolescence. On the Bayley scales, there was a "catch up effect in the first years of development". The Movement Assessment Battery showed a non significant greater deficit with increasing age from elementary school though early adolescence.

Reference: Jorrit F. de Kieviet; Jan P. Piek; Cornelieke S. Aarnoudse-Moens; Jaap Oosterlaan Motor Development in Very Preterm and Very Low-Birth-Weight Children From Birth to Adolescence: A Meta-analysis JAMA. 2009;302(20):2235-2242.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Independent Sensory Exploration in Standing for Children with Significant Disabilities

Check this video out. I love how they are able to explore the objects by themselves. I do not love the price tag though!

Holiday Soft Tee Giveaway!

We are sponsoring a holiday Soft® Tee giveaway of 5 seamless, tagless, soft cotton tees! Created by a Mom and special educator, Soft® is the first line of inclusive clothing designed with the needs of all children in mind, including those with Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder, ADHD, and tactile defensiveness. They use flat seaming and seamless construction for extra comfort, 100% of the softest combed cotton and specially developed Soft Sensory Blends , wide collars, encased elastic waistbands, printed labels (tagless), custom fits, and much more. Their goal is to design clothing that can enhance social skills, sensory organization, concentration, by addressing unique sensory needs, but without sacrificing personal style and self expression. Read more on the company's mission. For more info on their products, sign up for the Soft email newsletter.

Here is how the contest will work. Soft® is offering 5 FREE seamless (flat seaming), tagless, soft cotton tees in any color/size of the winners choice. Look closer at the t-shirts and sizing.

To enter all you have to do is leave a comment below on this blog post.

We will pick 5 winners on 12/6/09. Please check back on 12/7/09 to see if you won. If you do win, you will need to send us your mailing address before 12/09/09 to receive the t-shirt before the holidays. Soft will ship the t-shirt to the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.
Remember, just leave a comment below to enter to win a FREE tagless, seamless, soft cotton tee in any color/size. How easy is that!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Physical Education and Section 504 or IEP's

There was an interesting news story this week in the Philideplphia Inquirer. A sixth grade boy with diabetes and his parents are requesting daily physical education under Section 504. The parents say that the daily exercise of physical education have helped their son "to maintain his health and alertness" to participate in school. The school has turned down daily physical education and offered other suggestions to increase daily physical activity for the student. This issue is going to a due process hearing.

Please take a minute to vote on this issue at the poll on the right hand side of this blog. Should physical education be mandated on a Section 504 or IEP for a student with a disability?

If a similar issue has occurred in your district please comment below.

Need some ideas in your district to encourage movement and diabetes prevention? Download this free guide from the National Diabetes Education Program.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Playful Pennants - $0.99 Sale!

Get our newest download, Playful Pennants, to encourage fine motor, visual motor and gross motor skills for only $0.99. Here is a sample idea from the download:

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Multisensory Lessons - Math

This is the second in a series of posts on creating multisensory lessons in the classroom or home. Go to Simple Multisensory Lessons - Spelling to read the first post. By incorporating various sensory pathways in learning you can help all students especially kinesthetic learners.

Here are several ideas for math lessons:

1. Clapping: When counting, clap hands. Count by 2's, 5's, 10's and clap at each number. Clap at chest level or overhead.

2. Ball Math: Throw a beach ball to a student. Call out a math problem. The child solves the problem out loud then creates a new problem for a different child. The child throws the beach ball to the next kid to solve the problem. C

3. Ball Math #2: Beach balls are very cheap at the end of the summer. Use a permanent marker and write math problems all over the ball. Maybe do all of one family of problems (i.e. all 9 addition problems). Throw the ball to the child. Whatever problem the child has their thumb on must be solved.

4. March around room while doing math facts.

5. Write large numbers outdoors with sidewalk chalk. Create math problems and children run to the correct answer. Try running to only even numbers, odd numbers, multiples of 2, etc.

6. Manipulatives - this one is quite obvious but use manipulatives to give meaning to math and they frequently encourage fine motor skills.

7. Clothes Pin Line - children can hang math problems in numerical order. See video below.

8. Jump Rope: Jump rope while counting or doing math problems.

9. Large Number Line: Draw a large number line with sidewalk chalk outdoors to learn about positive and negative numbers.

10. Movement and Math activities for the whole class

Any one else want to add to the list?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Simple Multisensory Lessons - Spelling

This will be the first post of a series on simple multisensory lessons. Traditionally, a classroom lesson is delivered as verbal or written material. The student relies on auditory and/ or visual input to understand the concepts. The student is expected to sit for extended periods of time and remain on task. For many of the students who receive related services, this can be a frustrating method of comprehending academic material. If a student exhibits deficits in auditory or visual input, failure may ensue. On the other hand, if a teacher uses a multi-sensory approach to teaching material this student may succeed. A multi-sensory lesson allows for a student to learn using the various senses of the body instead of just auditory or visual. School based therapists can play a large role in helping teachers to incorporate additional sensory input such as tactile, proprioceptive, vestibular and motor skills when presenting academic material.

Occupational and physical therapists have a strong understanding of the large role that sensory input and sensory output plays in a students life. By offering that expertise to teachers when planning lessons, all students receive the benefits of multi-sensory learning. In addition, the students who receive related services will be able to experience improved carry over of therapeutic interventions.

By employing multi-sensory strategies in the classroom, information is delivered to the brain from several sensory systems. This spreads the load on the brain over several systems which may result in improved memory. Students can improve problem solving skills and retain more information by touching, feeling and moving to learn new concept When physical activity is included in the lesson plan, students are able to release energy, reduce stress, increase level of alertness and practice motor and coordination skills.

For elementary school children spelling is an integral part of the curriculum. Here are 5 simple multisensory lessons to practice spelling:

1. Spell the words in the air using different body parts - hands, elbows and feet.

2. Use magnetic letters to spell the words out.

3. Write the spelling words on a partners back. Can the person guess what you spelled out?

4. Write the words in shaving cream, sand or flour on a tray.

5. March around the room and spell out loud.

6. Write letters on small objects (i.e. small ceramic tiles from home store, white beans, letter dice from Boggle game, Scrabble tiles) to manipulate to spell words

7. Put paper over bumpy material such as rough sandpaper or plastic needlepoint canvas. Write spelling words on paper and you will have tactile feedback.

8. Hide magnetic letters in sensory table (i.e. rice, beans, sand). Find letters and spell words.

Need more activities? Check out Get Up and Learn! or Educational Sensory Motor Activities.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Children with Autism and Handwriting

The current issue of Neurology published research on handwriting abilities in children with autism (14 children with autism and 14 children without autism). The research indicated that children with autism displayed poorer quality in forming letters but size, alignment and spacing were similar to their peers without autism. In the study, motor skill level was predictive of handwriting performance but age, IQ, gender and visuospatial abilities were not predictive of handwriting performance. The researchers recommend training in letter formation and fine motor skills.

Reference: Fuentes, Christina T., Mostofsky, Stewart H., Bastian, Amy J.
Children with autism show specific handwriting impairments Neurology 2009 73: 1532-1537

Monday, November 9, 2009

Ways to Motivate Children

Pediatric therapists know quite well that motivating a young child is the key sometimes to successful outcomes. If a child is not interested or motivated in a task, he will not want to practice the task. Therapists try various ways to motivate children through the use of toys and reward systems. Here are several creative ways to reward children for completing whatever goal has been set.

1. Charm bracelets - buy some cheap charms and jewelry supplies. Each time a child completes a goal add a charm to the bracelet. Order charms that relate to the goal if possible - i.e. feet charms for gait training.

2. Free play - if you have an exciting therapy room full of toys, reward the child with a certain amount of free time in the room to play with whatever toy or piece of equipment that the child wants.

3. Earn play money - purchase a variety of inexpensive prizes and create prices for each item. When the child achieves the goal, give the child a fake one dollar bill. When the child accumulates say $10, you can open your shop of prizes. The child can choose to spend all the money at one time or save up for higher priced prizes.

4. Lunch - if you work in a school setting, perhaps reward a child with a lunch date. The child gets to eat lunch in the therapy room, maybe bring a friend, and the therapist can provide dessert. Play a game together after you eat.

5. Music - reward your older clients with a download for the mp3 player or put the song on a CD.

6. Reward box - Print and create this reward box to use

7. Therapy Bingo - Print and play Therapy Bingo

8. Award Cards - Print and create these free awards for OT and PT.

Check out these motivational tools:

Positive Affirmation Posters and Cards

Awards and Certificates for Pediatric Occupational and Physical Therapists

Friday, November 6, 2009

Can't Seem Forget that Smell - Good or Bad

A recent study published in Current Biology reports on the sense of smell and memory. In the study the researchers noted that people remembered unpleasant smells the best. Associations of objects and good or bad smells made an imprint on the brain. This only occurred with smells and not sounds.

In addition, functional MRI scans were done to determine how people associated new objects with smell and sound. The amygdala and hippocampus lit up on the MRI's for associations with smell and not sound.

Now let's think about kiddos with sensory processing disorder and/or autism. Research indicates that children with autism exhibit certain sensory sensitivities one of them being smell (read more in previous post on Autism and Sensory Sensitivities). Some children have aversions to certain smells, some find certain smells calming and yet others find smells distracting. If certain associations are being made between objects and smells perhaps these can be changed for children. Perhaps probe further as to why a child has certain smell dislikes or preferences. Are there negative or positive objects or memories associated with the smells? Answers to these questions could help to formulate a plan of action regarding the smells. Any thoughts?

Reference: Reuters Study Explains How Strong Smells Conjure Strong Memories Retrieved from the web on 11/6/09 at

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Fine Motor Activity Idea - Clay Imprints

Here is a simple, fun activity that encourages muscle strengthening in the hands and fingers, fine motor skill development, visual perceptual skill development, tactile and proprioceptive input. All you need is clay, small objects and a tray.

Want to take this activity outdoors? Take a nature walk and collect small, tactile natural items. Make clay imprints of different tree trunks, acorns, pine cones, rocks and more.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Transporting Children with Special Needs

Pediatrics just published a study indicating that children ages 4 to 8 years of age who use belt positioning booster seats are 45% less likely to sustain injuries in a car accident compared to children not in booster seats.

For children with special needs finding the right car seat can be difficult and expensive. There are several informative websites to help guide the decision making process on picking out the proper system in a car or on a bus. Pediatric occupational and physical therapists can help to determine what seating systems may work the best for a specific child. In addition, therapists may want to remind parents to evaluate the car seats when there is an upcoming surgical or medical procedure scheduled. Casts or new braces may restrict the use of a current car seat.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has published a document entitled Special Needs Car Safety Seats/Restraints Product Information.

To read more on this topic or to find a safety seat technician in your area, you can check out the Automotive Safety Program website section on children with special needs.

Reference: Arbogast, Kristy B., Jermakian, Jessica S., Kallan, Michael J., Durbin, Dennis R. Effectiveness of Belt Positioning Booster Seats: An Updated Assessment
Pediatrics 2009 124: 1281-1286

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Severe Hemophilia and Athletics

Pediatrics published a study on school aged boys with severe hemophilia A or B who were taking prophylactic factor replacement. Clinical baseline data was collected along with sports participation. Seventy three percent participated in high impact sports and 27% participated in low impact sports. Results indicated that the frequency of injuries or joint hemorrhages did not different significantly between high and low impact sports. Sixteen percent of the boys were overweight. The authors concluded young boys who are taking prophylaxis for hemophilia can participate in athletics with adult supervision and precautions in place.

Reference: Ross, Cassie, Goldenberg, Neil A., Hund, Dana, Manco-Johnson, Marilyn J.
Athletic Participation in Severe Hemophilia: Bleeding and Joint Outcomes in Children on Prophylaxis Pediatrics 2009 124: 1267-1272

Monday, November 2, 2009

Sunday, November 1, 2009

New Website: Autism 360

Autism360 is a new website where you can share and learn about others with autism. It is a free service that matches a profile of someone with autism with similar people with autism and what types of treatment worked for them. You can track medical treatments and outcomes on the website. Essentially, it is an area to share experiences about children with autism and to benefit from other people experiences. Autism360 can be found at
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