Sunday, February 28, 2010

Importance of Fine Motor Skills and Sensory Processing for Preschoolers

I came across two great articles written by Rachel Rudman,OTR/L to hand out to preschool teachers.

The first one is entitled A Preschool Teachers Back to Basic Guide to Hand and Fine Motor Skill Development. This article is also appropriate to distribute to parents of babies and young children. It explains the importance of tummy time, the influence of too much screen time, the drawbacks to electronic toys and more. There are simple tables to view on appropriate fine motor development and suggested activities to encourage hand development.

The second article is entitled Managing Sensory Processing Disorder in the Preschool Classroom. The author defines sensory processing disorder and recommends a 4 step process for teachers. The four step process includes identifying children who may sensory processing issues, communicating with parents and therapists, empathizing with the child and strategizing how to help. There is some clear tables indicating signs of sensory processing disorder.

Friday, February 26, 2010

iPhone Apps and Occupational Therapists

Here are two iPhone apps that I have tested out for letter formation. Either of these could be used as fun tools to encourage kinesthetic practice of letter formation.

The first I tested was Letter Tracer. This app was $0.99 when I purchased it. I really liked the simplicity of Letter Tracer. The letter is shown in capital or lowercase. There is a voice over to say each letter and number aloud as it appears on the screen. You can change the settings so that you can "write" with different colors and pen size. You can also change the voice from male, female or child. The touch screen picks up the child's finger rather easily which is a plus. Although, there is no guide for where the child to draw the actual strokes of each letter. You can choose between having a stencil of the letter as seen on the right side or no stencil and a blank screen for the child to write the letter.

The second one I tried was ABC Letters Tracing Lite. This app was free for the lite version. I tested the lite version which only goes from the letters A-F. The benefit of this app is that it demonstrates the actual strokes of each letter for the child to follow. Each letter is said aloud with the phonetic sound of each letter. You can choose to view the strokes or to just trace over the letter. There is nice visual and verbal feedback when each stroke is completed. If you choose to follow each stroke, the child must be very precise. This can get frustrating for the child. He/she is doing the correct stroke but the touch screen does not register it exactly resulting in negative feedback (i.e. sorry, try again...). If the child does not follow each stroke and just chooses the tracing option, he/she does not need to be as precise.

Do you use these apps in your practice or can you recommend any others for letter formation?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

NY Times Article on Pediatric Occupational Therapy

Today there was an interesting article in the NY Times entitled "Watch How You Hold That Crayon" The article discusses occupational therapists helping children with handwriting. It is definitely worth a read to see what is happening in some areas of the Country and pediatric OT services. After you read the article, would love to hear your comments regarding:
1. Parents fears that children's skills are not sufficient for preschool admission?
2. Is the focus too strong on grip and handwriting at such a young age?
3. Lack of information regarding all the other skills that occupational therapists are trained in?

Any other thoughts on the article?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Fine Motor and Tactile Input Activity

This is a great activity to encourage fine motor skills, tactile input and creativity. The big bonus - can be simple or very complex so it works well with kids of varying abilities. Here are the full directions for Fabric Creations.

Give this one a try!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Girl Recovering from Reattached Hand

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Plagiocephaly and Developmental Delay

The recent issue of Pediatrics reports on a study of 235 infants with plagiocephaly ("flat head" syndrome). The researchers found a relationship between plagiocephaly and developmental delay. Infants with plagiocephaly were twice as likely to exhibit developmental delays compared to the control group. They could not determine if one causes the other though. The investigators stressed that babies should still be put on their backs to sleep.

Reference: Speltz M, et al "Case-control study of neurodevelopment in deformational plagiocephaly" Pediatrics 2010; DOI: 10.1542/peds.2009-0052.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Baby's Motor Development and Cognitive Scores

A large study by the Centre for Longitudinal Studies analyzed the data of 15,000 children in the United Kingdom. The data revealed that 1 in 10 children exhibited delays in gross and fine motor development at 9 months of age. The delay in motor development at 9 months was significantly associated with delayed cognitive development at 5 years of age. In addition, the delays in gross motor skill development at 9 months had a significant impact on a child's behavior at 5 years of age. The researchers also determined that a good mother child relationship significantly benefits the cognitive and behavioral traits of children in poverty. Read the full press release here.

Reference: Simple tests in babyhood ‘could point to children who need help with learning’ Retrieved from the web on 2/18/2010 from

Help Needed to Get SPD in DSM-5

The Sensory Processing Foundation has provided information for OT's, PT's, parents, teachers or any professional with experience in sensory processing disorder on how to comment on the APA website to include sensory processing disorder in the DSM-5. Check out the SPD Foundation webpage to read sample comments and how to reigster on the APA website.

100th Day of School

Lots of early childhood and elementary school celebrate the 100th day of school. For most schools this day is rapidly approaching(or perhaps past so you can use these ideas next year). Here are some suggested activities that celebrate the 100th day and encourage sensory motor skill development:

1. 100 Day Snack Mix:
Ask each child to bring in 100 small food items. Mix together a large snack mix. The children will have to manipulate the small items, count them and follow several steps to create the recipe. This activity will encourage fine motor skills, motor planning and perhaps expand food tasting.

2. Hide and Seek:
Hide 100 small objects in the sand or rice table. Have a large chart near by and the children can put one object in each box until all 100 are found. This can be a great small group activity. This activity encourages fine motor skills, tactile input and counting skills.

3. 100 Day Exercises: Perform 100 of several different exercises. Count by tens to have some variety and to keep the children's interest.

4. 100 Day Toss and Catch: See if the children can partner up with different kids. Throw and catch a bean bag, soft ball or beach ball. Keep tally marks and see if a child can accomplish 100 catches. If not, can any kids partner up to equal 100 catches.

5. 100 Day Walking Club: Start a walking club on the 100th day. The goal will be to walk 100 minutes per week. Give each participant (students and staff) a chart to keep track of their walking. Provide prizes for anyone who is able to walk 100 minutes per week until the end of the school year. Print out this 100 Day Walking Chart to get started.

Click on the link below to preview the document.

100 day walking

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

iPod and iPhone Applications for Education

There are constantly new iPod, iPhone and soon to be on the iPad applications for education. It is hard to keep up with them all or find them even. Here are 2 great compilations of applications for education.

EUSD iRead

iphone and ipod applications for (Special) Education

Do the children that you work with use any of the above technologies?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Safe Lifting and Transfers is a great collection of information and articles on safe lifting techniques for therapists. If you need to justify to a school district why they need to purchase special lifting equipment for a student here is a website to start gathering information. There are suggested links for information to give to caregivers regarding safe lifting as well. Thanks for finding this website Heidi, from Pediastaff on Twitter.

Friday, February 12, 2010

FDA Approved Study Infused Stem Cells and CP

The FDA has approved the first clinical trial at the Medical College of Georgia, on the use of infused stem cells from umbilical cord blood to help children with cerebral palsy. Forty children, ages 2-12, will be enrolled in the study. Half of the children will receive the autologous stem cell transplant and half will receive a placebo. After three months, the children will undergo a neurological evaluation. In addition, the group that received the placebo, will also receive the transplant after the initial three months. Both groups will return for more evaluations at 3 and 6 month follow ups.

Looking forward to these results! The could open up an large opportunity to change motor skills in children with cerebral palsy.

Reference: Medical College of Georgia (2010, February 11). First FDA-approved stem cell trial in pediatric cerebral palsy. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 12, 2010, from­ /releases/2010/02/100211121812.htm

Fragile X and Tactile Hypersensitivity

New research regarding Fragile X syndrome and sensory hypersensitivity to touch has been discovered. Using a mouse model, scientists have determined that there is a delay in the development of the sensory cortex that responds to touch. The mice showed a delay in the development of synapses in the sensory cortex. The researchers are hopeful that during this delay period a therapeutic intervention can take place to help lessen the symptoms of tactile hypersensitivity.

Reference: Northwestern University (2010, February 11). New clue why autistic people don't want hugs. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 12, 2010, from­ /releases/2010/02/100211121758.htm

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Three Easy Steps to Prevent Childhood Obesity

Pediatrics has published research on the association of 8550 four year olds in the United States, household routines and the effects on obesity. The researchers concluded that preschoolers who:

  1. eat evening meals as a family at least 5x/week
  2. get at least 10.5 hours of sleep per night
  3. have less than 2 hours of screen time per day

have a 40% lower chance of obesity compared to preschoolers who have been exposed to none of the routines mentioned above.

Need some ideas for kids when you turn off the television? Check out our sensory motor activity books or fine motor activity books.

Read previous post on getting children to fall asleep faster.

Reference: Anderson, Sarah E., Whitaker, Robert C.Household Routines and Obesity in US Preschool-Aged Children Pediatrics 2010 0: peds.2009-0417

Effects of Weighted Vests

Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities has published a research article on the effects of weighted vests on the engagement of children with developmental delays and autism. Three participants (who had previously worn weighted vests) were observed in three different conditions - no vest, vest with no weight and vest with 5% of body weight. Data was collected using videotapes of the different conditions and the effects on engagement and behaviors. The results indicated that the weighted vest did not change engagement or behaviors.

The authors state that the limited number of participants was a significant limitation of this study. The researchers recommend further research to determine the proper amount of weight to be added to a weighted vest for there are no standard guidelines.

What percentage of body weight do you recommend for weighted vests? Do you collect data on whether the weighted vest is benefiting the child? Scary to me that the use of weighted vests are common practice and there is very limited research to back it all up.

Reference: Brian Reichow, Erin E. Barton, Joanna Neely Sewell, Leslie Good, and Mark Wolery Effects of Weighted Vests on the Engagement of Children With Developmental Delays and Autism Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities 2010 25: 3-11

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Group versus Individual Sessions for Kids with DCD

A recent study in the Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine was published on motor skill training for children with developmental coordination disorder (DCD). Twenty three children with DCD (mean age 8 yrs 1month) were split up with 12 children receiving motor skill training in a group and 11 on an individual basis, one time per week for 8 weeks. Both groups also were instructed in home exercise programs. All children were assessed with the Movement Assessment Battery for Children. Following the 8 week program both groups significantly reduced their scores on the Movement Assessment Battery for Children. There was no difference between the two groups in MABC scores, home exercise compliance and parent satisfaction. The researchers concluded that group motor skill training may be a "preferred treatment option due to the associated cost savings.".

Reference: Winnie W. Y. Hung, Marco Y.C. Pang Effects of group-based versus individual-based exercise training on motor performance in children with developmental coordination disorder: A randomized controlled study. Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine. Vol. 42/2010 (2): 122-128.

Sensory Motor Group Activities A to Z. Summary: Download of an electronic book of over 50 sensory motor group activities for every letter of the alphabet plus over 20 printable sheets to compliment the activities.

Ideas and Games for One Switch Users

If you work with any children or adults who are moderately to severely disabled you may want to learn more about one switch access. is a comprehensive website on: how to adapt electronic gadgets and computer controls for one switch access, ideas for one switch use, gaming suggestions and more. Worth a look.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Youth Soccer - Higher Injury Rates

The American Academy of Pediatrics has released a report on injuries in youth soccer. Soccer has a higher injury rate than many other contact sports such as basketball, rugby and even football in some studies. Players that are less than 15 years of age had a higher injury rate. Indoor and outdoor soccer has similar injury risks although there is a greater risk for knee injuries in outdoor soccer. Girls are at higher risk for knee injuries and boys are a greater risk for ankle injuries. Most injuries are minor resulting in a one week absence from soccer. The concussion rate for soccer players is similar to American football players and ice hockey players. This is most often due to collisions and not heading the ball. The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued some guidelines to help practitioners:

1. Make sure rules are being properly enforced.

2. Knee injury prevention programs may be helpful i.e. neuromuscular and proprioceptive exercise programs.

3. Make sure field does not have holes or excessive uneven terrain.

4. Goalposts must be properly secured.

5. Teach heading of the ball only when the child has proper head, neck and trunk muscles to head the ball with the forehead.

6. Be aware of the signs of concussion.

7. Wear protective eye wear (mandatory for past history of eye injury or if only one functional eye).

The guidelines also stress that soccer should be encouraged for it can provide important physical activity time for children, young adults and adolescents.

Download the full report.

Reference: Koutures, Chris G., Gregory, Andrew J. M., THE COUNCIL ON SPORTS MEDICINE AND FITNESS, Injuries in Youth SoccerPediatrics 2010 125: 410-414

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Kids Need a Dominant Hand

Occupational therapists have long known the benefits of a child developing hand dominance. A new study published in Pediatrics reports on children with mixed handedness. A longitudinal study was performed in Northern Finland on 7871 children ages 7 and 8 and then 16 years old. The results indicated that children with mixed handedness are at a two fold greater risk for language, academic, mental health issues and ADHD symptoms. The authors conclude that mixed handedness could be a sign that a child is at risk for these problems.

Do you see a higher rate of these symptoms in mixed handed children?

Reference: Rodriguez, Alina, Kaakinen, Marika, Moilanen, Irma, Taanila, Anja, McGough, James J., Loo, Sandra, Jarvelin, Marjo-Riitta Mixed-Handedness Is Linked to Mental Health Problems in Children and Adolescents Pediatrics 2010 125: e340-e348
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