Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Promote Literacy and Physical Activity in Children

Here is a great idea - Kids Read and Ride. The concept is to get donated stationary bicycles for the children to ride while reading. This website walks you through every step of how to get started at your school. It also offers tips and suggestions once you do get the program up and running (or should I say riding).

Promote OT month by starting a Kids Read and Ride program at your school!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tech Tools to Encourage Writing

Came across a great article written by Helen Teague entitled "Using Technology Tools to Encourage Reluctant Writers". It is especially useful for older students. It would make a great hand out to provide to teachers to add some fresh ideas to motivate students to write.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Book Review: This is Gabriel Making Sense of School

Title of Book: This is Gabriel Making Sense of School - A Book about Sensory Processing Disorder
Author: Hartley Steiner
Illustrator: Brandon Fall
ISBN#: 978-1-4269-2777-5

Parents, teachers and occupational or physical therapists who interact with children who have sensory processing disorder will enjoy this new book entitled This Is Gabriel Making Sense of School - A Book About Sensory Processing Disorder. The purpose of this book is to educate teachers, school staff and students on sensory processing disorder and its effects at school.

The book explains each of the seven senses - sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell, vestibular and proprioception in a simplistic manner that children and adults can understand. In addition, many sensory accommodations that are seen in the classroom are explained. Not only could this book help to explain sensory processing disorder to children who experience it daily, other children may want to know why one student gets to take movement breaks, chew gum or sit in a special chair. This book does a great job of explaining why.

I would recommend this book for all therapists to share with students, parents and school staff. It is a short read with simple, clear sentences and excellent illustrations. It can be purchased at

Friday, March 26, 2010

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Increase Physical Activity Time

I follow a blog written by the Recess Doctor which I highly recommend. The blog reported on a research study done in 2005 supporting painting lines on a playground.

Preventive Medicine published research that found when markings were painted on the playground, moderate to vigorous physical activity increased by 37% whereas the control groups activity (no lines) decreased by 16%. For elementary students, lines consisted of ladders, letter squares, mazes, trails and more. For older primary students markings for netball, football, targets and more were created.

If you are interested in increasing physical activity time for children try:

Sidewalk Chalk Fun and Games -

This ebook includes 30 sidewalk chalk games that encourage physical activity - only $4.99

If you are looking for permanent line markings for your playground visit the Peaceful Playgrounds website. With school budgets tight this year, they offer plenty of advice on grant writing to get your playground markings.

Reference: STRATTON, G., & MULLAN, E. (2005). The effect of multicolor playground markings on children's physical activity level during recess Preventive Medicine, 41 (5-6), 828-833 DOI: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2005.07.009

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Self Reporting of Children with Spina Bifida and Muscular Dystrophy

Most of us probably already knew this but sometimes it is reassuring to have research to back up our opinions. In a recent study in the Journal of Children's Orthopedics, the researchers compared parents and children's reports on the difficulty of daily activities and the severity of symptoms that the children with spina bifida and muscular dystrophy experience. The correlation of responses was high for objective and subjective responses. The researchers concluded that children with spina bifida and muscular dystrophy are "capable of understanding and assessing their disability".

I know I say this often, but always remember to ask the children who you interact with about their symptoms, opinions and goals.

Reference: Susan C. McLimont1,Janice L. Owen and James G. Wright, Can children with spina bifida and muscular dystrophy participate in their own health status evaluations? J Child Orthop March 2010 DOI: 10.1007/s11832-010-0248-8

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Early Prediction of Cerebral Palsy Using Video Analysis

Thirty high risk infants (mean gestational age 31 weeks) movements were recorded using video at 10-15 weeks post term. The video was analyzed and the children were reevaluated at 5 years of age. Using the video analysis, predicting cerebral palsy had an 88% specificity rate. Thirteen infants had cerebral palsy at age 5. Predictions were correct regarding ambulatory and non ambulatory status in nine out of ten children.

Would you find it helpful to know that a baby at 10-15 weeks had a 90% chance of being ambulatory or a 90% chance of being non ambulatory? Would this knowledge influence the goals that are set with the family?

Reference: Early prediction of cerebral palsy by computer-based video analysis of general movements: a feasibility study (p )LARS ADDE, JORUNN L HELBOSTAD, ALEXANDER R JENSENIUS, GUNNAR TARALDSEN, KRISTINE H GRUNEWALDT, RAGNHILD STØEN Published Online: Feb 24 2010 5:47AM DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-8749.2010.03629.x

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Resources for Individuals with Dual Sensory Impairment

If you work with any individuals who are deaf and/or blind, here is a great website of information from the Nevada Dual Sensory Impairment Project. There is a huge collection of tip sheets on topics such as Tolerating Touch, Light Sensitivity, How to Interact with Individuals with Dual Sensory Impairment, Visual Adaptations, How to Keep Items from Rolling Off of Wheelchair Tray, Grasping Aids, Easy Adaptations for the Home and Classroom and many more. Almost all of the hands outs are also translated into Spanish. What great free resources!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Voice Emails and Text Messages

Do any of your students have difficulties with typing emails or texting short messages? Ever find that you need to remind yourself of something but do not have your hands free to jot a note? Check out Dial2Do. To use the service, call Dial2Do with a caller ID enabled phone, speak your quick reminder (20 seconds or less for free account) and it will transcribe your voice to a text email. If you want to record longer messages (30 seconds or less), send text messages, listen to and respond to emails and use social networking tools, all with your voice, you will need to pay for an account ($3.99/month).

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Outdoor Imagination Games

Finally, the weather appears to be getting a little nicer. After winter time, children just seem to relish in the sunshine and fresh air of the outdoors. Spring time is a great time to encourage your children to spend more time outdoors. Of course, you can do the obvious, bike rides, spring plantings, mud pies and puddles. Here are five outdoor imagination games that may spark some interest with children.

1. Outdoor Tea Party: Search the park or yard for smooth rocks to be the the plates. Find some circular rocks to be the tea cups. How about a fat stick for the tea pot. Serve up some acorn snacks as pretend food. Lay out a blanket and get the nature tea party started.

2. Nature Restaurant: Set up a pretend restaurant serving up mud pies, pine cones stew, rock soup, grass delight and more. Use your beach buckets for pots. Sticks can stir up all the special recipes.

3. Wilderness Family: Pretend that you live in the woods year round. Create a small fort outdoors in the woods or just drape a sheet on in between some bushes. Search for rocks, pine cones and grass to be your pretend food. Collect sticks to make a pretend fire to cook over and keep warm by. Make a bed of leaves to sleep on. Find a pine branch to be your broom. Pretend to go hunting for animals. Remember to stay in the fort during "storms" or if "dangerous animals" are lurking about.

4. Parade: Create instruments using items from nature - bang two rocks together, hit sticks together and grass blade whistles (personally never could do that but I know kids who can). March around the yard playing your homemade instruments.

5. Circus: Pretend to put on a circus show outdoors. Put jump ropes on the ground as tight ropes. Hang hula hoops from the trees to throw old stuffed animals through for the animal acts. Practice bike riding tricks i.e. ride with one hand, ride only pedaling with one foot, etc. Hula hoop or jump rope for long periods of time.

Children will not only benefit from the outdoor time but imagination fuels creativity and learning.

Sensory Motor Activities for Spring:
Revised edition of a fun, creative electronic book with over 30 ideas for sensory motor activities relating to springtime. There are 6 new activities with updated printables. Only $4.99

Monday, March 15, 2010

Reading Changes Body Mass Index in Girls

This study in Pediatrics is very creative and intriguing. Thirty one of 81 girls, ages 9-13, were randomly assigned to read an intervention novel which was a story about an overweight girl who discovers improved health and self worth. Thirty three girls read a control novel and 17 girls read no novel. Follow up occurred 1-2 months later with the girls who read the intervention novel showing a significant greater reduction in body mass index (BMI) compared to the control group. Girls in both the intervention and control group had a significantly lower BMI change than the girls who read no book. The authors concluded that more research is needed to see if this would help other overweight and obese girls.

I equate this to being similar to a more mature social story combined with positive affirmations. Seems like a great, simple way to empower girls to change their lifestyle habits independently.

Reference: Bravender, Terrill, Russell, Alexandra, Chung, Richard J., Armstrong, Sarah C. A "Novel" Intervention: A Pilot Study of Children's Literature and Healthy Lifestyles Pediatrics 2010 125: e513-e517

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Research: Sensory System and Predictability

Exciting research from the Journal of Neuroscience was published which indicates that is takes less effort for the brain to register predictable images than unpredictable images. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, the researchers determined that the brain is not static waiting to process visual information, but attempts to predict visual information. When the brain is correct with the prediction, it is more efficient. If the brain is incorrect with the visual prediction "massive responses are required to find out what is wrong to come up with better predictions". The researchers stated than an important implication of this study is how "visual perception depends on an active generation of predictions".

I find this research so incredibly interesting. What is the implications for children with autism, sensory processing disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, etc. who thrive with routines?

Especially children with autism who can be such strong visual learners. Could this be a large piece of the puzzle as to explaining why? If I child gets better at predicting visual images would that change behaviour outcomes when routines are disrupted?

Is this the reason why Sensory Stories work? Children see images of what will be occurring therefore they get better at predicting them?

Does this explain why visual schedules work so well with some kids?

This study generates so many more questions for me.....

Reference: Medical News Today The Human Brain Processes Predictable Sensory Input In A Particularly Efficient Manner Retrieved from the web on 3/13/2010 from

Friday, March 12, 2010

New Use for a Therapy Ball

Have you ever heard of Drums Alive? It is an aerobic fitness class using therapy balls and drumsticks. This is a great activity incorporating rhythm, aerobic fitness, crossing midline, proprioceptive input and muscle strengthening. In the Drums Alive classes they put the therapy balls on aerobic steps but you could just put them in cardboard boxes and use wooden spoons as your drumsticks to start.

Turn up the music and rock it out in tall kneeling.

Want to incorporate sit to stand transfers and lower extremity strengthening? Elevate one of the ball boxes and have the child sit on the other. Rock on!

Need more ideas? Check out this work out video of adults doing Drums Alive.

Decline in Function in Adolescents with Cerebral Palsy

A recent study followed 76 males and 59 females with cerebral palsy with a mean age of 14 yrs. 6 months at the start of the study. The participants had quadriplegia (96), diplegia (32) and hemiplegia (1) with the majority having spasticity. For four years, data was collected consisting of: anthropometric characteristics, the Spinal Alignment and Range of Motion Measurement, the Gross Motor Function Measure, health status, pain and exercise participation. The Gross Motor Function Measure scores were compared to previous scores from childhood which indicated a decline in gross motor function. The decline in Gross Motor Function Measure was significantly associated with limitations in range of motion and spinal alignment and pain. Less decline was correlated with increased triceps skinfold, increased mid arm circumference and ratio of mid arm circumference to knee height. The researchers concluded that management of range of motion, pain and nutrition may help to prevent declines in gross motor functions in adolescents with cerebral palsy.

Reference: Correlates of decline in gross motor capacity in adolescents with cerebral palsy in Gross Motor Function Classification System levels III to V: an exploratory study (p )DOREEN J BARTLETT, STEVEN E HANNA, LISA AVERY, RICHARD D STEVENSON, BARBARA GALUPPI Devel Med Child Neur Published Online: Feb 24 2010 5:48AM DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-8749.2010.03632.x

Teaching Motor Skills to Children with Cerebral Palsy and Similar Movement Disorders - A Guide for Parents and Professionals

Author: Sieglinde Martin M.S., P.T.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Grant for Children with Special Needs

The UnitedHealthcare Children's Foundation is a non profit charity that offers grants up to $5000 for families to help pay for medical services and equipment for children with special needs. This can include physical and occupational therapy, wheelchairs, orthotics, eyeglasses and more. They will also help pay for certain services or items when insurance does not cover it completely. In 2007, they provided 1500 grants to families in need. There are eligibility requirements. The child must reside in the USA, have commercial health insurance and be younger than 16 years of age. The family must qualify financially as well. For more information visit UnitedHealthcare Children's Foundation.

What a great opportunity. The application takes only 15-20 minutes to fill out and you will need a letter of necessity from the child's doctor.

Fitness and Academic Acheivement

Leslie Cotrell, PhD, a researcher from West Virginia University will be presenting her research at the American Heart Association 2010 Conference on Health, Physical Activity and Metabolism. She studied the body mass index, fitness levels and standardized academic scores of 725 fifth graders and again when they reached seventh grade. The research indicated that students who were the most physically fit at the beginning and end of the study had the highest scores in reading, math, science and social studies. The lowest scores were those who were the least fit in fifth and seventh grade. They could not establish a cause and effect relationship of fitness and academic scores.

Want to get the students more fit at your school? How about start a running club. You can even apply for a grant to start it up or fund an existing club. ING is offering (50) $2,000 grants to establish or expand a running program.

Reference: WVU Researcher Finds Link Between's Students Fitness and Grades. Retrieved from the web on 3/11/10 at

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Predicting Motor Skills In Children with ASD, ADHD and DCD

In a recent study published in Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, 49 children with a mean age of 5 yrs 6 months were evaluated with the Movement Assessment Battery for Children (M-ABC). The children were diagnosed or at risk for developing ADHD, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), developmental coordination disorder (DCD) or no diagnosis. All the children scored on or below the 15th percentile on the M-ABC and had an IQ of 70 or more. Two to three years later the children were re-evaluated using the M-ABC. At a mean age of 7 years, 11 months the scores on the M-ABC significantly increased with 22 children no longer below the 15th percentile. The group of children with ASD's showed less improvements in M-ABC scores. The researchers concluded that motor deficits may not always be static in young children, except in the case of ASD's.

Reference: HILDE VAN WAELVELDE, ANN OOSTRA, GRIET DEWITTE, CHRISTINE VAN DEN BROECK, MARIAN J JONGMANS Stability of motor problems in young children with or at risk of autism spectrum disorders, ADHD, and or developmental coordination disorder (p ) Dev Med Child Neur Published Online: Jan 28 2010 10:06AM DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-8749.2009.03606.x

50 Sensory Motor Activities for Kids!: This is an electronic book of 50 sensory motor activities that get children moving. This collection of creative, fun filled activities promote fundamental motor skills, sensory processing, motor planning and body awareness.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Technology Idea for Tuesday

Here is a FREE open source drawing software for children - Tux Paint. It is suitable for children ages 3-12. There are many drawing tools such as paintbrush, line tools, shape tools rubber stamps and magic tools. There is even sound effects. You can translate any text into many languages. If you like Kid Pix you may want to give Tux Paint a try. And, remember it is free!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Social Story Resources

There are so many free social story resources on the web. I just thought I would mention a few. If you are not familiar with social stories, here is a great article, Creating Social Stories, to start off with on the basics of social stories and how to create your own.

For free, ready made social stories check out:

Kansas Autism Spectrum Disorders : Huge collection of a variety of social stories available in PowerPoint, Word and pdf formats.

Visual Aids for Learning: If you need images to go along with a social story that you have created yourself, this website has loads of free image downloads.

Autism4Teachers: Here are a few simple social stories for younger children all in Word format.

Integrated Technology Services: Another nice collection of stories for younger children and these are in pdf format.

Slater Software: Another resource for free social stories and posters. Many social stories about unique topics i.e. Halloween, soldier mother, fireworks and more.

Does anyone have any other favorites they would like to add to the list?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Video Activity Idea - Kid Boxing

This fun activity encourages bilateral coordination, timing, eye hand coordination, visual tracking skills and upper extremity muscle strengthening. The key to this activity is teaching the child to hit each balloon or ball with the right hand and left in a rhythmic, controlled pattern. Have fun with it!

Need more activity ideas? Turn fine motor skills into gross motor skills with the activity ideas in Motor Magic.

Check out Play Strong to encourage muscle strenghtening through play.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Children

Chronic fatigue syndrome is rare in children with estimates of approximately 0.05% have this diagnosis. The day to day lives of children with this diagnosis are greatly affected. Pediatric therapists should be aware of this disorder and how it effects the activities of daily living of children.

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is characterized by: debilitating fatigue, exhaustion, symptoms present for 50% of the time for more than 3 months, flu like symptoms, muscle/ joint pain, inability to concentrate, sleep disturbances and changes in mental and physical functioning. The average age of onset is between 11-15 years of age with girls more affected than boys. Based on these symptoms, children may have a high rate of absenteeism from school. Due to inactivity, the children with CFS can lose muscle mass, muscle strength, lower basal metabolic rate and more. These are areas that an occupational and physical therapist can address.

Once a diagnosis is made of CFS, the next step is to manage the symptoms. A good rapport should be established between the child, the family and the school in order to address all issues. Explain the disorder and how many of the symptoms are a result of a spiraling effect of inactivity and rest. When an exercise program is warranted, here are several tips:

1. Educate the child, family and school on the importance of exercise and how it can help combat the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome.

2. Get the child involved in establishing the exercise program. What type of exercises do they enjoy?

3. Begin the exercise program slowly avoiding large changes in duration and frequency of exercise. Gradually increase the duration and frequency of sessions.

4. Ask the child to keep a record of the exercises to encourage ownership and independence with the exercise program.

5. Provide verbal reminders to perform stretching and strengthening exercises slowly and controlled.

6. Educate the child and the family on mild muscle soreness or delayed onset muscle soreness. Explain to them that these are common symptoms when you return to normal physical activity levels.

7. Educate the child and family on returning to normal eating and sleeping patterns.

8. When a child has been out of school for a long period of time, returning to school may have to be done on a gradual basis.

Chronic fatigue syndrome needs to be addressed with open lines of communication throughout the medical team, family and school. Occupational and physical therapist can play a significant role in getting children with chronic fatigue syndrome back to doing what they do best, learning, socializing and playing.

Reference: Wright, Barry, Partridge, Ian, Williams, Christine Management of chronic fatigue syndrome in children Adv Psychiatr Treat 2000 6: 145-152

Sensory Overresponsivity and ADHD

Research was published in the Journal of Attention Disorders to determine if sensory overresponsivity (SOR) impacts the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis in children with ADHD. Twenty four children with ADHD were divided into two groups (SOR and nonSOR) based on the Sensory Overresponsivity Inventory. The control group was 24 children without ADHD. Salivary cortisol samples were measured in all children twice before a sensory challenge protocol and 7 times after the sensory challenge. The results indicated a borderline significant difference found between the ADHD/SOR and ADHD/nonSOR group and a significant difference between ADHD/SOR and the typical group. The researchers concluded that perhaps SOR may be a variable in determining different subtypes of ADHD.

Reference: Reynolds, Stacey, Lane, Shelly J., Gennings, Chris
The Moderating Role of Sensory Overresponsivity in HPA Activity: A Pilot Study With Children Diagnosed With ADHD J Atten Disord 2010 13: 468-478
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