Friday, April 30, 2010

Hand Clapping Games and Motor Abilities

Would you like children to have neater handwriting, write better and have better spelling? A recent study suggests teaching hand clapping games to children to improve motor and academic abilities. For ten weeks, two groups of children, at different elementary schools, participated in either a music appreciation program or hand clapping songs training. According to one of the researchers, Dr. Idit Sulkin a member of BGU's Music Science Lab in the Department of the Arts:
"We found that children in the first, second and third grades who sing these songs demonstrate skills absent in children who don't take part in similar activities. We also found that children who spontaneously perform hand-clapping songs in the yard during recess have neater handwriting, write better and make fewer spelling errors."
Not sure about how solid this research design was, but hand clapping games obviously help to develop motor planning skills, bilateral coordination skills, timing, body awareness and eye hand coordination skills. All skills that play a major role in handwriting and learning. Why not try a good old fashioned game of Miss Mary Mack today?

Reference: American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (2010, April 28). Hand-clapping songs improve motor and cognitive skills, research shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 30, 2010, from­ /releases/2010/04/100428090954.htm

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Self Regulation and Academic Abilities

More research is being published in the Early Childhood Research Quarterly on self regulation skills in young children. The researchers studied 1298 children from birth through first grade. After controlling for at risk factors such as ethnic minority status, low maternal education, low family income and chronic depressive symptoms in the mother, children with strong self regulation skills in preschool and kindergarten did significantly better on math, reading and vocabulary at the end of first grade. The researchers recommend that we teach young children how to self regulate.

Need ideas for teaching self regulation? Check out these self regulation activities suggested by one of the authors of this research study.

Reference: Michaella Sektnana, Megan M. McClellanda, Alan Acocka and Frederick J. Morrison Relations between early family risk, children's behavioral regulation, and academic achievement Article in press Early Childhood Research Quarterly doi:10.1016/j.ecresq.2010.02.005

Disadvantaged Preschoolers Exhibit Gross Motor Delays

Two recent studies report that disadvantaged preschoolers exhibit gross motor delays on the Test of Gross Motor Development - 2. Goodway et. al. reported in the Research Quarterly for Exercise and Science that 86% of Midwestern and southwestern preschoolers were delayed in locomotor and object control skills (< 30 percentile). Boys outperformed girls in both regions. The preschoolers from the Midwest had better locomotor skills.

Woodward and Yun report in Early Child Development and Care that 41% of 138 five years old enrolled in Head Start programs scored below average on the Test of Gross Motor Development. Sixteen percent of the 138 children exhibited substantial deficiency in overall gross motor skill development. The researchers recommend that Head Start curriculum should focus on the development of gross motor skills.

Pediatric occupational and physical therapists need to educate preschool staff in disadvantaged areas of these latest studies. Perhaps run group therapy sessions in the preschool classrooms so teachers can learn new lessons to teach when the therapists are not there. All children benefit from a push in model of pediatric therapy hopefully lessening referrals in the future.

Goodway, Jacqueline D.; Robinson, Leah E.; Crowe, Heather Gender Differences in Fundamental Motor Skill Development in Disadvantaged Preschoolers From Two Geographical Regions Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, Volume 81, Number 1, March 2010 , pp. 17-24(8)

Rebecca J. Woodard;Joonkoo Yun The Performance of Fundamental Gross Motor Skills by Children Enrolled in Head Start Early Child Development and Care, Volume 169, Issue 1 2001 , pages 57 - 67

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Track Physical Activity with the iPhone

There is an interesting free app for the iPhone entitled Walk n' Play. Developed by Chinmay Manohar in the Department Endocrinology, Nutrition and Diabetes of the Mayo Clinic, Walk n' Play tracks normal day to day physical activity. Once you put in the height and weight of the user, it tracks your movements and tells you if you are winning or losing against the computer or a buddy via your own social networking. This app is different from a pedometer or other devices for it measures small movement changes as well (as little as half mile per hour).

After testing this app today with a few kids (ages 4 through 10 years of age), I give it a thumbs up. The cartoon images of the people moving or sleeping was highly motivating to the children. If they realized the cartoon was sleeping, they immediately got back to moving around - walking, running, stair climbing and marching in place. It worked best as a motivator to set it to the hand held motion detector that way the kids could see how they were doing. They loved competing against the computer cartoon constantly working towards being ahead of "his" calorie burner count. I am sure the novelty factor would wear off after awhile, but today this was a big hit in increasing physical activity in the children.

Any child or adult would benefit from this app to track their progress in increasing physical activity throughout the day. Perhaps track a student's progress who is trying to increase physical activity throughout the day for weight control. Maybe give to a student to see if a weighted vest or pressure garment is improving the student's ability to stay in one place to focus. And, you can't beat free to give it a try!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Water Intake and Cognitive Performance

With the weather getting warmer, parents and school staff need to remember to remind children to drink plenty of water. Not only will water hydrate their bodies it appears to effect cognitive performance as well.

Three articles from Appetite, report on the benefits of children drinking water and its effects on cognitive performance:

1. Edmonds and Jeffes reports that the children (6-7 yrs old) who drank more water showed improvements in thirst and happiness ratings, visual attention and visual search skills. No difference was found in visual motor or visual memory skills.

2. Edmonds and Bufford report that the children (7-9 years old) who drank more water again rated themselves less thirsty and showed improvements on visual attention tasks.

3. Benton and Burgess reported that when children (mean age 8 yrs 7 months) drank more water, recall was significantly better. There was no effect on the ability to sustain attention.

Easy, free, research based tip to tell your school staff today! Don't forget to remind them about increased physical activity time as well.

References: Caroline J. Edmonds, Ben Jeffes Does having a drink help you think? 6–7-Year-old children show improvements in cognitive performance from baseline to test after having a drink of water Appetite, Volume 53, Issue 3, December 2009, Pages 469-472

Caroline J. Edmonds, Denise Burford Should children drink more water?: The effects of drinking water on cognition in children Appetite, Volume 52, Issue 3, June 2009, Pages 776-779

David Benton, Naomi Burgess The effect of the consumption of water on the memory and attention of children Appetite, Volume 53, Issue 1, August 2009, Pages 143-146

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Onset of Autism and Effects on Child's Development

The Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders will be publishing research on when and how autism symptoms appear and its effects on childhood development. Data was collected from 2720 parents via questionnaires. Children were divided into three groups:

1. Regression of skills - 44% of the children exhibited a regression of social, cognitive or communication skills before 36 months of age
2. No loss or no plateau - 39% of children exhibited the early warning signs of autism but no loss of skills
3. Plateau - 17% of children displayed mild developmental delays followed by a plateau of skill development.

The results of the study indicated that children who experience a regression of skills displayed a significant increase in severity of autism symptoms i.e. lack of conversational speech and increased educational supports. For the children in the plateau group, skills ceased to develop at about 24 months of age. These children were also at risk for receiving a diagnoses of autism and requiring educational supports. Children who displayed no loss or no plateau were at the least risk of poorer outcomes.

Reference: Kennedy Krieger Institute (2010, April 20). New insights into the implications of autism onset patterns. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 24, 2010, from­ /releases/2010/04/100420114231.htm

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Wii Games for Different Abilities

Without trying out each of the Wii games, it can be hard to determine specific games to recommend for children. Ability Technology has provided an overview of the skills that 6 popular Wii games require. The table describes each game and then rates the following areas: cognitive, physical/sensory, psychosocial, adaptation, set up and general ease of use. Wii Music scored the highest. They have also reviewed X-Box360, PlayStation 3, and games for the computer. View the Wii ratings.

Friday, April 23, 2010

What Behaviors Are Sensory Based?

Therapists are constantly answering this question - are behaviors in children sensory based? There are different ways of finding an answer to this question. One quick tool to start with is the Motivation Assessment Scale. This was developed by V. Mark Durrand PhD and Daniel B Crimmins PhD in 1986. It consists of 16 questions regarding behavior. After the questions are answered with a 0-6 scale of never to always, the test is scored. The question responses are then broken down into 4 categories - sensory, escape, attention and tangible. The category with the highest score is most likely related to the behavior.

View a copy of the Motivation Assessment Scale

More information on the Motivation Assessment Scale

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bayley III Accuracy for Detecting Development Delay

For any of you who use the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development (Bayley-III), recent research indicated that the scale "seriously underestimates developmental delay in 2 year old Australian children". The subjects were 221 children who were born extremely pre term (<28 weeks gestation) or low birth weight (<1000 grams) and a control group of 220 children who were full term and normal birth weight. All the subjects were evaluated using the Bayley III at 2 years of age, corrected for prematurity. The pre-term children scored significantly below the control group on the Bayley III. Although, the mean values of the pre-term children were close to the normative mean of the Bayley III. Therefore, the researchers concluded that developmental delay is underestimated when using the Bayley III.

References: Peter J. Anderson; Cinzia R. De Luca; Esther Hutchinson; Gehan Roberts; Lex W. Doyle; and the Victorian Infant Collaborative Group Underestimation of Developmental Delay by the New Bayley-III Scale Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2010;164(4):352-356.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Gender Differences and Head Movements

Gait and Posture published research on gender differences in head stabilization during level walking in youth. Fifteen females and fifteen males, ages 8-11, underwent gait analysis walking at their own speed. Sensors were placed at the pelvis, shoulders and head. The results indicated no differences in acceleration values between the genders at the pelvis and shoulders. However, lower head acceleration values were seen in females with regards to medio lateral and anterior posterior directions. The researchers disagreed with a previous study indicating that these gender differences were due to mass distribution, greater pelvic movement or walking habits (i.e.wearing high heels).

This study arises new questions for me... what are the gender differences in head movements during infant development, toddlers and younger children?

References: Claudia Mazzà, Mounir Zoka and Aurelio Cappozzoa Head stabilization in children of both genders during level walking Gait & Posture Volume 31, Issue 4, April 2010, Pages 429-432

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

ABC News: Moving and Shaking in the Classroom

This news story was on Good Morning America. Great ideas to incorporate movement into the classroom closely on the stability balls and the standing desks. The equipment may be getting the children to move but some of them have incredibly poor posture because the ball or desk is not at the correct height. Curious to see fine motor skill abilities with everyone on the stability balls all day long. Would hate to see too many schools jump on the bandwagon of incorporating movement but incorrectly.

Earth Day Ideas 2010

Last year I posted ideas to incorporate into some therapy sessions for Earth Day. Here they are below along with a few new ideas added to the list for Earth Day on April 22, 2010.

1. Earth Day Crafts: Create collages out of recycled materials. The children can cut up recycled cardboard or magazines to create a collage. Perhaps think of a theme such as healthy foods or exercise. Maybe write the child's name in large bubble letters and glue on the recycled pictures.

2. Earth Day Challenge: Who can create the tallest recycled tower? See how many recycled boxes or containers you can stack before it falls over. Depending upon where you place the boxes, this activity encourages the child to squat down, reach high, motor plan and more.

3. Earth Day Signs: Create signs with the children reminding them of energy conservation. Example#1: Turn Lights Off when you leave a room - cut out pictures of light bulbs from magazines to glue to sign. Or cut out circles from white scrap paper to be light bulbs. Example #2: Turn off water when brushing teeth. Try using a toothbrush to paint with for the tooth brushing sign.

4. Recycle Carnival:
Create carnival games out of recycled materials. For example, recycled, clean yogurt cups stack well for a target. Newspapers rolled up can hit objects for eye hand coordination. Put newspaper rolls on floor to jump over.

5. Practice energy conservation:
Discuss how energy can be conserved by walking to school or stores. Practice different forms of transportation - walking, jogging, running, bike riding and scooter riding. Discuss which one required the most energy.

6. Protect the earth's animals:
Act out movements of endangered species such as elephants, gorillas, wolves, and tigers.

7. Milk Scoop Jugs: Most everyone knows how to make a milk scoop jug. Just cut off the bottom of a gallon milk container leaving the handle intact. Get a tin foil ball. Throw and catch it in the plastic container. Put colored tape on it to protect any sharp edges.

8. Clean Up Stroll:
Take a walk outdoors, wear gloves and clean up any trash.

9. Plant a Sensory Garden: Plant a small garden outside the school with fragrant and calming plants. If you do not have space outdoors, plant something indoors in a pot (i.e. lavender).

10. Lacing Cards:
Make lacing cards out of recycled materials such as Styrofoam trays, cardboard strips or lace milk jug caps. Want some fun themed lacing cards to place on the Styrofoam trays or cardboard? Check out the electronic book Lacing Cards.

11. Have an art contest: Have the children create projects or an art exhibit with an environmental theme.

12. Terrariums: Create your own terrarium. Use the bottom of a 2 liter bottle for a small terrarium or an aluminum tray for a larger one. Go outdoors and scoop dirt into container. Now add grass, moss and rocks.

13. Recycling OT Blog: Need more ideas about using recycled items in your therapy practice? Check out the Recycling OT Blog written by Barbara Smith MS, OTR.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Autism and Picky Eating

The April issue of the Journal of Pediatrics reports on the rate of picky eating in children with autism compared to a control group without autism. The Children's Activity and Meal Patterns Study (CHAMPS)included 53 children with autism and 58 children without autism. A food diary was kept for 3 days and parents answered a questionnaire about food habits. The authors reported that children with autism "displayed more food refusal and exhibited a more limited food repertoire". Picky eating habits were not correlated with the child's age. Only 4 of the 53 children with autism exhibited extreme eating habits defined as "restricting food consumption to almost exclusively to one item eaten throughout the day". The researchers found that a nutritional risk existed from eating a limited repertoire of foods instead of food refusal. The autistic children exhibited a lack of vitamins A, C, D and zinc when compared to the control group.

Reference: Myers Lowe, Rachael. Nutritional risks of picky eating may be higher in autism Retrieved from the web on 4/17/2010 at

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Expressions of Childhood

Depending upon a child's age and stage of development, expressions of childhood are constantly changing. As my own children move through their stages of development, there are many stages that I wish would never end. One expression of childhood that is in the forefront of my mind is collections. Creating and acquiring collections provide opportunities for imagination, mathematical skills (sorting and counting), sense of accomplishment, independence, creativity and sensory motor development. Each of our four children have collections which change all the time. Some have "indoor collections" of trading cards, stuffed animals, lip gloss and toy animals. Others have "outdoors collections" of rocks, walking sticks and worms (not sure if they are still alive though).

Each of these collections offer my children wonderful developmental experiences. The trading card collection is all artist trading cards that they created themselves. Miniature works of art that are numbered and dated. Their fine motor skills shine in these cards as they improve over time. The plastic toy animal collection provides amazing grading of movement control to get them all to stand up without knocking over the walls of a zoo created with wooden blocks. Even stuffed animals (although we have way too many of them) offer different tactile stimulation, proprioceptive input and an imaginary friend.

The outdoor collections provide physical activity - hikes for special rocks, walking sticks, crutches or canes (whatever they find in the woods at the time) and worm handling. Not for the faint at heart, worm handling can easily result in sensory overload but offers opportunities for environmental exploration, sensory input and emotional attachment. Don't forget all that muscle strengthening involved in digging for worms, climbing for special rocks and walking on uneven terrain with the walking sticks.

One outdoor collection of sticks turned into a clubhouse facilitating creativity, imagination, building skills and pride.

There are also collections that have been inadvertently collected - crayon stubs, dried up markers, sidewalk chalk dust, bicycles (we have 4 kids and somehow at least 8 bicycles in our garage), balls, piles of school artwork or special projects and more. One day, I am sure my husband and I will look back and miss tripping over, picking up and even throwing out some of these collections.

To most these collections are worth no monetary value. To my children's development and our family's memories they are priceless.

What is your interpretation of childhood expressions? Why not post a writing piece in the Childhood Expressions on Child Development Blog Carnival over at Therextras?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Free Access to AJOT

The American Occupational Therapy Association is offering a free trail period to the American Journal of Occupational Therapy through June. AWESOME!

Check it out at

Monday, April 12, 2010

Physical Activity and Brain Health

The American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine has published a review of the research on academic performance and physical activity levels. Studies have shown that physical activity increases arousal, self esteem and increased secretion of neurotrophins (help the development and function of neurons). In the case of sports participation, attention and mental performance have improved immediately following the activity. In elementary schools, academic performance has been maintained even with decreases in instructional times to increase physical activity time. The authors conclude that physical activity is needed for healthy child development. Physical activity time can be included in the school day without compromising academic performance.

This is a great study to reference to teachers and administrators to justify increased physical activity time in the classroom or throughout the day.

Reference: Trudeau, Francois, Shephard, Roy J. Relationships of Physical Activity to Brain Health and the Academic Performance of Schoolchildren American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine 2010 4: 138-150

Get Up and Learn! - Integrating Movement with Learning
Electronic book of 48 pages with over 35 activities that incorporate
movement and learning. Only $6.99

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Elbow ROM Following Humeral Fractures

The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery published research on the longitudinal evaluation of elbow range of motion following pediatric supracondylar humeral fractures. Three hundred seventy three patients who had a diagnosis of supracondylar humeral fractures were either treated with casting or surgery. Follow up revealed that elbow flexion and extension increased the most during the first month following cast removal with improvements seen up to 48 weeks after the injury. The younger patients (less than 5 years of age) fared better than older patients. The fractures that required surgery exhibited a 10% decreased in range of motion (with respect to the contra-lateral side) when compared to the group whose elbows were casted.

Reference: Spencer, Hillard T., Wong, Melissa, Fong, Yi-Jen, Penman, Adam, Silva, Mauricio Prospective Longitudinal Evaluation of Elbow Motion Following Pediatric Supracondylar Humeral Fractures J Bone Joint Surg Am 2010 92: 904-910

Friday, April 9, 2010

Botox, OT, PT and E Stim

An initial study was undertaken on the use of Botox Type A injected into the upper limb muscles of 10 children followed by 10 sessions of OT and PT and then followed by 10 sessions of neuromuscular electrical stimulation on the wrist extensors. Results indicated an improvement in hand function. A trend was seen in a reduction of spasticity and an increase in range of motion but no significant difference was noted. The researchers plan on doing a future study to determine the exact effects of the treatments.

Reference: Rodríguez-Reyes, Gerardo; Alessi-Montero, Aldo; Díaz-Martínez, Leticia; Miranda-Duarte, Antonio; Pérez-Sanpablo, Alberto Isaac Botulinum Toxin, Physical and Occupational Therapy, and Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation to Treat Spastic Upper Limb of Children With Cerebral Palsy: A Pilot Study Artificial Organs, Volume 34, Number 3, March 2010 , pp. 230-234(5)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

LD Artwork Contest

Do you know a talented artist who has a learning disability? The National Center for Learning Disabilities is holding their 2010 annual art competition. The theme is "Hidden Thoughts of LD". The are accepting works of art, photography and poetry that express what it is like for people with a learning disability. They are awarding $500 to one winner from each of these three categories: children ages 4-11, teens ages 12-18 and adults 19 years and older. All submissions must be submitted electronically by May 15th. More info available at the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

Why not create a fabulous work of art for an occupational therapy assignment and enter it into the contest?

Recycle Those Plastic Easter Eggs

Do you have loads of plastic Easter eggs left over from the holiday? Here are some suggestions of what to do with them.

1. Sensory Table Accessories: Separate the plastic eggs. Children can use them to dig in sand, beans or other tactile items. Put them in the water table. Some of the eggs have holes in the bottom and the water will drip out. Kids can cup the egg in one hand and pour water into with the other.

2. Seek and Match: Take several eggs of the same color. Using permanent marker, draw circles on one egg, dots on another one, triangles, etc. Separate the eggs and hide them. The kids have to find each half of the egg and match it up with the correct pattern.

3. Egg and Spoon Race: This old favorite is a relay race. Try to balance the egg on a wooden spoon and walk a certain distance. Don't let the egg drop off.

4. Egg and Hand Race: Have children complete an easy obstacle course holding one egg in each hand. The child has to cup the egg gently in the hand (encouraging an open web space) and don't drop the eggs.

5. Mini Golf Egg Race: Using small toy golf clubs, hit the egg through different obstacles.

6. Bucket Eggs: This is good if you have a LOT of eggs and a few kids. Separate the kids into two teams. Put a bucket in the middle of the yard. Assign each team certain colors i.e. team one is red and green eggs and team two is yellow and purple eggs. Scatter all the eggs around the yard. On "GO" each team must grab the correct color egg and toss it in the bucket. At the end of 1 minute whoever has the most eggs in the bucket wins.

7. Smelly Eggs: You will need the plastic eggs that have the holes in the bottom for this activity. Put different scents in each eggs i.e. cinnamon, cotton ball soaked in vanilla extract or lemon juice, lavender, etc. The child has to guess what scent is inside each egg.

8. Noisy Eggs: Put different small objects inside an egg such as rice, beans, dice, jellybeans, etc. Seal it shut with strong tape. The child can guess what is inside. Or make two sets of the noisy eggs and the child can match the eggs up with the matching sounds.

9. Egg Soup: Take a bunch of plastic eggs and separate them. Pretend to make egg soup. Add the eggs into a big plastic bowl. Practice stirring the eggs. When done, match up the eggs and place them in a small bowl to serve up your pretend soup.

10. Egg Color Hunt: Hide four different colored eggs in the yard or indoors. Announce to the child to find the eggs in a certain order in a certain amount of time. For example: Find pink, purple, green and yellow in 2 minutes or less. Child has to find eggs in that exact order.

Now, who has any ideas for leftover dyed, hard boiled Easter eggs besides egg salad?

50 Sensory Motor Activities for Kids! - Ebook of 50 sensory motor activities to get kids moving!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Treadmill Training or Overground Walking?

Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation published research comparing partial body weight supported treadmill training (PBWSTT) versus overground walking. Thirty four children (mean age 10 yrs, 10 months)classified Level III or IV on the Gross Motor Function Classification System were assigned to the experimental group (PBWSTT) or the control group (overground walking). After 9 weeks of the training, 2 times per week, the overground walking group "showed a trend for an increase in the distance walked over 10 minutes". No significant difference was found in the School Function Assessment in walking speed or walking function. The researchers concluded that PBWSTT may be no more effective than overground walking for improving walking speed and endurance.

Reference: Kate L. Willoughby,Karen J. Dodd, PhD, Nora Shields, PhDd, Sarah Foley. Efficacy of Partial Body Weight–Supported Treadmill Training Compared With Overground Walking Practice for Children With Cerebral Palsy: A Randomized Controlled Trial Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Volume 91, Issue 3, Pages 333-339 (March 2010)
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