Thursday, March 31, 2011

Free Apps

Have you heard of FreeAppAlert ? It is a website that lists all of the paid apps that have recently become free. Worth checking out frequently. For example for today Grace, a picture exchange system, normally sells for $38 is free! Check out Bubble Harp - totally cool musical app. Tap the sides of the screen to get started making mesmerizing, relaxing music with your fingertips.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Minute to Win It for OT Month

Here is a fun idea to celebrate occupational therapy month this April. Have you heard of the hit television show Minute to Win It on NBC? Basically, the contestants are given challenges that they must complete in 60 seconds. The challenges usually involve sensory motor skills of varying degrees of difficulties. The materials for the challenges are common household items. Why not have your very own Occupational Therapy Minute to Win It challenges? You can vary the challenges to reflect different areas of occupational therapy. Have some prizes on hand for your contestants. Our local school is doing a fund raiser with Minute to Win It and charging admission to the show. Why not try and raise some money for occupational therapy supplies or your favorite charity. You can view all the "blue prints" (basically the directions for the challenges) at the Minute to Win It website.

Here are some ideas specific to occupational therapy:
1. Fine Motor Challenges
How high can you build a tower of marshmallows and toothpicks in one one minute?
How many paper clips can you chain together in one minute?
How many coins can you flip over from heads to tails in one minute?
How many stacks of 10 pennies can you build in one minute?
2. Sensory Challenges
From the show - unroll two rolls of toilet paper and wrap it around yourself in under one minute
How many times can you push a therapy ball through a tunnel in one minute?
3. Activities of Daily Living Challenges
How many times can you tie and untie your shoe in one minute?
How many times can you put on and take off your coat completely in one minute?
You get the idea. Vary the challenges as necessary based on the motor skills of the children at your school. And, if you still don't get it, visit the Minute to Win It website for loads of ideas! Have fun.

Here is an old blog post entitled 10 Things to Do to Celebrate Occupational Therapy Month

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sew the Alphabet Activity

Here is a video tutorial on how to create a set of tactile alphabet cards. If the children are able, they can help make this beautiful set of letters cards using materials from around the house such as index cards, needle and thread. Create the whole alphabet, a child's name or a monogram. Download Alphabet, Number and Shape Cards to get started or create your own templates.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Benefits of Gardening and Children

With Spring upon us, why not get children started with some gardening. Gardening offers children excellent sensory motor exploration. Think of all the senses that are involved in gardening:
  1. Tactile - touching the rough seeds, feeling the dry dirt, experiencing cold, wet mud, handling the soft fuzz of a green bean or the smooth skin of a melon
  2. Proprioceptive - digging in the dirt, pushing a seed into the ground, carrying watering cans, hauling watermelons and pulling weeds
  3. Olfactory - smelling the flowers, herbs and vegetables
  4. Taste - enjoying a crisp bite of a carrot or a warm tomato from the sun
Now think of all the motor experiences:
  1. Fine motor - handling the small seeds or picking a berry or bean
  2. Gross motor - kneeling in the garden, quadruped searching for cucumbers, squatting and standing
  3. Coordination - using garden tools with both hands or maneuvering a wheelbarrow
  4. Balance - avoiding stepping on plants or walking on the uneven ground
Why not start a garden this Spring. Here are some tips to creating a successful garden experience with children.
  • Make sure you get the children involved. Ask what types of food or flowers they would like to grow.
  • Look for seeds with short germination periods to keep the children interested.
  • Give each child a small area that they can plant their seeds. Mark each child's with a self decorate garden marker (i.e. large paint stirrer stick) in the ground.
  • Use good soil to ensure growth of the plants
  • Remember to water and weed (fertilize if necessary).
  • If you do not have the space to garden, how about creating a large container garden for the children to nurture and watch grown.
  • If necessary, adapt the garden tools with bigger handles or velcro straps. If a child can not get to the ground to garden, bring the garden to them by starting a container garden.
Happy Gardening!

For more Spring activities check out: Sensory Motor Activities for Spring, Spring Handwriting Activities and Print and Create Fine Motor Projects - Spring.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Jackpot! SPD Information

I previously posted on an article that was written by David Brown, from the California Deaf Blind Services, on The Forgotten Sense - Proprioception. Well, David Brown recently commented on that post to let us know that he has just posted all of the 6 articles he had written on The Forgotten Senses:

* The Forgotten Sense - Proprioception
* The Vestibular Sense
* The Sense of Smell - the Olfactory Sense
* The importance of having 'Good Taste'
* The sensory integration perspective and what it offers us in the field of
deafblindness, Part 1
* The sensory integration perspective and what it offers us in the field of
deafblindness, Part 2

They are just as excellent and informative as the previous one on proprioception. You can find all six articles at the California Deaf Blind Services website. Thanks Mr Brown for letting us know and for sharing your articles. Great work!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Effects of Kinesio® Taping

Recent research compared two groups of children with cerebral palsy with and without Kinesio® taping. Fifteen children with cerebral palsy (Levels III, IV and V) received Kinesio® taping and physical therapy for 12 weeks. The control group of 15 children, again Levels III, IV and V, only received physical therapy for 12 weeks. Initially and after the 12 weeks of treatment, the Gross Motor Function Measure (GMFM), Functional Independence Measure for Children (WeeFIM) and Sitting Assessment Scale (SAS) were performed. The results showed significant differences in the GMFCS sitting subscale,GMFCS total score and SAS scores in both groups. The SAS scores were significantly higher than the control group. The WeeFIM scores were significantly higher post 12 weeks in the Kinesio® taping group whereas the control group scores on the WeeFIM did not change from initial assessment to post 12 weeks of treatment. Overall, no direct changes were seen in gross motor skills and functional independence with the use of the Kinesio® taping but sitting posture showed improvements.

Reference: Simşek TT, Türkücüoğlu B, Cokal N, Ustünbaş G, Simşek IE.The effects of Kinesio® taping on sitting posture, functional independence and gross motor function in children with cerebral palsy. Disabil Rehabil. 2011 Mar 14. [Epub ahead of print]

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Using Kinect to Help The Visually Impaired

Two graduate students from Germany hacked into a Kinect game controller to create a auditory and vibrational device to help guide the visually impaired. It may look bulky but it is super cool! View it in action below.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

App Review - Dexteria

Dexteria is a new app released by Binary Labs for fine motor skill development which retails for $9.99. I have just finished testing this app for about a week now. This app includes three activities - Write It, Tap It and Pinch It. Progress on each of the activities can be tracked, reported and even emailed. The developers recommend that "for best results the exercises should be done on a regular basis in relatively short sessions. This will ensure the necessary practice to improve fine motor skills over time".

Write It is the handwriting activity where you can trace the lowercase letters of the alphabet. There are dots and arrows that guide your finger along to create the letters. You do have to form each letter without ever lifting your finger. I tested it using a finger to trace and using a stylus and both worked fine. The positive aspects of Write It is the clear picture of the letter and verbal directions. The negative aspects are that there are no upper case letters (although developer of App states this may be available in the future). In addition, the fact that you can not lift your finger to create each letter.

Tap It encourages finger isolation practice and motor timing. You have to keep your thumb on the green dot and touch the other dots as they appear. It has several levels that progress in difficulty. This was difficult for the children to follow as it got faster. It was also hard to keep their thumb in place and see the dots. They kept moving their thumb to see the dots. Definitely good to practice finger isolation but you may need to repeat levels before moving on the the faster levels.

According to the developers, the goal of Pinch It is to encourage fine motor manipulation and control. The crabs appear on the screen and you have to "pinch" them using the thumb and index finger to make them disappear. First the crabs are not moving on the screen and as the levels progress the crabs move. The children were able to pinch the crabs occasionally with tip to tip contact. Although many times they had to exert a lot of pressure onto the screen causing hyper-extension of the index finger tip. If you have any fingernails or larger hands, it is difficult to pinch the crab.

Overall, I am not too impressed with this app for the general public. The Write It portion is okay but there are better apps out there to practice handwriting. Tap It is interesting but not very engaging for children and at times difficult. With Pinch It, be sure to keep a close watch that there is not hyper extension at the distal joint.

For occupational therapists, the one huge benefit is the ability to track the child's progress - it instantly creates reports on how long it took the child to complete each level or write each letter. Depending upon the type of children that you work with, this app may be beneficial to use in short spurts.

You can watch a video of Dexteria in use at Apps for Children with Special Needs
For more information on the developers go to
It is available in the app store.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Balance and Dyslexia

Recent research attempted to determine is there is a connection with balance skills and reading speed. Ninety four children with a familial risk of dyslexia were compared to 85 children without a risk of dyslexia. The results showed that children with a risk of dyslexia had more problems with balance and reading. Testing indicated that attention, IQ, hyperactivity and motor functioning were not related to balance problems although attention and IQ were related to reading speed. The researchers concluded that balance problems alone do not produce reading difficulties and that perhaps there is a genetic mechanism between balance and reading problems.

Reference: VIHOLAINEN, H., ARO, M., AHONEN, T., CRAWFORD, S., CANTELL, M. and KOOISTRA, L. (2011), Are balance problems connected to reading speed or the familial risk of dyslexia?. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, 53: 350–353. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8749.2010.03856.x

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Typing or Writing?

CanChild has a research based, informative hand out for school staff and parents on whether children with coordination problems should learn how to use a word processor or continue to focus on handwriting. It answers questions such as:
  1. Why should children with DCD use a computer or word processor?
  2. Does keyboarding mean we are giving up on handwriting?
  3. Printing versus cursive writing?
  4. Can children with fine motor problems learn how to type?
  5. When is the best age to introduce key boarding?
  6. What is the best way to teach keyboarding?
  7. When is voice to text a good option?
You can view the handout below or download it from CanChild.

Reference: N. Pollock & C. Missiuna, 2005 To Write or Type - That is the Question. Retrieved from the web on 3/19/2011 at

Friday, March 18, 2011

Mirror Therapy and Children with Hemiplegia

Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology published research on mirror therapy in children with hemiplegia. Mirror therapy involves the use of a mirror to provide the illusion that the paretic arm is functional. This type of therapy has been used with adults who have had a stroke. For this pilot study, 15 children with hemiplegia were randomly assigned to complete 15 minutes of bimanual training for 3 weeks of therapy with and without the mirror. Training with the mirror significantly improved grasp strength and upper limb dynamic position. Training without the mirror significantly improved pincher strength.

I had never heard of mirror therapy prior to this research study. Seems like an interesting idea with minimal equipment involved. Has anyone had experience, good or bad, with mirror therapy and children with hemiplegia?

Reference: GYGAX, M. J., SCHNEIDER, P. and NEWMAN, C. J. , Mirror therapy in children with hemiplegia: a pilot study. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, no. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8749.2011.03924.x

Thursday, March 17, 2011

DCD and Physical Education Class

CanChild, Centre for Childhood Disability Research has published a great flyer to provide to physical education teachers of students with developmental coordination disorder (DCD). Then hand out explains DCD, describes the symptoms, and offers teaching tips. Check it out below or here.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bracing and Hemiplegia

Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology published research on the use of a wrist and thumb brace on bimanual activities in children with hemiplegia cerebral palsy. Twenty five children with spastic hemiplegia cerebral palsy (with mild to moderate hand deformity) performed bimanual activities wearing a brace and not wearing a brace. Assessment results indicated that when the children were wearing the brace the ability to complete the bimanual activities improved significantly compared to when the children were not wearing the wrist and thumb brace.

Reference: LOUWERS, A., MEESTER-DELVER, A., FOLMER, K., NOLLET, F. and BEELEN, A. (2011), Immediate effect of a wrist and thumb brace on bimanual activities in children with hemiplegic cerebral palsy. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, 53: 321–326. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8749.2010.03849.x

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Orthotics Affect on Upper Extremity Use

The Spring 2011 issue of Pediatric Physical Therapy published an interesting study on the use of supramalleolar orthoses and how they affect upper extremity use. Seventeen children with Down Syndrome were divided into two groups of treadmill training - one group of children wore supramalleolar orthoses and the other group did not. Both groups of children were followed every other month to video tape the use of the upper extremities during table top play. The children were followed from when they could pull to stand until independent walking. The results indicated that wearing supramalleolar orthoses did not affect hand support while standing.

Reference: Looper, Julia PT, PhD; Ulrich, Dale PhD Does Orthotic Use Affect Upper Extremity Support During Upright Play in Infants With Down Syndrome? Pediatric Physical Therapy: Spring 2011 - Volume 23 - Issue 1 - p 70–77 doi: 10.1097/PEP.0b013e318208cdea

Friday, March 11, 2011

Simple Steps to Increase Preschool Physical Activity has published a great hand out on increasing physical activity for preschoolers. It includes 12 simple tips on how to encourage preschoolers to move. For example: hang pictures on the wall of children moving, use regular objects in the classroom for movement play, teach children how to use different objects for multiple uses and more. It is an excellent resource to provide preschool teachers with because all the suggestions are very easy to carry out. You can download it here or view it below.

Check out our latest ebook Action Alphabet to get preschoolers moving.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Misidentification of ADHD

Recently, Pathways Awareness conducted a survey of 500 members of AOTA, APTA, NDTA and ASHA (basically OT, PT and Speech). The results of the survey indicated that 68% of the therapists had evaluated or treated 3-8 year old children who had been previously misidentified as having a learning disability or behavioral issues. Of the 68% of therapists, 90% reported that the children were misidentified as having ADHD or ADD. In addition, 82% of therapists saw a rise in the number of children they see for sensory issues. You can read a copy of the press release at Pathways Awareness.

Update 5/20/11: You can find a copy of the survey results below.


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Your Own Handwriting Font for Free!!!

I read about this handwriting font that you can create for free over at the iLearn Technology blog.
Basically, PilotHandwriting will generate a font for you to type based on your own handwriting. It is very simple to do.

Go to PilotHandwriting. Watch the video and print out the template. Write in all the letters. I suggest you use a felt tip black pen with at least a medium point. I tried using ball point pen and it did not work the first time around so I switched to a thin black marker which worked much better. Scan in the template back to the website. You can take a picture of the template or use the webcam if you do not have a scanner. And voila, you have your own handwriting font. Check out mine above.

Some suggestions for use:
1. Motivation for students to practice letter writing. Fill in the template to see your own handwriting on the computer.

2. For students who use assistive technology for written expression it is a simple way to submit an assignment with a handwritten look to it.

3. Motivation to practice typing with your own handwriting.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Free Online Training Materials - Developmental Disabilities

The Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities offers many FREE online training materials that offer educational resources on developmental disabilities. There are many video to watch and learn from including topics on:
Strategies for Teaching Functional Skills (Parent guide)
Assistive Tech for Individuals with Neurodevelopmental Disabilities
Neurodevelopmental Approach for Babies
Visual Processing Deficits in Fragile X and Autism
And many more...
All are free to watch and some are even in Spanish. Take a look here.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Smart Phone Use of Pediatric OT's and PT's

The latest survey results are in on the usage of smart phones by pediatric occupational and physical therapists. You can view all the responses here. You can view how many therapists have smart phones and what applications they like for professional and personal use. Don't forget to take a quick moment to answer our current survey on the value of school based therapists.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Free Collaborative Website

Came across this amazing website - Basically, you can collaborate on documents, images, web pages and more. The best thing about it is that no one has to sign in or create an account to meet up, unlike Google docs. All you have to do is send someone an email to ask them to join you on Twiddla. It also works with the touch screens of an iTouch, iPhone and iPad (and I would assume other smart phones but did not test it out). Here are some examples of how you could use Twiddla:

  • explain documents or activities to parents via the internet. For example, a student is sent home with some activities to perform. Send the parents an email to invite them to Twiddla. Upload the documents you sent home with the student. Now you can mark up the document and review any sections while you are both looking at the same document. You can even turn on the audio feature.
  • collaborate with other therapists regarding evaluations or notes. Discuss your findings with other therapists via the web.
  • collaborate with other therapists to review and make changes on standard letters being sent home regarding therapy
  • upload home exercise program images and explain the steps to parents via the web
  • children who are home bound for medical reasons can participate in interactive whiteboard lessons live with the classroom
Forgot to mention the best part... it is FREE and fun to use (even more fun with a touch screen). Let me know what you think if you try it out. Check it out at

Friday, March 4, 2011

Obesity, Gait Patterns and Vision

Gait and Posture published research comparing the walking patterns of normal weight children versus obese children. Gait analysis was performed on 32 children in light and dark conditions. Both groups of children exhibited changes in their walking patterns in the dark conditions. Although in the dark conditions, the obese group spent more time in the stance phase of walking. With the removal of vision, the obese children's gait patterns were affected more than their normal weight peers. The results indicated that obese children rely more on their vision to control walking.

Reference: Eva D’Hondt et al. The role of vision in obese and normal-weight children's gait control Gait & Posture Volume 33, Issue 2, February 2011, Pages 179-184

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Glass Stone Letters Activity Idea

Glass Stone Letters Fine Motor Activity Idea

View activity directions, get free download and see more pictures at Your Therapy Source.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Therapy Cushions in the Classroom

The American Journal of Occupational Therapy published a small study on the use of therapy cushions during math class for 2 kindergarten students with autism. Using a single subject A-B-A-B-C design the children used a regular chair (A) - cushion (B) - chair (A) -cushion (B) - free choice (C) during math class followed by assessment of the teachers and children's preferences. The results indicated that no clinically relevant changes during in seat or on task behaviors were seen with the use of the therapy cushions. The researchers concluded that therapy cushions may not provide enough stimulation to be effective and further research was recommended.

Based on my experience, I have found wedges to be effective in encouraging upright posture for low tone children but not necessarily a change in behaviors.

Do you find therapy cushions to be effective for in seat or on task behaviors? To collect data on whether your sensory strategies are effective check out the The Scale of Sensory Strategies (S.O.S.S.) Tool Kit™

Reference: Caroline Umeda and Jean Deitz. Effects of Therapy Cushions on Classroom Behaviors of Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder. 10.5014/ajot.2011.000760 American Journal of Occupational Therapy March/April 2011 vol. 65 no. 2 152-159
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