Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Movement App Review - Dance Party Zoo

I love to test out apps that require whole body movement. So far I have not been impressed with many and don't even bother sharing them. Here is one that has some potential...I guess. I am not overly excited about it but I have decided to mention it and see if anyone has some great uses for it. It is called Dance Party Zoo. Basically you pick an animal avatar and then dance with the iPhone in your hand or pocket and it measures your rhythm (according to the app). After the countdown you start moving and grooving to your choice of music. While you are moving there is just an orange screen like this:

Then when you are done dancing, the screen changes and shows the animal dancing to the rhythm you previously danced. It provides a nice visual for slow or fast dancing. You are awarded points for maintaining a consistent rhythm. The dancing animals are cute but you can barely see them. I was really hoping that when you danced the animal would move (like a Talking Tom app but the animal moves based on how you move the iphone - does anyone know of any apps like that?) This app costs $2.99 and you can get it here - Dance Party Zoo.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

December Holiday Clothes Pin Mat

Download this free holiday mat to practice visual motor skills and encourage muscle strengthening on the fingers with matching clothes pins to the letters. You can download it at

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Child Welfare and Gross Motor Skills

Here is an interesting study published in Pediatric Physical Therapy. One hundred seventy six children in the child welfare system underwent gross motor skill evaluations, physical examinations and case workers were interviewed. The results indicated the following:
  • significantly lower gross motor skills for children in foster care versus kinship care
  • children who were abused or neglected also received lower gross motor scores
  • overall the mean gross motor score for children in the child welfare system was lower that children in the general population.
You can read the research article in full at Pediatric Physical Therapy.

Reference: Hanson. H. et al. Factors Influencing Gross Motor Development in Young Children in an Urban Child Welfare System Pediatric Physical Therapy:
Winter 2011 - Volume 23 - Issue 4 - p 335–346 doi: 10.1097/PEP.0b013e3182351fb5

Friday, November 25, 2011

Raining Letters Activity

Check out this free activity, Raining Letters, to print to encourage letter identification, matching lower case to upper case letters and physical activity. You can download it at

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Serial Casting and Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy

Pediatric Physical Therapy published a medical records review following serial casting in 9 boys with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and ankle contractures. The results indicated improvements in range of motion (12 degrees on the right, 11.6 degrees on left with knee extended and 7.8 degrees on right and 8.7 degrees on the left with knee flexed). In addition, the boys were assessed on a timed 10 meter run, ability to climb four stairs and transfers from floor to standing. These scores were unchanged following the serial casting. The researchers concluded that serial casting increases range of motion in the ankle with no loss of function or speed in boys with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.

Reference: Glanzman, Allan M. et al. Serial Casting for the Management of Ankle Contracture in Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Pediatric Physical Therapy:
Fall 2011 - Volume 23 - Issue 3 - p 275–279 doi: 10.1097/PEP.0b013e318227c4e3

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

New Desk for Individuals with Physical Disabilities

I came across a new desk recently while on Twitter, Facebook or maybe Google. Regardless, in my opinion this product looks really amazing to use in the schools. In my experience, it can be difficult to have the proper seating in every classroom for an individual with a disability especially as students get older and change classes. Although I have not tried it personally, the Desktop Desk seems very promising. Wouldn't is also be nice to have one in the OT room for ease of use when working on an angled surface? I asked the creator of the desk, Rob Mayben, a special education teacher, to answer a few questions. To get an idea of how the Desktop Desk works be sure to check out the links to the videos or start with this video, because the visual of the desk in use is very helpful. His answers are so interesting about the creation of the desktop desk and how innovative products are created based on need.

Once again thank you for the opportunity to talk about the desktop desk. The following are answers to your desktop desk questions. I am real passionate about providing access and opportunities and what the desktop desk is providing. I am a Teacher first, but sure am having a lot of fun with my desktop desk adventure - Rob Mayben.

Thank you Rob!

Question #1: Why did you design the product?

The first desktop desk was developed for Neil. Neil has Cerebral Palsy and because of his large wheel chair and poor motor skills struggled to actively participate in my Special Education Math/Woodshop class. I did not have a plan to develop, manufactured, and market a product, I simply wanted to put something together to help Neil independently access and participate in class activities. I think many Special Education Teachers actively work to find ways to help their kids participate as independently as possible through self made devices, and that is how the desktop desk started.

The first desktop desk prototype provided access and immediately allowed Neil to independently participate in academics along side his peers. The moment I saw Neil writing INDEPENDENTLY on the desktop desk prototype, with no help from me or his adult aide was to this day was my best teaching moment.

A couple of days later I built another desktop desk prototype for a student who was in a upper body brace (because of a back surgery) and was not able to bend over a desk or table because the positioning irritated her back. The portability and tilt of the desktop desk allowed her to be comfortably positioned at a classroom table and work. And then one was built for an autistic boy who was struggling to keep focused. The desktop desk became part of his routine when he walked in my class. He was able to set it up, place his activity sheet on it, and when he tilted it to a comfortable working position he was able to work with less visual distraction. This equaled less classroom behavior management for me and more academic time for him.

One student benefiting from the desktop desk lead to more students benefiting and then adults and ultimately that is why I worked to develop, patent, manufacture, and market the desktop desk. My goal through the desktop desk is to help provide kids and adults access, opportunity, and independence in academic and social settings. And it is happening!!

I am very proud to announce that desktop desks are being used by the following agencies across the US:

School Districts Hospitals

Creative Centers Students

Resource Agencies Colleges

Technology Centers Libraries

County SE Programs Therapists

Adult Centers and more…

Question #2: Can it fit on any table?

The desktop desk easily attaches to most tables provided in classrooms, offices, cafeterias, restaurants, and can even be attached to most picnic tables. When attached properly and to an appropriate table, it is usually as strong as the table it is attached to.

Question #3: How easy is it to move from one desk to another if a child changes classrooms?

It takes about 2 minutes to take the desktop desk out of the carry/storage bag and safely attach.

Question #4: How quickly can you adjust it if a different student needs to use it?

It can be adjusted to meet individual needs in seconds

Here are the videos - How the desktop desk set up Parent video on the desktop desk FOX 40 reports on the desktop desk Neil using the desktop desk

Question #5: For others who are thinking about creating an innovative product for students with disabilities what is your number one piece of advice?

Do it! I know parents, teachers and other professionals work everyday to develop great devices to help kids and adults be included. And you never know where that will lead.
If they are looking to develop a product to manufacture and market a realistic business plan is very important.

Question #6: Where can they go to get more information or order the desktopdesk? Do you take purchase orders?

The desktop desk can be purchased through your local Sammons Preston or Patterson Medical Sales Representative at

Also information, testimonials, pictures, video, and purchases can be found and made through the website. Purchase orders are accepted.

Other interesting desktop desk information

Have you heard about the desktop desk Sponsorship Program? This Program works within communities and with local Service Clubs and Businesses to sponsor and provide desktop desks to agencies that have kids or adults who would benefit academically or socially from desktop desks. Through the desktop desk Sponsorship Program several desktop desks have been donated by Rotary, Lions, and Veterans Clubs as well as local businesses around California to many different agencies and schools. It has been fun to see Clubs and Businesses work together to help provide desktop desks in their community. Here is a link to some great pictures of the Sponsorship provided desktop desks.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Kids as Teachers?

Do you ever let the students that receive therapy services teach other students? Research has shown that the highest retention rate of what you have learned results from teaching others, with practice the skill coming in a close second. During therapy sessions, therapists spend hours working on practicing and learning new skills. When a child does reach a goal and learns a new skill it would be very beneficial for that same child to teach that skill to another child.

Here are the benefits of teaching others:

1. Demonstrates that you have full knowledge of the skill.
2. Forces you to review what you learned.
3. Provides you with a sense of accomplishment that you are helping others.
4. Helps to commit the information to long term memory and a permanent motor plan.
5. By teaching the skill, the child may have to research the skill even further to explain it properly so you are generating new knowledge.
6. The child will be seen as a role model since he/she was able to learn the skill.

Now of course in therapy there are some skills that would be hard for a child to teach but in general most skills could be taught by a child. In addition, the children may be able to offer tips and insights that adults can not.

Why not give it a try?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Fitness and Mental Health In Children

Another study has been published touting the benefits of physical activity in children and its effects on their mental health. A longitudinal study was done in Australia with the researchers reporting the following:
"Our main findings are that higher levels of fitness are resulting in lower levels of depression and stress and greater body satisfaction and this is even after accounting for the potential negative effect of body fat.”

This study was looking at the effect of strong physical education programs in public schools. The researchers concluded that psychological well being in children is linked to cardio-respiratory fitness and physical activity.

Reference: Fitness Boosts Mental Health. Retrieved from Australian National University at

50 Sensory Motor Activities for Kids! - creative, fun filled activities and games that get children moving.

Find out more at

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Postural Control and Fine Motor Skills

The American Journal of Occupational Therapy published research on the relationship between postural control and fine motor skills in infants. The medical records were reviewed of 105 preterm infants. The Alberta Infant Motor Scale was used to assess postural control and the Peabody was used to evaluate fine motor skills. Statistical analysis revealed that the development of postural control is related to the development of fine motor skills particularly in this pre-term group of infants with delayed postural control. The researchers state that this information supports the intervention techniques during occupational therapy of proximal to distal development.

View the full study at AJOT.

Reference: Tien-Ni Wang, Tsu-Hsin Howe, Jim Hinojosa, Sharon L. Weinberg. Relationship Between Postural Control and Fine Motor Skills in Preterm Infants at 6 and 12 Months Adjusted Age. doi: 10.5014/ajot.2011.001503 American Journal of Occupational Therapy November/December 2011 vol. 65 no. 6 695-701

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Video- Activities for Kids of All Abilities

The Move Forward PT website has posted a video on You Tube encouraging physical activity for children of all abilities. It is a short video with a few suggestions. Would be nice to show to parents and other health providers.

Scissor Use - Progress Monitoring Formr

We have just published Progress Monitoring Forms - Fine Motor Skills. This download includes 40+ forms to track an individual's fine motor skills over time. You can get a free copy of the Scissor Use Progress Monitoring Forms here.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Musical Magnet Maze

Here is a unique way to make a maze multisensory and practice visual motor and bilateral coordination skills. You only need a maze, magnet, jingle bell, cardboard and a page protector. To learn how to create this activity and to see it in action watch the video at

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Classroom Background Noise

Background noise in classrooms can influence a student's ability to learn. Many children with sensory processing disorder in particular can be distracted by different noises. Frequently classroom seating accommodations are suggested based on the student's ability to stay on task. Some recent research indicated that students who spent time in louder classrooms performed worse on tests. Sound levels were taken in classrooms when they were empty to compare the different rooms that the tests were taken in. Therefore, the sound levels were only background noise that influenced the test scores.

Did you know that the recommendation for classroom background noise should not exceed 35 decibels? This research showed that for optimal performance on a test, the sound level should be at 28 decibels (the level of a whisper).

This data is from during test taking but makes me wonder about everyday learning. What about classrooms that are participating in group learning? The decibel level is more like 50-65 (loud conversation). Curious to see research on understanding of material in louder classrooms.

Reference: Braconnier, D. Study shows background noise affects test scores. Retrieved from the web on 11/12/11 from

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Use of Weighted Vest

The American Journal of Occupational Therapy published research on a pilot study of 10 second grade students that exhibited difficulties with attention span. The intervention group wore a weighted vest and the percentage of time on task was measured. The control group wore a non weighted vest. The examiners and data collectors were blind to whether the student was in the intervention or control group. A statistical analysis revealed that the weighted vest was not effective in increasing time on task.

You can read the full text article at AJOT.

Reference: Amy Collins and Rosalind J. Dworkin. Pilot Study of the Effectiveness of Weighted Vests Am J Occup Ther November 2011 65:688-694; doi:10.5014/ajot.2011.000596

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Podcast on Integrating Movement Across the School Day

Just finished listening to an informative podcast on integrating movement across the school day. This free podcast can be listened to online or you can download it and save it to listen on your mp3 player. It offers some nice ideas on incorporating more physical activity throughout the day.

You can listen to the podcast entitled More than Just Gym: Integrating Movement Across the School Day at The Whole Child.

My favorite point that was a great reminder is that physical activity in the classroom is not just for the younger children. It can be even more important for the older students who have such a heavy caseload of school work. Middle and high school students brain and body benefit from these bouts of exercise throughout the day.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tips for Teaching a Child Dressing Skills

When children learn how to dress themselves it is a huge accomplishment. Independent dressing is a skill that needs to taught and practiced. Here are some tips for teaching a child how to dress:

1. Children will usually learn to undress first. Remember to allow children practice time to undress. Praise them for being independent when undressing (if appropriate).

2. Be patient. Do not try to teach dressing skills if you are in a rush. It takes children a long time to dress themselves. Perhaps pick out clothes the night before to eliminate one step.

3. Provide verbal cues as necessary. Try to use the wording on each step by step direction for consistency. As the child becomes more independent, reduce the verbal cues until they can be discontinued completely.

4. Try teaching dressing using backward chaining. Backward chaining means that an adult provides assistance throughout several steps until the child can complete the last steps independently. For example - you help the child hold shirt, put arm through, put overhead and put other arm through. The child then completes the last step independently of pulling the shirt down. Continue this process by advancing to the child completing the last two steps...then last three steps...etc until the child is independently putting on the shirt.

5. If you are not sure where to start, try the easiest items first - elastic shorts, elastic pants or shirts without buttons.

6. Lay the clothes out in the proper order and direction for the child. Make sure all the clothes are turned right side out.

7. Practice dressing skills with larger dress up items to increase motivation levels.

8. Model the steps by dressing a doll first. The child can practice dressing and undressing dolls or stuffed toys.

9. If the child is sensitive to clothing, try cutting tags out of the shirts or purchasing seamless clothing. Try washing the clothes several times before wearing.

10. If the child needs complete assistance for certain steps, try doing hand over hand to complete that step until the child becomes more independent.

11. Once the child can complete the dressing tasks independently, practice the skills in different environments (i.e. bathroom versus bedroom) or with different types of clothing (i.e. tighter fitting versus looser fitting).

12. Try practicing getting dressed in front of the mirror unless it confuses the child.

13. Try completing the dressing skills in sitting on the floor or on a bench if it is too difficult in standing.

14. If the child has one side of the body weaker or tighter than the other, dress that side first. If undressing, remove the weaker/ tighter side last.

Dressing Skills - Step By Step Visual Directions to Teach Children How to Dress

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Dressing Skills Rubrics

Quantify dressing and undressing skills with 21 rubrics to assess dressing skills.

Find out more information.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Children with Disabilities Participation in PE and Extracurricular Activities

The Department of Education has published a report entitled Creating Equal Opportunities for Children and Youth with Disabilities to Participate in Physical Education and Extracurricular Activities. It is a 24 page report that provides an overview on the law, guidelines for physical activity and suggestions to increase opportunities. Here is a summary:

IDEA and Section 504 are the laws that require children and youth with disabilities have access to physical education and extracurricular activities.

In general, children should participate in 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day. For children with disabilities, the recommendation is to work with your health care partner to determine an appropriate number of minutes per day of physical activity.

The suggestions to increase opportunities are the following:
  • make sure that the activity is accessible for all children with disabilities.
  • use specialized equipment or modify equipment if necessary
  • educate personnel on adapting games and activities
  • encourage an inclusive teaching style
  • assess progress on an individual basis
  • utilize staff with strong behavior management skills
  • use a Universal Design for Learning (UDL) approach for the physical education curriculum
For more information and a list of references and resources you can read the report in its entirety here or below.

Reference: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, Office of Special Education Programs, Creating Equal Opportunities for Children and Youth with Disabilities to Participate in Physical Education and Extracurricular Athletics, Washington, D.C., 2011.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Visual Tracking and Bilateral Coordination Activity

Here is a fun, super cheap activity to encourage visual tracking and bilateral coordination. All you need is a pool noodle, a marble and some tape.

Step 1: Cut the pool noodle in half lengthwise with a serrated knife (adults please).

Step 2: Shape one half of the pool noodle into a circle and tape it closed.

Step 3: Try to make the marble go around the circle track without it falling out. See how many times you can make the marble go around the track. Our record was 32 times!

Bonus: nice science lesson on centripetal force. You have to keep up the speed of the marble going around the track or it will fall out.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Gender Differences in Sedentary Behavior

Interesting research in Pediatrics on the different sedentary behaviors of boys versus girls. Three hundred thirty one preschool children wore accelerometers over a period of 2 weeks. The results indicated the following:
  • girls were more sedentary than boys
  • for boys sedentary behavior was correlated with the amount of weekly tv/video games and physical activity equipment in the home
  • for girls body mass index and coordination was significantly correlated with sedentary behavior
None of these results are surprising but they do validate that children need to be physically active from a young age or bad habits will start very early. In addition, if girls in particular have deficits in coordination skills this needs to be addressed at this early age to prevent a lifetime of sedentary behavior. Simple tips can be offered to parents to increase physical activity time such as decrease tv/video game time, increase physically active play time, eat healthy and practice coordination skills such as throwing, catching, skipping and any other ball skills.

Reference: Wonwoo Byun, Marsha Dowda,and Russell R. Pate Correlates of Objectively Measured Sedentary Behavior in US Preschool Children Pediatrics 2011; 128:5 937-945; published ahead of print October 17, 2011, doi:10.1542/peds.2011-0748

50 Sensory Motor Activities for Kids!

Download of 50 activities to get kids moving.

Find out more.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Block Play and Spatial Awareness

A recent study in Mind, Brain and Education indicated that playing with blocks helps children to understand spatial concepts such as over, around and through. The researchers found that parents who participated in guided block play with their children had significantly higher proportions of spatial talk. Guided block play consisted of playing with the blocks along with guided instructions for how to build different structures.

Developing the skills to express and understand spatial skills are the first step in understanding spatial ability and awareness such as math skills, visual perceptual skills and body awareness. Maybe next time you see a child struggling with spatial awareness take a quick moment to determine do they understand spatial language the first building block to spatial awareness.

Reference: Fisher, K. Interactive play develops kids' spatial skills. Temple University. Retrieved from the web on 11/3/11 at

Building Block Patterns and Games

Get over 40 pages of building block pattern cards and games.

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Visual Perceptual Games and Activities

Includes many games to practice visual perceptual activities including block patterns to create and build.

Get more information.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Challenging Motor Skills

Yesterday, I was spending some time with my 14 month old daughter outdoors. I was just watching her interact with the environment and see what choices she made to play. All of a sudden it hit me how often she challenges her motor skills to a more difficult level. There were many examples of this:
  • she was walking on the pavement (still somewhat unsteady being a new walker for about one month) and gets bored with that rather quickly and prefers the challenge of the uneven terrain of the grass (notice her crouched position and wide base of support walking on grass)
  • she had the choices of ride on toys, the Cozy Coupe car and balls to play with but it never takes long for her to gravitate towards the porch stairs so she can practice climbing up and down (this is an obviously dangerous task for her - she can make it up but if left to her own accord she would tumble to the concrete when descending the stairs)
  • she occasionally asks to go in the swing but much prefers to attempt to climb up the slide or up the ladder (also quite precarious when she stands on a slide)
  • she has the choice to play with balls, pine cones and leaves but she always goes back to these tiny round balls that fall from one of our trees to practice her fine motor skills to pick up the potential choking hazard
Now of course I am closely watching and guarding her throughout all these activities but I do let her explore them. It really made me wonder why some babies do this behavior? Why is he or she always looking for the next motor challenge? I realize that not all babies behave this way although she is my fifth child and her four previous siblings behaved in the same manner (especially obsessing with climbing the stairs). In addition, whenever we are at a gathering with other parents many of them see me closely following my children up and down the stairs repeatedly (babies love to perform the same tasks over and over and over again). Almost of all them say "I see they found the stairs, I remember those days".

Although my observations are based on typical childhood motor development, children who are developing at a slower pace also benefit from being challenged motorically. This is why when some babies or young children are not walking they will benefit from a standing program, gait trainer or wheelchair for social, cognitive and physical benefits. You can read more on this topic from a previous post Ready, Set, Go.

So I guess my questions for the day are:
  1. Do you let your child explore and challenge themselves to learn new motor skills and develop a sense of accomplishment?
  2. Why is it that when a baby could choose to play with toys or explore the outdoors they sooner or later gravitate towards something they can climb on or perhaps something they should not have?

    Is it the novelty, the fear, the sense of accomplishment or self driven motivation? I am guessing it is all those things together. I looked for research on this but came up empty handed. Would love to hear if anyone has anything on it I am very curious...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Fun App to Use for Motor Skill Practice

Here is an app I came across called Spinnerz. This app is only $0.99 and you can customize the spinners with your choices. There are some fun graphics to spin with as well - Holiday themes (i.e. Santa's arm spinning), a fish spinning around and lots of mesmerizing images.

There are many preinstalled spinners that basically work like a magic 8 ball. Ask a question and it will give you a prediction or answer which does not exactly pertain to therapy can make your own lists. Here are some suggestions for make your own lists:
1. warm up activities before handwriting tasks
2. gross motor skills to wake the body up
3. calming activities
4. proprioceptive input activities
5. different colors - spin a color and run to find an item that is that color

Obviously there are many more ideas that you could come up with to suit the children that you work with.

One more bonus - you can actually activate the spinner by blowing on it like a pinwheel too! It is a little difficult but it does work. Go into the settings and turn on the breath control. Now slide the weight all the way to the left and the friction should be low. Just blow right over the center of the spinner and it will start the spinning action. (I could not get the blowing action to work on the iPad only the iPhone)

I really like this app because it allows you to customize it. Plus, I like any app that I can add physical activity to. You can download it for $0.99 at the app store.

If you need simple activity ideas check out our Mini Movement Breaks and Fine Motor Breaks .
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