Monday, December 31, 2012

Research on Muscle Weakness in Down Syndrome

A recent research study using a mouse model was published in the American Journal of Physiology - Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology comparing the soleus muscle in mice with Down syndrome and mice without Down syndrome.

The results indicated that there was not a significant difference between the two groups of mice with regards to the force production of the muscle, muscle fatigue and muscle fibers.  There was not a clear indication of mitochondrial limitation between the two groups either.

There was a significant difference in muscle recovery between the two groups.   There was also  numerous altered pathways in Down syndrome muscle including the breakdown of proteins, metabolism of glucose and fat, and neuromuscular transmission.

The researchers concluded that the muscle itself is not responsible for muscle weakness in mice with Down syndrome and the perhaps the motor systems in the brain or the neuromusclar junction play a role in muscle weakness in Down syndrome. 

Reference:  Krupa, D. New Study Offers Insights Into Role of Muscle Weakness in Down Syndrome. Retreived on 12/28/12 from the American Physiological Society at

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Activity Blocks Brain Break

Check out the latest video on creating some physical activity blocks.  This makes a great brain break for the classroom - just shake the box to determine what activities to complete.  Watch the video at

Friday, December 28, 2012

Handwriting, Motor Skills, Motor Memory and Autism

A poster presentation at the 2012 Society for Neuroscience annual meeting researchers reported on a small study using a digital tablet to record precise handwriting metrics of 12 boys with autism, 8 with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and 12 controls. The tablet measured pen pressure, strokes, speed and precise letter formation while the children copied an eight-word phrase that uses every letter in the alphabet. Three experiments were conducted - copying letters from the phrase written, tracing the letters in the phrase as carefully as possible and tracing the letters as quickly as possible.

The results showed the following differences in handwriting kinematics:
  •  children with autism and those with ADHD were faster but less accurate than controls at each task
  •  children with autism performed poorly on the copying and tracing task
  •  children in the ADHD group struggled with copying but traced as well as controls.
  •  in all three experiments the children with autism who were worst at reproducing the letters scored lowest on working memory sub-scores of an intelligence quotient test
  • the ADHD group and the control group did not show an association between letter reproduction and working memory
The researchers concluded that it is not only motor performance but higher cognitive centers as well that contributes to handwriting difficulties in children with autism.  

Reference:  Hughes, V. Handwriting study points to motor, memory problems in autism. Retreived on 12/28/12 from Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative at

Check out Your Therapy Source for handwriting activities.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

10 Bilateral Coordination Activities for the Body

Some children who receive pediatric occupational and physical therapy have goals related to bilateral coordination for the whole body.  Here are ideas to practice bilateral coordination skills in older children:

1.  Marching to music and clapping hands at the same time.

2.  Cross crawls - touch your right hand to your left knee and then the left hand to your right knee.  Repeat touching the opposite feet.

3.  Traditional jumping jacks

4.  Cross Country Jumping Jacks - place right arm and right leg forward jump and switch left arm and left leg forward.  Try opposite sides - place right arm and left leg forward jump and switch left arm and right leg forward.

5.  March in place sitting down while drawing circles in the air with both hands

6.  Try a task using both hands or both hands and feet at the same time - ie: dribbling a ball with both hands, kicking a ball and dribbling a ball.

7.  Play hopscotch - the skill of jumping feet apart and together requires coordination of both sides of the body

8.  Perform motor activities to the beat of a metronome

9.  Jumping activities - jumping rope, jump up and clap hands, jump up and touch your heels behind your bottom, jumping activities through a floor ladder, etc.

10.  Animal walks that use both sides of the body - ie: crab walk, bear walk and crawling

What are your favorite bilateral coordination activities for the whole body?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Design a Toy Worksheet

Practice drawing and handwriting skills with this printable to help design a new toy.  You can download and print it at

Monday, December 17, 2012

Physical Activity and ADHD Symptoms

Recent research was published in the Journal of Attention Disorders on a pilot study that looked at 17 children, grades K-3, who exhibited four or more hyperactivity/impulsivity symptoms on the Disruptive Behavior Disorders Rating Scale.  Each child participated in 26 minutes of continuous moderate-to-vigorous physical activity daily over eight school weeks.  The effects of response inhibition was the most consistent.  After the program, parents, teachers, and program staff reported that most participants (64% to 71%) exhibited overall improvement.

Reference:  Alan L. Smith, Betsy Hoza, Kate Linnea, Julia D. McQuade,Meghan Tomb, Aaron J. Vaughn,Erin K. Shoulberg,and Holly Hook. Pilot Physical Activity Intervention Reduces Severity of ADHD Symptoms in Young Children Journal of Attention Disorders January 2013 17: 70-82, first published on August 25, 2011 doi:10.1177/1087054711417395

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Shrimp Cocktail Game Review


I received several complimentary games including, Shrimp Cocktail, from BlueOrange games to test out. We have been having loads of fun with it.

 Basically, you want to identify what matches on three cards - either color, size, number or hat style. Once you find a match for all three you grab the starfish and announce your match that you discovered. It takes a few rounds of practice to get a feel for the game. Once you have played a few times though it is very easy to follow and super fun to play for children ages 7 to adult. The age range is definitely accurate - younger than 7 may have a hard time finding the matches quick enough to beat others.

Here are the positives about this game:
  • challenges visual discrimination skills
  • works on visual form constancy skills
  • encourages self control (don't grab the starfish unless you see a match)
  • practices reaction time
  • quick to play (takes about 10-15 minutes)
  • using the starfish cuts down on arguing who saw the match first 
Here are the negatives:
  • can be challenging for the younger set to find a match quickly
Stay tuned for more game reviews from BlueOrange games.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Pediatric OT Videos by Students

I came across this collection of pediatric occupational therapy videos created by OT students.  I have watched a few of them and the information may be helpful to some pediatric OTs and their families.  I found the video on Hygiene for Cerebral Palsy informative.  It is interesting to see the OT students projects as well.  Take a look at Vimeo.  I have shared the Hygiene video below.


Hygiene for Cerebral Palsy from Pediatric Occupational Therapy on Vimeo.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Fit Kids and Higher Test Scores

Yet again, more research to support that children who are fit perform better in school.  The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness has published research on 312, 6th through 8th grade students, from Michigan.  The researchers gathered data on the students body fat, muscular strength, flexibility and endurance. These fitness scores were then compared to their grades and standardized tests. The results indicated that the children who were the most fit had the highest test scores and grades regardless of gender or whether they had gone through puberty.  

Reference:  Michigan State University. Fit Kids Finish First in the Classroom. Retrieved from the web on 12/7/12 at

Friday, December 7, 2012

LEGO Grant

LEGO is now accepting grant applications for this quarter until January 15, 2013. 

The average $500 - $5000 grant supports:
"qualified tax-exempt organizations (as determined under section 501(c) (3) of the Internal Revenue code) including educational organizations as defined in USC 26 § 170 (C) with specific, identifiable needs primarily in these areas of support:
  • Early childhood education and development that is directly related to creativity 
  • Technology and communication projects that advance learning opportunities."
More information at the LEGO website.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Zentangle Doodles

Have you ever heard of Zentangles?  It is a fun doodle drawing that encourages visual motor skills, creativity and relaxation.  Simply start out by drawing a rectangle on a small piece of paper (ie half of an index card).  Draw a few squiggle lines inside the rectangle.  Now doodle different patterns in each box.  There is no right or wrong for this activity.  If you google zentangle, you can find many different examples of different doodles and pictures. One of the great things about zentangles is that you can make them very small therefore it does not take too long to finish the picture.

Read another blog post on the benefits of doodling here.  Check out Doodle Diaries for doodling prompts. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Sitting Upright Helps with Learning

Many times pediatric therapists recommend environmental modifications to help children sit up on their own or to sit with an upright posture.  Whether it be a "Bumbo™"  or "Tumble Form" type seat for babies or an adapted chair for older children, therapists know that by providing proper seating the child is better prepared to free up their hands to explore the environment.

Developmental Psychology has published research entitled "Posture Support Improves Object Individuation in Infants".   The research indicated that babies' ability to sit up unsupported has a profound effect on their ability to learn about objects.  The study was performed in stages but the end result showed that helping a baby to sit up in a secure position allowed the baby to use patterns to differentiate objects which previously they were unable to do if not sitting up securely.

Reference: Medical Xpress. Study shows sitting up helps babies learn. Retrieved from the web at on 12/5/2012

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Helping Students and Families Pick Sports

As pediatric therapists, families and students may come to us for suggestions on participation in organized sports for children with disabilities.  We can make recommendations based on a child's strengths.  When a child is evaluated for therapy services, frequently depending upon what evaluation tool is used, you can determine areas of strength such as balance, muscle strength or eye hand coordination skills.  Use this information to help formulate a basic recommendation of what might be best to try for a specific child.

Organized sports that require good eye hand coordination skills are baseball, softball, tennis, volleyball,etc. 

If a child exhibits better balance skills perhaps try gymnastics, karate and diving to name a few.

For some children individualized sports may be a good fit such as swimming, biking, bowling, track and field or skiing.  Individualized sports allow a child to participate in physical activity at their own pace versus the stress of being on a team sport.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Concussion Guidelines for Children

Mild traumatic brain injury is serious in children. There are recommendations to follow after a child experiences a mild concussion. CanChild has some informative flyers to download to offer printable guidelines regarding returning to physical activity or school following concussion. These flyers walk you through the specific steps or stages following the injury so that the child slowly returns to physical activity and school. You can get the information at the website -

Sunday, December 2, 2012

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