Friday, December 27, 2013

It's been a few weeks since I have been able to sit down and write.  Christmas is a busy time of year with all the shopping, parties, and family events.  Hope everyone had a great Christmas.  As I look at the presents that my children received, I can't help but notice the difference in the presents from when I was growing up to now.  Now, children receive electronic gifts- whether gaming systems, laptops, Ipad, Ipods etc. Back then, we received gifts that we put together and played with- board games, legos, blocks etc.  While I know times have indeed changed, I want to allow my children to enjoy all the modern technology, but not be limited by it.  So, after a few days to enjoy their electronics, it is time to put limits on them.  Allow the children to watch/play on them for a limited time each day (1-2 hours) and then have them go play with other toys that use their imagination and allow for some gross motor time. Some people will argue that some gaming systems provide children with gross motor movement.  Yes, but they are still isolated in front of the tv.  Get them outside interacting with other children and playing.  Give them opportunities to view more than  a tv/device screen.  I know that we, as parents, are busy and enjoy the quiet time we get when our children are entertained by tv/devices/gaming systems, but please limit this time. 
One note- there are really great educational games available on most of these devices.  I know that on the ipads there are many math and other educational games available for free.  Check these out.  Your child will enjoy them because they are games on a device.  Also, be sure to use the parental controls available to limit what your child is able to access. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Glove painting

Try this painting- fill latex gloves and have the kids use the gloves to paint.  You can fill one with warm water and one with cold water to teach temperature.  Fill one with sand or pebbles.  This is a great sensory activity.  Be creative and let the kids get messy!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

PVC Pipe Crayon Adaptation

Super easy and super effective!  Create an adapted crayon holder for kids with a weak grasp with a PVC pipe T and some foam.  Or use it for utensils too!  The 1 inch diameter PVC pipe works well for young kids, increase the diameter for older kids or adults.  Foam pipe or wire insulation works well for the insert.  If the child can't quite maintain the grasp as he or she is trying to use it, simply put a velcro strip through the PVC pipe to go around the back of the child's hand.  It works wonders.  Get those kids doing some art!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Rainy Day Obstacle Course

Weather getting cold where you are?  Try making an obstacle course out of things you have around the house.  Put masking tape on the floor with arrows so multiple kids can do the course without too much mayhem.  Take some ideas from the classroom above, build a tunnel with a sheet to crawl through, cut out cardboard hands and feet to get kids crawling...  give them a demonstration and talk them through it if they need help with motor planning, then fade your prompts as they are successful!  Great for kids with motor coordination troubles and sensory seekers!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Paint with vegis

Here's a fun way to paint.  Use vegetables.  Here, we used a pepper, a potato, and a carrot to create pictures.  The vegetables are cut in half so the paint has a place to stick. The kids loved being able to use the vegetables to make cool pictures.  You can use any vegi you like- try broccoli. Have a blast making neat pictures.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Paint with foam

Here's a twist on painting- use foam.  Just mix finger paint with bath foam and you get foamy paint.  What great sensory play!  Not only does it feel different, it has a different smell.  So, give your kids some paper and foamy paint and let them go at it.

Have your kids write letters and numbers in the paint using their index finger.  Remember, the more senses you put into learning, the easier it is to learn. So, use this as a non-conventional way to teach letters and numbers.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Corn projects

What to do with the leftover corn from your holiday decorating?  Try some art projects with the kids.  Here is one project you could do.  Have the kids pick the kernels off the cob, color the leaves and then glue the kernels to the picture. 

Another really cool idea is corn cob painting.  Put paint on a tray, take a corn cob (with, or without, kernels) and roll it in the paint.  Then roll the cob on paper to make neat designs.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Increase pencil grasp with this pen

A teacher I work with came to me the other day to get my opinion on this pen that she found at the local education store.  It's made to gain a more functional grasp in children and adults.  It has a flat edge where your idex finger rests and it positions nicely in your hand.  While not eliciting a true tripod grasp, it does allow for a functional fit for writing.  It is easy to use and glides smoothly over the paper.  Would I recommend it?  Yes, with clarification.  I have some children that, due to physical limitations, will never gain a true tripod grasp.  This may allow these children an alternative to a tripod grasp to help them function neatly and at a good pace during school   This tool may have break the "fisting" of pencils/crayons that some children have real difficulty breaking.  If these children consistently use this tool, they may just get out of the "fisting" habit.  And for adults with arthritis, or other such conditions that make it uncomfortable to achieve a tripod grasp, this tool could be the key to pain-free writing.

But, this tool is a pen and I do not recommend a pen for early writers.  First, pen can not be erased and we all know how many mistakes children make in the early stages.  Second, pens are more difficult to make a mark with since they must be held at a certain angle in order to create marks.    This tool may  help a child evolve his grasp into a tripod.  If only it was made as a pencil, or crayon.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Who says scarecrows can't be ninjas?

This is what my 7 year old brought home in his backpack this weekend...
I was surprised he got away with the handmade cut out sword, but couldn't resist posting here to encourage us all to think out of the box when fostering creativity!

Encourage your kids to complete art projects in their own way sometimes to keep tabletop work not so much like work.  Try making character scarecrows or making collages out of all those toy advertisements we'll be receiving soon.  Make a special art box of scrap papers, duct tape, stickers, Popsicle sticks, and some glue and see what they'll create!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Bubble Painting

This is a cool idea I saw from at a preschool and told the teacher I would be "borrowing" this idea.  Bubble painting!  The kids LOVE it and it looks really cool to watch. 
Here's what you will need:
Paint mixed with dish detergent:  3/4 paint, 1/4 dish detergent  
    I found thinner paint works best.  You may need to play around with the mixture.

Paper cups

Straws- bendy straws work best

Paper Plates

Rubber Bands

Baby Wash cloths:  I found some at the dollar store

Mix the paint and pour onto a paper plate.  Poke a hole, gently so as not to go through the opposite side of the cup and so as not to get too big a hole,  through the paper cup with the straw.  Place the washcloth over the open end of the cup and secure it with the rubber band.  Place the straw through the hole in the cup and angle the end towards, but not touching, the cloth. Dip the cup, cloth end, into the paint.  Have your child blow through the straw as hard as they can and soon bubbles will come out!  TIP:  you will need to get a lot of paint onto the cloth for it to work. Rub the bubbles onto a picture and see how cool it looks.



Monday, October 21, 2013

pumpkin decorating

It's almost Halloween and time to carve and decorate your pumpkins.  There are so many fun, and creative ways to decorate a pumpkin.  Have your child take a small pumpkin and draw something on it using markers or paint.  Bigger kids can help carve the pumpkin (with supervision, of course).  Have your children dig their hands into the inside to take out all the seeds and goo.  Don't be afraid to get your, and their, hands dirty and gooey.  Separate the seeds to bake for a treat.  Pumpkin carving offers many different fine motor and sensory benefits, so carve, and decorate, away!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Play ball!

It's still nice outside and perfect weather to spend time playing catch with your kids.  It amazes me, and others, that kids these days do not know how to catch or throw a ball.  In working with preschoolers, it is shocking just how many kids have no idea how to catch a ball thrown gently to them.  Obviously, many of them have not ever been given the opportunity to learn this important skill.  There are many benefits to learning to catch and throw balls.  Eye-hand coordination is key to catching a ball.  Muscle strength and coordination play a part, as well.  If playing for a period of time, endurance is increasing.  Playing with another child, or even adult, is building social skills and the skills necessary for team sports.  So, please get out and play ball with your children.  It is not only fun for the two of you, but great bonding time between a parent and child.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Family Dinners

We have all heard that it is important to eat at least some meals together as a family.  We also know that with everyone's hectic schedules, this can prove to be almost impossible.  As kids get older, and into more and more activities, the evenings seem to rush by with practices and driving the kids here and there.  For families with older kids, it is extremely difficult to find a night that the whole family is at home at the same time.  But, try to eat together for at least a couple of meals.  Meal time is an ideal time to sit and talk with one another; to find out what each family member has been doing and find out how their days are going.  Children will open up about school, their friends and their teachers.  Parents can share what their days entail and tell fun stories about what happened during the day.  Meals are a great time to sit down and discuss problems and difficulties that the children are having and allow open communication between family members.  Older children get a sense of importance when their parents genuinely listen to them, without distractions.

Family meal times are also very beneficial to families with toddlers and small children.  Toddlers learn by example and meals are a great time to teach table manners and socially acceptable ways of eating.  Children can learn to use their utensils by watching their parents or older siblings use them.  They can learn that it is not socially acceptable to use their hands to shovel food into their mouth.  And small children can learn to use open cups during family meal time. (for those children not quite accurate with drinking from an open cup, give small cups with only a tiny bit of liquid).  Social skills, such as the art of conversation, can be learned while sitting at a meal.  Include your child in the conversations; no matter how young your child is.  So many parents allow children to sit at the table, either at home or in restaurants, with electronic devices to entertain them so that the parents are able to get a quite, less stressful, meal. While this may be ok occasionally, it is important to teach children to sit during meals and quietly engage in the table conversation.  Many children get so accustomed to being entertained by games during meals that they are unable to sit appropriately, without devices, when necessary.  So, start at home. and at a young age, and teach your children these essential social skills.  It may be difficult at first, but in the long run, you will be glad you did.  You and your children will be able to go out to eat and enjoy the meal together.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Having trouble cutting?

How can I strengthen my child's hands and teach two handed coordination?
  • warm-up prior to cutting with playdough or an exercise ball
  • work on targeting pincer strength and the open-shut motion needed for cutting by using tongs or children's chopsticks, he can sort pieces of cereal into bowls while you're cooking dinner
  • play with things that require both hands, like nuts and bolts, stretching rubber bands around an upside-down cup, wind-up toys, kaleidoscopes, stringing beads, lacing cards (make your own by punching holes in index cards and using a shoelace)
How should I approach cutting?
  • try cutting snips off a thin strip of paper first, then cutting across wider strips
  • then try cutting lines, curves, and shapes, reminding them to turn the paper with the opposite hand
  • provide a verbal cue of "op-en, shut, them" to pace your child
  • make a special box of random items like tin foil, wax paper, string, anything that's fun to cut
  • draw thick marker lines around pictures in those toy catalogs that will be coming out soon
My child is really having trouble, what kinds of adaptive scissors are out there?

Pocketful of Therapy carries a wide range of products and many types of adaptive scissors.  There are loop scissors for a child with a gross grasp, but little dexterity, self-opening scissors, tiny scissors, and even ones with extra holes for adult fingers to slide in behind the child's to help them learn to cut.  Adaptive Products carries adaptive scissors, including table top mounted ones and ones that are battery operated.  They also carry a range of workbooks with specific cutting activities.  Happy cutting!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Fairs- great sensory trips

We went to the fair the other day and I realized just how much sensory input a fair delivers.  First, all the noise of the fair.  A crowded fair tends to be quite noisy and stimulating with sudden loud sounds, animal cries and people laughing and screaming.  I noticed quite a few children with their hands over their ears.  Second, there are lots of smells- some good (food) and some not so good (animal droppings).  The smells can be quite overwhelming at times as you walk around.  Third, the proximity of all people and animals.  As you walk around the fair, it is inevitable that you get jostled and pushed by other people, while animals walk near by.
For a child with sensory issues, a fair can be quite overwhelming.  But don't just avoid the situation- a fair can be quite educational for children.  They get to see up close animals that they may not see in everyday life.  So, ease your child into the experience.  Let them know what to expect prior to going and throughout their day.  You could say, "ok, we are going into the cow section.  It may be loud and smelly."  If your child is not able to handle the full experience, just stand in the doorway to see the cows.  Allow your child to put his/her hands over his/her ears, if necessary.  Read your child's reaction to the stimuli so that you are able to deal with it before it becomes too intense and you are facing a meltdown.  Remember, it's ok to leave an area that is too much for your child.  It's also ok to stay in an area, even if it's mildly uncomfortable to your child.  You need to be aware of your child's reactions to best deal with the situation. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Learning colors

I recently had a teacher ask me for suggestions to help a child learn his colors.  This child just wasn't grasping the idea of colors and, despite months of being taught his colors, could only name one.  The teacher was frustrated and wondered if I had any suggestions.  I assured her that she was not the first teacher to have this difficulty and told her that there are some children that have a particularly hard time with this concept.  Colors are difficult for some children to learn because color is an abstract idea. We point to the car and say it is blue.  The sky is blue,  his eyes are blue, and so on and so on.  A child is looking at the objects and thinking "how can they all be the same?"  So, be sure to teach colors using alike items.  Place 2 blocks in front of the child.  Say, "these are both blocks- one is blue (point to it) and one is red (point to it)".  Do this with a few items.  I recommend using 2 completely different colors- not red/orange. 
Once you have introduced the concept of colors, use the colors throughout your day.  One suggestion I gave the teacher was to put construction papers on the back of the chairs.  Give one child at a time a color to find and sit in that chair.  At first have the child with difficulty  choose between only 2 colors.  Practice one color at a time (so have him find red for a few days until he is consistently picking it).  Gradually increase the number of chairs/colors he picks from.
Another suggestion is to use gross motor to teach colors.  We have mentioned in many posts how the use of movement increases a child's ability to learn. So, glue colored papers on a wall and have the children throw balls or beanbags at a color.  Tape colored papers on the floor and have a child jump to a certain color. 
Remember to label items with their colors throughout your day.  Say, sit on the blue carpet; go to the red table; pick up the purple cup.  Saturate your day with colors and you should see the children grasping the idea in no time!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Stand up to work

Kids today are much more sedentary than we used to be.  We were always out and about playing in the yard and in the neighborhood.  There were always friends and games to play outside.  We didn't have all the video devices, phones, and other electronic devices available today.  Kids today (for the most part) sit far more than we ever did.  We see it in the obesity epidemic in children and we see it in some children being generally weak.  So, have children stand to do tasks.  Have them stand to do puzzles at the table, have them stand to do table top tasks such as stringing beads, lacing cards or playing games.  Standing is great to help strengthen the trunk and add stability, which is important when students are writing.  We need trunk stability to use our arms and hands for writing and cutting.  It amazes me when I get one of my students to stand up to work, just how quickly they tire out.  Children sit for most activities now and find it difficult to stabilize themselves to stand and perform.  But, it is so important for them to be able to do just that.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Good Ways to Use Equipment in EI Classrooms

Lots of kids in EI classrooms would benefit from the use of standers or special seating throughout their day, even also those kids placed in regular ed environments in need of this type of equipment. Try using a visual schedule of activities with a pictures of the equipment underneath.  That way the teachers and therapists can coordinate in which position the child would be able to best work on specific goals.  And it can be modified easily from day to day while keeping everyone on the same page.

Even kids that have trouble paying attention may benefit from sitting on a dynamic cushion or rocking chair during group learning times like circle.  Everyone may exit circle to go to centers more calmly if they are to crawl through a tunnel after stating their center choice.  Talk to your OT about other ways that special equipment in the classroom, whether it be low tech like a beanbag chair or high tech like a mobile stander, can benefit your child!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Good positioning for handwriting

It's the beginning of the school year and kids are starting the learning process.  Now is the time for teachers/ therapists to assess the children and their positioning at their desks/tables to ensure the best possible positioning for handwriting.  If the desk is too high, or too low, or if the child is not sitting well, handwriting suffers.  So, now is the time to assess your students' positioning to allow them to do the best work they can.  Here are some general rules for optimal positioning:

Desk height should be approximately 2 inches above the student's elbow level

   Feet should be flat on the floor when possible

1-      Smaller students may need a foot stool to stabilize their feet

2-      Smaller students may need higher chairs.

3-      Try to group children by size, if possible, when using multiple tables and make height of table appropriate for the group

The child should be positioned in a 90-90-90 position, or as close to this as possible.  A 90-90-90 position is one in which the hips, knees and ankles are in a 90* angle

The child should be positioning squarely in front of the desk and close enough for easy access.

The child should be sitting upright, not leaning one way or the other

Remember that children grow, so their positioning should be monitored throughout the year and adjusted as necessary.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Minion cupcakes

Here is a cute idea for cupcakes that a mom of one of my clients sent in as a birthday treat.  Minion cupcakes.  The kids in class loved these cupcakes. The minion's head is a twinky with marshmallow eyes and icing mouth and hair. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Here's a way to make bowling at home different and fun.  Take empty water bottles, peal the labels and put glow sticks in them!  Wait until dark, then roll a small ball at them. You may want to keep the lids so you can put a small amount of water in the bottom to stabilize them a little more and to make it a little more difficult to topple over. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Appropriate shoes for school

School has started, or is going to start in the next few days/weeks.  So, I am going to pass along some words from my Physical Therapist colleagues- Please have your child wear appropriate footwear to school!  Preschool and elementary children spend parts of every day on the playground or in a gym.  So, please put safe and functional foot wear on your child.  Appropriate foot wear includes sneakers (that fit- don't buy up a few sizes thinking to save money by wearing them longer- never works since kids ruin sneakers quickly) and tied, rubber-soled shoes.  While little girls in flip flops or dressy shoes may look cute, it is not safe for them to wear these types of shoes to school.  Dressy shoes are slippery and can cause your daughter to slip and fall, or to hang back and not run and play (This goes for boys and dressy shoes, as well).  The dangers of flip flops, for both boys and girls, are self-explanatory.  Although I think crocs are on the way out, there are still children wearing them to school  Some schools have rules banning these ill-fitting, non-supportive shoes and the PTs I work with agree that they are not good, supportive shoes for children to wear to school.  I feel that Crocs have there place- maybe to wear to swim practice or around the house, or on errands, but not at school.  If it's raining and you want your child to wear rain boots to school (or snow boots in winter), be sure to send in sneakers for him/her to change into. 
Part of your child's education is gross motor (in elementary and preschools) and you don't want to jeopardize this essential element of his education by allowing him/her to wear inappropriate footwear.  Gross motor allows that movement break that young children need  to fully function in the classroom.  Research has shown an increase in attention and brain function if gross motor breaks are worked into the school day.  So, allow your child to participate in the offered gross motor times so that he/she will function to the best of his/her ability in the classroom.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Ride Bikes

My daughter has been wanting to ride her bike every night now that it is getting cooler and I realized just how great an activity it is.  I remember riding my bike all over the neighborhood and beyond when I was growing up.  The neighbor kids and I would ride almost every day.  But it is not quite as popular an activity now with all the other activities out there to entertain our kids.  Our kids have so many activities and toys to choose from that they just don't ride their bikes as much anymore.  Kids have electric scooters, skateboards, video games, all the i stuff (pads, pods, phones),  tv and all the other electronic devices.  But bike riding offers many benefits that these other things just don't offer, such as coordination, physical endurance, visual motor control and socialization if done with a group.  We hear it all the time that kids don't get outside to play like they should.  I say get them out riding their bikes.  And, parents, go with them!  We all could use a little extra exercise, and it is great bonding for you and your child. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013


I remember playing jacks all the time as a young girl.  I could play for hours, either by myself, or with a friend.  I never tired of it.  But kids these days have other amusements and, I fear, jacks has become less appealing.  Jacks are a great game for kids of all ages.  Playing Jacks works on  eye-hand coordination, counting skills, problem solving, and  fine motor control.   Plus, it entertains your child!
By the way: I didn't notice the "W" sit of my child until after I had posted this (my PT friends would chastise me for allowing this).

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Motor Planning and Reading Fluency

Well, this was one interesting solution that a parent and I came up with for a struggling with reading fluency fifth-grader who happened to be an excellent baton twirler... tape a passage to read on the wall and have her do a repetitive, easy rhythmic pattern with her baton.  Try reading along to the cadence of the pattern.  It worked quite nicely for her.

Promising research articles have begun to show a correlation between the two.  Try encouraging your struggling reader to do it while walking on a treadmill, pushing himself back and forth on a scooter board, or rocking in a rocking chair.  Think out of the box on this one, but no bike riding, unless of course it's stationary!  Let us know any creative ways you find to help your struggling readers with movement!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Just how much sleep do children need?

So, after our last post, we've been asked, "just how much sleep do children need?"  Good question, and, while sleep needs do vary between individual children, there are suggested amounts of sleep recommended per age.
  For a child who is 3-6 years old, the recommended amount of sleep is 10-12 hours/day.  This amount can be broken up between night time sleep and naps (for those that still nap).
  For a child who is 7-12 years old, the recommended amount of sleep is 10-11 hours/day.  That means a bed time between 9-10.
  For a child who is 12-18 years old, the recommended amount of sleep is 8-9 hours/day.

In today's busy world, it gets difficult to ensure that your child gets the sleep he/she needs.  Between parents working,  sports schedules and homework, the nights get later and later.  But, it is essential that kids get the sleep they need for both their mental and physical well being.  To perform at their highest possible potential, kids need to recharge.  That means getting enough sleep.  So, it is the parents' job to do everything in their power to allow their children to get the rest that they need.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Back to school preparation

Ok, I know it seemed REALLY short and you are not quite ready for it to end, but, summer is almost over and the kids will soon be going back to school.  Usually by this time of summer I start to hear moms starting to say that it's time for the kids to get back to school because the kids are starting to drive their moms crazy. While summer is fun and unscheduled (for the most part), kids need structure and to know what to expect each day. About this time of the summer, siblings start to argue and fight more (too much together time) and parents get tired of entertaining the kids all day.  August seems to be the time for school prep.  Parents take their kids to the stores to shop for school supplies and clothes.  Kids get lists of all the things they will need for the year.  But, it's not just buying supplies that parents need to do to get their kids ready to go back to school- it's getting the kids themselves ready, too.

It's only a couple of weeks until the kids are back in school, and it is time to get their bodies adjusted again to the early to bed, early to rise routine of school.  Typically, parents allow their kids some slack in the bedtime and morning routines over the summer.  That's ok, but now it's time to get them ready to achieve in school.  Don't go cold turkey on the first day of school- start now to make  their bedtime earlier.  Wake your child up earlier in the morning, gradually getting close to the time he/she will need to get up for school.   It will take a couple of weeks to do this so start now.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Make an Ocean

Make an ocean!  Have your child paint a couple of pieces of paper and staple them together to make an ocean.  Then have your child draw fish and crabs and other ocean creatures.  Color or paint them, cut them out  and glue them on the water.  He/she will have his/her own ocean to hang up in his/her room.  Be creative and make all kinds of sea life.  You could look at ocean books to give your child some ideas.

Monday, July 29, 2013

How do I teach my child to blow his/her nose?

This is a question we, as OT's, frequently are asked.  Children get runny or goopy noses a lot and rarely like having their noses wiped.  Parents and teachers get frustrated with the chasing and wiping routine and wonder "when does a child learn to blow their own nose?".  Blowing a nose is a rather abstract concept and difficult to teach.  You can tell a child over and over to "blow out your nose" and even demonstrate the concept repeatedly, but some children just don't get it.  So, how do we teach children to blow their noses?  First, blowing is a learned concept and needs to be taught to the child before we can work on blowing out the nose.  Try showing the child how to blow out of his/her mouth first.  Rip up small pieces of paper (great fine motor activity, as well) and have your child blow them off the table using his/her mouth, or even a straw.  Blow out birthday candles (with direct supervision) or get a pin wheel and have your child blow it.  Every time, use the word "blow" so that your child starts to associate the word with the action.
Once your child gets the concept of "blow", we can move on to blowing out the nose.  Play the blow the paper game again, but have your child clamp his/her teeth together to blow.  You can help keep his/her mouth closed with your finger or use some tape to keep his/her lips closed.  Tell your child to "blow out your nose".  It may take many attempts and several days/weeks before your child finally is able to get air to pass through his/her nose, so don't give up easily!  The end result will be worth the effort.  Remember to give lots of praise and even cheer your child's effort.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Painting with squirt bottles/guns

It's still summer, so get outside and have fun!  Here's a great and creative idea for painting.  Use a squirt bottle, or squirt gun.  Just add food coloring to the water and have your child squirt at a piece of paper.  We first attempted to squirt on pavement, but the color didn't show up.  You could try adding a lot of food coloring to see if that would make the color show on pavement, or just hang up some paper.  It's great for hand strengthening to have your child squeezing the bottle/gun and the kids think it's great. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Thunderstorm Schmuderstorm

As one of my kids was traumatized by falling trees when he was walking home with my husband just prior to a thunderstorm when he was 6, I have loads of personal ideas surrounding this issue.  Happy to report that 4 years later he is able to camp out with Cub Scouts during a storm unscathed!  Here are a few general articles discussing the subject:

Kids Health from Nemours - Thunderstorms
Parents Magazine article

Teach them the science...
Judging Lightning Distance by Thunder

Make a 'thunder and lightning kit' that may include flashlights, things to build a fort, special glow sticks, art, etc.  Have the kids help decide what goes in it.  Only get it out when there is thunder and lightning. My son is a Star Wars fan so calling him a Storm Trooper helped!

Have your child do creative art to help express his fears, free painting at an easel or on large paper taped to the wall is very therapeutic!  Some kids like to talk about why they used certain colors or how painting made them feel.  Putting together a social story about what is happening and what you are going to do when it happens is also a good strategy.

Try visualization techniques... have your child who is fearful close his eyes and pretend to put all his bad/scary feelings into a cloud, then take a deep breath and visualize blowing the cloud away.  Deep breathing is calming.

Make sure to provide physical contact if your child wants it, even if you think they're too old to be scared of storms!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Make books come to life

Kids love to hear stories, and most parents read books to their kids often.  So, have your books come to life.  Here, we read the story "Rainbow Fish" and then did a craft related to the book.  Older kids can cut out their fish and then cut out their fish "scales".  Younger kids can either rip the scales or simply glue them on the fish.  Find some really shiny scales (we used tin foil) to put on the fish.  If really ambitious, your child can make many rainbow fish to hang from his/her ceiling. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Painting with Toothbrushes

This is a great idea for many reasons.  Roll out a long piece of paper.  Have your child lay on their stomach to paint.  This provides great weight bearing through the upper extremities for strengthening.  In this pictures, some of the children are using paint brushes, and some are using tooth brushes.  Try using old toothbrushes for a different way to paint.  The kids will find it fun.  This is a great social activity, as well, if doing it in a group.  The kids will need to share and are able to talk to each other while they paint.  Older kids can collaborate on the picture they would like to draw, then divvy up the work. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Go to the Playground

Summer is a great time to head out to play.  Take the kids to the playground for some great gross motor play!  Playgrounds provide lots of room to run and jump and have fun equipment to slide on and climb on.  Swinging is a great sensory and coordination activity.  Improve muscle strength and coordination by climbing and using the monkey bars (although not a great idea to let little children dangle by their arms- provide some support).  Bring a ball and throw it to your child while he is sliding down the slide.  Playgrounds provide lots of gross motor fun, but also provide great opportunities to practice social skills with the other kids at the playground.  Allow your child to play with the other kids and have fun!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Remember to work on school skills this summer

Yes, we know it is summer, and it is supposed to be time to rest and recharge.  It's a time of easy schedules and time for fun.  However, don't forget to continue working on those academic skills needed for school.  Remember to continue writing and reading.  For the younger children, continue to use those fine motor skills needed for school. Have your child do some cutting every day (or at least once a week).  Draw pictures with your child.  For a variation, take chalk outside to the driveway and draw.  Have the older child write a story about what they have been doing this summer.  They could write a letter to a far away relative.  Be creative so that your child wants to color or write.  Make a mud pile outside and have them use a stick to write, or draw, in it.  Sand is another great medium to write in.  Just be sure to devote a little of each day to some sort of academic/ fine motor activity so that your child does not lose any of his learned skills. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Home Made Bouncy Balls

Home made bouncy balls!  Great fun to make, great fun to play with. 
Items needed:
2 tbsp hot water
1/2 tsp borax
1 tbsp glue
1 tbsp corn starch
food coloring

Pour the water and borax into a cup and stir until it is dissolved. 
Pour the glue, corn starch and food coloring into another cup and mix.  Then add the mixture in the first cup into the second cup.  Let stand for 15 seconds and then stir.
Once the mixture becomes difficult to stir, scoop some out of the cup and form into a ball. 
Have a great time playing with your home made bouncy balls!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Swing Kick Ball

Here's a game that my daughters made up- swing kick ball.  It's simple, yet fun to play and can be played with only 2 people or with teams.  Same concept as regular kick ball, except the kicker sits on a swing to kick.  The person/people in the field try to catch the ball to get 3 outs.  Lots of fun for the kids, plus it is great for visual motor skills, eye hand coordination, balance and endurance.  Give it a try! 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Jelly Fish

Here's a cute kids' craft- jellyfish plates!  Have your child paint a paper bowl and add streamers and any other decorations to make jelly fish!  You can hang them from the ceiling with fishing wire to create a sea of jellyfish.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Dino Skeleton Painting

Great, fun, easy way to develop fine motor skills and cause/effect... the bigger the better!  We used large white bulletin board paper, found at teacher supply stores.  Or try drawing the skeleton out on many regular sized pieces of paper, have your child paint them, then try to put it together like a giant puzzle...

Draw any kind of dino skeleton on white paper with white crayon.  Have the kids paint over the paper with watercolors to see the dinosaurs.  It's easy and the element of surprise keeps them entertained while they are working!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Summer Sensory Play

Summer is a great time to incorporate sensory play into your child's day.  It's warm, sunny and the days last longer- so get out and enjoy your days.  Here are some ideas for fun that also provide great sensory input:
1- Go to the playground
      The playground is an excellent place to enjoy the outside and provides lots of opportunities for sensory input. Climbing, jumping, swinging and running are all great for sensory play.  A playground is an ideal place for a child with motor planning difficulties to gain awareness of himself and he/she may be able to model other children's movements to learn to navigate the equipment. 
2- Go Swimming
     Water is not only fun and refreshing, but provides lots of sensory input.  Try to swim as often as you can this summer, it's not just great exercise and good to increase endurance and strength, but provides sensory benefits and well as social benefits.  Note that indoor pools may have too many auditory inputs that may be overwhelming to some children.
3- Play messy art outside
     Take shaving cream outside and allow your child to finger paint.  Put a big piece of paper on the clothesline and have your child fling paint at it using a paint brush.  Draw with chalk and then use a squirt gun to erase it.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Safety and Travel Beds Useful for Children with Autism

Seems I've been writing letters of medical necessity lately for safety beds for children with a variety of needs.  The obvious medical issues of a child with a brain injury, cerebral palsy, or severe chromosomal abnormalities are easily addressed in such a request, but what about the child with autism who has trouble sleeping and may even put himself in harm's way if he decides to wander in the night?  Most families look to community groups to help raise funds for safety beds, or choose to have a mattress on the floor and put an alarm on the door.  Or turn the child's bedroom door into a dutch door, that's cut in half so the bottom part is locked and the top remains open.  Not so good if your child is a climber, but can be very beneficial in some situations!  Finding a good contact through your physician's office, clinic, or therapy team to write the letter of medical necessity is key.  And then the rebuttal letter when you are denied... one key point to emphasize is that the bed is MEDICALLY necessary, not BEHAVIORALLY necessary.  Explain the medical risks, the life-threatening situations caused by the behavior.

Here are a few of my favorite products out there:

Sleep Safe Bed

Ida and Hannah Beds

Noah's World

Also included in this post are my favorite beds that can be used both in the home and for traveling... lots of families choose this route and skip the insurance puzzle altogether.

The Nickel Bed Tent

The Safety Sleeper

What nifty ways have you come up with to help your child be safe and comfortable at night?  Have you had success being funded through insurance?

Happy dreams,

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Trips With a Child With Sensory Needs

Going on a trip is fun and exciting and provides the much needed break from everyday routines.  But, all the unknowns and chaos associated with packing/unpacking and being on a trip can be overwhelming for a child with sensory needs.  Here are some tips to help your trip go smoother and be more enjoyable for everyone.
1- Bring gum or other motion sickness aids
    For those children prone to motion sickness, ask your doctor about motion sickness pills or other such remedy.  Some motion sickness pills are ok to give little children in small doses.  These pills can be crushed in apple sauce or pudding to allow a small child to swallow them.
2- Provide frequent movement breaks.
     Stop and get out of the car  if you are on a long car ride.  Most children need this break from sitting in order to endure a long car ride.  Encourage your child to run or jump for a while.
3- Provide lots of entertainment to keep your child occupied during the trip
    Bring books, dvds and toys for your child.  I found that it works best when they are novel toys or special toys.  I would go to the dollar store prior to the trip and pick up a bunch of toys and coloring and activity books.  These would not come out until the trip and then only one at a time.
4- During your trip, keep to familiar routines (such as bed time) as much as possible
     Children crave routine, so stick to some familiar routines in the unknown place.  Try to keep bedtime the same and at relatively the same time as at home.  Try to eat meals close to the same time.  This will allow your child to not feel too disoriented during the time away from home.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Summer Sensory Tips

Summer is almost here and most of us are looking forward to the long, lazy days ahead.  We enjoy the laid back routines, the lack of rushing and the fun activities available in the summer.  But, all these things that we, and typical kids, enjoy and look forward to can be very stressful for a child with sensory needs.  The more stressed these children are, the more behaviors they exhibit and the more stressful and unpleasant it is for the entire family.  So, we will provide some tips and ideas in the next few posts to help you, and your child with sensory needs, make a smooth transition into the summer months. 
1- Don't entirely throw out structure in your days
Kids with sensory challenges crave structure and routine.  They need to know what to expect during their day and changes can be stressful and unpleasant.  While we aren't suggesting that you maintain your hectic school/work/activity schedule, we do suggest keeping some structure in your days.  Keep to a bedtime routine.  If you are going to let your child stay up a little later, be sure he/she is getting the same amount of sleep as during the school year and continue with a familiar bedtime ritual.  Keep a calendar visible and mark off each day of summer for your child to see.  If needed, allow your child to see a schedule for each day, whether a picture schedule or in writing, so that he/she will know what to expect throughout the day.  And, limit unnecessary transitions during your day.
2-Limit Stressful activities
Some children with sensory difficulties do not like loud, hectic environments.  If the pool is overly crowded and loud during the middle of the day, go in the early evening or late afternoon when it starts clearing out.  Bowling alleys and the loud bang of the pins can be stressful, so either go at non-peak times, or bring ear buds or head phones for your child to dilute the sounds.