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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Understanding the Five Types of Pervasive Developmental Disorders

Pockets from old pants used to teach manipulation skills

I used the pockets from my son's old pants in this activity. They have zipper or Velcro closures. I placed small plastic animals in each one and then placed each in a detergent bottle that has the handle cut so that I can attach it to hang over a fence. During hippotherapy this little girl pulled the reins to stop at a bottle, removed the pocket, opened it to remove the toy and then put the toy in a bag attached to the tack. I Loved how this involved sequencing several steps and she loved seeing the animals. I realized after doing 3 of these that she is pretty good at feeling the animal while it is inside the bag and identifying what it is just by touch. This works on tactile discrimination. I will next build on these skills by asking her to do this while facing backwards (which she is not too fond of doing) or while on her belly in superman position.    

My client did a really nice job of using her hands together while opening and closing the zipper or velcro.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Daily Living Skills Worksheets: A Book Review

Occupational therapist and author, Linda Harrison asked if I would write a review for her new book “Daily Living Skills Worksheets”. I said yes because I love learning about new resources, but didn’t see how an entire book could be devoted to reproducible forms.

I don’t work in settings where I would need these types of daily living skills forms. But I am pleased to report that if you work with adolescents or adults with mental health conditions such as depression or manic depression, memory impairments, neurologically- based communication disorders such as asperger's syndrome or are just plain disorganized due to ADD or poor parenting experiences while growing up –this book has every form you might conceive of to help clients function in our ever increasingly complex world.

I love how the graphics are attractive, easy to read, yet attention is paid to keeping a mature appearance- the illustrator avoids being “cutesy”. Linda Harrison demonstrates a wealth of experience as she shares the types of daily skills she has learned are essential for clients who are getting ready to or already moved into the community. She has the hindsight to know where the pitfalls are and the worksheets are designed to avoid them.

Every worksheet has a description on the back – explaining the purpose, when to use, directions and specific tips such as “avoid focusing on too many goals” or “encourage your client to practice each step until she is comfortable with it before moving on to the next step”.

The forms cover a huge number of daily living skills areas-in fact, I can’t think of any that she left out. They include:

• Goal-setting

• Time management

• Money management

• Household management

• Personal care

• Memory/safety

• Leisure/productivity

• Communication

• Meetings

• Problem-solving/reflection

• Recording thoughts and feelings

This book is perfect for occupational therapists who might be new to working with these relatively high functioning clients. But even the more seasoned therapists will find this comprehensive resoruce beneficial and will surely come across some new ideas. It’s a must for other staff-perhaps counselors, teachers and even parents eager to push the little chick out of the nest. Happy launching!

Daily Living Skills Worksheets will be available soon on the website and costs $44.95.

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Father's Day Story

Compliments from the Blogger Network, from Autism Asperger’s Digest magazine. Just in time for Father’s Day!

A Father's Moment

By Patrick Paulitz

Reprinted with permission from a featured article that appeared in the September/October 2005 issue of Autism Asperger’s Digest magazine. Learn more,

All of us make daily choices in life. Most of these choices are trivial, like what to have for dinner or what color socks to wear. Other choices are more life-changing, like whom to marry, where to live, or what house to buy. Sometimes, choices are made which at the time seem to be in error, but allow us, if our ears, eyes, and mind are open, to learn about life, our children, ourselves. Sometimes a wrong turn can lead to nothing less than a miracle.

It was a spring Saturday in the Bay Area. There was nothing exceptional about the day, except that it wasn't raining. Not bad for a weekend in the wettest year California had experienced in decades. The sky was blue with white puffy clouds, and it was on the cool side - a great day for a picnic.

April and I decided to spend the day in Sausalito, a trendy upscale town on the waterfront just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. We packed a lunch and ate hot dogs, chips, and sodas with a spectacular view of the San Francisco skyline. The pigeons and sea gulls, we discovered, are only your friends when you're eating. They're not one of God's more loyal creatures, to say the least. Later that afternoon we blew bubbles with Shamus, our four- year-old autistic son, in a local park before starting the drive back to our home on the Peninsula.

On the way home I took a minor detour; I wanted to show April some nice places to have a picnic another time, with a great view of the San Francisco Bay. As luck would have it, despite our best efforts to follow the signs to the freeway we somehow took a wrong turn. Or was it a wrong turn?

We soon found ourselves among green rolling hills that we could see eventually led to the Pacific Ocean. We were debating whether to turn around, or just keep going and enjoy the ride. It was so beautiful, we decided to venture on. By the time we arrived at the ocean, April had no interest in making the short trek to the water. I parked the van and walked to the beach by myself, staying only a few minutes. It was no fun being there without my wife and son. That's just not the way God intended it.

Before maneuvering home, we knew Shamus needed a potty stop. Even though the restroom building was not more than a few hundred feet across the parking lot, we figured the less walking our boy did here, the better. Parked cars are a real distraction for Shamus. Once “business” was done, I turned to Shamus and said, "Shamus, do you want to go to the beach?" He was never a beach-lover before, but I thought I’d give him the option. Surprisingly, he said "yes." Kids, even autistic ones, do change sometimes, I guess…

We watched the waves tumble in, leaving the hissing, white-green foam behind. Shamus seemed to be enjoying it so much - the sound of the ocean, the frothy surf, the big sky overhead.

Now, Shamus is a native Californian and our home is only 10 miles from the ocean. He had been to the beach many times before and had never been too interested in exploring beyond the blanket he was sitting on. But today was different; he wanted to get his feet wet.

San Francisco is not a “beach” town, despite its physical proximity to the ocean. The water is cold, and summer weather along the coast is usually cold and foggy the entire day. Bay Area residents, especially coastal residents, don't wear shorts and don't keep beach towels in their car. Extra blankets and jackets are a far more practical item to have on hand.

But here was my son wanting – for the first time - to get his feet wet. So, we rolled up his pants, took off his socks and shoes, and I did the same. Shamus got his feet wet. He was ecstatic. As for me, the water felt like ice, my feet were frozen, my rolled-up pant legs soon unraveled, and in no time, both our pants were soaked - and we had no dry clothes. And yet, I wouldn't have traded that moment for anything in the world. It was our moment - father and son - playing in the surf. Nothing else in the world mattered to either of us. For most four-year-olds, such a moment would be routine. With our dear Shamus, however, I take nothing for granted.

April is such a “Mom.” Even today my own mother, who is 82 years old, often tells me to put on a sweater when she is cold. A mother's nurturing nature transcends generations and crosses cultural lines. As April motioned for us to come out of the water, even trying to bribe Shamus with a bag of potato chips, I shook my head. I laughed and laughed and shook my head. “No way,” I was thinking to myself. This is our special moment in time. I knew what she was thinking. We were cold and wet - more specifically, Shamus was cold and wet. Dad can take care of himself. And I knew that I would allow nothing - not even a loving Mom waving a bag of potato chips - to spoil this moment. Potato chips and a warm minivan could wait.

After we came out of the water, April drove home as I sat in the passenger seat, stripped down to my T-shirt and underwear. Shamus wore only a shirt and a towel – and a big smile on his face. As we drove south across the Golden Gate Bridge, I thought about what a miracle God had given me that day - and all because of a wrong turn.


Patrick Paulitz, a freelance writer, lives with his wife April and son Shamus in San Mateo, California.

Copyright © 2011 Autism Asperger’s Digest. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Plastic Flowers in Real Gardens

After a recent visit to an art exhibit I was inspired to spend a couple of hours making a plastic sunflower out of detergent bottles and laced with strands made out of trash bags. I punched holes in the yellow and orange petals and laced them to attach to the green center of the flower. The tricky part (I am not sure I can explain this) is attaching the flower to the green piece (shown left) this is the top of a dishwasher soap bottle. I took a second bottle and inserted the spout through the spout of the small green piece and screwed the cap to hold in place. The piece shown in my hand had holes punched in it and I sewed the sunflower onto this by lacing through all the holes.   I think it is fun to integrate flowers crafted out of plastic with real ones in this way since children may be involved in lacing simple flower shapes and there are many creative options in the designing process.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Here is a video of my hippotherapy clients using the suspended bottles....