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Friday, December 28, 2012

Happy 2013!

I came up with the idea of plastic weaving letters, numbers, shapes and objects while writing my Kindle book "The Almost Complete Plastic Bottle Activity Book".   I have "patent pending" status for my "weavable toys" and am currently looking for a manufacturer or business that wants to have these manufactured and then pay me royalties.  
Weaving shapes reinforces letter and number formation concepts while strengthening fingers. There is a lot of motor planning involved in pushing the pieces in and out through the notches. These are a lot of work to make out of detergent bottles and I am hoping that they will soon be available for purchase. However, I am happy to share here for those Do It Yourself-ers.....
The sizes of the shapes and number/sizes of the notches determine how challenging these will be to connect.  You have the option of creating a single shape such as the 2 to weave or create 2 shapes to put together like in the two round shapes that form the 3.  
 Obviously weaving the straight line in the 1 is easier than weaving the round shapes.... 
Younger children may be given  1 single shape to weave into the larger notched shape.
But older children may be given 2 or more shapes (such as the 2 and 0 in the photo) and pieces to match up before weaving. This works on visual discrimination skills, its sort of like putting a puzzle together.... 
The last photo shows the 2 shapes positioned upside down with the detergent labels showing. Tell the children that only the plain color sides should be showing and then the correct side will be facing upwards. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Challenging but Enjoyable OT Seminar

I had been looking forward to presenting my OT seminars in CT and NH this week.

However, since the Friday tragedy in CT, I was feeling awful about being near all that heartache. Indeed, I felt an air of somberness in the room as I greeted the participants. Adding to the challenges was the fact that my flight had been cancelled, I ended up taking a taxi from Newark to Bristol, CT and I was not able to get my baggage until the next day. This meant that I had no displays, I wore the same clothes twice in a row- including the Keene sneakers I wear when doing hippotherapy. Did I mention that I only had 3 hours of sleep?

How in the world did I end up in Newark, NJ when I live in MA? I simply do not like driving long distances and wanted to avoid giving a 5 hour seminar (which is exciting, fun and exhausting) and then driving 3-4 hours to the next location. I was happy to spend 4-5 hours to fly out to Newark and then connect to Hartford. However, I never anticipated my connection being cancelled due to the weather. My taxi driver was super nice and $340.00 later (all reimbursed of course) I arrived at the hotel, slept 3 hours and woke up surprisingly energized.

Occupational therapists like hands-on activities and displays, especially since this was touted in my seminar brochure....

I woke up and assessed what was available- I had a lot of glossy magazines in my backpack along with my computer and snacks....

I happen to be a television talent show fanatic and was in tears when the cast of The Voice paid tribute to the victims. This experience inspired me to make a paper shrine with candles that I created by ripping paper.

While ripping the letters to spell LOVE, I thought about what a great fine motor activity that is but may be difficult for some children to do- so when I got home I  cut out a plastic W, punched holes in hit and attached it to thick folder paper using paper fasteners. It was a bit more labor intensive to make than I had hoped but I found it very easy to grasp the plastic edges and rip- ending up with a very nice paper W.

Other activities included:

  1. Squirting a dab of hotel lotion in the palm then asking the OT's to use only that hand to spread it all over the hand as much as possible. This is a great activity for strengthening the hand muscles and provides tactile stimulation.
  2.  Each OT rolled up a sheet of paper to make a tube. They also ripped paper to crunch into a small ball. Then they inserted the paper ball into the tube and blew it into the bag that I held for them.  I have to say I heard more laughter then than I had ever at a previous seminar.
  3. I wrapped a large piece of paper around some crunched up paper and taped it in place to create a ball. Then I wrote numbers all over the ball. The numbers were all squares- 4, 9, 16, 25, 36, 49, 64, 81, 100, 121, 144. Then 2 volunteers ( I can't remember if they truly volunteered or not !) tossed the ball back and forth. I called out a finger such as right index or left thumb and the person would read out the number the finger was closest to.                                                                Meanswhile, the other OT's  wrote down the square roots, added them up after 6-7 turns and then we compared answers. I think this is a pretty good activity for older students who need to work on: scanning, eye-hand coordination, convergence and divergence. The same activity can be adapted so that the players are calling out letters and then try to make a word out of the named letters. This will help in promoting letter discrimination and form constancy since they will have to identify letters even when viewing them from a rotated perspective. 

Special thanks to my program manager (the young lady behind the table who gives out the handbooks when participants arrive). Her job is also to help me be relaxed so that I can give my all at the seminars. She drives me to hotels, pumps the gas,  arranges meals, calls taxis when needed, gets photocopies or supplies as needed, sets up the technology and contacts the hotel staff when there is an environmental  problem. This must be what its like to be rich and have full-time paid assistants!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Winter Weavable- Snowman

The snow man is made of 3 circular pieces- a small one, medium sized and large one so that the child needs to match the corresponding sized circle to the correct snow ball. The snow man was cut out of an orange juice bottle and the weaving shapes can be cut out of detergent, dishwasher soap bottles or container lids. The snowman is just one of the many activities described in my Kindle book: "The Almost Complete Plastic Bottle Activity Book" available on Amazon.  


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Seasonal Weaving Crafts

This menorah is made from an orange juice bottle. I love how the bottom of the bottle enables it to stand up on its own.

Children may color designs with dry erase markers. Wiping them clean strengthens fingers and enables the child to create a new design.

I think that the ideal toys enable children to be creative and used in a variety of ways. The candles may be inserted in different orders. You can cut a large variety of colors and lengths so that children have artistic options.

Happy chanukah!

No time to cut plastic bottles? Check out the Weavable Toys: Basic Shapes now sold on Amazon with free shipping and gift wrap option. 

This woven place mat made out of strips cut from bottles is easy to clean and perfect for a splash of Thanksgiving color.

A homemade Weavable gift.....

The bow is made out of a hard to find pink coffee can lid.

Check out my digital book for more ideas of what to make out of your plastic bottles....The almost Complete Plastic Bottle Activity Book is sold on the Amazon Kindle site.


A few more activities designed last year.......

The Almost Complete Plastic Bottle Activity Book is mostly pictures of activities that I have designed and used with children with and without learning challenges.  I describe how simple adaptations help children more easily manipulate objects. Also learn how to take familiar simple activities and make them more challenging!

 The title reflects the fact that I am designing new activities every day and this book will never be complete..........

I am thrilled to be able to offer this digital book to friends around the world for only $8.50!

Here are a couple of examples of the creative activities parents, teachers, therapists and others will enjoy making and using with the children in their lives............

Both the Christmas tree and Hanukkah menorah involve weaving plastic strips (cut from detergent bottles) in and out of notches. This is a great way to strengthen fingers and develop dexterity.

There are many more  "weavable" activities in this book......- so many that I decided to patent the concept....... All of the prototypes  shared in this book can be made from plastic bottles, but I am hoping that these materials will become commercially available and as popular as Legos.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Infinity walk, skip or skate

"Infinity Walk" is a simple way of saying walk in the figure eight pattern. You can use chalk or place tape on the floor to draw the 8 or place any 2 objects that will be circled around as shown in my video.
The purpose of Infinity Walk is to improve brain function, specifically :

1.Crossing midline
2.Use of peripheral vision

3.Using eyes together

4.Eye-hand coordination

5.Visual accommodation

6.Body awareness

7.Balance and rhythm
  An OT does a nice job of explaining how infinity walk works.....
The theory is that as I rapidly change directions from clockwise to counterclockise and back to clockwise, I am changing which side of the body I am leading with- helping my brain integrate the right and left sides of the body.
While children walk in the figure 8 pattern they may engage in additional activities that further challenge the visual, vestibular and proprioceptive sensory systems:
  1. provide movement descriptors such as slow, fast, walk high, low or take baby or giant steps
  2. tossing bean bags into boxes placed along the figure 8
  3. holding a clear plastic tube with a marble inside (ends taped), keeping the marble in the center. 
  4. Throw and catch ball to self or another person
  5. Read flash cards of letters, numbers, words or sentences
  6. Skip, jump, do brain gym cross crawl (hand or elbow to opposite knee or foot)
Performing activities such as these while also walking in  the figure 8 pattern increases body awareness and use of a large visual field since one needs to be aware of objects and where one is moving.

Dr. Deborah Sunbeck's Infinity Walk site

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sweat Shirt Adaptations

    Sweatshirts are often readily available to provide sensory needs no matter where you are. Here are a few ideas...
Roll it up and place under the child's bottom so that it functions like a wiggly seat cushion.

Snuggle with arms inside to create a snug tight calming squeeze. there may help a child last through a movie or other long sitting situation.

Or snuggle up the entire body inside the body of the sweatshirt.

Fill plastic bags with sand and stuff them into the sleeves. The sweater can be placed over the back of a chair with the weighted sleeves pressing over the child's shoulders. The weight provides proprioceptive input that is often calming. The child may choose to pull on the sleeves or you may attach them somehow to the chair.

If you place a dynamic seat cushion inside the body of the sweatshirt, the child can sit on it and swing the heavy sleeves over the lap....

It may work even better for some individuals who forcefully rock back and forth in their seats and enjoy the deep pressure of their backs hitting the cushion tucked inside the body of the sweater against the chair back. Simply insert the cushion and either sew or tie in place.

I think its cool to be able to use a readily available sweatshirt in so many meet a child's sensory needs 😄

The following video demonstrates how to fill socks, sweater sleeves and pants legs with bags of sand.

Source: How to Make Sensory Shoulder or Lap Pads for Children with Autism by RecyclingOT

Here is my client loving the pants with sand bags inside. It is attached to he back of his wheel chair so that he can't throw it,  but he can easily toss them behind when he chooses. I am hoping that this behavior will replace the one where he puts his shirt on and off. I love sensory based alternatives!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

I love My OT Seminars!

I had a great time presenting in Nashville and Louisville this week. The jockey next to the race horse posed with me.  I took a photo of my activity display which I think looks interesting in contrast to the wild green and yellow carpeting.
Here is my schedule for December seminars in New England:
One of my favorite sensory motor activities shared by a participant is to have the student remove a straw wrapper, bunch it into a tiny ball and then blow it through a straw. So the student is working on both oral motor as well as fine-motor skills.  
Someone else suggested putting toys inside a sensory bean box and then showing a toy that the student needs to find a match to by  feeling inside the box. I have done this before with objects in a bag, but not a sensory box. I like this variation.
Someone else suggested stabilizing paper for one handed cutting by placing it on a cookie sheet with magnets. She described using 2 pieces of wood to hold the paper in place. I am not quite visualizing this, so if anyone can share  a photo of this adaptation, I would love to see it.
I suggested working on the tripod grasp by pushing  push pins along an outline on paper until the shape pops out of the paper. An OT suggested gluing a stetro grip to the push pin to promote the tripod grasp. Someone else suggested using golf tees, corn prongs and tooth picks in the same way.
Squeezing eye droppers strengthens the tripod fingers and someone suggested making a color matching activity with different color  paint in egg carton sections and adding more with eye droppers to the corresponding color section. Lastly an OT shared how successful she is using the motorized Wiggly Squiggly pen.
OTs also recommended the following apps which I have not yet explored:
  1. Isequence (drawing faces)
  2. English cursive letter practice
  3. Verbally- a word prediction program
  4. Rapid typing
  5. Cookie Doodle
  6. Drawing pad
  7. Sock Puppet
  8. bugs and buttons
  9. Toca boca
  10. Pepi play
  11. Free App Friday
  12. Albert
  13. Stack the States
  14. Ready to Print
I can't guarantee that I copied these down accurately but hope that this is helpful.
Now for a funny story.....
On my flight back I was one of the last to board a very full flight. I saw a rather large woman sitting next to the window reading People magazine and a large man sprawled across the aisle seat focused on his Ipad. I sat in the seat in the middle. Neither of them looked at me or one another. Then after 30 minutes into the flight the woman held  the magazine out to him and said, look this man looks just like you!!! It turned out that they were married and always leave the seat between them empty for a thinner person!!!  

Monday, November 12, 2012

Shampoo Bottle Sewing Kit

I am packing for my trip to Nashville, Tn where I will be giving an OT seminar. I like to bring along some thread and a couple of needles but don't like getting stabbed. So I cut up a shampoo bottle to make a little case. This can be used to hold any small object and i look forward to seeing how I can use it during therapy. shampoo bottles come in all different colors and shapes, so it should be interesting to play with them when making holders.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Shapes Sewn to gloves

The seed for this idea was planted when I read about the button gloves on Your Therapy Source. These were designed to promote finger opposition motor planning skills since children can wear these and follow directions or imitate someone else touching one finger to another according to  colors.
I had an old pair of gloves around, so I cut up plastic bottles to create the 5 shown shapes ( white snowball, green triangle, blue star, yellow square and red heart and sewed them to the fingertips.
The eyes of my 2-4 year old hippotherapy clients lit up upon seeing me wear these and the first thing the gloves did was create a fun learning environment. Children reached in all different directions challenging their balance and gravitational insecurities to touch the named shapes. Some were willing to lie  supine with the head hanging down the side of the horse in order to reach the glove and others were tolerated prone on their bellies so that they looked like superman. Clients who typically avoid using both hands together followed directions to use both hands to touch 2 named shapes on the glove.  Since I didn't have to hold materials, my job was easier when wearing the gloves.
Another child stood on top of the horse as I named shapes for her to touch. She did this while squatting low, standing tall and turning around to face different directions. The gloves can be used in the same way while a child stands on a platform swing or other challenging surface.
Yesterday was our first real cold November day, so I asked the children to pull the gloves off my hands and gave them a turn wearing them. Some kids had no gloves, others placed my gloves over their mittens and followed directions to touch named body parts on themselves and the horse. High fives were extra fun.
Of course I will need to adapt some child size gloves to work on some different skills, but so fall adapted gloves are a hit. I am thinking of also turning my fingers into ring stacks.....

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Fidget Book Mark

I made this "fidget"book mark by attaching the produce label rubber band through a hole in a plastic strip cut from a bottle. I attached my business label to the produce label. 
Now this book mark can be pulled and twisted while the person reads or can just uses it as a book mark.
I will be handing these out (amongst other goodies) at my pediatric seminars this fall. Hope to see you there...