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Monday, July 30, 2012

Art Grows Here

 I hoe that you enjoy my Art video. I love community art....

Monday, July 23, 2012

Three Books Reviews: This is Gabriel, Sensitive Sam and A-U-T-I-S-T-I-C How Silly is That !

Children’s literature has always been packed with educational and “feel good” themes with characters overcoming challenges or reaping the rewards of perseverance and clever problem- solving. I think that’s why Harry Potter is such a phenomenal hit. I view what is known as “social stories” as a literary offshoot of sorts. They are written for young children with the goal of teaching that knowledge is power, that they are not alone with their challenges and that finding solutions are just a matter of time. I have recently read three books that share these characteristics.

This is Gabriel Making Sense of School (A Book About Sensory Processing Disorder) by Hartley Steiner is exactly what the title suggests. Readers meet Gabriel as he explains that he is really good at certain things-like helping people. But Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), one of the big words he teaches readers about- gets in the way. Gabriel describes the 8 senses and what to do to feel better when they overwhelm him…..
·         Sight- Gabriel feels better when there isn’t too much to look at
·         Hearing-Gabriel likes a quiet space or wearing headphones
·         Touch-Gabriel prefers soft clothes and squeezing an object like clay
·         Taste-Gabriel likes to chew on gum, a straw or water bottle
·         Smell- Gabriel feels better when others don’t wear strong-smelling perfumes
·         Vestibular- Gabriel loves spinning and needs to have lots of movement breaks
·         Proprioception- Gabriel likes a weighted lap pad and pulling a wagon  full of heavy books
·         Interoception- when all of the other sensory stuff is not so bad he is more easily able to interpret what his body is feeling- like hunger or needing to use the bathroom.
The last three terms are the "big words" that Gabriel is eager to teach because these terms are not as well known but play a big role in how he functions. Readers learn in conclusion, that by understanding the sensory systems and how to feel better Gabriel as well as other children can be  "learning sensations". Author, Hartley Steiner recommends that parents work with an occupational therapist to have an individualized sensory program designed for their child.   

Hartley Steiner writes a personal blog chronicling her life raising three boys with various diagnoses She is the author of Sensational Journeys, the founder of the  and a contributing writer for the SPD  Foundation’s blog, S.I. Focus magazine, and Autism Spectrum Quarterly. The illustrations in this book are beautiful and you can see more of  Brandon Fall’s work at

Sensitive Sam is also a story of a child with a sensory adventure that has a happy ending. Written and illustrated by Marla Roth-Fisch, this book is written from Sam’s perspective as he copes with emotional and sensory challenges. I love each page’s rhyme and rhythm that will be familiar to children brought up on Dr. Seuss. Parents can use this social story to help explain the relationship between sensory sensitivities and feelings such as
·         Being sad and mad
·         Not feeling right
·         Feeling tense from too much sitting
·         Frustration from uncomfortable clothing
·         Nausea from aversive foods and smells
·         Wanting to cry because others don’t understand
While the first part of the book presents Sam and his challenges, the second part introduces the parents who are more concerned than mad (as Sam fears because the teacher called them into school!). The teacher explains how occupational therapy will help Sam to be less bothered by his sensitivities. Sam is thrilled to meet children with similar needs in the OT office, he is given a “sensory diet’ and as Sam reports:
“Treating sensory challenges
Takes some patience, and love, too.
And now I LIKE doing lots of things
I used to hate to do!”
Author, Marla Roth-Fisch is a happily married mother of two, including a son with Sensory Processing Disorder and is an active board member at the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation.  

As an occupational therapist it is a pleasure to read books that share the impact of my profession on the lives of children with sensory processing disorders. The third book I am reviewing provides a fun and different perspective.

A-U-T-I-S-T-I-C? How Silly is That!  by Lynda Farrington Wilson is a story told by a child (Tyler)  who is a brilliant person with autism. He is not
·         Brown-hairtistic
·         South-Paw-tistic
·         Aquatistic
·         Culinari-tistic
·         Loves-donuts-jelly-beans-and-ice-cream-tistic
·         Math-tistic
·         Big-foot-orthodont-istic OR
·         AUTISTIC

The beautifully illustrated message here is that labeling can negate gifts and talents and prohibit academic and social advancement.  Author Lynda Farrington Wilson hopes that her book contributes to “people first” language rather than language that objectifies a person by his or her condition (eg, “autistic”).  She is an artist and former marketing executive who advocates for children with autism and Sensory Processing Disorder. Her first book- Squirmy Wormy, How I Learned to Help Myself was endorsed by Temple Grandin. More information is available at

These 3  reviewed books are published by Future Horizons. Use code “Pedia” for a 15% discount on most books or
order from Amazon........

Friday, July 20, 2012

Wave of the Future

I enjoyed seeing the "Wave of the Future" exhibit during the Art Grows Here tour .

Monday, July 9, 2012

Schoodles Pediatric Fine-Motor Assessment

An OT Guide for Assessing Children Ages 3 and Up
written by Marie Frank, OTR/L & Amy Wing, OTR/L, illustrated by Kate Badger

I had heard good things about this fine-motor assessment and with a name like “Schoodles” I had to check it out. The publisher kindly sent a copy of the evaluation for my review.
I have always been a big believer in detailed evaluation narratives packed with clinical observations, with minimal focus on test scores. I have found that standardized test scores do not always accurately reflect the student’s classroom abilities and needs- afterall, sometimes students who would benefit from OT services score in the average range on standardized tests. On the other hand, sometimes students who score in the below average range on select fine- motor or visual perceptual subtests have adequate foundational skills, but may benefit from classroom adaptations (such as alphabet models to copy or color-coded paper) rather than direct OT services.
What Schoodles Assesses     
The Schoodles Fine-Motor Assessment provides a framework for occupational therapists who want to quickly screen or evaluate school-aged children (ages 3 years and up) for these basic classroom skills:  
·        Pencil grasp
·        Design and letter imitation and copying
·        Drawing a person
·        Coloring
·        Visual skills
·        Muscle tone, strength and postural control
·        Sensory processing ( tactile discrimination, body awareness, left/right awareness)
·        Self-care (i.e. dressing, feeding skills)
Additional standardized testing may be warranted but starting out with the Schoodles enables the therapist to quickly assess whether some classroom adaptations (such as positioning or strengthening activities) can increase skill acquisition. At the same time, the evaluator can detect what underlying problems are impacting function (i.e. decreased muscle tone, visual skills, motor planning etc.).
What I like about Schoodles
My favorite aspect of this tool is that the therapist scaffolds during the evaluation process. This means that she looks at a skill deficit and increases support to achieve it. For example, if a student is unable to copy a shape, the evaluator can try:
·        drawing the shape so that the student can form it from imitation
·        asking the student to trace over a shape
Then the narrative can include details of the student’s abilities when given the additional supports and describe possible OT objectives that would address the skill.    
Who Should Use Schoodles
I think that the Schoodles is an ideal resource for therapists who are relatively new to working in school systems because it guides the therapist in making clinical observations and address questions such as
·        why is the student switching hands during writing?
·        why is the student writing too rapidly with poor quality? or
·        are impairments in visual pursuit impacting performance?
Schoodles focuses on comparing the student with others in the same grade to determine reasonable skill expectations. The authors also use well documented resources (i.e. Beery’s Visual Motor Integration evaluation, Peabody Motor Scales and Hawaii Early Learning Profile) to provide ages children typically develop fine and gross motor skills. The evaluator can then refer to this data in the narrative when describing the student’s abilities or needs.
The Schoodles Package
Schoodles comes in a 3 ring binder with a zippered pouch to hold easy to find evaluation supplies:
·        scissors (regular and loop)
·        3 crayons
·        A pencil
·        A pen
·        A small rubber mat for the provided puzzles
·        A scarf or tissues
The assessment is divided into two groups of skills. The first consists of skills such as writing, cutting and completing puzzles that are easily observable in any classroom. The workbook portion provides reproducible tasks to perform these skills. The second group of activities  address supporting skills (also known as sensory integration clinical observation skills) such as
·        visual tracking
·        muscle strength
·        right/left discrimination
·        graphesthesia/tactile processing
·        finger touching
·        bilateral coordination and balance (i.e. jumping, hops, gallops, skips, jumping jacks)
All of the classroom and supporting skills are also listed in an easy to use chart that includes a description of the skill, observation guidelines and approximate age of skill attainment.
I have to add that after reading the Schoodles manual I marveled at how all of the assessed skills are described in my book From Rattles to Writing: A Parent’s Guide to Hand Skills. My book compliments the Schoodles assessment tool  by providing the detailed activities and teaching strategies that develop the sensory motor foundations required for reading and writing.  Both Schoodles and From Rattles to Writing are available to purchase at Therapro. Inc. and Schoodles is sold through the website where you will also find a sample evaluation and answers to frequently asked questions.        
It is estimated that the Schoodles can be administered in 30-45 minutes and sometimes in as little as 20 minutes. A quick, efficient and reasonably priced assessment tool($65.00 for a printed version, $55.00 for a CD)- what’s not to like?  

Friday, July 6, 2012

July 4th Scratch Art

  I thought that it would be fun to make July 4th scratch art  with my little grand nephews and they loved it. I also made my own project on a paper plate first trying out the rubbing plates to see if I could press hard enough to see the texture show up on the paper.It did but not as well as it would have if I used regular paper.

Scratch art is very easy to do. Just make a first layer of colors. Next cover that layer with black crayon. Then use a pointy object like a toothpick or end of a paper clip to scratch into the top layer so that the bottom layer of color appears.

Scratch art helps children learn how much force to use because if they press too hard the bottom layer of color will be scratched away and if they do not press hard enough the top layer of black will not be removed. This is a fun way to controlling the writing tool with the tripod fingers (index, middle fingers and thumb) since the child really needs to control that tip in order to scratch a picture. At the same time there are no demands to form letters so the focus is on controlling the writing tool and having fun. Developing pencil control prepares children to form letters. 

 Scratch art