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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

OT MOM Books and website

This is my motto......
Successful Hand Skills Contibutes to Learning!

I have been very impressed with the OT MOM Learning Activities website .  Occupational therapist and homeschooling mom Tracey Le Roux describes many tricks of the trade in a fun easy to understand manner both on her website and in her ebooks. The  many photographs and detailed descriptions demonstate the activities that help children develop and refine motor skills. This actually sounds similar to my book- From Rattles to Writing: A Parent's Guide to Hand Skills. However, the OT Mom focuses on the many common problems OTs come across and how to prevent and/or fix them.  My book, on the other hand, focuses on typical development and how to prepare children for kindergarten beginning at birth by providing the sensory, motor, cognitive, language and social experiences that promote learning. 

Many of the activities described on the OT mom'swebsite are included in her books and I'm sure many readers appreciate the free and readily available on-line information. However, the purchase of an ebook for only $7.50  not only contributes to maintaining a very useful  website, but provides a much more comprehensive resource.
OT Mom' Fine-Motor Activities

This is what I like about the OT Mom's Fine Motor Activities book:

Fine motor skills are broken down into 4 basic areas with corresponding in depth- explanations on terminology, problem areas and solutions.
  • Postural Control
  • Touch Perception
  • Hand and Finger Muscles
  • Bilateral Coordination

Tracey gives nice easy to follow strategies to address problems such as  grasping a pencil too tightly,  neglecting one hand or hooking the wrist while writing or cutting.  But I think that the best part of the book is the detailed descriptions of how to therapeutically use ordinary, fun activities made out of readily available materials such as play dough, paper, sponges spray bottles, peg boards, piggy banks, clothes pins, bean bags or balls. The many photos and narrative show the  reader how to get the most therapeutic result from each activity. This 70 page resource also includes appendices with additional activities to develop postural control, sensory perception and bilateral coordination and a tip sheet for fitting fine-motor activities into a child's daily activities.

The OT Mom's Scissor cutting Skills book is obviously focused on this one demanding and complex skill. There are many reasons why a child struggles with using scissors and Tracey does a wonderful job of describing solutions to challenges such as -

1. inefficient grasp
2. cutting in the wrong or an inefficient direction
3. poor bilateral coordination
4. inaccuracy in cutting on lines

The OT Mom's next step is describing the activities that develop the motor skills used in cuttings- such as coordinating the grasp/release motions and developing rhythmic sequentil movements. Graded  adaptions help children progress from cutting on lines, circles, simple shapes and finally complex shapes.

Not every child performs a motor task in the same way and its not always clear whether or not the child has a problem that needs to be addressed. The OT Mom's fine-motor cutting check-list is designed to help parents and teachers discriminate functional cutting skills vs. problem areas to address. The clear directions and photos in this 23 page ebook will help children develop the fine motor skills they need to successfully use scissors.

After reading these 2 books by the OT Mom it is obvious that she shares my motto!

Successful Hand Skills Contibute to Learning!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Adding vibration to Fine-Motor Activities

I have found that adding vibration to fine motor activities helps many children to focus, be motivated to use their hands and most importantly have fun. This is not true for all children, but well worth exploring to see if an individual child enjoys this sensory input.  
 The sound of the motor draws their attention to what is in the child's hands and the vibration provides sensory input to the hands,especially important for children who avoid touch to the palms but are willing to grasp a vibrating toy inside the palm.

I have written many articles about how to adapt activities .....and there is a tremendous about of information about activity adaptations in my books The Recycling Occupational Therapist and From Rattles to Writing: A Parent Guide to Hand Skills. Please check out these resources and other information on my website.....but here are a basics about good vibrations (first and only pun :-) 
Using the motor from the Squiggly Wiggly Writer, an electric toothbrush, a massager or other  toys- place inside a container used as a shape sorter.  The motor in the top picture above is attached with Velcro to the yellow detergent bottle. This bottle can be used as a shape sorter by cutting openings such as a square hole for blocks or used for other types of insertion activities.   Coffee cans and other containers with  lids also work well. The motor from an electric toothbrush fits inside the coffee can nicely. The child has to stabilize the can during the activity- helping to develop bilateral hand skills. I have worked with 2-4 year olds who would not pay attention to this type of simple insertion task until it shook!!
Stacking cones is another simple early placement skill. I bought the green massager in a department store and it just happened to fit inside the cone. I attached the cone to a door snake (used to keep cold air out) . This made it easier to use during hippotherapy while the child sat on a horse. But this same activity can be used with a child sitting on a swing, bolster or other types of movement apparatus so that children receive both the vestibular movement sensory input as well as the proprioceptive vibration input and that double whammy may be just what they need to engage.  Be sure to stop the movement for the brief time the child is actually placing the cone and then reinforce with movement afterward along with a downward push on the cone in order to feel the vibration.

I found the motorized toy designed for July 4th in the dollar store. I added the orange piece to the top, taped in place and  attached clothespins for the children to remove. It makes interesting sounds, vibrates and has flashy lights. Its not for all but works great with some children.
  I have designed several different types of vibrating ring stacks. One involved placing the green massager inside a small plunger. It just happened to fit inside and then the handle of the plunger functioned as the ring stack.


The child in the picture above is placing rings on a shaking ring stack made of a swimming noodle with the motor from the vibrating pen inside.  This candle cane shaped ring stack is a bit more challenging to use since the child needs to motor plan moving the ring over the curve. However, some children need that extra challenge. I found the cane during the holidays a few years ago. It held treats for the horses. I punched holes in the bottom and attached it to the massager by wrapping yarn through the holes and around the massager and adding duct tape.

The child below is placing rings on a vibrating pillow. I found this pink cat pillow on ebay for 5 dollars. There are  many different types of vibrating pillows sold on amazon, also that might work in the same way, but my little clients loved the pink cat.

The Princess Wand toy shown in the amazon ad below vibrates, has flashing lights and  makes sounds when turned on. I use it as a ring stack and my clients love it!

Small toys or flat shapes can be attached to any vibrating toy and used in a fine motor activity that involves stabilizing the toy, removing the object and inserting the object into a container. Another variation would be to wrap rubber bands or fabric pieces around the toy and asking the child to remove them.

 Some electric toothbrushes have a motor that is removed from the brush(as shown above) and this motor  can be placed in containers. But the children's toothbrushes with characters such as the one shown in the amazon ad, are all one piece. You can place the end of the brush inside a swim noodle or tube to use as a ring stack or have the child place very small rings over the brush end. I have also inserted the small brush in inside toy openings to make the toy shake.

Lastly, any sensory table made with dry products like rice, beans, confetti etc can be made to shake by adding vibrating objects. this make it extra fun to explore.

Source: How Vibration Helps Children with Autism or Sensory Processing Disorders by RecyclingOT

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Fall Foliage Tree

This fall foliage tree works on many skills and I love how it looks. I cut the tree shape out of a cider gallon so that the tree can easily stand up. These plastic jugs have thin plastic and are very easy to cut into. I made notches all over the tree and branches.

The notches face different directions so that the children need to do a bit of problem solving while fitting the ends of the "leaves" into them. I cut the leaves out of orange, green, yellow and red  detergent bottles , making one end a bit smaller to insert into the notches.

There is a bit of size discrimination required since they are various sizes and some of the larger leaves will not fit into the smaller notches. I suggest making an abundance of "leaves" to pick from. This allows the child to use visual matching skills and also trial and error to fit them into the notch openings and they can be creative in planning where to place the various colors.  I made some of the leaves a bit loose on purpose so that they fall out easily!

Now its time for pretend play!!!

Notice the different leaf arrangement after taking apart and putting back together. The last photo shows a side view.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Special Needs Resources Fair at Merrimack College

It was fun and interesting to network at the Special Needs Resources fair at Merrimack College in MA. I spent some time at the Ironstone Therapies table where visitors were able to see 55 minutes of hippotherapy videos. I just realized that my blouse was color coordinated with  the cover to my book The Recycling Occupational Therapist.

It was interesting to see some area programs that I was not familiar with and some that I had connections to. One of the Ironstone Therapists  works at the Kioko center and the owner Tara McCormick (who once worked at Ironstone, too) bought a copy of From Rattles to Writing.

I noticed there were many parent advocates sharing information at their tables. I guess its a growing field- helping parents get the school services they feel their children need. I worked for 9 years as an OT in the public schools and have mixed feelings. Sometimes I felt that students should have had more services, at other times I thought that OT services should be discontinued because they were not helping the child. When a student is not making the progress to bring him or her to grade level there are many possible reasons including, inadequate amounts or quality of services and that the child has a disability (including cognitive delays) that make it impossible to perform at age level. Schools are a complex setting filled with strife and conflict- which is why I moved from a higher paying job to a lower paying job doing hippotherapy. The children and parents are HAPPY!

I did meet an interesting occupational therapist while exploring the fair. Mary Jean Hughes wrote a book about her struggles to get appropriate services for her son Kyle who has dyslexia. I gave her a copy of my book- From Rattles to Writing and she gave me a copy of her book- The Wolf Who Cried Boy. We will each write a book review on amazon.....

I actually read it yesterday while chilling out on my porch swing. Its a fast read and a physically, cute, hard-covered,  short book that reminds me of a very long and artistically written blog about what its like to be an OT with a PhD in education trying to get a child who obviously has sensory motor impairment and learning disabilities a much needed IEP. I recommend this book for parents going through the process and special education professionals who want the other perspective.
Hughes is one justifiably angry  mama who paid out of pocket for numerous evaluations, therapies, private school, sped advocates and lawyers simply to get the support her child needed in order to read and write and academically succeed.Throughout the book Hughes quotes and refers to the work of Dr. SDally Shaywitz who brilliantly explains what dyslexia is and how to treat it.  I have often used this book as a resource in my writing and presentations, so happy to share again. ....

 I enjoyed the family photos and an even greater treat- Kyle's art work. If impaired left brain function impacts language development is balanced by advanced right brain visual artistic abilities, Kyle's precocious artistic abilities demonstrate this concept. I really enjoyed this book and writing the amazon review which I have practically done already ........
throughout the book

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Diagonal Lacing in Folding Carton Book

I I originally planned to make a folding picture book by cutting the 4 sides of a carton. This  develops motor planning skills as children fold the book to close it. I covered it with yellow contact paper.
 I decided to turn the folding book into a fine motor activity by attaching the green and orange plastic pieces to form the face after they are laced through only 2 large holes. This is a fun way to teach children how to form the diagonal lines that are used in writing. One side of the  cardboard "page" has a face. Tyurn it over to see the V formed when the plastic pieces are laced.
I tried to download a video that demonstrates more, but it didn't work!  But I put the video on my Facebook page....