Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Many Uses of Sensory Pull Handles




This is one of the easiest therapy tools I have ever designed and made and I love it because i can use it in numerous ways.  Its also small,  light and quick to make out of detergent bottle handles and a strip of fabric.  Simply cut the handles as shown int he photos. Thread the fabric through the center handle (white in the photo) and tie ends to the other two bottles (green and red in the photo) .

If your goal is to develop a palmar grasp present the handle to the person and help him to gasp and pull while you  hold the white center handle. The person will experience the immediate success of pulling so that the fabric moves a short distance. This works very well in a small group activity where you take turns moving from one individual to the next. The children (or adults) have minimal demands placed on them since their turn is brief and they get to watch others have their turns.

I have used this activity while children are sitting on a horse facingforwards, sideways or backwards and while kneeling and standing on top of the horse. I have incorporated pulling the handles while they do sit-ups and while prone-moving into prone extension. You can do similar reaching activities that challenge the person's postural control using a swing or bolster.
Pulling hard on anything provides proprioceptive stimulation to muscles and joints. I discovered that some individuals are quite strong and can pull to the point of ripping the fabric. So I have used extra wide and strong materials to use this in an activity between older individuals who benefit from pulling hard while at the same time following my directions to let go of their handle (i.e. red) while the other person takes a turn pulling (i.e. green handle). This set-up promotes social skills ! 
videoOne of the videos shows a client swinging on a hammock in a sensory room. He learned to maintain his grasp while I pulled hard enough to move the swing.  
 
I also reinforce directionality concepts when I tell clients to pull upward or downward, left or right, even diagonally. Then I position the handle so that they don't have an option other than to follow my directions.
video


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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Motor Planning to remove shapes from long flat strips

video videoI love this activity because it develops many skills and can be used in different ways according to the child or adults abilities. I cut the long white strip from a large bleach bottle by cutting in a spiral direction and then cutting again to even it out and make smooth. videoThe shapes can vary in size and have 1 or 2 notches.  They are inserted onto the plastic strip in much the same way as one would string beads. But the flat shapes are easier to grasp and manipulate and do not roll away. The notches can be extra large if you need to make this easier. The notches can also be small and snug so that the person has to use force to pull them off- nice proprioceptive sensory stimulation....Very young children or older individuals with developmental delays can simply remove the shapes to insert into a container with a slotted lid. This works on skills to use the hands together and develops eye-hand coordination needed to insert the shapes into the slot. It also works on motor planning since as you can see in the video it can be challenging to plan how to move the shape closest to the end where it will be removed. Attaching the shapes that have 2 notches is a bit like weaving, only easier because there are only 2 notches to weave through. Some individuals will be able to create a color or shape pattern as they weave the shapes in a sequence. One woman who has higher level skills enjoyed weaving them on so that a gentleman sitting next to her could pull them off to insert into a container.  She enjoys having the helper role, so this worked well for her. The gentleman loves to insert pennies into a bottle slot and does that every day. This new activity is similar and familiar enough to give him comfort but it is more cognitively challenging, more interesting since he has to sequence removing each shape before inserting them. this is a perfect example of creating slight variation to a familiar task.   
 
You can also see how removing shapes from my "Weavable Toys" shapes worked on similar skills.
This is also a great activity to promote upper extremity reaching and exercise for people who spend a lot of time sitting.