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Monday, December 23, 2019

A Highly recommended Memoir and Expose of a Dysfunctional Legal System

I was compelled to write this book review. I sent a copy to Amazon. It was declined for publication because I used a  four letter word (actually twice) that was germane to the experience, values  and the art of the author. I share it here instead......This memoir has nothing to do with occupational therapy and everything to do with social justice. However, occupational therapists are trained to heal and help others find the best quality of life after trauma. People who are victimized by injustice experience trauma. The author-a brilliant writer and social commentator was destined to be a literary success. She just shouldn't have had to suffer sexual assault and the subsequent legal nightmare along this devastating journey.   

Brett-Brock or Brock-Brett…either way it sounds like a pairing of tough, macho, bro-rapists. At least, that is my first thought as I started reading Chanel Miller’s insightful, albeit painful memoir Know My Name. I was searching my digital library when the title jumped out at me, eliciting a twinge of guilt that the story of a pimple-faced, Princeton, freshman sexually assaulting an unconscious woman then known as Emily Doe and leaving her like a pile of old clothes behind a dumpster had faded from my consciousness. It was time to correct my “bad” and read this book. I highly suggest that you do, too. Miller creates an emotional, eye-opening, life-transforming roller coaster of information and feelings about what it means to be raped by a stranger and assaulted again by a patriarchal legal system.

Brett Kavanaugh only earned a small mention as Miller encapsulates the present-day lack of legal consequences that give rapists the green light.  Brett was once a young Brock- raised with the wealth and privilege that encouraged him to seek power, cruel power over others with no consequences. (A small aside- Fred Rogers also grew up with wealth, privilege and loving parents who taught him right from wrong. It doesn’t have to be this way. )  Brett enjoyed his entitlements to the best schools, fraternities, unlimited parties in the magnificent homes of country club peers and had no qualms about trying to rip a bathing suit off a younger teenage family friend hanging out downstairs. She erroneously thought she could safely find her way to the bathroom. Today Dr. Ford, like Chanel Miller- is a beacon of hope and courage.

Chanel Miller also assumed she was safe at a frat party her younger sister and friends were attending. Princeton was the familiar, tree lined campus where local children like Chanel grew up riding bikes and taking enrichment courses. The 22-year-old recent college graduate wanted spend time with her sister and coincidentally ended up at this fateful party. The girls were just being girls. They let their guard down, got silly, drank too much, laughed a bit loudly, danced on chairs and had fun as young women should be able to safely do.

Readers, especially women will relate to being young and carefree and having their innocence stolen. I was one of those young women in the early 1970s and consider myself extremely fortunate to not be a rape statistic. It was pure luck that I was never violated, not even when skinny-dipping in college and a total stranger approached me with an invitation to “fuck”, not even when hitch-hiking across the country with friends and drivers asked if we wanted a good time and not even when a smiling Tony Perkins Doppelganger beckoned me to come closer to his car while he held his erection.  There are no actions a woman can take that justifies sexual assault. That is the crux of this memoir.

I repeat- it was sheer luck that the Brocks and Bretts in America have never succeeded in assaulting me. Miller described the challenges of walking down the urban streets of Providence, Rhode Island trying to exercise her right to fresh air and freedom while navigating the dangers of entitled male strangers. Having grown up in New York City I learned at a young age to avoid eye contact, dodge the land mines of cat calls, men grabbing my bicycle seat, rubbing next to me on crowded subways or demanding a smile as I walked down the street. I learned at a young age that sneakers are my best defense and not to hesitate calling my mom to pick me up. I didn’t grow up feeling safe as girls and young women deserve and I’ve carried this baggage for 65 years. Chanel Miller is dragging a heavier load but has the grit to use it wisely.

Chanel being the decent, observant, brilliant and courageous young woman she was raised to be did not want Brock to become so angry that he would turn to violence.  Miller knows that angry disgruntled, humiliated, entitled, white men (and they are often white) have been turning to mass shootings with increasing frequency. Chanel requested that Brock receive therapy while imprisoned. The judge forgot to inform her that therapy was only offered in the community jail, not in the long-term prison system and jail had a maximum sentence time of 6 months. As a result of this misunderstanding or perhaps willful withholding of information, Brock served a mere 90 days including the night spent in jail when arrested.

I wouldn’t be sharing my thoughts about the Bretts and Brocks if Chanel Miller had not touched our hearts with her victim impact statement that evolved into her memoir. From page one, I was stunned by her prodigious literary talent. Miller is the daughter to an accomplished Chinese author, majored in literature and was destined to materialize her genius in one way or another. Telling her story is both a therapeutic act of self-care and a condemnation of the persecution sexual assault victims are forced to endure. 

I don’t want readers to avoid this memoir because Chanel’s pain and cruel treatment from the legal system are so upsetting. We have all read Ann Frank’s Diary in middle school, now it’s time to add Know My Name to the high school curriculum.  I have read several of the hundreds of Amazon reviews of this book. Many are rape survivors who are grateful that Chanel gave voice to the victims. Miller gives us reasons to maintain hope-  Judge Persky (who gave Brock a slap on the wrist sentence) was recalled after thousands of angry constituents signed a petition drive.  Bill Cosby is behind bars, the We-too movement is growing if not thriving and 2 Swedish men who saved Chanel proved that right can trump wrong. Chanel Miller’s book is part of a movement.

America has elected a president who thinks it’s OK to brag about grabbing pussy (his words) because he is rich and powerful. The unprecedented 2018 election of women to Congress gives us hope.  Dr. Christine Ford is racking up awards for her bravery and patriotism. However, there’s still so much work to be done! Thank-you for reading this lengthy book review. Now let’s roll up our sleeves and make America safe for everyone regardless of gender, sexual preference, race, religion and so on. Follow Chanel Miller’s lead and use your voice!     

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Vibrating Velcro Board for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities

This Flannel board Velcro activity is fun and helps engage the most distractible clients. I wedged the top of a large piece of white fabric into the space between the wall and board. The shapes with Hook Velcro on the back came from various games that were no longer being used and they attached to the fabric. I also happened to have a vibrating cushion with Loop Velcro pieces attached and an outlet below. Now my clients can
1) attach or remove shapes or pictures attached with Velcro
2) press a hand to feel the vibration
3)work on using hands together by holding the container
I love how clients are more easily engaged when working with materials at eye level. The individual in the video loves to move and this adaptation enables him to visually attend, develop bilateral hand skills -while standing and moving. When finished, staff folded up the fabric for easy storage.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Lumbar Support at the Beach

Carrying a pack and dragging a towel across the beach can be.... well.. a drag. Here is my simple solution to avoid tripping and lower back pain caused by carrying a heavy load.

The lumbar area is your lower back and lack of adequate support may result in lower back pain. A "Lumbar support" may be a cushion pressed between the lower back and back of chair. Some backpacks are ergonomically designed to support that area while walking. This may be especially helpful when carrying a heavy load. Other benefits to using a rolled up towel as lumbar support is
1) you won't trip on the towel
2) you won't have to carry the towel
3) the towel is not as sweaty as the backpack and can be soaked in water first.
Have a cool summer!

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Hand Exercises for Client with Spasticity

The swiveling grasping handle to a Push-Up exercise tool is perfect in opening up my client's hand and promoting active movement. She had a brain injury and her right hand has limited active range of motion and motor control. However, this tool seems to compensate for her movement impairment by swiveling as she moves. Her movement is more fluid than when simply grasping a rolled up towel and attempting to touch my finger.

I’m sure that I will discover other fun and unique uses of this tool. Let me know if you do, too!


Sunday, June 16, 2019

Packing Foam Activities for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities

I found this thick foam in a storage closet at work and thought --"that would feel nice to use in fine motor activities" I first used it on a table for individuals to insert shakers made out of pill containers. Then I thought of the magnetic pegs and white board in the program room. I tied the foam onto the board and demonstrated how to walk to a table, retrieve a peg and walk to the board for insertion. This is shown in the video...…..
This was beneficial because:
1) this client loves to walk.
2) this client tends to hunch over so reaching up to place the pegs helped her posture
3) she worked on a multistep task which is a bit more interesting and challenging (in my humble opinion)
4)she has poor motor control and these large pegs are easy to push into the deep foam holes.
Pulling strips of fabric in and out of the foam is not quite weaving and its not quite lacing. But its very wonderful because - as you know-the foam feels great. In addition, she is wheelchair bound and this is relatively good exercise with all the reaching. But most importantly, the client is doing meaningful occupation. She had a stroke and now has dementia and repeatedly tells me that she used to love quilting.
This is every occupational therapists dream- being able to help her patient to resume a leisure activity that is similar to what she previously was able to do but adapted to much easier and successful.
Also shown in the video is a woman with hemiplegia who is able to use her affected left side to stabilize the foam. I love when my clients STABILIZE!
Notice the clever blue needle adaptation made out of a plastic piece cut from a coffee container. I didn't notice until one of the clients pointed out that the needle had a picture of coffee on it. I just happened to luck out and it smells great. Cut a slit in the "needle" to push the fabric strip through. This makes it easier to grasp and push through the foam holes.
Options: Making the task more cognitive challenging
1) teach specific types of stitches or a design
2) do a color sequence knotting strips of red, white and blue perhaps for a United states flag theme
3) Provide a model with color patterns to copy.
If you come up with any more ideas on how to use the foam please share…..
Oh..... and in case you are wondering- I am really fast at cutting fabric strips out of the piles of unwanted tubes and folded cloth retrieved from a Recycling program . Most of it is fleece which gives us really nice tactile touch sensory stimulation which weaving or lacing or whatever......


Packing Foam Activities for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities


Saturday, June 8, 2019

Girl with Developmental Disabilities Activates Switch Using Toy or Hand

A non-verbal young lady with developmental disabilities enjoys pressing a switch that activates sensory stimulation. In this case, I connected a massager inside a cushion and fan. She requires a lot of time to process what she wants to do motorically. I can see her thinking about whether to press the switch using the toy in her right hand or directly pressing the switch with her less preferred left hand. She clearly does NOT want to release the toy and involving both hands is the solution!

Activating sensory devices like fans, massagers, bubble machines or radios gives the client or student control over their environment. It helps them to involve their hands in functional activities and teaches them about cause and effect relationships- such as "I touch the yellow panel and the fan blows. "

A control panel can be used to choose how the switch is activated and for how long: 
1) A single pressing may turn the switch on or off
2) the switch may be activated only while the hand is applying pressure to it
3) or the timer may activate the switch for a set number of seconds or minutes. 

I discovered that there is not need to remove a preferred toy or other object that the client or student wants to grasp in order to work on activating switches. I try to give choices as much as possible and she seemed to enjoy this activity!

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Money Skills Training with Fine-Motor Activities

I prefer to teach money skills by incorporating them into fine-motor activities. Laminated pictures of coins or paper bills may be sorted into containers or stuffed into envelopes. Clients or students can match and attach two pictures using paper clips or squeeze clips.  The money shown in the video has holes punched so that they can be hung on hook boards, strung on cord or used in ring stack tasks. (Make the pictures and holes larger when using on ring stacks)

Individuals with developmental disabilities can work on skills such as:

1)         Identifying coins

2)         Naming the value of coins

3)         Naming the famous person on the money

4)         Adding up money values at any point while stringing or stacking them. 

Notice the blue bag attached to the board. I filled it up with the laminated money pictures along with sensory items such as pennies, cotton balls, beads, pom poms, foam pieces or beans. Of course, do not use this adaptation with individuals who may put them in their mouths. However, it’s fun to sift the fingers through the materials while feeling to find the laminated pictures.

Clients who do not have the cognitive skills to identify, match or sort money may simply enjoy stringing or removing them to place back in the bag. Using money pictures to perform simple fine motor tasks is a great age-appropriate strategy to work on basic hand skills.

I printed out pictures of money from the internet and laminated them. However, you may be able to purchase play money that you can punch holes into using a heavy duty puncher.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Magnetic Building Sets for Sequencing and Motor Control

I not only love to make therapeutic activities out of recycled materials….. I am also excited to create an entirely new activity out of materials that are broken, in storage or simply not being used anymore. The magnetic building block toy is pretty challenging for most of my clients. The directions are to copy diagrams of shapes created by connecting the pegs and balls. I happened to have some metal washers and a broken Connect 4 frame and turned the materials into a very versatile activity that could be used to develop

1)     Eye-hand coordination to place the pegs inside the Connect 4 frame sections

2)     sequencing skills to place the washer, color paper on top, matching color magnetic peg and finally the ball on top.

3)     Motor control to keep the pegs upright and fix when they do fall.

4)     Sensory stimulation from the pull and push of magnetic materials placed in and out of the coffee can

5)     Flexibility to use the materials in a variety of ways

Materials..... I keep a look out for these at yard sales.....

My clients always benefit from movement as they place the magnetic pegs on or off the magnetic white board. I cut paper circles out of construction paper to for color matching, but this is optional.  Purchase small or larger materials according to the child or client’s motor abilities. Also, using fewer materials and spreading them around the board may reduce excess knocking over pieces. 

 Offer an opportunity to draw circles on the white board to place the magnets inside. Someone will surely love wiping the board clean! 

Source: Magnetic Building sets for sequencing and Motor Control by RecyclingOT

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Social Skills Sorting Task for Individual with Developmental Disability

This client loves to sort but he does not like to share or take turns. He is nonverbal. I am teaching him to sort only the yellow, red and blue colors into the 3 containers close to him and to hand me the colors that I need.  I am sorting green, purple and orange pictures into the 3 containers in front of me.

 I mixed up all the colors/pictures and gave each of us 1/2 the pile so that we need to give the other person the pictures that are not on our perspective sides. This was kind of hard for him to do because he didn't want to share the activity with me, but he learned the rules pretty quickly.  I think that this activity will help him better tolerate others in his space and engage with his peers through a shared task.

Source: Social Skills Sorting Task for Developmentally Disabled Client by RecyclingOT

This video demonstrates how to make the snap cover board out of coffee container lids!

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

EazyHold Grasp Adaptation for Developmental Disabilities

My client loves to grasp and shake objects. He is blind and this video demonstrates one of the few functional hand skills he enjoys. He loves the freedom of grasping independently that the EazyHold provides. The tambourine sound in the background is actually made by a different individual and the client shown is playing along with her. I wish I could share his great big smile.

Source: EAZYHold Grasp Adaptation for Developmental Disabilities by RecyclingOT


Blind-Deaf Client Manipulating Magnets to Develop Motor Skills

The client in the video is blind, deaf and developmentally disabled. He appears to enjoy insertion tasks, but will stop if they are too challenging. I think that he enjoys inserting the magnetic pieces because he can feel how they connect and separate and they don’t go flying all over the place. This activity works on motor control, finger dexterity and stabilizing materials with one hand. He typically avoids using his hands together but here he is working independently for several minutes-a huge success for him!


Saturday, April 13, 2019

Pull-Open Rings for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities

These "Pull-open rings" are easy to cut out of all the vibrant, colorful, plastic containers in the recycling bin (especially if you drink coffee) and require using hands together to pull open and attach to a tube or giant ring stack. 
The ring stack shown in the video is too large to drop the rings down the traditional way, from the top. So, my clients need to pull them open to attach.
This activity works on:
• using hands together
• sequencing steps to pull and place
• providing sensory stimulation from pulling/pushing into place
• integrating movement by retrieving rings from high or low surfaces
The video also shows a client with hemiplegia who avoids using his weaker, less coordinated left hand. He was not happy about this set up but the more he uses his left hand, the better he is at tasks that involve stabilization with the left and manipulation with his right hand.
This activity works on many different skills and the rings are FREE!

This client likes to move. He self-stimulates all day long by shaking paper in front of his face. However, he engages in simple hand activities when they involve movement and visual stimulation! He received vestibular stimulation as he picked up the rings from the floor and high surfaces and proprioceptive stimulation as he pulled the rings open in order to attach to the large ring stack. Working with materials in front of his eyes helped him to visually engage!

Learn more about activity adaptions in my books!

Source: Bilateral Rings for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities by RecyclingOT