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Saturday, February 23, 2019

Multi-sensory Switch Activities for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities

Many of my clients with limited fine-motor control enjoy pressing a switch to activate a desired result such as turning on music, a fan, vibration or light.  Some individuals with higher cognitive abilities can turn their head to hit a switch that activates a recording of a joke. Some clients enjoy the combination of "cause and effect" devices with fine motor activities such as ring stacks and insertion tasks.  They love all the sensory stimulation!

I set up a  table with a control panel that plugs into a wall outlet. The control panel was provided by the American Printing House for the Blind free for clients with legal blindness. Check out: 
Switches and adapted toys are sold on Amazon or via special needs websites such as Enabling Devices at
The devices shown in the following videos all plug into electric outlets and use AC current. However,  some battery operated toys are sold adapted to be used with switches. Another option is to purchase a battery interrupter. The latter is much less expensive and versatile!  

  The copper piece is placed between batteries and the connection and the switch male plug is attached to the female end of the battery interrupter. (sorry to be so graphic...…)

 My clients  shown in the video enjoyed pressing the yellow panel switch as they engaged in the ring stack and insertion tasks. The yellow push panel switch and the 2 electric cords (to lamp and massager) plugged into the control panel. The control panel has settings so that the device(s) can
1. go on or off when the yellow switch is pressed
2. the devices stay on as long as the switch is pressed or
3. a timer is set so that it stays on after pressed for a select amount of time as shown in the video.

I think that my clients appreciate the control they have to make the lamp and massager go on whenever they want. The sensory and novelty aspects of this set-up certainly make ring stacks and insertion tasks more engaging. Notice the large rings on the table that can be placed over the lamp.

This activity can be adapted to encourage exercise by placing the materials (e.g. rings or bean bags) on the floor or across the room so that walking and moving up and down are required. The young lady sitting at the table loves the sensory devices (radio, lamp, fan and massager) so I hope that I can use the devices to motivate her to get out of her seat and move!

Source: Multi-sensory Switch Activities for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities by RecyclingOT

Source: Sensory Lamp Ring Stack for People with Autism Spectrum Disorders by RecyclingOT

Here are a few links to related products. I earn a few cents when you shop on amazon via these links!



Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Hiking the Grand Canyon: A Super Sensory Experience!

Hiking down and up the Grand Canyon is not only thrilling; it is a total sensory experience that any occupational therapist would want to share!   
 The colorful scenery is visual candy! I spend much of my life reading books so having grandiose views is a therapeutic break for my eyes. I naturally moved my gaze back and forth between near vision (watching my feet so that I didn't trip) and far vision. This is great if you have challenges with binocular vision like I do. It was a living 3 D viewer! 

I love the smells, including mule dropping which are not nearly as bad as dog waste. Of course, the air also provides sensational olfactory stimulation, too! 

I love the taste of Arizona water. I filter the water I drink at home because I don’t like the taste, so I really appreciated my frequent gustatory hydration experiences on the trails. 

When not chatting with hubby and other trekkers, I loved the sounds of silence, occasionally interrupted by the auditory stimulation of running streams, the Colorado River and wildlife. 

Carrying a backpack provides that same proprioceptive stimulation to muscles and joints that therapists love to enhance with weighted materials and resistive activities. Fortunately, I only carried my clothing, snacks and water because the Phantom Ranch provided shelter and meals. I love not having to cook…..

I had opportunities for tactile stimulation when I bonded with a resting mule and discovered how painful it is to accidentally touch a cactus! 

My vestibular system had a good work out with the ups and downs and turning around to take in the 360 degree views. 

Now let’s not forget about the interoception sensory system! It was very much on my mind as I thought about food, drinking, my aches and pains, respiration and needing an out house is.

After receiving so much sensory stimulation, I experienced an extremely positive social and emotional  response.  Now I can cross this one off my bucket list!

Learn more about meeting sensory needs through activity adaptations on my website and blog:

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Light Activities for Individuals with Autism and other Developmental Disabilities

The following is excerpted from my book From Flapping to Function: A Parent's Guide to Autism and Hand Skills 

If your child loves lights, take advantage of the following activities to encourage visual attention.
Caution: If your child has a seizure disorder check with your physician first.

Light Table or Box

You can buy or make a light table to encourage manipulating objects on a surface. To make your own, place a battery-powered light inside a clear plastic container with a lid. Cut small openings of different shapes in the lid in order to use the light box as a shape sorter. Children may be more visually engaged when looking at toys-such as pegs and pegboard-placed on top of a light table or box. In addition, they may be motivated to touch or manipulate them. The video demonstrates clients performing simple fine-motor activities placed on top of the light box. This particular box was purchased from a company that makes products for the visually impaired. 

Here are a few other ideas: 
1) Collect plastic 20-ounce or two-liter soda bottles. Place an activated glow stick inside each one. Then use a ball to bowl over the bottles. 
2) Scatter glow sticks inside a play tunnel for your child to gather. These toys remain lit for several hours after being unwrapped. You can buy a tunnel or make your own by draping blankets over chairs or tables. 
3) Play catch with balls that light up, have flashing lights or make funny sounds when squeezed. 

Light-Up Toys

Toddlers and older children who love lights may be motivated to manipulate the following types of commercially available toys:
  • ring stacks that flash lights and play music when rings are stacked on them (such as the light up Lion Stacker by Fisher Price).
  • toys that light up when a button is pushed  (such as the Light Up Princess Wand by Playmaker Toys)
  • Lite Brite pegboard (sold by Hasbro) is a lighted board or box with small pegs to push into its frame. This is appropriate for older children who no longer put objects in their mouths. 
The following video demonstrates a ring stack made out of an aquarium lamp.

Source: Sensory Lamp Ring Stack for People with Autism Spectrum Disorders by RecyclingOT

The photograph demonstrates a light up Princess Wand being used as a ring stack.

I share products that may be used to promote visual attention with  Amazon links. I make a tiny amount of money if you shop through these links.... Thanks!