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Friday, December 23, 2016

Developing skills to Screw and Unscrew covers as part of Ring Stack Activity

My clients love using the curvy "snake" ring stack that is made from a bird mister. I came across one at a yard sale and have bought several on Amazon (see Affiliate link below) because it requires reaching, using both hands, an upright posture, promotes visual attention and is visually stimulating to watch as the rings twirl down. I use rings that have small openings and  therefore, require force to push on with individuals who have good motor control and seek deep pressure sensory stimulation.  I use very large rings such as the ones shown when the person has decreased eye hand coordination and it needs to be easy to use.

In this situation I turned the activity into a 2 step process so that they have to unscrew the covers and learn that only the open rings go on the stack and the yellow covers go into the bag.  This activity meets the needs of people with different skills. Some individuals are great at screwing them together tightly and some are better at unscrewing the covers. 

The covers and screwing pieces are made from the abundant thick- It containers I find at work ....

Notice that the ring stack is positioned  according to the person's needs (in the video) and you see it on the table, on a chair and on the person's lap.
Source: DIY Fine- Motor Activities for Toddlers by RecyclingOT on Rumble


Thursday, December 8, 2016

Deep Pressure Sensory Rings

Make "sensory rings" by filling socks or sleeves of an old fleece shirt with plastic bags and sew ends. Size to be tight when child puts them over the head and pulls down to the waist. It creates nice deep pressure and motor activity when they put it on and off. The client in the photo has a big smile on her face after putting three of these on and wearing a weighted bag on her lap.   

The sensory ring I demonstrate in the video is fairly large and loose so that it can be used in motor activities such as pull down the body and stepping out of it.  

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Functional Vision, Visual Perception, and Hand Skills

In my book From Flapping to Function: A Parent's Guide to Autism and  Hand Skills I describe some of the factors that impact functional vision. Functional vision is not the same as acuity but rather the ability to use visual information to perform functional tasks such as reading, writing and catching a ball. Of course, acuity or focusing power are important for functional vision but there are several other skills that are important in order to scan the environment, follow moving objects and persist at longer visual tasks.

Children with autism may have difficulties with one or more of what is called " the 7 Fs. "These are:
1) Following a moving target using smooth, coordinated eye movements
2) Fixation to gaze at a stationary object
3)Focus to see clearly
4) fusion to use the eyes together to see in 3 dimensions
5) Flexibility to look back and forth between different things
6) Field or the breadth of what the eyes can see while staring straight ahead. For example, people with glaucoma may have extremely diminished visual fields to the point of using "tunnel vision". Children with autism may not seem to be aware of what is in their visual field.
8) Fatigue- is eye strain from the effort put into using the eyes. Also some people with autism tend to use side or peripheral vision and using peripheral is more tiring than using the direct central gaze.

My son discovered that he was a very slow reader and was exhausted after reading for 15 minutes due to his eyes not working together. A developmental optometrist gave him helpful exercises to do .

Parents and others may notice that their child with autism does not look directly at objects or may look briefly directly and then look away while picking them up. Other atypical behaviors include stimulating the visual system by flicking fingers or an object near the eyes (often from the side of the eyes) or staring at lights.
  •  They may be particularly bothered by fluorescent lights
  •  seek out darkened areas, perhaps play in a tent or large cardboard box to avoid lights 
  •  have difficulty using the eyes together or
  •  moving the gaze back and forth between distances or from vertical to horizontal planes.

My son avoids sunlight when possible, and can only sleep in a very darkened room while wearing eye covers. He can do a Rubiks cube in under 2 minutes !

Here are a couple of adaptations that I describe in my book in greater detail.


  • Use Velcro to attach puzzle pieces to the top of the box lid. (see photo above) 
  • Attach puzzle board to the bottom of the box with tape or Velcro

Children will need to use one hand to stabilize the box lid while removing the puzzle piece. The child will need to repeatedly switch gaze back and forth between the vertical and horizontal planes. This is a type of visual flexibility, number 5 in the above list.

The skill of being able to look back and forth between distances and planes is also called  Accommodation . It is used when students look back and forth between the board and desk to copy from board to paper.  It may be difficult to fixate on the word on the board, find the last word on the paper to continue writing and then go back to the board to again find where one left off reading.
There are some compensatory strategies that teachers can implement to help students such as allowing them to sit closer to the board or have a copy at the desk to copy from instead of copying from the board.

Here is a visual activity that parents can do at home......


Tape cards, words or pictures on the wall  and provide identical cards at the table or desk.  Start out with 2-3 cards that are fairly close together on the wall and gradually increase the number used and spread them further apart. As you can see in the photo I then looked back and forth in order to arrange the cards to be in the same sequence.


Try this activity using simple pictures or photos. Try using number or letter cards to teach some numerical or alphabetical  sequencing at the same time.

I hope that these tips, adaptations and activities are helpful. If you have any questions about your child's functional vision please check with a developmental optometrist who specializes in working with children with these types of challenges.   Check out this website to find one...

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Helping Your Child learn about letter Size and Spacing

Here is one of the strategies I share in From Flapping to Function: A Parent's Guide to Autism and Hand Skills.

 Attach 3 Velcro Strips to a plastic backing. I used a see through envelope so that I could store the plastic pieces. I cut these out of a white orange juice bottle.

Cut smaller shapes to write the lower case letters and larger shapes to write the taller letters, upper case letters and the letters that dip below the writing line.

Show your child how to choose which size shape to write the letter and then place on the Velcro strips as shown in the photo. Be sure to use a dry erase marker so that children can wipe them clean- receiving great deep pressure stimulation to hand muscles and joints in the process ....

Source: Sensory Visual Perception Writing Activity by RecyclingOT on Rumble

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Using Sensory Adaptations to Develop Hand Skills

Here are a couple of strategies from my book From flapping to function: A Parent's Guide to Hand Skills that involve making fine-motor activities such as stringing easier for children who have motor control challenges while at the same time adding sensory stimulation that motivates and meets their sensory needs.

This string has a squishy squeeze ball from the Dollar Store tied to the end. These don't last forever, but fun to squeeze in between inserting rings onto it.

I tied a bottle with beads and water inside that can be shaken after done with stringing the ring shapes.

A battery powered electric toothbrush can be taped onto the end of a stringing activity. The white toothbrush shown in the photo is taped to a long strip of plastic cut from a container. Its firmer and easier to manipulate than string.

The other toothbrush shown is covered with a decorative duct tape so that individuals do not consider putting it in their mouths. The "string" is made of a strip of stretchy cord.

Other options of sensory objects to attach to the stringing end are:
  • a Koosh ball
  • flashlight
  • flashing toothbrush
  • cat toys with bells
  • squeaky dog toys

These types of sensory materials may also be attached to the top of a ring stack.

As usual, the rings are cut out of detergent and other types of plastic containers and they are not sharp. I can rub them across my face without creating a scratch.

If you enjoyed this post please share and consider writing a book review on Amazon. Links are on the right side of this post.


Stretching elastic loops over the ball shown in the video below provides great sensory stimulation and motivates my client to use his hands.....
Source: Stretchy Ring and Ball Activity for Children with Sensory Processing Disorders by RecyclingOT on Rumble

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Add sensory Stimulation with Pulling while Color Sorting on Button Board

This buttoning board was made out of a book stand with holes drilled into it. You can use any strong plastic or wooden surface to make something similar. I pushed elastic hair ties through two holes and then knotted each to attach plastic circles that function as buttons.

Some individuals are at a level where they can remove and insert them into an open container or a container with a slot to push into. Some of them have the motor planning skills to attach the fabric pieces and some of them are able to match colors. I love finding ways to combine working on dexterity and using a cognitive skill such as matching that they already they have already mastered and enjoy.

Some of  my clients really enjoyed the fact that the buttons could be pulled and snap back on the elastic. This gave them a fun sensory experience and because you can pull it away from the board, enabling them to  attach several of the fabric pieces.

Pulling, pushing and squeezing all provide  proprioceptive sensory stimulation to muscles, joints and tendons that can help with body awareness and motor planning.  This buttoning board adaptation provides this stimulation as they pull the buttons.  You can read about many other types of sensory adaptations in my new book: From Flapping to Function: A Parent's Guide to Autism and Hand Skills.   

Friday, July 8, 2016

Weighted Sock Activities

I have found some new ways to use my heavy weighted socks. These are made by filling plastic bags with sand and then placing inside a large old sock. You can make them as long or heavy as desired and I add a second layer of sock so that the outer sock can be removed and washed.

An individual was sitting in the lounge chair while I dropped several of the socks on his lap. He seemed to enjoy picking them up, walking across the room and dropping them into a box on the table. He was very focused and persisted for several minutes. He really likes moving and carrying heavy objects. It helped his body awareness and was something he could do successfully since he  has a lot of difficulty with motor planning any gross or fine motor activity.  At first I returned some of the socks back to the chair so that he could keep going. Eventually he caught on to what I was doing and he wanted to see the task reach a point of completion.

In the video you see a young man who is blind. He enjoys having the heavy socks thrown onto his lap as he tries to catch them. I taught a couple of other clients to throw them toward his lap and give a verbal cue that it is about to be thrown. This was great for promoting a social exchange and communication skills. The other client or I were able to keep this up for a good 10 to 15 minutes as we kept taking the socks back out of the box and throwing them into his lap again and again. Great fun for all.... 

Source: Playing Catch with Bags of Sand is Great for Sensory Processing Disorders by RecyclingOT

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Tolerating Water with wet Objects

My client hates to get her hands wet and refuses to wash them after using the toilet. The staff had been working on a goal to wash her hands but she won't even place them under the water. Her new goal is to tolerate wet hands by removing the balls from a container that has a small amount of water in it and placing them in the 2nd container. She has always liked insertion tasks so she is willing to do this. We will gradually increase the amount of water so that she has to submerge her hands!! Sometimes you need to be a little tricky.....

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

A Few Sensory Adaptations

My clients enjoy some of my sensory adaptations so much that they get mad if I try to rotate them amongst the program rooms. The ones that vibrate are usually the favorites. but here are a few more....

The gentleman with the cushions filled with sand has much difficulty to tolerate ANYTHING touching him. I finally figured out that I could drape a bag around his shoulders. It is filled with 3 socks filled with plastic bags of sand and the entire thing is inside a removable pillow case so that it can be washed.  I tucked a soft thick door snake used to keep cold out, around his waist and then the final cushion which is very heavy on top of his arms. He is learning to tolerate these items while his hands are in the usual position of wedged inside his legs. I am hoping to eventually encourage him to place his hands on top of the cushion and touch objects.

The gentleman in the lower picture likes the flashlight I attached to the ring stack. I figured that the clients who like to be busy during the relaxation periods of dim lights and soft music would enjoy having the light on and the option of manipulating the rings.

The gentleman in the video is using an insertion container that has a door jamb spring attached to the top. I bought it on Amazon for a dollar and I wound the bottom of the springy part through a hole in the lid and then duct taped. I didn't catch it in the video but he stabilized the container a few times while snapping the spring and this made him interested in the activity.

The other gentleman in the video has a lot of energy and loves the sensation of rolling the ball around. I found a tether ball and was able to wrap it tightly around the table to use in this way.


Friday, May 13, 2016

Stabilizing with the Non-functional Hand

My client does not use his left hand, it is relatively weak, often fisted and he requires assistance to use it to grasp. However, this adaptation enabled him to use it to the best of his ability to stabilize the ring stack. I wedged the tube into the bottom of the container so that he can grasp it from the horizontal orientation.

 I used the Easyhold strap to hold his hand in place. (the company gave me a few to try out). He was able to place rings on top of the dowel after I found just the right height for him to  be able to reach. reach. His left hand actually did help to stabilize the container after setting him up...

Some days he can stack rings with only verbal cues after it is placed in his hand. On other days he requires physical or hand-over-hand assistance.

Source: Adapted Ring Stack for Individual with Hemiplegia by RecyclingOT

Friday, April 15, 2016

Client Shaking sensory stimulation objects on Ipad holder attached to Tray

I was given a gooseneck Ipad holder that attaches to a tray with a C-clamp. I wanted to use it to help a client be able to shake objects that she has difficulty controlling when they are lower on her tray. I covered all of the parts that hold the Ipad with fabric, duct tape, tubing  so that there were no sharp edges. then I added yam and other pretty dangly things. but best of all was attaching the Brainy Baby Toy that her sister had purchased for her. It has a spring inside that vibrates when pulled and no batteries which is great... I know that this lady loves vibration and to pull objects and this was much easier to do when the pulling was from up above rather than across her tray. Also she has difficulty grasping for longer periods of time so I attached the   strap to keep her hand inside. She is able to pull her hand out at any point and she did after about 10 minutes. So I alternated between using her right and left hand with the strap and time to touch without using the strap.  You can see in the video how excited she is the be able to pull for more than her usual few seconds....

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Roller Ring Stack

This is an easy way to make a sensory-based fine motor activity. Many of my clients love the sensation of rubbing their hands over the roller as well as the deep pressure sensory input when I roll it over thei9r hands. I attached a roller from the dollar store inside a plastic tube and wedged the tube inside a detergent bottle. I  made the rectangular pieces a bit small so that they have to motor plan to tilt each one before inserting over the roller. the young man in the video enjoys giving it some rolls while  performing repetitions.

Source: Paint Roller Ring Stack for Children with Autism by RecyclingOT on Rumble

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Deep Pressure Beeping Bilateral Ring Stack

I had made this ring stack a while ago to promote reaching and using 2 hands. My clients really enjoy looking at the photos attached to the plastic. I had laminated the photos and some clients sewed them to the plastic that I had cut from large detergent bottles. But you can glue pictures to plastic or cardboard to use for stacking. There are may ways to make this. I inserted the 2 tall dowels into a large bottle and then inserted that inside the box and covered it with contact paper to look nicer.

 I attached a beeping toy by wrapping it up in fabric and then tying the fabric to the dowels. When they press down with force, they can hear the sounds.
This was a lot of fun . You can grade the difficulty level by making the holes in the plastic pieces larger or smaller.
Source: Bilateral Ring Stack for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities by RecyclingOT

Friday, February 5, 2016

Adding Motor Planning Challenge to Ring Stacks

My clients get bored with doing the same activities, so I try to make small variations to keep their interest. This ring stack has a couple of balls attached to the top. I can shake the pole to draw their attention to the top of the pole where the ring needs to go down. I cut the openings in the plastic to be small enough to require a bit of motor planning to make the balls fit through. I found that this worked well with some individuals while seated and others while standing at the table promoting reaching at eye level.


Thursday, January 14, 2016

Two Shape Bilateral Ring Stack

My clients seems to really enjoy this ring stack.  I happened to have a cardboard tube, some plastic dowels and these rectangular shaped plastic containers. So I wedged 2 dowels into the tube and then attached the rectangular container.
 I knew that they would have to stabilize this because it rocks around otherwise. But they seemed to like the cognitive challenge of matching the small round shapes to the dowel and rectangular shapes to the rectangular stack. They realized quickly that the smaller round shapes won't  fit over the rectangular stack and understood where the larger green rectangular shapes needed to go.   In addition, the lady with the striped sweater avoids using her left hand so this activity worked on her goal to stabilize with it.
This activity works on many skills that are appropriate for individuals with  developmental disabilities.   

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Munch Ball Insertion Activity


My client enjoyed the sensory input from squeezing the ball to insert the links. I really like how she has to stop to unclip them as she works turning this into a multi-step task that works on strengthening her pincer grasp.....