Tuesday, August 19, 2014

In My Therapy Bag | Christie from Mama OT

Today I am so excited to welcome Christie from Mama OT to share one of the must-have items in her therapy bag. If you are a reader of Christie's blog, then you already know that she is full of great (and affordable!) ideas for therapy supplies. With the new school year upon us, today Christie is sharing something that's in her therapy bag as she moves from school to school.

What’s in My Therapy Bag?

School-based occupational therapists often have to cart around therapy materials from school to school, so it’s important to have access to versatile, lightweight materials that can be used to work on a variety of skills. That’s why I love keeping ping pong balls in my therapy bag!

I have used ping pong balls with students from Kindergarten all the way to sixth grade to work on fine motor, visual motor, oculomotor, and attention/regulation skills.

Here are three examples of how you can use ping pong balls in OT treatment:

1. Have the child hold the ping pong ball with their thumb and index finger while making an “O” shape. Then have them maintain that “O” position as they pinch their fingertips together to make the ping pong ball go flying! This is excellent strengthening practice for kids with decreased strength in the thumb and/or web space between the thumb and index finger and can be really difficult at first. Once the student is able to maintain the “O” shape while pinching and launching the ping pong ball, then they can start trying to aim as they pinch the ball so it either drops or bounces into a small bowl (which is another supply I keep with me in my therapy bag). Have a contest with your student to see how many balls you can get into the bowl…it’s actually pretty tricky!

2. Write a few letters all around the ping pong ball in permanent marker. Have the student hold the ball with their fingertips (maintaining an open web space and flexion in the fingers, and only the tips of all five fingers) and then rotate the ball to find a targeted letter with their thumb. For example, tell the student, “Find the F with your thumb.” You may even have to have them sit on their other hand so they aren’t tempted to use it to turn the ball! This is a challenge for the intrinsic hand muscles and for overall dexterity. You can have different types of letters written on different ping pong balls (such as “Frog Jump” letters, “Diver” letters, commonly reversed letters, letters with diagonal strokes, capital cursive letters, etc.). You can use this activity as a fine motor warm-up prior to actually working on handwriting during your session.

3. Place a ping pong ball on the table and have the student blow through a straw until the ball rolls off the table. The combination of blowing through a straw while coordinating the eyes to focus at midline is helpful for practicing convergence and visual tracking, both of which are needed for reading, writing, and copying. The physical act of taking a deep breath and then blowing out through the straw for multiple repetitions is also helpful for increasing attention and regulation. Just make sure they take nice slow, long breaths so they actually do have the intended effect. We don’t want anyone hyperventilating! You can vary this activity by having the student rest their chin on the table so they really have to track with their eyes instead of moving their head around to follow the ball, having them blow the ball in the direction of your hands so you can “catch” the ball, or having them blow the ball through a maze (a similar activity has been featured with a pom pom here, though with a ping pong ball I’ve found it’s best to use a maze with raised boundaries such as Jenga blocks or Wikki Stix).

Stop by the dollar store and pick up a pack of ping pong balls for your OT treatment sessions.

And if you’re looking for more ideas of what to keep in your therapy bag or box, check out my post with 60+ therapy supplies for school-based OTs. It even includes MORE ideas for how to use ping pong balls, too!

Connect with Mama OT

Be sure to check out all of the other great posts in this series to find out what must-have items therapists have in their therapy bags and maybe even pick up a new idea or two. Do you have an item in your therapy bag that you'd like to share? I'd love for you to share it in an upcoming post! Just send me an email, AbbyPediatricOT {at} gmail {dot} com for more information. Open to all therapists! You don't have to be a blogger to participate!

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