Friday, June 29, 2012

Oh, The Places You'll Go!

I just read this touching article about a priceless gift a young woman received from her father as a graduation present. Her father bought a copy of Dr. Seuss's "Oh, The Places You'll Go!" when she was a child and over the years he had all of her teachers write a message to her. What a wonderful idea! Rather than a graduation present, it could be great for children who receive therapy! Each therapist in the child's life could write a message in the book to the child.

A book might not work for all children and families, so here's another idea to help children remember their therapists. When I will no longer be seeing a child for therapy (usually at age 3 when they age out of early intervention), parents often take a picture of me with their child. Many families use these create a book or poster of photos to show their child all of the people who helped them along the way. Having a photo can also be used to create a social story to help children transition away from old therapists and on to new therapists.

What do you do to help your child transition and remember therapists?

Friday Features

This week I...
- Did a lot of work on some upcoming blog projects. I don't have much to show for it right now (on my blog at least), but hopefully I will soon!

- Got my haircut and missed a great opportunity to explain what occupational therapy is to my hairdresser when she asked me where I work. My excuse is that I was tired and I just wanted to sit there and relax while she did her thing, so I gave her a kind of short, vague answer about where I work. Lame, I know, but don't tell me you've never done the same thing. Anyway, I read this post the next day and it got me thinking. The author challenges occupational therapists to educate one person per week for the month of July about what an occupational therapist is, what we do, and the different areas in which we practice. Are you up to the challenge?

Friday Features Links:
- OT blog alert! Check out Mama OT for tips and tricks for those who care for children. The author of this blog shares helpful tidbits she has learned as both a new mother and pediatric OT.

- With the Fourth of July fast approaching, check out these tips from an OT for Putting the Fun Back into the Fourth of July.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

iPad Light Box

On Monday I wrote about the Baby Finger app. While working with a kiddo with a visual impairment (who is very drawn to light and her light box), I thought, "I wonder if I could use my iPad like a light box?"

Using the blank screen on the Baby Finger app, this is what I came up with:
In a dark room, I placed two rings on the iPad screen. Check out that contrast! Now it is much easier for a child with a visual impairment to see the rings and reach out for them.

The only problem is, the Baby Finger app will display an image and a sound if the screen is touched. So, I searched the app store for light box apps and this is what I found:

ILoveFilm - This app is designed to look like an old light box that is used to view images from photography film. Remember, cameras use to have film in them? There is a small border as you can see in the screenshot below, but overall it works well as a light box. I would prefer it without the border, but for a free app, I really can't complain.

Light Pad HD - I haven't tried this app, but it has consistently positive reviews in the app store. The Light Pad HD app is designed to view photo film or x-rays, and provides an option to light up the entire iPad screen, without any border. If you really don't want the border that the ILoveFilm app has, this app is probably a good option for only $1.99.

Have you ever used your iPad as a light box? If so, how did it work? What apps do you use with children with visual impairments? Please share your experiences in the comments below!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Baby Finger App

The Baby Finger app by DJ International is a simple cause and effect app that quickly captures the attention of babies. While I am not a huge proponent of entertaining babies using electronic devices, I do feel that this particular app can have great therapeutic uses for babies. And guess what? It's free!

The app starts with a blank screen. Each time the screen is touched, a shape appears along with a sound. Keep touching the screen and more shapes will appear, as you can see in the screenshot above. Touch a shape that is on the screen, and it will disappear along with making a sound. While some of the sounds are a little odd (toilet flushing or farting sound, yes, I'm serious!), babies seem to love this app! They especially love when it makes a cooing baby sound. There are also options to have numbers appear on the screen or a combination of numbers and shapes, but I usually stick with just the shapes.

Here's a video showing an infant with high muscle tone and limited arm control reaching out to activate the Baby Finger app:

Ways I use the Baby Finger app in therapy:
  • To encourage reaching, especially in children with high muscle tone
  • To encourage finger isolation
  • To encourage visual tracking in children with a visual impairment
  • As a motivator when working on head control or tummy time

How do you use the Baby Finger app in therapy? What other apps do you use with infants? 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Friday Features

This week I...
- Began to clean out my desk and now I just have piles of OT books and CDs and toys (like the one above) that I need to do something about. Would anyone be interested in hearing about some of my favorite therapy books in upcoming posts?As you might be able to tell from the photo, I'm a huge fan of the Kumon 'My First' workbooks to work on pre-writing and scissor skills.

Friday Features Links:
- It's a week full of surveys. If you are a parent of a child who has received early intervention services (birth to age 5), Stephanie Bruno-Dowling over at Early Intervention Speech Therapy, is looking for feedback from parents via a survey to share the results on her blog. Click here to learn more about the survey.

- Dr. Anne Zachry at Pediatric Occupational Therapy Tips, is looking for feedback from pediatric physical and occupational therapists for a research project she is working on about the amount of time infants under six months of age should spend in various baby gear (e.g. car seats, swings, bumbo chairs, etc). Click here to learn access the survey.

- If you haven't already heard, Shasta at Outrageous Fortune, has started a Kickstarter Campaign to publish a baby book that she has written to raise money for her son Malachi's therapy. She has had such an overwhelming response to her campaign that she is hoping to expand the project to help other children with disabilities as well. To learn more about her book, Dark & Light: A love story for babies, or to support her Kickstarter campaign, click here

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Make the First Five Count!

Easter Seals has launched an advocacy and awareness campaign called Make the First Five Count. A big thank you to Ellen over at Love That Max for bringing this campaign to my attention. The goal of this campaign is to get children at risk for developmental delays or disabilities the support that they need to be school ready.

As an early intervention provider, I am a huge proponent of intervening as early as possible. In my experience, children who start therapy early make great gains that I'm not sure they would have if they didn't receive intervention at a young age. It breaks my heart every time I evaluate a child who is about to turn three (when children age out of the state funded programs), knowing that the family has only a limited time to receive therapies.

I don't know how many times I've walked out of an assessment thinking to myself, "I wish this family had come in a year ago." So, if you've stumbled across this blog because you are concerned about your child's development, please head over to the Easter Seals website and check out their free developmental milestone screening, the Ages and Stages Questionnaire, Third Edition. This is a quick screen for children ages birth to age 5 and the results will help you see if your child's developmental progress is on time and alert you to any concerns that you should discuss with your child's healthcare provider.

Trust your parental instinct and get your child checked out if you are concerned. I can't stress enough how critical early intervention is.

Monday, June 18, 2012

In my therapy toys

I can't take full credit for this one. I got this idea from a wonderful speech therapist I work with, as well as a family I work with whose child has a visual impairment.

These cat toys are great for sensory exploration, especially the crinkly ones. Most solid cat toys have rattles inside of them. The textures and sounds are great for sensory exploration for all children.

Cat toys are just the right size for little hands to work on grasping skills. Once grasping skills are mastered, these balls are great for working on the concept of "putting in" by taking turns placing the balls inside a container.

The larger crinkly ball can also be used to work on kicking skills in toddlers, since they don't roll away quite as easily as a regular ball.

Friendly reminder: Cat toys are not actually made for children and even have a tag on them that say "Not intended for children" so please use caution and close supervision if you choose to use cat toys to work on grasping or other skills. The general rule of thumb is, if it fits through a toilet paper tube, then it is a choking hazard.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Friday Features

This week I...
- Tried to get back into my work/blogging/regular life routine after all of the wedding/honeymoon excitement. An 18 hour power outage yesterday threw me off a little (ok, maybe a lot), but the power is back on and I think I'm settling back into regular life.

- Started a new blog feature, What's in Season? This will hopefully be a somewhat regular post about ways to expose the children in your life to tasty foods. Check out my first post all about blueberries here.

- Was contacted by Andrew Waite, associate editor of OT Practice, to be interviewed for an upcoming article. It was a fun experience to share my thoughts on what I look for in an employer, and a good time to reflect on this topic, since I will be moving and searching for a new job this fall. When I asked Andrew how he finds OTs to interview, he said that he looks on OTConnections for active members. Just another reason to use the forums on OTConnections. Maybe you'll get interviewed and get your name in print!

- Started working on a new blog feature that will hopefully help therapists and parents better understand each other. Keep an eye for this new series on my blog!

Friday Features Links:
- Here's some food for thought for parents and therapists, Too Much Therapy, Not Enough Love. While the title of the article seems a bit harsh to me, it does bring up a good point about the need for parents to spend quality time with their children. Another reminder that therapy one time a week doesn't do much without parent involvement and carryover the rest of the week. (I should probably apologize to parents in advance, since the parents that blog and search the web for ways to help their children, are already aware of the need to be involved :-)

- As school based therapists are wrapping up the end of the school year, Your Therapy Source has written 10 Questions to Ask Yourself At the End of the School Year. The end of the school year is always a good time to reflect about the previous year and plan for the next to be even better!

- And in honor of Father's Day this weekend, Ellen at Love That Max has a guest post by Halfdan W. Freihow, father of a child with autism, 7 things you didn't know about a special needs dad. Mom's often take on a big portion of the therapy duties, so it's good to hear a father's point of view.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

What's in season? Blueberries!

I just recently discovered blueberries. They had somehow ended up on my list of foods that I don’t eat (along with coconut, tapioca, and anything with a custard-like consistency). I’m always hearing about how blueberries are a super food, filled with antioxidants, so I picked some up at Trader Joe’s and decided to give them a try. What a great decision that was! Juicy and sweet, I can’t get enough!

Learn all about blueberries at The Blueberry Council.

Product DetailsRead about blueberries in this classic children’s book, Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey.

How to eat blueberries:
  • With your fingers, of course!
  • Use toothpicks or fun appetizer sticks to pick up the blueberries (and work on fine motor skills, too!)

Let’s expand to other foods and textures:
  • Top your plain or vanilla yogurt with a handful of blueberries

Not ready to eat blueberries? Here are some fun ways to explore:
  • Build with blueberries

What is your favorite blueberry activity or favorite way to eat blueberries?

Welcome to "What's in season?"

Today I'm introducing a new, hopefully semi-regular post called What's in season? In this post I will highlight a food that is currently in season (i.e. affordable and tasty!) and ideas for exploring that food.

When expanding a child's food repertoire, it is so important to teach the child about the food and to provide opportunities to explore the multisensory aspects of the new food. I love food and I believe that trying new foods should always be fun!

Here we go...first up, blueberries!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Early Detection of Autism

I think most parents and therapists agree that early detection of autism is critical in obtaining positive outcomes for children. In this TEDxPeachtree Talk, Dr. Ami Klin discusses how differences in eye contact can be seen in babies with and without autism as young as six months of age. This could potentially lead to very early intervention for children with autism.

Autism: Disruptions in Early Human Social Adaptation Mechanisms by Dr. Ami Klin

I especially like the end of the talk when Dr. Klin talks about the strengths that individuals with autism possess and how early identification will help these individuals succeed.

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