Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A PT's Perspective: Stacy of Starfish Therapies

October is almost over ( did that happen?!?) and I've got one more PT stopping by to share her perspective in honor of PT Month. Please welcome Stacy Menz of Starfish Therapies!

Stacy is the founder of Starfish Therapies and is a board certified pediatric clinical specialist. She stumbled into this field of PT when she realized she would get to play with kids all day long! In reality, she loves making a difference in the lives of kids and their families. Stacy is actively involved in her professional organizations and is on the editorial board of Impact, the publication of the Private Practice Section of the APTA, and serves on the education committee of the Pediatric Special Interest Group for the California Physical Therapy Association. Stacy and her colleagues are also actively involved in research and have an article published in Pediatric Physical Therapy.


My life as a physical therapist in five words:

Fulfilling, chaotic, creative, playful, energetic.

Four qualities every pediatric PT should have:

I’m not sure how to put this succinctly into one word but a pediatric therapist needs to be able to relate to kids. It seems so obvious, yet so important! They should also be creative, playful and be willing to sing!

Three resources I can’t live without:

  1. My therapy ball
  2. Our Universal Exercise Unit
  3. Toys with multiple pieces to them

Two words (or more!) of advice for parents to develop a working relationship with their child’s PT:

I feel that the best working relationships develop when there is a team approach. The parents are willing to communicate their needs as well as listen to what the therapist has to say and vice versa.

A word of advice for the parents of a child who recently started receiving PT:

I think patience is often important. Therapists are developing a rapport with your child and they are going to be pushing them to do things that are challenging so while it can and will be fun there may be times that their child may get upset since they are being asked to do things that are hard.

One dream for the field of physical therapy:

My dream is that more clinicians get involved in research with case reports so we can continue to promote evidence based practice at the clinic level.

What I do to rest and relax (or in OT terms, how I maintain occupational balance):

I love to read, swim, and hang out with my dog!

Stacy, thank you so much for taking the time to stop by and share your perspective with my readers! Readers, be sure to keep up with Stacy on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest. Stacy, along with all of her colleagues at Starfish Therapies, has so much great information to share! I personally love this DIY weighted lap bag. Hop on over and visit-I promise you will not be disappointed!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A PT's Perspective: Kendra Ped PT

It's week four of PT Month and the celebration continues! Please join me in welcoming Kendra Gagnon!
Kendra is a pediatric physical therapist and Clinical Assistant Professor in the Physical Therapy Department at the University of Kansas Medical Center. She has worked in NICU, school-based, and early intervention settings. She is the mother of 3 young boys who are a constant reminder that child development is really messy, completely individual, and absolutely amazing. Kendra believes the role of the physical therapist is to help children and families participate more fully in daily life, and she is passionate about using social media to amplify positive health care messages. She blogs about her experiences as a pediatric PT, educator, social media junkie, and mother at

My life as a physical therapist in five words:

Rewarding, busy, flexible, creative, FUN

Four qualities every pediatric PT should have:

Sense of humor

Three resources I can’t live without:

  1. Twitter – I have found an amazing network of health care professionals on Twitter. I have so many great follows that keep me up-to-date on the latest pediatric health research and trends. I learn something new on Twitter every single day.
  2. My iPad – I use my iPad to access my calendar, exchange iMessages, send and receive email, prepare presentations and documents for class, read eBooks, access social media, download apps for practice, and participate in video conferences using FaceTime or Google+. It is truly my hub.
  3. My car – My car has been my second office my entire career – from going on home visits, traveling between schools and childcare centers, and commuting to and from the University. I don’t need anything fancy, just something that gets good gas mileage and has a radio that I can tune into NPR and a decent alternative music station! My current ride is a 2006 Prius with a LOT of miles!

Two words (or more!) of advice for parents to develop a working relationship with their child’s PT: 

Ask & share. As you develop a relationship with your physical therapist, it is critical that you share information about your child and your family’s values and routines. This will allow your therapist to individualize therapy to your child and provide services that will enhance your family’s daily life. It is also so important that you understand what your PT is doing and why. Asking lots of questions will give you a better understanding of what PT is all about and will help you carry activities over into your daily life.

A word of advice for the parents of a child who recently started receiving PT:

Get involved! You are your child’s first and best teacher, and therapy is your time to learn how you can support your child’s development. What you do with your child between visits matters just as much, if not more, than what happens during therapy visits. Be part of the plan and the program!

One dream for the field of physical therapy: 

I would love to see all physical therapists move toward a more a more “strengths-based” approach to physical therapy. Imagine the impact we could have if we didn’t see people as a list of problems to fix, but full of strengths to build upon!

What I do to rest and relax (or in OT terms, how I maintain occupational balance): 

I am a wine lover and a bit of a foodie. I enjoy trying new foods and restaurants and traveling with my husband. In the summer, our family loves to go to baseball games (go Royals!), head to the pool, or hit the golf course. In my opinion, there is no place more relaxing than the beach, and we try to take a trip to the coast every year. I love to read, blog, Tweet, post, and pin. And I always love a good walk or bike ride with my family! I’m not a big TV-watcher, but I can’t get enough of Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead!

Life as the child of a PT - balance work is built into your routines!

Kendra, thanks so much for stopping by to share your perspective! Readers, be sure to check out Kendra's blog for great information on child development, like this great post on walking. You can also check out Kendra's physical therapy board on Pinterest and follow her on Twitter @KendraPedPT.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A PT's Perspective: Natalie of Beyond Basic Play

Please join me in welcoming Natalie of Beyond Basic Play to our PT Month celebration! Natalie is a pediatric physical therapist who loves running around with her clients and helping them meet their milestones, while educating parents on how to help their children reach their full potential.
Natalie, with her therapy dog, Bear.

My life as a physical therapist in five words:

Never stop learning and moving.

Four qualities every pediatric PT should have:

  • Patient! :)
  • Flexible
  • Sense of humor
  • Quick thinker

Three resources I can't live without:

  1. Physical Therapy for Children by Suzann Campbell, Robert Palisano, and Margo Orlin.
  2. Pinterest-for all types of therapy ideas.
  3. Twitter-to search for relevant physical therapy/pediatric news/events.

Two words (or more!) of advice for parents to develop a working relationship with their child's PT:

Be honest and open with your physical therapist about your child's medical/birth history and about your concerns/goals for therapy. Also give your physical therapist a chance even though the first session may not go as smoothly as expected, but do tell them any concerns you have about how the therapy session went.

A word of advice for the parents of a child who recently started receiving PT:

Don't be afraid to ask your physical therapist questions about your child's care if you don't understand why/what they are doing. You are with your child more than anyone else during the week, so it's important you fully understand what is going on during therapy in order to help your child reach their therapy goals.

One dream for the field of physical therapy:

One dream is that I can eventually treat patient's directly without having to get a doctor's diagnosis first, in order to help kiddos as soon as possible and without losing time during their key periods of growth.

What I do to rest and relax (or in OT terms, how I maintain occupational balance):

I like to go on walks and jogs with my therapy dog, Bear :) Oh, and I like to blog too, of course!

Natalie, thank you so much for taking the time to stop by and share your perspective! Readers, you can keep up with Natalie by visiting her blog, following her on Facebook, seeing what she's up to on Pinterest, or sending her a tweet!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A PT's Perspective: Rebecca of Dinosaur Physical Therapy

The PT Month Celebration continues! Please welcome Rebecca Talmud of Dinosaur Physical Therapy! Rebecca has experience working with children ages 0-21 and her enthusiasm for kids is clear from all of her informative posts and fun ideas on her tumblr, like these fun yoga cubes:

My life as a physical therapist in five words:

Never-ending fun and excitement.

Four qualities every pediatric PT should have:

Creative. Warm. Fun. Intelligent.

Three resources I can't live without:

The children I work with, my fellow pediatric therapists, and journal/research articles.

Two words (or more!) of advice for parents to develop a working relationship with their child's PT:

Be open and honest, express your concerns, your wishes, the limitations that you see and what has or has not worked in the past. Watch your child's therapy sessions, do not be afraid to ask questions, try out the activities yourself, get involved. There is nothing better than a motivated and involved family. Working together is so important to the success of the child!

One dream for the field of physical therapy:

More evidence based practice!

What I do to rest and relax (or in OT terms, how I maintain occupational balance):

I love to read, write, create, explore, and spend time with my amazing husband and adorable bulldog.

Rebecca, thanks so much for taking the time to stop by and share your perspective! Readers, be sure to follow Rebecca's tumblr, visit her website, or follow her on Facebook to learn more about physical therapy and her fun and creative ideas! Like this yoga mat. I totally need to make one of these.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A PT's Perspective: Margaret of Your Therapy Source

Kicking off our PT Month Celebration is Margaret Rice of Your Therapy Source! Margaret is president of Your Therapy Source Inc, an online resource for pediatric occupational and physical therapists (and a go-to resource for me!). She has also authored several books on sensory motor development. Read on to learn a bit more about Margaret and to hear her perspective!

My life as a physical therapist in five words:

Exciting. Active. Fun. Creative. Busy.

Four qualities every pediatric PT should have:

Creativity. Knowledge. Patience. Acceptance.

Three resources I can't live without:

The internet, my iPhone and iPad, and a giant bag to hold all of my PT stuff!

Two words (or more!) of advice for parents to develop a working relationship with their child's PT:

Communicate via phone or email. Ask any questions and please let me know what goes on at home. If you have tips or suggestions that work at home, let me know so we can carry it over or modify it at school. Parents know way more than we do about their child!

A word of advice for the parents of a child who recently started receiving PT:

Try to be involved with carryover. It can be hard to juggle every day schedules and PT suggestions. If your life is hectic (and what parent's life is not super busy?), ask for suggestions that are easy to implement into your normal routine. 

One dream for the field of physical therapy:

More data collection! We need to document that what we do makes a long term difference.

What I do to rest and relax (or in OT terms, how I maintain occupational balance):

Play games with our five children, go camping, or anything outdoors.

 Margaret, thanks so much for stopping by to share your perspective! Readers, be sure to check out Your Therapy Source and the Your Therapy Source blog for tons of information and helpful tips for pediatric therapists, including a bunch of free stuff, too! You can also stay up to date on all of the happenings at Your Therapy Source on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Happy PT Month!

2013 National Physical Therapy Month (NPTM) Logo 

I know, this is a blog all about pediatric occupational therapy, but today we're going to take a moment to celebrate physical therapy! Over the years, I have learned SO MUCH from my physical therapy colleagues, and throughout the month of October, I will be sharing some bits of advice from some of my favorite pediatric PT bloggers.

Based on the popular OT's Perspective I ran in April to celebrate OT Month, I will be sharing a PT's Perspective series this month. So stop by tomorrow to read the first PT's Perspective and then join me each and every Wednesday for a brand new perspective!  

Monday, September 16, 2013

Dexteria Jr App Review {+ giveaway!!}

Dexteria Jr. is a pre-writing app from Binary Labs, the developers of the popular fine motor and writing app, Dexteria. Dexteria Jr is aimed at preschool age children and was developed in response to feedback that Dexteria can be too challenging for younger children.

Dexteria Jr consists of three games that target fine motor and visual motor skills.  

The first activity, Squish the Squash, encourages finger isolation to touch (and squish) each squash. As the levels progress, the squash begin to move around, and the higher levels require the squash to be double tapped.

In the second activity, Trace& Erase, a series of progressively more challenging mazes must be traced. This works on both finger isolation and visual motor control.

Below is a screenshot of diagonal lines. While this is great for finger isolation, you could also have the child use a stylus if you wanted to introduce tool use and start developing a pencil grasp.
After all of the lines have been traced, the child then uses an eraser to trace the lines again, this time erasing the lines. Another great visual motor control activity!

The third activity, Pinch the Pepper, works on developing a pincer grasp. This is very similar to the crabs in the "Pinch It" game in the original Dexteria. As the levels progress, the peppers move around more and even begin to change colors. If you pinch a pepper that is yellow, it will turn into even more peppers!

How I use Dexteria Jr in therapy:

  • I like to use Dexteria Jr as a warm-up activity prior to completing other fine motor or visual motor activities.
  • When playing Squish the Squash, I make sure the child is correctly isolating the index finger and not just hitting at the squash with multiple fingers or the whole hand.
  • Like I mentioned above, Trace & Erase is a good time to use an iPad stylus, which allows me to introduce tool usage and to teach appropriate pencil grasp. This can be a great option for students who are less motivated by paper and pencil activities. 
  • In all of the games, I encourage the use of the dominant hand (if a dominant hand has emerged), rather than switching hands or using both hands at once. This helps develop good habits for writing activities.
  • With writing and pre-writing apps, I like to have the child transfer the skills learned to paper. This can be done using screenshots from the Trace & Erase game. For more information on how I use screenshots to create therapy activities, check out the multisensory activities I created using screenshots from the Shelby's Quest app.

What I like about Dexteria Jr:

  • Fun graphics
  • Easy to use
  • Developmentally appropriate for preschoolers
  • Developmentally appropriate progression of tracing skills in the Trace & Erase game
  • In-app purchase for multiple user data collection is only $0.99

Best for Ages:

The developer states that this app is for children ages 2-6. I would recommend it for any child who is working on developing pre-writing skills, typically between the ages of 3 and 5.

Bottom line:

While no app can replace traditional fine motor play, this app is a great complementary activity for children developing their fine motor skills. Teachers, parents, and therapists will all find that this app targets developmentally appropriate fine motor and visual motor skills for preschoolers. Preschoolers will find the graphics fun and engaging!

App Information:

Name of App: Dexteria Jr
Publisher: Binary Labs
Compatible with: iPad, requires iOS 5.0 or later
Price: $2.99

Disclaimer: This app was received via a promo code provided by Binary Labs. However, all opinions expressed are entirely my own. This post also contains affiliate links, App information was correct at the time of publication of this review, but is subject to change,especially compatibility and price, so please confirm prior to downloading.

Now for the giveaway!

For a chance to win a promo code for the Dexteria Jr app, please enter by using the Rafflecopter below. Leaving a blog comment only does not enter you in the giveaway. You must also sign in using the Rafflecopter. This makes it much easier for me to contact you if you are the winner. Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Weekend Reads

It's been one of those weeks. It was the first full week of school with students, and let's just say, transitions are hard. They're hard for students and they're hard for staff. There were tears. There was a chair pushed over. There was "you are NOT VERY WELCOME!" coming from a student. Three times to be exact. My patient voice was out in full force this week. My stern teacher face may have made an appearance, too. And by Friday, it's possible that I started every single sentence with "The direction is...." 

But we made it. There were smiles and high fives and "I LOVE middle school!" There were pictures from students.

"I love be with you Abby"

There was an amazing back to school letter from a parent. From Mr. "You are Not Welcome" came, "I was in the red zone, but now I am calm. Now I am in the green zone." And with just a little bit of guidance, he really did get himself back into the green zone. And he recognized the change in his body! That's a giant victory. And that is why I do what I do.

In the middle of all of this came the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. And with that day came all sorts of emotions, including the guilt of "How can I possibly think I'm having a challenging week?" Yes, it could have been worse. Much, much worse. And I am so grateful for all that I have. But I'm going to recognize this week for what it was. A challenging week. A week to learn from and grow from. We all have them. Parents, teachers, students, therapists. Everyone.

For this week's weekend reads, I have just one. But I promise you, this is one you don't want to miss. This letter written by Nebla Marquez-Green, whose daughter Ana Grace was killed in the Sandy Hook attack, is powerful, heart-wrenching, and inspiring all at once. If you are an educator, this letter is not to be missed.

Here's to a new school year and all that comes with it!
Remember Ana Grace, and don't let anything suck your fun circuits dry.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Back to School Apps

The new school year is here! Today I'd like to share some apps that can help students as they head back to school. The following apps are geared toward older students who are using an iPad in the classroom or to complete homework assignments. What I love about these apps is that they are appropriate for students with special needs, especially students with learning disabilities or executive function challenges, but these apps are also used by many students without disabilities, making it easier for students with learning challenges to feel like they fit in with their peers.

Word Processing: 

Pages App | This is the go-to word processing app among the high school students at my school. Pages allows students to create and edit documents, including Microsoft Word documents. Some students use the onscreen keypad, while others prefer a wireless keyboard.


Evernote | Evernote is a great (and free!) note taking app. Evernote is also great for organization, as it allows you to record voice notes, take photos, and create to-do lists. Everything can then be organized into folders and is completely searchable.

Notability | Notability is another great note taking app that has numerous features to help students take notes and stay organized, including a recording feature that links the audio recording of a lecture to the notes that the student is taking, which means you can tap a word in your notes and hear what was being said when that note was taken.

PaperPort Notes | Another note taking app, this one by the creators of Dragon Dictation, that allows the combining of documents, web content, audio, typed and handwritten notes.


MyScript Calculator | This free calculator app can complete math calculations that have been handwritten on the screen. This would be great for students who have difficulty punching the buttons on a calculator.

Graphic Organizers:

Inspiration Maps | I first learned about Inspiration Software working in an assistive technology lab as a grad student. I loved the program back then and I still love it today! This is a great graphic organization system that allows students to brainstorm, plan and organize thoughts, which can then be turned into an outline for writing. 

Kidspiration Maps | Kidspiration is a version of Inspiration for younger kids. This version is aimed at students in grades K-5. Again it uses visual organization to help develop writing skills.

MindNode | This app allows students to create mindmaps, which is a great tool for brainstorming and organizing. This may also be helpful for students who are planning out long-term assignments.


Read2Go | Use of the Read2Go app requires a Bookshare membership, which is free to students with certain qualifying disabilities (click here to learn more). This app gives students full control of choices such as font size and color, background and highlighting color, and text-to-speech preferences.

Learning Ally Audio | This e-reader app requires a membership to Learning Ally, a nonprofit that supports students with learning disabilities. It appears that a membership to Learning Ally has a membership fee associated with it. The app has many of the same features as the Read2Go app mentioned above.

Voice Dream Reader | Voice Dream Reader can read from PDF files, Word documents, PowerPoint, e-books, websites, and more. There is no membership required for the use of this text-to-speech app.


Word Prediction:

Abilipad | Abilipad is a customizable onscreen keyboard with word prediction and text-to-speech capabilities. The customizable keyboard includes features such as forming larger keys, assigning words or letters to keys, and changing the color of the keys.

Co:Writer | Co:Writer is another software that I've been familiar with for years and I am happy to see that there is an iPad version. Co:Writer is a word prediction app in which the predicted words can be read aloud with a simple swipe. Co:Writer also contains topic-specific dictionaries, spelling support, and grammar support. This is my favorite word prediction app.


Dragon Dictation | Dragon Dictation is a free speech-to-text app that was created to allow users to speak text messages and emails. Voice-to-text transcriptions in Dragon can be pasted into any application using the clipboard.

What are your favorite back to school apps?

*This post contains affiliate links.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

What's new at AOTA?

AOTA has lots of great events happening this month:

September 17  | New Practitioner Virtual Chat: Solving Ethical Dilemmas.

September 18 | Backpack Awareness Day. Visit AOTA's website for all of the resources you need for a successful Backpack Awareness Day.

September 23 | Pediatric Virtual Chat: Promoting Inclusion

September 30 | Hill Day. Occupational therapists, occupational therapy assistants, and students from around the country head to Capitol Hill to advocate for the profession. Last year's Capitol Hill Day was the largest in history and AOTA is looking to have an ever bigger turnout this year!

Didn't make it to the recent AOTA School Specialty Conference or the 2013 AOTA Conference back in April? It's okay, neither did I! AOTA is currently offering a few opportunities for free CE credits from these two conferences on the AOTA Learn website:

Bully Prevention and Friendship Promotion | This is a self-paced course adapted from materials provided by Susan Bazyk, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA at the AOTA School Specialty Conference. I have taken this course and it is packed full of resources on bullying and pediatric mental health.

There are also two webcasts currently available from the 2013 AOTA Annual Conference Dr. Florence Clark's Farewell Presidential Address and Dr. Ginny Stoffel's Inaugural Presidential Address. To find these webcasts, log onto the AOTA Learn website and type "2013 webcast" in the search tool and both webcasts will pop up in the search results.

* Disclosure: This post is not sponsored or influenced by AOTA in any way. I am simply a proud AOTA member and love to share all of the great resources AOTA has to offer. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

Weekend Reads

With Labor Day just around the corner, I think back to school time is officially upon us. Here are a few weekend reads to help prepare you for the transition.

The School Cafeteria: Hurry up and EAT! | ASHAsphere. A great article by Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP (of My Munch Bug) with helpful tips on packing a nutritious lunch for your child.

What's in My Therapy Box?: 60+ Supplies for School-Based OTs | MamaOT. Comprehensive list of supplies for school-based therapists. Great for new grads or OTs transitioning into school-based practice. Also full of great ideas for parents and teachers!

8 Getting to Know You Activities for Pediatric Therapy | Your Therapy Source. Eight fun activities to get to know your new students (and for them to get to know you!).

Sunday, August 25, 2013

My back to school reading

I head back to school tomorrow and the students arrive on Thursday. As my summer winds down I've been reading a few books to get me ready for the new school year.

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck | Somehow these self-help/personal development books always end up on my reading list. I've just started reading this one and so far I've learned that I have a very "fixed mindset." I've heard great things about this book and I'm hoping to learn some strategies in the chapter geared for teachers.

Life Beyond the Classroom: Transition Strategies for Young People with Disabilities

Life Beyond the Classroom: Transition Strategies for Young People With Disabilities, 5th Edition by Paul Wehman | While it's easy to read, this book is a textbook, so consider yourself forewarned. It is big and it is thorough. It was recommended to me by a former OT classmate who knows way more than me about transition services (thanks Andy!) and he was not kidding when he called this book "the bible of transition." This book is a one stop shop for everything related to transition planning. I just can't get over how much great information is in this book.

The Zones of Regulation by Leah Kuypers | I'm always interested in books written by occupational therapists and I'm happy to report that this one is not a disappointment. As my school transitions into using Michelle Garcia Winner's Social Thinking Curriculum, I'm really excited about using The Zones of Regulation with my students along with the rest of the Social Thinking language.

What are you reading to prepare for the new school year? 

*This post contains affiliate links.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Tips for choosing a backpack

Backpack fashion

Photo Credit: Comrade Foot via Flickr

It's back to school time and for many students that means it's time to get a new backpack! But did you know that heavy backpacks are a common cause of back pain in students? Today I'm going to share some tips for choosing, packing, and wearing a backpack safely. 

When shopping for a new backpack, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Go to the store and have your child try on a variety of backpacks. This will allow you to find a backpack that fits properly, with the bottom of the backpack resting in the curve of the back and the top of the backpack (where the straps meet the bag) no more than two inches below the shoulders.
  • Look for a backpack that rests against your child's back with little movement.
  • Sturdy, padded shoulder straps will provide comfort when wearing the backpack.
  • A waist strap will help redistribute the weight of the backpack to the hips.
  • Take into consideration your child's organizational style. A visual organizer may prefer a backpack that allows them to see all items at one time; a spatial/cozy organizer will want the backpack to feel just right; and a chronological/sequential organizer may want a backpack that contains many pockets and dividers.

Tips for packing a backpack:

  • When filled, a student's backpack should weigh no more than 10% of the student's body weight. For a 70 pound student, that means the backpack should weigh no more than 7 pounds.
  • When packing the backpack, make sure the largest, heaviest items are packed closest to the body.
  • Unpack the backpack each day and remove items that don't need to be in the backpack.
  • Limit the number of items that are carried to and from school each day by leaving unused items at school or at home.
  • If the backpack is too heavy, consider taking out a heavy item and carrying it by hand. For example, a student could carry his lunchbox or water bottle, rather than placing it inside the backpack.

Tips for wearing a backpack:

  • Always wear the backpack with both straps and make sure each strap is adjusted to the same length.
  • If the backpack contains a waist belt, make sure it is securely fastened to decrease movement of the backpack and to redistribute the weight of the backpack.
  • Don't wear the backpack too low! Adjust the shoulder straps so the bottom of the backpack hits the lower back and the top of the backpack hits two inches below the shoulders.

A few alternatives to traditional backpacks:

  • A backpack on wheels can be a nice alternative for students who need to carry around heavier items.
  • A rolling backpack can also be beneficial for students with special needs who have difficulty getting their backpack on and off throughout the day, or who cannot safely walk while carrying a backpack.
  • Large zipper pulls can make managing the zipper easier for students with fine motor delays.

For more information on backpack safety, visit AOTA's website for Backpack Facts and Backpack Strategies.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Weekend Reads

I'm starting to feel a twinge of fall in the air. With just one more week until I go back to school, I thought I'd share some back to school themed reading this weekend.

Great Fine Motor Tools to Incorporate in Your Classroom | Miss Mancy's Blog. From chopsticks to play dough to mini erasers. Miss Mancy has got a ton of great OT inspired ideas to incorporate development of fine motor skills into your classroom this fall.

Ten Things You Want Your Kid's Special Education Teacher to Know | To The Max. You have no idea how much I would love to receive this information on each of my students in the fall!

Decrease Back to School Jitters with these Strategies, Tips to Decrease Back-to-School Stress, Long Summer Vacation? Top 10 Ways to Maintain Your Student's Attention!, and 6 Tips to Make Back to School More Organized | Special-Ism. Special-Ism is all over the back to school transition! They have so many great articles right now, I couldn't choose just one (or two!).

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Giving back

If you follow my blog regularly, you may know that I have an Amazon store where I include toys and educational materials that I like and many of which I use in therapy. I also often include affiliate links to Amazon and iTunes when I'm writing about products and apps that I use in therapy. For those not familiar with affiliate links, if you click on an affiliate link and then make a purchase while at that website, I receive a small (very small) percentage of the purchase as an advertising fee. For more information on Affiliate links, please click here.

When I first started including affiliate links, my goal was to be able to use the proceeds to give back. And I am happy to report that I have been able to do so! It took awhile for the advertising fees to start to add up, but over the past year, I have been able to support four different charities! Read on to learn a little bit more about each one.

Dark & Light Books | This is a project that I helped fund last summer when it was still in the Kickstarter phase. Shasta is the mother of a child with cerebral palsy (be sure to check out her blog Outrageous Fortune) who took a leap of faith to publish a children's book to help raise funds for her son's therapy and medical needs. The thing I really love about this book is that the pictures are all black and white. The OT in me thinks everything should be therapeutic and I just love the high contrast pictures in this book!

brAvery Run | This is a 5k run in honor of little girl named Avery who lost her life much too soon due to complications from Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). When I was working in early intervention, I had a little boy with SMA on my caseload. Prior to working with this child, I had never heard of Spinal Muscular Atrophy. He was such a bright spot in my week, but unfortunately SMA is progressive. The brAvery Run takes place in Texas (now in it's second year and happening this weekend!) and the proceeds support research for Spinal Muscular Atrophy. As I don't live anywhere near Texas, I participated in the virtual run last summer, so I could run wherever I happened to be. That worked out well for me, since I was in the midst of a cross country move and was in Iowa on the day of the virtual run :) By the way, did you know that August is SMA Awareness Month?

A.skate Clinic | The A.skate Foundation provides skateboarding clinics to children with autism at no cost to the families. I think opportunities like this are so important to families of children with autism. It helps to expose children with autism to new activities in a safe environment. I am happy to report that the local fundraiser that I supported has reached their goal and will be receiving their A.skate clinic this fall!

The Ability Center | I heard about The Ability Center through a former OT classmate and after checking out the website, I just knew I wanted to support this cause. I went to OT school in Milwaukee, so anything in Wisconsin has a special place in my heart. I also have a strong belief in the therapeutic value of sports for all people of all ability levels. I really hope to see The Ability Center break ground soon!

Thank you so much for reading and supporting my little blog!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Alternatives to standard pencils

While a standard #2 pencil works just fine for most students, many students prefer to use an alternative type of pencil when writing. Today I'll review some alternatives to standard pencils that I have used with students and why I like each one.

Golf Pencils | I often start students, especially young students (Pre-K and Kindergarten), with golf pencils because they fit so well in small hands. Despite what you may used back when you were in Kindergarten (I know I still remember getting a big, fat pencil as part of my back to school supplies), please remember, Small Hands = Small Pencil. I've found that older students sometimes find them easier to manipulate as well.

PenAgain Twist 'n Write | I have only used this pencil with students who have physical limitations and are unable to hold a pencil using a functional grasp. I have found this pencil works especially well with children who have muscle tightness in their hands, such as children with cerebral palsy.

Mechanical Pencils | I often recommend mechanical pencils for students who press too hard when writing. This works for some students, but for other students it is too frustrating and an erasable pen might be a better option. If you press too hard when using a mechanical pencil, it causes the pencil lead to break, which teaches some students to press more lightly, and just frustrates other students! Mechanical pencils can also be a good option for students who are easily distracted by trips to the pencil sharpener.

Pilot FriXion Ball Pen, Erasable Gel Ink, Fine Point, Assorted Colors 3 pack: Black, Blue, Red (FX7C3001)
Pilot FriXion Ball Pen | Last spring I saw a student using this pen and I had to check it out. This is an erasable pen that uses friction to erase the writing. Some students, especially those who do not press hard enough when writing, prefer writing in pen. Using a pen requires less pressure, which can decrease hand fatigue. I like this pen because it writes very smoothly. Oh, and because it's erasable! I'm so glad that there are some good, erasable pens on the market. (Side note: I saw these Frixion erasable highlighters when I was at Staples the other day. I was so intrigued by an erasable highlighter that it took all of my willpower to not buy them!)


Sharpie Liquid Pencil | I used this pencil with a student last year who really loved it, so I was surprised to see all of the bad reviews on Amazon. It's very similar to the Frixion Erasable Pen, except that it is liquid graphite. It would occasionally require the use of extra pressure to write, so I would say the Frixion Pen was a little better. I would use it with the same type of students who prefer an erasable pen, so it's really just personal preference between this liquid pencil and the erasable pen. My student said that he liked this pencil because it didn't make noise when he wrote. Talk about auditory sensitivity if the sound of a regular #2 pencil bothers you!

Cheryl of OT Notes told me that her favorite alternative pencil is the Bic Mini Grip mechanical pencil because of its small size and built in sensory grip. Thanks for sharing, Cheryl! This is one that I will definitely have to check out!

*This post contains affiliate links.

What pencil alternatives have you found work well with your students?

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