Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Another great OT Month!

Another OT Month has come to a close, but that's okay because we celebrate OT all year long here! Have you been wondering what the photos on my Instagram sidebar are all about? Well, in honor of OT Month, they're all about OT! Let me explain. I participated in the #OTPhoto Challenge by OT for Kids, and while I didn't post a photo everyday, I did manage to post quite a few, and I'm happy with that! I don't have very many "therapy" pictures, so for the challenge I decided to focus on engagement in occupation in my everyday life. I hope it will help you see how important engagement in meaningful occupations are to everyone, of all abilities.

Let's take a look:

#occupied: Running is one of the many ways I occupy my time. An occupation is simply anything that occupies your time. Engagement in occupation is a desired outcome of occupational therapy and occupational therapists use meaningful occupations to guide treatment.

#sensory: Sensory can be so many things! For the photo challenge, I decided to focus on my own sensory needs. I'm a bit of a sensory seeker and so these are the crunchy, chewy, and spicy snacks that I packed for AOTA so I could stay alert while sitting in educational sessions.

#social: Getting social with some of my fellow #AOTAVLDC members at the AOTA Conference.

#leisure: Participation in leisure activities help keep our lives balanced. For me, reading is my favorite leisure activity. (In case you're wondering, Attachments was great, but I loved Fangirl even more)

#education: Great timing on this one. I learned so much at the AOTA Conference!

#routine: Routines are repeatable and observable patterns of behavior that provide structure to your day. Occupational therapists help clients create routines. For me, my morning run is a routine that wakes me up and gets me ready for my day.

#health: I love the World Health Organization's definition of health: "State of physical, mental, and social well-being, not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." Eating a bowl of oatmeal every morning is just one way that I maintain my physical health (and is part of my morning routine!).

#dailyliving: Our days consist of activities of daily living (ADL) and instrumental activities of daily living (IADL). Occupational therapists help clients regain their ability to participate in these necessary tasks. This is a photo of me completing an IADL: laundry.

#work: A photo of my workspace. Working in early intervention, my car often doubles as my "office." Contrary to what many people think when they hear "occupational therapy," we are not therapists that help people get jobs. However, OTs do have a role in identifying workplace accommodations, and are an integral part of the transition team when a student transitions into the working world.

#rest: Such an important occupation and vital to maintaining balance in our lives. Now that I'm back in California, one of my favorite ways to rest is by the pool with a good book.

#meaningful: If it's not meaningful, it's not occupational therapy. The mantra of OTs everywhere! In this photo, I shared several things that are meaningful to me: travel, spending time with friends and family, photography, and memory keeping. To my future OT, you can use this photo to do my treatment planning :)

#cooking: For some, cooking is a deeply meaningful occupation. For me, it's just an IADL. Eating, on the other hand. That's a meaningful occupation!

#pets: Pets are such an important and meaningful part of life. My cat can also teach us a thing or two about rest!

#habit: Habits can be helpful or harmful, and as occupational therapists, we like to help clients establish healthy habits that make their lives easier. Putting on sunscreen every morning is one of my healthy habits. Biting my nails, not so healthy. And no one wants to see a picture of that!

#adapt: Occupational therapists are constantly modifying and adapting activities so clients can fully engage. In my own life, I have to adapt when stretching and doing yoga, by using a towel when I can't quite reach my toes.

I loved participating in the OT Month Photo Challenge! If you want to check out all of the pictures just head over to Instagram or Twitter and search for #OTPhoto to see all of the great OT Month photos!

Now I'll leave you with a few OT Month links:

Some tips from AOTA on how to answer the "What is Occupational Therapy?" question.

Occupational therapy's distinct value is clearly explained in this video.

A beautiful essay on Meaning and Mindfulness: Occupational Therapists as Mindful Mentors.
And in case you missed my "Celebrating OT Month" series, here are the links:
8 Awesome OT Blogs
Apps created by OTs
Cool products developed by OTs
and Books written by OTs

How did you celebrate OT Month?

Monday, April 28, 2014

App of the Week | DRAWNIMAL

You guys. This app is sooo cute! I love everything about it. The colors. The graphics. The outside of the box thinking. An app that encourages drawing? On actual paper? What's not to love about that?

Let me show you how it works:

Start by placing your iPad on a piece of paper. I'm using an iPad mini in these pictures and this is an app where a smaller device actually is better in some ways. This app would work great with an iPhone. Each letter has a secret animal. You are prompted to draw part of the animal on your paper.  I bet you can guess what A is for...
Draw the tail on the paper and then tap the play button to reveal the animal.
You guessed it! It's an alligator.
Tap the alligator to see what it does. Kids love this part!

As an occupational therapist, I love that this app encourages drawing. Actual drawing. And in OT jargon, it encourages development of visual perceptual and visual motor skills, which OTs get quite excited about. Most of the animal embellishments consist of simple lines and shapes, which is great for young children who are just beginning to draw and copy. Not too hard, but not too easy either. You can see what I'm talking about in these screenshots:

For the letter G, just add lines and semi-circles.

And for the letter L, add wavy lines.

Overall, I think this is a fun and engaging app for young children (and maybe older children, too!). The voice on the app does have a slight European accent and pronounces the letter Z as "zed", but those are small things that I'm willing to overlook. I haven't checked out Lucas Zonatto's new app MIXIMAL yet, but it looks like a winner too!

App Information:

Name of app: DRAWNIMAL
Publisher: Lucas Zonatto
Compatible with: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch; requires iOS 6.0 or later
Price: $1.99

*Information was correct at the time of publication, but is subject to change, so please confirm prior to downloading. This post contains affiliate links.

Have you used DRAWNIMAL? Do you just love it? Have you tried MIXIMAL yet? Let me know, is it as good as it looks?

Friday, April 25, 2014

A Few Things

A few things I've come across that I think are worth sharing:


The importance of play

This article had me at the headline: Meaningful Activities Protect the Brain from Depression. OTs know all about meaningful activities (aka: "occupations").

I love the Squiggle Wiggle Pen and here's a great way to use it!

Do you struggle to limit your child's screen time? I cannot even express how much I LOVE this system Shasta is using to limit the screen time in her household.

Speaking of screen time, AOTA's Checking the Pulse has a list of 10 apps that will help you save time.

And in honor of Autism Awareness Month, here are a few things autism-style:


Sesame Street is doing their part to raise autism awareness.

Some books to help kids understand autism.

And lastly, please don't forget that wandering is a serious problem among children with autism.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Celebrating OT Month | Books written by OTs

 Today I'd like to continue the celebration of OT Month by highlighting some books that are written by occupational therapists. In putting this list together, it became apparent that OTs are prolific writers! This is by no means an exhaustive list, so please feel free to leave the title of your favorite book written by an occupational therapist in the comments section and I will add it to the post.

To start off, here are several books that I either have in my own "OT library" or have borrowed from my local library. I have read these books, used the ideas and activities in them, and recommended them to families, teachers, and other therapists.

Raising a Sensory Smart Child by Lindsey Biel, MA, OTR/L & Nancy Peske | This book is packed with practical, and easy to implement sensory strategies for a variety of situations that families and children will encounter in their everyday lives.

Sensational Kids by Lucy Jane Miller, PhD, OTR & Doris Fuller | This easy to read book describes Dr. Miller's approach to treating children with sensory processing disorder using the acronym, A SECRET, which stands for Attention, Sensation, Emotional regulation, Culture, Relationships, Environment, and Tasks.

Living Sensationally by Winnie Dunn, PhD, OTR | This book is interesting because it is written in layman's terms to describe how individual sensory patterns affect they way you react to everything throughout your day. This book is definitely geared toward adults who have no previous knowledge of sensory processing and who want to understand why they react the way they do to their environments.

Tools for Tots by Diana Henry, MS, OTR/L, Maureen Kane-Wineland, Phd, OT/L, & Susan Swindeman, OTR/L | This thin book is packed full of practical sensory tips to help toddlers and preschoolers get through their days. I use this book all the time in early intervention when educating parents and helping parents figure out ways to make daily tasks, like bath time, clipping nails, cutting hair, and brushing teeth, with their toddlers a little easier.

Self-Care with Flair! by Ginger McDonald, OTR/L & Bhanu Raghavan, MS, OTR/L | This is a book that I just picked up at the AOTA Conference a few weeks ago, and I am so glad that I did! This book contains a step by step approach for self care tasks, with pictures and rhymes. I can tell that this is a book that I will be using all the time!

Retro Baby by Anne Zachry, PhD, OTR/L | This is a great book that offers simple strategies for parents to get back to the basics and to avoid the overuse of baby gear. A great book for any OT working in early intervention to have in their library to lend to parents.

From Rattles to Writing by Barbara Smith, MS, OTR/L | This is a guide written for parents and it provides a great overview of developmental stages, as well as activities to help promote skill development at each stage.

Fine Motor Skills in Children with Down Syndrome by Maryanne Bruni, BScOT (Reg) | This is a great resource that covers fine motor development. While this book is specific to Down syndrome, I find that the information and tips are applicable to many children with developmental delays.

Just Take a Bite by Lori Ernsperger, PhD & Tania Stegen-Hanson, OTR/L | This is an informative, and easy to understand book on feeding issues. A great resource for parents.

Learning in Motion by Patricia Angermeier, OTR, Joan Krzyzanowski, OTR, & Kristina Keller Moir, OTR | This book is full of great sensory motor activities designed to be used in a preschool or kindergarten setting. With activities categorized by month, I frequently used this book when I was co-teaching in a preschool classroom. The preschool teacher loved it so much that she bought a copy of the book too!

And if that list wasn't long enough, here are some books that are on my wishlist. I haven't read these yet, but they look great!

No Longer A SECRET by Doreit Bialer, MA, OTR/L & Lucy Jane Miller, PhD, OTR | This book appears to be a follow-up to Dr. Miller's Sensational Kids. While there is probably some overlap between the two books, I would still like to take a look at this book.

Sensory Processing Challenges: Effective Clinical Work with Kids & Teens by Lindsey Biel, MA, OTR/L | This looks like it is a follow-up to Raising a Sensory Smart Child, with an emphasis on older children and teenagers.

Understanding Your Child's Sensory Signals by Angie Voss, OTR/L | I suspect that this book is similar to Sensational Kids or Raising a Sensory Smart Child, but I would still like to take a look at this book, because it gets outstanding reviews on Amazon. Looks like another great sensory resource! (P.S. As I was putting this post together, I noticed that Shasta just wrote about this book and how awesome it is!)

Active Imagination Activity Book by Kelly Tilley, OTR/L | This looks like it is full of fun activities that an OT could share with parents to incorporate sensory activities into their daily routine.

101 Games and Activities for Children with Autism, Asperger's, and Sensory Processing Disorders & The Sensory Processing Disorder Answer Book, both by Tara Delaney, MS, OTR/L | I know teachers who have attended seminars by Tara and they had nothing but great things to say about the experience.

Your Child's Motor Development Story by Jill Mays, MS, OTR/L | So many of the books on this list are focused on sensory issues, so I like that this is one that focuses on motor development.

One more reader recommendation!

Eyegames: Easy and Fun Visual Exercises: An OT and Optometrist Offer Activities to Enhance Vision! by Lois Hickman, MS, OTR, FAOTA & Rebecca E. Hutchins, OC, FCOVD | I love that this book is a collaboration between and OT and a behavioral optometrist. Looks like a great resource! Thanks for sharing, Katherine!

Have you read any of these books? How about the books on my wishlist? What did you think of them? What books  by occupational therapists would you add to this list?

*Amazon links throughout are affiliate links.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Magic of Marathon Monday | Boston Marathon 2014

In honor of the Boston Marathon, today's post is a change from my usual blog post. I hope you will join me in remembering and honoring the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings.


Last year at this time, I was living in Boston. Actually, I was living in Cambridge, just a quick walk over the BU Bridge from Boston. A walk that I made frequently, often stopping to take in the breathtaking view of the Boston skyline, or to watch the rowers on the Charles. But there is one walk over that bridge that I will never forget.

Last year, on Marathon Monday, my husband and I walked over that bridge, from Boston back to Cambridge, among a crowd of spectators, all talking in hushed tones. As we walked across the bridge, I sent text messages to my family to let them know that we were okay, even though I didn't really understand why they might be worried about us.

As a spectator at mile 25, I had no idea what was going on. We didn't hear an explosion. Nobody panicked. Runners were still running. Spectators were still cheering. The police calmly told the marathon spectators to "clear out, it's time to go." We didn't listen to them at first, wanting to see our friend run by. We noticed more runners talking on their cell phones. We overheard the word "explosion." The number of ambulances driving toward the finish line kept increasing. My phone was vibrating with Facebook alerts. When our friend passed by us a few minutes later, we cheered her on and she gave us a big smile. Then we made our way back across the bridge with scores of other spectators, all walking to safety, away from Boston.

When we got home, we turned on the news and couldn't believe what we were seeing. The images on the screen didn't match up to the calm scene we had just experienced at mile 25. I looked out the window and saw a beautiful spring day. I looked back at the screen and saw absolute horror. I couldn't understand how all of this could be happening just miles away from where I was sitting and watching it unfold.

The remainder of the week was spent keeping an eye on the news, while trying to settle back into regular routines. Life was going on, but there were signs everywhere of what had happened. Posters, memorials, and a strong military and police presence throughout the city. Everyone was talking about the terrible events. There was a heightened sense of fear and unknown, but there was also an amazing amount of resiliency and strength coming from the city of Boston.

I was lucky enough to be on the periphery of all of the events that took place last April. One mile from the finish line; two miles from the MIT campus where Officer Collier was shot; less than one mile from the suspects' apartment, and safe inside my own apartment as the city went on lock down. Sirens were a constant reminder that week of the tragic events and uncertainty outside.

Today it is Marathon Monday once again in Boston. It is a magical day along the race course. The crowd of runners at the starting line. The screaming girls at Wellesley College. The first glimpse of the Citgo sign. Even Heartbreak Hill carries a bit of magic. And oh, the finish line. There is nothing more magical than crossing the finish line of the Boston Marathon. I've been lucky enough to experience the magic of the finish line as both a runner and as a spectator, and believe me, there is no other running experience like the Boston Marathon.

 I was blessed to call Boston my home, if only for a short time, but Boston, and the Boston Marathon, will always hold a special place in my heart. Today I will watch the marathon updates from my here in California. I will anxiously await text message alerts as my friends who are running the race hit the 10k, half-marathon, 30k, and yes, even the finish line. Because this year, everyone will finish. And today, the city of Boston, along with thousands of runners and spectators, will reclaim the magic that is unlike any other. The magic that takes place at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.


Friday, April 18, 2014

A Few Things

This week I've discovered several new (or at least new-to-me) blogs by therapists that are worth checking out. The Inspired Treehouse is joint effort by two pediatric occupational therapists and a physical therapist, Pink Oatmeal is written by a physical therapist who is also a new mama, and Your Kids OT is written by a pediatric occupational therapist in Australia. All three of these blogs share such great information. I get excited when I see them popping up in my feedly! A few posts to get you started: Baby Walker Dangers and Limitations, Quick Tip for Visual Motor Skills, and What's in Your Hand?

And here are a few more things I've come across that I think are worth sharing:

- Sluggish Cognitive Tempo - What do you think? Is this really the "new attention disorder"?

- I've been following both Ellen and Kate's blogs for quite awhile, and this is awesome. Sharing on blogs really can make a difference!

- Have you ever used a partially deflated ball as a wiggle seat? I have and it works great!

- This is truly the ultimate playdough resource.

- I don't know about you, but I'm really loving the trend to teach mindfulness in the classroom.

- Am I the only OT who hasn't yet gotten my hands on some kinetic sand? I keep hearing about this mess free sand and need to check it out.

- And finally, did you see my recap of #AOTA14 over on the PediaStaff blog? If not, be sure to check it out here!

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Celebrating OT Month | Products developed by OTs

I'm continuing the OT Month celebration today by sharing some cool products that were developed by occupational therapists.

MoveAbout Activity Cards. These activity cards were developed by David Jereb, OTR/L and Kathy Jereb, COTA/L. This deck of 64 cards provides quick and easy sensory activities to help children refocus, calm down, or regain energy. I have not personally used these cards, but they get great Amazon reviews and are on my wishlist!

Fundanoodle. Fundanoodle is an education readiness program designed in collaboration with two occupational therapists, Michelle Yoder, OTR/L, CIMI and Amy Bumgarner, MS, OTR/L, to improve the skills needed for handwriting and other everyday activities of children. I have the Letter Muscle Mover Cards, which I like to use for both the writing practice and the movement. Fundanoodle has lots of other products that I'd like to check out too, like the I Can Cut! activity book.

Aimee's Babies. Aimee Ketchum, OTR/L, CNMI has developed a line of products to teach parents how to help their babies reach early developmental milestones. These products include interactive DVDs and apps that walk parents through the steps of infant massage and early milestones. Such a great resource for first time parents!

Mead RediSpace paper. I love this paper! It's available on Amazon, but I first stumbled upon this paper in the office section of Target. I've only used the RediSpace Transitional Notebook Paper (great for kids working on spacing or aligning numbers!), but the Letter and Number Stories, Shape Builders, and Early Learning Idea Builders all look awesome, too!

Therapy Fun Zone. Tonya Cooley, OTR/L has created a fantastic resource for therapists, teachers and parents on her website. In addition, she has a set up a store where many of the products are her own, but any therapist who has a product to sell can do so through the Therapy Fun Zone store. I personally love the Munchy Ball Game and all of the digital downloads.

Handwriting Without Tears. I am a huge fan of Handwriting Without Tears and I use these products all the time! The entire Handwriting Without Tears empire was created and founded by Jan Olsen, OTR. When I attended The Print Tool Workshop, Jan Olsen was the presenter! I couldn't even believe it! She is a wonderful person and has created an incredible product.

I Can Tie Shoelaces. These shoelaces were designed by two occupational therapists, Alex and Lauren Flores. These laces are designed with velcro to help hold the loops in place while learning to tie shoes. What a great idea for teaching shoe tying!

Under Armor MagZip. This one handed zipper was the result of a mother-son/OT-engineer team. I think OT-engineer teams are the best, but I may be a bit biased as I'm married to an engineer. The MagZip should be hitting the shelves by the end of this year.

*Amazon links throughout are affiliate links.

Have you used any of these great products created buy OTs? Are there any products that you would add to this list? Please share in the comments!

Monday, April 14, 2014

App of the Week | Matrix Game

Matrix Game is actually a series of three apps developed by These games are designed to help develop visual perceptual skills. The games are progressively more challenging as you move from Matrix Game 1 to Matrix Game 3. I typically use Matrix Game 3, but all three apps are great. It just depends on the age and skill level of the child to determine the right one.

Here are a few screenshots:
Matrix Game 1
Matrix Game 2
Matrix Game 3

In each app, you simply drag the picture on the left side of the screen to the corresponding square on the grid. This requires visual perceptual, visual scanning, and visual motor skills. In addition, within each app, each level gets progressively more challenging. Overall, I think this is great OT tool!

App Information:

Name of App: Matrix Game 1, 2, and 3
Compatible with: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch. Requires iOS 4.3 or later.
Price: Free for access to two levels; $2.99 in app purchase for access to all 12 levels
Matrix Game 1 (age 4+):

Matrix Game 2 (age 5+):

Matrix Game 3 (age 6+):

*Information was correct at the time of publication, but is subject to change, so please confirm prior to downloading. This post contains affiliate links.

Have you used the Matrix Games apps? What other apps do you use to help develop visual perceptual skills?

Friday, April 11, 2014

A Few Things

After coming home from the AOTA Conference in Baltimore, I jumped right into my first week at my new job. My brain is on a bit of overload right now as I adjust to new routines and process all of the information and experiences of conference, but I do have a recap post coming up on PediaStaff, so stay tuned! While I continue to get settled back into my real life, here are a few things I've come across that I think are worth sharing.

- As a therapist, you may be an expert, but don't forget that parents know their child best of all!

- What a great use for hair ties!

- Here is a FREE printable created by a mom to help her son learn to get dressed independently! It's kind of like a social story and it is awesome!

- This is exactly how I felt before the AOTA Conference, but I went and I had a great time!

- I've long questioned if w-sitting is really as bad as everyone makes it out to be. Thank you, Kendra for expressing my thoughts exactly. (side note: I think I w-sat until I was about 12 years old. So far, I have no long lasting effects, other than I still have weak core muscles)

- To continue with controversial topics, is the Bumbo seat as bad as everyone says? A PT's perspective.

- Thinking of sending your child with special needs to summer camp? Here are some great tips from Ellen Seidman.

- Introverts and Extroverts: Valuing Both. Things to remember when working with children.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Celebrating OT Month | Apps created by OTs

Last week I celebrated the work of Occupational Therapists by highlighting some great OT blogs. Today I'd like to share some OTs that are making a difference through the development of apps.

Ready to Print | Ready to Print is a pre-writing app developed by Dianne Reid, OTR/L. I love that this app progresses through pre-writing skills in a specific order so kids can master the skills necessary for writing. Some of the activities included in this app are matching shapes, tracing paths, connecting dots, and pinching. Click here to read my original review of Ready to Print.

Shelby's Quest | Shelby's Quest is another pre-writing app that focuses on fine motor and visual perceptual skills. Created by Kami Bible, OTR/L, the activities in this app include following mazes, pinching, and tracing shapes. Click here to read my original review of Shelby's Quest.

Wet Dry Try | Okay, I don't know if this app was actually created by an occupational therapist, but since Handwriting Without Tears was created by an OT, I'm going to include this one on the list. This handwriting app follows the same format as the Handwriting Without Tears curriculum, specifically the Wet-Dry-Try approach using slate chalkboards.

Dexteria | It is my understanding that the Dexteria apps were created with the help of an occupational therapist (if anyone knows who that OT was, I'd love to give them credit). The original Dexteria app consists of three exercises to promote handwriting readiness: Tap It, Pinch It, Write It. Dexteria Junior is geared for younger kids and consists of three exercises to promote pre-writing skills: Squish the Squash, Trace & Erase, Pinch the Pepper. I personally use Dexteria Junior more than the original Dexteria, but both are great! Read my original review of Dexteria here and my original review of Dexteria Junior here.

Dexteria Junior:

BrainWorks | This app is a bit different from the others in this list. BrainWorks was developed by Gwen Wild, OTR and is designed to help kids select appropriate activities for their sensory breaks to meet their current sensory needs. This is a really cool app that can help kids become more independent in self-regulation. Read my original review of BrainWorks here.

Abilipad | This app was created by Cheryl Bregman, MS, OTR/L to allow children to develop writing skills and communication using text to speech, word prediction, and customizable keyboards. I have not tried this app yet, but it gets glowing reviews, including from Carol over at OTs with Apps, whose opinion I always trust!

*iTunes links throughout are affiliate links.

Do you use any of these apps? Are there any apps created by OTs that you would add to this list? Please share in the comments below! 

Monday, April 7, 2014

App of the Week | Visual Attention TherAppy

This is one of those apps that is an OTs dream! Visual Attention TherAppy is designed to practice visual scanning from left to right, which is a great pre-reading skill. This app has ten different levels, which provides numerous scanning activities. In addition, the font size is customizable and the number of lines can be customized, too! Check it out:

What I like about this app:

  • Results can be emailed, which makes for quick and easy data collection and progress monitoring
  • Font size is customizable
  • Number of lines is customizable, allowing 24-228 targets per screen
  • Can program the app to have a line on either the left or right side to encourage scanning all the way to the edge. Especially helpful for those with a visual neglect.
  • Ten levels provide a seemingly never-ending variety of scanning tasks 
  • Can choose similar or dissimilar targets and can choose one or two targets
  • Test mode allows targets to be tapped in any order, indicating if there is a particular area that is being neglected when scanning
  • Practice mode only allows left to right scanning. This is the mode I typically use.

How I use this app in therapy:

In addition to using this app in the traditional sense, I like to print out screenshots to make a paper-pencil scanning task. This is great because I can get in some pencil grip practice or I can hang the paper on a wall to practice writing on a vertical surface.

App Information:
Name of App: Visual Attention TherAppy
Publisher: Tactus Therapy Solutions
Compatible with: iPad; requires iOS 4.3 or later.
Price: $9.99 for full version; lite version (access to one level and one size) is free

*Information was correct at the time of publication, but is subject to change, so please confirm prior to downloading. This post contains affiliate links.

Have you used this app? What are your favorite apps for visual scanning?

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