Friday, June 27, 2014

A Few Things

Right now I have more than 200 unread blog posts in my feedly! Lately I've been living like life is one big vacation ( there any other way to live?), so I've been reading long novels on long flights, instead of keeping up with my favorite blogs. (By the way, The Goldfinch was perfect for my multiple cross country flights.)

Thanks to wedding and graduation season, all of my travel for the year got crammed into one month. It's been a bit of a juggling act to see all of my clients and I truly appreciate how flexible the families I work with have been. As I get ready to head off for one last vacation, here are a few things I've found that I think are worth sharing:

Looking for some Fourth of July crafts? No Time for Flashcards has got you covered!

Pink Oatmeal shared fun and easy ways to get your little one (6-18 months) engaged in water play this summer.

Want to work on handwriting this summer? Here are some fun ways to do that!

Using this summer to work on bike riding? The Inspired Treehouse has some tips for you!

And last, but certainly not least. This is not really summer related, but good advice for any time of year. (Bonus-This is from one of the best speech therapists I know!)

See you back here on July 7!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Behind the Scenes | Playapy

Welcome to the second installment of Behind the Scenes. Today I am excited to have Amy Baez, MOT, OTR/L, founder of Playapy, here to share her story

Please tell me a little bit about yourself. How long have you been an occupational therapist? What is your primary practice area?

I have been practicing as an occupational therapist in South Florida almost exclusively in pediatrics for 14 years. I have worked in pre-school, private school, outpatient clinic, and home health settings. I have a particular interest in fine motor, handwriting, and coordination skills. 

Tell me a bit about Playapy. Where did the idea come from and how did you take it from idea to reality?

Playapy is a child development resource for parents and educators that I launched in 2013. It provides consultation services on-line as well the creation of publications and the production of workshops in the Miami area. Playapy was created to serve a need to communicate with parents and educators about child development from a therapist perspective without direct therapy services or referrals. With the increased demands on pre-schools and the adverse effects of increased use of technology, many parents are finding that they need additional support for their children without the resources, insurance, time, or understanding of how to get it. Playapy is promoting the concept of Smart Play Made Simple by simplifying the methods used by therapist to promote efficient, fun, and functional play. Since I already had experience being self-employed since graduating from school, I worked on creating a business plan and a team of professionals that could support Playapy and its mission. Making it a reality is still an ongoing process as I learn more and focus on a more specific target market that we can best serve.

You’ve also created your own handwriting workbooks. Again, how did you go from having an idea to creating an actual workbook?

I am a creative person and spend a lot of time around artistic people like poets, designers, photographers, and painters. I like to look at the toys and tools that I use as a therapist and modify or create new ways to improve them. When I started seeing children in a clinic and private school setting, I noticed I was receiving more patients with handwriting concerns. Some of them had been exposed to the same programs for years with little progress, so I began to play around with my own ideas including using simple action words and drawings including a cute monkey. Over the course of a couple years I saw how much this method was helping a variety of my patients. One idea for a book led to another, and I put more and more time into making simple worksheets and putting them together into a book layout. From there, I made the conscious decision to maximize my potential and hired a designer, self-published the books, and created a company that would support and market my ideas and the services I had in mind. It really paid off not only from the progress I see in patients, but also to be receive recognition from Creative Child Magazine with the 2013 Book of the Year award for Educational Activity Books.

There are a lot of handwriting workbooks out there. How are your workbooks unique?

The first two publications are purposely divided into uppercase and lowercase letters to be completed sequentially according to development. This is not how the mass market is teaching children. Both books use specific action words that correspond to strokes used to create the letters. These action words help to promote proper directionality, formation, and alignment particularly for the lowercase letters. The Treasure C.H.E.S.T. and Heads, Tummies,& Tails workbooks are simply designed using a traditional 3-line format with a friendly mascot as the instructor. The letters are introduced in groups instead of alphabetical order so letters are associated by their similar formation or alignment. The child is encouraged to say the action words as he or she is writing to foster a multi-sensory approach. This also allows for the parent, educator, and/or therapist to use the same language as well. The books also do not require more than a one-page instruction due to the simplicity and are easily to use and affordable in addition to being engaging without also being distracting.

What are your dreams for Playapy? Where do you see Playapy in five years?

I would love to see Playapy as a known and trusted resource for parents, educators, and therapists working with young children globally. My dream to see continue publishing more workbooks, conducting workshops nationally and through webinars. I also have a dream to see Playapy workshops conducted in developing countries and meeting the needs of the Spanish language market both in the US and elsewhere.

What has been the most surprising thing about creating Playapy?

Since I am still a practicing therapist and have another company that I own and operate, time is always a factor. What has been most surprising is how much time and effort it takes to make something from nothing even something as simple as a logo. Starting a traditional therapy business seemed so much easier partly because the foundation of occupational therapy has been in existence for 100 years. Playapy has the challenge of competition and educating the public and why you are needed. Overall, there is always a to-do list to be better and improve what you have to offer and how you are offering it. This is also want makes it interesting and fun.

Play seems to be very important to you. How do you fit play into your everyday life?

It’s funny that you mention that because finding time to play is what is most challenging about starting a business. It’s a good thing I get to play for a living! In my everyday life I seek play through playfulness, leisure, and adventure. My version of play is to create, appreciate art, dance, take pictures, write poems and stories, listen to live music, swim in the ocean, travel to different countries, challenge my fear of heights, and spending time with friends.

Connect with Playapy:


P.S. Are you an occupational therapist doing something cool? If you'd like to share your story, please send me an email at AbbyPediatricOT {at} gmail {dot} com. I'd love to feature you in an upcoming post!

Monday, June 23, 2014

App of the Week | Mom Maps

One last travel app for you to add to your summer travel kit. Have a kiddo that needs to move? As in, we need to get out of this car right now! Mom Maps might be able to help you.

The idea behind this app is that you can look up kid friendly places that are near where you are. This can be especially helpful if you are on vacation in an unfamiliar location.
 Looking for a park so your kiddo can get out and run around? Just pull up the map and click on the geotags for more information, including reviews, about the parks.
As you can see in the first screenshot, the app also includes kid friendly restaurants, museums, and indoor spaces. This app gets mixed reviews, I think because it uses crowd sourcing, which means it's only as good as the people who are using it. You might be better off using a more well known app like Yelp and doing a specific search, but Mom Maps seems like it has a lot of potential.

What do you think? Have you used this app? Do you use a similar app to find a place to take a break?

App Information:

Name of App: Mom Maps
Publisher: New Media Parents, Inc
Compatible with: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch; requires iOS 4.0 or later
Price: 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.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The power of social media

At times, I have a love-hate relationship with social media. Today I'd like to share one small story of the awesomeness of social media.

One of my blogging secrets ways to stay sane, is to schedule posts in advance and then just let my blog do it's thing. This works well for me because it allows me to blog when I'm less busy, but still have somewhat consistent posts. It's especially helpful during busy time at work or when I'm traveling, like I have been recently.

A few weeks ago, I scheduled a post with a student question asking how I knew I wanted to be an occupational therapist. While I was traveling, I scrolled through my Facebook feed and noticed that AOTA posed the same question to it's followers. I remember thinking, "How funny. I think I just posted on this same topic" and I made a mental note to check it out more closely when I got home.

Of course, when I got home, I forgot to do that, but as I was catching up on blogs on my feedly, I came across this awesome blog post from AOTA's Catching the Pulse. Turns out, my blog post inspired AOTA's blog post, which they in turned shared on Facebook. When AOTA posed this question to their Facebook community, they received 37 shares and 64 comments! How awesome is that! I really recommend that prospective students check it out! That Facebook post is a wealth of information and inspiration for students or anyone considering a career in OT. To check it out, visit AOTA's Facebook page and scroll down to June 6, 2014. I've also updated my original post to include all of this information.

PS-This is another scheduled post. I'm currently jetting off to New York for a friend's wedding :)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

In My Therapy Bag | Margaret from Your Therapy Source

Please welcome Margaret Rice, PT for this installment of In MyTherapy Bag. You may already be familiar with Margaret, as she is the brains behind Your Therapy Source, a website full of excellent resource for both therapists and parents. Today she is stopping by to share a must-have item in her physical therapy bag.

What’s in my therapy bag?

It can be hard to pick just one item as my must have in my therapy bag but I can say this item is always in my therapy bag (or at least the back of my car) - a playground ball.

I know it sounds boring but I am always amazed at how many therapeutic activities you can complete with a ball. Obviously, I use it for eye hand coordination skills (throwing and catching). My ball is also used to encourage bilateral coordination, motor planning, body awareness, stretching and muscle strengthening. The ball can be used with all types of children regardless of ability. I have yet to find a child who does not generate some interest in playing with a ball whether it be eye gaze or a full game of basketball.

Head on over to Your Therapy Source, to print out a free list of 15 activities to do with a ball to hand out to the children that you work with for some summer fun.

Hope everyone has a ball this summer!

Connect with Margaret Rice, PT, founder of Your Therapy Source:

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!

Monday, June 16, 2014

App of the Week | Sunday Drive

I'm rolling with the travel theme this month. Are you staying closer to home this summer? If so, Sunday Drive might be the travel app for you.

In this app, you choose a start point, and it then provides you with driving routes along with points of interest along the way. To show you what it looks like, I put in one of my favorite places, Malibu.

This might seem like an odd app to share on an occupational therapy blog, but the reason I think this app has therapeutic power, is that it can be used by older kids or teens to help plan a day trip or staycation. Getting kids involved in the planning process for their day, week, vacation, etc. is such a great and practical way to work on those executive function skills this summer!

What do you think? Do you try to encourage your kids to help plan during the summer? How do you encourage executive function skills in the summer? I LOVE how Ali has tasked her son with making a batch of cookies each week this summer. What a great idea!

App Information:

Name of App: Sunday Drive
Publisher: Sunday Drive
Compatible with: iPhone, iPad, iPod touch; requires iOS 6.0 or later
Price: 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.

Friday, June 13, 2014

A Few Things

Happy Friday! This week brought the first day of summer vacation in my area. To celebrate the start of summer, here are some activities to keep kids busy this summer.

The Pocket Occupational Therapist has created a list of summer activities. Added bonus: they're therapeutic!

Have a kiddo that seeks a lot of deep pressure? Here's a list of activities that can be done at school or at home over the summer.

Are you looking for activities to keep your preschoolers busy this summer? Here are 50 summer activities for 3 year-olds from No Time for Flashcards.

MamaOT has a list of 10 awesome summer activities for kids. And this list isn't enough, she's also got a great tutorial on how to make a water wall for summer fun!

Your Therapy Source has shared four free summer printables! Great for when you need a summer motor activity in a hurry!

A tip for limiting screen time during the summer. Maybe I need to do this for myself :)

And for some Friday inspiration, in case you missed it, a teen with autism spoke at his graduation.

Happy summer!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Design and Drill Socket to Me

You guys. Kids LOVE this toy. And not just the first time they see it. Even after the novelty of it wears off, they still love this toy. Believe me when I say I was skeptical. I opened the box and I thought, "Wait, that's it?" Design and Drill Socket to Me is a simple toy. The OT in me knows that kids love simple toys and that proved to be true with this toy.

Design and Drill Socket to Me comes with four shapes (car, robot, spaceship, and boat), a wrench, and lots of bolts. The bolts twist into the shapes and then the wrench can be used to tighten or loosen the bolts.

I put this toy to the test with some kiddos, and they did not have the same skepticism that I had. They immediately gravitated toward this toy and together we discovered that this toy can be used in so many fun and educational ways.

Here are a few of the skills you can work on while playing with Design and Drill Socket to Me:

Fine motor skills - twist the bolts into the shapes
Bilateral coordination - use one hand to hold the shape and the other hand to manipulate the wrench
Sorting - sort the bolts by color
Counting - put the bolts in the shapes and then count the number of bolts
Pretend play - drive the race car around a track or shoot your rocket into outer space!
Speech - encourage kids to use their words to request the shape they want
Turn taking - while playing with peers or siblings, kids must share the shapes, bolts, and wrench

Design and Drill Socket to Me is recommended for kids ages 4 and up due to the small pieces. I found that kids as young as two really enjoyed putting the bolts into the shapes. Of course, this should only be done with close supervision, due to the small bolts being a choking hazard. The wrench can be a bit tricky for young kids to manipulate, but older kids seem to enjoy trying to figure it out. I think this toy would make an awesome fine motor/free play station in a preschool classroom.

What are your favorite fine motor stations for preschoolers? Have you found that simpler is better when it comes to preschool toys?

Where to buy:

Design and Drill Socket to Me is available on the Educational Insights website or Amazon.

Connect with Educational Insights:

Twitter: @ed_insights

Disclosure: This game was received complimentary of Educational Insights in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not compensated for this post and all opinions are my own. Links to Educational Insights and Amazon are affiliate links.

Monday, June 9, 2014

App of the Week | Smart Fish: Frequent Flyer

Can you tell I have travel on my mind? Last week I shared the Off We Go: Going on a Plane app. Today I have another travel related app to share. Smart Fish: Frequent Flyer is a game that helps kids become familiar with the experience of taking a flight, including packing for a trip, driving to the airport, going through security, boarding the plane, fastening seat belts, and claiming checked luggage. I have not tried this app, but it gets great reviews on iTunes and looks like it could be a good option for helping kids get familiar with what to expect when flying.

Have you used this app, or another similar app? Please share in the comments below!

App Information:

Name of App: SmartFish: Frequent Flyer
Publisher: SocialBug Labs
Compatible with: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch; requires iOS 7.0 or later
Price: $2.99

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

Friday, June 6, 2014

A Few Things

I'm so excited to be back on the East Coast this weekend to visit friends and celebrate my husband's graduation. While we are off celebrating today, here are a few things I've come across recently that I think are worth sharing:

Obviously it's graduation season! Are you a newly licensed occupational therapist about to head out on your first job search? Be sure to check out PediaStaff's Interview Like a Pro, as well as their interview question of the week series.

Summer is here! Here are a few activities to keep the kids busy while promoting school readiness

And here are 25 family outings with books to go with each! Fun AND educational. Love it!

Have you ever walked into a classroom and immediately felt sensory overload? Here's some research to support that feeling of yours. Something to think about and maybe we can all gently share this with teacher the teachers we know to start the next school year off in a less overwhelming manner.

I guess I'm not the only one who loves Dr. Anne Zachry's book, Retro Baby. Her book recently won the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award for excellence in book publishing. Way to go, Dr. Zachry!

This is a cool use of smartphone technology.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

OT Student Corner | How did you know you wanted to be an OT?

Update: This post triggered a cool social media domino effect. If you're interested in hearing more OT's stories of how they knew they wanted to be an occupational therapist, check out this post on AOTA's Checking the Pulse and visit the AOTA Facebook page and scroll down to June 6, 2014, where they posed this same question to their followers and got a tremendous response!

I received an email recently with the following question:
"How did you know occupational therapy was what you wanted to go into? I'm debating a number of professions, but I'm not sure what to go into. I want to work with kids and I want to help people as much as possible. Do you have any advice?"
I think this is a very common question for all students trying to figure out what they want to do with their life. Most students enter college at such a young age and what a big decision to make! It's definitely a bit overwhelming.

So here's my answer:
"Ummm...I didn't know. Actually, some days, I still don't know."
And here's my advice:
Job shadow, job shadow, job shadow! All of those careers you are considering, get out there and observe them. Find out what a typical day looks like, ask questions, look around to see what other professionals they work with. There might be a lesser known profession that you've never heard of that would be the perfect fit for you.

For anyone who's interested, here's the extended version of my experience of finding occupational therapy as the career for me.

As a child I wanted to do all sorts of things when I grew up. Librarian, optometrist, photojournalist, interior designer....basically, I had no idea what I wanted to do. By high school I started leaning toward healthcare professions.

First I wanted to be an athletic trainer, but as a runner who never did what the athletic trainer at my school told me to do, I decided that I didn't really want to deal with athletes all the time. Because athletes are difficult, and I didn't want to deal with that.

By the time I entered college, I decided I was going to be a physical therapist, but I wasn't completely enamored with the idea. I did a lot of job shadowing during my freshman year of college of PTs working in different practice areas: pediatrics, hospitals, clinics. It was during this time that I discovered occupational therapy. As I was job shadowing, I saw other therapists, who turned out to be OTs, who were doing things that I thought looked really cool.

I job shadowed some OTs, did research on what exactly OT is, and decided to make the switch. I am a bit of an indecisive person, so OT seemed like a great match for me. I loved that there were so many different practice areas that OTs worked in. Pediatrics, geriatrics, hospitals, clinics, mental health, community settings. I figured if I got bored with one area, I could always switch to a different practice area. I was also really intrigued by how OT originated in mental health and was drawn to the holistic approach of OT. I just loved the idea of OT.

And that was that. I (mostly) never looked back. I went to OT school, became an OT, and now here I am. I actually took a fairly traditional route to becoming an occupational therapist, but that is definitely not a requirement. I highly recommend you check out how Christie of Mama OT found occupational therapy. Such a great story!

Therapists, what advice do you have for students trying to figure out what career to pursue?

PS-The coolest thing about this email I received? As I looked at the sender's information more closely, I realized it was from a student at the same college that attended my freshman year! You know, the tiny midwest college I went to because they had a PT program, then realized I didn't want to be a PT, and then semi-blindly jumped into a new college my sophomore year to enroll in an OT program. What a small world! And like I said, no one knows what they want to be when they grow up, especially at age 18!

Are you an occupational therapy student or considering a career in OT? Have a question you'd like answered? Leave it in the comments or send me an email and I'll try to address it in an upcoming post!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Workplace Wednesday | A job is a job

With graduation season upon us. I'd like to get on a soapbox for a moment.

Most days I love being an OT, but let's be honest, a job is just that. A job. Sure some jobs are more awesome than others, and I tend to believe OT is one of those jobs that is mostly pretty awesome. BUT. As general advice to anyone trying to figure out what to do with their life, don't forget that a job is just that. A job. It's not (and should not be) your whole life. It certainly helps to like your job, and (maybe?) even better, love your job, but at the end of the day, don't forget that it's just a job.

And I think that's okay.

It's okay to not love your job every. single. day.

This is something I've struggled to come to terms with for some time. Parents trust me with their children. Parents want nothing less than the absolute best for their child and they trust me to help their child. No pressure there. But some days I'm tired, or losing the battle with my allergies, or would just rather spend the day in bed reading a good book. Or all of the above.

During the keynote speech at the AOTA Annual Conference, one of the Wounded Warriors speaking (sorry, I don't remember which one), said something along the lines of, "OT is everything. Your job is so much more than just a job. Occupational therapists make a difference every single day."

Upon hearing these words, I felt a surge of pride. Yes! I am an occupational therapist. And I change people's lives! And then I thought, "whoa, that's a lot of pressure."

So I'm giving you all permission to let go of the pressure. Yes, occupational therapists are given the opportunity to help people when they are in their most vulnerable states. And that's pretty awesome. And special. And a huge responsibility. So don't take it for granted. But also don't put too much pressure on yourself to love every minute of your job. It's okay. And it's normal.

Getting off my soapbox now.

I'll leave you with this little story:

When I worked in schools, I loved school vacations. But you know what else I loved? Going back and seeing my students after the breaks. I love traveling and going on vacations. Whenever it's time to go back to work after a vacation, I am sad that my vacation is over, but I am also ready. I miss "my kids" and look forward to going back to see them. That's how I know that I love my job, even if I don't always love it every single minute.

PS - Some recommended reading:

In the name of love

A life beyond "do what you love"

Do you think you will have a career that you love?

PPS - I'm headed out on a mini-vacation today and I can't wait to be back on the East Coast! And I also can't wait to get back to all of "my kids" next week :)

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

In My Therapy Bag | Straws

As you know, I'm going through a therapy bag dilemma right now. To bring a bag of tricks or to not bring a bag of tricks with me on my early intervention home visits? I think the answer is probably to bring a few things, but not EVERYTHING. But that's another post for another day. Today I'm kicking off a new series, In My Therapy Bag, where OTs, PTs, and SLPs will all stop by to share must-have items in their therapy bags. I'm going to start it off by sharing an item that I have in my (very small) therapy bag.

So what is one item that I have in my therapy bag?


Why do I carry straws in my therapy bag?

Since I'm working primarily in early intervention, I use straws all of the time because I believe straw drinking is such an important skill for kiddos to have. Drinking from a straw helps develop the muscles of the mouth and cheeks, preparing kids for chewing and eating. Since so many of the kids I work with have difficulty with chewing, straw drinking is an easy way to introduce daily "exercise" to their mouths and cheeks. 

Straws also meet my early intervention therapy bag criteria: an item that parents probably already have in their home or can easily purchase inexpensively.

For more information on the benefits of straw drinking and tips on how to teach your child to drink from a straw, I recommend you check out Alisha's post over on Your Kid's Table.

On another note, straws can also be used as a great tool to help provide organizing sensory input. For more information on using straws for sensory regulation, as well as some great activities, check out these posts:

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!

Monday, June 2, 2014

App of the Week | Off We Go: Going on a Plane


Are you traveling this summer? I have a lot of trips coming up and several of them involve flying. Lisa, of Atypical Familia recently shared her tips for flying with a child with autism and she mentioned an app that she uses called Off We Go: Going on a Plane.

I have not personally used this app, so I can't give too many details about it, but it looks like a good option for families who are traveling by plane this summer. Here's a video of the app if you'd like to take a closer look.

App Information:

Name of app: Off We Go: Going on a Plane
Publisher: KIWA International, Ltd
Compatible with: iPhone app requires iOS 3.1.2 or later; iPad app requires iOS 7.0 or later
Price: $3.99

*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 this app? Do you have a favorite app for helping kids understand airplane travel? If you do, please share in the comments below! Happy summer travels!


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