Saturday, December 3, 2016

OT Product Find: Chewigem

As I was in a toy store shopping for children with special needs, I came across Chewigem! It was a great find because many of the kids we encounter as Occupational Therapists, teachers, and so on do have a need to chew on something and this alternative is more age appropriate, more fashionable, discreet, and most importantly safe. 
Click on the video below for a brief overview:

Friday, November 18, 2016

Hemiplegia & the OT role

There are several types of paralysis that can happen in the body, hemiplegia being one of them. Hemiplegia is a paralysis of one side of the body and includes the upper limb, one side of the trunk, and the lower limb (Snell, p. 168). "Hemi": half, "plegia": paralysis or stroke.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Fine Motor Fun

All children need fine motor skills to be successful in life's functional activities. It is a part of development that supports all the things we do with our hands and fingers working together. I've researched some unique and fun ways to incorporate different play activities that support fine motor skills. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

Promoting Body Awareness

Perception of the body, known as body awareness is needed to do everyday activities and to perform complex skills. Proprioception yields information about "the relative position of the body parts to each other, the position of the body in space, the body's movement, and the nature of objects that the body comes into contact with" (Haywood, p. 200). 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Apps Can Promote OT

Although it may be true that kids are getting enough screen time as it is, I think an Ipad/tablet is an effective tool for therapy because of the amount of finger skills, and visual/cognitive benefits it provides. It is a great way to use as a 'reward' at the end of therapy or at the end of a task. Depending on the app, they can help reinforce pincer grasps, letter formation, finger isolation, and visuomotor skills. Here are few below that would be helpful in the world of pediatric occupational therapy one of which I enjoy using.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Tips to Promote Scissor Skills

The components of scissor skills for children translate over to a child's everyday activities: to learn and engage in play as much as possible and to increase independence in ADL's/IADL's. Utilizing scissors is a part of learning, school, and play.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Dandy Walker Syndrome

Dandy Walker Syndrome is a congenital brain malformation involving the cerebellum and the fluid filled spaces around it. This syndrome involves an enlarged fourth ventricle (a channel that allows fluid to flow freely between upper and lower areas of the brain and spinal cord), a partial or complete absence of the cerebellar vermis (the area between the two cerebellar hemispheres), and cyst formation near the internal base of the skull. There can also be an increase in the fluid space sizes surrounding the brain, known as hydrocephalus. (information found at 
Photo retrieved from here

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Costello Syndrome

(Image Retrieved from here)

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, Costello syndrome is "characterized by delayed development and intellectual disability, loose folds of skin which are most noticeable on hands and feet, flexible joints, and distinctive facial features."

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Pencil Grasp Development in Children

A review of pencil grasp development in children is critical as an Occupational Therapist to understand where the child is in pencil grip development and how to best help them to be successful in writing and eventually holding the pencil in the best way they can.
Image retrieved from here

Friday, October 7, 2016

Infantile Reflexes

In order to better understand children with severe cognitive impairments, I need to understand infancy development. A huge part of development are reflexive movements which are involuntary movements that an individual makes in response to specific stimuli. However, an infant does not have to think about making reflexive movements because they happen automatically and they are important!

October: Rett Syndrome Awareness Month

I had never heard of Rett Syndrome (also known as RTT) before until coming across students with this diagnosis. I received really great advice from a professor during OT school to look at a person's function/what they can do and not at their diagnosis. I still stand by this advice and put it into practice however being a curious student, I wanted to dig further into what Rett Syndrome was so I can better understand some of my students and their families. 

According to the NIH, Rett syndrome is "a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects girls almost exclusively. Based on, it is rare in males but does occur at a low prevalence. It begins with normal early development and growth but then turns into a slowing of development, loss of purposeful use of the hands, slowed brain and head growth, problems with walking, seizures, and intellectual disability." 

Friday, September 30, 2016

Weight Bearing

Weight Bearing: Sensory input to the muscles/joints to help us know where our body is in space 

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, "physical activities work bones and muscles against gravity. This occurs with any weight bearing exercise. These activities cause bones to build more cells and become strong." 

Importance of Weight Bearing:
-Promotes increased body awareness
-Increases strength 
-Promotes calm and organized behaviors which can increase attention 
-Increases coordination and balance
-Improves joint/muscle integrity 
(UAB Pediatric Neuromotor Clinic PDF)

Monday, March 7, 2016

Dianne Craft & Biology of Brain and Behavior

Background info about Dianne Craft
  • Received Bachelor's degree in Elementary and Special Education from St. Cloud State University in Minnesota in 1966 
  • Received her Master's degree in Special Education from the University of Northern Colorado in 1990
  • Created and began teaching the workshop "Brain Integration Therapy" in 1988 
  • Also, created two more popular workshops called:  "Teaching Strategies for the Right Brain Child" & "The Biology of Learning (Behavior)"
  • Retired from teaching in 1997 after 25 years but wanted to continue working with children, so she created her own consulting firm called Child Diagnostics, Inc. in 1997
  • In 1999 she became a Certified Nutritional Health Professional 
Learning Gates
Dianne has a long time passion for discovering the reason as to why children struggle with learning and behavior. According to Dianne there are four main learning gates that need to be functioning in order for a child to have an easier time learning.  
These four "learning gates" include,
  • Visual processing 
  • Visual motor (writing) processing 
  • Auditory processing
  • Focus/attention processing
According to Dianne, there is typically a debate amongst educational experts about which approaches are best to use with a child, compensation or correction.  Dianne argues that it is possible to pursue both simultaneously.  She believes that compensation makes the learning task easier while the correction reduces the stress in the child's learning system so that learning can flow.  She calls this "opening up the child's learning gate."  

For more about the learning gates watch this video,

Dianne explains how the right brain is responsible for long-term memory storage.  She writes about how this process of storing material in the short-term memory and then transferring it to long-term memory is automatic.  However, when the left brain methods of repetition (either orally or in writing) are not transferring to the right brain long-term memory storage unit, then this is when right brain teaching strategies come into play.  Dianne explains how when we use right brain teaching strategies with children, they are required to use much less energy to store learned material.

For specific right brain strategies that can be implemented, go to the link below

Check out this video for strategies for right brain child and reading,

Check out this video for sight word

Research related to Biology of the Brain & Behavior

Dianne posted an interesting article about the relationship between learning, behavior and attention disorders to an essential fatty acid deficiency in children.  Essential fatty acids are specific fats and oils that cannot be produced in the body, rather they must be obtained in a person's diet or a deficiency will exist.  In a study in 1981, it was reported that a large number of hyperactive children showed deficiencies in essential fatty acids.  Recent studies have proven that specific brain functions such as, memory, attention, speech and specific motor skills are effected by deficiency in essential fatty acids, specifically the DHA content in fish oil.  Children with poor motor skills and poor coordination often lack essential fatty acids.  Specific effects of DHA relate to the elimination of the gaze aversion in children with autism.  Dianne states that when she speaks at Autism Conferences, she shows before and after pictures of children with Autism showing the lack of gaze aversion after receiving this vital nutrient.  Besides affecting gaze aversion, parents report increased socialization, speech, bladder control and sensory processing after even a short exposure to this supplementation.  To obtain Omega 3's and the important DHA into a child's diet, use a liquid orange-flavored cod liver oil and add vitamin E liquid drops.  To obtain Omega 6 oils, rub an open capsule of evening primrose onto a child's wrists.  For more information go to this link,

Another article by Dianne speaks about the ability of brain training with music and the effect music has on brain growth and development.  It has been found that auditory brain training can help children organize their thoughts, focus attention, help with balance, and understanding of phonics, reading, spelling, and oral instructions, particularly in the presence of background noise.  For more information go to this link,


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Benefits of Aging in Place

Aging in Place (AIP) is a term that describes older adults being able to live in a residence of their choosing, while maintaining quality of life, and having access to any services, which they might need (Hager, 2012). 

Why is AIP important to older adults?

  • A survey done by the AARP shows that 87 percent of adults age 65 years and older want to stay in their current home and community as they age, among people age 50 to 64, 71 percent of people want to age in place (AARP Livable Communities, 2014). 
  • A loss of social relationships and personal possessions often accompany relocation to a new living environment (Iecovich, 2014). 
  • AIP can be viewed as advantageous regarding a sense of attachment and feeling of security and familiarity in both home and community environments (Wiles, Leibing, & Guberman, 2011). 
  • Ultimately, this can lead to positive outcomes such as better physical health, improved mental well-being, and a higher quality of life (Sixsmith & Sixsmith, 2008).
  • Economic factors are another reason as to why older adults prefer to age in place.  A major benefit of AIP is cost reduction, as it less expensive for people to stay living in their homes, compared to moving to other residential care facilities (Metlife Mature Market Institute, 2013). 

Important Statistics

  • The number of Americans 65 and older in the United States is projected to increase to 55 million in 2020, to 70 million by 2030, and to 88.5 million in 2050 (Werner, 2011). 
  • According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (2013), from 2004 to 2007, the median monthly payment for non-institutional long-term care was $928 compared with $5,243 for nursing homes.  This provides evidence of the economic benefits that aging in one’s own home can have on the older adult population.  
  • The cost of home modifications and remodeling is very dependent upon the individual’s home design and condition along with the individual’s needs.  In a 2010 survey, fall prevention modifications, such as removing throw rugs and installing grab bars in the bathroom were approximated to cost $1,000 or less (Metlife Mature Market Institute, 2013). 
  • A no-step entry, single-floor living, extra wide doorways and hallways and accessible electrical outlets are universal accessibility features that can improve an older adult’s ability to age in place. The 2011 American Housing Survey reported that only one percent of housing in the U.S. has all of these universal design features (Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, 2014) 

Monday, January 11, 2016

Home Automation and how it's helpful

Home automation is the automation of the home and household work or activities through the use of items that can be controlled through a timer, motion sensor, smartphone, or other avenues. 
This kind of automation can be used to streamline one's home and can also be used to increase the quality of life for those who may otherwise need specialized care through a caregiver or an institution such a group home. The use of items that can automate one's home can be pivotal in allowing people to maintain their independence while also enabling these people to be able to engage in the activities that are meaningful to them. Homes that have this capability have also been called "Smart Homes", implying that the home has the ability to achieve tasks that other homes without home automation would be unable to do.

Home automation tools that can be used through one's smartphone can be pivotal to being able to effectively use these tools, and without a smartphone or similarly associated tablet, it may be difficult to utilize home automation tools to their full potential. Being able to properly access these tools will allow the user to turn on lights, lock doors, control the temperature in the home, control appliances, maintain home security, and do a variety of other tasks. For more on what different kinds of home automation tools can do for you, and how these tools could work for you, follow this link: home automation possibilities. One of these home automation systems is the Iris by Lowe's. This system is connected through the home's Wifi and can be used to control most of the above areas that were touched upon above.

From locking doors at night, to making sure all the lights are off before bed, Iris allows one to access the full use of their home without having to make all the individual changes to the home one at a time. This could be very important for those who are currently living a disability or with a limitation that does not allow them to reach all parts of the home in a timely and safe manner while they are alone. For these people, having a smart home where a person can ensure their home is safe and secure without having to go and check each area can be key in maintaining one's independence. Use of a Smart Home to Adults with Disabilities

Whether one decides to use the Iris system from Lowe's, or one if prefers to go with a custom home automation system like the one in the video above, it is clear to see that home automation can be effectively used to help people maintain a higher quality of life, especially in regards to the elderly or those with disabilities.
Home automation enables people like the elderly or those with disabilities to be able to engage in the activities they need and want to be able to do without taking away their independence or sacrificing quality of life to do so. However, this is an avenue that many homeowners and people with a steadily declining quality of life such as the elderly or those with disabilities do not seriously consider. This may be because of how new this technology is and it therefore has not become widely known as a possibility for these people, or because of its cost and perceived difficulty to set up. When considering the cost of a daily aide or another vehicle to help one accomplish a similar goal, modifying the home to make it a "Smart Home" is a cost-saving option that one does not have to keep paying for in order for it to work for you. Approximate cost of making your home "smart". As far as difficulty is concerned, one may be surprised that setting up a home automation tools are not as complicated as one might think. Getting Started with Home Automation. Modifying one's home with home automation tools in order to create a smarter home may be an effective way to increase the quality of life for oneself, or a loved one, and should not be overlooked when considering methods to maintain independence. There is no one right answer to how to properly approach maintaining quality of life without sacrificing independence for each individual, but a smart home may just be an overlooked answer that could help a good amount of people.

The Benefits of Home Automation Systems

For this week’s research assignment, I researched the topic of home automation systems.  This topic interested me specifically because my current research project is about aging in place for older adults and after watching the videos posted below and reading information about these different automation systems, I realized that this could be very useful for many people with disabilities, including older adults who want to be able to continue living independently in their own home.  My grandma also has a life alert system that monitors and senses her motion throughout the day and will notify my family if she falls at anytime throughout the day and send paramedic help.  I know how safe and secure this makes her and my family feel therefore, I understand the importance and benefits that these automation systems can provide for individuals with and without disabilities.    

Home automation systems can provide an increased quality of life for individuals who may have previously required caregivers or others to help in order to complete simple tasks such as, turning lights on and off or opening/closing doors.  The specific features that many of these automation systems include are, controls for lighting, temperature, blinds, opening and closing doors, and turning on or off devices/appliances.  Many of these automation systems are connected through smartphones using an app.  With the touch of a button or a simple voice command, many of these simple tasks can be automatically done.  The cost of home automation systems can be expensive, however, different features can be bought separately if the entire system is not needed in order to save money.          

One major benefit that can result from using one of these systems is independence in the home.  In an article titled, “For the disabled, smart homes are home sweet home” by Gupta (2015), an example of a guy named Steve O’Hear was discussed.  Steve moved into his home in London about fifteen years ago and was unable to turn the lights on and off by himself because of his electric wheelchair.  Even though the switches in his house were built lower than usual for him, they were still too high, therefore he had to rely on others to turn the lights on and off for him until he discovered that he could use Internet-connected lights and switch them on and off through an app on his smartphone.  Another benefit from these automation systems is safety and security.  With the touch of a “Goodnight” button, doors can be locked, temperature set, lights off, and anything else that is programmed to change at nighttime can be done with ease and comfort.  

This is a home automation system called Vivo by Fermax.  VIVO Monitor is a system that can maximize communication and security through a wide variety of different functions. 

This is a home automation system sold at Lowe's called the Iris.  The Iris system connects with your smartphone via an app and becomes your controller for connecting devices throughout your home.  This system can help turn devices on and off, open and close doors or blinds, and automate events to happen through voice command or with a motion detection.  For example, this device can be programmed to have the lights turn on automatically when you walk into the room.  Essentially, this device puts management of your home at your fingertips.  

Links to Videos:

The video posted below shows a smart apartment located in the Helen Hayes hospital in New York that is available for therapists to use with patients in order to practice using the different controls and features.  It demonstrates how with the blink of an eye or simple voice command, tasks such as, opening a door or opening the blinds are now accessible and available to many different people.   

The video link posted below shows a smart home located in Boulder, Colorado where many different automation devices are set up and programmed throughout the house to provide independence and safety.

Additional information links: