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Sensational Development Occupational Therapy of Massapequa, NY provides skilled, child-centered individual and group intervention for children ages birth through 21 who may be experiencing difficulty with daily activities such as self-care, academics, play, social skills, organization, coordination, and behavior. We have teamed up with some of the most dynamic and passionate instructors and we are thrilled to now be offering Yoga! Please call for scheduling and reservations.

Blog

Blog posts by the staff at sensational development. We post information and topics of interest for our clients.

 

Filtering by Tag: OT

   You’re on a diet? NO, I’m on a “Sensory Diet”

Sara Rutledge

When hearing the word “diet”, as a society, we immediately associate the word with eating healthier or limiting our intake of certain foods and beverages. For parents, when the term “sensory diet” is first introduced, a variety of questions of confusion and curiosity may come into play. Have no fear- this type of diet has no effect on what your child can/cannot eat but what in fact your child can do throughout his/her day to help and assist with attention, arousal, and adaptive responses. A sensory diet is a carefully planned program of specific sensory-based activities that are scheduled according to each child’s needs, consisting of specific components and “nutrition” for the central nervous system (CNS).

Children with a Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) may have a difficult time adjusting to everyday stimuli that may not appear as a problem to a person without sensory-processing difficulties. As a child who may have a difficult time adjusting everyday stimuli it may illustrate an under-responsive behavior (low arousal) or an over-responsive behavior (high arousal) (Wilbarger & Wilbarger, 2002). With these children who have a hard time adjusting or modulating his/her behaviors, this may effect a child’s participation in everyday childhood “occupations”, or behaviors and roles that are important to the child’s growth and development. Examples of “occupations” that are important throughout childhood are play, self-care, school, and sleep.  

With all of this information the next step is asking; how is a sensory diet created? As an occupational therapist it is our role to help assist in creating the sensory diet, with the help of parents/guardians, teachers etc. that are with the child on a daily basis. The key to creating a successful sensory diet is by gathering information on the child's day, routines and schedules in addition to observations of the child and how they respond to sensory experiences.  In terms of writing down your child’s daily activities, it is important to note/comment on your child’s performance or activity level during these times or activities. The more detailed you are the more helpful your information will be in determining sensory diet activities and/or tasks that will benefit your child in his/her environment.

For parents and children with a Sensory Processing Disorder, incorporating a sensory diet into his/her daily routine may be helpful in allowing the child to perform as optimally as possible in his/her environment. With this being said, there may be trial and error process, and this is not something to get discouraged about. With the help of your child’s occupational therapist, teachers, and supporters, your child will find a variation of different activities/tasks to helpful maintain an optimal arousal level, in order to find success in each activity throughout the day. Every child with Sensory Processing Disorder is unique and this will reflect each sensory diet differently. Some activities may work for your child and some may not; it is important to stay positive and work through this process- it will be worth the wait!

 

- Marisa DiRienzo, OTS

 

There is so much more to writing than holding a pencil!

Sara Rutledge

Foundational skills are often overlooked when talking about handwriting. Neat, legible handwriting does not come overnight. There are many prerequisites that need to be acquired before a child’s handwriting performance can improve. In order to build a solid foundation for handwriting, a developmental progression of hand functioning and hand skills must be reached.

We all need adequate core muscles for everyday activity. Children need stable cores to maintain upright postures in their seats, develop shoulder stability and adequate fine motor skills. Going hand-in-hand with core muscles is trunk control. To understand the importance of a strong and stable trunk, just think about a fishing rod. Imagine a rod made of rubber. Try casting a line - it simply wouldn't work. With a floppy rod your control of the line and hook would be non-existent. A child's trunk is like the fishing rod. A strong and steady trunk provides the base of support needed for delicate fine motor tasks like writing (Handwriting Help for Kids, 2001).

Did you ever think that postural stability could have an impact on your handwriting? It is critical to have proximal stability in order for the more distal muscle groups to perform fine movements. Many muscles around the shoulder work together to hold this joint stable when performing fine motor tasks. If a child has poor shoulder stability, then he/she cannot hold this joint stable, impacting fine motor control. If this joint is loose, then fine motor control needed for writing is impossible to achieve. A strong upper body and shoulders are necessary for controlled movements of the hand and fingers. Without a stable base of support it is difficult to guide the eyes and hands to work together.

            Each hand is divided into two separate sides: the precision side and the power side. The radial (thumb) side of one’s hand is important for precision with manual dexterity such as threading a needle or buttoning a shirt.  The ulnar (little finger) side of the hand is important for power such as opening a jar.  Together these two features of the hand comprise the necessary prerequisites for fine motor control.  Writing, coloring, and scissoring require stability of the ulnar side of the hand while the small muscles of the radial side of the hand produce small precise strokes/snips for proper motor control.

            As a child’s strength and control develops, the movement of writing will move from the whole arm, to the wrist, and finally to the fingertips. Intrinsic muscle movement can be seen when the ulnar side of the hand is stabilized on the table while the fingers move a pencil to write. The intrinsic movements are best observed in activities that require the tips of the thumb, index finger, and middle finger be touching while they are performing flexion with the thumb is in extension.

Motor planning involves spontaneously sequencing and organizing movements in a coordinated manner to complete unfamiliar motor tasks. Timing and sequencing are essential to motor planning, as well as ideation (how to approach a novel task) and execution (how to follow through with a novel task).  Adequate motor planning abilities are needed for writing; some examples are: knowing how to form letters and where to start the letter, spatially planning a sentence and knowing when to move to the next line, coming up with an idea for a story or sentence, and knowing the relationship or part to whole.

There are so many different pieces and components to handwriting that go unrecognized. Every piece to this ‘puzzle’ is equally as important as the next and has its own impact on the puzzle as a whole. Until all the pieces comes together, functional and successful handwriting is much more difficult to achieve!

Rachel Durante, MS OTR/L

Welcome Spring!

Sara Rutledge

Although it has been a relatively mild winter, I am so excited Spring is here! Longer days, open windows, being outdoors, and gardening are just a few of the things I am looking forward to.  Spring is such a great time to get the kids outside and in nature. For our sensory seekers we have such great opportunities to get proprioception, tactile, auditory, visual and vestibular inputs. There are so many benefits to being in nature, getting dirty and spending time playing outside.

Here are just a few ideas to get you going:

Get some proprioceptive input by playing tug-o-war, digging in the dirt, pulling weeds, pulling a wagon, climbing a tree or pushing a wheelbarrow.

Get out on the swings at the park or in the yard, ride a bike or scooter, roll in the grass, run, have a relay race, build an obstacle course or fort, or play ring around the rosy to get some vestibular input and work on motor planning skills.

If you like to garden, sorting and planting seeds are great for fine motor control and tactile discrimination while digging is great for hand and upper body strength.

Flying a kite is a great activity for bilateral coordination and motor planning as well as hand-eye coordination. Take off your shoes, get dirty, play in a mud puddle and feel the grass on your feet!

Go on a scavenger hunt or a hike, go for a walk or bike ride in the preserve or bike path. See how many colors or shapes you can find. Notice the blooming flowers and stop to smell them. Spend some time working on mindfulness and notice as many things about your environment as you can; sounds, smells, sights. Just listening to the birds chirp can help us learn about spatial orientation and auditory localization. Shift your focus inward and note how our bodies feel after riding or walking along a trail. Close your eyes, put your hand on your heart and see what you notice about your own body. Enjoy taking time to be mindful and attentive to ourselves, those around us and our environment.

Further reading:

Take a look at this handout regarding the benefits of being in nature.

Another great article written by an OT. This discusses the benefits of getting out in nature and playing outdoors.  

This article talks more about why getting kids into nature matters.

 

 

Respiration

Sara Rutledge

Many aspects of development are strongly influenced by oral functions and respiration, including sensory integration.  When children do not have adequate respiration they may fatigue quickly as their muscles are not getting enough oxygen. They may also have difficulty with self regulation and encouraging deep breathing can help to calm a child. As a result, including respiratory activities into your child’s routine may have a positive impact on his or her participation in daily activities.

·         Human Drum: Have child lie on back with neck flexed. Make jungle sounds while gently drumming on belly, under ribcage, or on chest and listen to sound changes.

·         Boat Ride: Have child lie on back on inner tube or pillows and pretend to make the sounds of a motor boat by vibrating lips together.

·         Animal Noises: Either seated or crawling, you can facilitate diaphragmatic action with animal noises (grunting pig, sniffing dog, purring cat, donkey he-haw, owl hoot)

·         Rescue Game: Pretending to be a firefighter, policeman or EMT provides a creative way to help children feel good about saving someone (toy or stuffed animals). This activity provides the opportunity to make loud vibratory noises and the child can change the pitch of the sound while working on coordinating musculature of abdomen and chest.

·         Belly Dancing: Have child lie on back with neck propped up. Place lightweight stuffed animal on belly and see if they can move their belly and make the animal dance until it falls off.

·         “I Smell A…”: Encourage child to do sniffing activities to encourage diaphragm contractions while pretending to smell silly things.

·         Laughing and Play: Gets respiratory muscles working, especially when child is reduced to snorting

·         The Laugh Game: A game for 2-4 players.  The first person says “Ha”.  The 2nd person says “Ha-Ha”, the 3rd person says “Ha-Ha-Ha”, and it goes on , adding a Ha on each turn until everyone is laughing.

·         Silly Songs: Incorporate singing into play whenever possible. Songs with exclamations in them (pop goes the Weasel!, No more monkeys!), facilitate stronger exhalations. Songs with repeated words encourage sound sequencing and longer inspiratory checking.

·         Ghost Tag: You can’t be tagged if you are making ghost noises (“Ooo”). Encourages sustained exhalation.

·         Whistles, Puffamils and Bubbles: Great tools to facilitate respiration

·         Playing in the Band: pretending to be in a marching band using different household items (paper towel rolls, paper cups, water bottles).

·         Bubble Mountain: Fill a container with lukewarm water and dishwashing soap. Using a straw, blow bubbles in the water/soap mixture to make a mountain of bubbles.  

·         Bubble Paper Printing: Set up Bubble Mountain and have liquid food coloring and paper available.  Once you blow a mountain of bubbles, drop several drops of food coloring and press white paper into bubbles.

·         Balloons: once a child has good respiratory strength for force exhalation and adequate jaw and lip closure, they can work on blowing up balloons.

·         Blowing Relay Races: While on scooter or crawling, use straws to blow cotton balls, ping pong balls, or other lightweight objects down the hall or across a table.

·         Straw Pick-up games: Using short straw and lightweight objects, try to inhale to pick up objects and place at another location.

·         Jump and Count: Create rhythmical jumping activities where child can jump and count out loud to increase respiratory volume and endurance.