Saturday, December 3, 2016

Free Holiday Coloring Pages: Great for Fine Motor Skills!

When a child feeds herself, cuts with scissors and colors with crayons, she is using fine motor skills.  It is important to develop fine motor skills in early childhood, so that children can be successful in school.  Research tells us that much of a child’s school day involves the use of fine motor skills. 

Coloring is a great way to develop fine motor skills!  Encourage your child to color these free holiday coloring pages, and she will have fun while developing her fine motor skills. To encourage a proper grasp, break crayons into small pieces.  This requires the use of the thumb, index, and middle fingers to hold the crayon pieces when coloring, which lays the foundation for a more mature pencil grasp in the future.  Enjoy these free holiday coloring pages!  Happy holidays!


Monday, November 14, 2016

Awesome DIY Holiday Wreath!

Here are the instructions to make this awesome DIY Holiday Wreath!

You will need:

Glue Gun
Construction paper
Glue Stick
Poster board or paper plate

Cut the construction paper into squares.  For the back row, the papers should be approximately 5-inch squares. Reduce the size of the squares in each row by 1-inch. For example, the next row in should be 4-inch squares, the next will be 3-inch squares, and the interior cones are 2-inch squares.

Roll each piece of paper into a cones shape (one end rolled tighter than the other)

Use glue gun to glue the tighter ends together.

If using a poster board, cut it into a 10 to 12-inch circle.

Starting on the outside edges, glue the cones in place.

Trim the ends as needed.

Your wreath is ready!

Adapted from:

Friday, October 28, 2016

Research on the Wilbarger Protocol

Therapists, teachers, and parents often ask me if there is any evidence for the Wilbarger Protocol.  The Wilbarger Protocol, also called the Wilbarger Therapressure Program is a treatment approach for sensory defensiveness that is often recommended by occupational therapists.  Unfortunately, there is a lack of quality research to support the use of the Wilbarger Protocol.  My colleagues and I recently had a study published on occupational therapy practitioners’ sources of training in the administration of Wilbarger Therapressure Program.  The study, entitled "Delivery of the Wilbarger Protocol: A survey of pediatric occupational therapy practitioners" was published in The Journal of Occupational Therapy, Schools & Early Intervention in 2016.

We investigated the uniformity of administration and the diagnoses for which therapists recommend the protocol.  OTs from the United States completed an online survey investigating specifics related to training and implementation of the protocol.  Thirty-nine percent of the 153 respondents who reported using the protocol reported that they were trained by attending the workshop that the Wilbargers offer.  Slightly less than half (48%) learned how to administer the protocol through hands-on training from another occupational therapist, 7% learned through word of mouth from an OT colleague, 3% through online research, and 3% by other means.

The results suggest that practitioners utilize a variety of approaches related to the training and implementation of the Wilbarger Protocol.  All OT practitioners need to obtain the proper training before recommending and implementing program.  A standardized protocol for the protocol has not been published; therefore, therapists who wish to learn the protocol should attend the Wilbarger workshop.

Lancaster, S. L., Zachry, A. H., Duck, A., Harris, A., Page, E., Sanders, J. (2016). Delivery of the Wilbarger Protocol: A survey of pediatric occupational therapy practitioners. Journal of Occupational Therapy, Schools, & Early Intervention, 9(3), 2016.

Free Thanksgiving Coloring Pages!

Here are several free Thanksgiving coloring pages! Coloring is a wonderful way to improve a variety of different skills.  Fine motor skills and dexterity are required to hold and manipulate a crayon.  If the child doesn't use her thumb and fingers to hold the crayon, break the crayon into small pieces.  Coloring on a vertical surface using a small piece of crayon promotes a tripod grasp and finger flexion and extension, which are desirable!

Click on the following links for the free Thanksgiving coloring pages.


Color the Turkey

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The StayPut Mat Stabilizes Paper for Writing!

Do you know a child who is unable to stabilize the paper when writing? I’ve worked with a number of clients with hemiplegia who struggled with this issue. We tried a variety of approaches, including using a paper weight, taping the paper down,  and using a clip board, but none of these options were ideal. Fortunately, there’s a solution! The StayPut Mat!

When your client is unable to stabilize the paper when writing, try the StayPut Mat!  This is a non-slip drawing mat that stabilizes letter-sized paper for writing.  It’s has lightweight magnetic frame, and it’s durable, portable, and easy to use.  I love mine!  It's the perfect tool to add to your therapy bag!

For more information, visit, or you can purchase one by clicking HERE!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Is Creativity on the Decline Because Young People Don't Daydream Enough?

Daydreaming plays an important role in the creative process, and research reveals that creativity has been on the decline in recent decades.  To learn how to promote creativity in children (and adults), click HERE to watch my TEDx talk!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Make Your Own Magnificent Maze

Do you want to make a Magnificent Maze?  This is a great activity for bilateral coordination, visual motor skills!

Draw the outline of a maze on a firm piece of foam board or cardboard. Make it simple or more difficult, based on what you feel will be a "just right challenge" for the child.  Leave enough space in the pathways for the ball to travel through.  Lay the straws out on top of the maze lines and cut them to the appropriate length (see photo above).  Use colorful duct tape to hold the straws in place.  Now instruct the child to navigate the ball through the maze.  Have fun!

The project above was completed by one of our Master's of Occupational Therapy students at 
The University of Tennessee Health Science Center and posted with permission.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Delivery of the Wilbarger Protocol: A Survey of Pediatric Occupational Therapy Practitioners

Our recently published article!


The Wilbarger Therapressure Program is a commonly used treatment approach utilized by occupational therapy professionals for the treatment of sensory defensiveness. The purpose of the current study was to investigate occupational therapy practitioners’ sources of training in the administration of Wilbarger Therapressure Program, the uniformity of administration in practice, and the diagnoses for which therapists recommend this treatment approach. Occupational therapists from across the United States participated in an online survey investigating specifics related to training and implementation of the brushing protocol. A total of 153 respondents reported using the Wilbarger Therapressure Program in practice. Almost half of the respondents received their education on the Therapressure program by attending the workshop offered by the Wilbargers. Forty eight percent of survey participants reported learning how to administer the Therapressure program by participating in hands-on training provided by another occupational therapy practitioner, 39% by attending the course taught by the Wilbargers, 7% by information obtained through word of mouth from another occupational therapy practitioner, 3% by information obtained through online research, and 3% by other means. The results of this study reveal that a variety of approaches exist related to the training and implementation of the protocol. It is the responsibility of all occupational therapy practitioners to obtain the proper training prior to recommending and implementing the Therapressure program. Because a standardized protocol for implementation of the protocol has not been published, the optimal means of training is for practitioners to attend the Wilbarger workshop.

KEYWORDS: Assistive technology, special education, sensory processing, occupational therapy, paediatrics,

Friday, August 5, 2016

TEDx Memphis Event Coming Soon!

I am so excited to have this amazing opportunity to speak at the TEDx Memphis event on August 27th, 2016.  Check out the Facebook Page @

Friday, July 15, 2016

Promoting Generalization in Children with Autism
How often have you provided therapy to a child with autism, and after the therapy session, the child has difficulty generalizing skills that seem to be mastered?  This is not uncommon.  Children with autism often have challenges performing a newly learned skill across a variety of settings with different people.  This is called generalization.  For example, a child may master lacing on a practice shoe during therapy, but at home, he is unable to lace his own shoes, or he can write his name in a therapy session, but not in the classroom.  It’s important to note that a controlled therapy session is not reality, and generalization is critical for increased function in real life!

Here are some teaching tips for promoting generalization in children with autism.
  • Teach the concept or skill using a variety of approaches and materials.  For example, when a child is learning about cows, show him a photograph of a cow, a drawing of a cow, and a video of a cow.  It’s also important to vary the instructions.  For example, ask questions in different ways such as, “What’s your name?” and “Who are you?”
  •  Teach the concept or skill across a number of different settings, such as at home, at school and in the community.  If your child is able to count money at school, that’s great, but can she count her money at the grocery store?
  •  Teach the concept or skill with different people.  Have different individuals work with the child on the skill, such as a family friend, sibling, or grandparent.
  •  Provide reinforcement when the child successfully generalizes a skill, then gradually decrease the frequency of the rewards.
  • Use a variety prompts and fade the prompts as soon as possible. The various ways to prompt include physical, visual, verbal.  In order to increase independence, the sooner that you are able to eliminate the prompts, the better.
Most importantly, keep in mine that every encounter and experience is an opportunity for the child to learn and generalize!  More learning experiences lead to increased success and independence.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

DIY Plant Holder: A Therapy Activity

This is a great therapy activity for fine motor skills!  An adult can provide assistance as needed.  It's a perfect gift for a child to give their mom as a birthday or Mother's Day gift!  


Cord/String, Plastic straws, Lightweight pot for plant, Metal O-ring, Plant, Beads


Scissors and Measuring tape


1.     Cut your straws to size: cut off the bendy end of the straw, then cut the longer portion that is left into four equal size lengths.  You will need a total of sixteen pieces of straw this length. Cut the bendy end portion of the straw in half.  We will need a total of four pieces of straw that length.

2.     Cut four pieces of cord six feet long each

3.     Loop all four pieces of cord through the o-ring so the o-ring is in the middle of the cords.

4.     Tie a single knot in all four cords close to the o-ring.  There will now be eight strands of cord hanging from the knotted o-ring.

5.     About two feet from the knot, take two strands of cord that are close to each other and tie a knot. Repeat this step with the remaining strings. There will be four knots total with two cords each all knotted together the same distance from the top.

6.     Take eight of the longer pieces of straw that we previously cut and slide them over each cord strand.

7.     Now group the cords in four sets of two again, making sure that the cords are not grouped as they were before.  Tie knots in these new four sets of two cords as close to the straws as possible.

8.     Take eight of the longer pieces of straw that we previously cut and slide them over each cord strand.

9.     Take the four sets of cords that are already grouped together and tie another knot in each set below the straws.

10.  Now, take eight of the shorter pieces of straw that we previously cut and slide them over each cord strand.

11.  Tie all eight of the cord strands together in one big knot close to the small straw pieces.

12.  (Optional) Slide beads on each cord strand and tie a knot to secure the beads.

13.  Cut all of the remaining hanging cords to the same length to make a tassel.

14.  Place the potted plant inside the hanger. Hang using the o-ring.

15.  Enjoy!
The project above was completed by one of our Master's of Occupational Therapy students at 
The University of Tennessee Health Science Center and posted with permission.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Evidence-Based Practice: Handwriting Intervention Study
Purpose: To examine the effectiveness of two approaches used to improve elementary children’s handwriting.

Methods: New York city elementary school students engaged in two handwriting approaches. One group utilized handwriting practice group (Handwriting Club) and the other group engaged in visual–perceptual–motor activities. After 12-weeks, handwriting speed, legibility, and visual–motor skills were examined using multivariate analysis of variance.

Results:  Students who participated in the handwriting practice group demonstrated greater improvements in handwriting legibility than the students in the visual–perceptual–motor activity group. There were no group differences in handwriting speed and visual–motor skills.

Conclusions: The Handwriting Club (intense handwriting practice) is an effective approach for improving handwriting legibility.

Howe, T.-H., Roston, K. L., Sheu, C.-F., & Hinojosa, J. (2013). Assessing handwriting intervention effectiveness in elementary school students: A two-group controlled study. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 67, 19–

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Effectiveness of a Handwriting Program Balaraman

This study investigated the effectiveness of a handwriting program that was implemented in a school setting with 1st graders.  The Write Start Program involves teachers and occupational therapists working together implement activity-based handwriting instruction. 

Purpose: To examine the Write Start program with standard handwriting and writing instruction.

Methods: A nonrandomized trail comparing four classrooms that received the Write Start program with four classrooms receiving standard handwriting instruction.  In a 6-month follow-up, the Write Start group handwriting fluency was higher than the control group's fluency.

Results: The handwriting legibility and speed of the students who participated in the Write Start program were no different than the control group immediately after the intervention, but scored better 6-months after the intervention.  The students with decreased legibility who participated in the Write Start program made significant improvements.

Conclusions:  The Write Start Program may benefit students with writing problems as well as those at risk for handwriting problems.

Case-Smith, J., Weaver, L., & Holland, T. (2014). Effects of a classroom-embedded occupational therapist–teacher 
     handwriting program for first-grade students. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 68, 690–698.  http://dx.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Therapy Share: A Wonderful New Resource!

Are you always looking for new treatment ideas and resources to use with your clients?  So is Deirdre Newburn, OTR/L!  Deirdre has been working an occupational therapist in the same skilled nursing facility for four years.  To say at times that she falls into “treatment ruts” would be an understatement.  However, she has found challenges when trying to find resources. Either the material is copyrighted and costs an outrageous amount of money, or the material is not easy to access.  Deirdre shares, “I have spent hours searching the internet for therapy protocols, educational handouts, or safety worksheets to share with my clients or their caregivers.  I have even surrendered at times and just made my own quick handouts for my patients.  I worked alongside a dear friend who had the same issue as a speech language pathologist working in the same setting before she left to work in the schools.  Together we shared our grievances for access to creative materials and came up with a solution!  After coffee shop meetings and late night text messages once our four little boys were in bed we created” is a new website devoted towards enhancing the ease of access to creative and original healthcare resources in order to enrich the lives of those we serve.  The design of the site is that of an online marketplace where healthcare professionals can upload their digital content to sell or share with their colleagues.  After much market research we found the most receptive populations to initially target were occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech language pathologists, and dietitians/nutritionists, but we hope to expand to encompass all healthcare professions.  The types of resources that are appropriate for uploading to the website are limitless: patient worksheets, home exercise programs, quick reference guides, tip sheets for patients, protocols, caregiver handouts, etc.  The website is growing rapidly, but there is still a great need for more resources to be uploaded to the site. 

If you are a practicing therapist who has created some of your own materials (or have always wanted to, but just need that little extra push) please consider visiting and uploading your resources for FREE.  The website also gives users the opportunity to create their own marketplace on the site where they can include their biography along with links to their social media platforms or businesses. 

The goal of is to create a “one stop shop” type of atmosphere for healthcare professionals to network and exchange their valuable information.  We hope others will join our mission and make The Therapy Share a great success! 

Click HERE to register with us for free AND opt in to receive our newsletter to be entered to win a $25 credit towards the purchase of products on our site.  Upload a product of your own to have your name entered twice.

Deirdre Newburn, OTR/L
CEO of The Therapy Share

Monday, May 9, 2016

Evidence-Based Practice: Handwriting Intervention

Handwriting Intervention Research

An occupational therapist is the professional to call when an individual is having trouble with handwriting!  Writing on the lines, letter formation, legibility, and spacing problems are all issues related to handwriting struggles.  When handwriting is difficult, this can lead to frustration, anxiety, and low self-esteem, so it's important to seek help for this issue.

Here is one research study related to handwriting interventions and occupational therapy.  I will continue to add more article reviews!

Effectiveness of School-Based Occupational Therapy Intervention on Handwriting: 
A Comparative Study

Purpose: To examine the effect of school occupational therapy services on handwriting legibility

Methods: Improvements in handwriting legibility, speed, and in-hand manipulation skills in a group of students who received direct handwriting intervention OT services was compared to those of a control group who did not receive services.

Results: Handwriting legibility scores and in-hand manipulation skills in the treatment group improved significantly compared to the control group.

Conclusion: Direct occupational therapy services resulted in improvements with handwriting legibility and in-hand manipulation skills, but handwriting speed was not impacted by the intervention.

Case-Smith, J. (2002). Effectiveness of school-based occupational therapy intervention on handwriting: A comparative 
          study.  American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 56(1), 17-25.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Win a copy of the parenting book, Retro Baby!!!!

"Put down your smartphone and pick up this book. With plain-spoken, concise wisdom, Dr. Zachry provides vital, research-backed information for parents of young children. Creative, interactive play with other children and adults supports healthy brain development in ways today’s technology never will. "Retro Baby" provides parents fun, money-saving activities that will set their children up for lifelong success." 

"Retro Baby" is the perfect baby shower gift.  To purchase a copy on Amazon, click HERE.

To win a copy of "Retro Baby," all you have to do is like the "Retro Baby" Facebook Page by clicking HERE, and send me a message explaining why you'd like to win a copy and how to contact you.  The drawing will be in June.  Good luck!!!!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Coloring is Good for Development: Free Coloring Sheets!

If your child enjoys coloring, that's a good thing!  Coloring is a great way to improve a number of different developmental skills.  Fine motor skills and dexterity are required to hold and manipulate a crayon.  If the child doesn't use her thumb and fingers to hold the crayon, break the crayon into small pieces.  Coloring on a vertical surface using a small piece of crayon promotes a tripod grasp and finger flexion and extension, which are desirable!

Children can also learn about colors, shapes and other concepts when coloring.  It's also great for attention span!  For free coloring sheets, click on these links!

Click HERE for more free worksheets!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Therapeutic DIY Game: Take Me Out to the Ball Game!

Do you work with a child who loves baseball?  Here is an easy, DIY activity that will be motivating for him!  This activity addresses eye hand coordination, balance, and gross motor skills.  Add light weights to the child’s wrist to work on strengthening!

Materials needed: Trifold display board, scissors, markers, yarn, game pieces, Velcro, and plastic baseballs

How to Make the game:

1.     On the center section of display board, cut out 3 circles of different sizes.  Each circle needs to be assigned a number of points (if the child throws the ball into that circle).  Make sure all circles are large enough for the ball to fit through.

2.     On the left side of the display board, draw a baseball diamond with all 4 bases.  In between each base, draw lines in proportionate segments.  Each of the segments represents a score of 5 points.  This will form your score board.  Place Velcro pieces on each segment to later attach a game piece.

3.     On the right section of the display board, attach game pieces to the board by using Velcro.  The game pieces can be made out of felt or poster board.

4.     Use markers to design the trifold board to be baseball themed.

5.     Punch a hole in the board large enough to slide a piece of yarn through.  This is where you will store the yarn that the client stands behind while playing the game.


      1. Make an additional score board on a piece of foam so that the child can play the game with other individuals.

      2. Attach yarn to the foam to form a handle.  The child can carry the score board over their shoulder during the game instead of using the score board located on the trifold.

 How to play the game:

1.     Set the game board on a flat surface appropriate to the child’s height.  The bottom of the board should line up to their waistline.

2.     Have the child stand behind a line (yarn) on the floor.

3.     Next, the child should attempt to throw a ball into one of the holes in the board.

4.     If the child scores, the therapist or child can move the game piece on the scoreboard to the correct Velcro strip- depending on the point value of the hole that the ball went through.

5.     Continue the game, alternating between all players, until someone reaches home plate.
The project above was completed by one of our Master's of Occupational Therapy students at 
The University of Tennessee Health Science Center and posted with permission.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

DIY Fine Motor Activity Bag

Turn a basic brown paper bag into a fine motor activity bag that is portable, colorful and fun!


Tools: Scissors, single-hole punch, and a square-hole punch.

Materials: Brown paper bag, twine or yarn – 16 inches, 2 inch ribbon – 8 inches long, pipe cleaners – cut to 6 inches, hole reinforcers, and one shoelace.


On the top of the bag (near the opening), use the single-hole punch to create 9 holes approximately 1 cm apart.

Thread the twine or yarn through the bottom left hole and tie a knot to prevent it from going through and to stay in place.

With the bag flat, and the bottom towards you, cut 2 1.5 inch notches on each side.

Cut a slit with the scissors on one side near one of the notches.

Thread the ribbon through the slit, and wrap it around the notches, forming a spool.

On the bottom aspect of the bottom of the bag, use the square hole punch to create 4 square holes approximately 1.5 cm apart.

Weave the pipe cleaners through the holes in an alternating pattern.

Punch a hole 3 inches down from the bottommost left hole and 2.5 inches right from the side of the bag.

Punch a hole 3 inches down from the bottommost right hole and 2.5 inches left from the side of the bag.

Punch 2 more holes 2 cm apart from the newly created hole on the left, do the same on the right side, then place hole reinforcers around each hole.

Thread the shoelace through the holes, mimicking the last 3 holes of a shoe, coming back to the front, and tie a basic shoelace knot.

Now any child is ready to practice shoe tying and lacing.  Have fun!!!

The project above was completed by one of our Master's of Occupational Therapy students at
 The University of Tennessee Health Science Center and posted with permission.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Free Visual Perceptual Worksheets!!!

Kids use visual perceptual skills to understand what they see in the environment.  Visual perception is needed for writing, reading, and copying from the board.  There are many different ways to work on visual perceptual skills.  Visual perceptual worksheets can be fun way for kids to improve visual perception.  As a special thank you to my readers, I am providing these free visual perceptual worksheets! 

For free visual perceptual worksheets, click on the following links:

Click HERE for more free worksheets!!!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Research Reveals that Gardening Improves Attention Span for Kids with ADHD!

A study from the University of Illinois revealed that green surroundings allow children with ADHD to better able concentrate, pay attention, and improve overall functioning. Of course, we’ve all know how important physical activity is, and planting/gardening is a true multi-sensory experience!
Soda Bottle Planter: A Therapeutic Activity
Materials:        Plastic soda bottle                   Elmer’s Glue
                        Scissors                                   Paintbrush
                        Paint (acrylic)                          Sharpie
                        Potting Soil                             Picture(s)
                        Plant                                        Large spoon or spade

1.     Remove plastic label from bottle with scissors.
2.     Rinse empty soda bottle with soap and water and allow to dry.
3.     Measure about 4-5 inches from the bottom of the bottle all the way around and make a line with the Sharpie.
4.     Use scissors to poke a hole into the bottle on the line you just made.
5.     Cut on line to remove the top of the bottle.
6.     Use scissors to poke several holes in the bottom of the bottle to allow water drainage.
7.     Use paintbrush and paint color of your choice and allow to dry.
8.     Apply glue to back of picture(s) and adhere to side of bottle.
9.     Scoop soil into bottle, leaving about 1 inch from the top.
10.  Dig a small hole in soil and insert plant.
11.  Pack soil and add additional soil as necessary.
12.  Place in a sunny spot and enjoy! (and remember to water when needed, per instructions!) 
Optional Twists:
·    Use scissors with decorative edges to create a pattern at the top of the bottle or around pictures
·    Use top of bottle as a funnel for scooping the soil
·    Paint a cheap dollar store plate to use as a saucer to catch drainage from watering or soil that leaks
·    Use different sizes of plastic bottles to make smaller or larger planters
·    Plant seeds to watch them develop and grow
 The project above was completed by one of our Master's of Occupational Therapy students at 
The University of Tennessee Health Science Center and posted with permission.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Memory Game! Therapy on a Shoestring Budget

Materials: Popsicle sticks; cut sheets of paper or index cards (squares), pictures (cut in squares), staples and glue.
Construction: Glue each cut out picture on each cut out square. Glue the paper squares on the popsicle sticks and staple the ends of the paper together.  Leave one side of the card blank.
Popsicle sticks come in different sizes and colors, and they can be used for a variety of fun activities! To play the memory game, place the cards on a table with the blank side face up. The other side can have a picture or word on it.  Examples include, photo of a family member or pet, or a name of a family member, sight words, spelling words, etc. The child uses trial and error to flip each stick over one at a time and match like pictures/words with one another. Another way you could put a spin on this activity would be to have items in pairs that match up. For example, one stick could have a burger on it and the other will have fries while another set could be a basketball and a hoop. The child will have to use their short-term memory to remember which sticks have which items on them. Ways to make this activity more challenging or easier would be to either increase or decrease the number of sticks used at one time. Have fun playing the memory game!

Therapy project by Elijah Lightfoot: Posted with Permission

Friday, February 12, 2016

A Pro-Bono Student Run OT Clinic: The UTHSC Rachel Kay Stevens Therapy Center!

On February 9, 2016, the UTHSC Rachel Kay Stevens Therapy opened! The center is named after Rachel Kay Stevens, a UTHSC OT student who passed away suddenly in January of 2015.  In memory of Rachel and the amazing work she would have carried out as an occupational therapist, her family established a fund to support the establishment of a pro bono pediatric therapy center.
It has been an honor to be a part of this special project. For more information about the clinic, check out our website @
Here is a link to a news segment of an interview with Mr. & Mrs. Stevens:
And the newspaper article in the Commercial Appeal of Memphis

Please help fund the clinic by making a tax-deductible donation! Just click on this link: