Sunday, December 15, 2019

Tips for Tactile Defensiveness

A child with tactile defensiveness is overly sensitive to touch and other tactile input such as finger paint, sand, water, and certain clothing textures. Here are some signs and symptoms that you might see with a child who is dealing with tactile defensiveness.
  • Frequently resists being held or cuddled by unfamiliar people
  • Dislikes water splashing or bath-time
  • Difficulty falling into a regular sleep/wake schedule
  • Dislikes being moved quickly such as being tipped in the air, swung around, bounced, or rocked suddenly
  • Difficulty with sucking, chewing, or swallowing new textures
  • Does not tolerate new foods or food textures – diet is limited
       If a child has tactile sensitivity, here are some activities to try. Any child's sensory system will benefit from these activities, defensive or not. Start slowly, and DO NOT force any input that your child resists. If your little one is extremely resistant, it’s probably time to consult your pediatrician and ask about the possibility of occupational therapy. There are other treatments that must be carried out under the supervision of a therapist. 
  • Spend a few extra minutes after bath time to vigorously rub the child with a towel, or guide them in doing so.  
  • Rub lotion or powder on the legs, hands and arms while singing (for distraction purposes). Let them also rub the lotion or powder on you, especially if they won’t tolerate it on their own extremities.
  • Pretend face washing or shaving- with different textures of cloth or towels.
  • Use a variety of textured materials such as corduroy, fur, terry cloth, etc. and rub on your child’s back, arms and legs.
  • Put textured mittens or puppets on child’s hands and let him or her take them off.
  • Encourage your child to play in binds of sand, rice, beans or popcorn. Hide items and have the child locate them, guessing what they are while still covered. If your child won’t touch the textures, provide cups and shovels for play.
  • Have the child roll up in a blanket or sheet, then play hot dog – press on mustard, relish, etc., and then have them roll out.
  • Put shaving cream, lotion, or pudding on a large piece of aluminum foil and have the child draw a picture or write spelling words. Be sure to get both hands messy!
  • Finger painting or body painting with water-based paints. 
  • Play in play dough or putty. Pulling, squeezing, rolling, etc.
  • Draw numbers/letters on the child’s back, arms, lets, etc. and have him identify. You can make it a multiple choice or yes-no question - Is this a 2 or a 5?
  • Provide activities that provide tactile input on the child’s entire body, such as a kid pool full of styrofoam, big soft pillows, or balls.
  • Games with physical contact are good – bear hugs, piggyback rides, wrestling, back rubs, petting animals.
  • Identifying objects with eyes closed – keys, comb, marble, block, coins, shapes, etc.
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Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Visual Scanning: More Free Worksheets!

Visual scanning is the ability to use the eyes to search for letters, numbers, symbols, information, etc. from side to side and top to bottom. Efficient visual scanning is important for many life skills, including reading.  Not too long ago, I posted several free visual scanning worksheets, click HERE to access them. 

Below are 3 more free scanning worksheets that I hope you will find to be helpful! 

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Fun Fine Motor Felt Board!

Here is a fun DIY "therapy on a shoestring budget" activity that provides an awesome way to work on the development of fine motor skills!  An added bonus is that felt boards like this can also be used to practice naming and matching colors and shapes.
To make the fine motor felt board, you will need:
   1 foam board
   Various colors of felt squares
   Tacky glue
   Extra large/thick needle and thread
   Several colorful buttons in various sizes

Cut a white piece of felt that is the same size as the foam board and glue it to the board. This will serve as the background. Select a theme for the board, then cut the various colors of felt pieces to create the people, animals, shapes, numbers, or letters of your choice.  Use an ice pick or another sharp object to poke two tiny holes in the board in the spots where you want the buttons to be located. (Be careful!) Then, use the needle and thread to sew each of the buttons onto the board.  Cut appropriate size slits into the felt pieces that are going to attach to the buttons. It's time to play!

The project above was completed by a Master of Occupational Therapy student at The University of Tennessee Health Science Center and posted with permission.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Fun Fine Motor Tong Activity!

     Kids love this fun fine motor tong activity! The great thing about this activity is that it helps develop those fine motor skills that are important for writing, typing, using scissors, and fastening fasteners on clothing. Tong activities are also great for developing manipulation skills on the thumb, index, and middle finger side of the hand while working on stability on the pinkie and ring fingers.
     For this activity, you will need the following:
Non-Slip Children's Bathtub Appliques with Suction Cups
Various Sizes of Pom Pom Balls
 Have the child use the tongs to grasp pom poms and place them in the suction cups.
Watch the video below of this child carrying out the activity! What a nice grasp and great control!
This activity is also a wonderful way to work on counting and matching and naming colors. Have fun!

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Learn to Button: Baseball Tic Tac Toe Game!

Sometimes learning to button can be frustrating and boring, especially if you ask a child to practice over and over again on their own clothing. So way not turn it into a game? Here is a fun and motivating DIY activity for a child to work on buttoning skills.

How to Make a Button Tic Tac Toe Game:
   Supplies Needed- 9 large (1-inch) buttons
                               Flannel fabric- 1 print (Let your child select the pattern)
                               2 different colors of felt fabric
                               Iron-on Interfacing (found on Amazon)
                               Sharpie Marker

1. Cut the flannel print into a 30 x 30-inch square.
2. Iron the interfacing onto the back of the fabric.
3. Use a ruler and Sharpie Marker to draw out the tic tac toe grid.
4. Sew a button in the center of each grid square.
5. Cut the Xs and Os out of the felt fabric, and cut button-size openings in the center of each one.

It's time to practice buttoning while playing tic tac toe!!!

The project above was completed by a Master of Occupational Therapy student at The University of Tennessee Health Science Center and posted with permission.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Visual Scanning: Free Worksheets!

When you move your eyes to look for items or information around you, this is called visual scanning. Visual scanning is important for reading and other school tasks like writing.

Playing the game "I Spy" is a good way to work on this skill.  Also, here are several worksheets for kids that require visual scanning!

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Visual Attention and Coloring Inside the Lines

How many times have you worked on coloring within the lines with a child only to look at the child and he is coloring away and his eyes are nowhere near the paper and crayon? This has happened more than I'd like to admit. Thanks to a tip from an OT friend, I have a new technique that I'm going to share with you. Items needed: Plastic Canvas Needlepoint Sheets (found at craft stores or Amazon), File Folders, Construction Paper, Crayons, Slant Board (optional).
Cut the shapes that you want the child to color in the center of the file folders then laminate them. Cut out the shapes once again.
Here are the Plastic Canvas Needlepoint Sheets-Clear and White.
 Place the Needlepoint sheet down first, followed by the file folder cut out, then the construction paper with the same size shape drawn on it.
Be sure to line up the shapes on the file folder and the construction paper.
Have the child color within the lines of the square. As she colors inside the square, she will "feel" the bumpiness of the needlepoint sheet, but if she goes outside the lines, the file folder blocks the bumps, so she will be more motivated to color within the lines! Plus, the feeling bumps draws her visual attention to the task! A double reward!!!

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Handwriting Help: Do Weighted Pencils Improve Handwriting Legibility?

Children who have challenges with handwriting are often encouraged to “practice, practice, practice,” but sometimes practice doesn’t result in improved legibility. In some instances, occupational therapists will recommend a weighted pen or pencil to improve handwriting, but the evidence supporting the effectiveness of weighted utensils is scarce.  That’s why I was encouraged when I recently read a 2017 research article in the Journal of Occupational Therapy, Schools, & Early Intervention on the use of weighted pencils.

 The article reviewed a series of three case scenarios of children whose handwriting improved after initiating the use of weighted pencils. However, it is important to note that the reported improved legibility was anecdotal, with no formal assessments or statistical analyses included in the study.

The article shares some information that therapists might find useful.  For example, when recommending a weighted utensil, the therapist should be sure that the child’s joint integrity is intact, and that the child will be safe and responsible with the utensil.  The authors of the article also stressed that each child should provide input regarding the amount of weight that is added to the pencil so that it is comfortable for them and also improves legibility.  It is important to note that the evidence provided in the article is very preliminary, and additional studies are needed.

Below is an image of a DIY weighted pencil.
Brown, M. J. (2017). Use of weighted pencils to improve handwriting legibility. Journal of Occupational Therapy, Schools, & Early Intervention10(1), 52-68. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Free Spring Worksheets!

Hi friends!  Here are some free spring-themed worksheets that are good for a child's visual motor and visual perceptual skills. Completing these worksheets is a fun and engaging way for a child to improve motor skills that are so important for everyday tasks. How?  Coloring promotes bilateral upper extremity skills, or the use of both hands together in a coordinated way.  For example, when the child stabilizes the paper with one hand while coloring, drawing, or writing with the other hand, she is utilizing bilateral skills, and bilateral coordination is necessary for tasks such as handwriting, cutting, buttoning, and zipping. 

I hope your child will enjoy these free spring-themed worksheets!

Friday, March 15, 2019

Free St. Patrick's Day Coloring Sheet

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

I love shamrocks, so I wanted to share this free St. Patrick's Day coloring sheet with you.
Any child can color the sheet using crayons or color pencils, and they can also work on their fine motor skills by decorating the shamrock using torn pieces of paper.  Tearing the paper into small bits is good for grasping and fine motors skills. Once the torn pieces are ready, instruct the child to use white school glue to squeeze a small glue dot on each piece of paper before pressing it onto the coloring sheet.  The glue can be messy which can be a great sensory experience!
What a beautiful shamrock!  Happy St. Patrick's Day!!!

Friday, March 1, 2019

Sensory Writing Activities

Because many of our sensory systems contribute to the process of writing legibly, when a child struggles with handwriting, it may be helpful to incorporate sensory strategies in with handwriting instruction. I call this “Sensory Writing!”  Here are some fun, sensory-based ways to work on handwriting skills.
Shaving Cream Writing: Put a small amount of shaving cream on a surface.  Remember, a little goes a long way!  Then have the child smooth it out across the surface and practice forming basic shapes, letters, or numbers.  Mistakes are not a problem!  Simply erase them with a swipe of the hand!
 Rice Writing: Have the child use a marker to color the surface of a paper plate.  Once it dries, sprinkle a layer of rice on the plate.  Now it’s time to practice writing shapes, letters, and numbers in the rice!
Putty Writing:  Roll play dough or therapy putty to form various letters.  Squeezing, pulling, and pinching are all great for fine motor skills, and making the letters helps with letter formation.
Remember, it's important for children to have plenty of opportunities to move throughout the day.  This will help them pay attention, and it warms up their muscles and joints for writing and other fine motor activities!

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Free Valentine's Day Worksheets!

I love Valentines Day!  Here are 5 free Valentine's Day worksheets that address visual perceptual skills and fine motor skills.  Just click on the worksheet to go to a PDF copy. Enjoy, and have a happy Valentine's Day!