Pawprint - October 2015
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Therapist's Corner
Deanna Macioce
Sensory Activities on the Go
Deanna Macioce, MS, OTR/L

As Sensory Processing Awareness (SPD) Month is coming to a close, I hope that everyone has had the opportunity to take the time to learn something you did not already know, try a new treatment activity, and educate those who work or know these children to better understand the difficulties they have.  This diagnosis is often seen in conjunction with other diagnoses, so therefore it is hard to always separate and learn the specifications of it. This means that sensory processing is a characteristic to a diagnosis such as Autism, but it can stand alone, and when it does it appears harder to understand. Regardless, Sensory Processing Disorder is real and it can truly make the day-to-day life difficult for individuals and their caregivers. Children with SPD demonstrate difficulty taking in the information from the environment the same way a child with regulated sensory system can.  As a result, these children may exhibit behavioral issues, withdraw from social settings with peers, or struggle with learning in school.

Children with SPD benefit from participating in occupational therapy services to help their bodies and sensory systems better tolerate the sensory input to produce a well-regulated purposeful action.  So, to close out the month, I am going to take the time to share one of my favorite and easy to do almost anywhere therapy activities for each system.   Most of these will overlap with other skills and sensory areas, but they can be tweaked and used however best fit your needs.

Tactile - Children who struggle with tactile issues often dislike playing in various media such as sand and finger paint.  In addition, these children do not like the feel their clothes on their bodies, demonstrated by them refusing to wear jeans or certain shirts.  Using the Wilbarger Deep Pressure Protocol Technique (often known as the Brushing Program) is typically very successful for these children.  I love to use shaving cream, as most therapists do, but setting up a car wash or animal wash is always fun, and brings in a variety of components to the activity versus just writing and drawing in it.  Children use plastic cars (Tyco™ Chunky Cars are my favorite) or animals and cover them with shaving cream, scrubbing them up like in a bathtub.  They then dunk the items into a large bucket of water to remove the shaving cream and use a towel to dry them.  This helps them to get more into the shaving cream, have fun, and increase tolerance without knowing it! (Also a great sequencing task!)

Auditory - Many young children struggle with loud sounds such as the vacuum cleaner, fire trucks, or the lawn mower.  However it becomes distracting when they do not outgrow this discomfort, making it difficult for them to participate in many community activities.  I have found that this is a difficult area to specifically treat, therefore, I have found increasing vestibular input especially with activities that require the head to be in a variety of positions helps to strengthen the inner ear which in turns improves the auditory system.  Using music during sessions is beneficial, and I have had success in utilizing therapeutic listening programs, however these require specific training.

Proprioceptive - This area is the hardest to explain to parents, but it is one of the most fun areas to build activities around.  Children who demonstrate difficulties with proprioception often require 'heavy work' activities.   So, I could write an entire article about these activities, but scooter boards are my favorite.   Using them to obtain puzzle pieces, be part of an obstacle course, or complete a scavenger hunt are just a few ways they can be integrated into your sessions. I have found most children love to do "hunts"; so setting up a scavenger hunt is my favorite. Children enjoy riding the scooter board on their tummies to designated colored markers where they get off and perform another task, such as jumping jacks, and then continue to the next marker.  This an excellent activity because you can customize it to children based on their individual needs. To improve this all-in-one activity, you could have them earn items such as puzzle pieces at each stop and then have to put the puzzle together at the end. As a bonus, if your space allows, have the child push you on the scooter board to finish out their session...they always think that is so much fun!

Vestibular - When looking at vestibular input, children could either love it or hate it.  Suspended equipment is a great way to achieve good vestibular input and my favorite is the net swing.  Again, I could give a ton of ideas, but the one that keeps children engaged while working on a variety skills is having the swing raised high enough to get good movement, have them pull themselves up a rope that you are holding, and release...they are flying through the air.  With higher level children, I throw in the component of knocking down targets or having to catch a ball that is tossed to them.  With this activity, you are sure to hear a lot of giggles!

Visual - Based on the individual's visual needs the focus of treatment varies.  Again, I see the visual, auditory, and vestibular systems work so closely together, so incorporating movement with visual activities can be very beneficial.  Having children log roll from one point to another and then have to find a letter or word on a chart that you are holding up.  Children love to go on any type of a hunt...even a letter one!

Oral - Working on oral motor inputs, straws are my favorite and can be used in a variety of ways.  Children have fun blowing an item through a maze made out of tape on the ground or tabletop.  I like to use rewarding items such as fish crackers, popcorn, or Swedish fish, so that they can earn a prize at the end.  It can easily be graded based on needs.  I like to add in the suck component, so I will have the child suck up the item through the straw, maintain the hold and release it into a container.  

Just a few ideas that are quick and easy, requiring very little equipment that touches each area of sensory input.  Have fun, be creative, and play on!

Ideas Everyone Can Use!

Fun Ideas with a

Southpaw Weighted Blanket

Here's a quick video showing some ways you can use a weighted blanket in your home.

Product Spotlight
Interactive Color PanelInteractive Color Panel

This Interactive product provides a pane of light that makes a colorful addition to an MSE, bedroom or common room. Our panels can scroll through the 8 colors or be easily paired with the wireless Power Cube or Super Switch to provide the user with a full range of opportunities for interactive activities. The panels are lightweight and made to attach easily to a wall. LED lights make them virtually maintenance free!

Activities with Alex
How To Positively "Ground" Your Child
Alexander Lopiccolo,  COTA/L, CPT, NC

Poor attention span? Wandering around? Difficulty completing tasks? It is almost as if your child is floating through space and can't quite feel the earth beneath their feet. The child's racing thoughts are making their bodies fidget because all their energy is all in their head. One that is ground may feel "connected" and present in the moment. Cognitive adaptability and emotional stability all come from a state of groundedness. By practicing some of these treatment ideas/products these can help bring your child's energy down to the soles of their feet to increase concentration, self organization/awareness and reach a calm, quiet alert state.
1. Have your child look at their favorite book while laying down on their back. Go down by their feet with light pressure touch of your thumb on the inside of the achilles tendons and your index/middle fingers on the outside of the Achilles. Hold with little pressure for up to 10 minutes (you may be an energy pulse).

2. Place a reflexology foot mat in front of bathroom mirror where your child brushes their teeth. Have them perform different stepping patterns to hit the acupressure points. They may need to wear socks at first if they have any tactile defensiveness.

3. Put a stool/bench under their feet while seated in a chair if their feet are swinging in air or constantly changing positions in their chair. By having their feet flat on a stable surface it can help them feel more connected with their body.

4. Push down with deep sustained pressure on the top of your child's feet while they are seated in a chair or standing up with feet flat on ground/floor. Ask them what amount of pressure feels good.

5. Using a weighted lap pad, vest, blanket, belt or animal gives weight bearing proprioceptive input to the muscles and joints to compress the energy to the floor. I love using all these products for calming and organizing the Central Nervous System.

6. Have the family walk outside barefooted also known as "Earthing" on different textures (grass, gravel, track, dirt) to feel the earth beneath you. You may feel more peaceful after the experience and throughout the rest of your day.

7. Get your child a pair of minimalist/barefoot shoes which may increase body-spatial awareness and natural running motion by feeling the ground beneath you.

8. By eating earth grown root vegetables that grow underground (potatoes, radishes, onions, turnips, peanuts, carrots, beets) may help with stabilizing blood sugar levels vs. high sugar processed foods that spike your  blood sugar and can cause poor behaviors.

9. Turn on some low-frequency, rhythmic drumming music to help with self-regulation through modulating breathing and decrease anxiety.

10. Use a natural tree/herb/plant essential oil blend to have the family feel relaxed and balanced at home.
Southpaw Products
Moon Ball Swing
Moon Ball Swing

The Moon Ball Swing provides excellent vestibular and proprioceptive stimulation because it allows for controlled bouncing and vertical movement. The swing incorporates a 55cm therapy ball as the base for a variety of activities, including flexion, extension and postural adjustments. Can be used as both a swing and on the floor for controlled activities.

More Information
  Animal Pillows
Animal Pillows

The Bear Buddy and Kitty Kuddle Pillows can be used to help increase cuddle skills and to aid proper body support. In addition, the soft chenille fabric makes both our Bear Buddy and Kitty Kuddle Pillows inviting for even your most tactile-defensive clients. Colors may vary.

More Information