Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Write Way

It seems the pressure is on!  Parents feel the pressures of having their children ready for school and the expectations of kindergarten.  While preschoolers are often encouraged to write their name at an early age, the OT in me says "Hold your horses!" and do it the "write" way.  Before a child starts working with a pencil, it is crucial that they spend lots and lots of time working with manipulatives such as blocks, puzzles, playdough, and beads.  Manipulatives help children to develop grasping skills, bilateral hand use, strength, coordination, and in-hand manipulation.  These are all significant foundational skills that are needed for writing.   If you decide to run your first marathon, you know you cannot show up on the day of the race and expect to finish unless you've done the months of training needed to prepare your body.  A child needs to "train" with manipulatives so that his hands are physically ready for writing.  If pushed to write too early, a child will likely get frustrated and lose interest.  Limited hand development in the early years can also lead to writing issues for school aged children including slow handwriting, inefficient pencil grasp, and illegible handwriting.   Old fashioned manipulatives might not have some of the bells and whistles of newer high tech toys but they will lay the foundation for good writing when you do it the Write Way!

Jen Dermody, OTR/L

Friday, July 29, 2011

Summer 'Snow'

I love shaving cream any time of the year but it makes for an extra fun activity during the summer!  The temps outside have been in the high 90's for too many days now and even the pool water is too warm to cool of the kids.  How about playing in the "snow"?   Pull out a can of shaving cream ---you can even choose from a variety of fresh scents to add some extra sensory input---and have some FUN! Shaving cream is a great tool for encouraging children to practice copying simple shapes, letters, and numbers.  A multi-sensory approach is important for learning and reinforces new skills.  Children need lots of opportunities to practice copying shapes and letters before they ever pick up a pencil, so get your can of shaving cream and get started today!

Jen Dermody, OTR/L

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sensory Heaven

So this is where I was lucky enough to be for the past couple of weeks! My family and I just returned from a super-fantastic vacation in the beautiful states of Utah and Wyoming.  After visiting my brother, his wife, and my adorable niece in north Utah, we drove to Wyoming past these spectacular Grand Teton Mountains. The final destination was a week at a ranch near Dubois, WY!  It was such a relaxing week that got me thinking about how refreshing it is to find your own sensory heaven.  Imagine scents of pine, sage, and fresh lilac....the sound of rushing waters splashing against large boulders in the stream....the sights of snow covered mountains, crystal clear lakes, and horses running in the meadow.....the tastes of home cooked meals, fresh salads, and delicious baked goods.....the feelings of warm sunshine, cool air, and gentle breeze.  Truly a sensory heaven!  I found that I was more relaxed than I'd been in months and felt  ready for life again after this vacation.  Even more inspiring is to see that our two teenagers also consider this setting to be their sensory heaven.  No TV, no computers, no cell coverage...very remote and removed from the rest of the world.  I hear my students say that they "calm down" when they watch TV or play video games.  Many of my students have no opportunities to branch out of the city to experience the beauties of nature.  While I cannot give them the full experience I just had, I do try to incorporate sensory "pieces" such as maybe taking their work outside on a sunny day, offering scented lotion for them to rub on their hands before we start our session, or sharing a small treat.  People of all ages just function better when they are in an ideal sensory setting.  While it may not be "perfect" it is worth the effort to find the sights, smells, sounds, tastes, and tactile experiences that help you and those around you to perform at your very BEST!

Jen Dermody, OTR/L

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Build Those Muscles!

Did you know that strong and stable core muscles (shoulders and trunk) improve overall fine motor development?  When the core muscles are stable, there is a good solid base of support so that the arms and legs can move freely. A child with good postural control is able to sit upright and has the endurance needed to work at a desk while using his hands for cutting, writing, and coloring. 
        We all know some kids who are constantly laying their head on the desk, slumping over the table, or using their "helper hand" to hold their head up all day long.  These kiddos likely have trunk and/or shoulder weakness and the weak muscles make it difficult to stay upright all day without support.  This can make for a long, tiring day at school!  So how can you help your child improve core strength and stability? Here are a few ideas:
  • Animal walking such as bear walking and crab walking
  • Tug of war games
  • Tummy time! Play games or puzzles while laying on the tummy. Read books, color, and write in the tummy time position on the floor or a mat.  Start tummy time in infancy....OT's love this!
  • Playground equipment like monkey bars and the trapeze help to build arm strength and shoulder stability
  • Scooter board games while laying on the tummy
  • Toss and catch games while in kneeling helps to build trunk stability
  • Working on a vertical surface such as a hanging white board will build shoulder stability while using a slant board or large binder (turned sideways) for writing/coloring helps to improve wrist stability.
Jen Dermody, OTR/L

Sunday, July 3, 2011

"Kool" Recipe

Who doesn't love play dough?!   If the kids are looking for something to do on a summer afternoon, gather up a few ingredients and whip up some Kool-Aide Play Dough!   It's cheap and easy AND it smells good too :-)   Play dough is a GREAT way to encourage fine motor development.  Show the kids how to roll the play dough into balls or a snake shape or even a pancake.  Give them a few simple tools like a rolling pin, cookie cutters, and plastic knives, and there sure to keep busy for quite a while!  Here's a recipe I've used from

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 (1/4 ounce) packages of Kool-Aide (you pick the flavor!)
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 2 cups boiling water (parents get to do this part)
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  1. Mix dry ingredients, add wet.
  2. Knead until smooth (careful---it's HOT and may take a minute or 2 before you can really get your hands in there to knead). You might need extra flour for desired consistency.
  3. Grab the cookie cutters and rollers and have FUN!!!

Jen Dermody, OTR/L