Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Reader tip: Weighted pen for those who press too hard

Every now and then I receive an email from a reader who has tried something they've seen on my blog or who has an experience that they'd like to share. I recently received an email from a reader who came across my post on weighted pencils and wanted to share another reason why someone might like to add some weight to their pen or pencil. Read on to learn more!


I found your site when looking for pen weights and thought you might want to know about a connection that I figured out between pressing too hard when writing and aversion to light touch as well as a possible fix.

I have autism with severe sensory issues (hypersensitivity, hyposensitivity, discrimination problems, AND seeking, hoo-rah). After rendering my favorite felt tip pens nearly unusable after taking pages and pages of notes with them in a short period of time, I decided to try writing as lightly as possible and analyzing what sensory or motor issues could be causing that. Well, it didn't take long, because after writing only a few letters, I squealed and dropped the pen in favor of rapidly shaking the "ick" off my hand. Writing lighter feels exactly like light touch! Same skin-crawling sensation.
I put a 2 ounce glob of therapy putty on the end of the pen and tried again, and I was able to write with much, much less pressure. I didn't even have to try; I instinctively used less because of the extra proprioceptive input canceling out that icky light touch.
Most places I've seen say to use weights for people who write too lightly, but if you have patients (or relatives, friends, etc.) who write with too much pressure and also are averse to light touch, you might want to try out weights with them, too.
A Huge Proprioceptive Seeker

This is such an interesting perspective on the use of a weighted pen! Who knew that writing lightly (or with a standard amount of pressure) could cause an icky light touch sensation? Definitely something for me to keep in mind when working with students who press too hard.

As far as I know, there is still limited (or no?) research on the effectiveness of weighted pens and pencils, but here's another anecdotal story to add to the evidence. Someone needs to research this! (Hint, hint! OT students!)

To be completely honest, I don't use weighted pens or pencils with students very often because I don't like the way it makes their pencil look so different. I'm glad this reader discovered a way to write more comfortably, but who wants to have a wad of putty on the end of their pencil? Or a bunch of bolts? Tell me, have you found a good way to add weight to a pen or pencil without it looking unsightly? I'd love to hear your suggestions!

P.S. I'd like to give a huge shout out to Christie of Mama OT for taking the picture seen in this post for me, when I couldn't get my hands on any putty quickly to adapt a pen myself! 

P.P.S Thanks to the reader who allowed me to share this story!


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Apps for OTs | Switch Activated OctoPlus

When Zyrobotics reached out to me to see if I was interested in checking out their new math app, OctoPlus, the switch-access is what really caught my eye about this new app. Switch accessible apps are not something that I have much experience with, so I hit the internet to see find more information. If you are interested in learning more, I recommend that you visit Jane Farrall's website, especially her very newly updated page on Switch Accessible Apps for iPad/iPhone. 

For the record: I don't currently have access to a switch, so I did not try this app with a switch. However, I did try this app, and as an OT, I really like the visual motor component of this math game. If you do have a switch, or work with a child who uses a switch to access apps, then this might be a good app for you to add to your toolbox.

Here's how OctoPlus works:

In this app, there are two options to choose from: drill and challenge. Within each option, you can choose Beginner, Advanced, or Expert. The drill option is just that-a drill of repetitive math problems where all of the problems have the same answer. This seems to be just to increase exposure to the math problems. In the challenge option, the user must solve the math problems and locate the correct answer.

OctoPlus is a beginner math app for sure, as the settings only go up to math problems that add up to 10. In both options, drill and challenge, the user must tap the correct answer at the bottom of the screen, while the octopus is near that number to squirt ink up to the turtle. This is where the visual motor and visual attention skills come into play, and as an OT, I appreciate that this app challenges more than just math skills.

As an OT, these are the things I love about the OctoPlus app:

  • Switch accessible. While I did not try out this feature, it is my understanding that not a lot of apps are switch accessible, so I like that this app is accessible to children with special needs who may have mobility impairments. Zyrobotics sells a TabAccess Bluetooth Switch Interface that is compatible with OctoPlus, but I believe any iPad compatible switch will work.
  • Encourages visual motor skills. The numbers at the bottom of the screen must be tapped and the numbers keep changing, so the user must visually locate the correct answer and then tap the number.
  • Encourages visual attention skills. The numbers at the bottom of the screen are constantly changing, and the octopus is in constant motion, so the user must maintain visual attention to keep track of the numbers and the octopus.

App Information:

Name of App: OctoPlus
Publisher: Zyrobotics LLC
Compatible with: iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch; requires iOS 4.3 or later.
Price: $0.99

P.S. Check out my app page for all of the apps I've shared.

*Disclosure: I received a promo code for this app, but all writing and opinions are my own. Information was correct at the time of publication, but is subject to change, so please confirm prior to downloading. This post contains affiliate links.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Behind the Scenes | OT Potential

Happy March, everyone! You know what March means to me? One more month until OT Month! Today, I'd like to welcome Sarah Lyons, of OT Potential. Not only is Sarah sharing a peek behind the scenes of her website, she's also sharing a cool, new product that she recently launched, just in time for OT Month! Read on to learn more!

Please tell me a little bit about yourself. How long have you been an occupational therapist? What areas have you practiced in?

Mother of one.
New Yorker.
St. Olaf Alum.
NYU Alum.
OTR/L for 4+ years.
Practice areas: Acute Care, Rural Health, Mental Health
NPR fan.
Attempting to learn piano.

Can you tell me more about your website, OT Potential? Where did get the idea to start OT Potential?

I have always loved connecting people and ideas. I started blogging in 2012, but it has always taken a backseat to my work. I then had a happy convergence of events. We moved to Chicago for my husband’s work and while I was waiting for my Illinois license, I realized how much I love being home with my son and writing on the side. Since then, Potential has become my primary work passion.

You recently launched a new product - occupational therapy shirts! Can you tell me more about that process? How did you go from idea to having an actual product?

Two of my interests collided in these shirts.

The first is OT identity.

In a very practical sense, I always wonder how we can stand out more in our places of work. I know that I got tired of being confused with Social Work, PT. RT, etc. OTs do such great work, and I think individuals doing great work is the best way to market our profession.

I also see OT as a whole grappling with what our distinct value is. I hope, in a small way, this shirt can inject some confidence and gusto in the potential of our profession.

The second is sharing great resources.

I want OTs to be able to focus on helping their patients. In my own practice settings, I felt like I was always creating resources from scratch, from marketing materials to policies. I hope that some offices and individuals will utilize the option of these shirts to save some time and money.  

For readers who are interested, how can they get their hands on one of these shirts?

You can purchase them on my products page. I would also recommend signing up for my newsletter, as I like to give special offers on my own products and on featured products to my readers.

What are your dreams for OT Potential? Where do you see OT Potential in five years?

How about 1 year from now? I would love to generate enough income from my shirts to launch the next product that I have in mind. But if that doesn’t happen, I’m Ok with it. The most important thing to me is providing a platform for occupational therapists to connect.

What advice would you give to an OT who has a product/blog/book idea, but doesn’t know where to start?

Learning about building a website and launching products has felt like getting another degree. I’m on such a steep learning curve that it feels like a precarious place to give advice from, but my best shot would be to take advantage of the resources out there. The options for learning about blogging, marketing, platform development, etc. seem endless. It really just comes down to setting aside some time for learning and then deciding whom you trust. Most of the time I keep up with advice from Michael Hyatt. When I’m feeling a little more saucy, I will check in with Gary Vaynerchuk.

Connect with OT Potential:

P.S. Go behind the scenes with CanDo Kiddo.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Workplace Wednesday | Three Good Things

photo credit / text added

Do you ever feel a little down about your job? Do you ever come home from work and all you can remember about your day is that one IEP meeting that didn't go so well, or the one child who didn't respond to your treatment the way you expected? By the end of your day, have you forgotten all about the parent who thanked you for everything you do or the child who looked up at you with a big grin and said, "I did it!"?

Please tell me I'm not the only one who has days like this.

Don't get me wrong, I love being an occupational therapist. And with that love for my job comes a desire (sometimes unhealthy) to do everything just right, all of the time. I know that is not realistic at all, but I just want the children I work with to grow and succeed. As an occupational therapist, I want to set them up for success. I set extremely high expectations for both myself and for the children and families that I work with. That's generally a good thing, but if I'm not careful, I can set myself up for disappointment (or worse - burnout).

Last fall, I took an online class through edX called The Science of Happiness. This is a class I took just for my own personal enjoyment, but I quickly discovered that I was learning strategies that were helping me both personally and professionally. There is one strategy in particular that I would like to share with you today in which you spend some time at the end of your day reflecting on three good things from the day.

As I was completing this exercise, I quickly discovered that one or more of my "good things" happened while at work, and in competing this exercise I was beginning to feel more confident, competent and satisfied with my work. Pretty awesome, right? And it's so simple!

Here's how it works:

  1. Spend a few minutes to reflect on your day and write down three good things that happened.
  2. Write down how each thing made you feel (e.g. happy, proud, excited, etc).
  3. Write down what caused this "thing" to happen. 

See? It's simple! It's easy to rush through this and just think about three good things from your day, but the reflection that takes place in steps two and three are crucial to really understanding your role in making these positive things happen.

For example, one day, one of my "good things" was that a child wrote the letter A all by himself. We had been working so hard on diagonals and then one day, he got it! I was so excited and I was so happy for him! When I took the time to reflect on why he was able to do that, I realized that it didn't just happen out of nowhere. It was due to his hard work, his parents follow through at home, and my effective therapy techniques.

It is so easy for me to brush off all of the successes of the kids I work with as being entirely due to their hard work and perseverance, but it's only fair to give myself some credit for setting them up for success. I found this exercise opened my eyes to what I was doing well and making me think about other ways I could be an even better therapist. Win-win.

Ways to use incorporate "three good things" into your practice:

  1. While I think this is a great exercise to reflect on your day as a whole, if you're feeling in a rut at work, it might be beneficial to reflect on only your work day a few times per week.
  2. If it feels like too much of a time commitment to do this on a daily basis, try it once or twice a week.
  3. Are you a fieldwork educator? Try having your fieldwork student use this exercise to reflect on what went well during their day. Students can become easily overwhelmed with all of the new information and this can help them focus on what's going well.
  4. Are you an OT student? This isn't just for those already working! Try it out as you go through your days as a student.
  5. Encourage your colleagues to try it out, as well. Spend five minutes of your next staff meeting reflecting on three good things from your day (or week).
  6. Encourage your clients to use this strategy (even kids!). Those who are on the receiving end of OT may feel like everything is focused on what they can't do. Help them focus on what they can do!

What do you think? Is this something that you will try? If you do, please let me know how it goes!

For more information:

edX: The Science of Happiness
Dr. Seligman explains Three Good Things

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Behind the Scenes | CanDo Kiddo

 Today, I am so excited to welcome Rachel Coley, MS, OTR/L, of CanDo Kiddo to share a peek behind the scenes of her new business! As a new mom, Rachel lets her personal passion for parenting and her professional expertise about babies collide in CanDo Kiddo, a family business with a mission to support and inspire new parents to play with their newborns for healthy development.

Please tell me a little bit about yourself. How long have you been an occupational therapist? What is your primary practice area?

I’ve been an OT for nearly 9 years - all of them in pediatrics. I’ve bounced around - working in a pediatric rehab in a children’s hospital, in-home early intervention (under 3), clinics with a sensory integration emphasis, and in a private practice treating Plagiocephaly and Torticollis. For the past four years, I’ve worked in an inclusive day care and preschool. Being able to focus on those first months and years of childhood and working with children with special needs right alongside their typically-developing friends was an ideal setting for me.

Tell me a bit about CanDo Kiddo. Where did the idea come from? How did you take it from idea to reality?

I’ve long been interested in parent education to promote infant wellness but felt that I couldn’t move into that sort of role with any credibility until I had a child of my own. No one wants parenting support from the lady with no kids! Then I had a baby. When I posted photos of activities I was doing with my newborn on my personal Facebook page, I received lots of unsolicited encouragement to start a blog, write a book or create a product to help parents. It felt like my long-standing interest in helping parents help their babies was beckoning me so I answered.

I’ve had an online business since 2012 so I had already tackled some of the learning curves. But I’m a bit on the over-achiever side so the moment I had the idea of an activity quilt I was setting up a website, purchasing fabrics, and working on my first book. I reached out to a friend who had sold on Etsy, spoke with quilters and seamstresses, and joined a blogging and online business group.

I LOVE your play mat quilts! What makes your play mats different from the typical play mats parents will find at Target or on Amazon?

Thanks! The main difference is that the only “bells and whistles” my play mat has is custom fabric with 45 creative play ideas printed directly on the quilt. I wanted the product to be simple to show parents that babies don’t need a lot of stuff, gear or equipment. And I wanted it to be a resource for new parents - to remind them that their baby needs to be down on the floor moving and playing every day and give them ideas of how to do that.

The main reason I thought of a quilt was that I wanted to get the information in the hands of parents right before their babies arrived. I figured that creating a cute baby shower gift might be a good strategy and would be an alternative to giving new parents more baby gear and equipment.

BABY ACTIVITY QUILT, baby shower gift, baby patchwork quilt, tummy time mat, baby play mat, educational play, sensory play, new mom

What has been the most surprising thing about starting CanDo Kiddo?

Definitely the most surprising thing has been how much I’ve been able to do while having a baby in the house! I started CanDo Kiddo when Rowan was 8 weeks old and have learned along the way how to maximize my time with him while still getting a lot done for the business and blog. It’s not always been easy but it’s amazing how much doing work that you’re passionate about motivates you to push hard.

What are your dreams for CanDo Kiddo? Where do you see CanDo Kiddo in five years? 

I have dreams for CanDo Kiddo that go in a million directions! I don't particularly care that CanDo Kiddo is a household name, but I care dearly that the information I present becomes household knowledge. I love writing and teaching so I'd love to continue to grow the business in those directions - more books, speaking engagements, maybe even direct consulting or coaching with parents. I'd also hope to push for reform in daycare licensing policy to include variety in infant positioning as a criteria for licensing and rating facilities. Oh, and have a dozen more babies. I'm in the process of convincing my husband that it's good for the business!

What advice would you give to an OT who has a product/blog/book idea, but doesn’t know where to start?

Use the internet. That sounds like such a cliche these days but truly every “how to” that you could possibly want to know is out there. How to start a blog, how to self-publish a book, to sell something on Amazon or through your own site. Find others who have done something similar and reach out - ask for their best tips, resources and if they could recommend any groups to you. And finally, do something badly. I heard that tip recently on a podcast and it really spoke to me. Don’t wait until everything is perfect - just launch it. You can always redesign a website, do a second print run of a book or change a product. I can almost guarantee that where you wind up won’t be where you began but you have to just get started.

You’re a new mom and a pediatric occupational therapist. As someone who is very knowledgeable about child development, what has been the most surprising aspect of becoming a mom?

It doesn’t matter how much I know or understand about infant development, it is still jaw-droppingly miraculous to watch this little being who I love more than anything learn and grow. The human body, brain and spirit have always amazed me but infinitely more so when they belong to my child.

Connect with CanDo Kiddo:


P.S. Go behind the scenes with Playapy and Schoodles.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

OT Student Corner | Preparing for a career in OT

I received this question from a prospective OT student quite a while ago, and honestly, it kind of stumped me. She wanted to know what made me feel prepared for a career in occupational therapy. I'm going to be completely honest here: I think the reason I wasn't sure how to answer this question is because as a new practitioner, you feel completely unprepared to be an OT. Yes, it's true. And it's completely normal! For any newly minted OTs reading this, you can all heave a collective sigh of relief. It gets better. I promise. You just can't walk out of OT school expecting to know everything and feel completely prepared for everything that comes your way. With that said, here are a few tips to help you feel more prepared for a career in occupational therapy.

How to prepare for a career in occupational therapy:

  • Do your research. Learn everything you can about the field of occupational therapy. The American Occupational Therapy Association website is a good place to start. They even have an entire section devoted to those considering a career in occupational therapy.
  • Get to know an OT. Job shadow. Volunteer in a clinic where OTs work. Interview an OT about their career. To really know what it's like day to day as an OT, the best way is to get the information first hand from an OT.
  • Choose an OT school. The single thing that most prepared me to be an OT was getting a degree in occupational therapy! That shouldn't come as any surprise, so once you've decided on OT as a career, it's time to find a school that is a good match for you. AOTA has a ton of helpful resources on locating an OT school.
  • Make the most of your time in OT school. Keep an open mind about career possibilities. Many people enter OT school thinking they know exactly what population they would like to work with. Others have no idea at all. Both are perfectly fine, but be sure to keep an open mind and learn as much as you can about a variety of populations while you are in school. The career possibilities are endless in occupational therapy! The experience you gain in school and on your Fieldwork rotations will help you feel more confident and prepared to be an occupational therapist.
  • Get involved. Getting involved in professional organizations is a great way to stay current on trends in OT, meet experienced occupational therapists, and learn about a variety of practice areas. I recommend getting involved as early as possible, but it's never too late to get involved. Most schools have a Student OT Association (SOTA) and the groups and forums on OT Connections are a great way to connect with practitioners all over the country. State OT associations often look for volunteers at their annual conferences, as does AOTA, which can also be a cost-effective way to attend a conference.
Those are my tips for preparing for a career in occupational therapy. I'd love to hear yours! OTs, how did you prepare for your career in occupational therapy?

P.S. How to Become an OT and Tips for Applying to Graduate School

OT Student Corner is where I answer questions about the field of occupational therapy that I’ve received from students and prospective students. Have a question you’d like to see answered? Leave a comment below or send me an email at [AbbyPediatricOT {at} gmail {dot} com] and I’ll try to answer it in an upcoming post!
For more OT Student Corner posts, click here.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Apps for OTs | Behaviors with Friends

The following is a sponsored post for teach2talk, but all thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you for your continued support of this blog and it's sponsors!

Behaviors with Friends is an iPad app that uses targeted video modeling to help teach children how to navigate and problem solve a variety of social situations. Created by Speech Language Pathologist, Sarah Clifford Scheflen, M.S., CCC-SLP, Behaviors with Friends focuses on common situations that children encounter, such as sharing toys and taking turns, and the common behaviors that often go along with these situations, like tantrums and name calling.

Here's how it works:

Watch videos of real children (not cartoons!) engaging in a variety of social situations. Throughout each video, the narrator stops to ask your child a question (e.g. "What do you think Jesse's friends are thinking when Jesse makes this choice?").

Correct answers are rewarded with a "sticker" for your child's virtual sticker book. Incorrect answers are explained and your child is given another chance to answer. It's really as simple as that!

As an OT, these are the things I love about the Behaviors with Friends app:

  • Addresses executive functioning skills. Executive function skills include the ability to stop, think, plan, and then act; the ability to think flexibly; and the ability to manage emotions. By using video modeling of a variety of social situations, Behaviors with Friends shows children how to think through these situations while managing their emotions.
  • Narrator encourages perspective taking. I love how the narrator pops up throughout the videos to ask the user questions. And the questions are good! The questions encourage the user to think about how each child in the video is feeling. Perspective taking is something that so many children struggle with, and Behaviors with Friends does a really nice job of encouraging the user to consider what other children are thinking.
  • Uses interactive videos of real children. Not only does Behaviors with Friends use video modeling of real children, rather than cartoons, they are interactive videos. As I said above, the narrator pops in at just the right time and asks the user thought provoking questions. The child is really encouraged to think about the situation shown in the video and then choose the correct answer. This is a much better format than simply watching a video.


App Information:

Name of App: Behaviors with Friends
Publisher: Teach2Talk
Compatible with: iPad; requires iOS 6.0 or later
Price: $4.99

About Teach2Talk, LLC:

JPEG Image
teach2talk™ produces educational resources for children, which target core speech and language, play and social skills using techniques including video modeling. Our products are created by a practicing speech language pathologist based on her clinical experience and her review of the peer–reviewed research of others, but are designed to be used by parents on their own without outside assistance.

teach2talk™ strives to introduce new and innovative products and to improve existing products based on the latest developments in scientific research and on feedback from the parents, teachers, therapists and other professionals who use our products.

Co-Founder Sarah Clifford Scheflen, M.S., CCC-SLP is a pediatric clinical speech–language pathologist who specializes in working with children with autism and other developmental disorders. Sarah is the founder of Scheflen Speech–Language Pathology, Inc., her private practice in Santa Monica, California, and she is also the senior speech–language pathologist on staff at an intensive partial–hospitalization program located at a major public research university in Los Angeles, California. She is a frequent speaker and guest lecturer, and her research focus is on teaching play and social skills through video modeling.

*Disclosure: This is a sponsored post by teach2talk. All writing and opinions are my own. Information was correct at the time of publication, but is subject to change, so please confirm prior to downloading. Links to iTunes are affiliate links.

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