Social Skills

Social skills are what help people to interact with others in a positive manner. This includes the ability to make friends, maintain friendships, playing with others, turn taking during games, and the more simple interactions such as speaking to a cashier in a store or asking someone for directions. With social skills we are able to make requests and make our needs known. Social skills are so important for special needs children. For those who are verbal and able to learn social skills can be taught. The concept that being personable or friendly is a trait that one is born with is untrue. Just as adults can improve their speaking skills or build their confidence, children and younf adults can improve their social skills and confidence.

Some things that kiddos can work on include:

  • Personal space (learning how close to stand when speaking with others. Using an arms length is a great way to measure.)
  • Volume, kids can be screamers or mumblers, but we can teach them to use to right volume to speak and be heard.
  • Turn taking, when engaging others in a conversation or whole playing a game, kids need to learn to take turns talking and listening. Waiting is such an important and undertaught skill!
  • Common phrases, kids on the autism spectrum can be taught common phrases to use in certain situations. Scripting is really a natural tool of language development where children repeat things they have heard elsewhere. This is be functional if utilized in a proper manner. For example: “help please”, “my turn” etc.
  • Social stories for difficult events such as haircutting. A social story is a simple story where kids learn what to anticipate in a tough situation, for example “the barber will buzz his electric razor it is LOUD but, it doesn’t hurt. Adam loves his haircut, he looks so handsome!”
  • How to be polite, we can teach kids the social nuances by providing them situations to practice. Teach them to greet others.
  • I almost forgot, get the kids off the electronics! They only encourage isolation further. The less screen time the better.

Social groups can be interest based such as a model airplane building or model train group. Or, it can be activity based, a sports group or a art group. We can also create a buddy system and there are some awesome non profits who team up kids with neurotypical peers at fun places like kids muesuems and parks.

Parents of nerotypical kids, your kids can learn a lot from special needs kids! Please teach your kids how to interact with kids that are different with kindness and patience. Don’t teach them to avoid, but to include!

If you need help in this regard please reach out to me and comment below!

Magnatile Maze OT Activity

You can use Magnatiles for so many things! My boys figured out how to put them on the fridge this way. I suggested they put their ball inside and make it a maze. Magnatiles are so great, they build visual motor skills and encourage fine motor strength.

You can use the tiles on any magnetic surface such as a refrigerator, whiteboard, garage door etc.

The sky is the limit!

Target is Releasing Halloween Costumes for Children in Wheelchairs!

Target is so awesome. All moms know this truth! They have been so inclusive of all different kinds of people. And now… they have released costumes that are for kids who use wheelchairs.

How sweet are these costumes and these kids! The costumes and wheelchair accessories can be bought separately but all together they cost $25 for a set. Cheaper than the Halloween candy you have to give out!

Thank you target for having affordable diapers, Starbucks on premises, adaptive clothing and now inclusive Halloween Costumes!

Muslim OT Mama’s Ultimate Toy Gift Guide

Photo by Markus Spiske temporausch.com on Pexels.com

Muslim OT Mama’s  Ultimate Toy Guide

This gift guide lists my top 30 toys! It first lists the many things toys can be used for.  It then lists the toys and the symbols beside it tell what it can be used for. For your convenience each picture is an Amazon link, still in time for Prime Day Savings!

For example:

Playdoh-  S, F, VM

Play doh can be used for Sensory play by touching, it can be fine motor by pinching, rolling or using tools, and it can even be visual motor by using playdoh scissors.

SENSORY TOYS– Sensory toys are fun because they allow your child to use their senses to touch and explore while learning. In the gift guide these toys will be labeled S.

SENSORY TOYS FOR VESTIBULAR INPUT- Vestibular input is input that is gotten through movement, when head position changes then the fluid in the ear canals move and this provides vestibular input.  Vestibular input can be calming or exciting, if your child is seeking it look for toys marked SV.

VISUAL MOTOR– Visual motor toys are toys that require a child to use both the visual perceptual skills (their ability to interpret objects in space visually) and their motor skills (their ability to move and move objects).  The gift guide code will be V.

RECIPROCAL PLAY– Reciprocal play is when a child is looking and interacting with another person.  Almost any toy can be used to promote reciprocal play with a skilled adult however some toys are innately ones that support reciprocity, their code will be R.

Gift Guide Legend

Sensory S
Sensory Vestibular SV
Fine Motor FM
Visual Motor VM
Reciprocal R

Playdoh – S, F, VM

Kinetic Sand and Kits- S, FM

Water Table- S

Sand Table – S

Slime- S, FM

Fidget Toy Set- S, FM

Sit and Spin- SV

Hippity Hop Ball- SV *make sure you select the right size

Rody the Inflatable Horse- SV

Trampoline ( I would be very cautious and careful with this one, only get it if you can supervise carefully)- SV

Rocking chair- SV

Big Joe Pillow- SV

Legos- F, V (lego Duplo is great for younger kids and Lego Junior Kits are great for 4-7 to practice building from a model)

Kinex- F, V

Magnatiles- F, V

Super Sorting Pie- F, V

Pop-beads- F, V (there are big and small)

Wind Up Toys- F

Wok N Roll- F, V

Crayon Rocks- F

Let’s Go Fishing- F, V

Puzzles – (insert, foam or interlocking)- V, F

Lacing- V, F

Balls- R, V

Scatch- R, V

Blocks- VM, FM

Tunnels- R ( I love tunnels and there is so much you can do with one but that is for another post!)

Mr. Potato Head FM, VM

Perfection- FM, VM

Magnadoodle- FM

Boogie Board- FM, S

Please note: There is much more to play than these few categories such as proprioception (which is body awareness in space), gross motor skill development, turn taking skills etc. This list is meant to help parents chose gifts that will provide some therapeutic value and help them develop their skills! Enjoy!

Shopping, Shipping, Consulting for Therapy Items

Based on needs I have seen for therapy items and recent research I have done regarding pricing. I have decided to undertake a consulting, shopping and shipping endeavor to help those parents and others who need items for their differently abled loved ones. The most unique aspect of this concept is that I will give my time to help research and find the best product for each case at the best price. Therefore the total cost would be the product + shipping to my address + shipping to the international address + a low flat rate fee for my consultation. If you subscribe to the blog you get 10% off the fee!

I will be making an OT toy and game gift guide along with some reviews prior to Eid so stay tuned!

Everyday Sensory Activities, Making Roti

As we know the sensory system is what helps us percieve the environment around us and to regulate and modulate our own selves. Babies and kids love sensory activities and they help mature their sensory integrative system!

This week a fun and easy way I got some sensory experience in with my 4 year old was letting him help me knead dough (atta) and roll out roti. My boys love it although it makes a big mess. They are only little once!

Adaptive Feeding

Feeding is such an important Activity of Daily Living or ADL. However, sadly many children suffer from feeding disorders and difficulties. The reasons may be a medical condition or a sensory issue. Often premature babies suffer from feeding difficulties. Mealtime is so important across cultures, it is a time to sit down and enjoy food together. But, when your child refuses to eat anything and is suffering from low weight mealtimes can be a major source or stress. Parents who deal with these issues often build their life around their child’s eating. Some children will only eat purees when bribed with a digital pacifier such as an ipad.

Recently, I came across a post in an international special needs parenting group asking about adaptive utensils they can purchase. I quickly did a google search and found no store in their COUNTRY from which these items can be purchased. I then learned that people often use shoppers who can purchase items off amazon or other websites and send them things. However, when parents are unsure what to purchase, having a shopper can mean they are only incurring uncesssary expense. Shortly after this, I was contacted by a therapist who is having difficulties with the manual techniques of feeding with children who suffer from Cerebral Palsy. Cerebral Palsy is a disease that affects muscles and presents differently from one person to the next. It is caused by abnormal development in the brain or damage to the brain according to the CDC. This can occur in utero, during labor or shortly thereafter. While it is not a degenerative disorder, meaning it should not get worse over time the symptoms such as spasticity (muscle tightness) can get worse if muscles are not stretched frequently.

Unfortunately my experience with feeding disorders is limited. I do know of a wonderful feeding program called St. Mary’s. St. Mary’s is a Children’s hospital in New York that has a feeding program. They can treat children in outpatient or inpatient settings. They do a thorough evaluation which includes multiple disciplines. They then form a plan, and have a speech therapist who specializes in dysphagia work with the child. I found this wonderful article in the guardian that details the experience for outpatients by author Tahmima Anam:

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/apr/09/for-five-years-we-dreaded-every-meal-my-infant-sons-struggle-with-food

She traveled from London to New York to participate in feeding therapy for her son. I quickly understand that what this therapist is asking is a very big task. It is not only manual techniques but a whole protocol that is necessary to really tackle a feeding issue. From the evaluation to the actual therapy a therapist specialized in dysphagia is very important.

With that being said my research did bring me to some excellent therpeutic feeding products. I learned that the maroon spoon is an excellent tool for feeding disorders. The maroon spoon is not as wide as typical spoons and it also is shallow and not scooped,this means the spoon doesn’t hold too much food at once.

https://amzn.to/2JjsDWU

I would definitely add foam padding to the maroon spoon for self feeding. This is to make it easier to hold. Typical utensils with a flat holding piece require a lateral grasp which can be difficult for young children or children with weak grasp or spasticity in their hands:

https://amzn.to/2L5kc3v

The maroon spoon and the foam rolls would be my ultimate items recommendation based on my knowledge. A good suction bowl would go nicely with these items. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a good one on Amazon, however, they are frequently found in the baby aisle.

For drinking, I recommend these cut out cups and the honey bear cups:

https://amzn.to/2XxIREC https://amzn.to/2XtUmNg

These items along with a preferred item or activity (toy, ipad) can be used to encourage and assist with feeding difficulties. However, for severe feeding problems a therapist with experience in dysphagia is necessary. And all children’s hospitals should work on establishing a feeding team. I hope to educate myself more on this topic and be able to follow up with some informative manual techniques next time. For now, I hope this article has helped someone!

For international parents who need assistance in obtaining therapy items. Please subscribe to the blog and a post will follow about consulting and shopping for therapy items.

Managing Behaviors

One topic that I have been approached about over and over is managing behaviors. Whether parents are concerned about harmless ones such as arm flapping or detrimental ones such as head banging, there are a few things to take into consideration.

Point one, is this behavior harming anyone? If your child becomes excited and flaps their adorable arms is this bothering anyone. In some cases this is an issue of awareness and acceptance. Of course parents want their child to be perceived as the same and not stand out negatively in any manner. However, when thinking about eliminating behaviors I sometimes wonder if this is more of a problem external to your child. Is it time for others to accept and appreciate your child for who they are.

Point two, we need to assess what your child is getting out of this behavior. Why are they head banging or hitting you? Is it an avoidance behavior to get out of something they don’t like? Or is there something bothering them? How can we figure this out. Well there are a number of helpful mapping tools where you collect data on when your child is doing such behaviors. A certified BCBA or ABA therapist can help with this. You can use an interval recording form to track a behavior, what preceded (or came before) it and what happened after your child did the behavior. This way you can come up with a plan to stop the behavior. If the behavior seems to have a sensory origin then sensory interventions should be able to help it (such as the brushing protocol, noise eliminating headphones) or you may be able to reduce or avoid the noxious sensory stimuli (fluorescent lighting is a common culprit).

For Example, Beautiful 5 year old Sarah is hitting her teachers and parents. When tracking the data we find that she is doing it whenever she has to sit down to write, and after she does hitting she is put into time out. In order to extinguish this behavior the hitting should be prevented but ignored and she should not be able to get out of the writing task.

Here is a free link to my favorite interval recording form:

https://0.tqn.com/z/g/specialed/library/Data-Collection-Forms/Interval-Recording-Template.pdf

If you enjoyed this post and found it helpful please subscribe and share. Comment below I would love to hear from you.

About

My name is Salma, I am an Occupational Therapist and mom of 4 beautiful boys (mashAllah). I am also a Muslimah and hope to help and inspire parents with my insight and expertise that I have gained over several years. I began my OT journey at NYU 10 years ago. Since graduating in 2012, I have done extended courses in Sensory Integration and other topics such as Handwriting. I would love to help parents of special needs children. So if you are looking for activity ideas, troubleshooting your child’s sensory behavior or learning about a new diagnosis you are in the right place for information, support and community.