When Screentime prevents playtime, what happens to little hands?

When we think about the ramifications of too much screentime on young kids, we often first think of poorer social skills. As an Occupational Therapist, I also notice, poorer hand strength, finger dexterity and immature grasp. I recently started treating a child who is extremely weak in his hands. He knows all his letters and how to form them but has such poor endurance. He knows the correct grasp to use but assumes an immature one because he gets tired. I asked the sweet boy what he does after school he said he does his homework. I pushed him, “and then what?” He said “I play on my ipad.”

I mentioned this to his mom, who is amazing. She got him every tool I mentioned would be good for him. She said she limits screentime as much as she can. I understood, I am a working mom like her. It is so hard to come home after work and have dinner to cook and dishes to wash and kids to bathe and a home to tidy. I gave her a suggestion, a homework assignment for OT. His homework is to PLAY. I expect him to play WITH TOYS everyday for 30 mintues after homework before ipad. Here is the list of toys I recommended for his age:

KINEX

CRAYON ROCKS

MR. POTATO HEAD

LEGO JUNIOR

PLAYDOH

KINETIC SAND

OPERATION

BEY BLADES

This is my prescription for all little hands: put them to use! Kids should be playing with toys that require them to us their hands. Children need to excercise the tiny muscles that make up their hands every…single…day.

Number recognition

Working on number recognition and knowledge. My preschooler is working on his name and number recognition to get ready for Kindergarten. Tips to do this:

Tips to work on number recognition and concept. What number is it? How many items is this number?

1. Have the numbers presented out of order so that the child cannot just count up to figure out which number.

2. To work on concept have the child count out of a large group of items (buttons, shells, beads, pompoms) and count out loud slowly.

3. Work on number formation, just like with letters, always start at the top! Use the same words to describe how to form the numbers every time

Here is a link to wording for number formation:

https://images.app.goo.gl/tUtSNkfotJdmpYJP7

Happy counting!

A Simple Informal Asessment for fine motor skills

A colleague based in another country approached me about assessments. The one she is using is a simple visual asessement that really only informs about gross motor mobility. In order to understand where a child is currently in their skills a formal asessment is best. The Peabody, BOT II , WRAVMA and VMI are some of the preferred ones. Along with checklists such as the Sensory Profile II, Readiness checklist, HELP and DASH. However, if as a provider or parent you don’t have access to this you can do a few simple items to see how your child performs. A skilled professional will know how to pay attention to the quality of your child’s work. What is their grasp like? Do they switch hands? Are they only recognizing their name letters? Do they confuse letters due to common reversals (b and d)? Do they start their letters at the top? Based off of other checklists I have created this simple one. I will work on attaching it as a download as soon as I can. This is inspired by Jan Olsen’s Readiness Checklist which is not free but I highly encourage everyone use it! It is copyrighted, that is why I made my own version (which I hope is ok) just to have something accessible to my colleague who has very limited resources.

Evidence Based Practice

What is Evidence Based Practice?

As a parent, as a person, as a consumer we should always consider the outcome of our decisions. In terms of simple logic, will doing A lead to B? Will putting my child on a certain diet or making them wear a certain vest produce the results I am looking for?

As an Occupational Therapist we are expected to use Evidence Based Practice to drive our treatment.

Evidence is proof. It is scientific proof, not one or two people reporting their results. It is based on RESEARCH that was good enough to be publised in a medical journal with a good reputation. This means the study was strong, it was planned and conducted in a manner that would produce results that would give clear answers.

Based means we are using the research as a guide. We may read a study about an intervention and how it was implemented in a very strict regimen, we may only need to use some elements of this treatment and see good results.

For example weighted vests used to be used as a sensory intervention however studies did not show clear results that they helped reduce sensory behaviors and they also poorly affected posture in children with low muscle tone. Now compression vests are used and therapists document behavior to examine, then put the vest on the child, and document the SAME behavior to see if the compressiom vest worked with the child as a sensory intervention. Evidence is used to guide our practice.

Parenting is such a difficult task, parents can be vulnerable to anyone who claims to be able to help their child. New parents buy all the tools and gadgets they think they need for their child, special needs parents would do anything for their kids. However, I invite you to reflect and think about any treatment you are giving your child, any intervention you are applying.

As always, feel free to comment and share.

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!