Advanced Pediatric Therapies


Vision and Your Growing Child

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Clothing for Sensory Kids!

A parent shared the link for this clothing line called “Independence Day” for her son with autism.  Getting dressed with all the belts, snaps etc. was causing her to set her alarm for an hour earlier just to help him get ready for school.  In addition, the fasteners were irritating to him.  She discovered this line of clothes for young adults which are fashionable, comfortable and you can even purchase a GPS tracker for kids who are at risk for wandering.  The line includes t-shirts, dresses, tunics, leggings and cargo pants.

If you are looking for other sensory friendly clothing for other ages, check out this blog post on Friendship Circle.  These include soft clothes, swimwear, shoes and easy to put on socks.  Check it out!  Please speak to your occupational therapist before ordering any specialized clothing.  We can help you figure out if pressure garments or compression vests are right for your child.


from the Independence Day website

from the Independence Day website





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Spring Fever: Fun Outdoor Learning

Spring is here!  Check out these fun ideas for outdoor learning and play, now that we can finally get outside.  The article appeared from Rasmussen College.

Engaging Outdoor Learning Activities for Kids

outdoor learning activities for kidsYour three-year-old is literally bouncing off the walls, your kindergartener is running the stairs like he has a personal trainer and you’re just wishing you could steal some of their energy for yourself. One thing is for sure: if they stay cooped up in the living room much longer, it’s going to be declared an official disaster zone.What’s the solution? Round them up and head outside! Not only will it give your furniture a relief but the great outdoors holds countless learning opportunities for your kids.We enlisted various experts to provide some examples of outdoor learning activities to help get you started. Try these skill-builders for preschool-aged kids to help your little ones burn off energy while achieving developmental milestones.

10 Fun outdoor learning activities for kids

1. Texture scavenger hunt

How it works: Place nature objects with different textures in several brown lunch bags. You could put a pinecone in one, a stick in another and a stone in a third. Have your kids close their eyes and feel each object. Then send them outside to find a similar texture. As they find matching objects, introduce texture words like pointy, bumpy and smooth.

How it promotes learning: All of those new words will expand your little ones’ vocabulary. Discriminating between different textures also supports fine-motor skills like coloring and writing, according to pediatric occupational therapist Christie Kiley.

2. Beach volleyball

How it works: Playing volleyball with an inflatable beach ball is another worthwhile activity, says Cara Koscinski, pediatric therapist and author of The Pocket Occupational Therapist. You can also simply throw the ball high in the air for your kids to catch if they are too young to play an organized game. Challenge them to count how many times they can clap before catching it! (Hint: If they have trouble gripping the ball, simply deflate it a bit.)

How it promotes learning: You can probably guess that this game teaches counting and social interaction skills. Koscinski explains that catching a ball using both hands also teaches bilateral integration, a necessary skill for learning tasks such as cutting, buttoning and tying shoes.

3. Pulling weeds

How it works: Yep, this is just what it sounds like! Believe it or not, your little ones can help with the gardening and learn at the same time—it’s a win-win!

How it promotes learning: All that digging and pulling is great for sensory exploration as well as building hand and finger strength, explains Kiley.

4. Pool noodle obstacle course

How it works: Get creative with pool noodles and design an obstacle course. Lay them on the ground, cut them in half, attach them to a fence or hang them from a branch. Challenge your kids to jump over them, limbo under them, crawl around them or walk on them like a balance beam.

How it promotes learning: Getting up and moving helps kids build core muscle strength. Koscinksi explains that this will later be used for completing school tasks seated at the desk.

5. Nature hike

How it works: Nature offers plenty of discoveries for kids. Help them explore by encouraging them to find certain types of leaves, bugs, rocks and flowers.

How it promotes learning: A nature hike encourages observation skills, fine-motor skills, hand-eye coordination and the use of the five senses in exploring, according to Barbara Harvey, author of Journeys Through Parenthood and executive director of Parents, Teachers, and Advocates.

6. Critter quest

How it works: Miriam Manela is the owner of Thrive Occupational Therapy and recommends this activity in her book The Parent-Child Dance. As the “critter,” you slowly inch your way around the yard while narrating your movements. You might say, “I’m climbing up the swing set. What letter does ‘swing’ start with?” Try to work in new words like climb, reverse and descend. Your kids are the “trackers.” It’s their job to follow you with their eyes and think about your questions.

How it promotes learning: Critter Quest improves eye movement and tracking, plus it can be used to strengthen vocabulary, letter recognition and phonetics.

7. Chalk jump

How it works: Koscinski suggests using sidewalk chalk to write numbers and letters in different colors. Then ask kids to jump on the number, letter or color that’s called out.

How it promotes learning: This activity helps develop gross-motor skills, counting skills and letter, number and color recognition.

8. Simon says dance party

How it works: Head outside with some music and host a dance party. Give short instructions for nature-based dance moves, like “wiggle like a worm,” “twist like a leaf” and “flap your arms like a bird.”

How it promotes learning: Kids get to practice following simple instructions while being active. Kiley adds that the dance actions help them develop body awareness, coordination and balance.

9. Hula hoop hop

How it works: Line up several hula hoops and have kids hop into the middle of each hoop with both feet, explains Koscinski. Make it a bit more challenging by encouraging them to hop into one hoop with their right foot and the next hoop with their left.

How it promotes learning: All that hopping builds gross-motor coordination skills, which are necessary for sports and bike riding.

10. Flower artists

How it works: Gather your young artists and some paint (watercolors or liquid tempera) near a flowerbed. Watch them create their newest masterpiece!

How it promotes learning: Kids will hone their observation skills and learn about colors. Kiley recommends offering paintbrushes with a built-in grip to promote a mature grasp.

Let the fun begin

These 10 outdoor learning activities will have you having fun with your rug rats in no time. They won’t even realize you’re teaching them new skills instead of watching them tear up the house.

Your search for educational opportunities for children might be a sign you should be doing this for a living.Learn more about other signs you should be teaching preschool!

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Back to School!

Forgive me!  APT has been hard at work all summer, but your blog writer has taken a brief reprieve to soak up some rays and take some time with her own kiddos.  Rest assured, the blog is not forgotten and welcomes your ideas.

It's Back to School Time!  (photo courtesy of edulicious)

It’s Back to School Time! (photo courtesy of edulicious)

It’s nearly that time:  Back to School!  Based on how your summer has been, you may or not be cheering right now.  We wanted to give you some ideas for how to ease the transition back to school for you and your children.

1.  You know the drill:  Routine, routine, routine!  For the week before or at least a few days before your child goes back to school, keep a good predictable schedule of meals, bath tiime and bedtime.

2.  Let your child take part in purchasing school supplies.  Let them handle the supplies before you buy them and before school starts so they are not distracted by that awesome new folder or that pencil that clicks.  You can go during off times to reduce overload.

3.  Oh those new school clothes!  Kids get so excited about wearing their new duds, but for our kiddos, it may be better to let them wear those new clothes once or twice before school starts in case there are any problems with fit or comfort.

4.  Does your child need an eye exam?  Lots of fine motor or coordination problems can be traced to visual problems.  If you need a referral to a pediatric opthalmologist or developmental optometrist, let us know.

5.  If your child is entering kindergarten or going to a new classroom or has trouble with new teachers, it’s a great idea to to touch base with your child’s school before school even starts.  Many schools have kindergarten prep classes, start-up or other programs to help ease the first day jitters.  Meeting that important new person before the first day can be very helpful.

6.  Parenting for Special Needs has a great form called “Getting to Know My Child” that can help your child’s new teacher learn about your unique child.  Check it out here.

7.  An OT, Lesley Biehl, created a checklist for parents which may help your the classroom staff identify areas which can be adapted for your child.  You can download it here.

As always, you can ask any of the staff at APT for help with back to school transitions.  Encourage your child to be curious, and be open to having fun!


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Self Control/Self Regulation: What does it all mean?

In the clinic, we often refer to self regulation or self control as an important skill for kids to develop.  Why?  In our media-saturated culture, our kids often have trouble switching gears.  They focused on that little noise when the heat kicks on or so entranced in a game that they can’t even hear you calling them.  We want our kids to be independent, but in order to do that, they have to be able to put distractors aside so that they can focus on something more important, like playing with a sibling or doing their homework.  Not so easy.  But there are some ways kids can practice self control.  Try some of these ideas in your home and see what works for your child.


1. )  Follow a recipe or start a new game.  Each requires step by step instruction.  It has to be a game your child really wants to play or something they really want to eat.

2.)  They must learn to wait for you.  Don’t drop whatever you’re doing because your child is jumping up and down to get your attention.  The world won’t stop for them so they need some practice waiting.  This may be harder for you than it is for them, but worthwhile.

3.)  Use a timer!  We use one all the time in the clinic.  A visual timer (red denotes the time until the activity is finished) is useful for kids who can’t read numbers.  They know how much time is left and can see it pass.

4.)  Remind them you can help if they need it.  Try not to ask, just inform that you are there if needed.  Questions are often stressful when a child is trying to do something difficult.  Take turns.  Or start and let them finish.

5.)  Start a project that will take an extended amount of time to complete.  Plant a garden.  Work on a Lego Challenge.  Sign up for a race together and train for it.  This teaches patience, and that steady effort and consistency is required.

6.)  Look in the mirror.  You are your child’s greatest teacher.  If you fly off the handle easily or are quick to give up when challenged, consider how your behavior looks to your child.

7.)  Give them some ideas if they are all out.  Tell them you can give them some ideas if they are open to it.  (Post coming up on “coping strategies”)  Suggest getting a drink of water or going out to climb their favorite tree.

8.)  Don’t expect more than their age can deliver.  If a tired toddler is dragged into a supermarket, you really only have yourself to blame!  Set reasonable expectations and your child will be more likely to meet them.

9.)  Give them some down time.  This can’t be overstated.  Research suggests that children who are over-scheduled are more likely to have meltdowns than those who are given more free time during the day.

10.)  Know when to do nothing.  When your child is demonstrating some self control, let them.  The only thing you need to do is give them positive reinforcement for doing so.

Thanks to for ideas for this post.


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Homework Success!!

In the clinic lately, I have heard lots of complaints from parents about homework.  Homework, it seems, is the new “witching hour.”  Parents are telling us how hard it is to get kids to sit and do their homework and how moms and dads want to pull their hair out, arguing over who gets homework duty.  Well, that’s no way to live!  Here are some ideas to help get your kids to do their homework without needless stress.  Thanks to A Sensory Life for some of these ideas.

1.  Allow your child to get situated when they get home from school.  This means about 30 minutes of transition time (without you bombarding them with questions about their day).  It should be a time to clear some mental space, rest and have a healthy snack.

2.  Rotate where homework is done.  If it’s at your kitchen table every day, that spot will evoke anxiety.

3.  Refrain from ideas like “sitting” to do homework.  Your child may do their best when they are standing, lying down, however they want to be.  Sometimes I tell my own kids to put their heads upside down so all their ideas can travel easily to their brains.

4.  At the risk of stating the obvious:  make sure you have good lighting, maybe some nice background music, minimal clutter and an open mind.

5.  Offer some bubble gum, popcorn or other mouth work.  These are known to help the brain to focus.

bubble blowing

bubble blowing

6.  Think about having your child take some movement breaks.  Tell them you will work for 5 or 10 minutes, then do something stimulating like spinning in a circle ten times or ten jumping jacks.  It should be something fairly rote so that it doesn’t interfere with what they are thinking about for their homework.

7.  Some kids do well with white noise like a fan, while others may need headphones.  Some kids, especially older kids, like to listen to their favorite music.  Don’t say no right away.  Experiment.  It may just work!

8.  Experiment with using vertical surfaces like an easel with a therapy ball in front of it.  If it’s paper and pencil, just tape it to the easel.

Vertical surfaces with a balance-challenging surface.

Vertical writing with a balance-challenging surface.

9.  Your child may also want to lie on their stomach or their side for part of homework time.  If you have stools at a counter maybe have them put one hand on each of two stools and do push ups between written work.  Regular chairs with arms are good spots to do chair push ups too.

10.  There’s also all the nifty go-to OT options like using thera-band on the legs of the chair, weighted pillows/toys and fidgets.  Ask your OT if you are not familiar or need an idea where to go next.

11.  One of the kids I work with has found a large box to be the perfect spot to get some work done.  What a great idea!  How awesome is this?:

photo (45)


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Sheila Frick visits APT!!

It was a packed house to get an education from Sheila.

It was a packed house to get an education from Sheila.

A few weekends ago, we had a visit from a big name in the occupational therapy world:  Sheila Frick.  Sheila provided a two day conference on “Core Connections:  Exploring the Core’s Developmental Roots.”  Basically, what we can do to more effectively work on core strength and also new concepts relating to why core strength is even more essential than we previously thought.  The course also taught us new ways to cultivate better breath control and we got to practice on each other.

Sheila created the Therapeutic Listening Program, which many of you are already using.  You can learn more about Sheila and TLP at  Sheila is an amazing lecturer and she makes even the most elaborate neuroscience seem accessible.  She has been an OT since 1980, has a private practice in Madision, Wisconsin and has published countless books and articles on pediatric occupational therapy.

All of us came back from the weekend rejuvenated and eager to share what we learned with our families.  If you have any questions let us know, but your child is already benefiting from the knowledge all of us gained through Sheila.  We can’t wait til she comes back again!

Some familiar faces were eager to practice what they were learning!

Some familiar faces just before they all jumped off the platform.  See, we do it too!

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Bringing OT/Fitness Home – parent submission

This was captured on Anthony Miriello’s blog (of spectrumshare Consulting). Way to go to this parent!

I am happy to post a parent submission to the blog this week.


If parents are wondering how to bring ot home… This is one of the things we do. 10 jumps on the trampoline, then hop from pillow to pillow down the hall, and end with 100 pushes in the swing. I’ve learned to either do this, or cartoon(thanks to you) when she’s melting down. It does amazing things for our sensory kids. 🙂 The swing provides vestibular input, and proprioceptive input from the jumping. Tantrum over, followed by an hour of quiet play.




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Fun Heavy Work: Play Wrestling!

Play wrestling is awesome!

Play wrestling is awesome!

Traditionally, dad’s are the more physically playful of the two parents a child has at home.  However, some kids are raised only by mom, and others have dads who work frequently or are not as physical as their kids.  Enter play wrestling:  a great non-threatening way to get your child some serious heavy work.

When your child comes home from school, are they cranky, irritable or going a hundred miles a minute?  It may be because they have had to sit most of the day and are fidgety from the lack of the most grounding of sensory inputs:  proprioception (heavy work).  Maybe you are tired too, and you want the kids to do something where they don’t hurt each other.

Here’s how to set up play wrestling:

*place some pillows and cushions in a big circle (better yet, have your kids do it)

*get a bell to signal start of play

*review the rules:  back to back or side to side until one person falls over, when a person is down the wrestling is over, “stop” said by any player means stop, have fun!

*if one child is taller than another, the taller one can try going on their knees

Play wrestling is a fun way to have fun and even establish trust if everyone respects each other and the rules.  It’s a super way to transition between school and homework (especially if you follow it with a piece of gum and maybe a drink through a straw).  Give it a try, you may find yourself jumping in!

Benjamin wins the wrestling title!

Benjamin wins the wrestling title!

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Headphones and Music: What’s Therapeutic Listening?

3 year old Alexa wears headphones during writing activity.

3 year old Alexa wears headphones during writing activity.

You may have seen kids wearing headphones in and around the clinic.  Your therapist may or may not have talked to you about TLP, or the Therapeutic Listening Program.  As therapists, we frequently refer to the program as “TLP” or “listening.” Any of us would love to answer any questions you might have about the program.

In a nutshell, therapeutic listening is a tool for treating a variety of issues related to problems with sensory processing including focus/attention, mood, energy, tolerance for noise, sleep, handwriting and anxiety.  One of the best ways to learn about therapeutic listening and its benefits is to visit the website and view the video on the front page.  With a smattering of case examples and the scientific basis for the program, you are sure to understand TLP more completely.

Your APT therapists all attended the Mentorship Listening day held earlier this month in our clinic.

Your APT therapists all attended the Mentorship Listening day.

Last month, all APT occupational therapists and some invited colleagues attended a mentorship day with Sharron Donnelly to refresh our skills in providing listening to kids, choosing music, sharing case stories and troubleshooting.  It was a fantastic gathering with lots of professional problem solving and interaction.  We all left with renewed confidence both in the program and in our skills implementing it.

Please visit the Vital Links website, talk with your therapist and even other families who have used the program.  We have informational articles, research and home programs we can discuss with you.

Get Listening!

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