Archive | September, 2012

Mat Man!

29 Sep

One of my favorite ways to teach body awareness and drawing a picture of a person with a body (versus a head with arms and legs 😉 is the Handwriting without Tears Mat Man! If you’ve never heard of Handwriting without Tears (HWT) check it out at: HWT is a handwriting curriculum developed by an OT using a hands-on, educationally sound instructional method to teach handwriting. It is composed of several workbooks, teaching manuals, educational materials such as flash cards, CDs, and different types of paper. The curriculum also has an assessment, The Print Tool, used to evaluation and remediate capital letters, lower-case letters, and numbers. HWT has been adopted by the Texas State Board of Education, and meets TEKS standards for Language Arts. The workbooks have even been translated into Spanish, French, and Hebrew! How cool is that? Maybe I should purchase the Hebrew book for myself. I’ve always wanted to learn how to write Hebrew!

Anyways, one of the HWT programs is called, Get Set for School. It’s primarily based for pre-K to K kids for pre-writing, letter recognition, proper letter formation, and other developmentally appropriate activities to allow the child to be ready for Kindergarten. One of the tools used with this program is the wood pieces set ( It has big lines, little lines, big curves, and little curves that are used to teach basic letter formation, recognition, and memory. In the teacher’s manual there is a pattern to create your own wood pieces set. I used this pattern to create a set of wood pieces on poster board. I chose the color yellow so the letters would be bright!



HWT encourages the wood pieces also be used to make mat man! The Get Set for School even has a nice little song to sing while you build mat man. Sing along with the song, if your voice is good enough and the child doesn’t ask you to be quiet. This happens quite a bit in my treatment sessions. I decided to make some facial features for my version of mat man. I made 2 of each: blue, green, and brown eyes, so the child can pick out the same color eyes he has. I made a mouth, nose, and even some eyebrows. You can even give mat man a belly button! Now all I need to do is make him some hands and a variety of hats to wear and then he will be complete! I may have a few of my kiddos help me with this task. Then they can work on tracing their hand and cutting! Creating a list of hats will also help with higher level thinking processes including imagination and role playing.



Other fun ways to modify this activity include: making the poster-board pieces even smaller, perhaps using an index card; use puff paint on the pieces in order to trace with index finger and create a tactile feedback for letter formation; Put velcro/magnets on the back of the pieces in order to use on a vertical surface or while swinging. Can you think of any other activities using the wood pieces?

Check out the app too!

Now go have some fun and learn your letters! 🙂


Blue high five, or Red? Let’s cross midline!

28 Sep

My awesome co-worker used this activity today at work, and I just had to steal it for the blog, and for my treatment bag ‘o tricks! What a great idea Beth! Items needed: red and blue gloves. Have the child put one color (for example red) on the left hand, and the other color (for this example blue) on the right hand. Therapist does the same thing. Side note: just from completing this portion of the task, the therapist can see how well the child can orient, and place fingers in appropriate finger position in order to don gloves (ADL skill), and acceptance of gloves on hands (tactile input)! Use the visual/tactile cues from the gloves to complete various bilateral activities, such as patty cake along with other hand play games and alternating hands to knees. A sequencing component can also be incorporated such as creating a pattern of the two colors and then remembering it and completing the claps. For example, have the child create a pattern: red, blue, blue, red. And then complete the task clapping each hand in order of the pattern. Increase/decrease the number of steps in the pattern depending on the needs of the child. Alternate taking to turns to help the child self-initiate. Another use of the gloves, is to also place a coordination color sticker on the child’s foot/shoe in order to incorporate scissor jumps and alternating scissor jumps coordinating the correct color sticker on the shoe with the correct glove. Can you think of any other ideas to use the these gloves?!

Thanks again Beth! You rock! 🙂

Thanks to my husband for modeling (in his Indy 500 shirt and all ;))

~Be Blessed,


Tongs, tweezers, and more!

26 Sep

Tongs, tweezers, grabbers, etc. are all wonderful for grasp development and strengthening. Have the child hold the grabbers with thumb and pointer, and if needed middle finger to improve her tripod grasp on a marker or pencil. Encourage the child to keep ring and pinky finger tucked in his palm. You can facilitate this by having the child hold a small item in her palm with ring and pinky finger. Other methods include: cut a two holes in the toe of a sock, one for the thumb and one for index/middle finger, and let pinky/ring finger stay in the sock and use coban/ace wrap to wrap around pinky/ring finger to hold them down in the palm. The items to pick up using tongs are endless! Examples include: puff balls, candy, beads, blocks, cereal, socks, erasers, dice, etc. the possibilities are endless! See the post using a wet ones bottle for more ideas! What have you picked up with tongs?!

Photos from google,, and

Be blessed!


23 Sep

Had to share the link to this wonderful foundation. Their website is full of wonderful information and resources for professionals and parents. Check it out!

How cool is this?!?! A baby milestones and weekly activities calendar!


How Does Your Engine Run?

23 Sep

The Alert Program is a one-of-a-kind program that allows children, teachers, parents, and therapists to choose appropriate strategies in order to change or maintain states of alertness. Children, teachers, parents, and other educators, are taught how to recognize when their nervous system is in a low or high alert state and then provides knowledge on what they can do to help regulate that nervous system to facilitate the optimal state based on the need (environment, demands, time of day, etc.)

“Leaders of the program not only learn what they can do to support self-regulation, but how to share the underlying theory so all can understand the basics of sensory integration. By reading the book or attending a conference, adults increase awareness of their own self-regulation thereby improving their ability to facilitate students’ optimal functioning. The Sensory-Motor Preference Checklist (for Adults) is a tool used to support this learning process. For example by filling out the checklist, adults may discover that before work, they may drink coffee, take a brisk walk, or listen to jazzy music to get their engine up and going for the day. Or others may find that they drink hot chocolate, rock in a rocking chair, or watch the glow of a fireplace to get their engine slowed down after a busy day. Bringing to awareness what most people do automatically in their daily routines, fosters the understanding of how important self-regulation is for students’ functioning.” 

Initially, the Alert Program was intended for children with attention and learning difficulties, ages 8-12. However, it has now been adapted for preschool through adult along with for a variety of disabilities. Due to the concepts taught in the program, if children are intellectually challenged or developmentally younger than the age of eight, the information gained can be utilized by staff to develop sensory diets (Wilbarger & Wilbarger, 1991) in order to enhance learning.

What is self-regulation? 
“Self-regulation is the ability to attain, change, or maintain an appropriate level of alertness for a task or situation” (Williams & Shellenberger, 1996). Having the ability to change how alert we feel is the foundation of every goal a parent, teacher, or therapist has for their children (or adult clients).

If we are in a low state of alertness (lethargic or “droopy”), we are not ready to learn. Likewise, if we are in a high state of alertness (hyper or overly active), learning is more difficult. Through the Alert Program,  self-regulation strategies are offered in order to attain an optimal state of alertness. The goal is to set up the nervous system for success and be ready to learn and achieve goals.

Why the engine analogy? 
The Alert Program uses an engine analogy because many children can relate and learn quickly about self-regulation when talking about their “engine” going into high, low, or just right gears. The engine analogy is just one way, but by no means the only way, to describe how alert one feels. Other descriptors might include:

  • colors (red for high, yellow for low, green or blue for just right
  • animals (maybe cheetah for high, turtle for low, and bear for just right)
  • Winnie the Pooh (Tigger for high, Eyore for low, and Pooh for just right)
  • Use the child’s special interest, especially if on the Autism Spectrum. (For example, if the child loves to talk about a certain movie then use characters from that movie.)
  • Adults might use the words, “high alert, low alert, and just right for ___ (fill in the blank for any activity)”
  • Children who are more concrete thinkers might do better with actual photos taken when they are in high, low, or just right states of alertness.


Personal thoughts: I myself have the Alert Program resources and have completed the distance learning program to earn CEUs towards my license. I think it is a fabulous program with applicable and thorough information. It provides descriptions in an easily understandable method and has great tools for teachers and parents. Have you used the Alert Program in your treatment sessions? How did it work for you?

Children’s Book Shout Out:

Images courtesy of:

Your First Source for Practical Solutions for ASD (Autism-Spctrum Disorder) as well as sensory processing deficits, self-regulation, behavior, academics, vocational skills, and more!

Scholarly articles supporting the use of The Alert Program for evidence-based practice

School-Based Practice Moving Beyond 1:1 Service Delivery. Edited by Yvonne Swinth and Barbara Hanft. Sept. 16, 2002.

Autism Spectrum Disorders: Integrating Methodologies and Team Efforts. Tammy Sarracino, Lynn Dell, Sherry Milchick. Jan. 14, 2002,

Neurocognitive Habilitation Therapy for Children With Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders: An Adaptation of the AlertProgram. American Journal of Occupational TherapyJanuary/February 2012vol. 66 no. 1 24-34

For a list of research articles please visit: and contact The Alert Program.


Pencil Grasps

22 Sep

I wanted to share this link for different pencil grasps. It has great pictures and descriptions of mature and immature pencil grasps.


Hot Topic: W-Sitting

22 Sep

Hot Topic: W-Sitting

What is it?

W-sitting is a position that is becoming more commonly used by children when seated on the ground. In this position, a child sits on their bottom, with knees bent, feet tucked under and behind, and legs out to each side representing the letter “W.”

Why kids sit in a W-sit?

W-sitting offers support to child with decreased postural control and stability, decreased external rotation, and decreased range of motion in hamstrings. Overall, it widens the child’s base of support.

Why is it bad?

W-sitting can cause orthopedic issues, delayed development of postural control and stability, and delayed development of overall higher level motor skills.

W-sitting can put stress on the hip abductors, hamstrings, internal rotators and heel cords, leading to the possibility of orthopedic issues. W-sitting can cause major muscle groups to be at a shortened position, resulting in muscles that begin to tighten. This can affect coordination, balance, and development of motor skills. W-sitting can also put stress on the femurs (thigh bone) causing atypical development of the bones to occur as the child grows.

Because w-sitting widens a child’s base of support, there is a decreased need for weight shift and postural control as he is playing, moving, and reaching. In addition to decreased trunk control, w-sitting requires less trunk rotation. Trunk rotation is extremely important in developing volitional crossing midline and separation of the two sides of the body needed for bilateral coordination. Good trunk control, stability, rotation, crossing midline, and overall bilateral coordination are important in developing higher level motor skills and hand dominance.

How to sit instead?

*Tailor sit (criss-cross)

*Ring sitting (butterfly)

*Long sitting (pike or straddle)

*Kneeling (on knees)

Even side sit can cause some of the issues as w-sitting if the child chooses that position on a regular basis.

Education is the Key!

Educating loved ones, teachers, and friends on the harmful affects on a child’s lower extremities from w-sitting is the only way we will prevent kids from choosing that seated pattern on a regular basis. Be consistent and always discourage w-sitting.

Be blessed!


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