Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Weight of the World on your Shoulders

Many of you may have heard of weighted cushions, vests, and blankets before.  They are a great calming tool for many kids on the spectrum.  Here is a simple DIY project of how to make your own weighted cushion:

What you'll need: Fabric of your little ones choice, calico or another strong fabric, rice (I used 3kgs), and patience for sewing! 

Step one: So that this can be made to your own specific size, lay out the desired weight of rice along the calico so you can use that as a base for your measurements.  I felt 3kgs would be a good weight for Maddy so that's what we went with (you can make this as big or as small as you desire - within reason of course!)

Step two: Sew up the end of the calico twice to ensure none of the rice sneak out!


Step Three: Fill up the calico bag with the 3 kilos of rice or alternatively to keep the rice spread out evenly fill with 1kg then sew a line to divide and continue with the 2nd and 3rd kg bags of rice sectioning off between them also. 

Step Four: Once you have secured the rice in there with the most extreme end stitching you can do, lay it flat on the table to measure the cover fabric.  Ensure one of the sides of the cover fabric is slightly longer so that you can achive a 'pillow like' close when the cover is put on.

Step Five: Admire how cute it looks!

I decided to make 2 separate covers so that we can remove and clean if there are spills etc.  This also meant that Maddy got to choose more fabric which she will never complain about!

Here is our second cover
It is recommended not to exceed 10% of your child's body weight when getting them used to weighted therapy (which is why I chose 3kgs for my daughter.)  They should use it during such activities like: Start of the day, during written work or homework, during stressful activities (base this on what you child feels anxious about whether it be meeting new people or doing the shopping), at the end of the day, during special classes such as music or art. The time shouldn't be more than an hour and there should be at least an hour break in between uses. 

The weighted cushion that I have created here is suited for her to use at home or at school.  I designed it to be long because I intend to use it three different ways.  The first being when she is laying down on the couch with her feet up and the cushion on her lap at the start and end of the day, the second is on her shoulders when she is feeling anxious, and the third is across her lap when she is sitting at her desk at home or at school.

** Disclaimer** These weighted cushions should be used with direction or advice of a therapist, and should only be used while under adult supervision - in case you didn't already know :)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Our top 10 Awesome Fine Motor Skill Activities

Fine Motor Skills? What are they? Here is a quick explanation from good old Wikipedia: 

Fine motor skill is the coordination of small muscle movements which occur in body parts such as the fingers, usually in coordination with the eyes. In relation to motor skills of hands and fingers, the term dexterity is commonly used. When applied to the theory of human aptitude, this is called "manual dexterity". The high level of manual dexterity that humans exhibit can be attributed to the manner in which manual tasks are controlled by the nervous system.

Making fine motor skill activities fun is very important to keep your little one interested and involved.  Here are my daughters personal top ten:

1. Threading beads onto pipe cleaners

2. Making pasta necklaces - don't forget to paint the pasta first for an added fine motor activity!

3. Building a castle with duplo (or lego if old enough and not likely to mouth the small pieces)

4. lacing pipe cleaners through a colander - A good activity for when you are cooking dinner so they are still being supervised by you but sitting safely out of the way completing their activity.

5. Finger painting (you are never too old to finger paint!)

6. Alphabet modeling out of play dough (forming each letter of the alphabet one by one out of play dough - can also extend the activity to make names and words) If your little one is like mine and will eat the play dough make sure you purchase a non toxic version or better yet, make your own.

7. Stacking cups upside down to make a tower (can use the game jenga too but don't have high hopes as this is very tricky for sensory kiddos - who am I kidding, its tricky for me too!)   

8. Painting with water - on the concrete outside down on all fours with a paintbrush and container of water to dip in - this also helps with core strength which in turn can help strengthen crossing the midline.

9. Painting with ear buds (Q-tips) my 3 year old son also loves to do this one.

AND last but not least, my daughters favorite.......

10. Painting nails!! What little girl wouldn't love to do this! (and boy for that matter!) excellent way to practice crossing their midline while exercising a very precise fine motor skill activity.  Let them choose their colour and compliment the great job they are doing throughout the process.  You could even let them do your nails!

My daughter is 7 years old so these are good activities for her age group and her low level of fine motor ability.  They can be done by preschool age an above! As she progresses and grows up we will extend her activities to things such as sewing and baking.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

DIY Crash Mat - OT

For tumbling, squashing, jumping or just lounging around, Crash mats are the ultimate sensory play tool when it comes to OT.  Crash mats don't come cheap so here is a quick step-by-step guide to how we made our crash mat.  

Step one: What you need - a bag of foam offcuts (can be purchased from Clark Rubber for $30) You can also cut up an old foam mattress etc.  2 single bed quilt covers, scissors, a chair to hold it open.

Step two: Cut up the foam into cube pieces, its not as easy as it sounds so to save time I would cut half the piece then continue to rip them apart - it doesn't have to look pretty.

Step three: Hold the first quilt cover open by hanging it on the back of a chair and begin to fill with the super pretty cubes of foam.

Step four: once its full, close it up and then stuff it backwards into the second quilt cover so no foam will be exposed or fall out.  Its a bit tricky stuffing the full quilt into the empty one so may require a second person to help or to keep you calm while you do it haha

Having the two layers of quilts keeps all the foam in and it also makes cleaning it much easier.

I was able to be given some hand-me-down quilt covers so they didn't cost me anything but I did check at the local op shops and single quilt covers are usually no more than $5 each.  Therefore this whole crash mat cost $40 or less which means a saving of roughly $80 compared to a bought sensory crash mat.

Maddy's OT has several crash mats made from this same technique!
There isn't a day that goes by where the crash mat isn't used at home.  The activities that it can be used for are endless.  A quick one to start the day is if you have a trampoline, pop the crash mat on there and get your sensory kiddo to 'splat' on it like a star fish a few times.  Its fun for them but it also the 'splat' restarts their senses when they are having sensory overload by jolting deep pressure into the muscles and joints.  Another way to use it is to squash them by folding the crash mat around them (like making a Maddy burrito!)  I think my personal favorite is to lay on it and watch a good movie! :)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Super Awesome Sensory Rooms!

Sensory rooms! Aren't they just amazing!? Imagine being able to do OT whenever you like with complete ease!! 

A sensory room is a luxury most families can not afford but don't let that put you off, there are so many little sensory tools that you can have in the home.  I am a renter so I can't have anything major for OT like a suspended swing or hammock from the roof or the walls painted a certain colour but I can however have a trampoline in the back yard which is a brilliant OT tool, there is also a possibility of a mini trampoline for indoors (the type your mum used in the 70's and 80's for really cool aerobics) They are around $50 at Big W or Kmart and are great for fidgeting kids to burn off some energy. We have one in front of the television so my daughter is able to watch a movie while moving around.  I've been looking around on Pinterest at sensory rooms and found some amazing ones I just have to share with you!

The first one is my personal favorite with the padded floor, so many climbing options and a great sized suspended platform swing.  I could just imagine my kids spending all day in there and loving every second of it! 

For the rest of us that obviously can't have something like this in our own home (I'd assume none of these are in an actual house anyway!) its a great idea to still develop a 'safe space' for your child.  When its all getting a bit too much for them they have somewhere to retreat to while they calm down their senses.  This can be as simple as a pop up tent or a structure made out of PVC pipes to form a small room within a room (fabric would make the walls around the PVC piping).  Some of you may have seen the black pop up tents for sale at many sensory shops which are used to block out the sensory overload, here is a link of what I mean:

As a cheaper alternative, Crayola came out with a glow tent a couple of years ago which was never intended for sensory help but its a much more affordable option.  Its also a black tent (slightly smaller) where they can draw inside with glow pens.  This is an ideal calming activity for a fraction of the price. Here is a link:

If you are looking to spend even less, I did a quick search on gumtree and ebay and they are also available there second hand.

So basically, Although you may never have a sensory room as such, you can still find affordable and fun ways to provide excellent OT/Sensory input with some simple DIY and research! 

What would you have in your sensory room???

Sunday, October 20, 2013

DIY Scooter Board for OT

This weeks project for us was making Maddy a scooter board for her OT at home.  Not only did this save money instead of buying one, but Maddy got to personalise it by choosing her own fabric cover so it became more ‘hers’ and the chance of her actually wanting to use it increased straight away!!!

First step was a trip to Bunnings (or any other hardware shop!) to get the castors and handles (these are optional, we didn’t end up using them) We used some wood that we already had at home but if not get some while you are there!

Next was Maddy's favorite part, going to Spotlight to choose her fabric.  Make sure its thick as it will cop a beating over time! Darker colours would also work better as you will only be able to spot clean it when it is dirty.

Then swing past Clark rubber and collect your foam cut to measure and your foam adhesive spray.  We chose foam that was a few inches thick and quite firm to support Maddy’s weight.  Our foam cost around $15.

Once you have prepped the wood, drill the castors on, spray the adhesive and attach the foam, we left it to dry for several hours then.  Cute the fabric to size then use a staple gun to attach it to the under sides.

A scooter board purchased from a store is usually made from plastic.  They also don’t have a foam layer.  We thought to make this as user friendly as possibly for Maddy that we should make it as comfortable as possible so there wont be complaints (since the scooter boards are typically ridden on their belly's!) 

We got the tick of approval from Maddy, she absolutely loves it and the bright neon fabric she chose really suits her :)

For some scooter board activity ideas, here are some great activities online:

Down the track I will hopefully be able to blog about some of the activities that we use the scooter board for.  One tip to remember is to make sure your little ones 'boobies' are off the edge of the scooter board, that's how you know that are on it properly when they are using it on their tummy.  

*Make sure if your child has long hair that they tie it up before using the board! hair + wheels = not good!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Some advice on rephrasing when speaking to a Carer

 We have all experienced those lovely moments (detect my sarcasm) where someone has said something that had you left standing there either in shock, pissed off, or upset.  Here are a few of those beautiful questions/statements:

·      “What’s wrong with her?”
I was recently in a furniture store looking at buying a bed for my youngest child when my daughter began speaking to the sales lady about being a Special Needs Child (Maddy often says it with such pride) and the sales assistant then turned to me and asked “What’s wrong with her?”  After I picked my jaw up off the ground I responded with “Nothing.”  Because that’s the truth, there is nothing “wrong” with my child at all! I’d imagine it would be perceived as strange to ask a parent of a child without special needs “What’s right about her?”  If you are trying to ask someone about his or her child with special needs perhaps rephrase it to “What is his/her diagnosis if you don’t mind me asking?” or better yet – if you don’t know the person, don’t ask! In most cases I’m more than happy to answer and discuss because each conversation raises awareness and acceptance but try and ask in a sensitive, respectful way.

·      “I’m Tired”
Unless you have lived off 3 hours of sleep or less a night for months on end, you cannot complain to someone living with a special needs child about being tired.  Having a newborn baby gives you more sleep than having a child battling sleep disorders in most situations. 

·      “She seems fine to me”
Just because you aren’t tuned in to noticing the symptoms doesn’t mean that they are not there.  And if the child doesn’t display the symptoms around you it could mean a number of things such as them being out of their comfort zone, the child not knowing you well enough, or you may have caught them on a “good day”.  Remarking on the child seeming fine could result in the parent feeling that you doubt them.

·      “She is never like that when she is with us”
See above!  A child often displays their ‘symptoms’ in their main environments such as the home of their primary caregiver, their classroom, or anywhere that they may visit at least weekly.

·      “Just let her starve if she wont eat it”
Children under the spectrum are often ‘fussy eaters’ this isn’t because they are trying to be difficult or to defy their parents, it's because they see, taste, and smell things differently.  It could be as minor as not wanting to eat food on their plate that touches another item of food on the same plate, or that they can only eat foods of a certain colour (often while or pale colours to avoid sensory overload.)  It could be because they require different utensils rather than what you are used to such as chopsticks or their hands.  This is not something that should be punished, its something that should be supported in a way that still ensures that they are eating adequately.  I will follow up on fussy eating in another post soon.

·      “Aren’t you going to yell at her?”
In most cases, yelling will aggravate a child more.  Yelling in any situation apart from where safety is at risk is not entirely necessary if you are willing to put in the extra effort.  Our OT encouraged us to try a yelling free household and I saw almost instant results (after laughing at her suggestion!).  So when you see a child misbehaving and the parent is ignoring or speaking to them calmly, assume that they know what they are doing!

I’d love to hear if you have any more to add to “what not to say”!