ASHA Conference, November 9-11, 2017

This year’s annual ASHA conference drew over 14,000 speech-language pathologists, audiologists, hearing and speech scientists, and communications sciences and disorders students to Los Angeles for three jam-packed days of educational, networking, and fun events. On Thursday we welcomed the masses into the Expo Hall when they stopped by the Therapro exhibit by asking attendees what parts of the opening session inspired them. They reported enjoying Goldie Hawn’s Keynote Address with her emphasis on mindfulness and self-regulation. She discussed her foundation, the Hawn Foundation, which focuses on a program for schools to teach children the basics of brain science. It was a great kick-off for this year’s conference!

We designed our exhibit this year to focus on various areas we thought would interest attendees. Our “Games Corner” was a beehive of activity with Karen drawing therapists to play NovenopsTrunksLetter Treasure HuntA Fistful of Coins, and Obstacles: A Game of Imaginative Solutions. One therapist loved Novenops so much that she purchased one for herself and several for gifts! The zany sentences players constructed in this game had everyone laughing.

Another area we set up was filled with wind-up toys that drew a crowd with giggles, exclamations, and stories of creative ways they used the toys in therapy sessions. Everyone exclaimed how unique our collection was, including the FirefightersCatsLovely FarmBaby Critters, and retro appliances.

Friends we had met in previous years stopped by to say hello and to see what’s new at Therapro. Our auditory processing publications were much appreciated, including Help for Auditory Processing and The Source for Processing Disorders – 2nd EditionStory Starters Write-Abouts and Silly Starter Write-Abouts were very popular flip books with which students gain valuable writing and expressive verbal practice. Therapists loved the ConversacardsQuestion Series and Question Set with beautiful photos on one side and easy teaching steps on the reverse side.

Therapists who address feeding problems were excited to meet Kelly VahnDam, MS, CCC-SLP, editor and an author of the Therapro publication Pediatric Feeding Disorders. She graciously autographed the book and took photos with admirers. Several students from North Carolina reported that her book is part of their curriculum. Feeding therapists picked up Textured SpoonsNuk Massager BrushesMr. Juice Bear, and much more. It was fun to help therapists select appropriate materials and brain storm with them on ways to use chewies for their clients. Mary Schiavoni, MS, CCC-SLP, creator of Chewy Tubes visited our booth and introduced the new Sensory Dipper she showcased at the conference. Dawn Winkelmann, MS, CCC-SLP of ezpz stopped by as well – we love their Happy Mats and Happy Bowls!

After three exciting and full days of introducing Therapro to speech and language professionals from the US, Canada, and many foreign countries, we were pleased with the dedication and thirst for knowledge expressed by those we met. We left L.A. satisfied that we had met thousands of devoted and gifted therapists who truly LOVE their profession!

We can’t wait to welcome you to Boston next Fall for the ASHA Conference 2018!

Filomena Connor, MS, OTR/L

18th Annual Therapies in the School Conference

The 18th annual Therapies in the School Conference returned to Framingham, MA on November 16-17 and was sponsored once again by Education Resources Inc. Objectives of this popular conference focused on meeting the needs of all students, ranging from those with mild challenges to those having complex physical and medical challenges. With a distinguished faculty, topics were expertly addressed. In addition to providing 2 days of interesting workshops, a full day preconference on The Zones of Regulation was given by creator of The Zones of Regulation, Leah Kuypers, MA, Ed, OTR/L.

Therapro has been a regular exhibitor at this conference, drawing crowds to its booth to check out what’s new, pick up a new catalog, and to purchase items they love. We met many of the 250 therapists who attended the conference, engaging in lively conversations about how to use the products in creative ways. Therapists loved new products we introduced so much that they sold out! These included: Yoga Spinner Game, the publication, From Flapping to FunctionDrive Thru Menus Body ChallengeStickbotthe robot fidget, and Wristful Fidget, a spandex wristband filled with soothing beads.

Therapists left this conference energized to return to their school-based practice, eager to use the exceptional information they gained. We hope that Therapro provided innovative ideas and tools for their therapy toolboxes!

Filomena Connor, MS, OTR/L

Do Gifted But Non-Disabled Children Need Occupational Therapy?

School-based occupational therapists are familiar with receiving requests for assessments or interventions for children with delays of all kinds.  What happens when the service request is for a child that has been identified as gifted or talented, but has no diagnosed disorders?  Will OT treatment help a child whose brain is globally and permanently wired for intense responses?

Some common behavioral characteristics of the gifted often suggest that sensory processing difficulties could be present:

  • Sensitivity to lighting, fabrics, and other sensory stimulation.
  • Seeking strong sensory-motor input throughout the day.
  • Difficulty tolerating school rules such as taking turns or sharing the spotlight in discussions.
  • Pursues interests in isolation or with adults rather than with peers.
  • Resistance to complete assigned projects; pursues personal interests.

Theorists such as Kazimierz Dabrowski have attributed these and other behaviors to multiple “overexcitabilites.”   He identified five primary areas of over-excitability in gifted individuals:  psychomotor, sensory, intellectual, imaginational and emotional.  Not considered to be signs of neurological disorders, they are thought to be the result of a brain that is wired differently than children of average abilities.  Brain imagining studies suggest that the gifted make faster and more complex associations between stimuli.  They perceive experiences and interactions with more depth and intensity than other children, and have an inborn drive to follow their passions.

These brain characteristics are not necessarily problematic for every gifted child. When teachers and parents know how to support children who learn differently, the gifted child can become a positive force and even a leader in the classroom.  Although scores on the Sensory Profile or on other sensory-based assessments may suggest an SI diagnosis, there are gifted children that manage successfully in school and at home without intervention.  They may even come up with their own sensory diet, having identified activities that provide what they need.  For example, a child that seeks sensory input could engage in complex art projects or specific sports activities that provide visual, tactile, vestibular or proprioceptive input.  A sensory-sensitive child may happily use an unoccupied corner of the room with indirect light for free reading time.

Some gifted children will have difficulty in class, especially when their behavior is at odds with school routines and social norms.  A child that takes over discussions or refuses to work on a group project may disrupt a classroom or be unable to complete assignments even though their academic abilities exceed their peers.  A child that refuses to wear a tie or participate in music class may need help to handle the demands of school.

How Does Your Engine Run? - available at therapro.comAnne Cronin, OTR, FAOTA has recommended that gifted children can benefit from sensory diets and modulation strategies found in programs such as “How Does Your Engine Run?”  It is worth noting that gifted children may be able to comprehend and implement programs at earlier ages and stages than typical children. Children who were reading at 3 or creating complex imaginary civilizations at 5 may learn and incorporate a sensory diet almost immediately on accepting its value.  Such students may even improve on your suggested activities with one of their own creation!  This is the time to collaborate with them and provide them with the positive feedback they may need in order to try new ways of responding at school and at home.

Patterned Fluorescent Light Filter
Patterned Fluorescent Light Filter
Fluorescent Light Filter
Fluorescent Light Filter
Attachable FootFidget® Footrest
Attachable FootFidget® Footrest

The same sensory-based equipment that we recommend for other children with sensory processing problems could help gifted children as well.   Fluorescent Light Filters effectively dim harsh lighting, and fidgets for feet and hands can be effective tools that don’t disrupt productive work.  Because gifted children need to learn to manage and modulate their intense and complex responses, there are many ways that OTs could be helpful to these children.

Gifted children may need a wider variety of tools to give them the desired novelty they crave, or they may reject many ideas rapidly.  Always ask for an explanation and be ready with alternatives.  A gifted child may be able to project many steps ahead of you and identify roadblocks that you don’t anticipate…yet!


Cathy Collyer, OTR, LMT, PLLC

Cathy Collyer, OTR, LMT has treated children with neurological, orthopedic and sensory processing disorders for over 20 years. She is the author of The Practical Guide To Toilet Training Your Child With Low Muscle Tone. Learn more about her work at tranquilbabies.com.