Move Mindfully Card Deck and Sensory Systems

by Stephanie Kennelly

Therapro is excited to offer the Move Mindfully Card Deck, available at our store. This product helps integrate physical fitness, mindfulness and social emotional skills into practice. The deck not only offers individual poses, but also routines to address a variety of common needs, such as “accident prone” and “lethargic”.

As a Blog Bonus, we are offering a free download of three poses from the card deck to get you started with a simple routine.  Read on to learn more about each pose and how it relates to your Occupational Therapy goals.

Belly Breathing

Belly Breathing

Getting into the Pose:
Belly Breathing is often taught with the Hoberman Sphere. The brightly colored, collapsible tool offers a visual tracking point to feel the diaphragm expand and contract. However, hands can simply be placed at heart and belly when teaching belly breathing as well. To start, we recommend a seated position in a chair, for back support. As a modification, this pose can also be completed laying on the floor. In this position, try a small object or toy placed on the belly for extra visualization of the up and down movement.

Therapy Resource:
Belly breathing is a great way to work on postural stability while maintaining an upright position without a collapsed trunk or slouched shoulders. This pose also taps into interoception and body awareness as breathing is tracked.

More Info on Belly Breathing

Tree Pose

Tree Pose

Getting Into the Pose:
Tree Pose is an introductory balancing pose that all body abilities can enjoy. We start by cueing the heel to touch the ankle. As balancing progresses, the foot can be placed on the calf or thigh. However, make sure to avoid any pressure on the knee joint. The hands press together at midline, palm to palm, providing additional input.

Therapy Resource:
Like belly breathing, this pose works postural stability through core activation in a static hold. It also works on bilateral coordination as hands and feet press towards midline while maintaining balance and focus. The stacking of joints over the anchored foot (ankles, hips, wrists) taps into theproprioceptive system. If you need additional proprioceptive input in this pose, try stamping feet before attempting to hold static. Activate the vestibular system by experimenting with the foot and hand placement.. Also, try small movement, such as swaying, within the pose. Work on vision by providing various focal points experimenting with gaze up, out, down and even eyes closed. If you see the MORO Reflex in this pose, return to Belly Breathing.

More info on Tree Pose

Child’s Pose

Child's Pose

Getting Into the Pose:
Child’s pose is often used at the beginning or the end of a session. However, it can be used whenever there is a need to decrease overstimulation. It can be completed on the floor or at a table.

Therapy Resource:
As you cue stacked fists, you are working on bilateral coordination and proprioception as joints are stacked together at midline. On the floor, there is the additional tactile input from the legs and arms on the Earth. Seekers may need to rock, or add extra movement to the pose, while avoiders may have to stay more upright. Offer a vestibular system modification of seating in a chair, hands stacked on forehead and chin slightly tucked.

More Info on Child’s Pose

About Us-

This blog post is a collaborative effort of Sweet Inside Yoga and 1000 Petals.

Sweet Inside Yoga is a company providing resources for occupational therapy, physical therapy, mental health practitioners, classroom teachers, yoga teachers, professionals, parents, and others in the community to use with individuals who can be found seeking and/or avoiding yoga activities.

1000 Petals is a well-being training and consulting company based on the science and practice of mindfulness and movement. They provide integrative mindfulness and movement solutions in workshops, events, retreats and self-care classes. Subscribe to their newsletter to receive weekly tips and resources on integrating mindful movement into your therapy.

Saturday Seminar: Specialized Brain Gym and Building Block Activity Workshop

The 2018 Saturday Seminar Series kick-off on January 20 featured June Smith, OTR/L’s presentation: Specialized Brain Gym and Building Block Activity Workshop. June is a full-time clinician and mentor at South Shore Therapies in Massachusetts and is a specialist in sensory integration (SIPT certified), NDT, ocular-motor dysfunction and visual-vestibular treatment. She is a certified Brain Gym instructor and a provider for the Therapeutic Listening Program. June teaches nationally on Brain Gym and Integrated Learning Concepts to support stress-free learning and efficiency of the ocular-motor system.

Brain Gym empowers; it supports alerting and quieting using a total of 26 exercises that require only one tool – your body. June displayed a Venn diagram that aptly described Brain Gym as interlocking concepts that involve 1). a series of simple body movements that 2). integrate all areas of the brain and 3). enhance learning and self-esteem. To demonstrate these concepts with the group, June led us in an alerting activity called “thinking cap.” She feels it is a powerful way to begin a session to facilitate engagement. We started by turning our heads to the right, then left, to examine any tension in our necks. We were asked to massage our ears simultaneously by unrolling the fold of the outer ear, moving from top to bottom. We then were asked to turn our heads again to see if we felt a decreased amount of tension compared with our pretest. Most agreed that head turning was less restricted after “thinking cap.”

June demonstrated a variety Brain Gym exercises that are used in the “PACE” process, an acronym for Positive, Active, Clear, and Energetic,” beginning with Energetic and working in reverse sequence (ECAP) because each of the four activities prepares you for the next. June described it as a ladder, working your way upward toward the top. She demonstrated three exercises that involved arm activation, the first assisted by using a Gertie Ball for arm extension to maintain internal rotation; a “double doodle” where one hand mimics the other, and “lazy 8s” in which the hand traces a large horizontal figure 8, crossing midline of the body using a Race the 8s large marble maze or Trace the 8s, that is based on the infinity sign. She offered suggestions for adapting the exercises for different populations to ensure success.

Several publications from Therapro were endorsed by June today including: Fraid Not: Empowering Kids with Learning Differences, by occupational therapist Pam FormosaThe Learning Gym, and Drive Thru Menus Attention & Strength (New Edition) and Drive Thru Menus Calming and Stress Busting (New Edition), by occupational therapist Tere Bowen-Irish.

June presented an interactive, stimulating seminar today that supported the philosophy that Brain Gym stimulates movement based learning. It incorporates simple, gentle movements that activate brain function. There has been much research conducted on how movement positively influences the brain and our health, and Brain Gym is a powerful tool that helps put a student in the best possible frame for learning as they become calm and organized.

Here’s what attendees had to say about June’s seminar:

“Great information! June convinced me.” – Lise S., Occupational Therapist

“Very informative, lots of practical ways to apply, fabulous ideas. Can’t wait to practically apply these strategies.” – Christin M., Occupational Therapist

“Great presenter. Very informative and interactive! FUN! – Susan P., Physical Therapist

“Fabulous. Recharged my OT battery to use in my school sessions. Used to do Brain Gym daily, changed school districts & haven’t been using.” – Jodi D., Occupational Therapist

Thank you, June!

Filomena Connor, MS, OTR/L
January 20, 2018

Teaching Utensil Use Outside of the Mealtime Experience

It seems as natural as can be; use a child’s meals and snack times as opportunities to teach them how to hold and control their fork or spoon. In this atmosphere of “least restrictive environment” and push-in treatment, this sounds like a great plan for your therapy session.

Although it seems like a good idea, there are circumstances in which separating utensil use from food consumption, at least initially, can be more effective in treatment:

  • Children with tactile aversions and oral sensitivity may find combining manual and intra-oral exploration to be too overwhelming.
  • Children with both motor and sensory issues may find that they cannot work on practicing multiple skills at the same time.
  • Children with behavior issues can be faced with a difficult situation: they want to eat and they want to exert control over their body or an adult’s behavior.
  • Kids with minimal endurance or tolerance can lack the ability to complete a meal, leaving them dependent on adults or frustrated with their fatigue or a sense of failure.

Teaching utensil use without the expectation of food ingestion can solve these problems.  As skills and tolerance grow, the two experiences can be joined successfully.  Here are some suggestions to make practice effective and weave it back into functional experience as seamlessly as possible:

  • Have the child feed an adult using child-friendly utensils and foods.  A child may decide to take a bite instead of feeding the adult, so a food’s size and texture should be safe for the child’s developmental level.
Pediatric Utensil Holder
Pediatric Utensil Holder
EazyHold Universal Cuff
EazyHold Universal Cuff
Happy Bowl Silicone Feeding Mat
Happy Bowl Silicone Feeding Mat
  • Playfully scooping and piercing non-food objects such as non-edible dough with utensils and other “real” tableware may extend practice sessions while decreasing the stress of multi-sensory exposure with food.
Shape, Model, and Mold
Shape, Model, and Mold
Pizza Party
Pizza Party
Cutting Food Box
Cutting Food Box
  • Watching the therapist eat food that the child has prepared or served with utensils reinforces the social and nurturing aspects of meal preparation and eating.
  • Using strategies such as backward chaining or graded exposure, activities that begin by separating utensil use from eating can become more like a typical mealtime experience over time. When children are given a “just-right” level of challenge, they make faster progress with ease.

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.