Category Archives: Events

Saturday Seminar: The Impact of Personalized Tool Kits on Adolescents with Mental Illness

Jean MacLachlan, PhD, OTR/L’s November 4th 2014 Saturday Seminar was entitled: The Impact of Personalized Tool Kits on Adolescents with Mental Illness: How to Assess, Develop and Integrate into Daily Routines. A specialist in mental health and sensory processing, Dr. MacLachlan teaches at Salem State University, conducts research, and consults throughout the US. Her focus has been on the integration of sensory-based interventions into “non-traditional settings.”

Jean’s thoughtful and thought-provoking seminar revealed some surprising documentation about adolescent mental health including the statistic that about 20% of children and adolescents in the US have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder that impairs their lives (NIMH, 2010; Perou, 2013). Jean provided a summary of supportive literature that indicates that a sensory-based approach to treatment promotes positive behaviors. Jean’s research using individualized sensory tool kits yielded statistically significant results in 6 areas, 3 of which affected all study participants including an increase in self perception of sense of occupational competence; an increase in daily number of hours in the classroom; and a decrease in the number of PRN medications.

Jean offered a rich array of ideas for creating individualized sensory tool kits that target all sensory areas, depending on the adolescent’s needs. She added cautions regarding some client-specific personal issues including: allergies to certain materials, olfactory experiences that may elicit negative memories in trauma victims, visual responses that may trigger seizures, and vibratory stimulation for hypersexualized adolescents. She advocated building the use of sensory toolkits into a client’s routine to help improve function, which means devising a way that the client has access to his/her toolkit whenever it is needed, i.e. during transition times that might cause an outburst, like going from school to a job. Some Therapro materials that she recommended included:

In addition to individualized sensory tools, Jean discussed some interesting examples of sensory-based coping skills groups. One example she gave involved playing “Sensory Hopscotch,” where the client throws a beanbag on a sensory square and then identifies the tool in their sensory tool kit they use in that sensory category and why they use it.

With our understanding of sensory processing, occupational therapists can have an important role in providing sensory-based treatment for young people diagnosed with mental illness. Jean provided us with a dynamic seminar including interactive times for participants to share thoughts and problem-solve about tools that may be useful and accessible in their particular setting. Many offered helpful ideas on how to acquire those tools through creative funding. This seminar fulfilled all expectations for attendees who learned how to create and use personalized sensory tool kits with the adolescent population in individual and group settings.

Take a look at just a few of the positive remarks attendees made about this seminar:

“Excellent material, engaging presentation. Thank you!!” – Katherine C., Occupational Therapist

“Great ideas; really liked the built in discussion time.” – Maura M., Teacher

“Lots of ideas, suggestions. Opportunities to collaborate. And free!!” – Anonymous, Occupational Therapist

“Specific and functional activities! Direct and to the point!” – Susan J., Physical Therapist Assistant

“Well organized, informative, and applicable to my work.” – Anonymous, Occupational Therapist

Thank you, Jean!

Filomena Connor, MS, OTR/L

Saturday Seminar: Syrian Boy with Bilateral Upper Limb Differences Learns to Negotiate Daily Life in America

Eleven year old Ahmad, who as an 8-year-old suffered trauma in Aleppo, Syria, that left him with bilateral transhumeral limb differences, captivated us. Today’s seminar, presented by Ahmad, his occupational therapist, Sheila Kearney, MS, OTR/L, and physical therapist, Julia O’Connell, PT, was entitled: Syrian Boy with Bilateral Upper Limb Differences Learns to Negotiate Daily Life in America. Attendees were spellbound by Ahmad’s story that took us from his and his dad’s arrival in the USA 3 years ago, his experiences to date, and plans for the future. His therapists work as a cohesive unit with his school and family with the goal of assimilating him into American life as a fully functional boy at home, at school, and in the community. Both Sheila and Julia have extensive experience in a variety of pediatric settings. They met Ahmad through the Sharon, MA public schools, where he is a student.

The therapists provided the framework for Ahmad’s journey through their PowerPoint and video presentation. Hearing about Ahmad’s experiences in his words and demonstrations on how he manages his daily life enriched the seminar infinitely and brought to life the reality of the challenges he faces on a daily basis. Behind the current functional capabilities were months of trial and error, frustration, and success guided by his therapists and sometimes, with his self-designed adaptations. Observing as he demonstrated donning a jacket, writing with Ferby Triangular Colored Pencils, cutting with a knife, scooping from an Inner Lip Plate, pouring himself a drink, and eating a peanut butter sandwich seemed satisfying for him. Ahmad uses a Slant Board to facilitate writing activities. He tried out and loved using Mounted Table Top Scissors today, which provided stability as the scissors were fixed to a plastic base with nonslip pads. Simple materials like Closed Cell Cylindrical Foam, and Velcro Self Adhesive Tape are simple materials that can be used in creative ways to facilitate function for Ahmad. Hearing about his PT treatment for strengthening his upper body in preparation for function was moving. Ahmad has tackled daily life issues along with a talented therapy team who are always exploring new ways to adapt materials creatively to ensure full participation with his peers and siblings.

Currently Ahmad is using primitive UE prostheses that require strength and muscle activation. He removed his shirt and demonstrated how he activates them using shoulder girdle musculature. Ahmad looks forward to the next step in gaining more fine motor control with myoelectric prostheses, which will provide him with increased power and control. He looks forward to using the device glove with fingers, giving him the ability to use a 3 jaw chuck for better fine motor control than his current prostheses offer. In addition, it was exciting to hear that he is eligible for bilateral upper extremity transplants in the near future, with the decision resting with him and his parents.

The commitment and care that Sheila and Julia have provided for Ahmad have been critical for his assimilation into his new life in the US. It was a pleasure for all of us to share his journey. His future is bright with his parents and four siblings now together in the US. Intelligence, confidence, kindness, and charisma are just a few of the qualities that we saw in Ahmad. Seeing how he, his parents, therapists, and school staff work as a team to help him achieve independence is truly inspirational. He is meeting his challenges head-on with determination and an indomitable spirit!

Here are a few appreciative remarks from attendees:

“The amount of adaptations are amazing. What a great team. I love how client driven it is.” – Patricia K., Occupational Therapist

“I would absolutely recommend this seminar to a colleague! This seminar was one of the best – especially because Ahmad was part of the presentation.” – Maura. M., Teacher

“I loved Ahmad telling his own story and supplemented by his therapists.” – Micaela C., Physical Therapist

“Very inspirational. Wonderful to see the student in action. So motivated!” – Beth M., Occupational Therapist

Thank you, Sheila, Julia, and of course, Ahmad!

Filomena Connor, MS, OTR/L
October 14, 2017

Minnesota School-Based OT/PT Institute, October 2-3, 2017

Therapro was delighted to receive an invitation to exhibit at the 2nd Annual School-Based OT/PT Institute in Minneapolis. Registrations for the conference more than doubled from the conference’s inaugural year in 2016, with over 400 attendees! Mary Kay Eastman, PT, MS and her efficient team, including Tanya Grabinski, PT, DPT, MHS, PCS, Margaret Knebel, MEd, OTR/L, and Michelle Schlueder, PT, DPT ran a well-planned and well-orchestrated conference that won rave reviews all around.

The Keynote speaker, Kathy Flaminio, MSW, opened the conference with “Taking Care of Yourself Inside and Out: Nourishing Your Mind, Body and Heart.” Speakers presented on a variety of timely topics including “Meeting Sensory Needs in the General Education Classroom,” “Effects of Mobility on Cognition,” “Emerging Evidence in Pediatric Brain Injury: Role of School-based Services.”

Attendees visited the Therapro exhibit with many positive comments that warmed our hearts. Therapists told us “I love Therapro – my favorite place to get therapy supplies!” and “It’s good to have a conference where vendors are zeroed in on what we need!” We enjoyed helping the therapist who is working at a brand new Charter school with no therapy materials. We helped her select “must have” items such as Pencil and Hand Gripper Sampler 1, Raised Line Paper Assortment, Fine Motor Olympics, Fidget Kit, and Drive Thru Menus, and much more!! Therapists told us they were excited to try out our products and examine books they had only seen in the catalog.

We love getting feedback on Therapro products that therapists use and love. We heard that Learn to Dress Monkey is a big hit in a preschool class in which students love to dress and undress the adorable stuffed animal while practicing 11 dressing skills including zipping and buttoning. Frog and Turtle Beanbags were popular with both PTs and OTs who use them in many creative ways. The one that stands out involves launching them from a platform by having a child stomp on a connected spring device. So clever AND fun!

Therapro’s I Can Work! 5-module prevocational curriculum drew much interest for therapists who work with middle school and high school age students. Having the manual available now in printed form along with the CD was a bonus for therapists.

Our experience at this conference was outstanding. We loved the opportunity to share ideas and receive feedback from our colleagues in the Midwest. We hope to see you next year!

Filomena Connor, MS, OTR/L