Category Archives: Occupational Therapy

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

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

Annual Ohio OT/PT School-Based Practice Conference

The Annual Ohio OT/PT School-Based Practice conference celebrated its 25th year on August 7-8 in Columbus! From one year to the next, this conference attracts therapists from Ohio as well as surrounding states. This year the venue was bursting with almost 700 energized attendees. The conference always offers exceptional speakers who present the latest information for both new and seasoned therapists.

We were proud that Therapro author Tere Bowen-Irish, OTR/L presented the Keynote address entitled: “Weaving Visualization and Mindfulness into Your Practice.” She offered a variety of sessions throughout the conference, attracting capacity crowds eager to hear her lively presentations incorporating her Drive Thru Menus. Tere introduced a brand new addition to her product line-up called: Sensory Processing Support Planning Guide.

Other presentations offered show the diversity and breadth of this conference: Athena Oden, PT presented “Ready Bodies, Learning Minds: Cultivating the Complete Child.” Take a look at her website for learning more about her unique approach that provides developmental support for integrating both the sensory systems and motor systems as a basis for academic success. Just a few of the other excellent sessions included: “Integrating Primitive Reflexes to Improve School Function’ by Kim Wiggins, OTR/L, “Developmental Coordination Disorder: Best Practices for Recognition and Management in the School Setting,” by Erin Iverson, PT, DPT, PCS and Patti Sharp, OTD, MS, OTR/L, and “Are We Ready to Meet the Obesity Challenge?” by Cindy Miles, PT, PhD, PCS.

Therapro owner/president Karen Conrad Weihrauch and I enjoyed greeting all the therapists who stopped by the Therapro exhibit. Attendees eagerly tried out some of the latest Therapro products: Safety Grip Scooter Board, Eazyhold universal cuffs, Yoga Spinner Game, Gyrobi fidgets, Stikbot, and Peg Friends: Around the Town.


The Therapro game, Letter Treasure Hunt, was acclaimed by therapists who purchased it at last year’s conference. One therapist excitedly relayed that she loved the game because it was so versatile. She discovered she could use it for students of a variety of ages and abilities. For example, she told us that with one student, she used just the spinner part of the game to help develop fine motor skill.

The new revised edition of Fine Motor Olympics was hard to keep on the shelves! Therapists loved the 64 beautiful color card deck photos of children’s hands performing various fine motor tasks. On the reverse side of the cards there is information on how to perform and adapt the activity as well as identification of the hand functions that are being targeted by the activity. The revised manual includes a quick screening form, a fine motor observation checklist, a record form, plus an in-service training program. All agreed that Fine Motor Olympics is a very practical, important tool to add to the therapy toolbox!

Mary Kay Eastman, PT, MS and Molly Dodge, OTR/L co-chaired this event once again seamlessly. With a dedicated team of hard workers, the two-day conference hummed along and offered attendees a broad selection of relevant, interesting topics. Conference coordinator, Holly Bartholomew of First Class Conferences, once again made sure all ran smoothly throughout the conference. Great job, ladies! Thank you for two exhilarating days. We look forward to seeing you next year!

Filomena Connor, MS, OTR/L