Category Archives: Sensory

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: 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

Simple Hacks to Optimize Backpack Safety and Organization

by Cathy Collyer

One of the essential back-to-school items on every parent’s shopping list is a new backpack.  Beginning in preschool and progressing all the way through high school, kids use their backpacks every day.   As therapists, we are aware that how that backpack is filled and carried will either create problems for kids or solve them.   A pack that is too heavy, so full that it creates perceptual, sensory or cognitive roadblocks to organization, or missing essential tools for kids with special needs, is not doing it’s job.  With targeted education and the introduction of simple alternative strategies, we can improve the chances that backpacks end up helping every child perform well during this school year.

Here are some ways to help students manage their backpacks for optimal performance throughout the school year:

  • Lighten up. Kids tend to make their packs heavier than they need to be.  Hypermobile kids, kids with orthopedic issues and kids with low tone may be carrying packs that put them at significant risk for injury.  Make sure parents are aware of this issue, and help them by suggesting a review of backpack contents and downsizing the “essentials” whenever possible.  Small water bottles, travel sizes of toiletries, and a minimum number of pencils, pens or markers lighten the load.  For kids that aren’t aware of the sensory or cognitive overload of an overfilled pack, a backpack checklist or a smaller pack help them manage without an adult assuming responsibility for content management.

  • Teach kids how to pack and wear their pack. The heaviest items should be carried close to the body and content weight should be distributed equally across the back. Kids should use both straps when wearing their backpack.  The one-shoulder carry can be preferred by middle-schoolers wishing to look “cool”.  This overweighting of one side of the body puts them off balance and at-risk for injury.  It may be hard to change habitual behavior in children at this age.  Try identifying the child or children who seem to be admired and copied by their peers.  Influencing the kids who are acknowledged social leaders can change class culture quickly.   Don’t wait until children report neck and shoulder pain, but remind parents and teachers that the risk of strains, sprains and exacerbations of issues seen in tweens and teens like scoliosis are real.
  • Frequently used items should be quickly accessible in surface pockets, and items they need for their first class are reachable when they open their pack, not packed under other materials. Laminated photos of pocket contents can help children learn the habits of efficient storage.

  • Help kids remember to use their sensory tools by having them handy. Tools like Highlighter Strips and the Desk Buddy Multi-Textured Ruler are slim and can be left between pages of a book or workbook, ready to be used.  Calming tools like the Wristful Fidget can be worn, not shoved into a pack.  Since it looks like a sport wrap, kids aren’t as eager to toss it away when they pack up and go!  Kids may need more than one set of tools so that they can leave a set at school and another one at home. Items that do more than one job, like the Desk Buddy Ruler, have an advantage over carrying a bunch of fidgets and then an equal number of classroom tools.

  • Accept that altering behavior is a long game. Don’t get discouraged if kids only use some of these strategies to improve how they manage their backpacks.  Habits change slowly, and as the demands of the school year mount, it may take periodic reviews and revisions to find the right combination of equipment, organization and carrying strategies to make a difference!

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.