Category Archives: Daily Living

Tips for Back to School Success

The transition from the relaxed summer schedule to the more structured school schedule can be tough for everyone involved. Here are some tips for making the transition back to school, a little easier.

Add Structure Back Into The Schedule

Schkidules a visual schedule used to help transition to back to school, blue board with picture icons depicting daily tasks and yellow board depicting stars earned

As the long days of summer start to wind down, slowly adding more scheduled events into the daily schedule will make the transition into a fully scheduled school day much easier. This could be as simple as a set time for breakfast or adding in a scheduled chore time during the day. Try using SchKidules to make a daily visual schedule.  The easy to use magnetic schedule lets you slowly add in more and more structured activities to the daily lineup and it is in a similar format most kids will see in their classrooms. Once the school year gets going a weekly schedule will be a great way to keep track of school activities and extra curriculars.

Practice Important Self Help Skills

Green dinosaur Busy Bee Lacing Sensory Activity showing lacing through loops numbered one to five used to prepare fine motor skills needed for back to school

Kids will be expected to do many of their daily self care activities independently or with minimal assistance once they return to the classroom. Lots of practice at home will help kids be ready for this! The resource Self Care With Flair is a great way to teach children important skills like handwashing, putting on coats, and managing their clothing in the bathroom. The Busy Bee Sensory Activity Plush is helpful for practicing the fine motor skills needed for these tasks like lacing, tying, zipping and buttoning.  Pro Tip for kids who have not yet mastered shoe tying, replace standard laces with elastic shoe laces for a slip on and go option.

Get In Tune With Sensory Needs

Cover of the product Sensational Fun a card deck of sensory based activities.  used to discover sensory preferences for back to school success

Every sensory system is different, figuring out the particular needs for each system will help kids start off the school year on the right foot! Riding the bus may be hard for kids who have difficulty with loud noises or who struggle with motion sickness. These students may benefit from sensory tools for the eyes and ears. The cafeteria may be especially difficult for students with aversion to certain smells; these students may benefit from fidgets that calm and organize an over responsive sensory system. Students who are not use to early mornings or who are use to afternoon naps may benefit from fidgets that help alert or wake up the under responsive sensory system.   Sensory based activities such as playing with floof, scented dough, or any of the activities found in Sensational Fun will help give insight into sensory needs.

Refresh Academic Skills

The box and game board for the game Colorama with red green yellow and blue game pieces in various shapes used to teach colors for back to school success

 The summer slide happens but there are many ways to keep academic skills sharp. For a fun refresher try learning games. Novenops offers a quick refresh on sentence structure, Letter Treasure Hunt is great for a review of letter concepts, and Colorama offers  a crash course on colors!

Planning ahead for the first day of school can help students make a smoother transition back into the academic year!

The Value of Therapy Balls and How Best to Store Them

by Shoshanah Shear

I have had the joy of working in four different countries and a number of different facilities. Some equipment regardless of the setting one works in or what the age of the client is. Therapy Balls definitely fit into this category. I have enjoyed using these in treatment with head-injured or stroke patients just as much as with children with learning problems, or even the blind.

I think balls of various sizes, textures, and shapes are a tell-tale sign that you have stepped into an OT room or department. They assist in meeting so many goals and certainly show how dynamic OT is and how creative we need to be with every treatment plan and session. Let’s face it, balls are fun for most ages. They are colorful and versatile. Being round means that they are dynamic, resulting in the ability to grade therapy sessions by working on an unstable surface.

Therapy balls are beneficial for improving:

  • motor control
  • muscle tone
  • trunk control or strengthening core muscles
  • upper limb function for clients with orthopedic or neurological disorders
  • introducing fun games and exercises into therapy
  • eye-hand coordination
  • righting and balance reactions
  • weight shift

Balls can encourage a child to feel excited to come into a treatment room or to prepare a blind child for hippotherapy. Balls can be just as important to an older woman needing to reduce internal scarring from repeated abdominal surgery.

There is one problem with therapy balls: storage. Without due care, your therapy room can quickly become messy, cluttered, and a potential safety hazard. We don’t want our clients tripping over equipment!

If you’ve ever worked in an OT department or been involved in developing a therapy department in limited space, then you can appreciate the need to organize physio/Gymnic balls. There are times that facilities will look into securing a suitable shelf, setting up a hammock specifically for therapy balls, or acquiring an array of other wall or ceiling fittings.

But what can do you do if your practice is in rented space that doesn’t permit attaching anything to the walls or ceilings? Or if your OT room is in a building with prefabricated walls and ceilings, reducing the strength and stability of the internal structure?

When I started in private practice, one of the first pieces of equipment I obtained was a large therapy ball with bells inside. Amongst my first private clients was a child who was blind from birth and severely sensory-deprived, hence the bells within the ball. It was wonderful to introduce a ball game in which he could participate because he could hear where the ball was.

The problem was how to store the therapy ball. I grappled with this dilemma until I discovered the wonderful Ball Stacker. It looks professional and neat and makes a good impression when a parent comes into the therapy room for the first time. Now you can use therapy balls even if you can’t attach brackets, shelves, or hammocks to the wall or ceiling.

Another valuable accessory to the therapy ball, is the Ball Handpump which offers the freedom to alter the pressure in the ball according to the goals of your client.


Shoshanah Shear

Occupational Therapist, healing facilitator, certified infant massage instructor, freelance writer, author of “Healing Your Life Through Activity – An Occupational Therapist’s Story” and co-author of “Tuvia Finds His Freedom”.

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