Category Archives: Education

My Motor Mats movement path, boy completing a crab walk on a black motor mat

Making Time for Movement Breaks

There is no doubt that movement is an essential part of the learning process but finding the time for movement breaks in an already packed school day can be hard.  However, with the ever growing body of research linking movement to academic performance (Petrigna et al, 2022)  finding the time for movement breaks becomes essential. So, how do you move? Here are some quick ways to add a little extra movement to the day: 

Add Extra Movement Opportunities Into Transitions

Movement paths (sometimes called sensory paths or motor paths) offer great opportunities to build in movement breaks during naturally occurring transitions, like changing classes.  The simple addition of movements like hopping, balancing on one foot, or turning in a circle offers an enriched movement opportunity that activates different sensory channels helping the brain get ready and be more receptive to upcoming learning activities.  

Add Movement To Academic Lessons

Reach those kinesthetic learners by incorporating movement into academic lessons. Readily available activities, like the ABC’s of Movement cards or the Drive Thru-Menus makes this easy to do!  Teaching literacy skills? Use visuals from the ABC’s of Movement to add an ‘Alligator March’ to letter A concepts or the ‘Penguin Waddle’ to letter P concepts.  Practicing spelling words? Try spelling each word while performing Angels in the Snow from the Drive-Thru Menus Body Challenge Exercises.

Don’t Just Take A Break, Take A Movement Break

During the school day there are naturally occurring breaks, such as transitions or when students finish up at different times. Fill these moments with meaningful movement opportunities. Use cards from the Move Your Body Fun Deck to add motor movements to transitions. The fun deck offers easy to grab, quick visuals with a variety of different movement activities; pick three for the day, display them on the board, and do each one a few times between activities for a quick brain reset! Use the Minute Moves or Focus Moves Bundles to establish Movement Routines. The Bundles are designed to provide easy-to-do, evidence-based routines to enhance academic skills. Another option is the Year of Mini-Moves for the In-Sync Child, which offers a weekly schedule of different movements that can be easily incorporated into the day.  

Create Accessible Movement Spaces

Getting outside often offers a plethora of opportunities for movement breaks but for the student who has gross motor challenges the opportunities can be limited.  Having a variety of activities available will help ensure students of all abilities are able to access movement opportunities.  For students who have difficulty with standard catch and throw ball games, offering alternatives like Magicatch, Beanbags, or Pezzi Activa Balls offers inclusive approaches.  For students who have difficulty accessing standard playground equipment, the availability of  parachutes, bubbles, or movement based games like Trunks can provide alternative movement activities at recess. 

Movement is a critical component of the learning process that can get overlooked during a busy, academic filled, school day.  Building movement breaks into already existing routines and schedules can help students move and succeed! 

Petrigna L, Thomas E, Brusa J, Rizzo F, Scardina A, Galassi C, Lo Verde D, Caramazza G and Bellafiore M (2022) Does Learning Through Movement Improve Academic Performance in Primary Schoolchildren? A Systematic Review. Front. Pediatr. 10:841582. doi: 10.3389/fped.2022.841582.

Raised Line Paper… What Is It?

Sarah Glovasky M.S. OTR/L

Sometimes called tactile paper, Raised Line Paper is used to help individuals stay between the lines when writing. The raised line paper has raised top and bottom lines to provide tactile, proprioceptive and visual feedback to the writer. There are a variety of types of paper to choose from!

Raised Line Learning Sheets

Do you have a beginner writer? The raised line learning sheets are a good place to start from! There are letters, numbers, alphabet coloring sheets and mazes! The tactile input helps the new learners understand where to keep their pencil and crayon marks! 

Raised Line Writing Paper

There are so many options to help more advanced writers be as successful as they can. There are different sized lines (narrow and wide) depending on the level of the writer. If you need more of a visual cue there is the option to have red and blue lines on your paper. Double the input for a higher accuracy when writing. If spacing or sizing is a problem there is boxed raised line paper to provide a space for every letter to fit in. Pro tip: If all this sounds great but you are not sure what will work best the assortment pack is very helpful!

Staged Raised Line Paper

There is a product line that is able to take a writer from beginning stages right through advanced writing. This is a six stage series of handwriting papers that begins with clearly defined writing spaces and perceptual cues that fade in successive stages as the student gains mastery. The thick, colorful dark blue baselines are raised, providing not only visual cues, but also tactile cues.  Pro Tip: Students advance at their own pace so having all the stages on hand is very helpful!

Stage One: For beginning writers. Clearly defined writing spaces.

Stage Two: Writing spaces are less defined as shading is partially removed.

Stage Three: Shading has been completely removed and replaced with a borderline.

Stage Four: Writing spaces are less structured; fewer distractions than typical notebook paper.

Stage Five: The most popular Stage Write paper! Spacing between blue baseline and gray guideline reduced to 1/4″.

Stage Six: Comparable to standard notebook paper. Still incorporates raised dark blue baseline and clearly defined margins.

Another great aspect of all this paper is it can be used with a variety of reading/writing/handwriting programs! Give your writers the tools they need to be successful independent writers.

Setting up Your Seat for Virtual Learning Success

Having just the right seating arrangement can make the difference between a successful learning experience and one that is full of distractions, position changes, and learning sessions that don’t  last as long as they should.   Two of the biggest factors to consider are the physical set up and the sensory needs. 

Physical Set Up

One of the most important considerations in addressing physical needs is the 90/90/90 rule.   When seated in a chair, feet should be resting comfortably on the floor with a 90 degree angle at the hips, knees and ankles. The work surface should be at a height  that allows the forearms to rest with the shoulders in a neutral position.  

Sensory Needs

When addressing sensory needs related to positioning it is important to consider getting enough of the right kind of sensory stimulation.  Virtual learning has provided long hours sitting at the computer or workspace for both those providing the virtual services and those receiving them.  Virtual learning spaces are often devoid of the naturally occurring sensory stimuli sensory systems need to stay alert and focused.  Classrooms, therapy rooms, and other work spaces are full of naturally occurring stimuli like  enriching conversation with our fellow therapist, the chitter chatter of classmates, naturally occurring movement breaks as we move from one part of the building to another.  Our sensory systems need stimuli to keep alert and focussed. 

Try This: 

  1. Support the feet.  When a chair is too big, legs and feet are left dangling and unsupported, decreasing postural stability needed for hand use.  Adding a foot stool or foam mat under the feet provides the needed support.  Using a  foam mat has the added bonus of additional sensory input! 
  1. Support the back: An oversized chair results in the body being in an awkward extended position with the hips and knees not being able to  flex at the desired 90 degree angles.  Placing a seat wedge or towel roll between the child’s back and the chair back will help bring the child forward enough on the chair to allow the hips to flex to 90 degrees and the knees to bend appropriately over the edge of the chair. This position will  increase overall comfort  resulting  in increased stamina for the work task.  
  1. Bring Work to Eye Level.  When the work surface is too low the natural tendency is to lean forward resulting in losing the 90 degree angle at the hips. A quick fix is to  use a slant board which brings the work higher and reduces the lean forward.  
  1. Use a Seat Cushion.  When the work surface is too high, the forearms are positioned in a way that brings the shoulders up closer to the ears decreasing over stability and comfort.  If changing the table or chair height is not an option, sitting on a folded towel, a book, or a cushion  can help but make sure the child’s feet are still securely on a firm surface like a step stool! Additionally, cushions provide needed sensory input!   Tip; use dycem to keep these positioning aids in place! 
  1. Use  Alternative Seating
    • Do you want to increase a student’s alertness and ability to focus during extended seating activities? Add movement such as the  Alert Seat or the Kore Wobble Chair!
    • Alternatively, long hours in front of a computer screen trying to filter out extraneous background sensory stimuli can lead to overstimulation.  When calming or organizing input is needed try adding a foot fidget to the chair legs, placing a portable foot fidget under the workspace, or having a foot tapper available.  Other options included weighted lap pads or shoulder wraps.  
  1. Position Changes.   Incorporating position changes through the work or school day is a great way to maintain attention and focus,
    • Standing at a counter height work space or taping work to a wall are options to allow for standing positions while working. 
    • Lay down.  Working while laying on the stomach is a great way to provide proprioceptive input through the shoulders joints (great for those needing calming and organizing input).  This position also gives students who are struggling with postural instability more support so they can focus on their work and not on staying stable!  Use yoga mats or cushions to provide comfort and a clipboard or slant board as a work surface. 
    • Get Cozy.  Another option for a position change  is a bean bag.  While not the best option for all types of tasks this is a great spot when reading or listening to an activity. The deep pressure input provides a great calming and organizing input.  

Many of us have made the sudden change from a full day in a classroom or work environment with naturally occurring, enriching sensory experiences to alternative work spaces that may not always provide the type or intensity of sensory stimulation we need to stay alert and  focused. Changing up the seating arrangement can be a great way to increase attention and focus during long days of virtual learning or teletherapy sessions.  

Allyson Locke M.S., OTR/L