Category Archives: Events

98th Annual AOTA Conference & Expo

Salt Lake City hosted the 98th Annual AOTA Conference & Expo this year.  Traditionally, it is the largest gathering of occupational therapy professionals in the world, with 7,000 in attendance this year! The beautiful snow-capped mountains were a magical backdrop for all the conference festivities.

We were one of over 375 exhibitors! The Therapro crew we brought included Karen, Linda, Allyson, and me. We enjoyed meeting all the therapists, educators, students, and parents who found our exhibit at Booth1500 in the Expo Hall. It was great to hear shouts from those who strolled by with remarks like “We love Therapro!  Thanks for being here!” We were delighted that so many of our friends and colleagues stopped by to visit, including Jan Hollenbeck, Emily Zeman, Diana Henry, Melanie Potock, Jenny Clark, Tee Stock, and many more. This year we shared our booth with authors, Carolyn Murray-Slutsky, MS, OTR, C/NDT and Betty A. Paris, PT, MEd, C/NDT, along with Carolyn’s husband, Herman. Their publications: Autism Interventions, Is It Sensory or Is It Behavior?, DTI: Laminated Card Series – Sensory Modulation & Positive Behavioral Strategies, and Sleep ‘N Sync materials were extremely popular, even more so because Carolyn and Betty provided a workshop at the conference.

We offered visitors an opportunity to try out some new products we brought, including:

We showcased a new Chewy Tube product called the Sensory Spoon, which Karen and Filomena helped design. It is the first self-feeding tool of its kind that provides a child with tactile input to the palm, a comfortable smooth textured spoon with a natural “stop” to prevent gagging, and a bowl that helps facilitate lip closure to the spoon for easy clearing. The feedback from therapists and parents of children with special needs was very positive.

Three happy winners of the Therapro raffles walked away with Therapro products. These lucky therapists included Ester, Miranda, and Chelsey. They were excited to receive some of our favorite products in their surprise bag: TracKit, Therapy Putty, Reading Guide Strips, Sensory Story Strategy Card Deck, Novenops, and Letter Treasure Hunt.

By Day #4 of the conference, our Therapro team had sore feet, but big smiles on our faces. We had a blast meeting so many great people who loved sharing their ideas, opinions, and experiences with us. They often remarked that it was wonderful to discuss products with us because we are OTs who use the products in our own practices.

I want to leave you with a quote from Lia, an occupational therapist from Philadelphia, as she purchased a Wind-Up Ladybug and a Sensory Connection Self-Regulation Workbook: “Nothing helps self-regulation like a ladybug.”

Thank you, AOTA – Salt Lake City.  We learned so much and can’t wait to see you again next spring in New Orleans 2019!  We’ll be ready for you!!

Filomena Connor, MS, OTR/L

Saturday Seminar: From Farm to Table: A Comprehensive Group Model of Nutrition and Feeding

The February 17, 2018 Saturday Seminar at Therapro was an innovative presentation from nutritionist, Maria Napoleone, MS, RD, LDN and Occupational Therapist, Danielle Goldstein, M.Ed, OTR/L, entitled: Farm to Table: A Comprehensive Group Model of Nutrition and Feeding. The women have developed a feeding group collaboratively at BAMSI Early Intervention Program, in Brockton, MA. Maria has notable pediatric experience as a nutritionist working in varied settings including the Boston Medical Center Growth and Nutrition Clinic, Pediatric Feeding Clinic and Pediatric Surgery Department at UMass Medical Center, WIC, early intervention, and as a Peace Corps volunteer. Danielle’s broad pediatric experience includes practice in acute care, outpatient services, feeding team, school-based therapy, early intervention, and private practice.

Danielle and Maria described Farm to Table as a comprehensive model to improve feeding outcomes with nutrition at its foundation. Their toddler feeding group at BAMSI involves using a multi-sensory approach in a structured group setting in which peer role models play a critical role in the development of eating skills. The seminar covered many topics including tips on how to structure a feeding group in various settings, how to implement key strategies, how to empower parents carryover and use the strategies learned through the group, how to improve the quality of foods consumed, how to improve mealtime behavior, and much more!

Farm to Table developed over a number of years as the model for the BAMSI feeding group that provided the toddlers with hands-on food exploration and multisensory experiences in a nurturing, supportive setting. The Sequential Oral Sensory (S.O.S) Approach, a trans-disciplinary program for assessing and treating children with feeding challenges and weight/growth problems, serves as the approach the BAMSI team uses in their feeding group. S.O.S. integrates posture, sensory, motor, behavioral/learning, medical, and nutritional factors to evaluate and manage children with feeding and growth difficulties. Creating a garden as part of the group experience gives the children other sensory and food-related experiences that helps them understand how food grows and what it looks like when it is cooked and on your plate. The garden has produced a wide variety of vegetables and herbs that the group has used to prepare snacks and meals including spaghetti sauce, zucchini muffins, and pesto. Growing food adds a critical component to the group in light of the fact that Maria noted that “70-90% of children who receive EI services have one or more nutritional risk indicators.”

Several of the many helpful resources recommended by Danielle and Maria include:, and

Maria and Danielle presented an exciting model that addresses jointly the importance of developing a solid nutritional foundation for children as well as the need to support children with feeding challenges through a multi-sensory approach to feeding. They have documented great success with their Farm to Table feeding group. The rich experiences the children gain take them from learning about how plants are grown, cared for, and harvested, to how the plants are prepared, cooked, and eaten, in a structured group with peers and adult role models. This team approach takes children who experience feeding challenges on a nurturing, supportive, fun journey toward improved nutrition and enjoyment of food!

Take a look at a few of the many positive comments from attendees about Danielle and Maria’s seminar:

“Very informational on ways to improve feeding with children not just by using food but also through movement, circle time, structured activities. Really like the idea of group and using peer modeling.” – Julia N., Occupational Therapist

“It was interesting and well presented. I will use many of these strategies for my class. (I am in First Grade and work with Special Needs).” – Annmarie M., Teacher

“Great process from beginning to end of creating this group program.” – Micaela C., Physical Therapist

“The emphasis on the process was important in understanding that every student works at their own pace and that any type of food trial – whether it be touch, smell, or taste is success!” – Beth M., Occupational Therapist

Thank you, Maria and Danielle!

Filomena Connor, MS, OTR/L
February 17, 2018

Saturday Seminar: Specialized Brain Gym and Building Block Activity Workshop

The 2018 Saturday Seminar Series kick-off on January 20 featured June Smith, OTR/L’s presentation: Specialized Brain Gym and Building Block Activity Workshop. June is a full-time clinician and mentor at South Shore Therapies in Massachusetts and is a specialist in sensory integration (SIPT certified), NDT, ocular-motor dysfunction and visual-vestibular treatment. She is a certified Brain Gym instructor and a provider for the Therapeutic Listening Program. June teaches nationally on Brain Gym and Integrated Learning Concepts to support stress-free learning and efficiency of the ocular-motor system.

Brain Gym empowers; it supports alerting and quieting using a total of 26 exercises that require only one tool – your body. June displayed a Venn diagram that aptly described Brain Gym as interlocking concepts that involve 1). a series of simple body movements that 2). integrate all areas of the brain and 3). enhance learning and self-esteem. To demonstrate these concepts with the group, June led us in an alerting activity called “thinking cap.” She feels it is a powerful way to begin a session to facilitate engagement. We started by turning our heads to the right, then left, to examine any tension in our necks. We were asked to massage our ears simultaneously by unrolling the fold of the outer ear, moving from top to bottom. We then were asked to turn our heads again to see if we felt a decreased amount of tension compared with our pretest. Most agreed that head turning was less restricted after “thinking cap.”

June demonstrated a variety Brain Gym exercises that are used in the “PACE” process, an acronym for Positive, Active, Clear, and Energetic,” beginning with Energetic and working in reverse sequence (ECAP) because each of the four activities prepares you for the next. June described it as a ladder, working your way upward toward the top. She demonstrated three exercises that involved arm activation, the first assisted by using a Gertie Ball for arm extension to maintain internal rotation; a “double doodle” where one hand mimics the other, and “lazy 8s” in which the hand traces a large horizontal figure 8, crossing midline of the body using a Race the 8s large marble maze or Trace the 8s, that is based on the infinity sign. She offered suggestions for adapting the exercises for different populations to ensure success.

Several publications from Therapro were endorsed by June today including: Fraid Not: Empowering Kids with Learning Differences, by occupational therapist Pam FormosaThe Learning Gym, and Drive Thru Menus Attention & Strength (New Edition) and Drive Thru Menus Calming and Stress Busting (New Edition), by occupational therapist Tere Bowen-Irish.

June presented an interactive, stimulating seminar today that supported the philosophy that Brain Gym stimulates movement based learning. It incorporates simple, gentle movements that activate brain function. There has been much research conducted on how movement positively influences the brain and our health, and Brain Gym is a powerful tool that helps put a student in the best possible frame for learning as they become calm and organized.

Here’s what attendees had to say about June’s seminar:

“Great information! June convinced me.” – Lise S., Occupational Therapist

“Very informative, lots of practical ways to apply, fabulous ideas. Can’t wait to practically apply these strategies.” – Christin M., Occupational Therapist

“Great presenter. Very informative and interactive! FUN! – Susan P., Physical Therapist

“Fabulous. Recharged my OT battery to use in my school sessions. Used to do Brain Gym daily, changed school districts & haven’t been using.” – Jodi D., Occupational Therapist

Thank you, June!

Filomena Connor, MS, OTR/L
January 20, 2018