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Pediatric Therapy Corner: Speaking Sensory-Ease (Part 2 of 2) - featured March 18, 2011

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Speaking Sensory-Ease (Part 2 of 2)

By: Jackie Linder Olson

Editor's Note: Part one of this article can be found HERE

Dear Therapists (Continued),
To quickly recap last week’s letter – you’ve now armed your parent’s with homework, explained why they’re doing the homework, and have set up realistic expectations. Now what?

Free Items and Therapy Tools We Already Have Around the House:
Parents love to use items around the house that they already own to be incorporated into therapy and their homework. Perhaps you want them to use the couch and chairs as an obstacle course. How exciting to actually get to climb on the furniture with a parent’s supervision! Do they have a stone walkway where they could practice jumping from stone to stone? Are their stairs to climb up and down while alternating legs either inside or outside an apartment building? Forts are fun! What kid doesn’t love draping the furniture with a sheet or blanket and making a tunnel to crawl through?

Doing chores can also be a sensory integration activity in disguise. Instruct your parent to have their child carry the laundry basket (lightly loaded) into another room, giving them deep pressure proprioception feedback. Hand the child a washcloth or sponge in the bathtub and tell them to “clean” the surrounding walls, working those arms, shoulders and trunk muscles. Making cookies for a school bake sale is an excellent sensory activity that includes stirring ingredients, kneading dough, rolling dough, using cookie cutters and then yummy tasting.

Make silly rules. You have to bear walk from the bedroom to the front door before school. Mom too! When watching TV, you must jump during one commercial and hop during the next. Skip from the front door to the car. Balance on one leg in the grocery store line. Have a contest in the car on who can be the quietest for five minutes (No talking until the car is in park or you’ve arrived at Grandma’s house). Sometimes parents forget to teach their special kiddos how to calm themselves and control their thoughts. You can remind them of this important skill that will translate into all areas of their lives and it’s free. Silence can be golden.

Scavenger hunt in the home: What games does the family already have that could be useful for a particular task? Many Wii games are great for bilateral coordination, spatial awareness, and the list goes on and on. Weed through the video and board games they have and encourage play times. Pantry items can be utilized as well. A child could stack cans of asparagus or use rice and beans in a tray for tactile stimulation. Are their bikes in the garage to practice on or razor scooters? Do they have Play-Doh, Moon Sand, or Silly Putty to mold and shape?

Affordable Items and Therapy Tools and Where to Find Them:
What if there is therapy equipment or an item you’d like the parent to purchase? Have a few options on where they can find a great deal. I recommend to my friends and families as they have the best prices and an endless variety of cool items. It’s owned and operated by OTs, so if you have any questions or need guidance, they’re more than qualified. There are indoor swings available from online venders, or maybe you have a company that you prefer to order from and you can let your families know when they’re having a sale or have coupons available. Perhaps the item can be found at the local 99cent store or maybe you saw an amazing developmental toy on sale at Target. Do you have a library system with your personal therapy equipment? Maybe you can co-op with a few families that need the same supplies. Knowing that you have their best interest and are taking their finances into consideration is greatly appreciated.

Getting Your Client’s Parents through IEPS:
Parents dread their yearly IEP more than you dread writing the report for it. What can both of you do to make this a successful experience? Plan ahead of time, set goals in advanced with accepted verbiage, and have back up research if needed.

One idea is to use an entire therapy session going over the child’s needs in school with the parent. Together you can plan goals and what is needed in the classroom. We then leave it up to your expertise on writing the goal so that it will be accepted by the school district and also to have examples or research to back up the goal in case it is rejected. Another idea is to spend one entire therapy session observing the child at school and seeing where they may need specific help.

Goal setting in advanced is crucial for the upcoming year. Knowing where the child is and what the child needs to work on before heading into the IEP can make all the difference in the world. Would the child benefit from being allowed to chew gum in class, or crunchy foods, and why? Does the child need an individual desk and not a table where other kids will be touching them in order to concentrate? Does the child need movement breaks? How much time a month will the child receive OT in the classroom to work on writing, eating, or another task? Is the child able to see the board? May the child wear headphones during music class or assemblies to drown out some noise? Does the child need to go into another room while taking a test? Is the child able to approach peers with appropriate behaviors? Don’t forget that social skills are a part of OT too!

Once the goals are set, make sure they fit into all the school’s requirements. It has to be academic based, so avoid saying this is what we’re working on at home or anything that is not school based. Research works in court cases and it also works in IEPs. If you have another case example that has been successful, use it. Is there a twenty year study that backs up your goals? Bring it in. Perhaps there is a brand new test group trying something in another school district. Awesome, that means other people find a benefit in your choice as well.

It also helps to have a timeline and expectations so that everyone on the IEP team is on the same page. Is this a goal that the child will accomplish in one school year, or is this something that may be for the entire career of the student?

Thank you Therapists! If you ever have questions for me or just want a parent’s perspective – please contact me at,


Featured Author: Jackie Linder Olson

Having a son with sensory processing dysfunction and a high-functioning autism diagnosis sparked Jackie’s interest in Occupational Therapy, thanks to her son’s OT, Britt Collins. After witnessing the spectacular results of sensory integration, Jackie combined her career as a filmmaker and her passion for sensory integration by creating and producing OT dvds for parents, teachers, and therapist with Britt Collins, M.S., OTR/L, winning an Outstanding Product Award 2008 from iParenting, a division of Disney. Jackie and Britt then wrote SENSORY PARENTING: FROM NEWBORNS TO TODDLERS, the first book in their series for Sensory World (Future Horizons Publishing), with a forward by Dr. Lucy Jane Miller. This duo also founded non-profit organization, Special Needs United, in order to provide OT therapy and equipment for families in need. Jackie resides in Los Angeles with her hypo-sensitive husband and hyper-sensitive son.

Tags: Article Sensory Processing Disorder Newsletter 18 March 2011