These resources help parents to address particular needs at home in order to supplement occupational therapy treatment in order to facilitate further gains and progress. Use the contents bar to find needs particular to your child.
Sensory Processing Disorder
What is SPD?
We all learn through our senses. Sensory processing is how we transform sensory information from within our own bodies and the external environment into messages we can act on. It’s tempting to think of senses (touch, sight, sound, movement, body awareness, taste, and smell) as separate channels of information, but they work together to give us a reliable picture of the world and our place in it.
Right now your senses are working together. You hear background sounds and feel your clothing, chair, and the floor beneath your feet. You resist gravity to stay seated. You see letters on the screen. You filter out unimportant sensory input so you can make sense of what you are reading. If you occasionally lose focus because your shirt label is itchy, you may have a mild sensory issue. If you keep sliding off your chair, look away when you hear any noise, feel like your shirt is hurting you, or the words you are reading pulsate, you may have sensory processing disorder, also known as sensory integration dysfunction. Sensory issues affect all kinds of people—from those with developmental delays, attention and learning problems, autistic spectrum disorders and other diagnoses to those without any other issues. (sensorysmarts.com)
Senses and Activities to do at home!
This input comes from sensations from your joints, muscles and connective tissues that underlie body awareness. It can be obtained by lifting, pushing, and pulling heavy objects, including one’s own weight. A child can also stimulate the proprioceptive sense by engaging in activities that push joints together like pushing something heavy or pull joints apart like hanging from monkey bars. Children who are sensitive to this sense may dislike or have difficulties jumping and they may be "clumsy." Children who seek this sense are the movers and shakers. They like to run and jump, crash into things and often light tight hugs.
Potential Home Activities Include....
Make a “burrito” or “sandwich.” Firmly press on your child’s arms legs and back with pillows or make a “burrito” by rolling her up in a blanket.
Push and pull. She can push her own stroller, and a stronger child can push a stroller or cart filled with weighted objects such as groceries.
Carry that weight. Your child can wear a backpack or fanny pack filled with toys (not too heavy!).
Jump! Have your child jump on a mini-trampoline or rebounder or play hopscotch
Push and pull. Have him vacuum, carry books from one room to another, help wash windows or a tabletop, and transfer wet laundry from the washing machine to the dryer.
Heavy lifting. Without straining, teens and adults can shovel snow or lift free weights.
Push, pull, and carry. Rake leaves, push heavy objects like firewood in a wheelbarrow, do push-ups against the wall, wear a heavy knapsack (not too heavy!) or pull a luggage cart-style backpack, or mow the lawn with a push mower.
Reassuring pressure. Get a firm massage, use a weighted vest or lap pad from a therapy catalog, or place light weights in the pockets of a fishing, athletic or regular type of vest.
This input is the sense of movement, centered in the inner ear. Any type of movement will stimulate the vestibular receptors, but spinning, swinging, and hanging upside down provide the most intense, longest lasting input. If your child has vestibular (movement) sensitivities, please work closely with a sensory smart OT who can help you recognize and prevent signs of nervous system overload. Children who are sensitive to this sense may dislike being upside down, strongly dislike being picked up or heights. Children who seek this sense are the exact opposite. They enjoy spinning in circles, running, doing tumbles and hanging upside down.
Potential Home Activities Include....
Swing. Encourage her to swing on playground swings, trying various types of swings and movements, such as front to back and side to side.
Spin. Have him spin using a Sit n’ Spin, Dizzy Disc Jr., or office chair. Let her run in circles, and ride a carousel. Hold your child’s arm and spin in a circle as he lifts off the ground, or play airplane by holding one of his arms and the leg on the same side of his body as you spin in place (only if he does not have low muscle tone).
Get upside down. Have him hang upside down from playground equipment, do somersaults, or ride a loop-de-loop roller coaster.
Swing and roll. Encourage her to use playground swings and roll down a grassy or snowy hill (which good proprioceptive input as well).
Swing and spin. Swing on a hammock, use playground swings or merry-go-round (you’re never too old!).
Move that body! Do cartwheels, swim (doing flip turns and somersaults in the water), do jumping jacks, and dance.
This detects light touch, deep pressure, texture, temperature, vibration, and pain. This includes both the skin covering your body and the skin lining the inside of your mouth. Oral tactile issues can contribute to picky eating and feeding difficulties. Children who are sensitive to this sense may have difficulties dressing and bathing. Or if they are seeking they may put things in their mouth, are overly affectionate or like the feeling of certain textures.
Potential Home Activities Include...
Messy play with textures. Have her play with foamy soap or shaving cream, and add sand for extra texture. Have her fingerpaint, play with glitter glue, mix cookie dough and cake batter, and so on. Let your child use the playground sandbox or create your own at home, filling a bin with dry beans and rice or other materials and small toys. Cover and store the bin for future use.Use child-friendly modeling material such as Play-Doh, Model Magic, and Sculpey (the classic Play-Doh Fun Factory provides excellent proprioceptive input as well). Never force a child who is unwilling to touch “yucky” substances. Let him use a paintbrush, stick, or even a toy for cautious exploration.
Dress up. Dress up in fun costumes to get used to the feel of unfamiliar clothing. Encourage play with make-up, face painting, and costumes, putting on a play or making a mini movie with a video camera.
Food and drink. Let your child drink plain seltzer or carbonated mineral water to experience bubbles in her mouth (you can flavor it with a little juice or with lemon, lime, etc.). Provide your child with frozen foods (popsicles, frozen fruit or vegetables) and mixed temperature foods (hot fudge sundae, hot taco with cold toppings, etc.).
Get in touch with nature. Encourage him to walk barefoot in the grass (avoiding pesticide applications), sand, or dirt. Have him garden and repot indoor plants.
Tactile hobbies. Sculpt, sew, weave, crochet or knit. Create a scrapbook (which involves lots of pasting and working with different textures). Use sandpaper to smooth a woodworking project. Make things out of clay, and try using a potter’s wheel.
This input refers to both what we hear and how we listen, and is physiologically connected with the vestibular sense. In addition to various types of recorded and live music, here are some ways kids and adults can get calming and organizing auditory input. Children who are sensitive to this sense may cover their ears when they hear loud noises or get distracted by everyday noises such as air-conditioners, dishwashers or toilet flushes. Children who seek this sense often make silly sounds, yell, or enjoy music.
Potential Home Activities Include...
Get outside and listen. Go to the beach or sit still and listen to the rain, thunder, and so on. If you hear birds singing, try to identify what direction a given bird is calling from.
Listen to natural sound recordings. There are many recordings of rain falling, ocean waves, bird songs, and so on. Sometimes natural sound recordings also feature light instrumentation with flutes, keyboards, etc. Some children and adults find they sleep better if they play such music.
Play a listening game. You and your child sit very quietly and try to identify the sounds you hear (traffic, the hum of the refrigerator, a door shutting, etc.) and where it’s coming from.
Find calming, focusing music. Listen to music specially engineered to promote calm, focus, energy, or creativity. Keep in mind, of course, that musical preference is highly idiosyncratic, so this will take some experimentation. The music you love may distress your child, while the music he finds so soothing may drive you up the wall.
Encourage musicianship. Provide your child with a musical instrument and encourage him to play and even take lessons.
Give him some control. For a child with auditory sensitivity, predicting and controlling sounds can be very helpful. Encourage him to turn on the vacuum cleaner, help him pop the balloons after a birthday party, anticipating the noise. Try Sound Eaze and School Eaze CDs that desensitize children to everyday sounds such as flushing toilets, thunder, barking dogs, alarms, and other sounds many kids find distressing.
Create pleasant sounds. Get a white noise machine, tabletop rocks-and-water fountain, or aquarium.
Fine Motor Difficulties
What is fine motor skill?
Fine Motor Skills involve the use of precise and coordinated movements of the fingers to perform hand use tasks. Fine motor skills are necessary for completing daily tasks such as dressing (using buttons/zippers), feeding (using mealtime utensils), being a student (using a pencil, keyboard, or scissors), and leisure/play activities (drawing, playing many musical instruments).
Activities to do at home in order to build hand strength:
Hole Punching Art Activities: Using hole punch and colored construction paper, punch out the number of circles and glue them onto each activity page. Can have a variety of themes!
Tongs/Tweezers/Clothespin Games: Children can use tongs or tweezers to play various games involving sorting, counting, and even create art by having children pick up colored pom poms or cotton balls and glue onto paper to create a furry sheep!
Play Dough Play: Have children use play dough to flatten pizza dough balls with their palms and then roll pizza toppings in their palms in order to work on strengthening and coordination.
Activities to do at home in order to increase fine motor manipulation skill (utilizing fingers to manipulate small objects)
Beading - Have your child bead bracelets for their dolls or family members. Use large beads on a pipe cleaner to start and work up to traditional small beads and regular string or yarn.
Cooking - Have child help you make chocolate chip cookies and place the chips on each cookie. The trick to this is have your child count out one chip at a time from their palm. This will work on their in-hand manipulation which is needed to count out money.
Connect 4 - This common board game is a great way to work on fine motor manipulation as it encourages your child to pick up "coins" and hold them in their fingertip to place it in the game board.
Handwriting warm-up exercises
These exercises help children warm up their hands and prepare for writing. These exercises will work on strengthening prior to writing as well as dexterity.
Finger push-ups- Show your child how to spread their fingers far apart. They can press their fingertips onto the table surface and push down. Then, ask them to raise their hands and arms height above their head to stretch the whole upper body.
Roll play dough into small balls. Roll the play dough into snakes. Press a pencil into the snake and cut on the lines with scissors so you end up with small pieces of play dough.
Squeeze Stress balls. You can also squeeze a rubber ball for a free or almost free option.
Hand squeezes: squeeze hands into a fist and then stretch out the fingers and wrists.
Play with Finger Puppets
Make your own! Use our free printable to make farm themed puppets. Simply tape them into a loop shape and slide onto the fingers.
Wall push-ups: Place both hands on a wall and push away from the wall. This is a standing activity and engages the whole arm in a pre-handwriting exercise.
Play Pick Up Sticks
. Make your own using dyed lollipop sticks.
Stick very small small stickers going down the length of a pencil. Ask your child to start at the eraser end and work their fingers down the pencil so they pinch each of the stickers.
is a great warm-up activity for little hands.
Play string games like Cat's Cradle.
Use these web pages to find worksheets that can be printed and done at home to help your child practice letter formation so they can excel in the classroom.
Pre-Writing Strokes: These web pages help your children prepare to write by having children become comfortable holding and manipulating a pencil in order to make straight lines, diagonals and wavy lines in order to prepare for writing letters.
Use other mediums to draw in!!!
Print out these cards on heavy paper, card stock, or laminate for protection. Cut out each individual card. Using sand, shaving cream, dough, or any other tactile manipulative, child must copy the design. The possibilities are endless with this resource! Have fun!
Tying shoes can be very difficult for children with fine motor and bilateral coordination difficulties. Here are some fun activities and shoe tying techniques to use at home to help your children learn this skill!
Tips to Shoe Tying
Practicing shoe tying off-body is easier for children just starting to learn. Use a tissue body to practice!
Use two colored laces, this not only helps children understand what each lace does while tying but it looks cool tool!
Shoe Tying Techniques
One Loop Method
Two Loop Method
Push and Tie Method