Changing Colors: The Blog of Spectrum Pediatrics

Archive for the ‘Occupational Therapy’ Category

August 15, 2016

Baby Container Misconceptions

By: Colleen Donley, PT, DPT
  • Where can you safely put your baby when you need a moment to empty the dishwasher or fold laundry?
  • Exersaucers, jumperoo’s, and walkers can teach babies how to stand and take steps incorrectly.
  • Often times, little ones are too little for baby containers, which makes positioning even worse.

In exersaucers, jumperoos, and walkers, a little baby learns from a very early age to lean their trunk forward against the front of the bucket seat or to sit in the bucket seat. Both of those positions are not ideal because the child now has their feet either behind or in front of the hips, not under their hips for appropriate weight bearing. The child isn’t learning how to control their posture and develop balance appropriately. In addition to learning poor postural control, babies learns to put weight through their toes rather than flat feet since they are in front of or behind their body. Typically, babies sit with their hips opened, which can cause twisting at the top of of the hip or put force on the growing bones to encourage a bowing appearance.

Walkers pose a greater concern than exersacuers and jumperoos because your child is learning to stand inappropriately and move their feet incorrectly. In order to make the walker go forward and fast, baby learns to simply lean forward and then move their feet along with the movement. They also will lean from side to side to shift their weight and take a “step” so they appear to shuffle when out of the walker. When a little one has grown accustomed to sitting in the bucket seat, they tend to have extra flexion in their hips and knees as the step forward. A final note on walkers, walkers pose a significant safety concern to our little ones. The American Academy of Pediatrics has called for a ban to the manufacture of all walkers with wheels and the US Consumer Product and Safety Commission has issued a warning discouraging parents from using these walkers due to such serious safety concerns. Infants have been found to be at an increased risk for fracture when using a walker, especially a skull fracture. Other potential injuries include burns, falls, poisoning, and drowning.

There are many great alternatives to these containers so babies can stay safe, but in a good position for motor development, such as baby play yards in your living room or a pack n play. Putting your little one in these containers when you’re in a bind or really just need a moment does not make you a bad parent. The American Physical Therapy Association’s Section on Pediatrics recommends limiting use of commercial baby containers to 10-20 minutes per day. This is not a lot of time so that is why finding an alternative is so necessary. At the end of the day, being down on the floor and learning how to move is the best position for baby!

For more information, visit Colleen Donley’s blog here!

Click here to learn more about creative ways to have your baby on the floor!



July 12, 2016

Trick of the Trade from Ashley Glasser, MS, OTR/L, CEIM


Is your child having trouble with zipping? This is difficult for the little guys who can’t quite figure out how to hold the zip and tab together with one hand while simultaneously inserting the zipper into the hole with the other hand. Forget having to then hold and pull after that.

My favorite philosophy is to back it up and start simple. Start with just the action of holding with one hand and inserting with the other hand. One of the ways I practice this is by using a pipe cleaner. Most average-sized pipe cleaners will slide easily into the hole of the zip. Use language like “keep the peanut butter and jelly together” to make sure they’re holding the zip and the tab snugly, and then with their other hand they can practice sliding the pipe cleaner into the hole. Once they are confident with this action then progress can be made in sliding the actual zipper into the hole. With the hardest part down, zipping up is usually easy after that!

July 12, 2016

Trick of the Trade from Ashley Glasser, MS, OTR/L, CEIM


Legos – the joy of many children and the bane of many parents’ existence. While finding tiny bricks wedged in the carpet with your foot is not fun, Legos do offer many opportunities to strengthen skills crucial for development.

The larger blocks (one brand is Duplo) are perfect for younger children as they do not pose a choking hazard but allow for extensive play. Simply pushing together and pulling apart two blocks with both hands, or holding a tower while placing a block on top, are a great way to work on bilateral coordination – i.e. using the two sides of your body together. To build tall towers small children have to squat down to pick up the blocks and sometimes stand on their tiptoes to reach the top, two important gross motor skills. Concepts of size, different/same, and color can be reinforced, often in combination with receptive language skills (“Joey, hand me the small blue block.”).

As children become older, the smaller Lego blocks allow for an ability to expand into more imaginative play – i.e. using the Legos for something other than stacking, such as pretending the pieces are food or confetti. The tiny blocks require an even greater degree of control and strength to push together and pull apart. Often this looks like the trunk and arms providing a stable base as the fingers do the work of manipulating. While holding the small blocks the fingers also naturally go into a mature pincer grasp, necessary for holding other instruments such as a pencil. Many Lego sets come with designs for children to build, requiring the skill of visual-motor integration or hand-eye coordination to take what one sees and make the muscles act accordingly.

Parents everywhere are groaning at the thought of tiny Lego pieces continuing to infiltrate their lives. Here is a neat storage and travel solution to the rescue.



July 8, 2016

How to Entertain Your Child at a Restaurant

By: Ashley Glasser, MS, OTR/L, CEIM
  • It’s Friday night and after a week of cooking on your stove, the last thing you want to do is break out the skillet yet again.
  • Often times children can behave differently when in a new environment, such as a restaurant.
  • Bringing along a few specific activities can help children enjoy going out to eat with family.

So you do your research and find a family-friendly restaurant close by. You arrive and get settled at your table, but before the waiter comes by to get your drink order your child is already restless and saying they’re bored. What’s a parent to do? Rather than resign yourself to home-cooked meals or always falling back on your phone, here are some ideas to help you get through a quick meal out:

Crayons: Family-friendly restaurants often provide these along with a fun menu to color, but in case they don’t come prepared. Small packs of small crayons can easily be slipped into a purse pocket and they’re great for promoting a mature grasp too. If your child is under 2, let them scribble and work on imitation of lines and circles. If they are closer to 3 and above, model other shapes and forms. Work on drawing people with different body parts or have them tell a story through their drawing. You can also play paper-and-pencil games like tic-tac-toe.

Games: Speaking of tic-tac-toe, you can also use items like sugar packets and straws to play the game as well, or see how many sugar packets you can stack before they fall over. Play “I Spy” by looking around the restaurant to find different colors, shapes, or clothing items.

Fine Motor with what they have at the restaurant: Have your child drop toothpicks through straws. Fold straw wrappers into different shapes and forms. Use multiple straw wrappers to create letters. Fold and tear paper napkins into different shapes and forms.

Fine Motor with items you can bring from home: Bring an empty spice or grated cheese container. Use small pom-poms, toothpicks, and beads you bring from home, or toothpicks and straws you can find at the restaurant, and have them stick the small items into the holes. Small toys like a set of lacing beads, pop beads, pipe cleaners, Wiki-stix, etc. are easily transportable and great for little hands too.

Books: If your child is little, bring a handful of small board books to read to them, have them flip through, label pictures, create a new story, etc. Velcro books offer a more interactive version. The pieces can stick to each page so they’re not as easily lost. You can buy Velcro books or make your own with Velcro you can find at your local big box retailer. Make copies of the book pages, cut out the pictures, stick Velcro on the book pages, and have your child match the pictures to each page.

If you’re out and about without some of the items above, ask if they can bring your child’s meal before the others are ready or order a small appetizer they can munch on. Try to get a back table where you can stand up and walk around as needed.

Bon appetite!

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June 29, 2016

Trick of the Trade from Lauren Foster,OTD, OTR/L

Weighted Blankets: Where to Buy and How to Make Your Own

Some children benefit from more weight on their bodies to help them calm down. Weighted blankets are a sensory-based strategy that adds more pressure to a person’s body, helping him or her calm down. Weighted blankets can be used to help children fall asleep, or stay calm during activities that might make them anxious.

You can purchase weighted blankets on a number of websites like, and If you want a customizable blanket, you can check out this website. Sensacalm offers a variety of patterns for children and adults!

You can also save quite a bit of money if you make your own blanket. This tutorial shows how to make your own blanket without requiring a sewing machine. If you want to use a sewing machine to make your own weighted blanket, click here!


June 26, 2016

Trick of the Trade from Ashley Glasser, MS, OTR/L, CEIM

Hungry Man

When children present with decreased hand strength, which manifests itself in various ways including difficulty with self-help activities or handwriting skills, I pull out an arsenal of tools. One of my favorite activities is often a favorite among the kids as well: Hungry Man. I discovered him when searching for ways to make hand strengthening more interesting (as many activities become quite dull in a short amount of time).

The concept is simple: a slit is cut in a tennis ball and in order to open the slit the ball has to be squeezed – a resistive activity that helps to strengthen the hand muscles, develop the hand arches, etc. The longer the slit, the less resistance.

But it wouldn’t be fun to tell a child to simply squeeze a tennis ball. Instead, a face is drawn on the ball and the slit becomes a mouth. Instead of squeezing the slit open, you’re opening the “mouth” of hungry man. With your other hand you can feed hungry man a variety of small objects: beads, pennies, cotton balls, etc. I’m sure you can imagine what comes to mind when the ball is squeezed to dump out the contents.

Find out how to make your own Hungry Man here!



June 26, 2016

Adaptive Clothing Lines: What are they and where do I find them?

By: Ashley Glasser, M.S. OTR/L
  • Tommy Hilfiger announces adaptive clothing line.
  • Clothing to fit the needs of those with disabilities now has the same look and pricing as other lines of clothing.
  • Children can feel more stylish and included with their peers.

Every day we wake up, go into our closets, and pick out an outfit. That outfit sends a message to those around us about our style and our personality. Most of us have compiled a wardrobe of items that we know fit, represent us as a person, and can easily be thrown on as we head out the door. But what if it wasn’t that easy?

While there are a plethora of options for the typical shopper, those with disabilities do not usually have it so easy. Many require clothing that has been adapted to fit their specific needs. This can mean loose fitting pants that can slip on over braces or orthotics; Velcro closures so those with fine motor difficulties can open and shut items that usually require zippers, buttons, or snaps; shirts that can go over feeding tubes and other ports; etc.

There are many companies out there who specialize in adapted clothing, but according to many parents these options are not always the most ideal. The clothing is often expensive and not always the most stylish, creating a difficult situation for children who want to go to school and fit in with their peers. Luckily, this is starting to change with the help of advocates like the mom behind Runway of Dreams. Thanks to her and others’ efforts, it was recently announced that Tommy Hilfiger has come out with a line of adaptive clothing, which not only looks the same as their other pieces but is priced the same as well.

Major clothing brands are selling adaptive clothing, along with other brands like Target including children with various abilities in their marketing campaigns (check it out here). This is a big step forward in the overall push towards acceptance and inclusion for these children.



April 26, 2016

Trick of the Trade from Jamie Hinchey, MS, CCC-SLP

Handwriting Practice – Star Wars Edition

Literacy ActivitiesDoes your kiddo love Star Wars and need a little practice working on his/her letters?  This FREE handwriting packet is just the thing you need!  It features adorable drawings of the characters and traceable letters to practice all their names.  You can also find literacy activities such as word searches, matching activities, and more!  Be sure to check it out all the learning opportunities for your own Luke Skywalker or Princess Leia HERE!


April 26, 2016

Tips for Transitioning To and From the Car with Your Toddler

By: Lauren Foster, OTD, OTR/L
  • Walking with your children to and from a car can be scary, especially if they tend to “run.”
  • Children with autism are more “at-risk” for wandering to/from car than other children.

Few things are scarier than seeing a child “high tail it” to the street once that car or front door opens. Many parents have reported challenges with the transition from inside the house (or grocery store, office, school, etc.) to the car and vice versa. The demands of everyday life make it nearly impossible to hold onto a child’s hand every moment you are outside. Here are a few strategies and tips to support your child to safely transition from one place to another when you are outside.

  1. children street holding handsUse visuals – Humans are visual creatures and as much as we want our children to “hear” us, we often need to use visual supports to help children understand boundaries. Some ideas include: 1) using a handprint on the inside or outside of the vehicle. That way, as children head to the car they know that they need to put their hand on their handprint; 2) use “stop” and “go” signs. Practice stopping and going with a real stop sign or green light. There are many places to practice “stop” and “go” like your home, the park, and grocery store.
  2. Give the child a “job”- Is there something the child can take into the car or house? Is the child old enough to carry groceries or help mom with a chore?
  3. You can use the child’s imagination to avoid other types of behaviors – For example, “pretend you’re an airplane and fly to the car” or “let’s be bunnies and hop to the front door”.
  4. Work with a provider – Ask a teacher, speech therapist, or occupational therapist to help develop specific strategies for your child and family.


AWAARE, The National Autism Association.

Autism Speaks, Wandering Resources;

Photo credit


January 26, 2016

Trick of the Trade from Lauren Foster,OTD, OTR/L

B and P Inversion Song

children writing handwritingMany children struggle with remembering which way their letters should face. Lowercase “b” often gets mistaken for “d” and “p” gets confused with “q”.

The following song was developed by Karen Stamp. I have found that it is a great way to help children remember which way their letters should face. Singing songs is always a fun, motivating way to help children remember facts, “how to’s”, and daily routines. Karen Stamp came up with this silly song to help her students remember which way lowercase “d” and “b” should face. You can sing the words along to the tune of “The Farmer and the Dell”. Have fun singing!

To download the file click here!

Photo Credit