Tuesday, September 29, 2015

September SpOT Light Series: Your Therapy Source

I close out the September SpOT Light Series: Discover the Therablogger with a seasoned Physical Therapist and her desire to keep herself and her readers up to date on current research and treatment ideas.  Today's SpOT Light shines the light onYour Therapy Source.

Margaret Rice received her Masters in Physical Therapy 21 years ago from Columbia University after obtaining her Bachelor of Science in Physical Education.  Your Therapy Source first started out strictly as a company in 2007, then established itself with a web presence one year later.  Your Therapy Source's blog is now in its sixth year of publication in which it "specializes in electronic documents for pediatric occupational and physical therapists. [YTS] publishes a FREE digital magazine monthly for pediatric OTs and PTs.  You can subscribe to our email list on our home page at http://www.YourTherapySource.com"

On her blog, Margaret shares a variety of her favorite back to school tips.  10 Back to School Tips for School Based Therapists reiterates organizational keys to facilitate a successful year for everyone involved in the students' care.  And if you are looking for tangible therapeutic activities, who can resist items like free printables for the fall or 8 Print and Go Ideas for Indoor Recess?

But the biggest advice Margaret could share comes from her therapeutic 'ah-ha' moment.  "As a pediatric therapist, a 5 year old taught me my most important lesson (thankfully early in my career).  Let the child lead.  Internal drive is an amazing motivator in children.  I was there to support his goals as needed and modify the environment."

Letting the child lead sometimes gets lost along the way of access common core and testing.  But as so many of the therapists from the SpOT Light Series: Discover the Therabloggerlike Margaret, have shared personal stories and epiphanies that bring the focus back on the purpose of our existance: helping our clients (children, adults, whatever) access their life occupations.  So, if you haven't already checked out the 14 innovative authors, take the time to do so.  Inspiration just may be a click away.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

September SpOT Light Series: Kids Play Space

So I began the September SpOT Light Series in Australia and now after many adventures in the states, I head back to Aussie to aim the SpOT Light on Anna Meadows at Kids Play Space and her innate ability to see playfulness in the world around her.

Kids Play Space began, as most blogs, as diary of sorts during her maternity leave, featuring the childhood development of Anna's son.  (check out her son's Happy Feet for a good giggle). But as time passed, it became a Play Space of passion for sharing pediatric play.  Just recently celebrating it's 3 year 'blogiversary', Anna continues to spread the importance of play.

"It has truly become a labour of love! It is a place where my passions for OT, health promotion, child development and play collide! OT fights for accessibility, inclusivity and thriving in everyday ‘occupations’, working closely with individuals. In the world of health promotion, it’s all about striving for ‘health for all’. Finally, as play is children’s most important occupation, my motto over at Kids Play Space has become ‘play for all’, celebrating simple learning opportunities everyday, not just for our son, but for all children."

Now in Anna's 18th year of occupational therapy service, she reflects on the uniqueness of OT that allows us as practitioners to support through the life span. 

"I’ve been so fortunate to have practiced OT in so many different areas! I’ve worked in hospital, rehabilitation, and community settings, (including community centres, disability, early intervention services and special schools), with people from 0-100+ years old!"

In many of Anna's posts, she looks outside the box to incorporate the available items of her surroundings into daily play.  In Balance Beams in the Real World, Anna adapts the concept of Parkour  (urban play spaces) to benefit childhood development.  "Kids love seeking out and conquering balance obstacles naturally." 

In her Small Space Living Series, Anna reiterates that "you do NOT need a mansion, a separate play room, or a million toys, for rich play experiences. Children are very adaptable, and will learn to explore and interact with whatever space is at hand."

But it is Celebrating Boredom in Childhood that sticks out in Anna's head as a top therapeutic tip.  "Ensuring that [kids] have time to be bored, explore nature, problem solve with loose parts, interact with their friends is vitally important for school aged children. I guarantee these experiences will enrich their childhood, and make them more confident, capable students."

Kids Play Space provides a variety of strategies for caregivers and therapist to promote playful interactions with everyday items and activities   So if you are looking for a way to avoid "plastic fantastic", hop, skip and jump over to Australia's Kids Play Space, where Anna Meadows will make you look at your surroundings with a more playful eye.

Friday, September 25, 2015

September SpOT Light Series: Starfish Therapies

At Starfish Therapies, Physical Therapist Stacy Menz challenges herself to be the Star Thrower everyday by making a difference to children and their families one challenge at a time.   

"I often get a lot of questions about where I got my company name from and while its on my website I never get tired of the story.  Its from the Star Thrower story (by Loren Eiseley) and in it the tide is going out an an old man is walking down the beach littered with starfish.  He sees a young boy throwing the starfish back into the ocean.  When the old man asks the young boy why he is bothering because the starfish are going to die anyway, the boy looks at him, throws another one into the ocean, and says, ‘but I made a difference to that one.’  The story embodies why I do what I do and why I started my company and blogging."

Stacy has been a Physical Therapist for 15 years, after first receiving her Master's from Boston University followed by her transitional DPT there as well.  She has taken her passion for pediatrics and helping families understand complex topics and molded into her blogging for the past  6 1/2 years.
 "One of my favorite posts to write is ‘What does low tone mean’.  I had the idea after explaining it to many families and seeing them understand what it meant for their child to have low tone.  They were finally able to figure out how to explain it to their family members or friends.  Being able to take complex terms and simplify it for families is something I really enjoy."

Stacy also has enjoyed sharing activities for therapists and caregivers to play with their kids to improve fine and gross motor development, like Five Ways to Use Drinking Straws and Ideas for Squatting.  

Like many health professionals, Stacy reflects daily on the successes that she observes and how it reaffirms her therapeutic practice. "The other day, I was working with a kiddo in early intervention and he took his first independent steps.  Seeing his parents’ reactions to moments like this is such a boost.  Same as when any child hits a milestone or a big goal.  Those are the moments that remind me why I do what I do."

So be inspired to be your own Star Thrower and check out Starfish Therapies or contact Stacy directly at stacy@starfishtherapies.com.  Make a difference in at least one person's life today.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

September SpOT Light Series: Pink Oatmeal

Physical Therapist Chanda Jothen didn't initially plan on writing about her experiences in pediatrics therapy services.  But since her Do It Yourself projects didn't pan out quite as she would have liked, Pink Oatmeal evolved into the fantastic resource it is today, a place for parents, teachers and therapists to find fun and functional movement-based activities.

profile picture Chanda Jothen
Pink Oatmeal isn't just a combination of her favorite color and food.  It is Chanda's outlet for combining her experiences as a mom and a physical therapist.  In 10 Baby Items You Don't Need, Chanda was candid about her point of view on "crotch danglers" and jumpers, to which I can totally relate and appreciate.  She found that ultimately her "laundry basket or diaper box were better options and far less money" in comparison to an exersaucer.  
I have to admit, I had every single one of the items she discussed.  And that's ok, because ultimately "moderation is key when it comes to baby equipment.  If there is a product that works for you just be careful not to overuse it or pass baby from product to product with little floor time or time to explore their environment. "

Now with baby number two on the way, you can expect Chanda to continue on writing about the blending of motherhood and physical therapy.  

Since it is the start of school, make sure to check out her recent post about incorporating movement stations into the daily classroom routine.  "[Movement Stations] are the perfect way to incorporate movement and brain breaks into the day.  They are one solution to making sure that student’s are getting movement in their day.  We know that research shows us that kids that move and are physically fit perform better in the classroom.  It is part of a natural flow in the classroom and it’s motivating for the students."

You download free and cost yoga cards, brain break cards and more at Chanda's Pink Oatmeal Teachers Pay Teachers store.  And of course, you can also contact her directly at pinkoatmealblog@gmail.com.  So if you happen to be hungry for marvelous movement activities, satisfy your appetite with Pink Oatmeal.

Monday, September 21, 2015

September SpOT Light Series: Dino PT

Maybe it's because we are both Beccas, or maybe because she also is a Therapy-a-saurus, but either way I could NOT not put the SpOT Light on Rebecca Talmud at Dino PT.
Dino PT is the brain child behind DPT Rebecca Talmud.  Rebecca received her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from New York University and has been practicing pediatric PT for eight years.  Combining her comprehensive background in early intervention, school based service provision, center based provision, and adaptive sports and yoga for children with special needs, Rebecca has been excavating blog content for 5 years.  Her blogging supplements her practice as it was her "interest in evidence based treatment and educating fellow Pediatric professionals as well as families and caregivers of the children we treat" that inspired her to connect with people outside of the office.
Dino PT has covered a variety of topics from W Sitting , in which Rebecca provides a variety of alternative seating strategies to improve alignment and function, to pediatric gait analysis, in which she clearly and thoroughly reviews a variety of commonly seen gait abnormalities.  

I asked The Dino PT about her favorite Back to School Tip, and what she shared with me, I couldn't agree with more.  "A big back to school topic is shoe recommendations.  Consider your individual child and their needs prior to purchasing sneakers for the school year.  The right shoe can make all the difference!"  

Rebecca's passion for PT extends to the animal kingdom as well. The Talmuds adopted Daisy Duke, an French Bulldog with special needs.  "She was paralyzed from the waist down as a result of a back surgery and her owners could not care for her and her special needs.  Thanks to the amazing organization, French Bulldog Rescue Network (FBRN) and the great company Eddie’s Wheels (who fashioned her custom made wheels)..She has filled out lives with so much love and happiness each day.  She is quite skilled at maneuvering her rear wheel cart in any terrain and inside she uses her incredible upper body strength to pull herself around.  She is a great example to us all that with positivity, willpower and perseverance we are unstoppable!" 

So become a pediatric paleontologist and explore Dino PT to unearth more information or contact Rebecca directly via email at info@dinopt.com.

"Every smile and every laugh from both the children and families I have worked with is stored in a vault that I keep with me always.  There is no greater pleasure than giving a child confidence, helping them to master a new skill and allowing them to take pride and experience joy in their journey!"

Saturday, September 19, 2015

September SpOT Light Series:Tools to Grow

Even though Patti Pooler and Shelly Galvin have been blogging for one year, they have enough content to share with their well-over-30-years of combined service to the field for years to come.

Tools to Grow is a membership-based website "unique to the field of Occupational Therapy."  Members have access to a variety of treatment and documentation resources and products.  But it is their blog, categorized by performance areas, that allows Patti and Shelley to share their passion for pediatric Occupational therapy with therapist, caregivers and students in an easy to access manner.  

"Most of our blogs focus on clinical issues that many pediatric Occupational Therapists encounter on a daily basis. We wanted to pair background clinical knowledge with a sampling of strategies, resources, and activities to address the difficulties so many of the children endure. We will continue to cover important topics related to direct treatment, assessment, consultation, and clinic management in the field of Occupational Therapy."

As part of their mission, Tools to Grow provides tools and strategies to therapists, teachers and caregivers to help children succeed.  They have addressed issues such as tummy time for infant and toddler development to improving executive functioning in maturing children.  But they also address the reality of service provision and how to organize and manage a caseload, which is useful for both new and established therapists.

"As Occupational Therapists, a system for tracking schedules, attendance, due dates, meetings, consults, screenings, progress reports, evaluations, and other caseload information is a necessity.  When an organizational system is in place, it improves accountability, increases productivity, and decreases time spent managing paperwork. Last, but not least, the therapist should experience much less stress! This allows time and energy for the most important aspect of our career, working with our clients/students!"

Thank you Shelly and Patti for sharing insight with parents and therapists to help children grow!  If you would like to connect and learn more about Tools to Grow Inc. you can shoot them an email at info@toolstogrowot.com.  

"We are so thankful to be a part of the Occupational Therapy profession. A career that allows us to impact the lives of many, and to be creative and client-centered on a daily basis. Occupational Therapy is a profession that is gratifying, challenging, and filled with countless opportunities to make a difference in the lives of our clients and families."  

Both Patricia Pooler and Shelley Galvin are New York State licensed Occupational Therapists. Patti received her Master's degree in Occupational Therapy from D'Youville College in Buffalo, New York, after first obtaining her Bachelor of Science Degree in Health Science from Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. She currently works part-time in a public school with students in grades K-8 and has specialized training in the areas of Handwriting without Tears K–5, Executive Functioning Skills, and Vision Processing.  Shelley Galvin OTR/L, C/NDT has 34 years of experience as a New York State licensed Occupational Therapist with a specialty in pediatrics, sensory processing and certification in pediatric Neurodevelopmental Treatment.  She has provided her clinical expertise in home based early intervention, public and private school based services as well as early childhood management. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

September SpOT Light Series: OT Potential

Occupational Therapist Sarah Lyon is taking her pOTential and growing it exponentially.  
OT potential logo
Sarah authors OT Potential, a site that allows her to feed her hunger for writing.  "I started blogging as a way to connect with fellow occupational therapists. My first job out of school was as the only OT at a hospital in rural Nebraska. I relied heavily on my online community to ask questions and get support. At the time, there was a whole lot less written about OT and so I ended up starting my own blog. "  
Not only that, but she is also the Occupational Therapy Expert on About.com. "When the opportunity arose to head up the occupational therapy page on About.com, I jumped on it. Breaking down medical jargon into straightforward, client-friendly information and advice is one of my passions." On both sites, Sarah provides quick reference guides for clients to navigate the world of OT like How to Find the Right Occupational Therapist and 8 Questions to Ask Your Occupational Therapist.

Sarah's experiences in a variety of hospital setting including trauma, in-patient psych and critical access, provides her with a unique perspective not often written about.  She provided a snap shot of A Day in the Life of an OT at a State Psychiatric Hospital on a guest post for OT Cafe during April 2015's OT Month.  

 "I ran a life-skills group for men who had been hospitalized for several years and were preparing to return to the community. Every other Friday we did a cooking group, which always constituted my favorite sessions. It was incredible to watch they use a skill set that had lay dormant for several years. Cooking brings out so much personality in people."

With only four years into the field after completing her Masters from NYU, this Trekie, polka and choral music enthusiast, and Agents of Shield fan is already making her OT pOTential known.
"I love that there are so many professionals willing to share their knowledge in the online sphere. There are great pediatric therapy bloggers out there that are certainly worth a follow!"

Want to reach out to Sarah? You can contact her at sarah@otpotential.com

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

September SpOT Light Series: Handwriting with Katherine

Handwriting With Katherine is where you can find all things related to handwriting from Occupational Therapist Katherine Collmer's point of view.  With 17 years of therapeutic experience ranging from psychiatric, neurologic, geriatrics and of course pediatrics, it is her expertise in Assessment and Remediation of Children’s Handwriting Development Skills that she shares with parents and therapists alike.

Profile Picture of Katherine Collmer
"I have been interested in writing since I was a teenager.  I still have the short stories that I scribed way back then.  Blogging, however, wasn’t even in my vision back in 2009 when this type of writing found a place in my life.  I was getting restless during a transition in my pediatrics career and a friend of mine suggested that with my interest in writing I should look into blogging.  She suggested that I contact the Advance Magazine online blog editor…and that’s where it all began!"

Katherine integrates research-based evidence into many of her posts, making them both useful and insightful.  For example, in a recent post titled Handwriting and Learning: A Vital Link to Skilled Writing, she reflects "Learning through the use of our hands continues to be a vital link for educational success throughout life, with handwriting playing a major role;" all the while, she incorporated ten references to support the idea.

Katherine is also a strong advocate for identifying visual deficits issues early since it is such a crucial element of handwriting.

Child sitting crookedly at a table.
"Sitting Posture Can Indicate Vision Concerns"
 "Every time I connect a child’s parents with a developmental optometrist and they uncover a hidden visual skill deficit, I consider that a memorable therapeutic moment.  However, my most memorable is the little boy who put on glasses for the first time at the age of 5 and said, “Hey, mommy, look at those pictures on the wall!”  His mommy cried because he’d walked down that hospital hallway many, many times in his young life and had never even seen them before.  Priceless."

Now into her sixth year of publishing, Handwriting With Katherine continues to provide teachers, parents and therapists with easy to use tips, from Pre K to Older Students.  Hop on over now to Handwriting with Katherine to discover what the three handwriting performance areas that simply need to be taught and reinforced right from the start.  And if you want to discover more about Katherine, just “Send me a note!”.   You can also check out her newest adventure Go-To-For-OT on which she pairs up with #therabloggers Stacy Turke, Marie Toole, and Molly Shannon as they share insights on pediatric development and the most frequently asked questions from parents and teachers.


Sunday, September 13, 2015

September SpOT Light Series: Miss Jaime OT

Jaime Spencer, better known as Miss Jaime OT, holds a multitude of certificates: a Bachelor's Degree in Occupational Therapy, a Master's in Special Education, a Certificate in Advanced Professional Development for Assistive Technology Applications and she's a certified Handwriting Specialist. Combine all of that that with 15 years of experience and a love of crafts, and you get Miss Jaime's unique perspective on school based therapy services.
Spot light image
miss jaime OT logo helping parents to help their kids

"One of my favorite parts of being an OT is teaching parents and teachers easy tricks to help their students.  As a district Occupational Therapist, I often send out informational emails and handouts to the staff that I work with.   I have always loved hearing “ I never knew that!” or “what a great tip!”.   So many teachers have said to me, “You should write a book!”.  So I started blogging!" Her Ask an OT posts cover a wide variety of reader questions from desensitization to improving grasp patterns.

One of Miss Jaime's Top Back to School Tip is for teachers and parents is to Draw Faces on the students’ pencils to remind them where to put their fingers.  "It’s cheaper than a pencil grip, the kids think it’s funny, and it provides a visual reminder for them to hold their pencils correctly. " I also love her suggestion of putty google eyes on scissor handles to help encourage thumb up position.
Looking back at her premier year of blogging, Jaime recalls one of her favorites, Coping with Sensory Processing Dysfunction, in which a 17 year old guest blogger shared her story.  "She wrote a very personal post for me on her experience as a person with Sensory Processing Dysfunction. I think she did a wonderful job! "

Miss Jaime worked for ten years in a sensory gym for preschool aged children and one her most memorable therapeutic moment comes from sensory based treatment. She was working with a child with Autism who had significant sensory issues; he had arrived at OT one day very over-stimulated and anxious.

 "He was nonverbal at the time.  We did a lot of sensory input, ending with a massage.  He seemed a little more calmed but I put him in between two mats and applied  pressure.  I didn’t speak the entire session, had the lights off and very low music on.  I applied the pressure to the mats for about five minutes.  When I took the top mat off,  he looked up at me with tears streaming down his face.  At first I was shocked and upset, thinking he must have been scared.  But then, he gave me the biggest grin.  He must have needed the sensory input in order to feel regulated and was finally able to “release” that anxiety and  overstimulation. It’s like they say, “sometimes you just need a good cry”. 

Though only a year on the therablogging scene, Miss Jaime OT seems to have found her niche for helping parents, teachers and therapists to improve a child's school experience. If you want to learn more about Miss Jaime OT, or have a question for her Ask an OT section, email her at missjaimeot@gmail.com.

Friday, September 11, 2015

September SpOT Light Series: The Pocket OT

I'm sure when Occupational Therapist Cara Koscinski began practicing over 18 years ago,  she did not think she would be a successful mom-trepreneur, public speaker, blogger, and the 2015 Parent's Choice Award winner.  But then of course, who would?

Cara Koscinski MOT headshot
Cara's experience runs the gamut, from heart/lung transplant hospital to rehab and hand therapy as well as pediatrics.   But it is her personal experiences raising her two children with special needs that inspires much of her work.  

"They attended hundreds of hours of therapy.  I felt as though I was on a ‘Level 3’ Fieldwork as I watched and learned from some amazing OTs!  I took the good and left the bad to begin my own pediatric private practice.  I specialize in autism, posture, and SPD.  It’s the best when I go to a training that benefits my own sons and my clients!  I’d go to EVERY training out there if I could afford to."
The Pocket OT logo
Searching for connections with therapists and other parents dealing with similar issues, Cara began The Pocket OT in 2005.  Originally it was entitled Route2Greatness because her son was fascinated by roads; he could name them all.  But as her blog evolved into what it is today, she changed the name to The Pocket OT to better suit Cara's quick-reference intentions.  

One of her favorite posts hits close to home.  7 Tips for Fear of Loud Noises  highlights the need for patience when working on desensitization.  "So many children are fearful of loud and un-expected noises at school. My own son could not complete his classroom work for weeks after the school year began as he was afraid that the fire alarm would sound.  My sister’s a music therapist and together, we invented a way to help him."  Sound-Eaze and School-Eaze are available for download from her site as well as sold in special needs catalogues.

Now writing content for 10 years, Cara has also expanded her passion for sharing information into two books, The Pocket Occupational Therapist” and “The Special Needs SCHOOL Survival Guide," both of which were Family Choice Awards winners  She also has two new books coming this fall:  the first is ‘The Weighted Blanket Sensation” and the other is a children’s book called, “Joshua’s Mighty Mitochondrial Disease."
When asked about a memorable therapeutic moment, Cara shared about how goofiness helped to finally break the ice with a teenage client who hated going to OT.   "He spent seven sessions sitting in my clinic- refusing to speak to me……One session, I went through his entire home exercise program making up silly words; we both started laughing.  After he decided I wasn’t so bad, he ended up meeting ALL of his goals!  I hope he’s doing well!"

Not only can you find her working, writing, managing social media and email (ThePocketOT@gmail.com), posting products on Teachers Pay Teachers, this month you can see her in person. Cara will be speaking after Temple Grandin at the Future Horizons Dallas Autism Super Conference this month. Luckily for followers, The Pocket OT is pocket-full of energy, insight and inspiration. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

September SpOT Light Series: OT Notes

Today, the SpOT Light shines on the author of OT Notes, Cheryl Morris, who has been blogging for nearly as long as she has been practicing Occupational Therapy.

OT Notes began as a way to share study sheets and chapter notes related to the classes in which she was taking at West Virginia University.   As the years passed and her experiences grew, from acute care to outpatient and early intervention to school system, OT Notes evolved.  

"My blog really started for students and then became a good record of my work in a variety of backgrounds. I don’t write as much as I used to, as other things have taken a higher priority, but I tweet frequently and continue to enjoy sharing information on those platforms."

Cheryl recently guest posted on Handwriting With Katherine, on which she chronicled her experience and experimentation with assistive technology for students with complex needs, something to which I relate closely.  You can also read about the therapeutic use of humor also known as Foolishness with a Purpose. "Be willing to make a fool out of yourself to help your clients overcome fears of pain or looking silly." Cheryl has also presented at conferences regarding social media, advocacy and pediatric practice.
Now relying on other social media such as Twitter to keep relevant topics to OT flowing, Cheryl is involved in the #OTalk2US movement. #OTalk2US is a monthly chat that helps therapists connect and discuss topics in the profession.  
"It's easy to interact with all kinds of people who you would never meet normally, or never would be exposed to geographically."

Check Cheryl out  as @OTnotes as she leads the Sunday September 13th #OTalk2US twitter chat at 7 pm. She will be conversing on how to meet the needs of students with complex/multiple disabilities in the school system.

Monday, September 7, 2015

September SpOT Light Series: Can Do Kiddo

Today, the SpOT Light shines on an OT committed to capability.
Can Do Kiddo logo
When she became a mother a year ago, Rachel Coley, an Occupational Therapist of now 9 years, noticed people were looking to her for advice.  "I was asked repeatedly to write a book, start a blog, and create a product or business to help parents."  So as an homage for when she was able to ease parents' anxiety about what their child could not do, but focus on the joy of what they CAN, Can Do Kiddo was born.

With her background in infant and toddler development, and having an infant to boot,  Rachel couldn't help but write about things she was doing with her own child.   Her top tip? Less baby gear, more floortime play!  On her page, What Every Parent Should Know, Rachel links to a variety of posts on letting infants explore outside of the baby gear.  
Rachel Coley picture
"As a pediatric Occupational Therapist, I see and treat many issues in older babies, toddlers and children that likely started in early infancy - head shape problems, poor upper body and core strength, sensory processing challenges, and more."  

She also has published Begin with A Blanket, a compilation of 45 tips for infant play and development.  Rachel provides her experience and insight with products that she has found useful, therapeutic and developmentally appropriate. 

Visuals are a big part of Rachel's posts.  They help her describe positioning strategies.  She often used her own child as a model.  But as her child grew, she still needed a model for demonstrating poses and techniques.  So...... she used a stand in.   "I have a VERY realistic baby doll that I use for blog photos from time to time when I need a newborn photo. Luckily baby #2 is due in November so I’ll have a new model!"

So keep on the lookout for Rachel's newest addition in upcoming posts when you visit Can Do Kiddo.  Or contact her directly at rachel@candokiddo.com. 

Saturday, September 5, 2015

September SpOT Light Series: The Inspired Treehouse

Today, let's climb up the pediatric therapy 'Giving Tree' as I shine the SpOTLight on: The Inspired Treehouse.

The Inspired Treehouse Logo
When Claire Heffron, Lauren Drobnjak and Pam Braley began The Inspired Treehouse, it was for out of a love of sharing.  

"The Inspired Treehouse as a way to share information about child development and activities to help promote healthy development in kids.  We all had files full of activity ideas that we used in therapy, but unless they were being used at school, they were just gathering dust in our basements!  We knew that blogging would be a great way for us to organize and archive our ideas while also sharing them with a larger audience.  For me, blogging is my dream job.  It is the perfect way for me to use my expertise as a therapist and my experience as a writer to help others learn more about child development and how they can encourage healthy development for kids at home, in the classroom, and beyond!"

Profile Pic Clare HeffronWith 10 years of experience in pediatric occupational therapy, and a Bachelor's degree in Magazine Journalism, Claire and her team of co-horts have a lot to share.  Informational posts range from the importance of core strengthening  to an index of over 300 activities for the kids.  Two of her favorites include Inclusion and Providing OT Services in the Classroom.  and Couch Cushion Games for Kids.  Who doesn't like a good game of Wreck it Ralph and Fix-It Felix? :) Claire also advocates for free play and movement to help children develop their skills.

"All of my favorite therapy memories have been when I've set aside my data sheets, paperwork, and therapy "agenda" and simply let the kids take the lead.  It's incredible how much more information you can get this way - about what kids really need and what their strengths are.  These are the times I've felt a true connection with my students and have been able to appreciate their personalities and who they really are.

I think the most important thing we can do as parents, teachers, caregivers, and therapists is to give kids constant opportunities for free play and movement.  Being able to run, jump, climb, balance, and even being allowed to fall once in awhile, are all essential for kids to develop strong gross motor, fine motor, and sensory processing skills.  We can be advocates for integrating movement into the classroom, for ensuring that our kids get enough time for recess and [physical education], and for creating an active lifestyle at home that includes lots of unstructured play time."

Since Claire and Lauren are both active moms, balancing kids, work and the business is a challenge.  But they make it work.  "Our business runs on about 1,000 text messages and voicemails a day, along with the odd rushed phone call with kids yelling and screaming in the background."  

Of course I think that is why I appreciate them as a Therablogger.  Most of us have been there. We are all trying to manage the work-life balance. None of us are Linda Carter's Wonder Woman, though we all wear the crown just as well, if not better!

So head on over to The Inspired Treehouse.  I am sure you will find something to spark your interest. Their treehouse reaches further than just the site too.  You can also check out other branches on Facebook @inspired.treehouse, Twitter @inspiredtree and Instagram @insptreehouse. 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

September SpOT Light Series:The Speel

I am starting the SpOT Light Series with a trip across the Pacific. 

It wasn't even one year ago that Australian Speech and Language Pathologist Alex Trichilo took her passion for pediatric speech pathology to the world wide web with her site The Speel.  
                  The Speel logo
"I felt selfish having so much information about speech and language that families were paying for so I wanted to reach a wider audience and allow the information to be free."

Alex Trichilo profile picAlex is a Speech and Language Pathologist who received her Bachelor of Human Communication Science (Speech Patholgy) seven years ago. She provides service to children ages 2-21 in Australia. Her focus and specialties include Speech, Literacy, Voice, and Accents.

For those who work with children with special needs, progress is measured in successful little steps. But when a child takes a giant leap, the memory becomes engrained. Apraxia of Speech is frustrating to say the least. According to American Speech and Hearing Association, Apraxia of Speech is a motor planning disorder related to the difficult coordinating the muscle movements to produce the words. So when one of her five year old clients with this disorder finally told her that he was able to report the school news without mistakes, it gave her a sense of pride and joy.

Alex focuses on parents to guide her content. "Most Speech Pathology blogs are written for other Speech Pathologists which means that they use a lot of jargon and are very therapy focused. The Speel is written specifically for parents and is driven by the requests and questions that we get from our readers." 

Alex states that there is "no need to buy expensive toys or gadgets, make the most of every day activities by adding language and building comprehension, social skills into everything. This ensures that children develop functional language skills and apply their skills to their environment."

In one of her favorite posts, Giving you the tools for Developing your child's Communication Skills, Alex explained how the importance of being in the moment and conversing with your child is one of the best ways to expand language development.

Not only can you find great speech and language tips on her site, The Speel also hosts a You Tube Channel with suggestions for tasks including Listening Comprehension and Speech Sounds.  She also posts free downloads and printable informational materials. So, if you want to reach out to Alex, visit The Speel or contact her directly at alex@thespeel.com.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

September SpOT Light Series: Discover the Therablogger

Blogging is a way to share experiences, like an open diary, and to connect with those with similar interests.  I began blogging first as a way to vent about being home with two young children during my summers off.  I loved sharing about places to go and things to do and would tell people about my experiences.  I figured after so many people didn't know about some of the cool things we did, I'd put it into writing.

After a while, my writing evolved to sharing my experiences with products and technology that helped me help my students.  As a therapist with over 13 years of in the field, nearly 9 being in the public school systems, I came across something new on a daily basis.  I also found writing as a creative avenue to share some of the odd ways I look beyond the quadrilateral parallelogram, for example my analysis of the OT's Role in a Zombie Apocalypse.  However, I realized quickly that I am not the only Therablogger out there.

I am so happy to have the opportunity this month to put the SpOT Light on some amazing and innovative therapy bloggers.  Every other day, the SpOT Light will shine on one of 14 Therabloggers that provide edu-taining content to inspire the masses.   Apparently the timing of this month's posts could not have been more appropriate.  A recent OTPractice article had discussed the development and use of blogs in current trends.  It even included a few of the authors you will get to know in this SpOT Light series.

Last year, I was invited onto a Therapy Blogger's Facebook page which is where I met some of these wonderful pracitioners.  I have enjoyed their content, pulling their tips and tricks of the trade into my practice.  We've connected beyond the borders of states, countries and oceans.  From Arizona to Australia.   So please check back on the odd days of September to enjoy learning about what makes these unique therapists tick.  Maybe it will inspire you to share as well.

For a quick peek of upcoming posts, here is the schedule:

September 3, 2015: Alex Trichio from The Speel

September 5, 2015: Claire Heffron from The Inspired Treehouse

September 7, 2015: Rachel Coley from Can Do Kiddo

September 9, 2015: Cheryl Morris from OT Notes

September 11, 2015: Cara Kosinski from Pocket OT

September 13, 2015: Jaime Spencer from Miss Jaime OT

September 15, 2015: Katherine Collmer from Handwriting with Katherine

September 17, 2015: Sarah Lyon from OT Potential

September 19, 2015: Patti Pooler and Shelley Galvin from Tools To Grow OT

September 21, 2015: Rebecca Talmud from Dino PT

September 23, 2015: Chanda Jothen from Pink Oatmeal

September 25, 2015: Stacy Menz from Starfish Therapies

September 27, 2015: Anna Meadows from Kids Playspace

September 29, 2015: Margaret Rice from Your Therapy Source