Treatment Idea: Wheelbarrow walking for heavy work

Wheelbarrow walking for heavy work isn’t a new concept. But I am excited about a way I thought of to make it very concrete and even fun! Presenting my new wheelbarrow walking mat:


This is my fancier laminated version, since I am lucky to have access to a big laminating machine on one of my school sites. My first few versions of this was made with just outlines of handprints on butcher paper (cut in half lengthwise), but I needed to make a new one after each use. The kids and I are loving this new colorful and sturdy version!

This easy visual makes it much more fun for the kids to go on a wheelbarrow walk. Also, the kids don’t seem as confused as they easily “get” what it is I am trying to get them to do, especially since it isn’t possible to accurately demonstrate a wheelbarrow walk by yourself. 😉 Also, I can easily make several and lend them out to teachers who need an easy and inexpensive way to incorporate heavy work into the classroom. I tell them to put puzzles or manipulatives or even touch-point math or whatever academics they like at the end of the wheelbarrow path.

One thing to also be mindful of is our own body mechanics when helping the students to wheelbarrow walk. I often will start by supporting the child just above the knees, and will move further back if the child appears to have adequate strength. Also, demonstrate how you support the child to make sure that the adult you are giving instructions to will understand how to do it! True story from a colleague of mine: A parent said that her child could not wheelbarrow walk, even though my colleague knew that the child was able to do it. When she asked the parent to demonstrate, the mom held her child by her ankles in an almost vertical position! (No wonder the child couldn’t do it that way!)


Online Calculators for Therapists


I used to be pretty good at math. But somewhere along the way (probably while memorizing the origin, insertion, action, and innervation of every muscle in my anatomy class), those areas of my brain that used to be good at math got overwritten by other information. And so now I struggle at what used to be simple and elementary calculations.

One example is computing the chronological age when scoring assessments. It can take me way longer than is necessary, until I bookmarked this handy little link:

Chronological Age Calculator


Another link I find useful helps me with calculating my timelines after I receive the assessment plan back. I just add 60 days, and it will tell me when my IEP is due.

Timeline Calculator


Here’s one that works for a specific task — scoring the ETCH. I just search Google for “seconds equals minutes” and use the handy calculator at the top to convert the time into minutes, so I can easily compute the speed in letters per minute. This is basically what is in the ETCH manual, except much handier and easier to use.

Seconds to Minutes Calculator


Hope these help you if you have become as mathematically-challenged as I have!

OT Resolutions for the New Year


Happy New Year! Hopefully you’ve survived the first week back and are getting back into the swing of things. I’ve kind of given up on personal resolutions for the New Year, but I did make some OT-related ones.

This 2014, I am going to:

Be more systematic about treatment planning
Get my treatment notes done in a timely manner
Get back to blogging!

But as any good OT knows, goals need to be specific and measurable! So, here are my goals for myself this year:

By 3/2014, I will complete a written treatment plan on each student on my caseload. (I am developing a treatment planning form that is quick and informal, and I will be sharing it on the blog pretty soon!)

I will complete my treatment notes in the same week I completed the treatment, 90% of the time. (Embarassing as that one is to admit.)

I will publish a new blog post at least once a week.

Ok, now that I’ve shared this with the world, I better go and do it! Do you have any resolutions that you’ve made this 2014?

Putting Chewy Tubes on a Lanyard

Today’s post isn’t exactly a treatment idea, but it’s a great tip to have up your sleeve. Most people thread yarn or a string through the “T” part of a Chewy Tube, but that’s often the part the child likes to chew on the most! Presenting the chewy tube on a lanyard:


My husband was the one who came up with this brilliant method (yes, he’s an OT too). He held a nail with a pair of pliers, and held it into the flame on the stove to heat it up. Then he carefully put it through the chewy tube to make a hole in it, and then finally put it on a lanyard.


This is especially great with safety lanyards that break away when pulled! How do you like to wear your Chewy Tubes?

What to do (and what NOT to do) at an AOTA Conference

AOTA conference title

I’ve been to the AOTA conference three times in the past 9 years, and each time I get a better and better experience. I always feel rejuvenated and excited about my job after I attend. But there is one big mistake I think most therapists make when choosing to attend the conference.

Don’t expect to improve your clinical skills by attending the AOTA conference.

Wait a minute, what? Yes, you heard me. If you’re an intermediate or advanced practitioner looking for ways to improve your clinical skills, you may be better off attending a different continuing education opportunity that goes in-depth into the specific skills you are interested in. Attending a 90-minute short course or even a 3-hour workshop will not be able to deliver the same depth you may get when attending a course that spans two whole days (or even longer).

Don’t get me wrong though, I think attending the AOTA conference is a very valuable experience, just not for the reason I stated above. Think of it this way. The AOTA conference is like a buffet, serving up the latest and greatest our profession has to offer. You don’t go to a buffet to learn how to cook a meal, but it is great  to be able to sample new ideas and research, or even just to see what is out there.

So if not for clinical skills, then what should you be doing at an AOTA conference?

How to get the most out of an AOTA conference

1. Attend the Slagle lecture.

This year was my first time to attend the Slagle lecture, and it was the highlight of my conference. Dr. Glen Gillen was this year’s Slagle lecturer, and he delivered an inspiring lecture on a return to our roots by focusing on occupation. Think of it as your chance to attend history in the making, since the Eleanor Clarke Slagle lectures are such a significant part of our profession’s history.

2. Plan your itinerary for the conference.

My vacation style is very relaxed, with no fixed itinerary in mind. But that all changes when I’m at an AOTA conference. When the initial conference guide comes in the mail, I get so excited about all the sessions I want to attend! I go through and highlight all the courses and research papers that I think are interesting. Then I try to prioritize as I plan which ones I want to attend. AOTA has an online itinerary builder, but I’m slightly old school when it comes to planning and prefer pen and paper.

Make sure you have an easily accessible list of sessions you plan to attend when you are at the conference, including the times and room numbers. And have a few back-up choices, in case the session you want to attend is full (yes, that happened to me).

3. Make a plan for the Expo Hall, too.

The Expo Hall can easily be one of the most overwhelming but exciting parts of the conference. The first few years I went, I was primarily focused on getting as many freebies from the exhibitors as I could. I went home with bags of stuff and a LOT of free pens. Some of those freebies are still sitting in the garage right now, still unused. This year, I focused on interaction with the exhibitors, whether it was learning more about a new product or about their doctorate program. I still got a few freebies, but I got more out of the Expo Hall with this approach.

4. Cross-pollinate ideas from other practice areas

Since I work in pediatrics, I naturally gravitate towards the Children and Youth sessions. But this year, I stepped slightly out of my comfort zone and found some interesting ideas in other practice areas.

The best way to do this is through poster presentations. That way, you won’t have to sacrifice precious time on a course that may have nothing to do with what you expected. You can view a poster and ask a few questions and then think about how you can apply the information into your own practice. I found myself doing this with posters related to adult rehabilitation, education, and even mental health.

5. Network with other OTs

One of the fun things about conference is just being around so many OTs in different shapes and sizes. Use this opportunity to expand your network! Attend alumni events for your school, or organize your own. Meet up with other OTs from a Facebook group or email listserv. AOTA has a few networking events on the schedule, and they even had an informal area where you could meet up and chat with other OTs.

6. Don’t wait too long to organize your handouts and materials after the conference.

When you come down from that conference high, make sure you go through the stuff you got while the memories are still somewhat fresh. That way you can follow up on an important contact that you made, or download the handouts that you wanted. Or so you can find that $40 book you were so excited to buy at conference and then completely forgot about. (Oops. Yes, that happened to me too.)

Attending the AOTA conference is a great experience, and you can really get a lot out of it. How did you make the most of your experience? I’d love to read your tips in the comments.

Happy OT month!

Keep calm & trust an OT


Happy OT month! I’m running a little late to the OT month party, I am still working on an OT infographic that people can share and post. In the meantime, I’ll leave you a link to a great Youtube video on how occupational therapy can help many different people.



Treatment Idea: Geometric Heart Activity (FREE template)

Heart with straight lines

I don’t know about you, but I’m always on the look out for crafts that involve cutting only on straight lines. I saw a post on Oleander & Palm that inspired me to use the same idea for the kids I work with.


I went ahead and made it easier to implement by creating easy-to-print templates for both the triangles and the heart design. The template includes both colored and black and white triangles. You can use the colored triangles for convenience, or print the black and white triangles on construction paper or colored cardstock to save ink. Or you can have the child color them in and add their own design.


My almost-4-year-old was more than happy to test out the craft for me. Feel free to download the template and use during your treatment sessions!

Download here: Geometric Heart Template



Treatment Idea: Clay Hearts


Valentine’s Day is coming up, and I’ve been on the look out for fun and therapeutic crafts to celebrate the season. Here’s a fairly simple and fun one: making hearts out of small balls of modeling clay.

Just roll small balls, and squish and smear. Ask the kids to roll the balls between the thumb and index finger, then alternate between the other fingers to work on finger opposition, dexterity, and fine motor control. Use different fingers to squish the balls onto the paper to build up strength. You don’t have to limit it to just heart shapes, you can feel free to create whatever pictures you want. Make a simple pattern and have the kids copy them to add a constructional praxis component to the task.  Roll the clay into small logs, and create different shapes and letters, then squish them onto the paper.


The possibilities are endless, take them and run with them! What other ideas do you have?

NBCOT now offers ProQuest access

Hand over keyboard

Great news for OTs who keep up with their NBCOT certification! I just found out there will be a new benefit available through NBCOT. We will now be able to use the ProQuest database to search for and access journal articles. We will also have access to RefWorks, which is an online research database software. These two tools will make it a LOT easier for us to provide evidence-based practice, since we can actually access journal articles.

If you’re renewing this year, you will receive the login information upon renewal. If you are not renewing this year, you can email NBCOT to request your login information. You need to provide your first name, last name, and certification number to either of the following email addresses:

For OTRs:
For COTAs:

To access ProQuest, go here on the NBCOT website.

Happy researching!

Treatment Idea: Finger isolation

Tuesday’s Treatment Idea

One of my colleagues at work (Hi, Katrina!) excitedly shared with me a treatment idea that finally captured her kiddo’s attention and got him to isolate his index finger. I don’t know about you, but it’s always a challenge for me to work on that specific skill to build on to using a pincer grasp.


The idea is pretty simple: fill the holes in a pegboard with foam soap! It makes it a lot more interesting and motivating to poke that finger into that hole.

Isolation of the index finger is usually acquired around 9-12 months, according to the Hawaii Early Learning Profile. Here are a few more activities that will encourage this skill:

  • Poking pegs out from the back of a pegboard
  • Retrieving small objects in an ice cube tray (Keep an eye out for mouthing behaviors!)
  • Pressing buttons on toys and electronic devices (cordless phones, remote control)
  • Use finger puppets
  • Use of an iPhone or other touch screen device — although it’s up to you how young you want to introduce this technology!
  • Poking fingers or small items into playdough or theraputty


Here’s one more unconventional idea: When my son was nine months old, he would constantly walk around with a poplock bead on his finger. I’m not sure whether you want to encourage that specifically, but he sure developed finger isolation with it on!

Please feel free to share any other ideas for encouraging finger isolation in the comments.