Friday, December 16, 2011

Sensory Writing!


Learning to write can be fun!  Practicing the strokes and formation of letters doesn’t have to be done with a pencil on paper!  Use different tactile media to make writing a sensory experience; it will be super fun and motivating and your child will quickly pick up on the writing strokes!

Try some of the following finger fun to write letters, words and even sentences! Depending on your child’s level, he can freely draw and experiment with lines, copy lines you’ve drawn in the same media, use different tools to work on scooping or retrieving items, or copy a design from a drawing on a separate piece of paper.

It’s a great time of year for insta-snow!
Free Drawing

Copying a simple, vertical line

Working with tools and exploring the tactile media.

Copying more complex designs from paper

For additional input, also try:
·         400 grade sand paper under the paper
·         Shaving cream
·         Playdoh
·         Shaving gel in a sealed baggie
·         Concrete with sidewalk chalk
·         Sand
·         Rice or bird seed

Write On!
Michelle Yoder, OTR/L

Thursday, December 1, 2011

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things

December is here and it's time for gift giving! I know that you want to give your children toys that are developmental, educational and therapeutic! These are a few of my favorites, but if you need some help, just ask me or your therapist and we'll be glad to help you find something perfect for your little angel!


·         Crayola Jumbles

·         Hungry Pelican Plush at Young Explorers

·         Color Tower Stacking Game by Haba

·         Playskool Chase Me Critter

·         Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn Learning Piggy Bank

·         Alex Jr. I Can Cook

·         Melissa and Doug Deluxe Bug Jug Fill and Spill Soft Baby Toy


·         Educo Early Melodies Pound and Tap Bench

·         Tobbles Stacking Toy

·         Playskool Poppin’ Park Elefun Busy Ball Popper

·         Fropper Ride-On by Okiedog

·         Plan Toys Push ‘n Pull Helicopter Push Toy

·         Crab Calino-HABA pull toy


·         Coo Coo the Clown by Blue Orange

·         Block Buddies by MindWare

·         Pattern Play by MindWare

·         The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game by Educational Insights

·         Imaginets by MindWare

·         Sorting Pie Playset at Therapy Shoppe

·         My Little Sandbox at Amazon

·         I Can Pound Activity Bench by Fundanoodle

·         Skuut Balance Bike at Target or Toys &Co.

Children 5-9

·         Dig and Discover Excavation Kits at Fat Brain Toys, MindWare or Toys & Co.

·         Magnetic Mosaico at MindWare

·         Straws and Connectors by Roylco at

·         Rush Hour Junior by ThinkFun at MindWare

·         Spot It! by Blue Orange

·         Blind Spell at MindWare

·         Flying Turtle by Mason Corporation at Amazon

·         The Spooner- Toys & Co. or

·         Wobble Deck Balance Board at Discovery Channel Store

·         Muscle Mover Gross Motor Cards by Fundanoodle


·         Rush Hour- Target or MindWare

·         Buckyballs by Zoomdoggle

·         Ogo Sports Discs- Target or Brilliant Sky

·         Spooner Board

·         Razor Bogo Pogo by Razor

·         Torx Smash Stix at Kmart

·         FyrFlyz Multicolor Blue Angel at Amazon

Attention Santa’s Elves! Stocking Stuffers

·         Thinking Putty, Silly Putty or Big Putty

·         Floam-Discount School Supply or Therapy Shoppe

·         Dino Popper at Therapy Shoppe

·         Wind Up Fishing Game at Therapy Shoppe

·         Flapping Owl Whistle or Whirly Wheel Whistle at Therapy Shoppe

·         Wind Up Toy such as Wind Up Penguin at Therapro

·         FyrFlyz Green Cyclone by iStar Entertainment

·         Tangle Hairy at

Happy Holidays!
Michelle Yoder, OTR/L

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Kids Need Their Zzzzzs!

Sleep is so important for our children, both mentally and physically.  A good night’s sleep helps improve our mental alertness and just makes us feel better! The amount of sleep that each child needs varies, but a good rule of thumb is:  1-3 years old need 12-14 hours, 3-5 years old need 11-13 hours, 5-12 years old need 10-11 hours and teens need 9-10 hours per night. 
To ensure that your child has an easy time falling asleep and gets a restful sleep, try the following:
·         Reduce Stimuli prior to bedtime-limit the noise, dim the lights, avoid television, computers and video games
·         Linear movement, like rocking, is calming.  Avoid spinning or excessive movement at least an hour prior to bedtime
·         For infants- put your child down when he or she is drowsy, not asleep
·         Avoid caffeine and sugar
·         Maintain a consistent bedtime routine- bath, books, bed
·         Scented bath products with lavender may be helpful
·         Give your child a massage using firm, deep pressure-ask your therapist to show you massage techniques
·         For children who startle easily, consider using white noise
·         Try using a heavy blanket such as a quilt or one made of chenille
·         Ask your occupational therapist about the possibility of using a weighted blanket
Michelle Yoder, OTR/L

Monday, November 7, 2011

Avoiding Holiday Havoc

With the holiday season quickly approaching, it is important as parents to carefully guard our family’s schedule.  Putting too many items on the calendar without sufficient down time can lead to tired and unhappy children, as well as grumpy and forgetful parents.  When you start receiving those invitations, try to weigh them out and select only those invitations that will comfortably fit into your schedule.  It is important to select those activities or events that will bring you joy and help you fully experience the beauty of the season, limiting those events that you do only because you feel obligated.  I always ask myself three questions, “Does this activity benefit my spiritual growth, my family, or my personal growth?”  If it does not, I try very hard to say no!  This is a life-long process for most mothers.

As the weather gets cold and your children have less time playing outdoors, it is also important to include physical activity in your children’s schedule.  This might be a good time to try our Yoga class here at Touchstone, or maybe sign-up for martial arts, swimming, or indoor gymnastics/play classes. Make sure you also make time for you to get the physical activity that you need, as well.  If you are not healthy and happy, then you cannot take care of your family.

So, this holiday season let’s all try to be mindful of how we use our time, experiencing each moment to its fullest!  Happy Holidays from your friends at Touchstone Therapy.

Karen Charlton, MPT

Monday, October 10, 2011

Taming the Tears During Hair Cuts!

Not a day goes by that I don’t hear a parent report how difficult hair- cuts are for his or her child! Try these strategies to reduce your child’s tears associated with hair-cuts so that he or she can leave the barber looking his or her best!
Prior to heading to the salon, role play by putting capes on each other, playing with spray bottles and combing each other’s hair. Call the salon ahead of time to advise them that your child has sensory issues and request someone who has experience with our kids. Perhaps, create a social story so that your child knows what to expect with the hair cut.  Take a portable DVD player or iPad if your child enjoys movies or games. Right before you leave home have your child perform heavy work activities:  lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling.
Once at the salon, give your child a sense of control by choosing where to sit, what cape to put on, what movie he or she wants to watch, etc.  Next, facilitate more heavy work by performing chair push-ups or pushing on the foot rest while seated in the chair.  He or she may do well sitting in your lap so that you can provide constant deep pressure or big bear hugs. If he or she prefers to sit in the chair, provide your child with deep pressure touch to his or her arms, shoulders and sternum (chest bone) throughout the hair cut. Have your OT show you how to do this if you are not certain.   A weighted vest or lap pad, or even a weighted blanket may be good to use prior to donning the cape. Or, If your child is resistive to the old vinyl or plastic capes, try a towel with a clothespin or clip in the back. He or she may refuse a protective garment altogether. In that case, a long sleeved shirt may be best. Be ready with a washcloth so that you can continuously wipe the hairs off of your child (using firm touch). Offer gum or encourage him or her to suck on a piece of candy.  Some children may like other mouth fidgets.
Some children may not like to be tipped backward to get his or her hair wet.  Others may not like the spray bottle.  Try wetting his or her head with a damp washcloth or spray the comb. Avoid strong scented shampoos and other products. 
In general, avoid busy salons and try to go during the week during non-peak times. Speak softly and calmly. Your child may not like the clippers due to the buzzing noise, so ask the stylist to only use scissors.  Some, on the other hand, may prefer the clippers. The noises of the hairdryers and clippers may be bothersome.  Small ear buds with soft music or connected to his or her DVD player might help reduce some of the noise.
Read your child’s cues and acknowledge his or her feelings. Offer an incentive or reward and use a “First-Then” Approach. For example, first hair-cut, then spider man toy. 
Once you’re home again, allow your child a chance to “chill” or to retreat to a cozy corner to regroup.
Happy Hair Cuts!                                                                                               
Michelle Yoder, OTR/L
Occupational Therapist

Thursday, September 8, 2011

How to Survive Homework!

It’s that time of year again…homework time!

For some parents and students, homework is the dreaded task of the day.  It causes frustration, tears, and fights; but it is required and so important for growth and success at school and home.  How can you promote healthy participation and growth for your child?

First, always provide a routine for your child.  Children thrive on routine and knowing what is expected of them.  Not only is a homework routine important, but also a daily routine.  It may also help your child to provide a schedule or calendar for your child so that he/she has a visual image for the expectations. 

Secondly, provide your child with opportunities for movement before and after homework.  After sitting in class all day, it is hard to come home and sit down again for homework.  A 15 minute break will make all the difference.  For a fun way to participate in movement activities check out Fundanoodle’s Muscle Movers Gross Motor  Cards at

Finally, help your child succeed with the assignment given by the teacher:

·         Prioritize homework assignments, maybe start with the harder assignments which require more energy and finish with the simple worksheet.  Or if your child becomes frustrated with challenging tasks, start with the simple assignment so that he/she feels successful and is ready to tackle the harder one.

·         Provide a simple reward for completing an assignment: a sticker, a penny in the jar, or a M&M

·         Schedule your activities so that you have time to help your child with challenging activities

·         Plan ahead, for big projects, start early so your child has ample time to complete the project, succeed, and have fun without feeling stressed

And when the homework is done, have fun! Let your child feel the reward of completing his/her assignments. 

Amy Bumgarner, MS, OTR/L

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Taffy Pulling or Butter Melting...

Taffy Pulling or Butter Melting...that's what it feels like when fascia is releasing!
Touchstone Therapy is excited to announce that we now have 4 therapists trained by John Barnes in Myofascial Release. 
Fascia is a whole-body system, comprised of a very dense connective tissue, covering and interpenetrating every muscle, bone, nerve, artery and vein, as well as, all of our internal organs including the heart, lungs, brain and spinal cord.  It is one continuous structure that exists from head to toe without interruption.   Fascia plays an important role in the support and function of our bodies.  In the normal healthy state, the fascia has the ability to stretch and move without restriction. Trauma, poor postural alignment, and repetitive stress injuries can crease fascia restrictions and cause the fascia to lose its pliability, thus becoming tight, restricted, and a source of tension to the rest of the body.  This, in turn, influences comfort, function, flexibility, stability, and range of motion.  Fascia restrictions are also common in children with diagnoses including cerebral palsy, Mitrochondrial disorders, Down Syndrome, hypo- and hyper-tonia, Brachial plexus injury, Torticollis, and neurological disorders.  (adapted from
Myofascial release can be an integral part of the therapy process because it allows for more dramatic and lasting changes in posture, range of motion, stability, strength, and motor skill development.  Please take the opportunity to talk with your current therapist or contact Touchstone Therapy to discuss how this approach can benefit you and your child.    

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Red, White and Boom is not always fun for our Little Firecrackers!

While many of us are looking forward to celebrating the fourth of July with fireworks, for some of our children who have auditory defensiveness, it is a dreadful event! Some children respond to loud, unexpected noises with a flight or fight reaction; they either run and hide or may show their discomfort by slugging a sibling!  Other children may cover their ears to the loud booms or complain of a tummy ache! Whatever their responses are, we must acknowledge and respect their discomfort and help them get through the holiday! 

First and foremost,  help your child by preparing her. Give her an idea of what is to come and help identify strategies that may help her feel better. Help her gain a sense of control of her environment. Does she have a cozy corner in her bedroom or a weighted blanket she can cover up with?  If you're heading out to a barbeque, take along some headphones or ear plugs to dampen the sounds of the fireworks.  Chewing gum may also help.  Many times she will be able to figure out what could make her feel better, but the key is to establish the strategies in advance, before you head out to watch the fireworks!

Have a Safe and Happy Fourth of July!
Michelle Yoder, OTR/L

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Kids Helping Kids for OT Month

Thank you to all our families who have helped us surpass our goal of 100 toys and supplies for the children of Haiti.  Together, we have collected items that are instrumental to meeting the daily needs, as well as building the developmental skills of numerous children in need.       
In addition, during OT, many of our kids worked really hard on writing letters and creating pictures to send along with the supplies.  We titled the bulletin board that we showcased all of the letters and artwork on, "Letters of Love to Haiti". We will be sending all of the letters and pictures that the kids have created to help bring a smile to another child's face!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Level The Playing Field

Last weekend my children and I played pirates in the backyard.  We used the swing set as a pirate ship and the sandbox to bury the treasure.  We had foam swords and talked with accents using our best pirate language.  We all had a great time and then all took a nice nap. 
I used this opportunity to join in my children’s imaginary world and teach them how to interact with each other and play together safely.  It’s amazing what we can teach children through play and the skills they can gain just having fun.    
While at work, recently, I found myself playing a role as a construction worker. I wore a yellow construction hat and a vest that was quite small, all in an effort to play with a child.  We were focused on building a bridge with large foam blocks to transport a load of heavy items across a river.  This helped him increase his muscle strength, learn new ways to play in an environment, increase his tolerance of new clothing.  Despite his intolerance, he was willing to dress up because I did.
So often we interact with our children on an adult level, telling them what we want them to do or asking them to try something.  Sometimes that works, and we all like it when it’s that easy!  Other times, it’s a little more difficult and it takes more persuasion.  Here are some ways to make those times a little easier.
Many times all it takes is a little “show and tell” to get the job done. 
Show.  Show your child an example.  Perform your hand washing with the Sponge Bob soap at the bathroom sink and then let them join in.
Tell.    Tell them about the fun you’re having, how much you like it.

Other times you have to get down on their level.  This allows them to have improved eye contact with you and makes them feel like you are not only interested in what they have to say, but that you’re also now a part of their world.  You get to show them that things are fun, aren’t scary, or even how to play in certain situations.  Mirroring is a great technique your children already use to learn from you.  Just take full advantage of it with things you want them to do!
Change your position:
Squat down.
Sit in the little kid’s chair. (Be safe)
Go into the play house.
Climb on the playground equipment at the park.
Sit in the sandbox
Get on the swing beside them  or put them on your lap
Slide down the slide with them
Eat at the little table

Arts and craft
Meal time
Bath time
Dressing activities
Outdoor play- playground, sports, games.
Sensory play
Bed time

You may have to play dress up or act a little silly.  But you and your child will be having fun and learning at the same time!  

Brandon Scott, COTA/L, LMBT

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Letters of Love and Supplies to Haiti

miriam center
A new life and love for special-needs children.
An estimated 5 to 10 percent of babies in Haiti are born with a serious mental or physical handicap each year.
Many of them never get a chance at life.
Some are abandoned by parents who cannot or will not care for them.  Many others die as children from poor medical care.
Ralph was one of those children.  He was born with permanent brain damage and, despite his parents’ best efforts, Ralph died as a baby.
It was for children like Ralph that the Miriam center was conceived.  A generous donor couple, moved by the death of their own daughter to do something for special-needs children in Haiti, worked with Northwest Haiti Christian Mission in 2001 to build the orphanage that is today the Miriam Center.
The only orphanage of its kind in Northwest Haiti, the Miriam Center is a place where disabled children survive and thrive.

In honor of OT month, Touchstone Therapy began collecting donations for the Miriam Center.  The center relies on this assistance in order to continue to care for those children in need.  Donations can include new or gently used items. 
Specific needs include:
Everyday Items:
-          Crib Sheets                                                           
-          Twin Sheets
-          Pillow Cases
-          Clorox Wipes
-          Baby Powder
-          Baby Shampoo
-          Shampoo and Conditioner
-          Hand Soap
-          Bar Soap
-          Body Wash
-          Lotion
-          Combs
-          Washcloths
-          Spoons
-          Bowls
     Play Items:
-          Play dough
-          Bubbles
-          Water Toys
-          Shaving Cream
-          Balloons
-          Big Knob Puzzles
-          Shape Sorters
-          Pop-up Toys
-          Musical Toys
-          Pull Toys
-          Finger Paints
-          Water Colors
-          Sponges
-          Fat Paint Brushes
-          Fat Crayons

We will be collecting donations through the month of May.  If you would like to help us in our efforts, you may drop donations off at 561 N. Polk St. Pineville  You can also get your children involved by having him or her draw a picture or write a story about themselves to send with the supplies.  It can be a fun and creative learning opportunity that you both can enjoy!

Dana Elliot, MS, OTR/L


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Be a Wise Insurance Consumer

As an office manager of a health care practice, every week I am giving families a refund for a health care expense that they had no idea they were due.   Know your policy and what you should be paying to health care providers.
Here are few tips:
·         Get online access to your policy so you will have real-time access to your EOB’s (explanation of benefits-a statement describing medical benefits and account activity, including explanation of why certain claims may or may not have been paid) and review each one to make sure you are paying the correct amount and that your medical benefits were processed correctly
·         Know your policy
o   what is covered in your policy and what is the co-pay (flat fee) and, or co-insurance (%) you are required to pay for different medical services?
o   what is the amount of your deductible?
o   what is the amount of your maximum out of pocket (this is the maximum you have to pay in your insurance year)?
·         If you have an HRA or HAS 1) know how much it is and, 2) know the process to obtain your expenditures back.
Good luck!  

Sandi Greene, Office Administrator

Friday, March 4, 2011

To Be a Kid Again!

Five kids and I were sitting around the dinner table last night.  On almost a daily basis, we do our highs and lows of the day while at the dinner table, so Sydney suggested it to her friends.  After three “what’s that?”s and a brief explanation, we had five hands raised wanting to go first.  I woke up smiling today thinking of my favorite high that was shared.  Across the table from me, with big blue eyes, a fifth grader shared with us that her high of the day was when she found her favorite mechanical pencil. 
Appreciate what is special to your child, big or small! Take time today to see the world through a child’s eyes!

Michelle Yoder, OTR/L

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Sky is the Limit!

Children love to learn and have fun while they are learning, and as therapists, parents, and teachers it is our job to make it fun.  I was working on vertical lines with a child just this week, and I kept showing the child the stroke over and over again, and saying “line down,” but the child continued to scribble on the board.  I then began to make it a game, and said “zip down!” And, just like that, the child repeated after me, and said “zip down!” and drew a vertical line.  This little moment, reminded me how important it is to make learning fun and engaging for children.  With just a little more effort, we all have fun and learning takes place.  Not only does the child more quickly acquire the skill, but it will stick too! So, the next time you are frustrated with homework, teaching your child a new skill, or the day to day routine, just stop and ask yourself, “How can I make this more fun for both us?”
It may be…
·         Writing spelling words in shaving cream, finger paint or pudding
·         Singing a song while cleaning up the toys
·         Involving the whole family in the activity
·         Allowing the child to be the teacher (to younger siblings or his/her stuffed animals)
·         Acting out stories
·         Using whole body movements when learning math problems (hop forward for addition  or backwards for subtraction)
·         Going on nature walks to talk about science
The sky is the limit, and so is the learning!                 

Amy Bumgarner, MS, OTR/L