Thursday, December 13, 2012

It's Twelve Days to Christmas!

As you finish your Christmas shopping we'd like to share our staff favorites to help expedite your shopping and make you feel good about  your gift giving!

Ms. Amy B. likes the Sneaky Squirrel Game as the tongs work on fine motor skills and it also fosters turn taking and matching.

Ms. Amy M. recommends the Tomy Pic 'n' Pop push toy.  The balls magically pop out and it's fun to pick them up.  It keeps them active and walking.

Ms Chrys believes every toddler needs a tricycle!  As they pedal, they work on bilateral integration, strengthening and motor planning.

Ms Courtney loves  Cat -N- The Hat I Can Do That! It's a great game for following multi-step directions and taking turns and the kids love it!

Ms. Elizabeth says that kids love to carry things around, so she recommends Leap Frog's Shapes and Sharing Picnic Basket.  Functional play skills are developed while kids work on putting in and pretend skills and matching.
Ms. Karen always recommends the Kettler Scooter due to it's durability and stable base.  The scooter is a great means for increasing leg strength, balance and coordination.  It's perfect for those children who are working towards riding a bike.  She also likes the Little Tykes Push and Ride as it is very stable and difficult to tip over.  This toy is great for the pre-walkers or new walkers to build strength ad endurance to prepare them for independent walking.

Ms. Keira thinks that Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head are an ideal gift because so many skills are addressed:  fine motor, body identification and awareness, cognition and language acquisition.  
Ms. Kristin loves the Design and Drill! Your child will challenge his or her visual motor, fine motor and motor planning skills all while feeling like big stuff using a "power tool"!

Ms. Lindsey has been recommending a scooter with a wide board and two wheels in the back. It is great for 2, 3 and 4 year olds, builds strength and the kids love it!

Ms. Lynn loves a jump rope!  Every child should have one to work on bilateral integration and motor planning skills!
Ms. Shelley digs the old-fashioned Duncan yo-yo, butterfly style! Its's simple, fun and you can take it wherever you go!

Ms. Sandi feels Rush Hour is a great game for older children because it makes you think and it's more interactive than something like Checkers or Chess. 

Ms. Michelle finds that all children from the ages of 3 to 8 love the I Can Pound Activity Block.  It fosters fine and visual motor development, bilateral motor coordination and enhances sensory development.

Be Merry!

Friday, December 7, 2012

The colander catch!

I know you are all out shopping for fancy toys for the holidays.  Put those thoughts aside for a moment and consider this simple toss and catch game!  I found these two colanders at the dollar store and paired them with some tactile balls that we had in the clinic for a fun and easy game of toss and catch.  These tactile balls are nicely sized for their little hands.  The colander is large so that it fosters success with catching and it provides a nice large target for the thrower. Small pitchers work nicely, too and I also found those at the dollar store. The kids love the novelty of it, as they think it's quite silly playing with a strainer!

This is a great activity to work on visual attention, oculomotor skills, motor coordination, postural stability and upper body strength.  You may find as she is learning to throw that she will walk towards you.  If she does this provide her with a visual marker to stand on and pretend that her feet are "glued" to it.

If the game of toss and catch is too difficult, set up a laundry basket 2 to 3 feet away and have your child stand on a spot, maybe a taped mark or paper plate.  Encourage her to aim for the basket. Throw some pre-writing in there and have her keep a tally of the shots that she makes.

These are perfect indoor activities for the cold winter months!

Monday, December 3, 2012

No Peeking!

Stereognosis is the ability to identify objects through our sense of touch, only.  Children learn so much through their sense of touch. So, let's tune up those tactile systems with the I Spy Mystery Grab Game! Reach into the hat and find the object that matches your card, without peeking!

This is a great game for children ages 4-8. I found this at Toys R Us for $19.99.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Perfect Present!

Color Matching, Motor Planning, Turn Taking...The Perfect First Game for the youngest ones on your list!  Roll and Play is sort of like a 3-D Simon Says!

Roll the cube, name the color, find the matching card and then follow the directions on the card to perform the action! This is the perfect way to get them moving and thinking and they'll feel like big stuff, too!

I came across this at Learning Express and it is $19.99.  If you receive their catalogs in the mail, there is a coupon on the back!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Pick Pix Mix!

I came across Pix Mix in a holiday catalog.  Now, I've never played it, but to me it looks like a great way to work on a visual perceptual skill that OTs call figure ground.

Figure ground is the ability to distinguish an object, picture or word from its background.  For instance, a good example of figure ground is opening the refrigerator and finding the white milk located in front of the white background.  Hidden picture activities are another great figure ground activity.  So, this is why Pix Mix seems like the ideal figure ground game!

Individual cards are stacked on top of each other to create a busy mixture of pictures. The player is given 30 seconds to differentiate and identify all six images within each mix.  Look closely, what pictures do you see hidden in the mix above?  I can't think of a better way to sharpen those figure ground skills!

Pix Mix can be found in the MindWare catalog or at

Michelle Yoder, OTR/L

Friday, November 16, 2012

All I want for Christmas...

The holidays are right around the corner and the children have begun to make their lists!  Every year, we have parents ask us for suggestions for educational and developmentally appropriate toys for their children.  Over the next few weeks, we will be highlighting our favorites.  

Our first game is Squiggly Worms!

I love it because it's simple, doesn't require batteries and it challenges our fine motor and visual motor skills.
The game consists of a bright red apple filled with little green worms that pop up and down!  It has a lever at the bottom of the apple that slides over and the 20 worms begin to squiggle and wiggle! Twenty matching worm cards are also included. The game is intended for children 4 years and older.

In therapy, we use this game several different ways!
To work on fine motor and visual motor skills, the children have to watch which worms pop up and quickly grab one. Then, they quickly look at the bottom of the worm and if the color matches their card, they place it on the card and continue to look for more matches. The first player to find matches to all of their cards wins! This is truly a game of speed and dexterity!

Sometimes we slow things down a bit and work on in-hand manipulation skills, specifically palm to finger translation.  This is a difficult skill for children, but it is important in daily tasks.  For instance, if a child is holding some coins for his penny bank, he has to move a coin from his palm to his fingertips so that he can place it into the bank, while holding onto the other coins.  You can work on that same skill by having your child hold two to three squiggly worms at a time.  Then, the child moves one worm at a time from her palm to her fingertips and then places it into one of the holes in the apple. The cute little worms make learning fun!

Stay tuned over the next few weeks and we'll help you and Santa stuff the stockings and wrap up the magic of Christmas!

Michelle Yoder, OTR/L

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Dig into the sensory bin!

Sensory bins are fun for all ages!  I made this corn meal bin for a preschool as a safe option for tactile exploration since some of the children still enjoy exploring with their mouths! Other bins can be made of rice, beans, pasta, beads, balls or cotton balls.  Wet bins are a blast, too.  Use insta-snow, shaving cream or water beads.  Additional contents can be endless and will surely entice the senses!

  • Fill it with items for the holidays or seasons.  A bin full of feathers is great this time of year as we celebrate Thanksgiving!
  • Numbers or letters can foster learning.  Have her pull out a letter and match it to a card.  When she finds a number she can count out the same number of pasta pieces from the bin.
  • Different colored objects can facilitate color identification or matching!  She could find a red object inside the bin to place in the red colored bowl placed outside.
  • Last year I made a winter bin with all white items, which promoted a visual perceptual skill that we call figure ground.  The children used a white ice cream scoop to scoop out cotton balls into a white bowl.  Tongs were used to separate snow flakes by size into a sorting dish.
Watch as your child uses all of her senses to explore.  Ask her what it smells like, how it feels, what she hears.  Have her close her eyes and use only her sense of touch to find the items hidden within.

For some children tactile exploration can be very calming.  For other children, it provides just the right input to "rev" her up to improve her level of arousal. If your child is hesitant to touch the contents in your sensory bin, provide tools such as spoons, tongs, ice cream scoops, etc. to make her feel safe while she explores.  Before you know it, she'll be digging right in!

Digging deep with the tools promotes strength and fine motor coordination.

Blowing can help regulate our nervous systems and is a fun way to explore the corn meal.

The corn meal is silky and smooth. I filled the bin with different textured objects and added some visually stimulating items to please their young eyes!

Her smile says it all!
Share your favorite sensory bins with us!
Remember to provide supervision as sensory bins are very pleasing to all of our senses and may tempt our children to explore in ways that could be harmful to them.

Michelle Yoder, OTR/L

Monday, October 29, 2012

Enter if you dare!

This is a fun Halloween activity that addresses so many skills, but most importantly she was proud of it and couldn't wait to give it to her "Mummy"! 

Watch out Superman, she's strong!
Tearing and pinching tissue paper is great work for the hand muscles!  It works on dexterity, too!
Bob the Builder would be proud of what she's built!  She folded along the lines and drew simple shapes on the front for details to the entrance of her spooky mansion!
Now, let's see what's inside! She pinched, and cut and colored, oh my!
Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Ms. Amy follows her mother's advice!

1.  You touch the lives of children and their families every day. What do you find to be the most meaningful or rewarding part of your work?
      The most rewarding part of working at Touchstone Therapy is when one of my kids reaches a goal and I see a huge smile and their face. Recently  – one of my kids walked for the first time and gave me a big hug. It truly brought tears to my eyes seeing the joy on her mom’s face, too.

2.   We have a very experienced staff.  What did you learn a long time ago that still benefits your practice today?
          I always remember that even though I may feel really comfortable and confident when working with children, most kids don’t know me initially and they have to gain my trust. I have learned that it takes a lot of imagination and a big smile when working with children and hopefully there won’t be too many tears and they love to come to therapy!

3.  We have a unique setting for PTs.  What do you like most about our setting?
      I love working at Touchstone Therapy with such an excellent group of clinicians! This special setting allows all of the therapists – both PT and OT - to interact with each other and learn day to day. I have been practicing for 25 years and I am still enjoying and learning so much from my kids, parents and co-workers.

4.   Share your favorite quote.
   A favorite quote of mine is “ Do kind things for others because you want to; not because you expect something in return.” This is something my mom always told me as long as I can remember!

5. What is the advice you most frequently give parents?
      I always try to advise parents to take things one day at a time. It’s amazing to me to see how incredible early intervention is and how much progress children can make with physical therapy.

Ms. Amy has a giving spirit, both in her professional and personal life! Her playful nature helps, too! Her kids love to "feed" the animals pictured above with her while in PT!  Happy PT Month, Ms. Amy! 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Ms. Maggie's Ultimate Cozy Corner

Every classroom needs a cozy corner so that students have a place to go to when the classroom becomes too busy or too loud for them.  I found the perfect cozy corner at Park Road Montessori School this afternoon, right outside Ms. Maggie and Ms. Becky's classroom.   My wish is for every child to have access to this sort of learning environment where the teachers are willing to do things just a little differently.  When children's sensory needs are met, you'll find a classroom full of children exhibiting self control, appropriate regulation and a love for learning!

I'd be motivated to do a little research in here, how about you?

What a perfect reading spot!

The plan is for this to be a nice shady spot to retreat into, too!  They've planted Confederate Jasmine, which is an evergreen, to grow up and over the top of the netting!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Ms. Chrys knows how to strike a pose!

1.      You touch the lives of children and their families every day.  What do you find to be the most meaningful or rewarding part of your work?  Getting to know the families and helping support them with knowledge about what is affecting their child.

2.     Share one of your most memorable accomplishments as a PT.  Anytime I see a child discover his independence and learn to move more freely within their capacity.

3.     We have a very experienced staff.  What did you learn a long time ago that still benefits your practice today?  To be present with each child, connect with them, look in their eyes,  stay calm so they will! 

4.     We have a unique setting for PTs.  What do you like most about our setting?  The freedom the environment creates for the child to explore and learn by doing.

5.     Kids say the funniest things.  Share something a child has said that still has you chuckling.   I have a little 3 year old now who always uses my name…she will say…”I’m coming Chrys”, or  “Ok  Chrys”  Always using my name in this manner makes me chuckle.

6.     What do you love most about your job?  That every child is completely unique.

7. Share your favorite quote.   "The land of healing lies within radiant wit the happiness that  i blindly sough i  thousan oute directions.

8.     What is the advice you most frequently give parents?  To take it one day at a time, trust their intuition and stay off the internet looking for information on their child's diagnoses! 
9.     Do you have any community recommendations for parents and their children to enjoy?  Mitey Riders Therapeutic Horseback Riding Program, Carolinas Rehabilitation Adaptive  Sports and Adventures Program

10.     What is a home exercise that could benefit any child?  To hug and be hugged everyday.

Ms. Chrys is our resident yogi. The kids love practicing yoga with Ms. Chrys!  She teaches yoga all around town to both children and adults.  Visit for more information about Ms. Chrys and Balanced Body Yoga Therapy.
Happy PT Month, Ms. Chrys!  Namaste.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Making changes in children's lives makes for a great life!

1.)  You touch the lives of children and their families every day.  What do you find to be the most meaningful or rewarding part of  your work?
I feel so fortunate to work with children everyday!  My absolute favorite is the look on a child's face after weeks of hard work when they realize that they CAN do something. What a rewarding job we have!

2.)  We have a unique setting for PTS. What do like most about our setting?
Touchstone Therapy truly is a unique place.  I love that we have the opportunity to work side by side with OT's.  This allows for a team approach to the care of our clients. I also like the open and child friendly atmosphere of Touchstone that creates a child directed therapy approach.

3.) What do you love most about your job?
I love that when I come to work, every day is different.  There is certainly never a dull moment when working with kids! We have the opportunity to work with a variety of diagnosis, ages, and abilities in a setting that is fun and engaging.

4.) What is your favorite quote?
"From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life."

5.) Do you have any community recommendations for parents and their children to enjoy?
I feel that participation in community activities is extremely important for developing muscular strength and coordination. I always recommend swimming as an excellent activity that targets all muscle groups and is wonderful for endurance and conditioning as well.

Lindsey holds her doctorate in PT, but also brings a unique perspective to Touchstone with her athletic training experience. She and her new baby, Carter, are pictured above. Happy PT Month,  Lindsey!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Ms. Carole is a gem! We treasure her!

1.  You touch the lives of children and their families every day.  What do you find to be the most meaningful or rewarding part of your work?  I love using and sharing my experience as a physical therapist, and as a parent to meet the challenge of solving each problem whether it is a tone issue, a strength issue, a weakness issue, a muscle issue, a postural alignment issue, a gross motor issue, a gait issue or a family need. 

2.  Share one of your most memorable accomplishments as a PT.  I still have a relationship with a young girl who has Cerebral Palsy.  I was involved in her life from the time she was 1 year old until she was 16 years old.  She is now 21, walks with a cane and drives a car.  She has given me a real insight as to how difficult life is for someone with a disability.  However, this young lady is the most well adjusted person because her mother expected her and encouraged her to be as independent as possible. 

3.  We have a very experienced staff.  What did you learn a long time ago that still benefits your practice today?  One, the client is the most important one in the relationship and I am here to help them.  Two, if your feet don't hit the floor correctly, the rest of the body has to compensate. 

4.  What do you love most about your job?  I love to be helpful to people. 

5.  Share your favorite quote.  "Do unto others as you would have them do to you."

6.  What is the advice that you most frequently give parents?  Every child is born with a spirit to push the limit.  Each spirit is looking for boundaries.  You are in charge of showing and teaching them the boundaries.  To feel sorry, to feel pity, and to lower your expectations does not help your child reach his full ability.  It is important that the parents find ways their child can have successes (big or little) and feel good about himself. 

7.  What is a home exercise that could benefit any child?  I like activities that emphasize trunk rotation in long-sitting, chair sitting and standing.  
a) In floor sitting, chair sitting and standing have your child reach back to one side and play with a toy for 2 minutes then go to the other side. 
b) Have your child sit in a chair with his feet on the floor and reach for a toy placed out to the side so that his weight has to transfer from the middle of the hip and hold for a count of 20.  Repeat to the other side. 

Ms. Carole has been practicing PT for more than 45 years and is a wealth of knowledge!  We are so fortunate to have her at Touchstone Therapy!  Happy PT Month, Ms. Carole!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Celebrating Ms. Karen 's decade of care at Touchstone Therapy!

  1. You touch the lives of children and their families every day.  What do you find to be the most meaningful or rewarding part of your work?  The most meaningful and rewarding part of my work is the connection I establish with the children and families.  My aim is to provide them the best care possible, be a resource and advocate for their needs, and help them see the strengths and beauty in their children!
  2. We have a very experienced staff.  What did you learn a long time ago that still benefits your practice today?  I have been practicing PT for 24 years.  I learned a long time ago that you approach your patient with a fresh start and new eyes each day, for they are always changing.  You try to make an improvement in their function in that moment and eventually progress will come!
  3. We have a unique setting for PTs.  What do you like most about our setting?  I have worked many places in town over the years.  What I like most about Touchstone Therapy is the warm, loving, welcoming, and kid-friendly atmosphere.  This setting is motivating for the children, although at times it might make this left-brained PT a little crazyJ  To outsiders, our facility might look like a big play area; however, Touchstone is fortunate to have one of the most experienced pediatric staffs around!
  4. Share your favorite quote.  My favorite quote is, “Be joyful, pray continually, and in all things give thanks.” 1Thes5:16-18.
  5. What is the advice that you most frequently give parents?  My advice that I like to give parents is to try not to look too far down the road, but instead take each day at a time.  Most importantly, STAY OFF THE INTERNET!  Many times the internet shows the worst case scenarios.  I also encourage my parents to come to me if they have question because the whole process can sometimes be overwhelming.
Ms. Karen is Touchstone Therapy's Clinical Supervisor and has been with us since 2002.  Happy PT Month, Ms. Karen!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Dyslexia: Not just a Developmental Reading Disorder?

Dyslexia, also known as Developmental Reading Disorder, is a learning disability in which an individual has difficulty learning to read, reading with fluency, and/or comprehending what he/she is reading, despite average intelligence.  Traditional intervention has focused on individual reading treatment to include reading-specific tasks such as reading aloud, phonemic awareness, phonics training, and multi-sensory learning approaches.

New research in Current Biology reports that dyslexia may be more of a problem with visual attention and visual perceptual skills, than specifically reading.  Children with the disorder have a difficult time filtering out irrelevant visual cues.   Andrea Facoetti, psychologist from the University of Padua, studied a group of children from age 4 to 7.  The children were tested on their reading abilities, color naming, recalling a list of objects, and completing a visual figure ground task (such as Where’s Waldo or Eye Spy).  The children with the most difficulty on the visual figure ground task at age 4 were the children who were given the dyslexia diagnosis at age 7.

This new research suggests that intervention which includes improving visual attention and visual perception skills may be more effective than traditional phonics training for treating dyslexia.  Early identification and intervention of these visual problems is recommended. Ask your occupational therapist for appropriate activities to work on visual attention and visual perceptual skills.

Courtney Enos, MS, OTR/L

Friday, September 14, 2012

Cutting Mastery!

As we progress from cutting straight lines to simple shapes, curves and angles, the key is using the assistive hand to turn the paper.  I always tell children that their dominant hand is the motor and their non-dominant hand is the steering wheel.

First, try to cut out a square, as it's similar to cutting a straight line.  Once they get to the corner, tell them to stop and turn the paper with their assistive hands.

A zigzag line is somewhat similar to a square as they will cut a short distance, stop and turn the paper to continue along the line.

Next, introduce a curved line, which will require slight adjustments as they move along the curved line.

After they feel comfortable with that, have them cut out a circle.  Circles are quite challenging as they require constant turning and adjustments of the paper with the assistive, non-dominant hand.

The most difficult challenge will be cutting out a picture with curves and angles.  Again, cue them to keep a thumb's up approach with the scissors, their dominant elbow at their sides and really work to let their non-dominant hands do all of the turning!

Simple animal shapes often provide nice curves and angles for cutting.

She is demonstrating nice turning of the paper with her assistive hand as evidenced by her upside down bunny.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

This one gets them snipping and for those with small attention spans, it's completed in a snap!


Provide a simple cut out of a tree trunk and limbs and have the child glue it to a blank sheet of paper.  Start with a strip of green and have him cut along one side and glue it on as grass. A pair of craft scissors makes cutting a strip of grass a breeze! 

Provide strips of different colored paper in varied widths for him to cut up into pieces.

Glue on the pieces to create beautiful fall foliage!


Call the Zoo Keeper! This activity provides great opportunity for cutting straight lines.

Provide a piece of paper with straight lines approximately 8 inches long and 1 1/2 inches apart.

Have your child cut straight up each line.  Make sure he stops at the end of the line.

Fill in the empty space at the top with the "Zoo".

Cut out every other space.

Add the final touches by placing your favorite animals in the zoo.  Your child can cut them out of a magazine, use stickers or you could have some animals already cut out and he could color them.