Make Halloween Spooktacular

Halloween can be an exciting time of year with spooky cobwebs, glowing pumpkins, haunting ghosts and treats galore.  Many children and adults enjoy taking part in the fun, and “sensational” activities that come along with such a spirited holiday.  For others, especially children who have a harder time with sensory processing, it can become quite an overwhelming experience.

With a little extra preparation, Halloween can be an enjoyable experience for the whole family.  The following are a few tips* to make this Halloween a great one.

Prepare your child for the holiday by helping them to understand the tradition

  • Tell stories about Halloween or read Halloween themed books
  • Discuss the rules and boundaries of the holiday and your expectations
  • Role play and pretend so they know how to handle situations that may arise while at a party, having visitors or visiting others during Halloween activities
  • Let them know exactly what to expect and avoid any surprises (the good, bad and scary of it all)

Get the costume right

  • Try out some inexpensive “practice costumes” to help them to get used to wearing one.  Make your own and do some pretend play.  You could make a cape out of an old T-shirt, or cut a paper plate into a crown/mask (just add some elastic or string)
  • Make sure that the costume that you purchase for Halloween events is right for your child.  Have them try it on to be sure that it fits and feels right. It won’t be too “scratchy” or uncomfortable, and will be cool or warm enough depending on what activities you plan on participating in.  Also consider whether face paint or a mask is right for your child.

Prevent the dreaded meltdown

  • Try to limit the duration of events, and to know what to expect if you will be attending a gathering.  This way you can have a plan, allow your child to know the structure of events and give them a chance to make choices and feel in control of the situation and thus themselves.
  • Allow your child to explore the fun that Halloween has to offer, but keep a close eye on them and stay tuned in to how they may be feeling.  If they begin crying, looking fatigued, too hyperactive or combative it may be time for a break.  Find somewhere less stimulating and take them for a break from the sensory overload they may be experiencing.

Plan ahead and consider which activities would best suit your child

  • Try trick-or-treating in a controlled environment.  Some local organizations arrange trick-or-treat experiences that may be more your child’s speed.  Also, many nursing homes and hospitals set up special times for children to visit with the patients or residents.  It is a great opportunity to participate in a Halloween event while brightening someone’s day!
  • If trick-or-treating isn’t for you, that is OK!!  There are many other ways you can enjoy the season and get in the spirit of Halloween.  Make some Halloween crafts, decorate pumpkins with paint or stickers, experiment with Halloween food recipes, roast pumpkin seeds or try out some structured sensory play.


Blog by: Ashley Yankanich, MS, OTR/L, IMC

For further information please contact us at 941-360-0200 or visit us at

Please follow my NEW Pinterest board for some fun ideas for Halloween and every other day!! Search for Miss Ashley the OT


*Halloween tips were adapted from:

American Occupational Therapy Association (2011). American Occupational Therapy Association tip sheet.

The complete document can be found at:

How Does Your Backpack Feel?

Does your child complain that their backpack is hurting them? Do they have achy arms and backs? The cause may be that your child is carrying too much weight in their backpack or not wearing it properly.

Approximately 55% of students carry backpacks that are too heavy for them.¹ In one study of American students between the ages of 11 to 15 years, it was reported that 64% of them have back pain related to overloaded backpacks.²

Here are some tips to help your child ease the load on their growing bodies.

Loading a Pack

  • You child’s backpack should be no more than approximately 10% of their body weight. I.e. a student weighing 100 pounds shouldn’t wear a backpack with more than 10 pounds in it.
  • Load heaviest items closest to the child’s back.
  • Arrange books and materials so that there is the least amount of shifting items while wearing their packs.
  • Check from time to time that they are only carrying around what is necessary for school, and not items that are only increasing the load with no school purpose.
  • If the weight in your child’s backpack or bag is too heavy they may opt to carry an item or two in their arms.
  • If the backpack is too heavy on a regular basis consider a bag on wheels if it follows the school guidelines.


Wearing a Backpack

  • Wear the pack with both straps on to evenly carrying the weight. Wearing a backpack on one shoulder can cause your child to lean to one side causing the spine to curve and increasing the chance for injury or discomfort.
  • Select a pack with well padded shoulder straps. Shoulders and necks have many blood vessels and nerves that can cause pain and tingling in the arms, neck, and hands when too much pressure is pulling on them.
  • Adjust the straps so that the backpack fits snugly to your child’s back. A pack that is too lose can pull your child backwards and strain the muscles.
  • The bottom of the pack should rest at the curve of the lower back. It should never rest more than 4 inches below your child’s waistline.
  • Most importantly is to purchase a backpack that is appropriately sized to your child.

If your child has a locker, help them work regular stops into their schedule between classes. This will lighten the load that they carry around between classes.

Blog by: Laney London, COTA/L, IMC

If you have any further questions please contact us at 941-360-0200 or visit us at


1. Graduate Program in Physical Therapy, Simmons College. (2001, February 12). Children’s Backpacks Are Too Heavy, New Study Shows [Press Release]. 

2. UC Newsroom, University of California. (2004, August 26). Back to school; heavy packs endanger kids’ health, study shows [Press Release]

American Occupational Therapy Asssociation, Inc.,

Voice For Health September-October 2013 Vol. LX, No. 5



Book Review: “Brain Rules for Baby”

Brain Rules for Baby: How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child form Zero to Five

Brain Rules for Baby is written by John Medina, a developmental molecular biologist and research consultant.  He is also the author of the New York Times bestseller Brain Rules:  12 Principals for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School.   You might think that with all these accolades, Brain Rules for Baby would be dry and boring. We found it to be quite the opposite!  The author adds facts, mixed with humor and real-life scenarios, which will challenge you to question your current parenting process or lay the foundation for a future child.

John Medina divides the book into specific brain rules in the areas of: pregnancy, relationships, smart baby, happy baby, and moral baby.  Within these “chapters,” if you will, are answers to questions we have all asked ourselves regarding genetics, nature vs. nurture, psychological characteristics, emotional control, diet, technology, character building, etc.   At the end of each chapter he reviews “Key Points.”  These key points are a nice review and allow you to digest the facts that were presented in a more simplified version.  We personally dogeared these pages as a way to quick-reference in the future.  This book will resonate with you whether you are trying to conceive, are currently pregnant, or have a newborn, toddler, or school-aged child.  What you are doing right now will affect your child for the rest of his or her life.  You will learn to see your child in a whole new light after reading this book.

We give this book 5 stars!  If you have ever had any questions regarding parenting and how your day-to-day decisions affect the growth and moral development of your child, this book is a must-read!

Written by: Michelle Adams, OTR/L, IMC

What Pencil Grip Is Right For My Child?

This is a question we often hear from parents who are concerned with handwriting and the way their child holds a writing utensil. Each child will have an individual preference for how a grip feels in their hands. There is no one grip that is the perfect grip for everyone. Ask your occupational therapist to explore some of the pencil grips that they may have prior to making a purchase.  This will save you time, money, and the possibility that your child’s hand will not be compatible with them.

Some things to look for when fitting a grip to your child are:

  • Proper finger placement,
  • Is the palm in an open and curved shape?
  • Is the wrist turned with slight extension?
  • How is your child responding? Some protest is common. The true test is after they have used it for a few minutes. Have they forgotten it is there? Are they adjusting well to the new finger placements? Do they appear comfortable?
  • Does stability of the writing utensil increase, therefore improving handwriting and drawing techniques?

Below are a few of the grips that we have kid tested and therapist approved.

1. Grotto grip:  “The specialized angles and finger guards promote an open web space and hand and palmer arching. Discourages hyper-mobility at the joints of the thumb and index finger. Once fingers are placed correctly, the Grotto Grip prevents the user from reverting back to immature hand grasps. For both the left and right hands. Latex free.” ~Therapro Grotto Grip

This grip has been a favorite of many for the solid support that it offers without being too firm. Decreases thumb wrap.

2. Crossover Grip: “This is “The Pencil Grip” shape with “wings” which help to maintain the proper tripod, 3-finger, grasp by keeping the index finger and thumb from “crossing over.” For either the right or left hand. The shape, combined with the soft material, offers support, comfort and assistance with finger placement.” ~Therapro

Crossover Grip

This grip is excellent for a child who holds their pencil too tight, however, needs the additional finger placement supports. Decreases thumb wrap.

3. Stetro Pen and Pencil Grip: “Plastic molded with finger indentations. Star indicates thumb placement. Forefinger and middle finger fit comfortably into the other two indentations. For use with both the left and right hand.” ~Therapro

Stetro Pen and Pencil Grip

This grip is perfect for the child who needs fingertip placement support. Small, unobtrusive, and goes unnoticed by other classmates for the child who is concerned about their pencil looking different.

4. Standard Foam Grip:  “Provides a soft cushion for writers. 1-1/2″ long. 1/2″ diameter. Assorted colors.” ~Therapro

Standard Foam Grip

Excellent grip for the child who has a proper functional grasp already but tends to hold their pencil too tight. Holding the utensil too tight can lead to hand cramping and fatiguing quickly during writing tasks.

Blog by: Laney London, COTA/L, IMC, Certified Handwriting Specialist

For further information contact us at 941-360-0200 or visit our website at

Fun and Simple Meal Preparation

A fantastic way to encourage your child to become involved with simple meal preparation is to make it a creative experience. Play with your food! This activity is great for using imagination, a wonderful way to increase communication, and a great self-help skill builder. Involve your child with all the steps, from selecting the meal to cleaning up the dishes. It is never too early to learn to create their own simple meals in a fun and safe way.

1. Gather the fixings for a sandwich, whether it be peanut butter (sun butter, almond butter, nutella), meat and cheese, veggies, fruit, candy toppings, condiments, whatever it may be that will appeal to your child. We used bread, peanut butter, craisins, and chocolate chips for our fun creations. Since it is Valentine’s Day tomorrow we used heart cookie cutters to create our shapes.

2. Use your cookie cutter to cut out your shape from your slice of bread. If you are grain free you can use the cutters to cut your lunch meat or veggie slices too. Be creative!

3. Spread on your condiment of choice.

4. Arrange your toppings to create animals, fun shapes, designs, boarders, etc.

5. Now you are ready to eat your tasty treat. Austin made his into a mouse by adding pretzels for whiskers. So fun!!

*Depending on the age of your child parent supervision may be required. If you have a child who is able to safely prepare their meal independently, have them make something for siblings, family, and themselves. They will be so proud to show off their creation.

Blog by: Laney London, COTA/L, IMC

For further information contact us at 941-360-0200 or visit us at 

Decrease your Child’s Fear of the Dentist

Is going to the dentist a traumatic experience for your child?  Children with sensory defensiveness frequently experience difficulties with dental visits, resulting in decreased oral health and an increased risk for future medical complications.  This experience is not only stressful for the child, but for the parent as well.  Sensory sensitivity, characterized by increased detection of sensory input, may be a contributing factor to this dental avoidance.  In an environment filled with drills, vibration, lights, and touch it is no wonder that children with sensory sensitivities find going to the dentist a highly stressful experience. 

Current Strategies Used by Dentists

  • Pharmacological methods
  • “Tell, show, do” method
    • Dentist tells the child what they will do, shows the child, and then completes the procedure
  •  Positive reinforcement
  • Distraction techniques

Although current strategies are successful for many children, they may not work for everybody.  Therefore, occupational therapists, in collaboration with caregivers, children and dentists, have produced additional strategies for children with sensory sensitivities to implement at the dentist.

Strategies for the Next Visit to the Dentist

  • Environmental modifications
    • Dimming the lights in the waiting room/treatment room
    • Allowing the child to listen to music during the procedure
  • Placing a weighted x-ray vest over the child during treatment to provide deep proprioceptive input
  • Bring a familiar toy/object to the clinic
  • Invite your occupational therapist to the procedure
    • The therapist can utilize sensory calming strategies prior to and during the procedure and educate the dentist throughout the process
  • Use a Social Story to explain to your child what will happen at the dentist
    • *A list of social stories for dental experiences are listed below
  • Make the dentist a familiar place
    • Visit the office numerous times prior to his/her appointment in order establish a routine and decrease stress Dental Social Stories

The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist  By: Stan and Jon Berenstain 

 Going To The Dentist  By: Cindy Bailey

Show Me Your Smile!: A Visit to the Dentist  By: Christine Ricci and Robert Roper

Freddy Visits the Dentist  By: Nicola Smee

Going to the Dentist  By: Anne Civardi


      Peterson, E.J., Stein, L. I., & Cermak, S. A. (2013, September).  Helping children with autism spectrum disorders participate in oral care. Sensory Integration Special Interest Section Quarterly, 36(3), 1-4. 

For further information contact us at 941-360-0200 or visit


How to Make Goopy Gak

First gather all of your ingredients.

~2 cups of warm water (not too hot or the gak wont set up correctly)

~1 tbsp. of Borax powder (found in the grocery store w/ laundry or cleaning supplies)

~1 cup Elmer’s Glue All liquid glue (the school glue formula doesn’t work as nicely)

~1 qt. size Ziploc bag

~1 gallon size Ziploc bag

~Optional – tempera paint for color or glitter to add sparkle.

Now that you have gathered your supplies we are ready to get start making our goopy gak.  Have fun!

How to make the perfect gak come to life.

  1. Measure out 1 cup of warm water, and pour into the quart size Ziploc.
  2. Add to this bag the 1 tbsp. of Borax powder.
  3. Zip closed and mix up until the Borax had dissolved. Set aside. *Nothing else goes in this bag.


     4. Measure out 1 cup of water and pour into gallon sized Ziploc.

     5. Measure out 1 cup of Elmer’s Glue and pour into the gallon sized Ziploc with the water.

     6. Optional- add in your squirt of tempera paint or glitter to the gallon bag now.   *It will       not mix in properly if you change your mind and try to add some later on.          

     7.Close bag and mix thoroughly.

    8.Pour the Borax mixture into the gallon sized bag with the glue mixture.

     9.Seal bag and MIX…. MIX…. Mix this bag. You should see and feel it begin to come together almost immediately. 

     10. If the gak doesn’t seem to be soaking up all the liquid, pour in into a container (I used the  blue bin pictured above). This helps it to get some air and continue to come together. 

TADA!!! You made gak. 

Place your finished product into the gallon sized baggie or get a new one. Store it in this bag. Should keep for up to a month depending on how many hands have played in it and whether there have been any accidental sneezes into it. J

*Do NOT play with gak on a wooden surface as it will remove the finish. If gak becomes stuck to clothes it will wash out, however, not from carpet or couches easily. I have kiddos play with it on a plastic tablecloth or a tray.

******Disclaimer****** Please do not have children play unsupervised with this product. It can be a choking risk or if ingested may make them sick due to the glue and soap. Thank you!

Special thanks to Ms. Joy for sharing her perfect goopy gak recipe with us, and to Ashlyn for demonstrating for our pictures.

Blog by: Laney London, COTA/L, IMC

For further information contact us at 941-360-0200 or visit


What is Occupational Therapy?

- Occupational therapy helps children, who may be challenged by various conditions to participate in their “occupations”.  It assists with establishing and maintaining health, wellness, and maximizing quality of life through child and family-centered practices.  Pediatric occupational therapy promotes function and remediates disability, provides support and education to families, and integrates well with additional health care providers.


What does Occupational Therapy work on?

- Occupational therapy works on a variety of skills specific to each child we treat.

-  Fine motor, gross motor, visual motor/perceptual skills, handwriting, school reading and readiness; self-care skills, oral-motor skills, sensory integration, receptive language, expressive language, auditory processing skills, activities of daily living (ADL’s), and self-regulation/sensory modulation.
This list is not all-inclusive, but hopefully you have the idea!

What is my child’s occupation?

-Grow, explore, learn, and play! Play is the most important childhood occupation. Through play a child develops physical coordination, emotional maturity (including emotional adjustment, stability and self-regulation), social skills to interact with peers, and self-esteem to explore new experiences and environments.

-Become independent with ADL’s i.e. dressing, feeding, bathing etc.

-Participate in school and extra-curricular activities

What is sensory integration?

-Sensory integration refers to the process of the nervous system receiving messages from within the body and from the external environment and turns into appropriate motor and behavioral responses. For most of us, this sensory integration process occurs at an unconscious level. For others, this process happens inefficiently causing them to have great difficulty figuring out what is going on inside and outside their bodies.

-Sensory Dysfunction may present as defensiveness to the environment or stimuli i.e. gagging, light sensitivity, tags in clothing are bothersome, covers ears when loud sounds are present, does not accept hugs even when they like someone, irrational fear of heights, etc. Some additional signs of a child being unable to regulate/modulate themselves can be: inability to calm self after exercise or emotional situation, jumping or spinning excessively, flapping of hands when excited, over or under responsive to stimuli, displays excessive emotional or behavioral outbursts, etc.

Who should seek Occupational Therapy services?

-Children with or without a specific diagnosis.

-Exceptionalities we work with include, but are not limited to Autism Spectrum Disorders, Down Syndrome, genetic disorders, Cerebral Palsy, learning disabilities, developmental delay, and sensory integration disorders.

What ages qualify for services at your facility?

-0 – 18 years old.

  For more information please call 941-360-0200 or visit