Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What is....occupational therapy, sensory integration, and sensory processing disorder?

So as a pediatric therapist, I am often asked the question...."What is occupational therapy?".

So here is my personal answer to this question:

Pediatric Occupational Therapy is a therapy discipline that specifically focuses on a child’s primary occupation, play.  Occupational therapists are specially trained to assess, evaluate, and treat: sensory processing skills, fine motor skills (grasping and visual motor skills), and self-help skills (daily routines, self feeding, dressing, and sleeping) so that children can reach their optimal potential and be successful with their daily activities in a variety of settings and situations.

I am also often asked....."What is sensory integration?" or "What is sensory processing disorder?".

So here is my formal response to these questions:

Sensory integration is when our senses receive sensory information like sights, sounds, movement, touch, tastes, and smells; and how our body perceives, processes, and reacts to this information.  If our bodies react appropriately, our "system" is most likely integrated and able to function appropriately in a variety of situations. 

“Sensory integration, is the ability to organize sensory information for use...that enables man to interact effectively with the environment”. (Ayres, 1972, p.1)

If we are not able to react appropriately, there may be some "disorder" or an actual issue related to the diagnosis of sensory processing disorder.  There is disorder (a.k.a. sensory processing disorder) when the brain has difficulty taking in and, or interpreting this information to participate functionally and successfully in meaningful tasks.  As a result, there can be difficulty completing daily activities.  Such as, attending to tasks, completing developmentally appropriate activities, completing typical motor skills, engaging with others, and behaving in a socially appropriate way.

One of the best websites for more information about Sensory Processing Disorder is http://www.spdfoundation.net/.  Dr. Lucy Jane Miller is at the forefront of providing education and researching related to sensory processing disorder.  She has written an excellent book: Sensational Kids: Hope and Help for Children with Sensory Processing Disorder.

For more information regarding occupational therapy, please visit The American Occupational Therapy Website:

Monday, November 28, 2011

Cyber Monday vs. Time of Giving

Today's the day, when retailers try and pull you in with that extra special deal.  Who knows, it may be the best deal yet....

From Black Friday to Cyber Monday, you were  probably able to find great savings.  So with that, please remember that this holiday season has a bigger meaning than just presents.  It's the Season of love, family, and remembering others.

There are many people out there having trying to survive tough times.  So please take the time to find a way to Give Back.  Consider making a meal for an elderly neighbor, purchasing a toy to donate to "Toys for Tots",  or send a special package to our troops overseas.  If you're not sure how to donate, I have lots of links on my "Give Back" button on the general site; or you can Google your own favorite program.

Just remember, "To Give is Better than to Receive".

Here are a couple of links:
Toys for Tots
Support our Troops

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Perfect Toy?

After all of the Turkey has been eaten, and Black Friday has passed, the thought that Christmas is upon us cannot be denied.  Cyber Monday is quickly approaching, and as someone who works closely with children and their families, I am often asked the question...."What toys should I buy for my children?".

So, what is the perfect toy?  Is there one?  The simple answer is no.

In fact, there isn't a simple answer to this question at all.  Instead, it's an ideal of numerous possibilities pulled together and the most important piece is you.

The toys I recommend vary, depending on a child's age and developmental skill level.  But one thing I always recommend is that you take time to play with your child.  This means actually putting your cell phones, laptops, and iPads away and completely focusing on your child.  Find your inner child, get on the floor, and just play.

If you have an infant, and you're working on tummy time; face your baby towards you and get on your tummy too.  While she's on her tummy, talk with her, watch her cues, and encourage her.  Present rattles to reach for or a mirror that she can look into.

If you have a toddler, play cars and trucks, trains, or dolls with them.  Engage in pretend play and encourage turn taking.  Look at picture books with your little one and read them stories.  Turn on the music and dance together.

For older children, follow what interests they have and try to engage.  Sometimes it's just giving them you're undivided attention or helping with homework.

This time you spend with your child will be remembered forever.  It's truly priceless.  Remember you don't want to look back one day when your little ones are all grown and say: "I wish I could have worked more" or "I wish I had sent that extra text or email". Instead, you'll wish you would have spent more time with them. 

Yes, there are terrific toys and I am often guilty of over-spending to find the perfect gifts due to the excitement of the season and Christmas morning.  But every year I'm surprised by how simple the gifts can be and the children are still ecstatic.

My favorite toys are forts, tents, tunnels, and boxes....things that all children can spend hours with.  I also love toys that expand the imagination through pretend play and role playing.  It's really the fact that I love ALL toys.  But the best ones are ones that involve you as a parent engaging with your child.

If you can master this, you will be your child's superhero; and why not, you should be!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing all friends, families, and newcomers a Happy Thanksgiving! Hopefully everyone is enjoying this special time with their loved ones.

Please check out the "shop" section for Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals.

Happy Holidays!!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Welcome to Sensory Steps Blog Site!

Today is the first official day to mark the start of my "blogging" adventures through Sensory Steps.  My hope is to reach as many families and children as possible via resources from our world-wide-web. I hope to be a resource to families with children that are developing at all different levels.

This blog will have a diverse arena of topics that range from a multitude of interests, such as: favorite children's books, favorite resource books for parents, favorite toys, best iPhone or iPad applications, and latest research or updates on issues related to development.

On the Sensory Steps blog you will find free resources related to development.  As well, there are for-a-fee services, products for sale (coming soon), and specialty online shopping that you have access to directly through this site.

Currently, the blog will be a continuous work in progress, and I'm always open to suggestions or updates from followers of the site.

Children are truly our future, and they help us to be inspired to find the super-hero within us all.  Hopefully we can all enjoy this adventure together!