Category Archives: Tips from therapists

10 Spooktacular Apps for Halloween 2017!

This blog was originally published on the website Playful-living.com

by Jo Booth

Halloween is just plain fun for kids of all ages. Dressing up and trying out new roles and rules for pretend play gives kids a chance to take on another’s perspective. Young children often have a blurred line between reality and make-believe, so putting on that princess’ dress is the way to being royal – at least for a while. In addition, scary stories, movies, and playthings help us practice self-regulation by challenging our comfort zones and exploring the unknown. If you look up Halloween apps for kids, there are a plethora of apps, most are silly and ridden with inappropriate content, IAPs (In-App Purchases), and ads. Here is a list of our must play games and apps that will keep it challenging, but most of all playful. Many apps companies put out holiday versions – to be updated during a special holiday, i.e. Sago Mini, Highlights, Lego, and Edoki – so be sure to check out your update section at the app store or google play for these classic apps that include a holiday theme.

Weirdwood Manor is a series of 6 interactive books by All Work, No Play. What makes this series so exceptional is the sheer fun of original storytelling with a spooky theme, beautifully rendered animation, and interactive puzzlers that give rise to creative problem-solving. It is a perfect blend of reading and gameplay that immerses you in the world of Weirdwood. The story centers on the lives of three talented children who are unique – and have been misfits at home. They’ve won a prize to come to Weirdwood to meet Arthur Weirdwood, an author, and inventor, but soon things get a little weird… This is a must-have series for elementary and tweens as it celebrates the unique and talents of all – and that is a message worth repeating.

Ravensburger’s Whoowasit? is a play on the classic game of Clue. It’s a “who done it” with an interactive punch! There is a bit of a learning curve to play, and it is worthwhile to go through the tutorials. The story centers on the children of a castle finding a lost ring hidden by the evil wizard. To find the ring, a room to room search must be undertaken. In each room, participants can either find hidden foodstuffs to bribe the animals into talking or keys to unlock a chest of a suspect. Oh, and there is a pesky ghost to deal with…

Highlights Hidden Pictures is a subscription model that is updated frequently to remain current with the season. Who hasn’t known and loved these puzzlers? Hidden pictures add challenges of timed and sequential order for finding objects hidden from view as well as the time-honored standard of finding them at leisure. I love how the app grades the complexity within a level. In settings, a parent or teacher can modulate what type of clues are given – by a visual – picture, auditory – word, or to hide the clues altogether and have the child discover the hidden pics on their own. In addition, by adding a black and white picture to the mix, it makes it a little harder to find the objects and is reminiscent of the Highlights magazine. These are great games for visual scanning and learning to think outside the box.

Another Highlights Halloween App is Highlights Puzzletown. It is also based on the subscription type service, however, as in the Hidden Picture app, the holiday puzzles are free to download. The puzzlers include hidden pictures, mazes, interlocking puzzles, and a find the difference within 2 pictures. I love these kinds of challenges for kids as it teaches early spatial and visual discrimination skills that are so important for reading and writing. Highlights is a well-researched and trusted brand that parents can rely on. There are no IAPs for secret gems, hints, or advertisements. The subscription model is for bringing in new content to keep their app fresh and challenging.

Lego Scooby Doo Escape from Haunted Isle couldn’t be more fun than as it contains two long-standing kid favorites – Legos and Scooby Doo. Lego Scooby Doo is a fast runner type game that helps build eye-hand coordination, challenges spatial abilities, and problem-solving adapting to environmental needs. Play centers around completing missions and solving a mystery. It would be super to have this sold as a set with Legos to build the items that are in the app to extend play. Now that would be grand!

Monster Park – Dino World Walking with Dinosaurs by Vito Technology is a load of fun by putting a wee scare into you. Made with Apple’s new ARKit, the two dinos are lifelike and it is unnerving to see T-Rex prance about your living room. Currently there are a T-Rex and a Pteranodon – hopefully, more dinos will be added in a future update or add-on pack. Some of the activities are walking with a dino, taking pictures with your dino, and even making a video. The coolest part of the app is to open a portal into the time of dinosaurs. Once opened, walking in is a snap and it is a wondrous scene taking you back into the time of dinosaurs.


Trick or Treat Little Critter
is an interactive storybook by OceanHouse Media that explains the customs of Halloween to little folks. It describes in detail the expectations and roles to play at Halloween as well as all the great benefits to Trick or Treating. It always amazes me how a few kids have no idea what is going on during Halloween because no one has explained it to them. Often there is not an older sibling or friend that explains what the holiday is like in Kid’s Terms that would make it remotely interesting and something that they should invest time and effort into participating. Too many kids, the thought of dressing up in something uncomfortable, staying out late, and all the noise is just too much. Once they have an idea of the benefits to be reaped in terms of attention, candy, and fun…they are all in. OceanHouse Media is a company that always comes to the rescue in explaining the world and its customs to kids.

Peek-a-boo Trick or Treat by Night and Day Studios is a classic app for beginning iPad users. The app itself is an open play invitation to investigate further and gives kids time to process what they need to do to explore the characters inside a haunted house. A gentle tap or swat for kids on the iPad opens a door to a Halloween denizen. The simple but bold graphics on each page enhances vocabulary without unnecessary visual or auditory clutter – making the labels clear. Once the doors are opened, kids are treated to an animation. Repeat play reveals a hint of who is behind the door – and builds good listening skills. I like that you can choose between an adult or child’s voice.

Go Away, Big Green Monster! Is an action-packed app that can be Read Along with the exciting author and narrator, Ed Emberley, Read Along with a child narrator, Read by Myself, or have the Story Sung in an upbeat jazzy tune.  The benefits to this playing are both learning about the vocabulary for body awareness, but the ability to anticipate and sequence a story. We use this app in therapy all year round as its liveliness is simply infectious.

 

I look forward to Sago Mini Monsters Halloween update every year. This is an app that can be used for children that have mastered single causation in play, and need more of a challenge. The Halloween version has kids bring up a monster face from the green slime pits. He is then dusted off and painted, given new accouterments, and then feed all sorts of treats and goodies. There is a price to pay – and if you eat a lot of treats – you need to brush your teeth! I love how daily routines are reinforced in this app. Brushing teeth is often hard to incorporate in a young one’s day. And practicing this in-app presents an opportunity to familiarize them with the sequence to the task and make it non-threatening.

In Summary

Take a peek, trick or treat, and download an app or two. You can’t go wrong with any of these selections. Halloween is a play time for one and all!

 

Masterpiece Mix by Roxie Monro

by Jo Booth

This post originally appeared on the blog Developmental Play and Learning

Masterpiece Mix by Roxie Munro has been an enormous hit at Easterseals in our preschool. The book is beautifully written and the author is speaking directly to children in the language that is developmentally understood. Of course, the artwork is fantastic and done in Roxie Munro’s award-winning style of realism with just a wink of whimsy. The book consists of extra-large and thick pages that are perfect for repeated readings and the handling of preschoolers.

Inside Masterpiece Mix

The story begins with Roxie trying to decide what to paint. She readies her canvas giving kids a peek at the life of an artist and what an art studio might look like. Should she paint a landscape – which we learned was a picture about places, a still life, or portrait? It is most impressive how she speaks with ease and explains the different categories of paintings. Scattered throughout the pages are classic paintings covering all the surfaces of her workroom – some even hidden on mugs and calendars! I had one boy who is dependent on a ventilator and probably had not been to an art museum before sitting in rapture, staring at the paintings on each page. At one point he grabbed my arm to get a closer look, and in that moment I knew his life had been changed by the exposure to art from this book. He had experienced beauty and the notion of creativity was planted. The last page of the story displays what Roxie chose to paint. The kids loved all the hidden works of art contained in her painting and enjoyed seeking out paintings they had seen previously. In the back is a key to all the artwork in the book, explaining both the piece and a little bit about the artist.

Extension activity

After our classes read and explored the book, we decided to make our own masterpieces. We got out the tools of our trade – markers, pencils, and crayons and went at it. It was exhilarating to see the kids so inspired. We then framed each one and displayed them for all to see. A follow-up session gave each child the opportunity to describe their masterpieces. We used a plastic microphone and gave everyone a turn to say something about their work. It was fascinating to hear the depth of answers to poised questions from their peers. It boosted the spirits of all for not only the day but for all the days to come. The message was clear – There was a masterpiece inside of them too. And what a message that is!

This video was filmed at the Friendship Academy, inclusive preschool program. We believe that everyone contributes, and through our shared experiences that we all are stronger.

This post was originally published at http://www.playful-living.com.

Build, Engage, and Change with Adaptive Design Association Inc.

by Jo Booth

On Friday, July 28th, I had the good fortune to be able to attend a training sponsored by the Adaptive Design Association Inc. in New York City. Through a grant, the Adaptive Design Assoc. hosted a training for designers, therapists, and skilled craftsmen from the Philadelphia region on the construction of adaptive equipment for people of all abilities. Gratefully, EasterSeals of SEPA was well represented! The goal was to spread both techniques for making products as well as to set up pockets for collaborators to continue this important work by consulting and constructing items of need within their home communities. It doesn’t really matter what “the norm” is, as we all have needs and will most probably require an adaptation at some point in our lives. You see, sometimes it may be to change the angle or view for an individual so that they can complete their work, provide postural support, or be able to complete daily routines or activities of daily living by changing the structure up a bit. If you begin to presume competence in others, you may find yourself pleasantly surprised by what a person is indeed capable of doing or understanding.

About ADA

The Adaptive Design Assoc. was founded by the vision of Alex Truesdale so that the designs and their construction could improve the quality of life for individuals to simply function within their environment. ALL items are customized for EVERY CLIENT and can be made from simple tools and construction materials. Many of the adaptations were made from tri-ply cardboard, glue, and “wooden nails”. The lifespan of the adaptive devices made from these simple but humble materials far outlasted many commercial materials, and in fact, many could be adapted quickly as a person’s needs changed rather than purchasing new equipment altogether. Alex in her overview of her life’s work described the unique relationship between the designers, creators, and clients. She stated that this relationship was the ground or heart of the creative process. When pieces were made from mutual respect, open communication, and yes – love; they could address the needs of the client in a more organic and direct manner. One of my favorite pieces was a stairway to assist a child in independently getting in and out of his wheelchair painted in a Spiderman motif that was totally awesome! When viewing pictures of the designs from the past, it was fascinating to see that what stood out was the individual, and not the design itself. The technology had simply fallen away from view. The Motto for this community of makers is: “Build for One, Engage Everybody, Change Everything™” . At ADA, anything is possible.

Participating with the Adaptive Design Association

The ADA encourages active participation from all as they believe that by using many hands, no detail goes unnoticed. Improvements spontaneously arise from collaborative efforts. The ADA offers many opportunities for learning and involvement. Visiting their website is not only inspirational but also a source for people to learn – tutorials on the process of making adaptations are offered on the website. Workshops, intern positions, and opportunities to volunteer are all ways to become involved and so that you can make a difference in your community. Over the next few months, I hope to show you in more detail, the process of learning to fabricate adaptations that are made with cardboard.

Easter Seals Joins Other Philly Agencies to Learn About Low Cost Adaptations

by Sandy Masayko

With support from a grant from the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, Temple University’s Institute on Disabilities has partnered with the Adaptive Design Association and community agencies in fabrication of adaptive equipment (seats, slant boards, wheel chair trays, mobility devices, etc.) from tri-wall cardboard.  Easter Seals supported the grant and is very pleased that three of our staff members are participating in the program.

Assistive Technology Specialist Laurie G. McGowan and Occupational Therapist Adrienne Krysiuk traveled to New York City in March for a one day introduction to the processes of making adaptive equipment. Cathleen Thompson, Occupational Therapist, completed the introductory training on another day. Now the three Easter Seals staff members are ready to participate in six additional training days in May and June to become expert at using this low cost material to fabricate adaptive equipment. The May and June sessions will take place at Philadelphia Woodworks in Manayunk.

We will have the opportunity to train another team in the summer.

ADA team 2

 From left: Rochelle Mendonca, Temple University Occupational Therapy Program, Deb DeVito, Elwyn and Laurie G. McGowan of Easter Seals worked together to learn how to assemble triwall into a seat.

Adrienne ADA

Adrienne Krysiuk checking out the Tippy Chair that she created with her team

ADA chair

Example of a customized and personalized chair made by a team at the Adaptive Design Association.

For more information about the Adaptive Design Association, visit http://www.adaptivedesign.org/

Cinnamon-Scented Ornaments

by Alyssa Brief MS, OTR/L & Rachel Rosenblum MS OTR/L

Occupational Therapy activities can multiple therapeutic benefits…in addition to being fun! Below is wonderful activity that is sure to be a hit!

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Materials:

  1. 3/4 cup Applesauce
  2. 2 bottles of ground cinnamon (2.37 oz each)
  3. Parchment paper
  4. Ribbon or yarn
  5. Cookie cutters
  6. Toothpick

Directions:

Mix applesauce and cinnamon into a mixing bowl, stirring or kneading until material reaches dough consistency. Scoop out a handful of dough and place onto parchment paper on flat surface. Place another sheet of parchment paper over dough and flatten until dough is about 1/4″ thick. Peel top sheet off of dough and stamp cookie cutter into dough, peeling away the excess dough around the border. Use a toothpick to make a hole in dough towards top of ornament. Depending on thickness of dough, ornament will need at least 24 hours to dry into hardened ornament. Once dry, thread ribbon through the hole and tie a double knot at desired length.

Sensory benefits of activity: Using the spice of cinnamon stimulates the olfactory sense, or sense of smell. Kneading and flattening the dough provides tactile input through the sense of touch. It also provides opportunity to explore and discuss the texture if it feels sticky, smooth, wet, mushy, etc. Interacting with the dough provides a sensory-rich play experience.

Motor benefits of activity: Pouring in the ingredients works on using graded movements, or knowing how much force is needed to complete a task, to avoid spilling. Kneading and flattening the dough promotes fine motor hand and finger strengthening. Mixing the dough and stamping cookie cutters provide opportunities to use a variety of grasp patterns during functional tool use. Stabilizing the mixing bowl with one hand while stirring with the other encourages bilateral coordination, or using both hands to complete a task.

Cognitive benefits of activity: This activity requires completing steps in a certain order, or a sequence, in order to be complete. This can promote understanding of how a task can be completed start to finish, and can reinforce the concept of “first ___, then ____” while having fun!

Self-Care benefits of activity: A hand-washing routine can be incorporated in this activity such as before and after to work on this skill. Also the clean-up process provides an opportunity to practice cleaning up after oneself such as wiping the table or making a trip to the garbage.

Hope you enjoy!

Ability Centre in Perth

by Sandy Masayko

This is Sandy’s ninth post in a series about assistive technology in Australia

Ability Centre in North Perth is the last site on my study tour of Ability First Australia affiliates. I continue to be warmly welcomed by my Australian colleagues. Each center that I have visited has had a broad range of programs and each has had some unique programs. At Ability Center, as with Rocky Bay and Northcott, accommodation for people with disabilities is a focus. The living arrangements vary but the old fashioned nursing home for people with disabilities is thing of the past here, having been replaced by small apartments and shared housing with support.

The unique programs at Ability Centre include access to an early mobility device call a Wizzybug. This is a powerchair designed for 1-4 year old children. Not available in the US, the Wizzy comes from the U.K. Ability Centre imports the mini powerchairs for Australians and maintains a fleet that children can trial and borrow. Here is what they look like:

Another unique program developed by Ability Centre therapists is a program to address sleep issues including temperature regulation and positioning during sleep. Using custom-designed bolsters and temperature control fabrics, the Sleep Solution teams can help their clients achieve restful sleep.

OT Maria White was very interested in Easterseals of SEPA’s work with eye gaze technology with young children. She invited a group of therapists from Ability Centre and from community agencies including the Independent Living Center in Perth and Edith Cowan University to hear my presentation of our AT Department study of eye gaze technology with young children. Some therapists participated from remote sites. The therapists asked many pertinent questions and shared their own experiences with implementing eye gaze technology.

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Maria White, in dark blue shirt on the right, organized a group to hear my presentation on eye gaze technology with young children.

I was very pleased to complete the day with therapists at Ability Centre by carrying out client observation and visits. We considered issues around teaching eye gaze technology to a child, adapting access for an adult eye gaze user, and adjusting environmental controls through a phone used by an adult with cerebral palsy and visual impairment. The clients were kind to let me participate in observing them work with their therapists, and all of us discussed alternatives that might make participating in their home and schools easier and more efficient for the clients.

charlene-coaching

Speech Therapist Charlene Freedman coaching her young student in using eye gaze technology to select a song that she wants to hear.

Thank you to CEO Suzie Cowcher and Catherine Greenway, General Manager of Therapy and Health Services, for sharing with me their strategies for dealing with the changes in the marketplace, funding and customer relations through implementing prototypes of new systems. There is an Innovation Hub at Ability Centre that is providing leadership in change in the organization.

catherine-suzie

Catherine Greenway and Suzie Cowcher

You can read Sandy’s first post in this series here, her second here, the third here, the fourth here, the fifth here, the sixth here, the seventh here and the eighth here.

Easter Seals of SEPA: A Leader In Developing Communication Using Eye Gaze Technology With Young Children!

by Sandy Masayko

In November 2016,  Joy S. McGowan, Sandy Masayko, and Melissa Spada presented a seminar on “Developing Communication in Young Children Using Eye-Gaze Technology” at the national convention of the America Speech-Language-Hearing Association in Philadelphia.  The presentation was accepted for the conference after competitive peer review.

Easter Seals of SEPA provides the Assistive Technology resources and support to evaluate and implement eye tracking technology for communication for children who have limited speech production and motor difficulties. Our Easter Seals team presented training guidelines to determine candidacy for successful use of an eye-tracking system.