Thursday, 6 March 2014

Play Dough and Fine Motor




Whether you call it play dough, therapy putty, modelling clay or play clay it is a whole lot of fun to play with, and pretty easy (not to mention cheaper) to make at home.  We have spent the last few months experimenting in the kitchen with different recipes and I thought it might be a good idea to share the results.

Play dough is a really versatile occupational therapy tool at Casa Sprung. Because of the malleable nature of the clay it is an excellent tool for stretching the tendons and strengthening all of the muscles in the hands, helping prepare them for better fine motor skills. Fine motor activities include anything that requires the strength, coordination and precise movements of the hand muscles- so think hand writing, using scissors (or utensils, tools of any type really), zippers, tying shoes, manipulating small objects (think Lego- I'll post next week about that)- things that require precise motor movement to complete and often delicate task.  Both of my boys have difficulty with fine motor skills, but for slightly different reasons.  Did you notice the super bend-y fingers in the photo above? They bend both ways- forward AND backwards. The oldest has "hypermobile joints" which means that his joints bend much farther than normal. Unfortunately, this can cause a lot of additional stress on the joints. Fatigue is common (other muscles have to work very hard to compensate for the joint instability) and it's difficult to complete tasks because of it.


At Christmas we bought the Littles some scented play dough thinking that it may be a fun way to focus a bit on fine motor tasks.  It turned out to be the favourite gift- they ALL played with it for hours, big brother included. The only trouble was that Daisy wanted everything to dry so she could keep it- and I quickly realised that it was going to be expensive to keep them in play dough. I also noted that unless I bought the really expensive therapeutic putty I couldn't really purchase different dough consistencies. Therapy putties typically come in varying degrees of soft, from extra soft to firm. NOT cheap. So we "kitchen hacked" a number of popular recipes to see what we could come up with.

Here is what we found!




Cornstarch Dough (cooked)
was very soft and light. We liked it, but it tended to make our hands feel a little dried out. The recipe we used can be found  here.




Flour Dough (uncooked method) was a little firmer in consistency.  It doesn't exactly feel like commercial dough but it's fairly close. It did leave a really weird film on our hands but even my sensory boy kept on trucking. You can find the recipe we used here.




Probably my favourite dough was Jello based. Yes, this added to the cost but not only was it a pretty colour it smelled like grapes and my hands felt GREAT afterwards. You can find the recipe we used here. Note- I used coconut oil in the recipe and I think that is what I will be adding to play dough from now on.  Consistency was very similar to regular store bought dough.




To increase the resistance of any of the doughs (or to help sensory avoiding kiddo's) you can place the dough inside a heavy-duty-plastic-zipper-top-freezer-bag (I'm pretty sure that is breaking every single grammar rule on the planet but I don't want to name drop) and have them squish the heck out of it.



There really are a ton of benefits to play dough- not just Occupational Therapy! This is why it is a staple of early childhood classroom tools. Ignore anyone that suggests play dough is for preschool- I had the time of my life hanging out with the monsters and rolling dough, and I can't wait until we do it again!

The artist in me is screaming THINK OF THE CREATIVITY!





This  post is part of  #TherapyThursday, which I hope gives you a glimpse inside our lives.  Care to join me in raising awareness of Special Needs?  Post a blog, picture or tweet about it using the hashtag #TherapyThursday.  Feel free to post a link below in the comment section!  Remember that there are many different types of therapy- Occupational, Physical, Feeding, Speech Language and Behavioural to name a few.  I hope it will serve as yet another way to spread awareness of special needs!







Friday, 28 February 2014

Rare Disease Day


First Time on Skates
It is Rare Disease Day!

In honour of this, I would like you to meet Owen- my 8 year old son. He has a rare genetic anomaly- specifically 11q23.3 (x4). Looks pretty technical when I type it like that! Here is a quick explanation of what it all means. Everyone has 23 pairs of chromosomes- these are the structures in each of the body’s cells that carry the genetic information (DNA) that tells the body how to develop and function. They come in pairs, one side inherited from each parent, and are numbered 1 to 23 approximately from largest to smallest. Each chromosome has a short (p) arm and a long (q) arm. Sometimes, there are errors within these chromosomes (missing genes (deletions), extra genes (duplications), genes that have ended up in the wrong spot or wrong chromosome, or structural differences like the arms being fused). All of which can effect how an individual develops.

In Owen's case, he is triple rare- 
1. He has a small section of triplicated genes (meaning he carries 4 copies instead of the usual 2) on the (long) Q arm of the 11th chromosome- at the junction of 23.3. Deletions are by far the most common issues, followed by duplications (meaning 3 copies)- triplications (4 copies) are extremely rare.
2. The second part of the rare equation is that it is found on the 11th chromosome. It can be a lonely chromosome. So far, the only known person (in the world) that carries the same anomaly is Mr Cleverly Disguised as Cake. Sure, there are other known syndromes on the 11th chromosome (Jacobson's, Emanual, Neuroblastoma, Ewing's Sarcoma, Ectodermal Dysplasia type 4) but none are exactly what Owen has.
3.The third part you ask? He's freaking fantastic! He has a number of super powers- like hyperlexia (the ability to read before being taught- in Owen's case, he was spelling words on my fridge when he was 2- even though he didn't speak until he was 5) He has a deep understanding of empathy, and the brightest, happiest attitude I have ever encountered. He sees the world from a different angle than most- which often boggles my mind and makes me think that I need to look harder to see if I can catch those things that escape me. He is a computer whiz- no password is safe from his enquiring mind. Perhaps the coolest part? The unique and not often found ability to fall down, grin, brush off the dust and start all over...WITH A SMILE.
"It's pretty slippery out here Mommy!"


He has his challenges. Feeding difficulties. Unique language. Hypomyelination in certain areas of the brain. Motor planning, control and coordination difficulties. And while these things can be tough on a little guy that wants to be in the centre of the action, he takes it all in stride.  Not much stops him from participating and enjoying in every moment of life.  And that is something that I am eternally grateful for. He is not dis-abled, he is differently abled.

So what does it all mean?
Well, nobody really knows for sure.

The one thing that I do know for sure?
It is frightening to hear a specialist say "we don't know" in reference to your child.  But it will not stop us from enjoying every moment of every day.

xoxo

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Snow Day and Heavy Work


I don't know what the weather is doing where you are, but it feels like we've had nothing but bitter cold (minus 37C with wind chill!), freezing rain and more snow than we know what to do with since Christmas.  It feels like the kids have been on an extended holiday for weeks now because of all of the bus cancellations.  The mercury is so low that they haven't been having their regular outdoor breaks at school either.

Even the kids are wondering when it will stop
All of this is throwing a bit of a monkey wrench into our daily life.

The kids are bored but also full of energy. Which spells trouble. Are your kids driving you nuts yet? Are they a bit out of sorts?

Either we all need a vacation (not likely to happen) or we need to help them sort themselves out!

Looking for the "bright side"? I sure as heck am!

One of the best parts of being a special needs parent is learning some cool tricks to make things run a little smoother. I wish I had realized the mechanics behind this a long time before now- because I find it works wonders for all three of my kids and it is so simple to do.

Heavy work activities (i.e., proprioceptive input) are used for children with sensory processing difficulties to help increase attention, decrease defensiveness, and modulate arousal.

Oh yes, the snow IS WAIST DEEP!
Proprioceptive input is the performance of tasks that involves heavy resistance and input to the muscles and joints, and is essential in helping our bodies (both typical and atypical!) assimilate and process both movement (vestibular) and touch (tactile) information. This resistive input obtained through heavy work activities is generally organizing and can improve attention, arousal level, body awareness and muscle tone, as well as decreasing defensiveness.

And it's incredibly simple and easy to build into your day- especially in the winter months.

Are your kids a little out of sync? Dress them up in their heavy winter clothes- for some kids, the heavier the clothes the better this works. Take them out in the deep snow have them fight their way over the snow drifts! Stretch! Climb! Work it!

Oh yes- while they are out there, hand them a shovel.  Heavy work is about pushing, pulling, and lifting. I'm sure you could use a hand clearing the snow from the side walk and driveway! Grab a sled and fill it up with snow. Drag it around the yard a few times.
The Trailbazers hard at work
She tried really hard, but required a tow!

Connect and engage with your kids.  They are totally worth it! Snow days can be rough on everyone but I think that we owe it to ourselves to find positive ways to use the time we are given.

Do you have any tips or tricks for coping with kids on snow days?  Please share! I am dying to know!

Leave me a comment below- don't worry, I promise I won't bite! :)







No tears here! She's a very good sport!