Simple Snow Recipe for Indoor Fun

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014


Now that my children have gotten a glimpse of the white coating outside, with “Frozen” in mind, all they keep asking to do is play in the snow. While I am happy to take them outside, it is chilly and I cannot last very long. With the unstructured time of vacation (and snow days) approaching and lots more cold weather forecasted, here is a simple and fun way to bring the snow indoors and provide a cool tactile experience.

The best part? You only need two household ingredients:

  1. Baking Soda
  2. Conditioner

Combine 3 cups of baking soda with ½ cup of conditioner, and mix. The resulting product is cool to the touch. Give your child(ren) some spoons, cups, and small bowls to dump and fill. Challenge them to roll the “snow” into a snowman.

Have fun!

This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 16th, 2014 and is filed under Seasonal Tips, Sensory Processing.

Invisible Disabilities: Advantage or Disadvantage?

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014


Blogger Paddy-Jo Moran’s post Autism Myths and Misconceptions … Autism is Always Visible  resonated with me on numerous levels. My waiting room is filled with children, some with Autism, Asperger’s, ADHD or Sensory Processing Disorder who look just like any group of typically developing children. However, when their behavior or speech patterns do not meet the expectations of those around them (teachers, neighbors, kids on the playground, the guy at the check-out counter) they and their parents are frequently met with castigating stares or pity, with observers eager to lay the blame on bad parenting, lack of discipline or spoiled-brat behavior. Often even the parents of those children with invisible handicaps find themselves playing the blame game, as on some level they too expect the same behavior from their child with handicaps as they do from their neuro-typical children.

I believe that exposure and education  are the most effective ways of effecting a (non-judgmental) attitude adjustment to support kids who appear to be typical, but suffer handicapping conditions.  The high profile of autism and ADHD in the media, the inclusion of children with handicapping conditions in public and private schools, daycare, after-school programs, organizations like the Friendship Circle and summer camps (kudos to Camp Morasha, for being the the first to host a Yachad program) are essential. But to be maximally effective, they need to be supplemented by explicit programming that focuses children and adults on an appreciation of the uniqueness of every individual, in a non-judgmental way.

Check out  a new musical about disability, friendship and kindness with cool Muppet-like characters, created by Nava R. Silton, the sister-in-law of someone near and dear to my heart, playing this week on Thursday night at BPY. Get your tickets here.


This entry was posted on Wednesday, December 10th, 2014 and is filed under ADHD, Autism, Parenting, Sensory Processing.

Helpful Hints for Halloween

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014


Trick or treat! Halloween can be overwhelming for anyone, but for an apprehensive child or a child with Sensory Processing Disorder, ADHD or autism who suffers from sensory sensitivities, the sounds, sights, and the way things feel can overpower and overshadow the potential for fun. Here are some tips to keep the focus on having a great time.

Sensory Tips:

  • Costumes aren’t essential: Do not force your child to wear a costume. It will backfire.
  • Let your child choose: If your child wears a costume, let him/her pick it out. Try not to be judgmental. The costume is not a reflection of you. Your child needs to tolerate the feel of the costume as well as how it looks visually.
  • Practice: Spend lots of time playing dress up with the exact same costume your child will wear, so the feel becomes familiar, and so you can mend uncomfortable areas.
  • Faces are sensitive: Do not insist that your child wear face paint or a mask. If your child wears face paint, bring baby wipes or make-up remover in case he/she becomes uncomfortable.
  • Fear: If your child is afraid of costumed people, do dress-up activities or read books in advance to prepare him/her.
  • Plan in advance: Knowing what to expect in advance often provides children with the control they need to allay their anxiety.
  • Create a visual: Provide your child with a pictorial or written schedule of upcoming holiday events. Indicate which will be indoors or outdoors, and which are expected to be crowded and noisy. Review the schedule so that your child knows what to expect.
  • Plan an exit strategy: Assure you child that if he/she needs a break from the fun, you understand and are on board. If possible, designate a specific place for you and your child to escape if an activity becomes overwhelming. Let him/her choose when to re-enter.

General Tips:

  • Don’t forget the bathroom: If your child wears a costume, make sure he/she can easily use the bathroom. It should be easy to remove and adjust to keep your child comfortable.
  • Sugar overload: To avoid sugar overload, arrange a deal in advance whereby you and your child agree on how much or what can be eaten and what needs to be saved for another time.
  • Be realistic: Acknowledge to yourself in advance that you may need to help your child more than other parents.
  • Less is more: Limit the amount of time you plan on spending at an event or doing an activity. A successful half-hour long outing trumps an unsuccessful 1½ hours.

Blog written by: Aviva Goldwasser, OTR/L & Chaye Lamm Warburg DPS, OTR/L

This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 14th, 2014 and is filed under Seasonal Tips, Sensory Integration, Sensory Processing.

You Know Your Toddler Can’t Motor Plan When…

Monday, September 29th, 2014


My 5-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son are both healthy, strong, typically developing children who met most of their milestones on time, and some early. So why has my daughter always navigated physical challenges with ease and jumps at every opportunity to experiment with her motor skills, while my son waits around for help and gets frustrated the second he doesn’t figure something out?

As an occupational therapist, the answer is obvious to me…MOTOR PLANNING.

Here are some clues that lead me to this conclusion:

1. Frustration! All the time! My son gets frustrated, like all toddlers, because he wants to do things by himself even when he can’t. Children who have difficulty motor planning have a really hard time figuring out how to physically do new things. There are lots of new challenges everyday when you are a toddler.  Add that to the terrible twos into the mix, and frustration becomes an automatic response to everything.

*Note: the opposite (super-complacent “easy” toddler who is happy to sit and watch) is also a red flag for motor planning!

2. Every thing is either “stuck,” “broken,” or “heavy.” These are all 2-year old synonyms for “I can’t figure this out!”

3. Getting dressed– For longest time, my son did not help by threading his arms through sleeves and legs through pants.  I had to stuff hi his limbs into clothing without much help from him.


4. Getting in and out of a car seat while holding a stuffed animal, cookies, or other favored object is pretty time consuming. Figuring out that he needs to move the cookie to one hand, get the free arm out of the strap and switch the cookie back to get to the other hand is not at all automatic!


5. We get to a new playground. My son’s reaction: Run to the new, super interesting tunnel…and just stand there, watching, until someone comes and guides him through it. He cannot figure how to fit his body into this new thing.

There are great checklists out there for gross motor, fine motor, cognitive, language and social milestones, but there are no checklists for development of motor planning, so you really need to look for clues and patterns. This can be tricky!  If you are scratching your head trying to figure out why your intelligent, strong, social toddler is having such a hard time navigating daily challenges, start recording exactly when your child has a hard time. If it is always activities that require a strong sense of body in space (navigating through a tunnel, a carseat, dressing, climbing over a couch to retrieve a toy), it may be a motor planning challenge.

Pediatric occupational therapists are the experts on motor planning. They can help you make sense out of the often puzzling array of your toddler’s strength and challenges, and provide you with suggestions to make things easier for you and your child, a home program, or recommend therapy if warranted.

Submitted by Ariela Harcsztark, MA, OTR/L

This entry was posted on Monday, September 29th, 2014 and is filed under Infants & Toddlers, Sensory Processing.

Infographic: “Autism and SPD… How it feels” A laundry list by POTSOT.com

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

Click on the image to see the full sized version.






This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014 and is filed under Autism, Sensory Processing, The Special Needs Child.

App of the Week: 30/30

Thursday, July 17th, 2014


Multitasking. It is the buzzword for this generation. From adults managing their hectic work and family schedules, to children managing their homework, after-school activities and social schedules, we are constantly running, and rarely make time for a break. Some people are better organized than others, but getting organized is consistently one of the top five New Year’s resolutions.

As a group, children and adults diagnosed with ADHD have greater challenges with organization than most other people. Their minds, and sometimes bodies, are constantly racing and they have difficulty focusing for any length of time. I recently went to a conference and learned about a wonderful new tool to assist both kids and adults to stay focused and organized. It is called the 30/30 app, and it is available for free from the iTunes store for iPhone and iPad.

The premise of 30/30 is that one should work for 30 minutes on a single task without any distractions, next take a 30 minute break, and then repeat the cycle again, hence the name 30/30.

This scheduler is visually engaging, user friendly and customizable. Just by looking at the user interface you will intuitively be able to figure out how to set up a schedule. With just a couple of taps and swipes you can set up a daily schedule specific to your needs in a matter of minutes. Time on task can be set from 1 minute to 1 hour. At the very top of the screen is a visual timer that counts down the time left in the task, which is a wonderful aid in assisting someone to stay on task until it is completed. To maximize the benefits, place your device close by so you can see how long you have left. You can quickly add or subtract minutes depending on how quickly you are progressing in your work.

Features include the ability to set up as many tasks as you want, color code and add icons. You can color code each task or set up a pattern such as, all work yellow, all breaks blue. You can also assign each task an icon. The app provides a large array of icons and colors, which makes this very easy. Additional icons can be purchased in-app in the settings tab.

At the end of each task a chime will go off and the device will buzz, giving you auditory and tactile cues to move on to the next task or break. Besides keeping you on track for work, 30/30 can also be used to set up a sensory diet. Just list the tabs and times you want for each activity and the app will alert you or your child when to move on. This can be very helpful in having your child becoming increasingly independent in maintaining their own homework schedules, morning and evening routines, sensory diets schedule and more. Overall, this is a wonderful free tool that has many applications. For any comments or suggestions I can be reached at gershon@potsot.com.

Submitted By: Gershon Kravetz ,MS, OTR/L 

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This entry was posted on Thursday, July 17th, 2014 and is filed under Getting Ready for School, Parenting, Sensory Integration, Sensory Processing, The Special Needs Child.

Travel Tips: “My Child Needs To Move!”

Thursday, July 17th, 2014


Road trips with children are challenging. Road trips with children who seek movement can be even more challenging because they need to sit still and stay belted during the car ride. Use rest stops to your advantage. Whether you’re breaking to fill up on gas or to use the restroom, allow your child/ren to get out of the car and encourage them to move.  Here are some movement ideas:

  • Stretching
  • Jogging around the building (if there is a sidewalk)
  • Running in place to a fast-paced sound
  • Jumping jacks
  • Hop, skip or gallop back to the car

Consider making a pack of “Get up, get out and move” cards before your trip with funky movement activities, including yoga poses, animal walks, races and break dancing. Shuffle the deck of cards and let each child pick up 1 card per rest stop.

Submitted By: Aviva Goldwasser, MS, OTR/L, and Chaye Lamm Warburg, DPR, OTR/L

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This entry was posted on Thursday, July 17th, 2014 and is filed under Autism, Infants & Toddler Tips, Parenting, Seasonal Tips, Sensory Integration, Sensory Processing.

Do Weighted Blankets Improve Sleep in Children and Teens with Autism?

Thursday, July 17th, 2014


In this article, Autism Speaks discusses a study recently published in the journal Pediatrics, that concludes that weighted blankets do not significantly impact in sleep in children with autism.

Here’s what we think!

A weighted blanket, like any isolated sensory strategy is not a magic pill. Difficulty falling asleep is often the result of over-responsiveness to sensation THROUGHOUT THE DAY. 

​Weighted blankets ​will only be truly ​effective as part of a comprehensive sensory diet. A sensory diet is proactive, and includes consistent sensory input throughout the day, not only at the time that the challenge arises (in this case, bed time). Think of a typical diet. Eating an apple for snack might be a healthy, nutritional choice, but you will only achieve a healthy lifestyle, and start to see a difference, if you choose healthy foods (and eliminate unhealthy foods) throughout the day. It would be silly to eat one apple in the evening, and potato chips the rest of the day, and then conclude that eating apples has no positive impact on weight loss.

So, don’t throw out your weighted blankets so quickly. If your child prefers it, this is a good sign that you chose an appropriate sensory diet activity for him/her. Work with your occupational therapist to combine it with additional sensory activities, such as Therapeutic Listening and heavy work, and you might start to see some real changes.
This entry was posted on Thursday, July 17th, 2014 and is filed under Autism, Sensory Integration, Sensory Processing, The Special Needs Child, Therapeutic Listening.

Use Pool-Time to Heighten Body Awareness

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

It is amazing how many sensory opportunities for heightening body awareness arise before, during and after pool time. I discover more every time I swim (especially during an aqua OT session)! Keep in mind, this is not about perfecting strokes. Our goal here is body awareness. Improving motor skills in the pool will be addressed in another blog.

Here are a few ideas to get you going:


1. Start with Sunscreen. Aside from being a critical life skill, applying sunscreen provides tactile input all over the body. Make sure to label each limb and body part as you apply sunscreen, e.g., “Now lets do your right arm.” Turn it into a massage to provide calming, deep pressure. This is a great way to prepare the child that might be nervous about getting in the pool.



2. Jump In! The sensation of flying through space (vestibular input), followed by the impact of crashing into water (deep pressure) ramps up body awareness and alertness. If you don’t believe me, try it. For your more advanced swimmers, diving in kicks it up a notch. Whenever the head is upside down, the vestibular system gets super powerful input, letting your body know where it is in space and how it is moving in relation to gravity.

The girl smiles, swimming under water in the pool


3. Swim & Play. Moving through water in ANY way heightens body awareness by providing consistent deep pressure all over the body, and proprioceptive input as muscles contract to resist the pressure of the water in order to move. How simple is that? All you need to do is bring your children to the pool and let them play, and already they are getting key body awareness input!

Ramp it up by encouraging hand-stands, somersaults, log rolling and a variety of strokes (side, back, front). This will add in that awesome vestibular input, an essential body awareness ingredient.


4. For Your Non-Swimmers. Kicking and splashing in the water while sitting on the pool steps, or walking through the shallow end counts as movement through water! Remember, water pressure + muscles working against resistance = body awareness. You can’t get your child as far as the steps? No worries, dump and fill lots of buckets with water to get that proprioceptive input.

5. Some Specific Games.

a. Catch the Rings. You will need pool rings. Drop a bunch of rings in the water for swimmers, on the steps for non-swimmers. Give instructions for how many rings to collect and how to get them. e.g., Get 2 rings on your right arm and 1 ring on your left foot. Start simple, and don’t use “left” and “right” in the instructions if your child is not ready.

b. The Whistle Game. You will need a whistle. Make a “whistle code” that is appropriate for your child’s pool skills and sequencing skills. For example: 1 whistle = jump in, 2 whistles = kick to other side of pool using kick-board, 3 whistles = handstand, etc. You can start with single whistle instructions, and work your way up to longer and longer sequences.

c. The Dolphin Game. Set up one or more hula hoops in the water. You can have hoops at a variety of depths if your child can surface dive. The goal is to get through the hoop/s without any part of the body hitting the hoop (this is the part that challenges sense of body position in space).

Swimming: Mother Drying Off Child After Swim Time

6. Drying Off. Lets hear it for more tactile/deep pressure input! For children who lack the body awareness to dress independently and efficiently, here is a last dose of body awareness input to help meet that dressing challenge. Use the towel to firmly dry off each part of the body. Just as you did with the sunscreen, label each limb as you dry.

Happy Splashing!

Submitted by: Ariela Warburg Harcsztark, MA, OTR/L

This entry was posted on Monday, June 2nd, 2014 and is filed under Gross Motor Activities, Seasonal Tips, Sensory Processing.

7 Reason to Climb UP the Slide

Monday, May 19th, 2014

7 Reasons to Climb UP the Slide















Climbing up the slide is right up there with other age-old controversial parenting issues. Here are seven reasons why you should encourage your child to indulge.

  1. Climbing up the slide strengthens the arms, legs and trunk
  2. The sensation of heavy work improves body awareness
  3. Figuring out how to turn around and slide down is a great motor planning activity
  4. Alternating arms to climb up improves reciprocal movement
  5. Children learn how to use their bodies and interact with the physical environment by experimenting and taking risks. The playground is the perfect (and one of the only opportunities) for this
  6. Figuring out who goes up or down the slide first is a great opportunity for negotiation and social interaction
  7. It’s so much fun to defy gravity (and the rules!)

Now, to address the danger issue: technically, climbing the ladder to the slide is more “dangerous.” It requires more balance and coordination to climb using two feet than it does to crawl on all fours. Most toddlers can climb up a slide, but not all can climb the stairs. Additionally, tumbling from the steps takes you straight down to the ground. Falling down the slope of a slide is far gentler.


This entry was posted on Monday, May 19th, 2014 and is filed under Gross Motor Activities, Infants & Toddlers, Parenting, Sensory Integration, Sensory Processing.