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.

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.


Thursday, June 19th, 2014



Professional athletes, international speakers and anyone who wants to improve performance has access to video critiquing, a highly effective tool for self-improvement. The users film themselves either at practice or when performing live, and then watch the video, either by themselves or with others, to analyze and fine tune their performance. Are they throwing the correctly? Are they speaking clearly and slowly? They may make small critical changes, or perhaps catch a fundamental error and completely change their approach.

This is similar to learning handwriting. People who are kinesthetic learners learn by doing. By this I mean, they practice writing a number of times on a firm or textured surface, their muscles receive the feedback of how letters should be formed, and they can learn to form their letters properly. Other individuals may be visual or auditory learners. They learn best by watching a demonstration and following directions. Most people benefit from both. That’s why using multiple modalities is an effective way to teach children.

What does this have to do with video critiquing? I’m glad you asked! Educreations is free app from the iTunes store that I have been using effectively in my occupational therapy (OT) practice.


The app consists of an interactive whiteboard that let’s you record what you draw, and records your voice as well. It was designed as a teaching tool so that an educator can record a lesson, and then email or post it to the web to share with an online community.



For OT purposes you can have children draw a letter while dictating the steps of how to form it. For example if they are learning the letter ‘B’, while they are drawing they can use the Handwriting Without Tears language: “Start at the top, draw a straight line down, frog jump to the top, little curve to the middle, little curve to the bottom”. When they are done drawing\recording you can save the lesson. Once it has been saved they can play it back, and watch and listen to how they wrote the letter.

Kids love doing this. They see the letter being formed and hear their own voice. It is a very powerful strategy for all those visual and auditory learners we spoke about before. They can see how it was done and spot any mistakes they may have made.

The app itself has some rich features to keep things interesting. You can choose to write in various colors, you can type letters, and you can even add pictures to the lesson either by taking a picture or downloading one from the web.

Using pictures is a great feature because:

  • You can take a picture of the handwriting worksheet you are using, and use it as a template to trace over as they are doing the lesson.
  • Children can take a picture of themselves and use it as the background to write on.
  • Another way to use a picture of oneself is to have the child draw on the picture. Can they draw a hat on top of their head? How about boots on their feet. Maybe have them draw a balloon or animal behind them. This is a great way to teach directionality, which is a foundation for learning how to form letters.
  • There is also an option to resize the picture. So, take a full body picture of your child, size it so it takes up half of the screen, and then have them draw a picture of themselves on the white space. In this way you are having them practice body parts as well as body awareness, which is another foundational skill for letter formation.

For a free app this has a lot of wonderful features that can be utilized in many ways. So, how are you going to use this app? Please post your comments below, and any suggestions on apps you would like to see reviewed or have questions about.

If you have any other questions I can be reached at gershon@potsot.com


This entry was posted on Thursday, June 19th, 2014 and is filed under Fine Motor Fun, Handwriting & Fine Motor Coordination, The Special Needs Child, What's App Wednesday.

Sensory Friendly Dental Environments?

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014



For children with Sensory Integration challenges, going to the dentist is particularly daunting.  However, research on “Sensory Adapted Dental Environments” may help soften the experience in the future. Click here to learn more.

While it is rare to find a pediatric dentist with a sensory friendly environment who is keenly attuned to the needs of children with SPD and those on the autistic spectrum, in Bergen County we are fortunate enough to  have a dentist with an environment replete with spa music, nature sounds, smells and tactile toys to calm the senses of parents, employees and doctors. A shout out to Purnima Hernandez who has been an advocate, sensory star and recently became a BCBA. Check out her practice here: www.Bergenpediatricdentistry.com.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 6th, 2014 and is filed under Autism, Getting Ready for School, Navigating the system, Parenting, Sensory Integration, Sensory Processing, The Special Needs Child.

Biomarkers Enable Screening for Autism at 9 Months

Sunday, April 20th, 2014


A simple screening tool for autism using that can be done in a pediatrician’s office shows promise for early identification of ASD.  Click here to learn more.

This entry was posted on Sunday, April 20th, 2014 and is filed under Autism, Infants & Toddlers, Parenting, The Special Needs Child.

Cruising with Autism

Thursday, April 17th, 2014



Kudos to  Royal Caribbean, my favorite cruise line, for becoming one of the first vacation destinations to embrace families with autistic individuals. I am not surprised that the RC, who has been so graciously accommodating to kosher people, has stepped up to the plate.

Click here for the 2014 announcement and check out this link to learn about the wide variety of autism services available.



This entry was posted on Thursday, April 17th, 2014 and is filed under Autism, Parenting, Seasonal Tips, The Special Needs Child.


Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

What is wandering?

Wandering is the tendency to try to leave the safety of a responsible person’s care or a safe area, which can result in potential harm or injury. This might include running away from adults at school or in the neighborhood, leaving the classroom without permission, or leaving home when no one is looking. Wandering or bolting is considered common and short-lived in toddlers, but it may persist or reemerge in children and adults on the autistic spectrum. Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have challenges with social skills, communication and safety awareness. This makes wandering, also referred to as elopement, bolting, fleeing, running, a potentially dangerous behavior.

How common is wandering in children with ASD?

  • Nearly half of the children diagnosed with ASD wander at one time or another
  • Increased risks for wandering are associated with increased severity of ASD
  • More than a third of the children with ASD who wander/elope are never or rarely ever able to communicate their name, address, or phone number
  • Half of the families living with a child with ASD report they have never received advice or guidance about elopement from a professional
  • Accidental drowning accounts for approximately 90% of lethal outcomes

Wandering types:

Goal-directed wandering: wandering with the purpose of getting to, or away from, something

Bolting/Fleeing: the act of suddenly running, usually to quickly get away from something

What are the risks?

Drowning; dehydration; heat stroke; hypothermia; traffic injuries; falls; physical restraints; encounters with strangers; encounters with law enforcement

When does wandering happen?

  • Warmer months and holidays such as the Fourth of July
  • Outdoor activities such as camping, hiking or other gatherings
  • Visits to a new place,  such as a friend’s home or a vacation setting
  • Times of transition, such as when a family moves to a new home, a child goes to a new school or when renovations have been made to accommodate warmer weather especially window screens, window fans, A/C units and screen doors
  • Transitions from one classroom to another, or during other school-day transitions.
  • Times of stress or when escalation triggers arise (typically the child/adult will bolt)

How can an occupational therapist help?

  • Educating  first responders about autism, including sensory preferences and social challenges, to assist in search and rescue efforts
  • Providing families with resources to address safe routines such as The Big Red Safety Toolkit http://nationalautismassociation.org/docs/BigRedSafetyToolkit.pdf
  • Video-modeling to increase safety within the  community, such as adhering to street sign signals.
  • Designing safe school bus evacuations programs
  • Developing swimming programs for children with ASD through a partnership with departments of recreation
  • Addressing anxiety and impulse control through relaxation techniques, social stories and other strategies in order to prevent bolting
  • Offering activity and environmental surveillance on playgrounds to increase safe and accessible play for children of all abilities


This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 1st, 2014 and is filed under Autism, Parenting, The Special Needs Child.

In The News: Parents create custom jobs for their adult children with autism

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

The USA TODAY article “Parents create custom jobs for adult kids with autism,” by Karen Weintraub is a must read for parents of children with special needs!











At POTS we stress the importance of finding and developing your child’s unique passions and talents. This article describes how Lori Ireland and a group of parents of children with autism took this concept to the next level and began Extraordinary Ventures (EV). EV, an employer of autistic adults, creates jobs that match the unique skills of their employees and fills a need in society. For example, cleaning rows of bus seats and providing laundry services provides consistency, a quality which many adults with autism look for in a job, and require repetition, which the employees do not mind and usually prefer.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013 and is filed under Autism, News and Views, The Special Needs Child.

What’s App Wednedsday: ChoiceBoard Creator

Friday, July 12th, 2013

What is a Choice Board?

ChoiceBoard Creator (FREE, iPad app) is a tool for creating choice boards. Choice boards are visual organizers made up of squares that contain pictures or words of a variety of options (the app allows 1-6 choices). Options can be an activity choice or the answer to a question (e.g. “where is the dog?” or “what do you want for breakfast?”). Children choose one or more correct answers or activities to complete.

Who will benefit?

  • Children with Autism or any child who has communication challenges and benefit from alternative communication
  • Children who benefit from visual cues for learning
  • *Although the app is frequently used for educating children in the classroom, it works great for enabling children to make any kind of choice.

Our Tips & Recommendations:

  • Promote making a choice!
    • Use choice boards at mealtimes, play time, or any other times in which a choice is available
    • Start by providing only 2-3 choices and slowly increase the number of presented choices children are better able to discriminate choices, visually scan and sequence
    • When using the app to promote making a choice, make sure that all options are appropriate to choose
  • Build skills!
    • Organize choice boards so that children are required to choose options that focus on several different skills or on the components of a particular skill

How to use the app:

  1. Press the “Create Activity” button
  2. Tap “New Activity” and enter the activity name
  3. Select number of boxes per page. These are the number of choices your child will have
  4. Tap on each box to download images from your camera roll or type in words
  5. Tap on musical note to download reward sound clips. Use the audio option as positive reinforcement for a “correct” response, or turn it off if no one choice is correct or incorrect
  6. Tap on check marks set “correct” boxes, if there is a correct answer
  7. Press “save activity”

Click here to see a video tutorial: http://vimeo.com/28280082#


Submitted by: Ariela Harcsztark OTR/L

This entry was posted on Friday, July 12th, 2013 and is filed under Autism, The Special Needs Child, What's App Wednesday.