Saturday, February 17, 2018

Visual Stimulation Activities that Help Individuals on the Autism Spectrum

Children and Adults on the autism spectrum often love visual stimulation. They may seek it out by staring at moving lights or flapping their hands near their face. The following  activities are designed to provide visual sensory stimulation that people seek while at the same time promote
1) using hands together (bilateral coordination)
2) visual skills such as tracking or convergence
3) Motor control
4) social skills when used with a partner

Fidget Spinners

Fidget spinners have been very popular over the past year. Some children find them calming and since they are motivating, they can be used as a reinforce (a reward) after completing a task... perhaps homework or a chore.

The video demonstrates a few ideas on how to utilize this motivating toy to develop grasps to effectively use scissors and pencil.  At the same time children receive the pleasure of visual stimulation as they watch it spin...

Zoom Ball 

Zoom ball develop coordination and motor planning as players alternate moving arms apart and together. As players maintain their gaze on the moving "ball" their visual system is stimulated. Their eyes converge as the ball moves toward the face and diverge as the ball moves away from the face. Developing these visual skills help children to keep their eyes on a ball and other objects during sports games.  The video demonstrates how to make this game. 

Spiral Ring Stack 

This is a fun visual activity that also develops motor control. The rings are positioned at the top of a spiral shape and then when released they rapidly spiral downward.

These are easy to make but you have to buy the helicopter toy (see amazon link below) to get the plastic piece that the rings spiral down. Wedge the spiral piece inside the top of a bottle. You may need to cut a small hole inside the bottle cap and then wedge it inside and secure with tape. 
Cut lots of pretty, colorful plastic shapes from containers or lids and then cut a small notch in the center. 

Some individuals who seek visual stimulation really like this- it meets their sensory needs....

Source: Visual Stimulation Ring Stack for Individuals with Autism by RecyclingOT
Source: Visual Stimulation Ring Stack for Individuals with Autism by RecyclingOT

Spiral Ring Stringing

The young man shown in the photo is stringing small rings onto the tip of a water hose coil. He enjoys watching them spiral downward.  I attached a bean bag to the bottom so that he can stand on it while pulling the coil upward. The pulling upward provides additional sensory stimulation to his muscles and joints and develops balance. 
He really enjoys watching the rings spiral down. This seems to be relaxing and decrease agitation. 

Source: Sensory Processing Disorder Activity: Stringing Coiled Hose by RecyclingOT

There are lots of tracking tube toys on the market. I made this one by twisting a coat hanger into a spiral shape. I pushed the hanger through the clear plastic tube, added some marbles and covered the two ends. This makes a cool sound as well as providing visual stimulation. In addition, if you wedge the tube inside a box or bottle you can use it as a ring stack.

I bought this tube at a hardware store. They were sold to hold the long florescent light bulbs and were only a couple of dollars.

I include a few Amazon links to products described in this post. If you order on AMAZON through my links, I make a few pennies....


Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Simple Weaving Shapes for Children with Autism or other Disabilities

Weaving is the process of interlacing threads by going over and under each other. I use a similar process when I cut slits in a plastic shape and "weave" a longer strip through it. This photo shows my son holding one I made over 20 years ago!

I realized that if I make one end a bit bigger, the insertion strips will look like lollipops and when pulled in place tightly, won't slip through the notches and come out easily.

This activity continues to be easy to make and beneficial when used at work with adults with developmental disabilities. However,  young children with or without disabilities will reap the benefits of watching you make this manipulation activity to use at home or for therapy.

Weaving the shapes together
  • strengthens hands and fingers
  • promotes bilateral hand use
  • develops eye-hand coordination 
  • teaches the spatial relationships of going in and out, over and under... 
  • may involve color and/or size matching
  • provides a repetitive fine- motor task that some individuals will find relaxing
Taking the pieces apart is easier than putting them together and some individuals may only learn this aspect of the task.  Use thicker, stiffer plastic if you want th
e person to use force.  This makes the activity "resistive" and provides sensory stimulation to muscles and joints. Try using the vibrant, strong plastic from coffee containers, plus it smell great! See the Amazon links below.

One of my clients loves to rip paper, especially cardboard. Pulling these shapes apart to push into a small container lid opening appears to meet her sensory needs.
For some clients-I may choose to use a container with a large opening so that insertion is easy. Over time I may add a lid with a large slot opening and eventually use a more challenging lid with a thin opening so that force is required to push the shape inside.

Notice that the individual in the video must pull the pieces apart or they will NOT fit into the slot. There is some built-in problem-solving required in order to be successful.

Also notice that I positioned the container next to the pink vibrating cushion so that he can feel the vibration while working.  You may choose to put some type of vibrating object inside the container. Either way vibration often motivates children or adults with disabilities to engage in hand activities.   

Source: Simple Weaving Shapes for Children with Autism by RecyclingOT

 Placing or removing the worms from the apples works on similar fine-motor skills. However, the openings are quite large and force is not required.... Fall is a great time to incorporate this pretend play into your hand activities.....
Source: Make Your Own Apple Toys for Preschoolers by RecyclingOT

Another option is to attach or remove arrows from valentines. I love the creative options when creating my own materials and your children or clients will, too ❤

Source: Make-your-own Valentine Hearts and Arrows by RecyclingOT

Don't have time to make toys?

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Sensory Pill Bottle

 I discovered that pill bottles fit nicely into the openings of desk file organizers. In fact, they fit perfectly, requiring some force to push them all the way in or pull out. Using force means that this activity is "resistive" and many individuals with developmental disabilities respond well to the sensory stimulation to muscles and joints when there is resistance.

This activity develops coordination,  hand strength and motor planning skills. Notice how one client in the video is using trial and error to figure out how to get the bottles out.

Another client brought the materials close to his face because he is visually impaired and he liked shaking and tapping the bottles  in order to hear the contents.

I put various auditory objects inside such as marbles, pennies, beads, dried lentils etc. Then closed them well (they are after all medication bottles) and secured again with duct tape. This was a great activity for the clients who rush through tasks ... they need to focus and persist in order to complete this task.

Source: Pill Bottle Sensory Activity by RecyclingOT on Rumble

The organizers I used look somewhat like this but check to see if your pill bottles can be inserted......

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Make- It- Yourself Zoomball

"Zoom Ball" also known as "Forward Pass" is a commercially available toy that involves 2 players.  Each player grasps a handle in each hand alternating opening arms apart and bringing them together. When player A moves arms apart the "ball" shoots across to player B who has hands together. Then player B moves arms apart so that the "ball" shoots across to player A (who has hands together). The players repeat as long as strength holds up and they are having fun...   This is what the commercial toys look like.....

I prefer to make my own because:
1) I can use any length cord I choose; the shorter the cord the easier to play
2) I think that the handles are much more comfortable
3) It is recycling something plastic
4) and of course, it is FREE !!!!

Materials used are:
1) nylon cord
2) 4 detergent bottle handles
3) 2 soda bottles
4) duct tape

I demonstrate how to make a zoom ball the video. You may also like to simply use what I call a "batter". After connecting the 2 soda bottles,  one player may use it to push a ball across the room or bat at a suspended ball.  The soda bottle spouts function as handles.
The boy in the photo is actually on top of a scooter board that you can't see and he pushes the ball, scoots toward it and repeats. We did this during an occupational therapy session. Two players can turn this into a back and forth push the ball game......

The bottom photo shows a close up of the cord attached to a handle. 

A few of the many therapeutic benefits of Zoom Ball: It promotes

1) visual attention, tracking, convergence and divergence
2) bilateral coordination
3) strong shoulders, neck, arms and grasp
4) sensory stimulation as played in a variety of positions
5) motor planning, rhythm
6) social skills, working with a partner, turn taking
7) endurance and persistence as player recites the alphabet  or counts to 100.
8)  exercise......

1)Play while kneeling
2) use feet instead of hands
3) face away from each other.....

Source: Make Zoom Ball for Individuals with Autism by RecyclingOT on Rumble

Monday, December 25, 2017

Make-your-Own Manipulation Snowman Toys

The possibilities are endless when cutting up plastic containers for seasonal activities. Here are a few easy to make winter snow people. They kind of remind me of  Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head because children may attach whatever accessories parents cut up.... such as a hat, broom, shoes, buttons, scarf.... The accessories may be woven on, screwed on, tied on, buttoned on and even snapped on. The photos demonstrate just a few ideas.

The scissors are rather sharp so an older person will need to do the cutting. After the initial cut, trim the pieces to be smoother. However, I have never been cut from plastic, paper-yes, never plastic. It may be rough but not sharp.

The photos and video demonstrate two types of snow man or snow woman toys... 

1) cut the large and medium sized ball and the separate smaller snowball head with extension to be woven. I have cut several of these to use at work with clients who enjoy repetitive fine motor tasks.
2) cut a stand up snow person out of a large white bottle. Decorate as desired.

Either toy provides practice to manipulate whatever you choose... perhaps buttoning, tying, buckling or screwing the hat back on.

In general, it is easier to remove fasteners than attach. So young children or those with challenges may focus on undressing their snow people, perhaps in preparation for bath time and an older child may dress them back up later.

The close up of the green buttons shows how I punched holes in the green plastic and snowman and attached the "button" with cord. Cut a variety of fabric colors with slits so that that children can change the buttons.

This really does remind me of Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head....

The photo above demonstrates a snow person cut out of a large juice bottle before being dressed up. 

I  punched holes in the pink bottle top piece shown below to tie "hair" on. The screw cap holds this in place or can just function as a hat. 

Coloring and erasing with the dry erase marker is great for pre-writing practice, especially for the kiddos who resist holding writing tools. We occupational therapists like to sneak in skill training into fun games.  I also love how this activity lends itself to pretend play.   

The following video demonstrates how I made these toys..... 

Source: Plastic Manipulation Snowman by RecyclingOT on Rumble

For those of you who prefer potatoes to snow people....

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Developing Skills to Screw and Unscrew Bottle Caps

Unscrewing and screwing caps and covers onto containers not only teaches a functional skill, but develops eye-hand coordination.

It is generally easier for young children and older clients with developmental delays to first learn how to open (unscrew) and later learn how to close (screw cap on).

I cut a variety of container or bottle tops from detergent bottles, vitamin jars, dishwasher soap bottles, juice bottles etc. Some clients enjoy matching the covers to the corresponding threaded pieces. You may choose to start out using all the same size covers/caps and threaded pieces to make the task easier and then build in challenge by requiring matching.
In the first video, a young man who is blind and has autism unscrews the pieces and then inserts the  cover into the container hole and then stacks the threaded piece onto the dowel. He enjoys using his advanced matching and sorting skills.

Source: Unscrewing Bottle Caps to Insert or Stack by RecyclingOT on Rumble

After removing the covers, my client inserts them into the corresponding holes in the container. This former kitty litter bucket functions as a shape sorter after he separates the two pieces.  

Source: Matching Lids Sensory Activity by RecyclingOT on Rumble

This man enjoys pulling on the threaded bottle tops that are attached to the book stand with elastic cord. He regularly seeks out sensory stimulation by pulling on objects, including his clothing. He also enjoys using force to unscrew the covers before inserting into them a bucket.

Source: Container Lids Sensory Activity by RecyclingOT on Rumble

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Handle Jig for Holding a Magic Marker

My client has a traumatic brain injury and her hands are spastic with contractures and she is challenged to engage in any functional activities such as coloring. Her right shoulder has some active movement so I made the following jig to take advantage of the skills she does have......

I  have used handles from detergent or juice bottles to build up objects to make grasping easier. The first  video shows her using a handle with a piece of  plastic attached. I cut 2 holes in the black plastic in order to push the marker through. Unfortunately, her knuckles were rubbing against plastic while grasping the handle tightly, so I made a revised jig with the plastic cut away and covered with soft fabric and duct tape.  You will see how I made this in the first video.

The second video shows her making horizontal lines on paper. She really enjoyed doing a familiar task, actually she simply enjoyed an opportunity to use her hand, at all.....

Source: How to Make a Jig for Coloring by RecyclingOT on Rumble