Thursday, February 26, 2009

Animals Make Us Human

I finally finished reading Animals Make Us Human by Temple Grandin. As in her previous books, Temple Grandin explains how her high functioning autism enables her to understand the animal's perspective because she and the animals are strong in visualizing and seeing in pictures. She also goes into detail about how the animal behaviors reflect needs to seek or are a response to rage, fear, panic, lust, a need to care or play.
I have to admit that I stopped reading Animals in Translation when I got to the part about how one removes semen from an animal in order to do artificial insemination. However, I read Animals Make Us Human straight through and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Each chapter covers the various animals: dogs, cats, horses, cows, pigs and chickens and poultry so readers can go straight to the chapter that covers an animal of interest. But the sections on wildlife and zoos made me think about how the answers to improving the lot of animals and the planet are not so black and white. For example, I don't eat red meat for several reasons, but mainly because I would rather see land grow grains that can feed many more people on the planet than a cow can. But it is essential to have cows out there grazing and pooping or the vulnerable brittle land (like in Arizona) will convert into desert.

According to Dr. Grandin some of my least favorite fast food businesses (i.e. McDonald's) have been in the forefront in making sure that the animals they use have living conditions that meet certain criteria. The chapter on chickens and poultry came the closest to grossing me out with descriptions of the conditions (space so small they sleep on top of one another). I also learned where the term "bully" came from and won't share that piece of grotesque imagery.

As an occupational therapist, my favorite parts naturally center around how to provide the sensory stimulation that allows animals to occupy their minds while in captivity. For example, zoos set up devices so that animals had to work for their food by pushing or turning handles and pigs thrived when given rubber hoses and other objects to shred. Behaviorists as well, will appreciate the positive reinforcement techniques Dr. Grandin explains to be much more affective than any form of negative reinforcement or punishment.

There's more fascinating pieces of information about animals than I can share right now. So go on and read the book!

Barbara Smith, M.S., OTR/L author of, The Recycling Occupational Therapist

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sequencing Using a Coffee Can, Magnet and Can Lids

  • Hippotherapy provides a wonderful tool for developing sequencing as well as fine motor skills. I ask the children to:

  • Reach with the magnetic bingo wand for the metal can lids. You may add letters or pictures to the lids to identify. Reaching while in 2 point stand, sideways or backwards promotes balance, strength and motor planning.
  • Removing the lid from the wand promotes bilateral (using 2 hands) skills.
  • Insertion into the can develops eye-hand coordination. The can may also be positioned in different positions to promote trunk rotation and reaching.

Jiggle the can full of lids to get the child's attention as needed or consider adding a vibrating toy inside so that the child can enjoy holding the can at the end of the activity. The sound of the vibrating can may help the child to focus on activities.

Barbara Smith, M.S., OTR/L, author of The Recycling Occupational Therapist

Friday, February 20, 2009

Hand it to HIppotherapy

Check out my article in Advance for Occupational Therapists:
Hand it to Hippotherapy

Barbara Smith, M.S., OTR/L author of, The Recycling Occupational Therapist

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Karter's 1st day riding 0001

I like how the parents put some explanations on the video-

They had the horse stop and start to work on muscle control. Stopping also helps the child to get his sensory system organized. Just as one's body becomes alert when suddenly moving, the body becomes alert again when stopping after several minutes of movement.

Changing the direction while walking around the arena is good for the horse, the rider and the adults walking with him. It gives the horse's body a balanced workout. As I walk in a circle the muscles on my side facing the inside of the circle are shortened and I have to be sure to change sides on the horse and also direction in order to avoid imbalance and pain around my hips and back. The rider is also experiencing muscle shortening and lengthening while walking in circles. Therapists can position the child and walk in certain directions to lengthen muscles on the child's tighter side.

Barbara Smith, M.S., OTR/L, author of The Recycling Occupational Therapist

Friday, February 13, 2009

Journey Through Horsemanship

Karma Anais wrote:

I am always concerned about braces used during hippotherapy and the possibility of micro-trauma to the spine above and/or below the brace. I am more supportive of alternative positioning for children with poor trunk control if they are appropriate for treatment that utilizes equine movement.

Barbara's thoughts:

I agree that its good to consider whether or not a child with low tone and poor head control is a good candidate and the effects of any bracing. All of the children where I work have had clearance with their doctors and sometimes the parents are surprised that I question whether or not they should be riding.

I have seen therapists riding tandem (both on the horse) during sessions and the child looks nicely supported. But the American Hippotherapy Association does not recommend riding tandem due to increased possibility of injury to the therapy and stress on the horse since the therapist's weight has been shifted further back.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Adaptive Equipment for Trunk Support

Karter's mom does a great job explaining how riding a horse helps her son. Check out:

He rides at Pacific Riding for Developing Abilities

I am impressed with the size of the brace used to provide trunk support. I have used two boppy pillows, one on top of the other, but this brace is attached to him and the staff don't have to be concerned about pillows shifting or falling off.
Riding will surely help this little guy improve his neck control and strengthen his shoulders, arms and trunk. He looks happy to have found his sport.
Check out her blog for riding updates, photos and videos.

Barbara Smith, M.S., OTR/L, author of The Recycling Occupational Therapist

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Sitting on Withers to Promote Posture

This little guy had improved posture after riding a few laps in this position. Sitting backwards promotes back extension in response to the horse moving forward. He is bearing weight on his feet and this rather unstable position forces him to work his trunk muscles and balance. He has quite good coordination since he is pulling toys off the bottle (they are attached with velcro) and inserting them inside. I love this bottle. It was one of the goodies given away at a health care conference and the perfect size for little hands. You can't see it in this picture but there is a thin handle on the water bottle to grasp. He is pulling off little plastic frogs.

Barbara Smith, M.S., OTR/L, author of The Recycling Occupational Therapist