Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Exercises to Strengthen Legs

As an occupational therapist, I am always looking for new information from the physical therapists as to how to strengthen the legs to improve gait and use stairs. I recently had the opportunity to sidewalk with a physical therapist and learned that I could strengthen the rider's quadruceps's by having the child sit sideways and march the legs. This involved lifting the knees as though marching. Then she asked the child to extend the legs (again in side facing position) and lift each foot to touch her hands. Strengthening these muscles should help with lifting the legs up to the next step.
I did this activity again later with one of my clients. but I incorporated a squeaky dog toy so that each time the child's knee or foot reached up to touch it, I made it squeak. This really goes to show how much we can learn from one another's disciplines.
I would love more ideas from physical therapists............

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

Tossing Hoops for Bilateral Coordination

Grasping large hoola hoops develops strength, bilateral hand use and opens up the chest, promoting erect sitting posture. Children also enjoy pretending that its a steering wheel. Gently helping the child to rotate the hoop as they drive their "steering wheel" helps to decrease muscle tone and increase range of motion. Yesterday, I used the hoops to toss over the large basket used for basketball. since the basket (which is on a stand) is fairly high, it was easy for them to succeed. The set up shown here is quite a bit more challenging and can be used with kids who have pretty good coordination. They can toss these large rings to land over the toy pony. I placed the pony inside a crate to stabilize it. This activity may be performed while sitting facing forward, sideways or backwards and if performed while prone over the horse's barrel like superman, they work on prone extension. The prone extension position strengthens the neck, shoulders and arm muscles.

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


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Vehicle Pictures to stimulate Visual Perceptual Skills

Many of my hippotherapy children, especially the boys are fascinated by the tractors, diggers and other vehicles around the farm. I decided to exploit this by hanging vehicle pictures around the arena. These include: the shown pick up truck, train, ship, digger, tractor, firetruck and motorcycle. I just realized that I left out the airplane which would be useful when teaching the kids to hold the arm extension or "airplane position".

I taped the pictures to one side of a manila file folder and cut out a shape. The picture and cut out are covered with clear contact paper to make them last longer. I attached velcro to the shape so that the children can attach the shapes much like a form board. Staple around the folder's borders to keep the two sides closed.

I am teaching the children to pull the reins/stop at their favorite vehicle. So far, the pictures have been good motivators. Reaching for the shapes and larger picture also work on reaching, grasping and balance skills.

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


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Warm-up exercises for Therapeutic Riding or Hippotherapy

Warm- up exercises are a great way to stretch in preparation for a therapeutic riding or hippotherapy session and also work on motor planning skills. Riders may do different stretches in imitation of an instructor or the other riders. This is particularly important when working with a rider with increased muscle tone.

Warm up exercises may include reaching upward, touching near the pony's ears, touching the tail, touching one's own foot with the hand on the same side as the foot and then the opposite side and arm circles.

More info at:http://www.trozarks.blogspot.com/

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


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Making a Snake with Magnetic Rocks

I found these magnetic rocks at a gift shop and was impressed by how strong the force was when making this snake. I used them yesterday with a girl who stood on top of the horse. My sidewalker and I stabilized her at the ankles and she was so busy playing with the magnets that she forgot to be scared.

Another child was motivated to use both hands together and reach as I handed him rocks to add to the snake.

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

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Visiting Myakka State Park

My husband George and I fit in a little riding during our vacation to Myakka State Park in Florida. Spats and Rocky were old and slow but the scenery gorgeous and the trails were located a few miles from the park.

Check out the video below of the wild pigs we saw just outside the campground. You can hear the voices of children playing nearby. We have been trying to catch a photo for the past 15 years and this year they were just hanging out on a frequently travelled trail.

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

A hippotherapist's Interview

Check out my interview at:


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

Friday, January 2, 2009

Reaching into Toy Head for Objects to Name

A mom describes on her blog the many skills her son demonstrated during his first hippotherapy session. He signed "horse" repeatedly. He used 2-3 word sentences and for the first time she saw him put multiple signs together i.e. "go horse".

In this photos he is"doing one of the multiple exercises. He had to reach into the head and pull out objects. He then practiced saying their name and he had to reach up, down and side to side to hand the objects to one of the therapists or to put them back in the head".

Read more at: Embracing Life as HouseHold6

Barbara Smith, M.S., OTR/L

Hippotherapy to Help Victim of Lyme's Disease

A young woman Elaina describes on her blog Horsetalk Hippotherapy how hippotherapy helped her to stay active after acquiring Lyme's Disease. She goes to a program called HorseTalk in New Hampshire.

Here is a quote from Elaina's blog that demonstrates how hippotherapy has played a role in helping her cope with pain and maintain a positive attitude:

"I started missing a lot of lessons within the past months, and the ones I have gone to I have not been able to stay long, since I am more tired and hurting worse. I still go though, and love spreading the word about how nice this program is. I have seen kids go from mute to talkative, from unstable to balanced, from distracted to listening well. I am now a close volunteer to the program. I try to help when I can, and this has given me a sense of strength, something to get better for, a light at the end of the tunnel."

Barbara Smith, M.S., OTR/L

Article about Autism and Hippotherapy

Check out my article:
Hippotherapy Helps Individuals with Autism Develop skills

Barbara Smith, M.S., OTR/L

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Hippotherapy Helps those with Turettes Syndrome

Tuscon teen, Holly Hitchcock describes how hippotherapy helps her find relief from tics-

"I have less tics, fewer muscle spasms and am sleeping better at night since starting hippotherapy.
At first I wasn’t sure how hippotherapy would help me. But I’ve discovered I can get into a mental “zone” where I can let go and almost forget I have Tourette’s for periods of time!
I am very grateful to Mary Vardi, Cheryl North, TROT and the Dillon Foundation, which helped pay my scholarship fees."

Check out her article: Tucson teen trots out Tourette hippotherapy program

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