Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sack of Potatoes Video

The video below demonstrates the benefits of the vaulting position called "Sack of Potatoes" the person is prone over the horse's barrel. It is a great position to promote relaxation and range of motion. In addition, head inversion provides sensory stimulation to help overcome gravitational insecurity that so many children develop because they do not have the many varied motor experiences that typically developing children naturally experience.
BarbaraSmith, M.S., OTR/L

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Stretchy Rings

The stretchy rings worked better than I expected with certain children. I think they enjoyed the sensory input when squeezing them inside their hands and the proprioceptive input while pulling them over their heads. Actually I mostly pulled them onto the children myself so that the ring sat on their hips while straddling the horse. First I put one one, the side walker put one on and a parent even put one on. Then we all took turns motor planning to get it off and then place it over a cone. This works on some great bilateral hand skills, ROM, CML and sequencing.

By the way, if you are wondering why I am wearing an old pink ll bean fishing vest with a broken zipper- while I work I carry around my phone, small photo album with pictures of animals, a small doll's brush, sun glasses, magnets to attach to one another like a snake, the motor part from the Squiggle Wiggle Writer toy and my tape recorder (I record all my ideas and what the children do and then listen back as I write my notes. This compensates for my lousy memory.
BarbaraSmith, M.S., OTR/L

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Benefits Of Horse Therapy For Kids With Autism | LIVESTRONG.COM

"I love to keep on promoting the benefits of hippotherapy"
Benefits Of Horse Therapy For Kids With Autism. The healing emotional bond between humans and horses has been recognized for thousands of years. In modern times, the horse is used by occupational, physical and speech therapists...

Monday, February 22, 2010

Stocking Rings

I have been thinking for a while about how to make more interesting rings or hoops, especially since so many people use them at work and I can't always find them when I want them. Then I just got the idea of using some cheap old stockings, filling them with crushed supermarket bags and sewing the ends together. They feel great inside the palms. I tried them out briefly today, but the weather was so nice-the focus was on trail rides. However, I can see that these rings force children to use both hands much more than the hard plastic rings. I had a couple of children work on motor planning to put a ring (they are stretchy) over the head and down to their waist and then up and over again. I think that this can be a great activity to help children motor plan the steps required for dressing.
I am also thinking that a very high functioning child might be able to put this over her head while standing on top of the horse, and then bring it all way down to her feet, grasp the circingle handle and step out of it. I know that this sounds really challenging but occasionally I have children who can do something this challenging.

For example, one of my most coordinated children today stood on top of the horse while I held her hand and took turns stepping onto the left and right squeaky dog toys sewn onto this pillow. It was fun.


Saturday, February 20, 2010


Karma Anais said...

You can easily make these poles with large coffee cans, quikcrete concrete and PVC cut to the height you want. The can also be made in a variety of heights for smaller and larger horses or more and less reach. It looked like the young man steering through the poles was part of a therapeutic riding lesson and not hippotherapy though, can't image that he needs 1:1 treatment with a therapist if he can ride that well ;-)

Thanks Karma,
I agree it looks like a therapeutic riding session. Thank-you for the directions to construct the pole activity.
I am always right next to the child while doing hippotherapy, usually with a hand on or near the belt even if the child doesn't really need the help. Sometimes I work with children who I think should be taking therapeutic riding lessons or even be in a group to work on social skills, rather than do hippotherapy- but I don't make those decisions at my current job. It seems that if the insurance or parent pays- then I do hippotherapy, but 99% of the time the therapy is appropriate. I had one client a 5 year old with charcot tooth syndrome who had lower extremity weakness and decreased rom and we worked a lot on strengthening her legs. She could have done that weaving around poles activity and lot more without my assistance. It was a lot of fun to have someone so capable of learning vaulting moves such as half flag (which was a struggle due to the weakness).

Friday, February 19, 2010

Every video gives me new ideas. I like the activity with the therapist weaving through the poles with the rider following. It looks like more fun than weaving around cones and the height of the poles helps the rider maintain better posture since he doesn't have to look downward.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

This video demonstrates two areas of great interest to me- public speaking and hippotherapy. This young man has found a nice niche sharing information about how his relationship with horse's has helped him recover from injury. He is positive, uplifting and probably a very good inspirational speaker.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Big Boppy Day

The boys really take to the vehicle picture puzzles that I made. A new little guy quickly learned how to pull the reins to stop, go into a 2-pt. stand (feet in stirrups) reaching for the puzzle piece and then attach it (piece has velcro backing)

It seemed that the theme of the day was Boppy pillow because I not only used it in my usual fashion providing extra support behind the child or for weight bearing in front of the child- I used it today in a new way. A little guy with CP was particularly tight today and I was unable to abduct his hips to straddle the horse, not even when placed on the narrow withers. I started the session out positioning him on his belly, then supine over the horse's barrel to get him more relaxed. Later I lay him supine (head on croup) with his knees flexed and lower legs over the Boppy next to the circingle handle. He seemed pretty comfortable.
I wasn't able to snap a picture of anyone using the pillow, but just to show how importance they are for therapy- here they are along with the saddles and pads.....
Barbara Smith, M.S., OTR/L author of, The Recycling Occupational Therapist

Friday, February 12, 2010

Hippotherapy Slide Show

I enjoyed seeing this slide show:

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Lots of Picture activities

It's hard to have so many new clients all at once! A parent who spent the entire first session translating next to her child last week was willing to stay in the waiting area and her 2 year old did very well. He seemed to understand many English directions (they speak Russian at home) and he said several words in English to me. He also loved posting (only his 2nd session) using the whoopee cushion to make sounds.
A little girl with down's syndrome has stopped crying and clutching onto me and today tolerated sitting sideways and backwards and shakes her body to indicate "go". I hope to teach her a hand signal Her mom said that she can sign "more" but I have not yet observed any signing nor grasping, not even to grasp the handle.
This activity shown above was a hit today. The client is attaching a small animal picture that I call the "baby"(with velcro) to the back of the larger animal picture that I call the "mommy. The larger animal pictures are attached to the walls. The client has to pull the reins to stop in front of the chosen picture before doing this and I make the client go into a 2 point stand to reach the baby picture. I present the larger picture to the child so that he has to figure out that he needs to turn it over to find the velcro side.

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

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Asperger Sydrome and Bullying

I just finished reading the book Asperger syndrome and Bullying by Nick Dubin. It was recommended by some people in the parent's of young adult's with Asperger's support group I belong to. This book really brought back bad memories (of when my son was in middle school) not so much of bullying but because the social and academic demands were so high. I think my son was fortunately seldom a target of bullies because he is very tall and bullies couuld sense that he was not sensitive about what others thought about him. But he was sad about not having friends.

The great thing about this book is how the author explains why children with asperger's are targets. Then there are chapters on how to empower victims, bystanders, schools, parents, understanding bullies and changing the culture where bullying is accepted.
Dubin emphasizes how important it is for children and adults with aspegers to find the activities and settings where they can be with people with the same interests. My son best socializes with others while using his hands. Right now he is taking a glass blowing class and happy to be in the same room with others working away. The therapeutic riding or hippotherapy setting is also great for teen or older volunteers who will benefit from the mutual love of horses and all the sensory stimulation of being around them. I see many young children with autism aspergers who has good speech but poor abilities to perceive social cues. They need to follow my directions and stop talking long enough to focus on the immediate needs of the horse-i.e. stop, go, steer etc. Seeing their improved self-esteem is very rewarding.

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

Monday, February 8, 2010

A morning without a side walker

I did not have a side walker all morning- which limited the activities I was willing to do. I feel that it is extremely important to have a side walker and if I don't have one- I focus on transitions to facing sideways and backwards, weaving and half halts while facing forwards, sideways and backwards and trotting while facing forwards and backwards- avoiding quadruped, kneeling and standing on top of the horse which for most children requires two sets of hands.

Riding a horse is of course packed with sensory stimulation, but I also love using sensory toys. A little girl was fascinated with the small motor used for the vibrating pens (with pen point removed). She was able to stand on top of the horse while totally distracted-playing with it. Then for the first time she did squat to stand sequences 4-5 times while reaching for it.

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

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Fun Standing on Top of a Horse

A two-year old loved playing with my groan stick so much he didn't mind standing on top of the horse. I have had many new children lately, so its fun to revisit my old and favorite activities-one being to put cards inside a slit in a coffee can. I put an electric toothbrush motor inside to help the child focus on the can. I discovered that if I sort of toss the can to the child at very close range-he will be more likely to use both hands to turn it upright, stabilize it and do the insertion task. I also have been making a point of using either the small or slightly larger weighted ball to make children use both hands as they throw it into the basket.
Barbara Smith, M.S., OTR/L author of, The Recycling Occupational

Reaching for Rings

I continue to love the videos that show reaching hand activities to promote erect posture and motor control.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Jane--anne said...

Hi Barb, Just for future reference my program is called Miraclessudan. I love your blog. It is the first I open every morning! Just to see what you are doing, and what I can learn from you!!!!
Take care.

Thanks for your kind words and correction!

Monday, February 1, 2010

First Signs Of Autism In A Baby | LIVESTRONG.COM

First Signs Of Autism In A Baby. Autism is a disorder characterized by difficulties with communication, sensory processing and social skills. Although a baby cannot speak, he can communicate with body language and...

Groan Stick to Assist Sit- Ups

Today I asked several children to maintain bilateral grasp on a groan stick while doing sit-ups. I either held the tube in the center while the child grasped on either side of my hand or I helped them to actually maintain their grasp on it. Either way it seemed to make them aware that they needed to use both hands (a couple of kids had a side neglect) while strengthening hands and providing a point of stabilization while working the abdominals to do sit-ups. I also gave support at the shoulders. Playing with the the stick to make the groan sounds provides a nice reward when all done working.

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