30 Apr 2012

AOTA conference was amaaazzzing

So thrilled to have met so many wonderful blog readers, AOTAers, etc. Loved it all. I posted a ton to Facebook and to Twitter, but only had my iphone so no easy way to hit my blog. I think I'm going to add a Twitter feed to my blog. We streamed it live but I don't know if it was saved for later. It's 930pm….I think I'm headed to bed shortly!! But I want to write all about the awesomeness of Saturday. 🙂

Category: Occupational Therapy | Comments: 2

27 Apr 2012

Recent OT presentation

So this may seem a little overwhelming but essentially I did a recent session at one of my elementary schools where I basically went over the handout I showed you guys a few days ago, while pointing out the various toys. We only had about 30 minutes max and I had SO MUCH to share, so I just scattered it all over so they could try it all out/see what I was talking about as we went through the stuff. I was focusing on mostly cheap and easily acessible stuff, such as this bottom picture – the clothespins are wolves and the cotton balls are sheep. Spread out a bunch of cotton balls, give each kid a clothespin, have them catch sheep. Great for strengthening hands and working on a tripod grasp….for kids of all ages. 😉  I like to glue googly eyes on the cotton balls….

Don’t play this game with vegans. AHAHAHAA

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Category: Occupational Therapy | Comments: 4

27 Apr 2012


This is my favorite face…I felt like this stuffed animal had a similar face. It was like a worry doll or something, it had an intriguing story behind it. We were in that store to look for OT toys so I feel like I can include it on an OT blog…..and I’m just procrastinating finishing packing for AOTA conference so I am posting some pictures I recently uploaded off my iPhone.

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27 Apr 2012

Monster cake….

We all used tongs to gather up monsters and place them in this ice cube try which ended up overflowing with monsters and stuff. We then had a mini “monster cake” birthday celebration where we sang Happy Birthday (in whispers so we didn’t disturb anyone else) and then we pretended to eat it before moving onto our next activity 🙂 Using tweezers or tongs to pick up small objects and transfer them are a GREAT fine motor skill for any age! 🙂

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Category: Occupational Therapy | Comments: none

26 Apr 2012

Lava/worm/bee testimonial – OT Paper

Shows journal entry from a day before, and then journal the next day. Granted, this is a very smart child who already had very reasonable, nice handwriting, just a little sloppy/quick at times. HOWEVER, after a 5 minute description/tutorial of lava/worms/bees paper, his handwriting improved dramatically – because he had all the skills, but he needed a game to make the rules of boundaries/sizing make sense. Because he had to work carefully on boundaries/sizing, his letter formation improved as well. I know it’s a habit that has to be built so I’m not saying I like, made a miracle – but I swear to you guys – make handwriting about a game and see how quick they improve. 🙂
PS: turn your computer upside down to see it…

Category: Occupational Therapy | Comments: none

24 Apr 2012

Handwriting games/vestibular work/OT in schools

So I should be doing other things, but OT blogging is therapeutic, man. Takes everything out of my brain. Bet Cheryl doesn’t appreciate that right now seeing as how I still owe her my AOTA handout…whoopsie doodles!! I’ll do that in a second. I’m writing this in bed with a purring cat on my chest…I’m looking over him. He can’t seem to be anywhere else but attached to my upper extremities in some manner.

Looks like conference is going to be AWESOME and I can’t wait for Saturday morning’s presentation on social media. I hope any and all social media users/blog readers will come join us! And if you have any desire to meet up…I’m mostly around kinda late Friday night, Saturday all day, and some of Sunday morning…e-mail me at karen.dobyns,    at,    gmail.com, if you want to find a meeting spot. But I’m way cooler online just for the record. Just ask my OT classmates. AHAHAHAA

Anyway, remember last week’s post about the little boy with all the red blood writing because of the monsters eating the princess letters? It worked like a charm this week too, although with less focus on the blood. This time I had the red pen and circled the princess letters, and the main focus was him stealing all my castle guards. Basically I drew a very quick box “castle”, threw all the guards in it, and then with each princess letter he drew & monster ate, one of my guards got taken away to his dungeon. Fun times. Next week I want to work on some of his class worksheets using princess letters. I might make a mini castle guard “grid” to make it more of a real game, with dice and everything…IE that alphabet game I made on corkboard? [A real blogger would go find that post and link it….I suck]…anyway, I might play that alphabet corkboard game with dice and pushpin game pieces, but put one guard on each letter grid…oh I dunno. Then it incorporates cupping the dice, counting, etc. Just pondering out loud here. But I can see a princess/monster/handwriting board game working well. 🙂 ::stares intently at Tonya at TherapyFunZone.com:::

I also used the cardgame BLINK for the first time which I recommend for visual processing, and I tried to use the weird juggling thing Diavalo or whatever, where you have like, a double-sided goblet on a string between sticks, but it was too hard even for me! Lol I need to order some more “devil sticks”, the kids love them and mine kinda um, melted a little in the sun. Got out of shape. Google devil sticks or flower sticks or zebra sticks and see what I mean.

One little boy I work with had done a poor job, handwriting wise, on his work sheet for class….I was like….did a troll write this or did you?!! He quickly realized the correct answer was “troll” and then we worked on re-doing the worksheet, letter by letter, using the “princess letters” again as he too wanted his monster to eat them, since the other kid had talked about it. Writing is really hard for this kid so even though his letters were not TECHNICALLY that great, they were princess letters if they were better than what he normally manages!

We also played a variant of the tweezers/figurines game by having him pick up tiny figures with the tweezers, then have to place them in a cup I was holding at various heights/angles, forcing him to track me and also extend his arm, etc. We decided the cup was my HOUSE and that he was putting all those figurines (which happened to be bugs) in my house, yikes! Gross! 🙂

Oh…and I try to give everything a purpose, and label everything Mr X….ie, if my kid is trying to drop a snake, using tweezers, into my cup, and the snake falls to the ground, I say “Wow Mr Snake, how dare you try to run away.” Or if a monster tumbles down/over because it wasn’t stable, I’ll be like DID YOU SEE THAT? MR MONSTER WAS BEING SO INAPPROPRIATE! HE WAS TRYING TO STAND ON HIS HEAD! Etc. I especially try to do this with my children with autism who are quite literal…turn everything into mini dramas and stories. 🙂

One of my schools has a hammock swing outside the learning center which is nice – interesting to see different kids and their vestibular preferences. Some beg for faster faster more more, others are very cautious. I am NOT glad as a general rule that I have struggled with anxiety all my life, but I do think it makes me a better occupational therapist for the kids who are cautious/scared because I TOTALLY get it. For one little boy today, even gentle spinning is super scary, so we go twist by twist….”Okay that was 3 twists…ready for another?” Etc…Vestibular input can be very powerful and it is important to be able to tell when a child has gotten too much or is overloading, as it can cause serious shock to the nervous system. It requires constant checking in, and definitely PATIENCE too. I know if I was more “neurotypical” I’d have a hard time understanding what the big deal was. But I’m not a big fan of vestibular input either, so I totalllly get him. 🙂 So in other words…sometimes the things that suck the most about us or cause us the most grief…ultimately help us in some ways. As Laura Story says in her song Blessings….what if the trials of this life…are mercies in disguise. Or something like that. :)PS, school system OT doesn’t typically have any kind of vestibular equpiment – but this school has a lot of children who are calmed down by the swing. So I sometimes use it for a few minutes to change the child’s engine level, or to add a vestibular component to a task, but I’m not doing clinic model OT.

Okay my rambling is done. I should go work on that handout.

Post coming up soon on letter reversals and how to deal with them! 🙂

Category: Occupational Therapy | Comments: 1

23 Apr 2012

Fine Motor Coordination and Strengthening Ideas for Children Struggling with Handwriting: School OT

I did a presentation on Friday to kindergarten and first grade teachers and this is the hand-out. I don't know how to place documents on here so I am just copy-pasting the three page thing, sorry. Hope formatting doesn't screw it up too bad. I asked Tonya of TherapyFunZone.com to consider posting it there. 🙂

Occupational Therapy: Ideas for Fine Motor Centers and More!

http://pinterest.com/funkist/ot-ideas    < -- tons of fine motor craft ideas I collected

Please note that many of these activities fall under multiple categories!

Things to work on to help children improve their fine motor coordination and strength, which can help their handwriting:

·      Precision (carefully manipulating tiny objects)

o   Cut up straws, then bead onto pipe cleaners

o   Beading onto pipe cleaners or tiny strings, or through colanders

o   Placing marbles on top of golf tees that the child has stuck into Styrofoam

o   Place beads/items on skewers placed in Styrofoam in various directions

o   Stack very small blocks

o   Match a bead pattern on a skewer to another skewer (on Styrofoam)

o   “Tight rope” – have them place small items on thick taut band that has been wrapped around a box, and/or have them hold a popsicle stick in the air in one hand, and place tiny objects

o   Folding paper, ie very basic origami

·      Tripod grasp (holding items with 3 fingers, not all five)

o   Clothespins [wolves] and cotton balls [sheep] game

o   Any type of tweezers or tongs, picking up objects and transferring them [I use ice cube trays]. Ensure only using 3 fingers by giving them something to hold curled up in their last two fingers if necessary.

o   Push pins and corkboard – with supervision

·      Open web space  (“OK” sign) – look at thumb to index finger

o   Making the OK sign, pulling the OK sign apart, finger exercises

o   Picking up tiny objects using small eraser ends (those little rubber erasers you can put on the end of pencils – using those as tiny tongs!)

·      Strengthening of hands, upper arms/extremities  (strong core/arms helps with fine motor coordination)

o   Arms: Do a lot of “crawling” or “animal walks”, weight-bearing into arms, while moving from center to center or during physical education

o   Arms: Wheelbarrow walks

o   Squeeze stress balls

o   Use play-doh to roll out logs, circles, squish thin on table, etc. Also remember they love “adult” tools – cheap 50 cent putty “knives” [make sure they aren’t sharp!] at hardware store, etc

o   Stamping – make it harder by having them repeat a pattern of some sort, and or stamping into a small area for precision

o   Turkey basters/eye droppers for water to “wash” things or to melt colors etc on coffee filters

o   Tear out of a piece of an old phone book, crumble up the paper in ONE HAND with the hand in the air, then throw to “hungry shark” aka recycle bin

o   Rip paper into wading pool or tray

o   Use “tennis ball heads” (tennis balls that you put a “mouth” aka a gash on – (be REALLY careful when cutting it! I use a clamp!) Then squeeze their sides to open their mouth to feed them, then – the popular part – make them throw up. Small sizes from pet stores best for smaller hands.

o   Wrap rubber bands, or hair bands, around boxes or containers

o   Geoforms – pegboards where you stretch rubber bands to make shapes or letters

o   Place golf tees into left-over Styrofoam

·      Man
ipulating a pencil   (Twirling it in dominant hand, “walking” fingers from tip to eraser and back, and turning it over to erase using only one hand.)

o   Practice ERASING. Kids struggle with the act of turning over the pencil with one hand to erase (they either put it down and pick it back up, or use their chest, or other hand, etc) – Practice this move but also practice the act of erasure itself. IE draw a line, flip over pencil, erase. TEACH how to erase. A lot of kids don’t do it very well and need guidance.

·      Shifting items within hands  (picking up tiny items, placing into hand, then picking up the next item, etc, with 1 hand only) – I call it “squirreling”, ie storing nuts in a cheek – storing items in part of the palm)

o   Coins for piggy bank or tiny items into ice cube trays

·      Isolating fingers on command (ie show me your index finger, show me your ring finger, etc)

o   Make each finger “bow” or place fingers flat on desk, lift one at a time

o   Put a smiley face or drawing in a laundry detergent cap or on a tennis ball, then have the child use just the fingers of one hand to rotate the “face” around.

·      Directionality (up, down above, beside, etc) and lefts/rights

o   Incorporate “I Spy” and scanning games where child has to look for items by directions, ie “Look below the X”

o   Consider placing a small L and R on the children’s desks or on their hands each day with water-soluble nontoxic markers.

o   When walking places around campus, stop at turns and ask them which way to turn.

o   Great game called Left, Center, Right, for about 7 dollars you can buy at many toy stores or Target/Wal-Mart etc

·      Visual motor (using their eyes with their hands more so than in some other tasks)

o   Bendaroos/WikiStix – they can work on copying a design or writing own name or spelling words

o   Stacking up cubes of different colors/sizes then have child copy design

o   Marble/cup game, rolling across a table

o   Lacing & buttoning – big buttons are easier. Big laces too.

o   Sign language alphabet

o   Sort cards by suite

o   Balloon tapping – blow a few up, have the children keep in the air without touching ground as long as possible

·      Proprioception/tactile – knowing what their hands are doing/feeling without looking

o   Hiding objects in a bag or box game, figuring out what it is/manipulating it without looking. Start with easy discrimination such as long skinny cylinder versus fat round ball, then make more difficult as child has success

o   Moving or isolating their fingers with eyes closed

·      Cutting

o   Consider different types of scissors for struggling kids (scissors requiring less fine motor skills – ask an OT)

o   Start with snipping, cutting straws, and business cards and manila envelopes


Contact me at otstudents.blogspot.com or karen.dobyns *** at *** gmail.com  with questions. Thanks!






Category: Occupational Therapy | Comments: 7

20 Apr 2012

OT randomness..aota conference coming up, OT in schools, etc

It's been an interesting week…..I just combed the news and don't see any mention of what happened at one of my schools so I guess I don't know if I am allowed to share. Also, one of my favoritest co-workers, ever, lost her 25 year old daughter over spring break. 🙁 Very sad. That same co-worker and special ed team gave me a beautiful plant, affectionately named Leroy, for when my grandma passed away. I'm going to the funeral on Saturday. I have never met the daughter, but I love her mom.

I had shoes hurled at me, full-force, during a group session the other day by a 3rd grader…I dodged it and didn't think about it again….funny what becomes “normal” lol.

Tomorrow I am giving two 30 minute sessions (one to kindergarten teachers, one to first grade teachers) at one of my schools, to teach them cheap/easy ideas for fine motor centers. I'm working on a hand-out, when it's done I'll share it, but I can tell you a ton of the ideas can be found at www.pinterest.com/funkist/ot-ideas

Today when one of my little guys saw me in the learning resource room, his eyes lit up and he said “Miss awesomeness miss awesomeness miss awesomeness” like ten times in a row. It was so cute. I love when kids ask to work with me, or come up to ask me when they get to work with me again, etc etc. Makes me so glad. I spend a LOT of money and TIME and ENERGY thinking of new ways to entertain/teach/help my kids and I have new stuff almost constantly, so I am glad it counts for something, lol. Like right now I am doing a lot with these tiny figurines I got as well as these funky androgynous beads….gotta take some pictures. And we are working on handwriting a lot with GIANT LETTERS versus teeny tiny letters, and lately I've focused on kid's names…it drives me crazy when I see my kids who are working on their handwriting, do a good job, yet jot their name at the top sloppily all in one size (typically they are writing their name without lines, of course). So we focus on the sizing of their name, explaining the proportions when there are not borders to guide them. IE tall letters should not be same size as short letters, blah blah.

Vision therapy comes up a lot in our district…would love to hear how other districts handle requests for vision therapy (by developmental optometrists)….

This is my one-year anniversary of working in the schools….if you don't include the fact that summer vacation and breaks means it's really more like 8 months, lol. I have learned SO FREAKING MUCH in this past year and I love it. I feel so much more confident. I still have my moments and days where I get confused or frustrated or stressed or don't feel like I quite have a grasp on something, but OVERALL, I am confident in my abilities as an OT in the elementary school system (notice I'm being specific here lol). Believe it or not I am pretty insecure in general so that's a big deal for me to be able to say that!

I've been getting more and more fun new Facebook friends who I have met via this blog…I enjoy it! Thanks everyone! Can't wait for AOTA conference next week….if you are going, please let me know! I would love to meet you! I haven't put up a very recent picture lately, I guess I should so you recognize me…I no longer look like Miss OTPF on the side, lol. Oh how about this. I'm semi tall-average, have black glasses, dark brown hair with hair tinsel (sparkles), and tend to wear excessive eye make-up. I'm really only going to be there late Friday night, all day Saturday, and early Sunday, so hope I can meet lots of you guys! I want to get a ticket for AOTPAC night so I can see some karaeoke or however you spell that, especially ARMY OT GUY as I hear he is quite the singer. 😉

Alright…I'm procrastinating as always…you guys know my longest posts always come when I should be working on a report…bleh IEP meeting in the morning…..I do love the job but don't always love the paperwork!

Good night all…

Category: Occupational Therapy | Comments: 3

17 Apr 2012


So if you read the post below about princess letters, you'll see also that I discussed how we co-evolved the idea that I had guards for my imaginary castle. Some kids REALLY struggle with imagination but that little guy was not one of them. He is full of ideas. I encourage as much imagination as possible in sessions…almost anything is more fun with some imagination involved. I've talked before about just referring to the recycling bin as a hungry shark…makes it way more fun to throw crumpled paper in….even though nothing has truly changed besides the IDEA! This includes dealing with very basic tasks such as handwriting or shoe tying…..even letter writing can be a game, even shoe tying can include snakes and loop men….etc etc. Children have so little chance to evolve their imagination anymore….if they want a sword, they can buy one at a store……instead of just using a stick like we did in the olden days (when I walked barefoot both ways uphill, seeing as how I am approaching the ripe old age of 30). So…when working with kids….imagination, imagination, imagination! It will be good for you as well. You are NEVER too old to play or to imagine or to have fun. If you think you have no creativity or no imagination, guess what. I PROMISE!!! on a stack of Bibles!!! – that you do! And that I could pull it out of you. 🙂 And that there are lots of great ways to work on imagination. And that this doesn't just apply to kids…you can use the same ideas with adults, as long as you make it clear you are being playful and not condescending, while working on your meaningful activities!

Blah blah blah, stepping off my soapbox, blah blah blah. I had a personal training session today (just 30 minutes) and it made me want to barf and die. SO HARD! So now I am lying in bed, comatose. Guess tomorrow night I'll finish my AOTA conference presentation?????

Hey, for those of you who have asked me about military OT….go google Army OT guy……pretty enlightening stuff. I just finally went through and read all the FAQ etc, very intriguing! I'm presenting with him (Erik) at conference along with Anita Hamilton, Cheryl Morris, and Christopher Alterio….all awesome people. Thrilled and honored to be part of the presentation as they are all so much more accomplished than I am…they rock.

Category: Occupational Therapy | Comments: none

17 Apr 2012

Princess letters

I work with a young child who likes the idea of monsters eating princesses…and I really want him to work on handwriting (a -preferred task). 

Today we talked about how nice letters are “princess” letters and that monsters love eating them. (Monsters ignore ugly letters). I found a red dry-erase marker and we started at the beginning of the alphabet. He would draw a letter and if it was perfect (or as close to perfect as I felt he could handle), he got to have the monster eat it. Symbolized by scribbling over it with red marker.

Somehow, this co-evolved to include the idea that I had an (imaginary) castle I was guarding, as I had a bunch of small figurines in front of me we had been using earlier. So along with the monster eating it, he would get to take one of my guards to his side. I would plead “Don’t take THIS guard, he is my best starfish! I NEED him! Please draw an ugly letter so I can keep him!” He would promptly refuse and draw a beautiful letter and then gleefully take my guard. As we ran out of guards we used other things including story cube dice, pencils, etc…until we got to Z. So he had taken ALL my guards and my castle was destroyed, boo hoo. I told him next session he better do a really bad job. He just smiled and refused. 🙂

I attached the final picture. I know it’s hard with all the red, but it worked for the first time and I’ll slowly fade that away.

Category: Occupational Therapy | Comments: 1