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Early Intervention: An Occupational Therapists Point of View

May 25, 2014 in Special Education Articles by Doug Goldberg

To correctly begin this article we have to start with, " ONCE UPON A TIME”. You may new be sitting with a puzzled look on your face, but let me explain. Lets look at students A, B, and C:

Student A is a 15 year old student who's teacher is ready to fail him because of his poor handwriting.

ONCE UPON A TIME.......when the same student was 4, he was unable to keep his alphabet aligned on his wide ruled paper nor was he able to complete simple mazes. His visual motor integrational skills were not addressed when he was young and is now a hindrance to his progress.  Read the rest of this entry →

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The Language of Dyslexia: Are they speaking Spanish?

October 13, 2013 in Special Education Articles by Jess

“They cannot use RTI or an SST to delay an IEP or 504. Also are they using OG and have they requested AT and OT assessment? Lastly, what is the status of her OG tutor?”  There are a lot of things that are right with these sentences but there one thing that is glaringly wrong with it. Go back and read that sentence again and this time read it as a parent who might just be starting their journey with a child with dyslexia. How would you feel? Left out? Overwhelmed? Well, I must admit this is what I allowed to happen in one of my own IEP meetings very recently. When we adjourned the meeting and stepped outside to debrief, the dad said, “What was going on in there? Were they speaking Spanish?” Right then I knew I had failed to do part of my job. I had failed to check-in with my clients and make sure they understood what we were talking about. I failed to prepare them with a list of acronyms to refer to. I failed to make sure they understood they could pause the meeting at any time to ask for clarification. The ironic part of this story is that the dad is active military which means he speaks in acronyms all day long – and the IEP jargon was overwhelming. Don’t get me wrong, I am not taking all of the responsibility, the school side of the table (yes, I know we are supposed to be a team, but…) were equally as guilty as myself. We get into this mode of talking to each, preaching to the choir and forget how overwhelming and new this is for parents. So, to prevent this from happening again, I have listed below some commonly used terms during IEP meetings for a child with dyslexia, what they mean and how they can be misused and misunderstood and why they come up in meetings about students with dyslexia. Read the rest of this entry →

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Music, Magic and Our “Emotional Brains”

October 11, 2013 in Special Education Articles by Jess

I have long been a believer that no one therapy, and no one therapist can do it “all”.  This has become even clearer to me as I have worked with both speech and music therapists in treating children with deficits in social skills.

As occupational therapists we are acutely aware that individuals with various learning disabilities, including autism,  are often extremely sensitive to noise and that sensory overload is common.  These persons tend to often react to even the most minimal of stimuli as if they were being bombarded with multiple stimuli.

Why does this happen and what can we do to help these individuals modulate their reactions? Read the rest of this entry →

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Happiness ~ What Every Parent Wants: Mission OT

October 6, 2013 in Special Education Articles by Doug Goldberg

Every parent just wants his or her child to be “happy”.  That is their bottom line.  Therapy, academics, home life, whatever, “just makes my child happy”.  Anyone who has worked with children for any length of time has had this said to them repeatedly over and over again.

It is really not their fault.  Ingrained in the American psyche and in our Declaration of Independence is the “right to pursue happiness”. But their definition was not about stars, stickers, yellow smiley faces and such.  Jeffersonian interpretation of “happiness” had more to do with virtue, doing well within your community, good conduct and good citizenship. (Jon Meacham, Jefferson: Profile in Power)

Aristotle had it even more precise, and perhaps he might be called (stretching it a bit) the author of the foundations for the rationale of occupational therapy.  Aristotle wrote, “happiness…is at the end of action”.  Read the rest of this entry →

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Sorting Through Online Educational Training Systems

June 3, 2013 in Special Education Articles by Jess

Finding Virtual Learning Technology Answers. Parents and teachers are finding a proliferation of virtual remediation to acceleration brain training programs promising fast and optimum gains in learning reading, math, and science that are research based. It is difficult to believe these promises, as most often the program designers do not have a background in classroom implementation let alone e-Learning implementation, which is totally different form pure classroom teaching.

Many virtual learning entrepreneurs come from backgrounds of scientists and somewhat related fields to education like optometry (testing vision), psychiatry, psychology, and medicine pediatrics (medically treating the whole child, and prescribing stimulant medications). Others are business and technology product development entrepreneurs who have never worked in a classroom, and understand technology delivery parameters, but not how children/adults actually learn and retain information so that it will transfer into real life productivity. Read the rest of this entry →

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Top Ten Most Viewed Special Education Advisor Guest Articles for 2012

December 22, 2012 in Special Education Advisor Blog by Dennise Goldberg

The following is a list of the most viewed special education advisor guest articles from 2012. Thank you to all of the guest authors that have submitted articles to Special Education Advisor in 2012. The quality of articles and their content has been outstanding and we really appreciate every single submission. Without your submissions we would not be able to fulfill our mission to families with children who have special education needs. Enjoy the list: Read the rest of this entry →

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There May Be Curves in the Road to Using Technology

November 29, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

The road to using technology to support your child may not always be a straight road. I have travelled down this road as a parent.  At times I felt I wasn’t seeing any gains, only to realize the curves did lead to further progress.

There may be many curves along the way as you try to figure out what your child needs to best support them with their school work.  As a parent, this takes time and learning.  Becoming more aware of what your child needs and what best supports them will help you identify clear goals and will help you be more successful in helping your child.

As parents, we need to empower ourselves by developing a plan: Read the rest of this entry →

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Holiday Toy List for Infants

November 19, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

Shopping season for the holidays is approaching fast.  Parents (and my own family members and friends) keep asking, what are the best toys to give to their child.  When choosing toys for children it is best to see what a child is currently capable of doing and what skills are emerging rather than using strict age guidelines.  Below you will find a few great toys for infants in different developmental stages over their first year.  Each toy has characteristics to match a child’s developmental stage of physical, intellectual, and/or social development.

During the first few months, a child’s “purpose” in play is all about sensation – to see, hear, touch, smell, and mouth.  An infant’s motor skills include following objects with their eyes, responding to sounds by turning their head, or grasping an object when put into their hand.  They are interested in people’s faces and voices.  Visual acuity is in the early stages of development and studies show that newborns prefer high contrasting colors (black & white patterns) but it is good to expose them to more subtle objects, like your face and eyes and their own little hands and feet.  Babies are born with a more developed sense of hearing versus sight.  They respond to familiar voices and are soothed by rhythmic sounds that mimic sounds they were exposed to in the womb, like a mother’s heart beat.  A newborn’s sense of touch is especially developed at birth, particularly around the mouth. As adults, we notice that babies put almost everything in their mouths.  This oral seeking behavior is not necessarily an infant’s response to teething, it is often the baby’s way of exploring or a means to self soothe.

Three great toys for this early infancy stage are:


Mirrors such as the Sassy Crib and Floor Mirror

Board books full of high contrast patterns like Look, Look! by Peter Linenthal

Manhattan Toys make a few great toys that are easy for small hands to grasp such as the Whoozit, which also has high contrasting patterns, little noise makers, and different fabric textures.

By four to six months more gross motor skills begin to develop like propping themselves up on their arms, placing objects in their mouth, reaching to grab objects, kicking their legs, and sitting upright.

There are a variety of activity mats out there, such as ones made by Baby Einstein, that are great for tummy time and placing toys on the arcs for the baby to reach for or kick when lying on their back. The positioning of the hanging objects can be adjusted depending on how you want to stimulate these developing motor skills.

Sophie la Girafe is a big crowd pleaser!  She is easy to hold onto, safe to chew, visually stimulating with her dark contrasting spots, has a distinct sweet smell, and squeaks when squeezed.

While seeking out sensations will continue to guide play throughout infancy, within a few months an infant is stimulated by starting to learn the relationship between an action and it’s effect.  There are many “cause-effect” toys that will stimulate motor and intellectual skills.  As infants become more physically active you will begin to see higher level gross motor skills develop like sitting with better balance and maybe reaching outside of their base of support, pushing up onto their hands and knees and starting to crawl, pulling to stand, cruising furniture, and walking. Their fine motor and object manipulation skills become more refined, as they move on from earlier stages of mouthing, shaking, and swiping at toys to using their fingers to poke at, push, or pick up small objects.  Socially, they start to interact more meaningfully, show humor by laughing and in anticipation, and initiate play activities (show and give objects to adult).

Here is a wider variety of toys to meet an infant’s developing skills at these later infancy stages:


Toy Smith’s Wiggly Giggly Ball

Playskool Busy Poppin’ Pals

Playskool Busy Ball Popper

Fisher Price Star Stacker is an all time favorite of mine for new independent sitters.

V-Tech’s Sit-to-Stand Learning Walker this activity center grows with your child from sitting to standing and taking his or her first steps.


Blocks are a simple and fantastic toy for all these stages of development.  Beyond developing motor skills and eye-hand coordination to stack them, they have a cause-effect and natural social component where you build and baby knocks down causing lots of reactions and laughs!

Two suggested options for infant block play are:

B. One Two Squeeze Blocks  and IQ Baby Knock-Knock Blocks

There are so many great toys out there and these are just a few of my favorites based on all my years working with infants…and being an Aunt that loves to buy great gifts!

Enjoy & happy shopping!

Sari Ockner, OTR/L received her degree in Occupational Therapy at from the University of Wisconsin – Madison in 1998, in their extended Occupational Therapy program with an emphasis in her fieldwork studies in the scope of pediatrics. Sari began her practice in New York City and is currently living and practicing in the Los Angeles area. She has over 13 years of experience working with children with a variety of special needs in school, clinic, and home-based settings. Sari is certified in Sensory Integration Theory and Practice (SIPT) and specializes in handwriting and child development.Follow Sari on Facebook at Kidz Occupational Therapy or on Twitter at Sari_KidzOT for on-going information to support children in school, at home, and in the community. For further information visit : www.KidzOccupationalTherapy.com

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Benefits of Yoga for Children with Special Needs

September 2, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

Occupational therapists help children with special needs build the underlying skills necessary to promote their success and independence in daily activities.  This includes building their physical strength and endurance, while regulating their activity level, behavior, and emotions.  Additionally, occupational therapy facilitates and feeds each child’s creativity and imagination.

Now lets talk yoga.

If you are a yoga enthusiast, such as myself, you can likely already imagine all the benefits of incorporating yoga into a child’s life.  I have recently been trained and certified by Shana Meyerson, owner of mini yogis®, to teach yoga to children.  I have started to incorporate yoga activities within my typical OT sessions, and WOW, not only do the children love it but I clearly see progress in each child with a few simple additions to what we were already doing. Read the rest of this entry →

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XXX Syndrome: early learning and sensory developmental implications

August 15, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

This rare but potentially devastating condition affects girls born to older mothers.  And as we as OT’s working in schools and preschools have already observed, many of our “first time moms” are often in their late thirties and early forties.

It is not a given that all older moms give birth to children with issues.  But in the case of XXX Syndrome that is one of the prominent factors.  XXX Syndrome is characterized by the presence of an additional X chromosome in each cell of female children/fetus.  If the extra X chromosome occurs only in some of the cells it is called a mosaic, and has less developmental impact.  It is not an inherited condition and usually occurs during conception and is related to a delayed or incomplete splitting of the egg during fertilization.  Occurrence is about 1 in 1,000. Read the rest of this entry →

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