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Visual tracking is a skill kids need for reading, handwriting, and learning! Visual tracking activities can help kids strengthen this visual processing skill and in easy and fun ways. We made a Visual Tracking Tool that is an easy DIY occupational therapy activity. It is super easy to make and fun to play with, making it a great way to work on visual tracking skills.  We shared an easy way to practice visual tracking with bottle caps not too long ago, and this visual tracking tool will be another creative way for you to work on visual tracking abilities in handwriting, reading, and math number line use.


Full Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.


What is Visual Tracking?

When there are concerns with reading, writing, copying written work, and other issues related to visual processing concerns, understanding what visual tracking means can be an important place to start. 


We explained a lot about what visual tracking means here.  Visual pursuits are often referred to as visual tracking.  When an object moves across a person’s field of vision, their eye movements maintain fixation.  Visual tracking occurs when a person’s eyes move along a line in a smooth and accurate manner. When a person moves their eyes, there are two types of eye movements that they use to gather information.  


Visual pursuits (tracking) and saccadic eye movements (scanning).  Visual tracking can occur with just the eyes moving or the eyes and head in a combined manner.  Visual tracking depends a lot on visual attention and fatigue.


Here is more detailed information on saccades and how they impact learning.


Signs of Visual Tracking Problems

A child with visual tracking difficulties might see show of these problems in daily tasks:
Loses place when reading.
Must use finger to keep their place when reading or when copying a line of text.
Skips lines or words often when reading and copying in handwriting.
Poor reading comprehension.
Short attention span.
Moves head excessively when reading.


Homemade Visual Tracking Tool for Bilateral Integration

Using this easy tracking tool requires coordinated movements of both hands together, in coordination with the eyes.  integrated movements of both arms and crossing midline is important for laterality and directionality.  These are areas needed in writing and reading letters and numbers without reversals.


This visual tracking tool is a great way to practice smooth pursuits of a brightly colored object as it moves in a line across a visual field.






To make your Visual Tracking Tool, you’ll need just a few items:
Drinking Straw

scissors
Wooden Skewer

Clay
(We used a single color, but you could use two different colors to extend the use of this tracking tool.  Read more below.)


How to make a Visual Tracking Activity

Cut a small piece from the straw.  Thread it onto the skewer.  Roll a ball of clay and press it onto both ends of the skewer.  Done! You can allow the clay to harden, or use it as is.



How to use this Visual Tracking Tool:


  • Practice smooth visual pursuit by tilting the skewer from side to side and asking your child to follow the straw with their eyes.
  • Allow your child to use the tracking tool and ask them to follow the straw with their eyes.
  • Use the tracking tool in math by placing it along a number line.  Tilt the skewer from side to side and when the straw stops at a number, ask your child to name the number.  You can extend this activity by asking them to add or subtract numbers that the straw stops.
  • Align the tracking tool under a number line and use the straw as a movable placeholder while the child counts out addition and subtraction problems on the number line.
  • Use the tracking tool in reading by placing the skewer under a line of text.  Move the straw along the length of the skewer as the child reads the words in the sentence.


Other ways to use this visual tracking tool:


  • Hold the skewer up horizontally in front of the child.  Ask them to look quickly from one clay ball to the other.  You can use different colored clay for each end and say “red” for red clay and “blue” for blue clay as they shift their eyes from the red end to the blue end.  
  • Then, hold the skewer vertically and ask your child to quickly look from the top ball to the bottom ball.  
  • Finally, hold the skewer in a diagonal position and ask them to quickly look from one ball to the other. 
See it in action here:

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You will love these visual tracking activities
These Visual Tracking Games and activities are a big hit in therapy or at home. Use them as part of an occupational therapy home program or in therapy planning.
Visual Tracking Resources
For more information and specific activities that can address visual attention in fun and meaningful ways, grab the Visual Processing Bundle. In it, you will find 17 digital products, ebooks, workbooks, and guides to addressing various aspects of visual processing, including visual attention. The bundle is valued at over $97 dollars for these products, and includes over 235 pages of tools, activities, resources, informaton, and strategies to address visual processing needs.

For one week, the visual processing bundle is on sale at $29.99. Grab the Visual Processing Bundle HERE.


The post Super Simple Visual Tracking Tool appeared first on The OT Toolbox.

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When working with sensory kids and their families, one of the number one questions that is asked is—is this a sensory meltdown or a tantrum? It’s often hard to tell the difference between the two, and takes some detective work to figure out which one it is. Determining if a sensory meltdown is occurring is especially difficult because sensory thresholds for these children can vary day to day. So often we hear, “Is it sensory or a behavior” that is causing an action in a child. Here are the clues to help you discern the difference.

For more information on sensory processing, you’ll want to grab our free sensory processing disorder information packet. This is a handy printable designed to better understand SPD and what that looks like in our kids.

Behaviors of Sensory Meltdowns and Tantrums Look Similar

The challenge in determining whether behaviors are the result of a sensory meltdown or a tantrum, is that the child’s behaviors in both instances, are usually the same.

Behaviors that are observed during both a sensory meltdown and a tantrum may include:
• Screaming
• Hitting
• Kicking
• Name calling
• Hiding or avoidance
• Crying

The difference between a meltdown and tantrum however, can be often times, be found in the events prior to the behaviors.

For information on sensory play ideas, you’ll find a lot here on The OT Toolbox.

Tantrums

Tantrums are usually in response to the child not receiving a want/desire out of a situation, or not achieving a goal as they had planned. In these instances behaviors typically occur for an audience, and may cease when the child has achieved their goal. This may be a way of testing boundaries with the authority figure in the situation.

Tantrums can usually be resolved with consequences, reminders of the boundaries, removal from the situation, or distraction to the upset child. Children are also not typically emotionally drained after a tantrum and can resume their routine with ease. This is not necessarily the case when a sensory meltdown occurs.

Sensory Meltdowns

Sensory Meltdowns are the result of sensory overload, and reaction to the big feelings that overloads cause.

When in the throes of the sensory meltdown, the child is not able to control their reactions, behaviors, or emotions.  These episodes may also leave the child inconsolable, even when distraction or preferred items are offered, or even when the parent ‘gives’ into what the child is demanding.

 Meltdowns may appear happen without a trigger, or may be in response to an event that seems otherwise innocuous to the parent.

The main clue that the behaviors the child is exhibiting is sensory meltdown related is that the behavior does not achieve a want, need or goal.

In the case of a sensory meltdown, having a set of strategies available through use of a sensory diet can help with sensory overload, big feelings, and reactions.

Clues a Behavior is a Sensory Meltdown

• Reaction to event, feeling or overload of sensory input
• Is not to achieve a want, need, or goal
• Continues even without an audience
• Ends only when the child has calmed down and the feelings are out
• The child is very tired after the meltdown or appears ‘spent’
• The child may feel embarrassment or shame as a result of their actions—typically this is seen in older children.

These signs can show up at home, in the community, or in the classroom. Here are strategies for using a sensory diet in the classroom.

What can Trigger a Sensory Meltdown? 

Sometimes, we can see a meltdown coming, and other times it seems to hit out of the blue. This is particularly true of children who are a little bit older, and understand what is acceptable and what is not. Because of this, parent’s often report that their children do GREAT at school, and then lose it at home.

Some clues that it might be a meltdown include: 

• Being over tired or hungry
• Illness or general unwellness—allergies can be a trigger to this sense of general unwellness. This may include food allergies or sensitivities.
• “Holding it together” for long periods of time—going to school, camp, play dates, etc.
• Change in routines—extra day off of school, vacation, or parent traveling. Essentially, anything outside of the child’s daily routine being off may result in a sensory overload and meltdown.

It may take several hours, or several days before a meltdown occurs as a result of these triggers. As a result, it can appear as though there is no cause for the meltdown until the events prior to the event are examined. If you go back far enough into the past few days, a trigger is usually able to be found.

Whether it’s a tantrum, or a meltdown, behavior is a direct form of communication from kids to adults about what is going on in their life. Knowing the difference between the two can lead to recognition of triggers and patterns, implementation of prevention strategies and successful emotional recovery in both situations.

Tools for Sensory Meltdowns

The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook is a guidebook in strategies to help with sensory meltdowns. Taking the specific and individualized activities that make up a Sensory Diet and transitioning them into a lifestyle of sensory modifications, strategies, and techniques is a Sensory Lifestyle!

This book is for therapists, parents, teachers, or anyone who works with kids with sensory needs.

If you struggle with creating a sensory diet that WORKS…
If you are tired of trying sensory tools that just don’t seem to fit within a child’s busy day…
If you are overwhelmed and don’t know where to start with understanding sensory processing…
If you are a therapist struggling to set up sensory programs that are carried out and followed through at home and in the classroom…
If you are a teacher looking for help with regulation, attention, or sensory meltdowns and need ideas that mesh within the classroom schedule…
If you are looking for sensory techniques that kids WANT to use…
If you are striving to create a sensory lifestyle that meets the needs of a child and family…

The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook is for you!

The post Sensory Meltdown or Tantrum: Which one is it? appeared first on The OT Toolbox.

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Here on The OT Toolbox, we’ve had a Sensory Processing Disorder information packet available for a long time. The booklet is a free handout that offers an understanding on sensory processing concerns. It’s a handout that can be used to advocate for sensory needs and is one of our top sensory processing resources here on the site. I’m excited to say that this booklet has been translated into Spanish! Below, you will find a Spanish resource on Sensory Processing that can be used by therapists working with Spanish-speaking clients and families.

 
Sensory Processing Disorder Resource in Spanish
Sensory processing resources in Spanish can be hard to come by. For the client working in the Spanish-speaking community or for those looking for resources for their caseload, having a go-to booklet can make all the difference. Therapists need resources that don’t take time to create while supporting the clients they serve. 
 
This booklet can be used to help and educate adults with sensory processing concerns too. ,
 
Many times, therapists use conversational Spanish, but a sensory resource translated into Spanish would be an asset to their therapy toolbox. The specific terms used in describing and understanding SPD and the sensory systems can be tricky to portray in translation.
 
 
This Spanish Sensory Processing information booklet is perfect for the therapist needing resources to educate parents and teachers.

You’ll find information on sensory processing, including each of the sensory systems and how these sensory systems present when sensory processing is a challenge. You’ll find each sensory system covered on its own page, including interoception, vestibular sense, tactile sense, and proprioception…all of which are big topics and can be difficult to portray in translating sensory information during occupational therapy sessions.

Pages in the sensory processing information booklet are easy to read and broken own by sensory system. For the full printable booklet, scroll below to enter your email.

 
 
In this sensory resource, you’ll find each of the sensory systems broken down and information telling how the sensory systems are related to behaviors, actions, and specific needs that we see. This resource is a powerful way to get the information across! 
Occupational Therapy Resources in Spanish
Let me know if this resource is helpful to you! Would you be interested in more Occupational Therapy resources in Spanish?
 
Free Sensory Processing Disorder Booklet in SPANISH!
Enter your email to get this resource. You’ll also get the weekly OT Toolbox newsletter, loaded with resources. Unsubscribe at any time.
 
 
 
 
 

Click here to get the booklet.

We won’t send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.

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HUGE Sensory Resource


When saying “calm down” just isn’t enough…

When a child is easily “triggered” and seems to melt down at any sign of loud noises or excitement…

When you need help or a starting point to teach kids self-regulation strategies…

When you are struggling to motivate or redirect a child without causing a meltdown…

When you’re struggling to help kids explore their emotions, develop self-regulation and coping skills, manage and reflect on their emotions, identify their emotions, and more as they grow…




A one-stop shop of sensory resources and tools is the way to go. The Super Sensory Bundle is back but only for a few more days. It’s got games, activites, tools, and resources for therapists, teachers, parents, and anyone working with kids. 

In the bundle, you’ll find 50+ sensory products created by experienced therapists and professionals. These can all be downloaded and used over and over again as part of your therapy toolbox when addressing fine motor skills, executive functioning, coping strategies, self-regulation, emotional regulation, sensory processing needs, self-regulation and emotional regulation, gross motor skills, and more. Get the Super Sensory Bundle while it’s still available. 
 
 

 
 

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If there’s one thing that is certain, it’s that we are ALL “sensory”! So often, therapists or teachers hear the term “sensory” in the classrooms and clinics. The term sensory can sometimes be used as a noun to describe a child or behaviors that are a result of sensory processing needs. Today, I wanted to offer a handful of sensory memes that can help us to better understand that we are all sensory creatures. It’s the way we are wired as humans! 

While there definitely are behaviors and actions that are connected or as a result of unmet sensory needs or in direct relation to an unregulated sensory system, sometimes the word “sensory” is just that. A word. So, let’s celebrate the sensory beings that we all are with a few sensory memes!

Sensory Memes
The sensory memes here are part of a Celebrating Sensory …celebration! If you would like a file with these memes delivered right to your inbox, scroll to the bottom of this post. You can get them as well as two sensory processing disorder packets for celebrating and advocating for sensory processing. They are free downloads for you! 
We are all “Sensory”
Here’s the thing: we are ALL sensory! We all have ways that we keep ourselves regulated whether it’s by taking a deep breath when you’re feeling stressed, or by getting up and pacing during a phone call. You’ve seen so many forms of self-regulation in action: 
  • Clicking a pen during a meeting
  • Quickly tapping a toe or wiggling one leg
  • Stretching
  • Taking a moment to take a deep breath and refresh
  • Needing to step away and sip cold water
  • Naps!
Sensory regulation comes in all forms. And, sensory processing needs can be met in so many ways. We are all different and in that, comes so many means of self-regulating. 
For our kids who struggle with regulation, yes; The term “sensory” applies. But, we are ALL sensory!

For ideas to add sensory input into everyday play, try these sensory play ideas.

For information on sensory diets, we’ve got a lot here on The OT Toolbox. This article on What is a Sensory Diet can get you started.

HUGE Sensory Resource



When saying “calm down” just isn’t enough…

When a child is easily “triggered” and seems to melt down at any sign of loud noises or excitement…

When you need help or a starting point to teach kids self-regulation strategies…

When you are struggling to motivate or redirect a child without causing a meltdown…

When you’re struggling to help kids explore their emotions, develop self-regulation and coping skills, manage and reflect on their emotions, identify their emotions, and more as they grow…




A one-stop shop of sensory resources and tools is the way to go. The Super Sensory Bundle is back but only for a few more days. It’s got games, activites, tools, and resources for therapists, teachers, parents, and anyone working with kids. 

In the bundle, you’ll find 50+ sensory products created by experienced therapists and professionals. These can all be downloaded and used over and over again as part of your therapy toolbox when addressing fine motor skills, executive functioning, coping strategies, self-regulation, emotional regulation, sensory processing needs, self-regulation and emotional regulation, gross motor skills, and more. Get the Super Sensory Bundle while it’s still available. 

Celebrate ability and kindness. Our kids are capable. Let’s power them by telling them.

You are strong, capable, loved, and so much more!
Celebrate what makes us different!

Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations.
Want to get these memes as a free download? These pics AND our Sensory Processing Disorder Booklet and the NEW Spanish version of the Sensory Processing Disorder Booklet are available in a massive printable file. Print off the booklets to start advocating for sensory processing today. Simply print and hand out! The memes can be used on social media. 
Grab them by entering your email below. If you are using a school system’s email or an email on a .us, .edu, .gov or other email on a large system, the email delivering these files may be blocked as the email contains a file to download. You may want to enter a personal email address here to ensure delivery. For any issues with accessing these files, simply email contact@www.theottoolbox.com

Celebrate Sensory with memes and advocacy packets!
Enter your email to get these freebies.

    Click here.

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    Below, you will find a free printable calendar that is an awesome resource to add to your therapy planner. Use the planning calendar to dream up and create an action plan for occupational therapy themes during the upcoming school year. This therapy planner is perfect for school-based OTs, but it can certainly be used in clinics or in homes, too!

    Free Therapy Planner

    During the summer months, many therapists start thinking ahead to planning therapy activities for the next school year. I know, I know. Summer just started. Some of us still have a car trunk full of hanging files, worksheets, a therapy ball, and pencil cases full of pencil grips. Is it really time to start thinking about planning for back to school?

    We are right on the brink of a new school year and you’ll soon be gearing up for another year in the clinic or classroom!

    Therapy Planning Calendar

    For the new school year, I have included a fun bonus to this post that you will find below. It is an editable Theme Therapy Calendar for the upcoming school year.  Sometimes weekly themes can help you stay motivated AND make your life easier as a therapist while helping to keep children engaged in therapy activities from week to week.

    Enter your email address below to get the free printable therapy planning calendar. Use it as a guide to schedule and plan themed occupational therapy activities throughout the school year. You’ll also get a blank therapy planning calendar so you can fill in special themes that may go along with your school’s calendar or planned activities.

    Get the Therapy Planning Calendar
    You’ll also receive our weekly OT resource email.

      Get it HERE.

      We won’t send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.

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100%;-ms-flex:1 0 100%;flex:1 0 100%;}.formkit-form[data-uid=”cc091e4e23″][min-width~=”600″] [data-style=”minimal”]{padding:40px;}.formkit-form[data-uid=”cc091e4e23″][min-width~=”600″] .formkit-fields[data-stacked=”false”]{margin-left:-5px;margin-right:-5px;}.formkit-form[data-uid=”cc091e4e23″][min-width~=”600″] .formkit-fields[data-stacked=”false”] .formkit-field,.formkit-form[data-uid=”cc091e4e23″][min-width~=”600″] .formkit-fields[data-stacked=”false”] .formkit-submit{margin:0 5px 15px 5px;}.formkit-form[data-uid=”cc091e4e23″][min-width~=”600″] .formkit-fields[data-stacked=”false”] .formkit-field{-webkit-flex:100 1 auto;-ms-flex:100 1 auto;flex:100 1 auto;}.formkit-form[data-uid=”cc091e4e23″][min-width~=”600″] .formkit-fields[data-stacked=”false”] .formkit-submit{-webkit-flex:1 1 auto;-ms-flex:1 1 auto;flex:1 1 auto;}
      Have fun planning out activities for this year’s therapy sessions!

      The post Therapy Planner for the Upcoming School Year appeared first on The OT Toolbox.

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      Kids develop hand skills through play as they discover what they can do with their hands in their environment. Hand dominance occurs naturally through this discovery and play. You may have heard the terms Crossdominance or hand confusion in a therapy report. This mixed dominance may present in a child’s motor actions when they favors one hand for some tasks and the other hand for others. Hand dominance and establishment of a preferred hand in activities refines motor skills and allows for more skilled movements.


      But what happens when those two-handed activities do not transition to preferred use of one hand over the other?  At a certain point, kids begin to show hand dominance in functional tasks as their motor skills develop.  A child begins to show laterality of their hands in functional tasks as one side of their brain gains dominance and allows the child to prefer use of one hand over the other. Other kids show a mixed dominance and use both of their hands in activities. Wondering where to begin or how to know what is typical in development? Read on!





      Development of Hand Dominance

      Kids switching hands in an activity? Maybe you are seeing a child use one hand for some activities and their other hand for other activities. Still other children may use both hands interchangeably. Development of hand dominance can be established at different rates. 


      True hand dominance can develop as late as 8 or 9 years of age, but typically children begin to demonstrate preferred use of one hand over the other at 2.5 to 3 years.  


      Sometimes, however, kids switch hands. They might use one hand for some tasks, and the other for other tasks.  They might equally use hands in activities like handwriting, scissor skills, brushing teeth, or swinging a bat. 


      Why does this mixed dominance occur and why is it important for kids to establish a preferred hand?




      Why is hand dominance important?

      Hand preference has been associated with various difficulties. When using an established hand in activities is a problem (or kids swap hands), there can be other issues occuring. These may include trouble with bilateral coordination, using both hands together at the midline, and crossing midline.

      Other concerns related to using both hands interchangeably can include: 


      Fine Motor Skills- Think about it this way: when a child cuts with scissors, they use one hand to hold the paper and the other hand to manipulate and move the scissors. As they develop in this skill, they are able to cut paper and shapes with more precision. They can cut progressively more detailed and more complex shapes. The child that switches hands when cutting with scissors may struggle to progress with refine and precise motor actions. 


      Similarly, the nondominant hand becomes more reliable in its ability to be a stable and sturdy assist in tasks like cutting with scissors, holding a ruler, or writing with a pencil. 


      Mixed handedness can impact handwriting too. In the same manner, any functional task can be impacted by mixed dominance.



      What is Laterality?

      Lateralization refers to the brain’s ability to control the two sides of the body.  Each hemisphere of the brain controls different tasks and functions.  When a child shows difficulties with laterality, they might switch objects between the two hands in functional tasks.  As a child grows, they are challenged to become more efficient with tools in school.


      3 Quick Tips to improve hand dominance



      These are easy ways to work on hand dominance in kids who switch hands during tool use.  They might have trouble identifying left or right on themselves, which makes direction following difficult.  Try these activities to work on hand dominance:


      1. Play the “Show Me” game– Ask the child to “show me how you brush your hair.”  The child can demonstrate with an imaginary brush how they would brush their hair.  By using imaginary brush, the child does not have to worry about picking up the tool.  They will automatically brush without thinking about it.  As the child pretends to brush their hair, the adult can point out which hand they are using.  Putting a name to the hand alerts the child to which hand they are using.  You can then use this information to help the child remember which hand they use in functional tasks.  (“Hold the pencil with the hand you brush your hair with.”)

      Continue this game with other “Show Me” tasks:

      • Show me how you brush your teeth.
      • Show me how you hold a pencil.
      • Show me how you paint a picture.
      • Show me how you hold scissors.

      2. Play Simon Says– Encourage a lot of handedness activities during the game:

      • Simon Says put your right hand in your pocket.
      • Simon Says scratch your leg with your left hand.
      • Simon Says stomp your right leg.
      • Simon Says take two steps to the left.


      When playing, you can add a rubber band to the child’s right hand. Tell them and show them that the rubber band is on their RIGHT hand. After playing with successful lateralization, remove the rubber band.


      3. Using masking tape, create floor maps. Make a large square shape on the floor and as the child walks through the maze, have the child stop at the corners and tell you if they have to turn right or left. 

      Continue practicing these games and activities with less verbal and visual prompts.  Let me know if you try these ideas at home.








      More ways to practice hand dominance with kids:


      The post Hand Dominance Activities 3 Simple Tips appeared first on The OT Toolbox.

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      The Zones of Regulation program is a self-regulation tool to help kids identify, address, and use strategies to achieve self-control and emotional regulation in a non-judgmental and safe way. Using interactive zones of regulation activities can be helpful for kids who struggle with self-regulation. Here, you will find zones of regulation strategies and tips to work on self-regulation of emotions through fun and interactive activities. These are DIY Zones activities that you can make as part of your occupational therapy treatment and can be used over and over again!

      Zones of Regulation Activities

      Activities to support emotional regulation and coping skills can come in many forms. There are zones of regulation posters, worksheets, self-regulation checks, zones of regulation games, and even cootie catchers. All of these regulation tools are strategies to help kids become more aware of their self in order to function. Let’s break it down further…

      What is self-regulation? 

      Well, let’s break it down.  Self means you or me.  Regulation means the process of being in control or to have management. So, add these two terms together and you get, self-regulation which means you or me being in control and having management of ourselves.

      Self-regulation is a skill that many children have a difficult time learning and achieving without help. In a given day, a child (and an adult) encounters multiple situations and circumstances that require an awareness of self and others as well as the ability to have or gain self-control.

      Generally speaking, a child should achieve an optimal level of self-awareness and mindfulness to identify their inner feelings and emotions and be ready to regulate themselves when the time comes. They need to learn strategies and techniques that work for them to assist them in leaving a less optimal level in order to get back to a “ready-to-go” level of regulation.

      Self-regulation Curriculums

      There are many curriculums, programs and interventions that can assist a child (and adult) to learn the skills necessary to achieve emotional regulation fit for every situation, circumstance, and environment.

      Amazon affiliate links are included below.

      Many programs, curriculums or interventions are created by occupational therapy professionals e.g., Zones of Regulation, The Alert Program, Test Drive, The Sensory Connection, and a new program called, The Regulation Rocket.

      Recently, at our clinic, we have begun to focus on and use the Zones of Regulation program as this program is what most of our children use in their schools and homes.  This program helps kiddos to identify, address and use strategies to achieve good self-control and emotional regulation in a non-judgmental and safe way. Using the zones helps to take the focus off of the child as being “good” or “bad” and places the focus on obtaining control to get back to the “green zone.”

      So, what is the Zones of Regulation do you ask? 

      Well, in brief summation, it is a curriculum or framework created by an occupational therapist, Leah Kuypers, which is designed to help a child navigate their sometimes confusing emotions. The curriculum helps a child to achieve self-regulation and emotional control by gaining skills in self-control and problem-solving based on targeted zones that are identified with colors.

      These zones help a child recognize, categorize, and communicate their feelings or emotions based on a specific zone. This makes the program an effective and fluid tool for a child to understand, learn, and achieve without feeling judged or different.

      Let’s quickly review the zones so you can have a better understanding of the reason behind my fun tool creations. I designed these tools for individual children to help them better understand and navigate their emotions while identifying strategies that help them shift from a less desirable zone to a more calm and focused zone, which is better for participating and learning at school, home, church, and in therapy.

      What do the Colors in the Zones of Regulation Program Mean?

      The Red Zone is an extremely heightened state of alertness with intense emotions and is typically viewed as the child being “out-of-control.” Examples include: elation, rage, anger, devastation, etc.

      The Yellow Zone is entering a heightened state of alertness and elevated emotions typically viewed as heading toward the red zone, but the child still has some control. Examples include: nervousness, wiggly/silly, frustration, excitement, etc.

      The Green Zone is the optimal level of alertness and is typically viewed as the child being “good to go” and ready for leaning and social interactions. Examples include: positive, calm, happy, focused, content, etc.

      The Blue Zone is a low level of alertness typically viewed as the child running slow. Examples include: sick, bored, tired, sad, etc.

      Fun Zones of Regulation Activities

      What is the best part about the fun tools I created?  YOU can create them and use them with most any regulation program based on the programs framework.

      How can you use zones of regulation activities to improve self-regulation? 

      Look at the fun tools I created and take the general structure and design to build essential tools to go with whatever program you may be utilizing in therapy, the classroom, or at home.

      1. Zones Pocket Play for Emotions and Coping Strategies 

      In this zones activity, kids can make the tools they need to work on self-regulation. Have kiddos fold file folders to create a pocket on the bottom. Trim off the edges. Use hot glue to turn the large pocket into four sections (red, yellow, green, and blue). Color and label the sections based on zones. Have kiddos label craft sticks with either emotions or coping strategies and insert into the correct pockets.

      This Zones Pocket Play for Emotions and Coping Strategies Folders can be used in the home or classroom.

      2. Zone Check-In Tube 

      Have kiddos paint or wrap colored tape around paper towel tubes according to the zone colors. If painting, wait to dry. Follow up with kiddos writing emotion words or even drawing emotion facial expressions onto the matching tube color. Place a hair band onto the tube to roll up and down as needed to perform check-ins with children throughout the day.

      3. Zone Check-In Frame 

      Hot glue colored craft sticks according to zone colors (red, yellow, green and blue) to create a square frame and then have child write the zone title on one side and zone emotion words on the other side OR have child write zone emotion words on one side and coping strategies on the other side. Place a clothespin onto the frame to clip as needed to perform check-ins with children throughout the day. This tool can also be used to teach and review while learning the program zones as well.

      4. Zone Grab Bag Game

      Have kiddos create an emotion identification grab bag game. This can be done in differentiated ways:

      • Draw emotional expressions as faces on matching color dot stickers and place on bottle caps (for younger children).
      • Simply draw emotional facial expressions on bottle caps directly with a black marker (for older children).
      • Draw emotional facial expressions on plastic spoons with matching colored markers (for younger children).
      • Draw emotional facial expressions on plastic spoons with a black marker (for older children).

      Once these are created, toss only the caps or only the spoons into a grab bag or simply toss them all into one bag.

      When children grab a cap or spoon from the bag, they decide which colored mat they belong on to identify the correct emotion and zone.

      Zones of Regulation Activities at home and at school

      Now that you know the simple materials you need, go ahead and make these fun and easy tools to help your kiddos learn emotional regulation and self-control to help them succeed in their daily lives so they can feel good and remain cool. Kiddos will enjoy the interactive components and you’ll see learning and regulation evolve! They can be used at home or in the school environment. Some of these can even go on-the-go when out and about in the community!

      This post was written by The OT Toolbox contributor, Regina Allen. Read about Regina in her Contributor Author Spotlight.



      The post Zones of Regulation Activities appeared first on The OT Toolbox.

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      Visual tracking is a skill kids need for reading, handwriting, and learning! Visual tracking activities can help kids strengthen this visual processing skill and in easy and fun ways. We made a Visual Tracking Tool that is an easy DIY occupational therapy activity. It is super easy to make and fun to play with, making it a great way to work on visual tracking skills.  We shared an easy way to practice visual tracking with bottle caps not too long ago, and this visual tracking tool will be another creative way for you to work on visual tracking abilities in handwriting, reading, and math number line use.



      Full Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.



      What is Visual Tracking?

      When there are concerns with reading, writing, copying written work, and other issues related to visual processing concerns, understanding what visual tracking means can be an important place to start. 


      We explained a lot about what visual tracking means here.  Visual pursuits are often referred to as visual tracking.  When an object moves across a person’s field of vision, their eye movements maintain fixation.  Visual tracking occurs when a person’s eyes move along a line in a smooth and accurate manner. When a person moves their eyes, there are two types of eye movements that they use to gather information.  


      Visual pursuits (tracking) and saccadic eye movements (scanning).  Visual tracking can occur with just the eyes moving or the eyes and head in a combined manner.  Visual tracking depends a lot on visual attention and fatigue.


      Here is more detailed information on saccades and how they impact learning.


      Signs of Visual Tracking Problems

      A child with visual tracking difficulties might see show of these problems in daily tasks:
      Loses place when reading.
      Must use finger to keep their place when reading or when copying a line of text.
      Skips lines or words often when reading and copying in handwriting.
      Poor reading comprehension.
      Short attention span.
      Moves head excessively when reading.



      Homemade Visual Tracking Tool for Bilateral Integration

      Using this easy tracking tool requires coordinated movements of both hands together, in coordination with the eyes.  integrated movements of both arms and crossing midline is important for laterality and directionality.  These are areas needed in writing and reading letters and numbers without reversals.


      This visual tracking tool is a great way to practice smooth pursuits of a brightly colored object as it moves in a line across a visual field.








      To make your Visual Tracking Tool, you’ll need just a few items:
      Drinking Straw

      scissors
      Wooden Skewer

      Clay
      (We used a single color, but you could use two different colors to extend the use of this tracking tool.  Read more below.)




      How to make a Visual Tracking Activity

      Cut a small piece from the straw.  Thread it onto the skewer.  Roll a ball of clay and press it onto both ends of the skewer.  Done! You can allow the clay to harden, or use it as is.




      How to use this Visual Tracking Tool:



      • Practice smooth visual pursuit by tilting the skewer from side to side and asking your child to follow the straw with their eyes.
      • Allow your child to use the tracking tool and ask them to follow the straw with their eyes.
      • Use the tracking tool in math by placing it along a number line.  Tilt the skewer from side to side and when the straw stops at a number, ask your child to name the number.  You can extend this activity by asking them to add or subtract numbers that the straw stops.
      • Align the tracking tool under a number line and use the straw as a movable placeholder while the child counts out addition and subtraction problems on the number line.
      • Use the tracking tool in reading by placing the skewer under a line of text.  Move the straw along the length of the skewer as the child reads the words in the sentence.



      Other ways to use this visual tracking tool:



      • Hold the skewer up horizontally in front of the child.  Ask them to look quickly from one clay ball to the other.  You can use different colored clay for each end and say “red” for red clay and “blue” for blue clay as they shift their eyes from the red end to the blue end.  
      • Then, hold the skewer vertically and ask your child to quickly look from the top ball to the bottom ball.  
      • Finally, hold the skewer in a diagonal position and ask them to quickly look from one ball to the other. 
      See it in action here:

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      You will love these visual tracking activities

      These Visual Tracking Games and activities are a big hit in therapy or at home. Use them as part of an occupational therapy home program or in therapy planning.
      Visual Tracking Resources
      For more information and specific activities that can address visual attention in fun and meaningful ways, grab the Visual Processing Bundle. In it, you will find 17 digital products, ebooks, workbooks, and guides to addressing various aspects of visual processing, including visual attention. The bundle is valued at over $97 dollars for these products, and includes over 235 pages of tools, activities, resources, informaton, and strategies to address visual processing needs.

      For one week, the visual processing bundle is on sale at $29.99. Grab the Visual Processing Bundle HERE.


      The post Super Simple Visual Tracking Tool appeared first on The OT Toolbox.

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      When working with sensory kids and their families, one of the number one questions that is asked is—is this a sensory meltdown or a tantrum? It’s often hard to tell the difference between the two, and takes some detective work to figure out which one it is. Determining if a sensory meltdown is occurring is especially difficult because sensory thresholds for these children can vary day to day. So often we hear, “Is it sensory or a behavior” that is causing an action in a child. Here are the clues to help you discern the difference.

      For more information on sensory processing, you’ll want to grab our free sensory processing disorder information packet. This is a handy printable designed to better understand SPD and what that looks like in our kids.

      Behaviors of Sensory Meltdowns and Tantrums Look Similar

      The challenge in determining whether behaviors are the result of a sensory meltdown or a tantrum, is that the child’s behaviors in both instances, are usually the same.

      Behaviors that are observed during both a sensory meltdown and a tantrum may include:
      • Screaming
      • Hitting
      • Kicking
      • Name calling
      • Hiding or avoidance
      • Crying

      The difference between a meltdown and tantrum however, can be often times, be found in the events prior to the behaviors.

      For information on sensory play ideas, you’ll find a lot here on The OT Toolbox.

      Tantrums

      Tantrums are usually in response to the child not receiving a want/desire out of a situation, or not achieving a goal as they had planned. In these instances behaviors typically occur for an audience, and may cease when the child has achieved their goal. This may be a way of testing boundaries with the authority figure in the situation.

      Tantrums can usually be resolved with consequences, reminders of the boundaries, removal from the situation, or distraction to the upset child. Children are also not typically emotionally drained after a tantrum and can resume their routine with ease. This is not necessarily the case when a sensory meltdown occurs.

      Sensory Meltdowns

      Sensory Meltdowns are the result of sensory overload, and reaction to the big feelings that overloads cause.

      When in the throes of the sensory meltdown, the child is not able to control their reactions, behaviors, or emotions.  These episodes may also leave the child inconsolable, even when distraction or preferred items are offered, or even when the parent ‘gives’ into what the child is demanding.

       Meltdowns may appear happen without a trigger, or may be in response to an event that seems otherwise innocuous to the parent.

      The main clue that the behaviors the child is exhibiting is sensory meltdown related is that the behavior does not achieve a want, need or goal.

      In the case of a sensory meltdown, having a set of strategies available through use of a sensory diet can help with sensory overload, big feelings, and reactions.

      Clues a Behavior is a Sensory Meltdown

      • Reaction to event, feeling or overload of sensory input
      • Is not to achieve a want, need, or goal
      • Continues even without an audience
      • Ends only when the child has calmed down and the feelings are out
      • The child is very tired after the meltdown or appears ‘spent’
      • The child may feel embarrassment or shame as a result of their actions—typically this is seen in older children.

      These signs can show up at home, in the community, or in the classroom. Here are strategies for using a sensory diet in the classroom.

      What can Trigger a Sensory Meltdown? 

      Sometimes, we can see a meltdown coming, and other times it seems to hit out of the blue. This is particularly true of children who are a little bit older, and understand what is acceptable and what is not. Because of this, parent’s often report that their children do GREAT at school, and then lose it at home.


      Some clues that it might be a meltdown include: 

      • Being over tired or hungry
      • Illness or general unwellness—allergies can be a trigger to this sense of general unwellness. This may include food allergies or sensitivities.
      • “Holding it together” for long periods of time—going to school, camp, play dates, etc.
      • Change in routines—extra day off of school, vacation, or parent traveling. Essentially, anything outside of the child’s daily routine being off may result in a sensory overload and meltdown.

      It may take several hours, or several days before a meltdown occurs as a result of these triggers. As a result, it can appear as though there is no cause for the meltdown until the events prior to the event are examined. If you go back far enough into the past few days, a trigger is usually able to be found.

      Whether it’s a tantrum, or a meltdown, behavior is a direct form of communication from kids to adults about what is going on in their life. Knowing the difference between the two can lead to recognition of triggers and patterns, implementation of prevention strategies and successful emotional recovery in both situations.

      Tools for Sensory Meltdowns

      The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook is a guidebook in strategies to help with sensory meltdowns. Taking the specific and individualized activities that make up a Sensory Diet and transitioning them into a lifestyle of sensory modifications, strategies, and techniques is a Sensory Lifestyle!

      This book is for therapists, parents, teachers, or anyone who works with kids with sensory needs.

      If you struggle with creating a sensory diet that WORKS…
      If you are tired of trying sensory tools that just don’t seem to fit within a child’s busy day…
      If you are overwhelmed and don’t know where to start with understanding sensory processing…
      If you are a therapist struggling to set up sensory programs that are carried out and followed through at home and in the classroom…
      If you are a teacher looking for help with regulation, attention, or sensory meltdowns and need ideas that mesh within the classroom schedule…
      If you are looking for sensory techniques that kids WANT to use…
      If you are striving to create a sensory lifestyle that meets the needs of a child and family…

      The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook is for you!

      The post Sensory Meltdown or Tantrum: Which one is it? appeared first on The OT Toolbox.

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