Visual deficits and occupational therapy interventions go hand in hand. And, the connection between vision problems or attention issues impacts children when it comes to ADD and ADHD. In fact, the connection between visual deficits and attention is especially a factor in OT treatment. Trouble paying attention, difficulty with reading, finishing work on time and staying on task can be signs of both attention issues or a vision issue. So, how do you tell the difference, and what do you do about it? Knowing if a visual impairment is present can mean the difference between accommodating for vision difficulties and a different diagnosis, such as attention deficit disorder.
Vision or Attention Deficit Disorder
Children with vision deficits work twice as hard, and use more “brain” power to make their eyes work correctly as compared to peers without vision deficits.
Children with vision deficits may also experience fatigue more quickly, have frequent headaches, or blurry vision.
When they begin to experience the above symptoms, it is easier for the child to look away, leading them to appear to be “staring off into space” or lose focus. These behaviors are often mistaken for ADD in the classroom setting. Vision deficits that may be behind these symptoms and actions include:
Like kids with ADD, kids with vision deficits often appear to have poor social skills. Behaviors include a lack of response to their name, missing social cues or facial expressions, and not attending to others in the room.
This apparent “lack” of social skills is also related to how hard they are working on using their eyes. When this happens, the level of executive function left for other tasks significantly decreases.
This may also make the child appear “scatter brained” or disorganized.
Attention Deficit Disorder Symptoms
Vision concerns outside of acuity are FREQUENTLY missed due to limited vision screening protocols and the desire to quickly remediate behavior.
In addition to limited vision screening, vision deficits are not widely recognized as a potential reason for distracted or inattentive behavior.
Attention issues and vision Problems
If you have concerns, or concerns have been brought to your attention, regarding your child and ADD, rule out vision deficits first. A trip to a developmental ophthalmologist may help better explain your child’s behavior concerns and provide them the help they truly need.
WHAT IF YOU SUSPECT VISION PROBLEMS?
Now what? When vision problems are suspected after a screening by the OT, it is best practice to refer the family to a developmental optometrist.
A developmental optometrist will complete a full evaluation and determine the need for corrective lenses, vision therapy or a home program to address vision concerns.
As occupational therapists, it is imperative that we rule out vision problems before treating handwriting or delays in visual motor integration, to ensure the best possible trajectory of development and success for the child.
OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY VISION SCREENING TOOL
Occupational Therapists screen for visual problems in order to determine how they may impact functional tasks. Our newest Visual Screening Tool is a useful resource or identifying visual impairments. Visual screening can occur in the classroom setting, in inpatient settings, in outpatient therapy, and in early intervention or home care.
This visual screening tool was created by an occupational therapist and provides information on visual terms, frequently asked questions regarding visual problems, a variety of visual screening techniques, and other tools that therapists will find valuable in visual screenings.
This is a digital file. Upon purchase, you will be able to download the 10 page file and print off to use over and over again in vision screenings and in educating therapists, teachers, parents, and other child advocates or caregivers.
For those of you looking for flexible seating ideas for the classroom, we’ve got some to share! But, one of the most common concerns about setting up flexible classroom seating arrangements is the price! Finding inexpensive seating options that meet the needs of kids can be difficult. In place of pricy alternative seating ideas, why not try the frugal version and make a few DIY flexible seating ideas? Here are some ideas for adding sensory seating to the classroom with do-it-yourself versions of seating options to arrange a classroom for success!
DIY Flexible Seating Ideas
Add some of these seating strategies to a classroom sensory diet, to meet sensory needs, or to help with self-regulation or attention issues. These classroom seating options can meet the needs of a single student or a group of students. From wobble seats, to therapy balls, to using a futon in the classroom, flexible seating looks like a lot of different things! The alternative seating options below are a do-it-yourself version.
Tire Seat- You may have seen DIY tire seats shown on Pinterest. Be sure to check out our Pinterest page of flexible seating options for some ideas and more options! One easy DIY tire seat tutorial is listed on A Life That We Built, which shows how to construct a tire seat as a seating idea for kids. This looks easy enough!
Circle Dots- Kids can really benefit from floor time! The versatility of moving colorful dots around the room as a seating option is perfect for the classroom that covers many needs. While these carpet dots are available commercially, what if you could frugally create your own version? Here’s the how-to:
Using a black marker, trace a dinner plate on each sheet of felt.
Use your sharpest scissors and get to cutting.
Done! Use those carpet dots to encourage movement, set up visual cues for seating, sort students into groups by colors, create in-classroom obstacle courses, and use as a visual seating spot for learning of all kinds!
Partially Deflated Beach Ball– Yes, a beach ball! We shared how and why this DIY seating option works in a past blog post. Using a beach ball as a cheap seating option is a great way to encourage the proprioceptive and vestibular input kids need.
Therapy Ball- A flexible seating option doesn’t need to be specified as a seat. Just like using a partially deflated beach ball described above, try adding more or less air to exercise balls aka a stability ball, yoga ball, or balance ball.
Chair or Couch Made from a Wooden Pallet– Use a couple of discarded pallets to create a small chair or bench. One tutorial is available on Funky Junk Interiors. This would make a nice reading space in a classroom or home.
Milk Crate with Cushion- Use a milk crate, fabric, and foam to create a no-sew milk crate seat. These can be adjusted for students by adding softer or thicker foam, inflatable cushions, or other options. Really Good Teachers shares how to make no-sew milk crates easily and without pulling out the sewing machine!
Pillow Pile on Shag Carpet– Keep your eyes peeled for a sale on area rugs and especially for a shag carpet that’s on sale. A small cozy reading corner can be made using a shag rug and a pile of pillows. The shag seems to be a great fidget for some kids, too. Here is one option for a reasonable price.
Window Seat with Storage- Curling up with a book and some comfortable pillows sounds like a fun way to spend a little free reading time. Use a cube storage bench with pillows to create a flexible seating idea for the classroom or home. Store books or other materials in the cubes.
Cozy Corner Tent with Pillows- A calm-down space or cozy corner can be a part of the classroom’s flexible seating options or used as an area to meet specific sensory needs within the classroom. Some ideas for creating a cozy corner can include a teepee or tent, cardboard box, or even a fort structure with a sheet roof.
Lounge Cushions- Make your own lounge cushions by recycling old couch cushions or sewing up a sleeping bag. You can often times find cushions available on Facebook marketplace.
Carpet Scrap Placed Upside Down on Linoleum– This is a quick seating option that can help kids with the wiggles while providing a means of vestibular input The ability to scootch and slide the carpet square can be a movement break for some kids. Keep the carpet square “parked” in a designated spot when it’s needed and the child can keep their hands and feet still. This alternative seating option is a nice one for helping kids with personal space, too.
Yoga Mat– A yoga mat can be purchased fairly inexpensively and can be a nice way to provide movement in the classroom, both as a movement break, or even as a space to lounge while reading or completing group work. Yoga mats can be rolled up and stored in a closet or locker and pulled out for group yoga activities. While this isn’t a DIY seating idea specifically, you could use painter’s tape or electrical tape to create markings on the yoga mat for specific seating ideas to help with body awareness or marked spaces to sit and work.
Cardboard Box– Alternative seating strategies don’t need to be expensive! Use a large cardboard box either as a quiet space for reading or chilling, or as a seating option. Kids can get into a cozy box and read or complete a specific task. The walls of a cardboard box can muffle some distracting noises and can be a space to create or calm down. Add a string of Christmas lights for a sensory tunnel space or cave like we did in an old blog post.
Laundry Basket- Another inexpensive seating option, a laundry basket offers a cozy and small space for kids to calm down and focus on a task such as reading.
Soft Tent- There are so many options for play tents out there. Grab one or tow and make it a calm down space in the classroom that offers a quiet place to read, complete an assignment, or regroup. Kids can complete written assignments by using a small stool or lap tray to write on in the cozy sensory tent. They could also just chill and read in quiet by lounging on a bean bag or some pillows. Search pop-up kids indoor tent on Amazon to find lots of options.
Foam Blocks- Yoga blocks can be used for so many different positioning needs. Use them to prop up feet to provide a foot rest for fidgeting or to get kids into a better posture for writing. The input through the feet can help kids with proprioceptive input that aligns their body for a better upright posture. Foam blocks could be used to prop up a clipboard to create a DIY slant board option, too. There are options on Amazon, but these can be found at discount stores like Five Below, too. To make a DIY version, use an old phone book with duct tape to create a sturdy block. Or, cut hard foam from packing materials and cover with tape.
Lowered Table and Kneeling- One nice option about some tables and desks is that they can be lowered with the help of the custodial staff at schools. The lower legs can be removed and placed into a cut tennis ball to creates a half-sized desk or table, Kids can then sit or kneel to work at the table surface, while getting some really great proprioceptive input in through their knees and legs.
Standing Table Surface- Other tables can be raised to create a standing surface. Kids can then stand to work in small groups or to complete short assignments. A pub-style table is a great surface as a standing table. This one is very nice for one or two students to work on a task.
Swivel Seat- This is an alternative seating idea that provides much-needed sensory input for some kids. Think of a Lazy Susan and the spinning/rotation benefits that can occur. A swivel seat pad can provide that spinning or rotating vestibular input on any chair surface or even the floor. Kids can rotate their lower body to turn back and forth in their seats. I love this swivel seat option.
Flexible seating tips
What are your favorite DIY flexible seating ideas? Would any of these alternative seating ideas work in your classroom or home? Let me know in the comments below!
It’s that time again when we are heading back into the school year. Teachers are getting into the classrooms and setting up room arrangements. School-based OTs are gearing up for the back-to-school chaos. When the thoughts of classroom organization and caseloads come into mind, flexible seating in the classroom ideas may not be the first thing you think of. Seating options may even be a part of a classroom sensory diet. But here’s the thing: Flexible seating ideas are always good to keep in mind! There are so many benefits to flexible seating arrangements. From DIY flexible seating ideas to types of seating ideas that can be used in classrooms…there is a lot to think about!
Flexible Seating Ideas for the CLassroom
There is so much to think about when it comes to accommodating to various seating needs. Positioning and specific student needs are just part of the puzzle. Facilitating learning while encouraging collaborations among students is important and the primary concern when it comes to out-of-the-box seating arrangements. Below, you will find various flexible seating for the classroom and information on the benefits of flexible seating ideas…as well as how to adapt to this classroom sensory strategy.
Things to consider about Flexible Seating
When considering flexible seating ideas for the classroom, there is a lot to think about. These considerations include a variety of needs including behavior, cognitive needs, physical abilities, posture, and more.
Many times therapists are consulted regarding specialized seating as a result of postural needs. In these cases, an individualized assessment may be warranted and aspects of seating should be analyzed before addressing specific seating needs:
Posture and seating needs may be a result of sensory issues such as physical limitations, weakness, range of motion as a result of tone issues or spasticity, sensory impairments,or other needs.
Physical limitation or deformities may impact seating posture and positioning. These may include posterior pelvic tilt, pelvic rotation, scoliosis, joint contractures, leg length discrepancies, head and neck positioning, extremity limitations, or other concerns. Each of these may impact learning and attention in the classroom.
When providing a new or novel seating option in the classroom, there are considerations to keep in mind as well. A flexible seating option may not be the primary classroom seating situation. In other words, it may be the best situation for the classroom learning to occur in traditional desks. Flexible seating in the classroom can be provided for supplemental learning, small groups, independent reading, or other similar activities.
In some cases, it’s important to consider optimal support in seating options including for those students with physical needs. As a result, some situations may not warrant a full classroom of flexible seating. Chairs and surfaces may not provide optimal postural alignment in order to provide adequate trunk support. Upper extremity mobility and positioning is important to consider if students will be using the seating arrangements for writing tasks. Additionally, considerations such as correct height/depth of the seat and the placement of both feet on the floor is needed for writing tasks.
Benefits of Flexible Seating in the Classroom
A primary benefit of alternative seating options is the improvement to learning and attention that can occur. There may be several reasons that various seating options offer in the classroom.
Opportunities for Choices- Students may find that the ability to make a choice in their seating situations makes all the difference in learning and attention. Some students may really like the option to pick where they sit!
Something for Everyone- When there are several options for seating in the classroom, it can be one way to meet the needs of a whole classroom. Some teachers may find that kids change in their activity or attention levels throughout the day. When additional movement or proprioceptive input is needed, an alternative seating method may be just the ticket to learning.
Heavy Work Opportunities- Use of various flexible seating techniques in the classroom can offer occasional or scheduled use of flexible seating options can provide opportunities for heavy work input by moving desks, bean bag seats, or other seating set-ups as students or a specific team of students move furniture from determined positions. Don’t forget the sensory benefits of moving desks and chairs!
No Singling Out- When there are various flexible seating options in the classroom, no child is singled out. This is important for the child with sensory issues or self-regulation needs. Some students may need extra movement or heavy input to facilitate learning, and when the whole classroom has the option to choose a beanbag for reading time, the flexible seating methods are there for everyone…and no student feels singled out based on needs.
Flexible Seating Ideas for the Classroom
Now that we’ve covered considerations and a few benefits of flexible seating ideas, let’s cover some specifics! Below are alternative seating methods that may work in the classroom.
You’ll find a list of options for adding proprioceptive input to the seating system, as well as a large list of alternative seating ideas. Some of these are able to be purchased (Amazon affiliate links are included below). Other options are quite frugal or are DIY ideas. Have fun exploring and considering the flexible seating ideas!
Flexible seating and proprioception input
Sensory benefits play a big part of choosing the best flexible seating option. While some alternative seating options provide sensory input or feedback via the positioning, others provide heavy input by hugging the student. There are many ways to add weight that provides a calming benefit into seating ideas. Consider some of the options below in adding to a seating system:
Tips for adding proprioceptive input or weight to a alternative seating system:
Add a weighted lap pad
Try a therapy band or bungee cord to the chair legs
Use a body sock or fabric tube to the legs of the chair. Done in a non-restricting way, this tube can be a place to slide legs into while sitting in a regular chair
Bean bag for under/over the child
Computer lap desk over the child’s legs (Can be used as a writing station)
Homemade bean bags over legs or feet. Slide these into tube socks or knee-high socks and knot two socks together to create a weighted tube to drape over legs or the shoulders.
Therapy swing in the classroom or outdoor space
Add velcro wrist weights to the inside of a 4 inch binder. Use the binder as a lap writing surface.
Encourage tummy time writing. (Write, draw, or read while lounging on bellies on the floor. Make this a fun reading experience by asking students to bring in a flashlight from home.)
Try some of the additions listed and described below.
Remember that finding an ideal seating system can require a lot of investigation and trial and error. Some students may benefit from one of the ideas listed here and others may require a mix of several options. Keep it individualized and remember to consult your child’s occupational therapists regarding seating ideas.
Flexible Seating Ideas
Bean Bag Chairs- Use these on the floor or at a low table. Consider lowering a table to 2-3 feet off the ground for a low writing and reading surface. Other times, bean bags can be used in small group work or for quiet reading. Consider using a bean bag as a cover for legs to provide heavy input through the legs. There are some inexpensive bean bag seat options available. There are also a few varieties of stuffed animal bean bag covers that create seats using old stuffed animals.
Stuffed Animal Bean Bag Seat- Ask around for stuffed animal donations from family and friends! This bean bag cover creates a bean bag seat using old stuffed animals as a seating option and can be adjusted as needed. Add more stuffed animals to fill the seat or take some out depending on the child’s sensory needs. This stuffed animal cover comes in a larger size that can be used as a lounger chair.
Duvet Lounger- Using the same concept of filling a bean bag with upcycled stuffed animals is the DIY version of using a duvet cover as a method to create a lounger seat. Fill a duvet cover with cushions, pillows, or stuffed animals and create a crash pad that can be used as a lounger seat for the classroom or home.
T-Stools- A T-stool is a common seat seen in classrooms. The stool allows students to wobble, move, and wiggle just as their bodies need, while reading, writing, learning, and listening! You’ll find a variety of T-Stools available: The Kore Wobble Chair is great for grades K-3 and provides a larger base of support. The Stabili-T Tool Tube provides less support but requires more core contraction and work, allowing for more movement. A T-Stool Single Leg stool offers more vestibular input given a much smaller base of support and an adjustable height option.
Milk Crate with a Ball Inside– Going for a multi-option flexible seating arrangement in the classroom? Adding a large kickball or small therapy ball inside a milk crate is a great option for the frugal. This is one way to create several seats for a lower cost. Line the milk create up under a low table for a centers activity or small group.
Therapy Ball– Another frugal means of offering opportunities for movement and sensory input in the classroom is using therapy balls. There are many options available on the market and in stores. Search for yoga balls or exercise balls to find the best prices, in many cases. Worried about them rolling away or becoming massive projectiles in the classroom? Make a “station” using a hula hoop as a base.
Peanut Seat- A different version of the therapy ball is the peanut ball seat. Kids can use these seats in a variety of ways, sitting or lying prone on the ball. The peanut ball allows for only unidirectional rolling so they can be easier to contain in the classroom setting when compared to a round therapy ball.
Sensory Swing- A sensory swing is a versatile seating option for reading, small group work, individual work, or a much-needed sensory break. We’ve tried and loved the Harkla Sensory Pod Swing for it’s cozy support and use as a calm-down space. The great thing about Harkla sensory swings is the easy-to install ability to place them in a classroom. We tried ours outdoors too, for an outdoor sensory swing option. Kids love the outdoor sensory swing in a shaded area such as under a patio deck or even hanging from a tree limb.
Portable Laptop Stand- This portable laptop stand doesn’t need to be used for just laptops! Use it as a writing station or for a small reading center. I would love to see a DIY version of this…wonder if an awesome school janitor could whip one together using scrap materials? P.S. If you have one of these stands made…or you make one yourself…let me know! I would LOVE to see it!
Futon- An easy way to incorporate flexible seating options in the classroom is to add a futon. You can grab one at a big box store or on Amazon and have it shipped directly to where you need it to go. The benefits of using a futon in the classroom are endless- A “job” can be to open the futon and replace pillows after quiet reading time, adding opportunities for heavy work. Add a few weighted throw pillows and a weighted lap blanket if it’s appropriate. Sometimes lounging during instruction may be just what is needed.
Scoop Rocker Chairs- Kids love these scoop rocker chairs! They are versatile in that they can be used at a lowered table or during circle time. The light-weight and handle make them easy to carry from class to class or to special classes, if needed. There is a special deal on Amazon offering a set of 6 scoop rocker chairs for $48 right now. Who knows how long that price will last!
Scooter Board- Have a scooter board in your car trunk (If you are a mobile therapist, this totally applies to you…) or in the physical education gym/supply closet at school? Scooter boards make awesome foot fidgets for when sitting at a desk. Kids can also use them during circle time. (Provide a hoola hoop boundary!) Or to sit on at a low table or when working in a small group. You can find them at great prices on Amazon!
Cushions or Pillows- Super easy to get, and at a very inexpensive cost, pillows and cushions are a fantastic way to create a cozy corner or crash area. Kids will love quiet reading time or group work when sitting on a pillow or cushion. Stalk your local resale shops for great prices. You can also ask parents to send in a small pillow or chair pad cushion (the kind you use on kitchen chairs) that can be used at desks for seated work. A reading pillow (the kind you typically use on a bed) works really well in a calm-down space, too.
Body Pillow- A body pillow can be an inexpensive way to add movement and positioning to the classroom or home. Add it to a futon or couch in the classroom or include it in a calm-down space.
Rocking Chair- An old-fashioned porch rocker is a wonderful addition to the classroom. There’s just something about rocking back and forth that brings back memories of quieting fussy babies during the night for this mama…but perhaps the calming effects of slow linear rocking can be just the thing to turn classroom fidgeting into focused learning. If the price tag of a traditional wooden rocking chair is a problem, consider adding a camp rocking chair or an upcycled nursery glider. You can find these baby nursing chairs on Facebook marketplace or in consignment shops for a great price.
Balance Cushion-Balance cushions can be used on a traditional desk seat or for floor seating. Adding this to your flexible seating line-up promotes an opportunity for attention and balance by adding movement to learning. Add more air or remove some from the cushion to provide more or less movement and stability required.
Beach Chair- A beach chair is a super inexpensive way to add flexible seating options to a classroom. Set up an area with a few beach chairs for group activities or use them in circle time or morning meetings.
Camp Chair– A camp chair is another inexpensive option for alternative seating. The curved base provides a cozy and calming space for reading or listening to read alouds in the classroom or home. There are a lot of options on the market in the ways of camping chairs. From the basic camp chair to those with rockers, recliners, or loungers, the choice is yours based on needs in the classroom or home.
Stools- There are a lot of stool options out there. Using a stool in a flexible seating arrangement provides a variety of use for addressing various needs while making arranged seating easier to change out without much effort. Some ideas for stool use in the classroom include high-stools. These can be used at a high top table which also offers an opportunity for standing. They can be arranged into circle time or small groups while offering vestibular input. Other stool ideas include a small foot stools. These can be used at low tables, in circle time, in a small group circle, or at a low table. Try using them while writing on a paper hanging on a wall or at an easel for vertical writing, which offers more proprioceptive input and movement challenges. Stackable stools are still another option. These are great in place of traditional desk chairs in some cases. The great thing about using stools as part of an alternative seating system is that students can move and set up seating options, offering built-in heavy work.
Papasan Chair– A papasan chair or a lounger seat is great for the classroom. Quiet reading or group learning can be calm and focused with a supportive and cozy seat. You can find a great price on these chairs in big box stores or on Amazon.
Cube Seat- This cube seat is an option that provides support for the back and trunk while containing and providing a boundary for seated activities. This cube seat option is nice because it can be used in one direction as a low seat and flipped over to allow for a higher height or for use as a table writing surface with visual blocks when visual attention is an issue.
Partially Inflated Beach Ball- Yes, it’s true. Grab a dollar store beach ball and blow it up just a little, so that the air in the beach ball provides a movable cushion. This seating system is appropriate for younger children, but it’s an option for testing out movement in the seat. You’ll find more about using a beach ball cushion in a previous The OT Toolbox blog post.
More Flexible seating ideas
What are your best tricks and tips for adding movement to the classroom while meeting the needs of various students? Flexible seating in the classroom doesn’t need to be complicated. It doesn’t need to be expensive either! Stop back soon, because we’ll have a line-up of DIY flexible seating ideas coming your way very soon.
Some of the ideas listed above are very budget-friendly, especially if you are able to find items second-hand or by upcycling items. Other budget-friendly seating options include using a cardboard box, cushions, or stadium seats, for example. We’ll have more budget-friendly seating ideas for you coming up soon!
Below, you will find information on how to improve attention and memory with auditory processing techniques, specifically through auditory feedback. We’re sharing information regarding an auditory processing tool intending to utilize auditory feedback to promote attention and memory within functional tasks.
On a daily basis, therapy providers witness the strong connections between attention and memory, and their influence on function. They’re also able to prescribe customized therapy programs that ameliorate each level of auditory processing needed to carry out a task. Activities that work multiple systems while strengthening the foundation of function help to streamline therapy and meet goals. This wholistic approach is a hallmark of the occupational therapy profession.
We’ve shared various auditory processing activities here on The OT Toolbox. Today, we’re chatting about auditory feedback and the part this plays in improving attention needed in learning. You can find additional resources and activities like this auditory feedback tool at the bottom of this post.
Memory and Attention are the Foundations for Learning
attention work together in the brain to form the basis of our cognitive
abilities. Attention is the ability to process information—sometimes
selectively—and memory is the ability to store that information for retrieval as
foundation impacts everything we do, including basic cognitive tasks (such as brushing
our teeth) and more complex tasks (like playing a musical instrument).
What is Auditory Feedback
Feedback is a natural process in the human body that helps us understand and
modulate sound and speech signals in real time. When we speak, our ears receive
the signal, and our brains make sense of it. In the case of vocalizations, and
to a greater extent speech, our brains modulate the productions in real time so
that we can quickly adapt, ensuring our message is accurate.
Strengthening the Foundation
Simply using the auditory feedback system—or auditory feedback loop—is one way to ensure that memory and attention continue to work well. We do this every day by listening to sounds and speaking.
In order to improve these skills, we need to challenge the brain in specific ways. We know that the brain is plastic; it is a living organ that changes and adapts to the needs of the body. If someone stops using their left arm, the brain will strengthen connections to the right arm to compensate. Furthermore, the neural connections that aren’t being used for the left arm will start to deteriorate, which is hard evidence for the “use it or lose it” adage.
Practical and Results-FocusedBrain Training
Disclosure: Affiliate links are included below.
Capitalizing on the audio-feedback loop and its ability to improve memory and attention in the brain is the business of Forbrain® Bone Conduction Headphones. With these headphones, a simple task can become a multi-faceted memory and attention-boosting transformation.
Bone conduction hearing is ten times quicker than air conduction and while using Forbrain, which includes a microphone and a dynamic filter, manipulated sound stimuli reach the brain quicker, and are presented in a way that’s naturally challenging. Challenging the brain is synonymous with growing the brain!
The use of Forbrain has been proven to improve therapy outcomes. One study suggests that there is a real basis for the claims that Forbrain can improve voice quality and the executive attentional mechanisms and memory. The results suggest that an auditory feedback device such as Forbrain® could be helpful in improving focus in those who have attention disorders such as ADHD, and those who have difficulties with speech production and auditory processing (Escera).
Activities to improve attention through auditory processinG
It’s as simple as wearing the headphones while carrying out auditory feedback activities during therapy or during everyday tasks. Examples of activities might include:
Reading a book or poetry aloud
Practicing tone and pitch while singing
Playing a musical instrument
Memorizing material for an exam
Performing exercises to improve posture and diaphragmatic breathing
Easy to incorporate auditory processing activities:
Forbrain isn’t just for therapists or those of us in a therapy program. If you or someone you know can benefit from the improved memory and attention abilities that Forbrain provides, read more about using a bone conduction headset and grab one of your ownn here.
Escera, C. (2015). A scientific single case study on speech, auditory processing and attentional strengthening with Forbrain® . Retrieved from Agency name website: https://www.forbrain.com/uploads/editor/files/Scientific_Research_Forbrain-Carles_Escera-Summary_Report.pdf
Executive functioning skills are an important component of skilled occupational therapy intervention, but they can be confusing to some. What are executive functioning skills? Executive functioning skills go beyond the basics like working memory and impulse control. In fact, there is not necessarily one agreed-upon definition for executive functioning! Ready to learn more? Keep reading!
What are executive FUNCTIONING Skills?
Executive functioning (EF) skills are diverse. Typically, EF
consists of skills including the ability to manage emotions, initiate
activities within a timely manner, shift attention from topics or activities,
control impulses and urges, retain information for use during functional
activities, develop plans and formulate systems to perform a desired task,
prevent missing materials, and being mindful of how our own behavior impacts
While a child in late elementary school may seem successful
with their ability to manage classroom materials, turn in homework assignments
on time, and engage in age-appropriate behaviors, the same child may
demonstrate significant challenges upon the transition to middle school. For
example, now they have to return to their locker between classes to exchange books,
which is not just a simple stop-and-go activity.
There are distractions, the desire to engage in social
interactions, a time crunch to make it to the next class on time, the need to
remember what class is next and what materials they need, and not to mention
needing to remember the sequence for their combination lock! This all happens
before they even make it into their next classroom or head home for the day.
How can executive functioning skills improve?
Thanks to the brain’s neuroplasticity, EF skills have
potential for improvement! Many daily activities require diverse EF skills,
making them a fantastic opportunity to integrate effective strategies.
Emotional regulation as an area of executive functioning:
Emotional regulation is one of the first areas of executive
functioning that many parents want to improve, since it can add significant
stress to family life. Self-reflection
is one way to improve emotional regulation. However, it’s important that this
takes place after the big feelings pass, since learning takes place when bodies
and minds are “just right.”
This can easily be added to family routines. One way to
encourage self-reflection is to have each family member share a positive and
negative from the day when seated for dinner.
This also allows for family members to support each other
(“Good luck on your test today, Jacob, you studied very hard!”) and provides
opportunities for continued conversation (“You mentioned having an argument
with your friend at lunch today. Is there anything I can do to help?”). It can
also normalize the big feelings we all experience!
Initiation and executive functioning skills:
We’ve all struggled with initiation at some point in our
lives; we need to complete items on an ever-growing to-do list, but just don’t
know where to start! Kids experience this, too.
For children who are competitive, make a contest out of
completing tasks. See who can complete their to-do list the fastest, but with
the best quality, too! Teaching children and teens how
to become more independent with initiation can be fun and successful.
Shifting as an executive function:
Shifting is often combined with attention, since shifting
requires the individual to determine what is important and focus on that,
rather than what they might have been doing or thinking before.
Take, for example, a student who was writing a paper on a
Shakespearean play for their English class. They’ve now finished the assignment
and have moved on to a worksheet on the quadratic formula. Their mind needs to
completely turn “off” Shakespeare and turn “on” the quadratic formula.
Luckily, there are many activities for attention.
One fun way is to build an obstacle course. Each time the child completes the
course, change one of the rules!
For example, the second time, they can only touch primary
colors or can only hop on one foot in between obstacles. They will not only
need to remember what the new rule is, but they will have to shift away from
the old rules!
Inhibition and executive functioning:
Inhibition is often referred to as impulse control. It can
be an exhausting component of executive functioning, as it can lead to
significant safety concerns.
One way to improve
impulse control with younger children is through the game “Red Light, Green
Light.” Many children (even early teenagers) enjoy playing versions of “Floor
is Lava,” avoiding certain materials as they attempt to navigate a room. This
can also be a great way to work on working memory!
Working memory as an executive function:
Working memory can be a significant challenge for many
individuals. Working memory requires us to retain learned information and use
it during daily activities.
There are many ways to support working memory development
and deficits. There are many task-management apps available, even for things
like medication management. For activities
to improve working memory, try playing games like Magic Labyrinth, Melissa
and Doug’s Sandwich Stacking Game, or making a recipe!
Planning/organizing for executive functioning success:
Planning for projects and organizing ideas is stressful! It
can be helpful to go through large assignments one at a time. Break the
assignment into manageable pieces, including what materials are needed for that
step and when that step needs to be completed.
The good news is that these skills can experience definite
improvements with practice. Check out this link for more
information and strategies.
Organization of materials and executive functioning:
Messy rooms with laundry covering the floor, desks and
lockers overflowing with paper, expandable folders filled to the brim with
assignments—these are the signs of a disorganized student! Organization is
often the first thing to go when a person feels stressed or overwhelmed, as it
can be time-consuming.
a child’s organization skills development, try making checklists for their
locker or desk. As they place each item into their backpack, they can check a
box to make sure they have everything they need before they go! Or, use labels
to clearly define where belongings go in a closet or on a bookshelf.
Monitoring for executive functioning success:
Monitoring is important since we all interactive with others
on a daily basis! Monitoring is the acknowledgement that we behave in certain
ways and that these behaviors can affect other people.
Self-reflection (mentioned above) can be a good way to
promote monitoring. An individual can process through what they think went
well, what they struggled with, and how they think others felt during these
events. Behavior charts can also be helpful by clearly listing out what the
expectation is and whether the individual demonstrated that skill area.
Ultimately, the goal is to encourage self-monitoring as much as possible,
rather than adults monitoring the child. The possibilities for monitoring
strategies are diverse and it’s
possible to find something that works for each person.
More Executive Functioning Skills Resources:
Free Executive Function Mini-Course- Wondering about what are executive functioning skills? This Executive Functioning Skills Course is a FREE, 5-day email course that will help you understand executive functioning and all that is included in the set of mental skills.
Getting organized can be a start to addressing several executive functioning skill areas. Here is a collection of organization strategies, tips, and tools.
This post was written by contributing author, Emily Skaletski, MOT, OTR/L is a pediatric occupational therapist in the Madison, WI area. Emily participated in the Pennsylvania Occupational Therapy Association’s Emerging Leaders Program (2016), earned her level 1 digital badge in autism from the American Occupational Therapy Association (2017), received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Chatham University (2018), and was appointed the South-Central District Co-Chair of the Wisconsin Occupational Therapy Association (2019). Emily has presented at both state and national conferences and is passionate about professional development. While trained as a generalist, Emily particularly enjoys working with clients with autism spectrum disorder and challenges related to executive functioning skills.
Here, you will find fun mindfulness activities to help kids with creative mindfulness exercises that can help kids feel better, reduce stress, address anxiety, and have a greater awareness of their body and mind. Mindfulness activities for kids can be used as a self-regulation tool or a coping strategy. The sky’s the limit!
Mindfulness is the ability to bring your attention to the events happening in the moment. It allows us to carefully observe our thoughts and feeling, to develop a sense of self awareness. Mindfulness can be done anywhere. It does not require special equipment. It can be as easy as sitting and thinking or visualizing a place in your mind.
Who is mindfulness good for?
Mindfulness is great for any age, including kids. School can be a very overwhelming experience with expectations, rules, noises, crowds. Being able to do fun mindfulness activities can be a good way for children to self-regulate, focus and feel better emotionally and physically. Learning how to self-regulate (being able to manage your own emotions) is an important skill to learn at a young age.
Listed below are some easy, beginning mindfulness activities to try with kids. Looking for more ideas? Here are some mindfulness videos on YouTube.
Mindfulness Activity #1: Mindful Breathing-
Taking deep breaths is so important in relaxation it brings awareness to your body. There are many different ways to teach kids to take deep breaths and then blow out. Using a pinwheel, blowing bubbles, blowing out candles, picturing a balloon opening and closing with breath. Even having your child breath in while you count to 5 and then breath out.
Mindfulness Activity #2: Body Scan-
Have your child lay on his/her back. Tell them to tense up all muscles from head to toe and hold for 10-15 seconds. Then have them release and relax, ask them how they feel. This exercise helps kids to recognize how their body is feeling in a tense vs. Calm state.
Mindfulness Activity #3: Visualization or Guided Imagery–
This is a relaxation technique that is used to promote positive mental images. You can find guided imagery scripts online, pertaining to many different subjects from nature to emotions. Start by having your child close their eyes, while seated or lying down. Slowly read the script and have them visualize the image in their minds, then have them draw a picture of that place and keep it in their desk or at home as a reference to a calm place for them.
Mindfulness Activity #4: Take a Walk-
Being outside and taking a walk is a great way for your child to be present in the moment. Point out the different sounds heard from birds chirping to leaves rustling. Notice the smell of the fresh cut grass or flowers. Feel the different textures of sand and rocks. Notice the sun, wind and clouds. Bring a blanket and lay on the grass, look up at the trees, look at the clouds. Walk over to a pound and listen for frogs, look for fish and throw rocks in to make a splash.
Mindfulness Activity # 5: Stretching/Yoga-
Taking deep breaths and stretching can be a very calming and teaches you to be aware of how your body is feeling. Turn the lights down, put on relaxing music and help guide your child through bedtime relaxation stretches for kids.
Use these mindfulness strategies for kids as a coping strategy, to help with attention in the classroom, to impact learning, or to address self-regulation needs. What’s very cool is that each awareness activity could be themed to fit classroom or homeschool lessons, the curriculum, or seasons. Make these mindfulness activities fit the needs of your classroom, clients, and kids!
Mindfulness is a coping strategy used in The Impulse Control Journal. The Impulse control journal is a printable journal for kids that helps them to identify goals, assess successes, and address areas of needs. The Impulse Control Journal is a printable packet of sheets that help kids with impulse control needs.
Christina Komaniecki is a school based Occupational Therapist. I graduated from Governors State University with a master’s in occupational therapy. I have been working in the pediatric setting for almost 6 years and have worked in early intervention, outpatient pediatrics, inpatient pediatrics, day rehab, private clinic and schools. My passion is working with children and I love to see them learn new things and grow. I love my two little girls, family, yoga and going on long walks.
I have seen these Discovery Bottles all over the place. Do a search on Google images and you will find a ton of ideas and ways to make these. I knew the babies would love this and we had to try them…it was a success!
I super glued the lids shut for little ones who like to use their teeth to open bottles…
I know a few who do that in our house 🙂
Baby Girl was super excited when she saw these. She had a blast checking them all out.
So easy and lots of fun! Definitely try this one if you have toddlers/babies in your house. They will love it!
Are you looking for more information on Sensory Processing or any of the body’s sensory systems and how they affect functional skills and behavior? This book, Sensory Processing 101, will explain it all. Activities and Resources are included. Get it today and never struggle to understand or explain Sensory Integration again. Shop HERE.
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