Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Reader tip: Weighted pen for those who press too hard

Every now and then I receive an email from a reader who has tried something they've seen on my blog or who has an experience that they'd like to share. I recently received an email from a reader who came across my post on weighted pencils and wanted to share another reason why someone might like to add some weight to their pen or pencil. Read on to learn more!


I found your site when looking for pen weights and thought you might want to know about a connection that I figured out between pressing too hard when writing and aversion to light touch as well as a possible fix.

I have autism with severe sensory issues (hypersensitivity, hyposensitivity, discrimination problems, AND seeking, hoo-rah). After rendering my favorite felt tip pens nearly unusable after taking pages and pages of notes with them in a short period of time, I decided to try writing as lightly as possible and analyzing what sensory or motor issues could be causing that. Well, it didn't take long, because after writing only a few letters, I squealed and dropped the pen in favor of rapidly shaking the "ick" off my hand. Writing lighter feels exactly like light touch! Same skin-crawling sensation.
I put a 2 ounce glob of therapy putty on the end of the pen and tried again, and I was able to write with much, much less pressure. I didn't even have to try; I instinctively used less because of the extra proprioceptive input canceling out that icky light touch.
Most places I've seen say to use weights for people who write too lightly, but if you have patients (or relatives, friends, etc.) who write with too much pressure and also are averse to light touch, you might want to try out weights with them, too.
A Huge Proprioceptive Seeker

This is such an interesting perspective on the use of a weighted pen! Who knew that writing lightly (or with a standard amount of pressure) could cause an icky light touch sensation? Definitely something for me to keep in mind when working with students who press too hard.

As far as I know, there is still limited (or no?) research on the effectiveness of weighted pens and pencils, but here's another anecdotal story to add to the evidence. Someone needs to research this! (Hint, hint! OT students!)

To be completely honest, I don't use weighted pens or pencils with students very often because I don't like the way it makes their pencil look so different. I'm glad this reader discovered a way to write more comfortably, but who wants to have a wad of putty on the end of their pencil? Or a bunch of bolts? Tell me, have you found a good way to add weight to a pen or pencil without it looking unsightly? I'd love to hear your suggestions!

P.S. I'd like to give a huge shout out to Christie of Mama OT for taking the picture seen in this post for me, when I couldn't get my hands on any putty quickly to adapt a pen myself! 

P.P.S Thanks to the reader who allowed me to share this story!


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Apps for OTs | Switch Activated OctoPlus

When Zyrobotics reached out to me to see if I was interested in checking out their new math app, OctoPlus, the switch-access is what really caught my eye about this new app. Switch accessible apps are not something that I have much experience with, so I hit the internet to see find more information. If you are interested in learning more, I recommend that you visit Jane Farrall's website, especially her very newly updated page on Switch Accessible Apps for iPad/iPhone. 

For the record: I don't currently have access to a switch, so I did not try this app with a switch. However, I did try this app, and as an OT, I really like the visual motor component of this math game. If you do have a switch, or work with a child who uses a switch to access apps, then this might be a good app for you to add to your toolbox.

Here's how OctoPlus works:

In this app, there are two options to choose from: drill and challenge. Within each option, you can choose Beginner, Advanced, or Expert. The drill option is just that-a drill of repetitive math problems where all of the problems have the same answer. This seems to be just to increase exposure to the math problems. In the challenge option, the user must solve the math problems and locate the correct answer.

OctoPlus is a beginner math app for sure, as the settings only go up to math problems that add up to 10. In both options, drill and challenge, the user must tap the correct answer at the bottom of the screen, while the octopus is near that number to squirt ink up to the turtle. This is where the visual motor and visual attention skills come into play, and as an OT, I appreciate that this app challenges more than just math skills.

As an OT, these are the things I love about the OctoPlus app:

  • Switch accessible. While I did not try out this feature, it is my understanding that not a lot of apps are switch accessible, so I like that this app is accessible to children with special needs who may have mobility impairments. Zyrobotics sells a TabAccess Bluetooth Switch Interface that is compatible with OctoPlus, but I believe any iPad compatible switch will work.
  • Encourages visual motor skills. The numbers at the bottom of the screen must be tapped and the numbers keep changing, so the user must visually locate the correct answer and then tap the number.
  • Encourages visual attention skills. The numbers at the bottom of the screen are constantly changing, and the octopus is in constant motion, so the user must maintain visual attention to keep track of the numbers and the octopus.

App Information:

Name of App: OctoPlus
Publisher: Zyrobotics LLC
Compatible with: iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch; requires iOS 4.3 or later.
Price: $0.99

P.S. Check out my app page for all of the apps I've shared.

*Disclosure: I received a promo code for this app, but all writing and opinions are my own. Information was correct at the time of publication, but is subject to change, so please confirm prior to downloading. This post contains affiliate links.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Behind the Scenes | OT Potential

Happy March, everyone! You know what March means to me? One more month until OT Month! Today, I'd like to welcome Sarah Lyons, of OT Potential. Not only is Sarah sharing a peek behind the scenes of her website, she's also sharing a cool, new product that she recently launched, just in time for OT Month! Read on to learn more!

Please tell me a little bit about yourself. How long have you been an occupational therapist? What areas have you practiced in?

Mother of one.
New Yorker.
St. Olaf Alum.
NYU Alum.
OTR/L for 4+ years.
Practice areas: Acute Care, Rural Health, Mental Health
NPR fan.
Attempting to learn piano.

Can you tell me more about your website, OT Potential? Where did get the idea to start OT Potential?

I have always loved connecting people and ideas. I started blogging in 2012, but it has always taken a backseat to my work. I then had a happy convergence of events. We moved to Chicago for my husband’s work and while I was waiting for my Illinois license, I realized how much I love being home with my son and writing on the side. Since then, Potential has become my primary work passion.

You recently launched a new product - occupational therapy shirts! Can you tell me more about that process? How did you go from idea to having an actual product?

Two of my interests collided in these shirts.

The first is OT identity.

In a very practical sense, I always wonder how we can stand out more in our places of work. I know that I got tired of being confused with Social Work, PT. RT, etc. OTs do such great work, and I think individuals doing great work is the best way to market our profession.

I also see OT as a whole grappling with what our distinct value is. I hope, in a small way, this shirt can inject some confidence and gusto in the potential of our profession.

The second is sharing great resources.

I want OTs to be able to focus on helping their patients. In my own practice settings, I felt like I was always creating resources from scratch, from marketing materials to policies. I hope that some offices and individuals will utilize the option of these shirts to save some time and money.  

For readers who are interested, how can they get their hands on one of these shirts?

You can purchase them on my products page. I would also recommend signing up for my newsletter, as I like to give special offers on my own products and on featured products to my readers.

What are your dreams for OT Potential? Where do you see OT Potential in five years?

How about 1 year from now? I would love to generate enough income from my shirts to launch the next product that I have in mind. But if that doesn’t happen, I’m Ok with it. The most important thing to me is providing a platform for occupational therapists to connect.

What advice would you give to an OT who has a product/blog/book idea, but doesn’t know where to start?

Learning about building a website and launching products has felt like getting another degree. I’m on such a steep learning curve that it feels like a precarious place to give advice from, but my best shot would be to take advantage of the resources out there. The options for learning about blogging, marketing, platform development, etc. seem endless. It really just comes down to setting aside some time for learning and then deciding whom you trust. Most of the time I keep up with advice from Michael Hyatt. When I’m feeling a little more saucy, I will check in with Gary Vaynerchuk.

Connect with OT Potential:

P.S. Go behind the scenes with CanDo Kiddo.

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