When parents hear the phrase “visual perception”, they often think it has to do with their child’s vision, and whether or not they need glasses. But in all actuality, visual perception is how your brain perceives what you’re seeing with your eyes.
If your child is struggling with spacing during handwriting, lining up math problems, or finding a specific color crayon in the box, this may be an indicator that your child is struggling with their visual perception skills. It’s a broad term, and professional diagnosis is recommended, but it is something to keep in mind.
For occupational therapy and improving your child’s visual perception skills, there are toys on the market that can be used to grow their abilities. I have a printable list of ALL my favorite visual perceptual toys, you can get it here.
I have MANY favorites, but today, I’m going to talk about just two.
Hammer and nail toy
This toy is known by a few different names. It’s a toy with pattern cards featuring different shapes, where a child must find the correct shape and place it in the right spot. In order to achieve that, they’ll need to use tiny nails to create a replica of the shape they’re attempting to copy.
The toy comes with nails, shape cards, and a hammer, which requires hand-eye coordination from the user, as it’s required to complete the shapes properly. It develops your child’s puzzle/ problem-solving skills as well as spatial orientation. The toy is meant for younger children, so the ideal user is between four and eight, although you’ll need to carefully watch children during use, as the small nails can be dangerous. I’ve found that even my middle school kids like this one!
On sale for $24.99!
“Shape by shape” toy
If your child is in middle school, or you’re looking for a more advanced visual perception toy, then the “shape by shape” is a good option to consider. With this shape game, there are several different shapes that have to fit exactly within a square box, in order to successfully complete the puzzle. There’s a photo that acts as a guide for completing the task, but requires the child to carefully look at the box and see how the pieces fit together.
It can be fairly challenging, but there are some hints that can be used to assist your child. This toy is meant for children from ages eight and above, all the way up to adulthood, depending on the help given to your child, and how many hints you can provide.
Developing your child’s visual perception skills takes time, but it is an important investment in time and effort.
*This is a sponsored post, which means I was compensated to write it- but all opinions are my own, and I never write a sponsored post unless that product is AWESOME!
“I finally got all the kids ready to walk out the door, and I turn around, and she’s in her bathing suit!”
The exasperated mom pulled the scarf from her neck. It was December. Definitely not appropriate weather for bathing suits.
Her cheeks were flushed and her eyes were wide with concern. “Her behavior makes absolutely no sense!”
Patty was a mom of four kids who had brought her 6-year-old daughter Emma into the sensory gym for an Occupational Therapy Evaluation. For years, she had assumed that Emma was just “acting up” when she pulled these behaviors. But her sister, a special ed teacher, had been telling her about Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).
Patty was at her wit’s end. “I need to do something”, she said.
Going over her daughter’s evaluation was very enlightening. Patty thought that her daughter was simply being “quirky” or misbehaving by putting on her bathing suit as the family was leaving for a party.
The truth was that Emily was actively seeking sensory input. Bathing suits and leotards are tight, which can be comforting to children who experience sensory processing difficulties.
(You know how swaddling a baby makes them calm and comfortable? This is because it provides them with a soft pressure over their whole body.)
In the school system, Occupational Therapists often recommend “compression vests” to help children who seek pressure from tight clothing, hugs, or other forms of “deep pressure” or “tactile” input.
The list of Benefits of Compression Garments for kids
Compression vests have helped many children who seek even pressure over their body.
It helps kids achieve a sense of calm
Decrease other sensory seeking behaviors
The drawbacks of popular compression vests
But, there are a few drawbacks to the “typical” compression vests you see out there.
Compression vests or weighted vests can “look different” than typical clothing, making socially aware children self-conscious.
The neoprene fabric of standard pressure vests can also be very stifling and hot. Children may be adverse to wearing them, even though the sensory input that it would provide would make them feel better.
Kind of like when your kid doesn’t want to take their medicine because they’re too sick.
In instances like these, I love to recommend pressure garments that can be worn UNDER a child’s clothing. Rather than putting a child’s sensory needs on display, compression garments similar to undergarments are just like an undershirt.
What’s so different about an undershirt?
Except that this undershirt, the “Compresso-T “by SmartKnitKIDS®, provides a “sensory kid” with the input they need throughout the day WITHOUT announcing it to the world.
Recent research shows the use of sensory and adaptive approaches, such as wearing a pressure garment, increases attention and promotes adaptive behaviors (Polatajko
& Cantin, 2010; Haar, 1998; Olson & Moulton, 2004). This type of external sensory support is often used by parents and service providers for calming the child and reducing anxiety to prepare them for learning and task engagement.
A recent study explored parental perceptions of their child’s behavior while wearing a seamless pressure garment during daily life activities. The caregiver survey indicated that caregivers support and are more satisfied with wearing of pressure garments in all occupation areas, especially during play, community outings, and learning experiences. It is believed that increased sensory inputs are available during play and community outings, which supports the positive perceived survey responses.
SmartknitsKIDS® is the same company who invented the fabulous seamless sock for kids to help children who struggle with getting dressed. The seams and the bunching of typical socks make getting dressed each day a chore.
Imagine if you had to get up every day and put on your itchiest prickly sweater?
Wouldn’t that be the WORST?!
That’s how children with tactile defensiveness and other sensory issue feel every day.
Can you blame them for putting on their bathing suit? That’s the equivalent of us (as grown-ups) taking off our uncomfortable clothes and shoes at the end of a long day, and putting on our most comfy fuzzy socks and robe.
The Compresso-T is just one product in a line of wonderful, seamless and soft compression garments from SmartKnitKIDS®. Made with seamless, super soft and breathable material, the Compresso-T is the ultimate in comfort for sensory challenged kids. It’s breathable but also contains moisture wicking yarns to help pull moisture away from the skin and help keep the wearer cool. Seamless finishing eliminates uncomfortable pressure points.
FINALLY NO MORE SCRATCHY TAGS!
When I went over Emma’s sensory Profile with her Mom, it became very clear that Emma avoided certain sensory input. Certain clothes, costumes, face paint, tags and even an unexpected tap on the shoulder really bothered Emma. When her Mom saw it spelled out like that – it became obvious.
Emma craved pressure, dislikes certain materials/fabrics, and is super sensitive to tags.
The Compresso-T was the perfect place to start. Emma was a bright girl and didn’t want anything “different” from her girlfriends.
Wearing a compression garment under her clothes provided an extra source of sensory input that helped Emma feel secure and calm. This made transition times (leaving the house, getting ready for school, etc.) and overwhelming situations (crowds, parties, etc.) more bearable.
After a few weeks, Emma’s mom also decided to try out SmartknitKIDS ® undies and socks, too. Before, Emma would insist on wearing a particular kind of socks and underwear. Her mom, Patty, would have to make sure that that exact pair of socks or underwear was clean – which was tricky because Emma was always wearing them!
Wearing SmartknitKIDS seamless clothing underneath her regular school clothes helped make the family routine much easier. Emma was able to get dressed on her own and didn’t put up a fuss about “scratchy” socks and “itchy” underwear. Patty reported that Emma still struggled with tactile sensitivities. But wearing compression garments was a big help.
Would your child benefit from compression garments?
If your child demonstrates any of these behaviors, you may want to consider trying pressure garments.
Melting down in the morning about clothing choices
Displaying an extreme preference for certain textures or articles of clothing
Preferring tight clothing like bathing suits, old clothes that are too small, tight leggings or leotards.
1. Polatajko, H. J., & Cantin, N. (2010). Exploring the effectiveness of occupational therapy interventions, other than the sensory integration approach, with children and adolescents experiencing difficulty processing and integrating sensory information. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 64(3), 415-29. Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/503270117?accountid=143111
2. Olson, L. J., & Moulton, H. J. (2004). Occupational therapists’ reported experiences using weighted vests with children with specific developmental disorders. Occupational Therapy International, 11(1), 52-66. Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/71879068?accountid=143111
Have you ever seen a kid burst out crying for no reason? I know I have. The thing is, there is always a reason. Whether it’s because they are scared, tired, disappointed, or anything else, there is ALWAYS a reason.
No matter how silly it may seem to us, something is bothering them and it’s important enough to cause a physical effect for that child.
In my opinion, it’s the WORST when a child can’t tell you how they are feeling. Many times this is because they simply don’t know. Children rarely spend time learning about emotions and feelings. There are children’s books and stories that may help. But most kids learn by picking up simple social cues and digesting the actions of their parents and peers.
For some kids, that’s just not enough. Some kids need practice with figuring out how they feel and what that means.
You know how horrible it is when you are terribly embarrassed? When you feel mortified and want to crawl under a table? Now imagine if you couldn’t understand why you even felt that way – uggh. Continue reading →
Learn how to improve your child’s cutting skills with these simple tips from a pediatric OT. *This post contains affiliate links
How to Improve Your Child’s Cutting Skills
“Cutting?” The mom looked at me nervously…. “Um, I’ve never given my child scissors…. I don’t want him to hurt himself….” Her face turned red. “Should I?!”
The poor mom was panicking as she asked me about kindergarten. She was totally nervous that her son wouldn’t be able to keep up. Trying to reassure her, I asked how he holds his pencil and how were his cutting skills. And instead of making her feel better, I made it way worse! Uh-oh.
(This happens all the time, by the way. Moms don’t realize that kids should be cutting WAY before Kindergarten. But really – if you are worried that your kid will hurt themselves when they are sitting with you in the kitchen, do you really want them learning how to cut while the teacher is also supervising 20 other kids? )
Nah – better to get them started before school so they know what they are doing. It gives them a “leg up” on the rest of the kids. You can always give them those little safety scissors if you are worried that they will cut themselves. Or the playdoh scissors, which don’t have real blades.
What should a parent do when their child isn’t interested in reading?
What if they aren’t prepared for kindergarten?
Will they ever learn their letters?
I just found the perfect solution to the disinterested child. A Bluebee Pal.
As an OT and a newly certified Assistive Technology provider, I am always looking for fun ways to incorporate interactive technology into to my sessions. I often recommend educational apps and games to parents to help with follow through at home. Let’s face it: Kids love technology. It’s important for them to still manipulate and play with toys, games, and puzzles, but a tablet or cell phone can be used in any location to work on almost any goal.
I am totally on the “LIMIT TECHNOLOGY” for little kids bandwagon and am all about “Pocketbook-Sized Toys”! I have been so inspired by some articles I’ve read lately; especially a great article by Your Therapy Source (link at the bottom). So I decided to make a list of 10 pocketbook-sized toys to occupy your kid (instead of your phone!)
As a public school OT, I work with Kindergarten students two days a week. The continued decline in the basic motor skills of four and five-year-old children is VERY evident. There are probably many reasons why, but I feel that lack of functional playtime is a BIG contributor. Nowadays, many kids have their own tablets, TV’s in their rooms, and an iPod shuffle. They spend less and less time playing outside, which limits their gross motor skills, endurance, and coordination. When they are inside, they spend less time playing with toys and using their hands and more time with technology.
Parents often ask me for my favorite Sensory Resources. I recently did a parent workshop to speak about OT tips and trick for children with Sensory Processing Difficulties. I decided to put together a simple list of my go-to books, toys, and equipment for Sensory Processing. So here it is!