Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Great sites for therapy ideas for kids with special needs

This guest post is by Heidi Kay, co-founder of PediaStaff, Inc, a staffing company with offices around the country specializing in the placement of pediatric and school-based speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists and physical therapists. Heidi also oversees the PediaStaff Blog, newsletter, and the PediaStaff Pinterest board. It's a parent favorite for all its amazing pediatric therapy ideas, including the one above about painting with an eye dropper and a popular recent one about applying Velcro beneath a desk to help a child with sensory processing disorder. Heidi's not a therapist but, as she says, "I'm passionate about helping children with special needs. I am delighted to go to work each day so I can contribute to therapist preparedness and education through PediaStaff’s publications.” Here, she shares some of the best therapy sites she's come across.

I will open this blog post with a proclamation: It is a great time to have a child with special needs. Now, before you reach your hands through your monitors and smartphones to shake some sense into me, let me explain: You, dear reader, are so very fortunate to be a Web 2.0 special-needs parent.

Fifteen-plus years ago, I alternately cried myself to sleep and pulled out my hair over my son’s explosive behavior, difficulty with transitions, and his complete lack of social skills. The only diagnosis we ever got was ADHD and ODD. I was told it was “definitely not” autism. Although medication was a godsend, it never made a dent in his social skills. And since he didn’t “have” anything else the doctors would label, no-one ever mentioned occupational or speech therapy. I didn’t even know what sensory integration was, and had no idea SLPs worked with social skills.

Today, the Internet is an absolutely amazing (and sometimes overwhelming!) resource for learning and sharing about the joys and pains of parenting exceptional kiddos. In addition to large sites like Parents, there are a dizzying number of blogs out there that offer information, including wonderful ones by pediatric and school-based therapists geared toward parents.

As editor of the PediaStaff blog and newsletter, I have been privileged to work with a number of fantastic pediatric and school-based therapists who work during the day serving exceptional kiddos, then come home at night and share their knowledge as bloggers. As you might imagine, I tend to read every article we review through both a clinical lens for our readership and the personal lens of a special needs parent. So when Ellen asked me to compile a list of PediaStaff’s favorite therapy blogs written with parents in mind, I was more than eager to share! Here are just a few of your best bets:

Great Blogs For Physical and Occupational Therapy Ideas

· Kid PT Dr. Joni Redlich serves children in New Jersey in both clinic and community-based settings. Her blog, written for parents, focuses on therapy driven suggestions for children with mobility and sensory integration issues. Recent post: How Can Physical Therapy Affect Social Skills?

· Enabled Kids Written by the therapists at Health in Motion Rehabilitation in Toronto, Canada, this site is a wealth of information for parents. Their blog, written for parents, generally covers therapy topics for children with cerebral palsy, spinal cord and traumatic brain injury. Recent post: What Are The Risks Of Giving My Child A G-tube?

· PediatricOT Loren Shlaes is a school-based occupational therapist in NYC. She writes excellent, hard-hitting, spot-on articles about teaching and parenting kiddos, “from the trenches.” Topics are primarily behavioral and sensory issues, and handwriting. Recent post: 24 Reasons Why A Child Can't Sit Still.

· Starfish Therapies Stacy Menz, DPT, is a board-certified pediatric clinical specialist with an excellent blog. Active in research, Stacy and her team have excellent insight into strengthening and gross motor activities and also give great toy recommendations. They named their company after The Starthrower, that wonderful story about the boy who throws starfish back into the sea because he could make a difference in the world—one starfish at a time. Recent post: How To Make Therapy Fun—Ways To Move Past The "No!"

·Therapy Fun Zone. This colorful, easy-to-navigate site/blog is full of great OT activities and crafts; it's a great read for parents who have children with fine motor, gross motor and sensorimotor needs. Recent post: Connecta Straws For Fine-Motor and Visual Perception.

· Your Therapy Source's YouTube channel The Your Therapy Source site has a great collection of free activities and hand-outs and a terrific YouTube Channel full of video ideas for fine motor, gross motor and handwriting practice. Recent video: Pump It Up—Muscle Strengthening Shoulders And Arms.

Great Blogs for Speech-Language Therapy Ideas and Communication/Social Skills

· Child Talk Becca Jarzynski writes a wonderful speech and language therapy blog that should not be missed. Her articles, like this one on grocery shopping with toddlers, offer concrete ideas for parents to help their child communicate during “everyday life.” Recent post: Top 10 Tips For Late Talkers.

· Play on Words This blog is quite unique in that it focuses on toys, games and books that facilitate language development. Not only does Sherry Artemko write excellent book and product reviews, she offers up specific ways parents can sneak speech and language therapy practice into family fun time at home. Recent post: E-Books vs. Print Books For Children.

· Speech Room News Young and full of energy, Jenna Rayburn is one of the most creative therapists blogging in therapy circles. Several times a week, she posts a fresh, fun activity to promote speech and language goals. Speech Room News was just awarded First Runner-Up among new blogs in the Edublog 2011 awards. PediaStaff is proud to have made the initial nomination of SRN for this award. Recent post: iPad Ideas.

And 1 Great Blog For Special Needs Apps

TherapyApp 411 This new group blog, also an Edublog nominee, is a collaborative effort of several of my favorite therapy bloggers. The aim is to review smartphone and tablet apps that can be used through a therapy lens. So far the reviews have mostly been of speech-language and social skills apps, but just this week PediaStaff has recommended to them three physical therapists who will be writing software reviews of apps for children with special physical and adaptive needs. Recent post: Practicing Life Skills With Apps: The Shopping Cart Game.

Our rotation of PediaStaff guest bloggers features over 20 different therapy oriented blogs, so if you are hungry to read additional therapy blogs, please stop by. We also follow about 40 additional teacher blogs, and over 8000 teachers and therapist boards on our special needs Pinterest board.

My son is now 20. Because of my work in the special needs field, we now know that he is on the edge of the autism spectrum and is at least Aspergers-ish. He still has never been for OT but we’ve talked about it and he now knows that it is an option for him. Almost every day I read something on the Internet that resonates with our struggle to raise him. Oh, how I wish I had some these resources fifteen years ago! But how exciting that this new generation of Web 2.0 special-needs parents need not feel as lonely as we were.


  1. What a great resource! Thank you!

  2. Thank you, Heidi Kay! You and Ellen have no doubt cornered the market on everyone important in the special needs online. I see many of my favorites in your list. I was happy to see my face (well, really my blog listed) on your Pinterest page. I continue to post at my blog several times a month (while it has many months since I guest posted anywhere else).

    I encourage everyone to click on the links in this post.
    Barbara Boucher, PT, PhD, OT

  3. I agree wholeheartedly! I say all the time how lost I'd be without the Internet to find therapy ideas for my son, or to educate me about what therapist/doctor/specialist, etc. I should turn to next. I love PediaStaff on Pinterest too. Can't wait to explore all the new links that were posted today. Thanks again Ellen for your blog, and always looking to put parents of kids with extra needs in touch with the support we need.

  4. What an amazing list of sites! I will need to print this out and go through them later. And will have to share with my friends.

    Thank you so much!

  5. All I can say is WOW and THANK YOU!! I just spent my lunch hour quickly running through all of the links and getting some really great ideas. I will be revisiting the sites once I get home tonight. I can't wait to try out some of the ideas. Thank you again.


  6. i have met stacy mets she is a great person

  7. Gack! because between pinterest and dr google, I needed more great special needs blogs to read. Thanks for feeding the addiction. Note to self: less time with dr. google and more time with the blogs

  8. Thank you, for all these great links. Unfortunately nothing like these fine resources was available when I was raising my special needs child but they surely are wonderful to pass along to parents raising special needs children today.

    1. Its not special needs children or parents. Those two words should be banned as they're demeaning. They also suggest the special needs are so great the child or adult is buried by them. Not to mention, they arent PFL- people first language.

  9. Thank you!! for this post and your blog and sharing pictures of max's awesome face!!!!!!! Thanks for being honest and real and thanks for taking the time!!!!!! to do this for us our here in cyber space!!!!
    liz Tree
    mom of Jaime, 4 y.o who has Down syndrome

  10. Thank u for these helpful ideas. I live in India and have hardly any access to sp needs help. I ve a little boy with Ld/ADHD and I try so hard on the net to learn how to help him. But most of the sites I go to CHADD etc ask for subscriptions or have locked articles which I cant access. So please if you know of any info on how to help my son especially reading/comprehension and social skills do email me


Thanks for sharing!

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