Body Back, Body Front. Body Down, Body Up.

Helping a Child To Swing and Steer a Nintendo

Alma, John’s occupational therapist, explained it this way:

John’s ability to pump himself while swinging needs some help.

So use new words about the body, not just the feet kicking.

Forget “Pump your feet, John!”    Didn’t work.

Instead, try, “Body Back” (to go forward), “Body Front” (to go backward).

or “Body Down” (to go forward), “Body Up” (to go backward).

Whole-body, physical-moving leaning and learning, using new words to overcome inertia.

Try this with your child who keeps asking you to push them on the swing.

Also, I have noticed John is now leaning his body to keep Mario and Luigi on the road.

Steering to the left

Turning Left

John has figured out how to use our old Nintendo DS (the original handheld).

Not the Sports Wii while standing up.

Instead, when he is sitting.

This skill has been a long time in coming.

And I have not been able to help him, because I don’t understand the machine controls.

Besides, it is best that he (with peer modeling) figured it out by himself, right?

John is now full body into the road maneuvering, with those glazed-over eyeballs.

I don’t mind that he’s super-absorbed into the game, because that’s what other kids do, right?

That is the major litmus test I use.

If other (neuro-typical) kids do it, he gets to do it.

Most of the time.

And I am surely going to count all this physical movement as therapy.

Steering to the right

Turning Right

So, see if these ideas help your child?

Peace be with us,



“What Are You Doing?!”

Extrinsic Incentives

incentive4 incentive3Sometimes removing something beloved works wonders for John.

This type of motivation is extrinsic, from the outside.

Not as stellar as intrinsic (motivation from within—even when no one is looking).incentive1

So, sadly, when all else fails, when my kind, repeated, verbal requests are ignored,

I pick up the Wii remote and click it.


Done with requests, threats, words.

When the protests rise:  “What are you doing?!” (said by John with either a smirk or fake indignation),

he then hears, “you can earn it back.  Next time.”

(Something short like that.)

He knows he is manipulating me, and won’t respect me or my words if I fail to give him what he expects.

He now expects me to keep my word.

I have heard moms say, “I love you too much to argue with you.”incentive

Same concept here.

Another top beloved thing John can lose:  the taped-on taekwondo stripes on his belt.

Like the one you see here in the photo that used to be such a stripe.

His instructor, Ms. Coleman, awesome black belt mom that she is, has said if it becomes necessary, then rip it off the belt.

No words of  bargaining or re-negotiation.




Then, a quick re-direct back to business, whatever that is.

Try this with your kids?   It is utterly golden at our home.

Peace be with us,


The Power of Distal Phalangeals

Fingertip DIP Joints, And Why We Must Keep Moving

Today Alma, one of John’s occupational therapists (OTRs), was explaining why John’s fingertips don’t work.

It isn’t his fault or his choice.   It’s the brain/nerve system (neurology) unique wiring that he was born with.

His is lax, loose, and stretched out.

Compared to typical.

And to use those fingertips, to continue to build and keep strength in all those joints,

John must continue the movements we learn in therapies and in life.

Because if his growing muscle strength diminshes, so will his fine motor ability.

Here is a photo of his fingertips.

He had to work harder to get this configuration than I do.

John’s joints (all of them) are more stretched out.

All the time.

And so, he has to work far harder than I do to make his fingertips work.

To hold a pencil.  Zip a zipper.  Button a button.  Play a piano.

Anything fine motor.

And he will always have to work harder than typical.

But he can.

If he wants to, right?

And for the rest of his life.

Try this with your kids, and be aware?

Peace be with us,



Piano Dexterity

Spider Fingers


Can your child move his fingers individually?

As in playing one piano key at a time, with hand placement like this photo.

John couldn’t.

So, we have been playing spider fingers.

Trying to get those rigidly straight little non-jointed fingers to realize they can actually bend.

As for motivation, I can just say, “Mom is going to win!”, and try to move in.

John hates that.

Glad he is developing a sense of friendly competition.

So then it’s time to advance to both hands.

One silent, listening.

The other hand doing the talking.

One note at a time.

You see here Ms. Melanie, Music on the Go, providing wrist support.

Then the support fades.

We practice quiet body, quiet hands.

The proper walk-up-and-sit-down approach,

the proper positions of everything,

the proper patience and self restraint.

Secret weapon:  Someone says, “Mom is going to win!”

and then I take over the keyboard.

Oh, John hates that, with a happy face.

Five minutes a day practice.

We are making progress.

Perhaps your child can learn the keys and play music with fading supports.

The prettiest noises you will be hearing.

So, try this at your house?

Peace be with us,



Natural Consequences—Not Mom’s Agenda

Packing Your Own Suitcase

I re-learn every day that I can’t make anyone do anything they aren’t motivated to do.

Never mind whatever vision of success I had in mind for them.

If they want something, they will make the effort.

Or they won’t.2016-11-02-18-29-09

I can help provide the opportunity to earn that feeling of accomplishment.

And then, they have to do for themselves.

His effort must come before his success.

Or he won’t respect his success and accomplishment.

It won’t be dear to him.

So, I asked John what did he want……

……in his suitcase?

(You realize any activity could be inserted here, right?)

I flopped the suitcase open on the floor, and asked him to put in the stuff he wanted.

He gets to haul that suitcase on, off, in and out when he travels.

The suitcase is just a silly example of a powerful concept:

A huge component of John’s successful launch into independence will be when he feels the natural consequences of each decision.

Tough love.

So very hard for parents who love so dearly.

John gains nothing when I hand everything to him.

I would then be robbing him of any reason to do anything.

So try this with your child, and you may see a great pride in accomplishment.

When he is ready to try.

Or it won’t happen yet.

And I must wait until he is ready to try.

It can’t be my agenda.

Peace be with us,