Column B

Midline crossing exercises help the brain to talk to itself… literally.  Repeated traversing of the corpus callosum paves this rural path into a superhighway.

When devising exercises to meet this goal, imagine stabilizing the hips so the right upper body reaches into the left body space and the left upper body reaches into the right.  Of course, to make this meaningful, the head has to follow suit.  This often happens naturally if you incorporate a verbal cue with a visual target.

For instance:

  • Pivot Pass.  This is a paired activity.  Students stand back to back so their heels, butts and shoulders are initially touching.  Then, using a large book or object (i.e. something that must be held with 2 hands), the first student turns right to pass it to the student behind him.  The second student must take it with two hands, rotate and then pass it back to the first student using both hands.  In brief, both hands must be used in order to get full trunk, neck and head rotation.  Reverse directions.  Pass left, turn right.  Repeat several times in both directions.  Increase the speed.
  • Good job, chair!  Staying seated with both feet firmly on the floor in front, each student turns his body to pat the back of the chair on the opposite side, behind his shoulder.  Congratulate your chair on the other side, too.  Repeat 10 X.  It’s important to insist on patting the chair rather than their own shoulder to promote maximum rotation.  Encourage the students to look at the chair, while they are at it.
  • Wallet check.  Like Good job, Chair!, this is a seated activity.  Make sure children have their feet flat on the floor before starting.  Direct students to imagine having a wallet in their back pocket.  Using the opposite hand, children turn their bodies fully so their right hand can pat their left buttock and their left hand can pat their right one.  Cue the children to say, “Wallet?  Check!” each time they pat.  Once again, remind them to look at their ‘wallet.’  After all, you don’t want to lose it!
  • Star bends.  Stand like a 5-pointed star.  Both arms are out to the sides.  Both legs are apart, wider than the hips.  With the right hand, bend to touch the left foot.  Return to your upright star formation.  With the left hand, bend to touch the right foot.  Repeat these movements 10 times in each direction.  Remember… You are a star!
  • Pretzel.  Known by different names around the country, you may already do this one.  Each child stands by their desk.  Instruct them to reach their arms straight out in front, crossing the right over the left.  Turn the palms toward each other, then clasp them together.  Fold the arms back into the body.  Next, cross the right foot over the left.  Count to 10.  Close your eyes and count backwards from 10 to 0.  DO NOT UNFOLD right away.  Instead, uncross your feet and cross the left over the right.  Unfold your arms slowly.  Noting which arm is on top, now place the other arm on top.  Clasp the hands together and fold back into the body.  Count to 10 with eyes opened and in reverse with eyes closed.
Add these exercises to your Chinese Menu.  Model them for your teachers.  Help them identify logical times during their lessons to do so.  They’ll soon see that it is easy to insert worthwhile movement breaks into the day.  After all, these exercises only take a minute each.  But they are compounded experiences.
Optimizing interhemispheric communication can be elementary.  Maximizing attention may start with choosing one from Column A and one from Column B.

Column A

Heavy Work is thought to organize the brain from the bottom up.  It’s part of the catalyst sparking executives to roll their sleeves up and get down and dirty with the nitty gritty of manual labor.  It just plain feels good.  But beyond that, it’s emotionally cleansing.  It’s almost as if the effort to overcome physical resistance clears out the cobwebs blocking the way to mental clarity.

Put that way, we all could use a healthy dose of some Heavy Work.

Here are some easy ones to share with teachers.  Children can do them sitting at or near their desks, or certainly within the perimeter of the classroom.

  • Popcorn.  Imagine being a kernel of popcorn in a microwave.  Children place their hands onto the seat and lift their butts each time you say “Pop.”  Starts slowly, building into a frenetic series of pops.  Then reverse momentum gradually to a stray pop here or there.
  • Toe Writing.  Staying seated, a child lifts both feet and writes his name and address, the Declaration of Independence, or anything pertinent to the classroom subject.  This takes a lot of abdominal and quadriceps strength.  (One foot may even mirror the writing of the other.)
  • Chair or desk push-ups.  Place both hands on a stable surface.  Step backward until you are angled away.  Arms should be straight at first.  Bend to touch your nose to the furniture at hand… literally.
  • Take your chair for a walk.  Make a track around the classroom.  Each child picks up his chair and marches clockwise or counterclockwise.  Stop in the middle to do the Hokey Pokey, arm press the chair forward or upward, or otherwise turn yourself around.  But whatever you do… don’t let the chair touch the floor!
  • Overhead Book Press.  Using a large text book (or three), students reach overhead.  Hands should be opened flat and perpendicular to the ceiling.  With the texts laying securely on the opened hands, the students bend their elbows bringing the books almost to their heads and then back up again.  Repeat.  Do at least 10.
That’s enough for now.  Let the teachers and students become familiar with these five.  We’ll add more later.
After all, we want a balanced diet!

Chinese Menu

Can’t say that I’ve come across this lately since I’ve eaten in a number of fine Asian restaurants.  But there was a time when ordering from the local Chinese Restaurant meant selecting one entree from Column A and a second serving from Column B.  It was a good way of encouraging patrons to expand their palate.

The same format works well for exercise.

With the American Heart Association posting findings from this year’s annual conference that children today are 15 percent less fit than their parents, an alarm must be sounded.  Its research showed that children can neither run as fast nor as far as their parents did when they were the same age.  In fact, it takes a full 90 seconds longer for children to run a mile as compared to speeds thirty years ago.

Health experts recommend 60 minutes of moderately rigorous exercise over the course of a day.  Unfortunately, only one-third of our children achieve this baseline.

Yikes.

While it may not be sustained cardiovascular activity, one place to start reversing this trend is through periodic movement activities within the classroom.  Try devising a menu of exercise options.  One column could be Heavy Work activities, a second Midline Crossing ones and a third called Movement. List an assortment of doable intense exercises that challenge children’s balance, strength, stamina and coordination.  Encourage teachers to punctuate the day with select activities… in other words, one from Column A, one from Column B and maybe two from Column C.  Sneak in a ‘side dish’ or ‘main course’ between subjects, before or after a test, following a boring assembly, before a language arts lesson…  You get the idea.

The activities should be ones that can be performed either chair side or along the perimeter of the room. The entire movement break may be completed within minutes.   However, the benefits of recharging a child’s battery on attention, concentration, behavior and more, through a thoughtful array of movement options, can be long-lasting.

Stay tuned for a few of my favorite recipes, and don’t forget to leave room for dessert!

Stay Tuned!

Coming Soon!

We’d hoped to debut at the 94th AOTA conference in Baltimore this past week. But an unfortunate fall by our mechanical engineer left our momentum minus two much-needed upper extremity limbs.

The good news is that Joe is on the mend… thanks to his Occupational Therapists! Imagine that. And he’s gaining strength, range of motion and mobility daily. The fractures of both his left humerus and his right radius are healing on schedule.

But despite his hospitalization, he’s been in steady contact with the manufacturers and other professionals poised to finalize this exciting new product.

Charged with bringing to market a product that is:

  1. Child-proof
  2. Low profile
  3. Installs quickly
  4. Quiet
  5. Affordable… and most importantly,
  6. Provides needed sensory relief for our impulsive, sensory seekers, anxious, hyperactive or struggling students

… Joe assures us that “He’s got that covered!”

Stay tuned for this game-changing accommodation poised to impact attention, focus and academic scores!

My Ergonomic Dream

Here’s my dream.

First day of school. Desks of assorted heights are grouped in various configurations inside a classroom. Outside, lining the hallways, are an equal number of chairs, also of assorted heights, lined against the walls.
The children arrive.
The teacher announces, “Find a chair that you like.” And off they go.
Nine times out of ten, save for the tiny child who likes to feel big, children will gravitate toward a seat that fits them best. Holding the bottom, they should each walk into the classroom and get matched to a desk which clears their lap yet still places the writing surface at chest level.
Wouldn’t this be a great way to insure that kids start the year in an ergonomically healthy and functional position?
Of course, what usually happens is that teachers affix name cards to all the desks/chair ensembles before Day One, regardless of the size, (let alone core stability) of their students. And until a knowing therapist catches wind of the dangling legs, elevated shoulders, posterior pelvic tilts or other positioning nightmares, that child’s optimum performance with regards to motor skills, attention and sensory processing may be… shall we say, short-changed?
Oh, but to be pre-emptive. Just an idea…
Stay tuned for more.