Back to School Supplies

Back to School Supplies


It’s almost time for school to start, and I’m sure the back-to-school shopping has begun!  Before you go out and buy those sparkly pencils, read on for tips on choosing the right school supplies to help your child succeed at school.  Links provided are examples only.  Many of these products can be found in various brands, and can be found both online and in local stores, like Staples, Target, Walmart, etc.


Triangular pencils are a great tool to encourage a tripod grasp, which can impact handwriting by reducing fatigue and cramps and increasing control.  The triangle shape helps fingers fall just in the right spot, and can be enough to correct subtle inefficient grasps.  These come in standard size and thick, and many crayons can even be found in this shape.  Some children need more support, which can come from various pencil grips, but talk to your OT before selecting one!

Thick pencils (like these, or crayons and markers, too!) are nice for children that have low tone in their hands, and have trouble stabilizing a thin utensil.  Of course, it can sometimes hinder development of those tiny hand and finger muscles, so talk to your child’s OT to decide if this will be a help or a hindrance!

Before you throw away those broken crayons and golf pencils, remember that shorter utensils encourage a more mature grasp pattern.  Rather than using your whole hand in a fisted grasp, a short utensil requires you to use your fingers!  Markers, crayons, colored pencils, and pencils can be found in mini sizes (or again, keep those golf pencils and broken crayons!).   Crayon rocks encourage using a pinching grip, rather than a whole fist!

For some children, mechanical pencils can be a great tool!  If you press too hard when using a mechanical pencil, it causes the pencil lead to break, which teaches some students to press more lightly, but just frustrates other students.  Different lead thicknesses can make this very customizable to increase or decrease sensitivity.  Mechanical pencils can also be a good option for students who are easily distracted by trips to the pencil sharpener.  If you’re concerned that mechanical pencils will be too frustrating for your child, consider a small pencil sharpener like this that your child can keep at his or her desk, to minimize distraction.

For many of our kids that are impulsive and rush through work (leading to mistakes that need to be corrected), the small eraser on the end of the pencil is worn away long before the pencil lead is.  Picking out some ‘fun’ erasers that can sit on the desktop may provide a visual cue to remind children to correct mistakes, while providing motivation to do so!  Kneadable erasers add an extra element by doubling as a fidget! 

For children with fine motor weakness, cutting can be a frustrating task.  While this is a skill they need to develop, the best time to do that is when you or their OT is there to provide one-on-one support.  For classroom time, self-opening scissors like these can reduce frustration and increase independence. 

There are numerous styles of lined paper on the market, and some provide more support for your child than you may realize!  Skip-a-line paper helps with keeping organized when visual tracking is difficult.  Redi-space paper helps teach letter and word spacing.  Raised line paper helps to improve sizing and line placement when children have a hard time staying within the lines with visual clues alone.  Websites like allow you to print paper from home with various spacing and sizing options, and you can add a raised line with a little glue and patience!     

For children with executive functioning deficits and who have trouble staying organized, color-coding supplies can be a simple tool to embrace.  From coordinating folders and notebooks to spandex book covers, each subject/class can have its own color, so that the correct supplies make it to the right classroom!  Coordinating pouches can help keep needed supplies together, like a calculator and protractor for math, or a highlighter to mark important dates during history. 

Encourage and help your child use a planner or agenda, so that he or she can gain independence and confidence in keeping track of important dates and assignments.  This is not a skill that comes naturally to everyone, so you may need to take some time to teach him or her how to listen for important dates, where to record, and how often to check what’s coming up.


I hope this blog helps you choose school supplies that will support your children so that they can have a successful school year!  If you have specific questions about which supplies would be best for your child, talk to his or her OT about options.



For more information on choosing the right type and weight for your child's backpack,  check out Matt's blog post for this week!  Generating URL...

Author: Krista Flack, MS OTR/L

Backpack Awareness

Backpack Awareness!

Backpacks are worn to school every day by millions of kids around the world, but have you ever thought about the serious health effects that backpacks can cause children? The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) has stated a backpack awareness day to help raise awareness about how to properly wear a backpack and how heavy it should be. According to the AOTA, in 2007 over 2,000 backpack related injuries were treated in emergency rooms and physician offices. In one study with American students ages 11 to 15 years, 64% reported back pain related to heavy backpacks. Twenty one percent reported the pain lasting more than 6 months.


According to the AOTA there are 3 simple steps to backpack wearing to help reduce the risk of injury. The first step is to pack it properly.  Make sure to utilize all compartments and pockets of the backpack to help distribute weight, and keep the heavier items closer to the back center of the backpack. A backpack should weigh no more than 10% of your child’s total body weight. The second step is put it on correctly. Make sure your child is picking up the backpack by bending and lifting in the knees instead of the waist to prevent back injury. The third step is to make sure the backpack is adjusted and worn properly. Always use both shoulder straps and make sure the backpack rests snugly against the back. Make sure that the backpack does not go above your child’s shoulders or below the top of the hip bones.


National backpack awareness is day is September 21, 2016. So why talk about backpacks now? It is important to know how to properly size a backpack and what should be in them before beginning your back to school shopping especially with tax free weekend coming up. Georgia and South Carolina both have tax free weekends coming up for back to school supplies.


Georgia’s TAX FREE weekend is July 30 – July 31st. During this weekend the sales tax will be exempt on different clothing items, computers and accessories, and school supplies, however there are some limitations on items and pricing. Total cost in clothing items must be less than $100 in order to receive tax exemption. Computer items less than $1,000 and school supplies less than $20 for tax exemption. Please be sure to look at the link below for all of the official rules and regulations for Georgia’s tax free weekend


South Carolina’s TAX FREE weekend is August 7 – August 9th. During this time, sales tax will not be imposed on items such as clothing, shoes, school supplies, bookbags, computers, printers, bedspreads and linens. Nonexempt items include the sale of jewelry, cosmetics, eyewear, furniture, or items placed on layaway. Please be sure to look at the link below for all of the official rules and regulations for South Carolina’s tax free weekend'S-ANNUAL-SALES-TAX-HOLIDAY-IS-AUGUST-7-9.aspx


Backpack awareness links and more information



For suggestions on other school supplies, check out Krista's blog post for this week!


-Matthew D’Antonio, PT, DPT

Pediatric Physical Therapist

Cleft and Craniofacial Prevention and Awareness Month!

Cleft and Craniofacial Prevention and Awareness Month

The American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association (ACPA) along with other organizations are raising awareness about cleft and craniofacial defects along with other conditions that affect the face. So what are craniofacial defects? The Center for Disease Control defines craniofacial defects as conditions present at birth that affect the structure and function of a baby’s head and face. The most common craniofacial defect we see in children is a cleft lip and cleft palate. This is when a baby is born with an opening in the lip and/or roof of the mouth (palate). According to, cleft lip and cleft palate occur in 1 or 2 of every 1,000 births making it one of the most common birth defects in the United States. It occurs during the first 6 to 10 weeks of pregnancy, the bones and tissues of a baby's upper jaw, nose, and mouth normally come together (fuse) to form the roof of the mouth and the upper lip. This can cause other health problems or concerns such as feeding problems, ear fluid buildup, hearing loss, dental problems, and speech problems.


According to the American Speech and Hearing Association, the treatment of cleft palate is done through a team approach. Typically children start off by seeing a surgeon who will close the cleft lip or palate usually before 1 year of age. An orthodontist and dentist are also a crucial part of the team by helping to straighten your child’s teeth, and making sure their jaw is aligned properly. A speech language pathologist will assess your child’s feeding during infancy and will also monitor your child’s speech and language development. Other team members may include pediatricians, nurses, ENT, audiologist, psychologist, social workers, and nutritionists.


The American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association (ACPA) has outlined teams in each state that specialize in cleft palate and craniofacial deformities. Here is the link to the teams located in South Carolina


Check out the links below for more information.


-Matthew D’Antonio, PT, DPT

Pediatric Physical Therapist

Beaufort Water Festival!

Beaufort Water Festival – Rendezvous by the River


This Friday is the first day of the Beaufort Water Festival, a ten day festival comprised of more than two dozen individual events including sporting events, aquatic events, arts & crafts, music and of course, the best of Lowcountry cuisine.  The Water Festival is a highlight of summer life in the Lowcountry, and a great opportunity for residents and visitors alike to experience everything life on the coast has to offer.  This post will highlight some of the main events, especially those that would be fun for the whole family, including children and teens.

The Opening Ceremony is this Friday, July 15th at Waterfront Park.  The Parris Island Marine Corps band will play, and there will be a fireworks show at dusk.  This event is free and begins at 7pm.  Also, check out our previous blog for ideas on making events like fireworks and the Air Show (see below) a little more sensory-friendly.

If you arrive early, walk around the Arts and Crafts Market at the attached Promenade (going on throughout the festival), where local and out of town artists and crafters display and sell their hard work.

Saturday, July 16th is filled with plenty of events to watch or even participate in (register here): a bocce tournament, a raft race, a badminton tournament, a croquet tournament, and a Children’s Toad Fishing Tournament, which is free to enter! 

Sunday, July 17th is Children’s Day!  This event is FREE.  Come to Waterfront Park to enjoy games, shows, activities, prizes, and bounce houses.  

In the evening, let your older children go out and enjoy some music and time with friends at the Teen Dance (ages 13-17). 

Saturday, July 23rd is the Water Festival Grand Parade.  The Parade is from 10am-12pm and goes throughout downtown Beaufort. 

After the parade, head over to Waterfront Park for the Air Show, where you can watch stunt planes, parachutists, and a US Coast Guard Search and Rescue Demo.

On Sunday, July 24th, the festival ends with the Blessing of the Fleet and Parade of Boats, which can be viewed from Waterfront Park. 

Throughout the week and weekends, there are numerous events and concerts scheduled, including a Concert in the Park, a Talent Show, a Lowcountry Supper, a River Dance, and the Commodore’s Ball.  Check out the complete list of events by visiting the website and clicking on the Events tab and selecting Festival Schedule.  Tickets to events can be purchased here (most events are free for children 5 and under).

Enjoy the Water Festival!


Author: Krista Flack, MS OTR/L

Let’s Go Play!

Author: Krista Flack, MS OTR/L

Let’s Go Play!

Playing is one of the most important jobs that children have; not only is it fun, but it can be very educational. While playing, children learn a variety of skills, like manipulating parts, maneuvering through their environment, problem-solving, social skills, and communication. While individual play is very important to foster independence and a sense of self, this blog is going to focus on the benefits of group play.

Toddlers often begin participating in parallel play – they sit near each other, and may or may not be playing with the same toys. In parallel play, children do not share, turn-take, or influence each other’s play. Still, this is an important developmental stage, as children observe each other and learn new ways to play with toys, they begin to interact, moving into associative play.

In associative play, the focus of play becomes each other, rather than the toys. Although usually lacking structure, children in this stage make an effort to be involved in each other’s play, even if playing by different rules.

Cooperative play comes last. In this stage, children play together, with a common purpose. Whether it is make-believe (playing ‘school’ or ‘house’) or a structured game with rules (freeze tag, soccer, etc.), children begin to be interested in both the activity and the socialization, which opens up many learning opportunities!

Whichever stage your child is in, or even if they fluctuate between two stages, it is important to give them opportunities to play with same-age (and same-stage) peers. Here are some ideas for getting out to play!

• Summer day camps can be a great opportunity for children to participate in play with peers. Check out this previous blog for some local summer camps; it’s not too late to sign up for some!

• Go to the park! Encourage your child to play with other children there. Tag, hide and seek, and other group games are quick to learn and it’s easy to add more kids into the game as they come and go. Swinging, climbing, and sliding provide great sensory input and give children an opportunity to practice gross motor skills as well!

• Look for local events at the library. Many events are age-specific, so you’re sure to find children there that are close in age to your child.

• Be on the lookout for events and classes that become available. CrossFit Port Royal Sound offers Kids CrossFit classes; first class is free to try it out. Plus, this can be a great heavy work option for kids! Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Michael’s offer free or low-cost kid’s craft projects.

• Sign up for team sports through PALS Team sports are great for learning cooperation, teamwork, sportsmanship, and other important social and life skills.

Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month!

July is Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month. Juvenile and arthritis are not two words we typically see associated together. When we think of arthritis we immediately think of the elderly, however arthritis can affect children too. Nearly 300,000 children in the United States are affected with juvenile arthritis. Juvenile arthritis is actually an umbrella term for many different types of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases that affect children. explains the different types of juvenile arthritis and I have listed them below.

  • Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis = This is considered the most common form of arthritis in children. It includes 6 different sub-types such as oligoarthritis, polyarthritis, systemic, enthesitis-related, juvenile psoriatic arthritis or undifferentiated. 
  • Juvenile Dermatomyositis = This is an inflammatory disease that causes muscle weakness and a skin rash on the eyelids and knuckles.
  • Juvenile Lupus = Lupus is an autoimmune disease and can affect the joints, skin, kidneys, and other areas of the body.
  • Juvenile Scleroderma = These are a group of conditions that cause the skin to harden and tighten.
  • Kawasaki Disease = This disease causes blood vessel inflammation and can lead to heart complications.
  • Fibromyalgia = Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain syndrome that cause stiffness and aching, fatigue, disrupted sleep, and other symptoms. has listed several common signs and symptoms of arthritis and how they are different from symptoms caused by other illnesses and injuries. Many early signs and symptoms could be mistaken for other childhood diseases or injuries; therefore it is important to get a proper examination from your pediatrician. Below are several of the most common signs and symptoms associated with JA.

  • Pain = A child with juvenile arthritis may complain of pain first thing in the morning or right after a nap, and the pain may lessen with movement. JA pain typically occurs in joints on both sides of the body and may develop slowly unlike pain caused by an injury or another illness.
  • Stiffness = JA related stiffness may be worse right after a child wakes up and typically improves with movement.
  • Swelling = Swelling and redness may be present around the joints, and may even cause the joints to feel hot or warm to touch. Unlike normal swelling, JA swelling can come and go at any time and persist for several days.
  • Fevers = A child with JA may have frequent fevers accompanied by malaise and fatigue, and may come on suddenly and then disappear after a short time.
  • Rashes = A child with JA can develop rashes. These rashes differ from a normal rash because they typically develop over the knuckles, across the cheeks, or the bridge of the nose. They may not be itchy or oozing and they may persist for days or weeks.
  • Weight Loss = If a child seems fatigued, lacks an appetite, and is losing rather than gaining weight it is a sign that the problem could be JA.
  • Eye Problems = Persistent eye redness, pain, or blurred vision may be a sign of something more serious such as JA.  

Both PT and OT play an important role in the treatment plan for a child with JA. Physical therapy is used to help children regain strength and range of motion that may have been lost during a flare up. Research has shown that each time a kid has an active flare up they lose some strength, but only regain back a portion of the lost strength when a flare up subsides. Occupational therapy tends to concentrate more on hand function during activities of daily living (i.e. dressing, eating, and bathing), as well as provide adaptations and recommend accommodations to make daily tasks easier and decrease stress on the joints.

Be sure to check out these links below for more information on juvenile arthritis, and if you are concerned your child may have juvenile arthritis contact your pediatrician and schedule an appointment.

-Matthew D’Antonio, PT, DPT

Pediatric Physical Therapist

Staying Cool in the Summer Heat

How To Stay Cool!

With temperatures already in the 90s, it is hard to find fun ways to stay cool and avoid the heat. This week’s blog is geared to help keep you and your kids cool this summer while playing outside in the hot temperatures.


Homemade popsicles are a great way to cool down between activities. Country has 20 different homemade popsicle recipes that will keep you cool this summer and they are healthy! Being the chocolate lover that I am, my favorite recipe would have to be the fudge popsicles. All you need is chocolate almond milk and Nutella and it is delicious! Here is the link for all of the different recipes.


Splash pads and fountains are always fun for kids to play in. There is a splash pad right outside of Coligney beach on Hilton Head Island and one at Harold Turpin Park in Ridgeland SC. Savannah is also home to a bunch of different parks. Ellis Square and Forsyth Park are 2 parks in Savannah that have fountains for kids to play in, and parents don’t be shy there is no age limit on who can play in the fountains and splash pads!


Water tables are another great way for your kids to have fun and stay cool at the same time. A water table is exactly what it sounds like. It is a table that is full of water and comes with different toys, action figures, and attachments to play with. Amazon has tons of water tables and they range from $30-$70.


Pintrest has tons of different plans and ideas for do-it-yourself water tables.


Here is another website that has lots of cool and fun ideas to help you beat the heat this summer!



-Matthew D’Antonio, PT, DPT

Pediatric Physical Therapist


Sensory-Friendly 4th of July Celebrations

Author: Krista Flack, MS OTR/L

Sensory-Friendly 4th of July Celebrations

While many of us look forward to the parades and fireworks on the 4th of July, it can be overwhelming and stressful for children with Autism or sensory processing difficulties.  Below are some tips for making this Independence Day enjoyable for the whole family:

  • Prepare your child for the day’s events. 
    • Social stories work well to prepare your child for what they may experience and how it may make them feel, and provide scripts and reminders of sensory strategies that will be available to them. 
    • Visual schedules can add an element of routine and predictability to the day.  Seeing the day’s events and being able to refer back to it can be easier for a child to understand than being told verbally what to expect (especially if your child has language delays or deficits).  Remember, visual schedules can be as structured or as flexible as you want or as your child needs/can handle.  A dry erase board allows you to make quick changes for when things are not going as planned. 
    • Watch videos of parades and fireworks.  Start with the volume down and gradually increase it.  Talk about the crowds, the noise level, and the visual stimulation.  Make sure this conversation is positive and calm, but also communicates what can be done to reduce stimulation if needed.
  • Come armed with sensory strategies that will help your child calm down if overstimulated. 
    • Headphones or ear plugs can reduce noise.  If your child has never worn them before, try them at home in the days leading up to the event so that they are familiar.
    • Sunglasses or a billed hat can reduce visual input by dimming the light or cutting the visual field.  A small pop up tent or umbrella can provide your child with a safe space with reduced visual input and lower risk of being touched/bothered by others when he or she needs a break.
    • While crunchy snacks can be alerting, chewy snacks (or those that require a sucking motion) can be calming.  Licorice, beef jerky, and bagels are foods that require heavy chewing!
    • Heavy work can help to prevent over-stimulation, and can calm your child if they get to that point despite using the above strategies.  Passive heavy work can include things like ankle weights, a weighted blanket/backpack/lap pad, or firm hugs/squishes.  Get your child moving for more active heavy work options, like bear crawling, crab walking, swimming, and jumping. 
  • Be observant, flexible, and realistic about expectations.  Watch your child’s reactions; you know him or her best.  Even if you use all the tips above, your child may still become overwhelmed and overstimulated.  Try not to stress about it or let it ruin your day.  Watching fireworks from the car, or heading home early and playing games can still result in a fun day for all!  

Check out the links below for local events happening this 4th of July:

Beaufort/Port Royal


Bluffton/Hilton Head Island

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: Special Accommodations for Your Favorite Destinations!

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: Special Accommodations for Your Favorite Destinations!


Going on a family vacation with a child with special needs can sometimes be a very daunting task. Don’t worry though, we are here to help! Krista’s blog this week has some great tips for sensory ideas when traveling with kids with special needs. Here's the link to her blog: . This blog is going to highlight some specific vacation destinations and the special accommodations that they off for children with special needs.


  1. Carowinds in Charlotte, NC
  • Boarding Pass Program = Guests with mobility impairments or with autism spectrum disorder are able to receive a ride boarding pass with wait times. This allows guests to access the rides at specific times via the exit ramp in order to avoid crowds and waiting in the regular lines.
  • Guests with disabilities need to stop at guest services at the front gate upon arrival for details on special accommodations.
  • Here is the link to Carowinds for more information  

     2. Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, GA

  • They offer wheelchairs free of charge to guests and have a transportation system from the parking lot to the entrance.
  • The touch pool (where you can touch animals) has a special wheelchair access entry.
  • For children with visual and hearing impairments tactile elements have been added to each exhibit. They also have cell phone and Ipad tours available.
  • They have handicapped trained divers for anyone who wants to purchase the SCUBA or snorkeling package.
  • More information can be found at  

     3. Disney World, Universal Studios, and SeaWorld in Orlando, FL

  • All 3 parks provide assistance passes for individuals with disabilities.
  • Passes can be obtained at guest relations when you enter the park.
  • The passes are different at each park, and this website helps to explain how each pass works and different tips and tricks to navigating the parks  



-Matthew D’Antonio, PT, DPT

Pediatric Physical Therapist

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: Sensory Edition

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: Sensory Edition

Everybody looks forward to a family vacation, but the closer you get to the departure date, the more you feel some of the stressors that come along with what should be a relaxing vacation.  Traveling with kids in general can mean a few curve balls being thrown your way, but when you have children with special needs, those curve balls can multiply!  Below are some tips for making your trip run as smoothly as possible so you can enjoy your time away!

  • First, always check to see if the attractions you will be visiting have programs or accommodations for children with special needs.  Some parks and museums offer sensory-friendly events or areas.  Matt’s blog post this week has more details on some of the local attractions and how to find out about special accommodations they offer.  

  • Think about your daily routine – there are likely some things that make your day run smoothly that are such a part of your daily life that it would be very missed if you had to go without it, like specific snacks, a special blanket, or a swing.  Many things are easy to pack so that you don’t have to worry about finding it at your destination.  But you may not be able to pack everything that you use on a daily basis, so get creative and think about how you can replicate some of the things you can’t pack.  For example, a travel hammock could replace a swing and compacts down to a small pouch; a wiggle cushion or inflatable mattress are much smaller than a trampoline but can give similar input.   

  • Use visual schedules or social stories to prepare your child for the upcoming events and to add an element of routine/predictability.  This will reduce stress and prevent meltdowns.


  • If your child is sensitive to sensory input:
    • Use a billed hat, sunglasses, or a sleep mask to reduce visual input.
    • Pack ear plugs or headphones to reduce noise, or to play calming sounds at times.
    • Use a weighted blanket, lap pad, or ankle weights to provide calming deep pressure. 

  • Heavy work activities can help regulate a child's arousal level, concentration, and ability to sit still and attend to a task.
    • While driving or flying, use theraband or exercise bands for heavy work.  Try stretching the band between your arms, or tie it into a loop and stretch between your feet! 
    • Stress balls, putty, pop beads, clothes pins, and other fidgets can make good heavy work activities for fingers and hands. 
    • Chewy snacks (licorice, gum, bagel, beef jerky) and sucking through a straw are great heavy work activities for your mouth!
    • Before boarding the plane or at rest stops, try to work in some heavy work tasks.  Push/pull a suitcase or cooler, carry a backpack, do jumping jacks, pushups, or animal walks.


  • A note about Car Sickness: Car sickness is caused by the discord within the brain’s ability to process movement with visual input. For example, your visual system says you are moving as the landscape passes by; however, your body and the proprioceptive receptors of the brain say you are sitting still. As your sensory receptors cannot find a way to process both sides of the sensory input, your body begins to have a visceral reaction, leading to nausea.  Another example occurs as you are trying to read a book in the car; your eyes are stationary on the book while the fluid in your ear canals are moving as the car goes over bumps and the car accelerates/decelerates; your brain has difficulty in processing if you are moving or if you are stationary as the input it is receiving does not match up.




Author: Krista Flack, MS OTR/L

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