The choices of WHAT we eat are becoming increasingly important as research is finding more and more connections between certain foods and their effects on our bodies. The following from Eating Well provides recipes that can help to fuel our brains to assist with concentration and memory, and keep our minds in tip-top shape!
It is estimated that Autism Spectrum Disorder affects over 3 million individuals in the U.S. and tens of millions worldwide.
Occupational Therapy plays an important role in helping individuals living with autism. Learn many of the ways an OT can support individuals and their families in the following infographic:
March 26th has been designated Purple Day across the globe in honour of epilepsy awareness. Individuals are encouraged to wear purple clothing, local organizations host events, and many of our nation’s landmarks will also be bathed in purple light to increase awareness of the need for research about epilepsy.
Increase your awareness and learn how Occupational Therapy can assist those living with epilepsy and their families to live life to the fullest in the following infographic.
The old cliché is true when we talk of cognition – “use it or lose it”.
Our brains are made of billions of neurons, which interact with each other to complete specific tasks. Signals are sent from one neuron to another along neural pathways, and these determine our thoughts, emotions, insights, and so much more. Each task relies on a different neural pathway, so the pathway for reading a book is different than the pathway for putting on our shirt. The more we use a pathway, the stronger the connection becomes.
These neurons have the ability to physically change themselves when faced with new and difficult experiences. This ability is called neuroplasticity. As we are exposed to new areas, tasks, information or experiences, neural pathways are formed and existing ones are reshaped. This will continue throughout our entire lives as we learn. As we have experienced through practicing a musical instrument, memorizing our shopping list or recalling a friend’s phone number, if we consciously focus and train our brains in a certain area, they will become faster and more efficient at performing those tasks.
Just as we need to exercise the muscles in our body, we also need to exercise our brain.
Some great ways to keep “work up a cognitive sweat” include:
- Online cognitive training programs and apps
- Playing board games
- Reading books
- Completing puzzles such as a daily crossword or Sudoku
- Learning a new language or skill
- Getting artistic
Try our 30 Day Healthy Brain Challenge to help you find other ways to boost your brain and prevent cognitive decline.
Although dementia is most common in older adults, it can and does affect younger people. The Alzheimer’s Society of Canada states that approximately 564,000 Canadians are currently living with dementia. Of those affected, 16,000 are under the age of 65. With an aging workforce in Canada, there is a greater possibility of dementia in the workplace which, without proper awareness, can lead to an unfamiliar situation for both employers and employees. Take a look at the following article care of Workplace Strategies for Mental Health which provides information on awareness, recognition, risk management and supportive responses.
Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)
In recognition of Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, I wanted to touch on the important topic of helping people with Alzheimer’s disease (or cognitive impairment) to be safe in the community.
A few months back I received an email from a friend. She wanted to “pick my brain” about a problem they were encountering with her father who has Alzheimer’s disease. She mentioned that he enjoys spending time in the community on his own, but the family was growing increasingly concerned about his safety. She was wondering if I had any suggestions on how they could monitor his community activities, and be able to locate him should he not return home when expected.
My experience working in brain injury has had me looking for such solutions in the past. Some people, with behavioral or cognitive impairment, are at risk in the community because they become disoriented, confused, lose track of time, or are not attentive to traffic. There is such a loss of independence for people to be told they cannot leave the home alone, and some become agitated or angry when people try to supervise their activities. Yet, even a familiar route can become a problem for people if their cognitive status changes or deteriorates, and what is manageable one day may become problematic the next. Part of my role as an occupational therapist when dealing with cognitive impairment is to problem solve with the client and family the ways we can help them to pursue their goal of independence outside the home, while also ensuring their safety and easing the mind of the care provider. There are several ways to do this, and the list below is not exhaustive by any means.
- Consider the local Police Departments. These often have programs and ways to track people at risk of wandering. It is also helpful to notify the police about a potential wanderer so this is in their records should their help be needed.
- The S-911 bracelet has multiple features that allows health care workers and families to GPS locate anyone that may have wandered off, or who is in the community unsupervised. There is a monthly and yearly fee for this device.
- The Loc8tor is another option and notifies a care giver (or parent of a child for that matter) if the person wearing the device has wandered up to a certain distance away. The Loc8tor is also useful for helping people to find those items that tend to get misplaced – such as keys, wallets and cell phones.
- Smartphones have GPS detection capabilities such as the “Find my Friends” application for the iPhone. With this, both users can locate the other person, but it does require the person to be carrying the phone, and the phone to be charged and on. This can be a problem for people with cognitive impairment as they may not always remember to take the phone with them when out, may not understand how to turn this on and / or to check and see if it is charged.
- There are home monitoring systems that can notify family when people are coming or going, or even bed alarms if people leave the bed at night. Motion sensors in the home can also help to notify family if someone is wandering or moving between locations indoors. While these don’t work to locate or ensure someone’s safety outside the home, they are a way to give family members piece of mind to go about business inside the home without always needing to provide the person with cognitive impairment constant supervision.
Remember that Occupational Therapy is about helping people to solve the problems that arise when physical, emotional or cognitive abilities change rendering daily activities to become a struggle. In all cases, because disability is experienced differently by everyone, the solution for one person may not be the solution for another – even when dealing with the same diagnosis. So, consult an OT if you have a functional problem to solve!
Previously Posted September 2014
Children living with disabilities often face a number of physical and mental challenges, however, on top of this are also facing social challenges such as bullying and lack of inclusion. In fact, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital states that 53% of children living with a disability have zero or only one close friend. Holland Bloorview has created a new campaign to help put an end to the stigma of disabilities. The Dear Everybody Campaign aims to provide awareness, knowledge and resources to help put an end to the stigma of disability.
Learn more about the campaign and help create change by visiting their website deareverybody.hollandbloorview.ca.
In the digital age we live in if you are not fluent with the latest technology you can get left behind or struggle to keep up if you don’t know how to use it. Those with cognitive difficulties and older adults who do not frequently use technology may find themselves needing some extra assistance to learn to use helpful apps and software. Our colleagues at Lawlor Therapy Services have launched a series, Tuesday Tech Tips, providing how-to videos on some of the most frequently used and helpful pieces of technology. If you could benefit from extra assistance maximizing the use of your computer, tablet or smart phone, this series is for you!
Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)
Co-written with Student Occupational Therapist Elizabeth Fallowfield
Last spring my daughter brought home a “fidget spinner” that she purchased off a kid at school. She showed me how this worked as I had not seen it before. After watching her use this I had flash backs to my pen-twirling days from University. When I started my undergrad at the University of Waterloo, I noticed other students (many foreign) that would twirl or spin their pen in their hand during lectures. I decided I too wanted to master this, and spent many-a-lecture working more on my pen-twirling skills than absorbing the worldly lessons of my professor. Eventually, after launching a few pens rows ahead of me, or losing them altogether, I mastered the twirl, flip and spin with both my dominant and non-dominant hands. Sometimes I would even get daring and twirl two pens at once (only in the really boring lectures of course). To me, the fidget spinner serves the same purpose – give your hands something to do when you should otherwise be focusing and attending to something else. But is this really the case?
The History of the Fidget Spinner…
The fad fidget spinners we saw in classrooms everywhere are a specific type of “fidget”, which can also include things like stress balls, fidget cubes, putty or smooth stones. The purpose of these “fidgets” are to allow for movement and sensory input – which then helps to either calm the body, or allow it to become more alert based on the sensory profile of the person, as assessed by a qualified therapist, such as an Occupational Therapist. The sensory profile is a depiction of the way that a person seeks, processes and organizes sensory input. It is this sensory profile which would determine for example, whether movement and fidgeting is beneficial – allowing someone to calm their body in order to stay seated throughout a lesson, or whether it would be overloading, or distracting.
For these reasons, fidgets were originally used as part of therapy for children with ADHD or Autism, who often have trouble regulating themselves in a classroom setting. However, the popular spinners we see in classrooms today are not a design of fidget commonly used for therapeutic treatment. A fidget cube is an example of a more therapeutic fidget that would provide tactile or touch stimulation without the visual distraction of spinning.
What Does the Research Say?
The Occupational Therapy profession is a leader in sensory processing assessment and research, and while these specific types of spinners are too new to have been researched specifically, the research on other types of spinners is clear – they can be equally helpful, harmful or neutral to a person’s focus depending on their unique sensory needs – which can only be accurately assessed by an Occupational Therapist or healthcare provider with training and experience in sensory processing theory and assessment.
The Bottom Line: Fidget Spinners are a Better Toy than a Therapy…
Parents and the general public should be cautious of the claims that fidget spinners are a broad and successful therapy tool for managing ADHD and Autism, or that they are globally effective at increasing attention and focus, or have a calming influence. Truthfully, fidget spinners could be either an outlet to provide stimulation and to increase attention, or a distraction from something that is likely more important to be attending to (i.e. expensive University lectures). So, perhaps unless prescribed, these are best left at home this coming September.
Barton, E., Reichow, B., Schnitz, A., Smith, I., Sherlock, D. (2015). A systematic review of sensory‐based treatments for children with disabilities. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 37, 64‐80.
Foss-Feig, J. H., Tadin, D., Schauder, K. B., & Cascio, C. J. (2013). A substantial and unexpected enhancement of motion perception in autism. Journal of Neuroscience, 33(19), 8243-8249.
Stalvey, S. and Brasell, H. (2006). Using Stress Balls to Focus the Attention of Sixth-Grade Learners. Journal of At-Risk Issues, 12, 2, 7-16.
Zimmer, M., Desch, L., Rosen, L. D., Bailey, M. L., Becker, D., Culbert, T. P., … & Adams, R. C. (2012). Sensory integration therapies for children with developmental and behavioral disorders. Pediatrics, 129(6), 1186‐1189.
Online security experts recommend creating strong passwords with a mix of special characters, numbers and letters which are different for each application you use. However, remembering one simple password is often hard enough! Especially for applications you don’t use often, it is recommended you keep a log of each password so you can easily retrieve it when needed. This is particularly helpful for seniors, or anyone dealing with cognitive issues, who may have difficulty remembering passwords, or have trusted family members and/or caregivers who may need access to these.
Use our printable Password Keeper to record these important online passwords and user names, and keep it in a safe place for future use.
For more helpful tools please visit our Printable Resources Page.