This guest post is the transcription from a podcast with Rachel and Jessica at The Sensory Project Show.
Rachel: Welcome back to The Sensory Project Show! So this is episode 63 and we’re talking about ARK Therapeutic today.
Rachel: If you follow us on Instagram, you saw our unboxing of a giant box of products from them that they shared with us. So amazing. They sent us so many things.
Rachel: We were on cloud 9.
Jessica: We use them ever day! Every day.
Rachel: So, we are going to share a lot of the things that they sent us and how we use them and why we use them and the benefits.
Jessica: Because we recommend these products to our families a lot. And I think it’s important to have these tools in your tool box if you can. They have a whole bunch of different things. They are constantly coming up with new products. I feel like they have something new all the time.
Rachel: They do. Alright, so the first one is the Z-Vibe and it is probably our favorite that we use most often.
Jessica: And I think it’s the most well known.
Jessica: Along with the chew tools.
Rachel: Yes. So the Z-Vibe is a little vibrating device that you put tips on. And the tips are anything and everything. They have animals, they have Spoon Tips, they have little textured tips, they have a Pencil Tip that you can put on there. And you just twist the top and it turns on. Before we go too much further we want to “disclaimer” that if you untwist the top all the way, then the battery and spring can come out. So it can be a choking hazard and we just want to make sure that you’re not leaving your child alone with these tools.
Jessica: Okay so let’s just repeat that: never leave your child alone with the Z-Vibe. Yep! Okay, great!
Rachel: So why is vibration so good?
Jessica: Proprioceptive input.
Rachel: Let’s break it down. Let’s talk about the Z-Vibe for oral awareness and feeding and how it helps to increase the child’s awareness of what’s going on in their mouth.
Jessica: It helps to increase their awareness of where their oral structures are and it just activates all of the muscles in the mouth.
Rachel: And it can also help with de-sensitizing, so for our kiddos who are tactile sensitive orally, it can reduce that and make them more willing to try new foods, and tolerate different textures.
Jessica: And because you can get it with the Spoon Tip, it can be a really fun way to incorporate during spoon feeding.
Rachel: Yes. And the little Animal Tips, they have little spoon ears.
Jessica: Oh those are fun. I love those.
Rachel: So then, let’s talk about the Pencil Tip for the Z-Vibe.
Jessica: Yes! So this one’s really cool and every kid that I have ever used this with has loved the vibrating pencil.
Jessica: You can also have the Pen Tip (you can do the pencil or the pen) and then you can also use it with a Crayon Tip.
Rachel: Yes. So it’s really great for kids who struggle with motivation during hand writing activities.
Rachel: Great to increase registration throughout their hands and arms. And again, vibration helps activate the muscles. So it’s going to work those hand muscles.
Jessica: And it also gives some good feedback to help with the expected amount of pressure required when writing or coloring and drawing. To help those kids who struggle with the amount of pressure they are using.
Rachel: Which in turn will improve their endurance with handwriting, because when they’re pushing so hard they fatigue quickly. And if they learn to push with the appropriate amount of force, their hands won’t fatigue as quickly and they can write longer and it’s just going to be so much better.
Jessica: Boom. There it is. Ok so let’s talk about one of the grips that we got and I just laugh every time I try to say the name of this because I think it just sounds really silly. But it’s called a Butter Grip.
Jessica: See? I don’t know why it’s funny. It’s called a Butter Grip but it’s really cool and if you watch our stories, you’ve probably seen us post about it in our stories.
Rachel: What’s cool about it though is that it’s not a traditional grip. It’s not teaching your kids where to put their fingers, so it facilitates more of a natural grip. It opens the web space. So they’re holding the Butter Grip in their hands.
Jessica: And their fingers are on the pencil still.
Rachel: What’s comfortable to them. With an appropriate grasp, because it’s really hard to do a lateral grasp when they have this grip on.
Jessica: Yes. And I think from a visual standpoint too it helps them to visually see where they should be holding the pencil.
Jessica: You know, some of our kids hold their pencil or their crayon way up at the top and this helps them see, “oh let’s hold down on the pink grip”.
Rachel: The Butter Grip!
Jessica: I can’t say Butter Grip though, like, butter is food – I don’t understand. It’s fine. It makes your grip look like butter. Butter’s so good!
Side note from ARK - The Butter Grip is named after the OT who invented it, Tina Butterfield :)
Rachel: Okay - the next one. Chewable Pencil Toppers.
Jessica: Yes! So this is perfect for those kids who are seeking oral motor input during handwriting, drawing, and coloring tasks. Whether they are chewing on the pen and pencil or whether they’re chewing on their shirt. If there’s overflow in their mouth when they’re drawing and coloring, this is a great way to kind of help decrease that a little bit.
Rachel: Yeah, I’d just keep in mind that these kiddos are regulating their bodies when they are chewing. They are increasing their arousal level, their attention, and they’re doing it for a reason. They’re not just chewing to chew.
Jessica: I mean, no one wants to just chew because of it or chew on a pencil just for fun.
Rachel: Yeah, you’re chewing to meet your needs.
Rachel: So keep that in mind. So we’re not punishing or turning it into a negative experience.
Jessica: Yeah, I think that’s a big thing with a lot of these oral motor tools and a lot of the other tools. This is totally off-topic, but a lot of the things we use, you know, weighted blankets and weighted vests and oral motor tools, we don’t want them to be a negative consequence.
Jessica: These are tools to help our kiddos regulate and increase their attention, help their bodies feel calm and happy. And I think that as therapists and as parents that’s huge for us to remember - that the words we use when we’re providing these tools to our kids is going to have an impact on how they see it, right? So if you come up to your kid and you’re like “oh my gosh, stop chewing the pencil, use a chew tool instead…” it’s kind of like having a negative association. Instead say “oh, I see you’re chewing on your pencil. Why don’t we get you something a little bit better to chew on?”
Rachel: There you go. It’s all about approach.
Jessica: It is. It’s about approach and language and give them the tools and have it be positive. Ok so, box done.
Rachel: Alright, on to the next one which is a chewable necklace.
Jessica: Oh my gosh!
Rachel: You had a kiddo come in the other day with his own chewy necklace.
Jessica: He did. He got one from his school!
Rachel: How awesome!
Jessica: And he even told me because I asked about it. I was like “what do you have there?” And, you know, it took us a couple minutes but he was able to tell me “they gave it to me to help my attention”.
Rachel: Aww, oh my gosh.
Jessica: And they weren’t wrong.
Rachel: Good job, school!
Jessica: So, chewable necklaces are super cool and ARK has some really cool different ones.They have dinosaurs, those are my faves.
Jessica: Super fun.
Rachel: Shark teeth, anything you can think of.
Jessica: Pretty much.
Rachel: Another one that I am obsessed with, it’s a new one – I hadn’t seen this before. But these are fidget spinners that have the same material (the same chewable material) as the Pencil Toppers or the necklaces. And they’re not specifically designed for chewing but they’re safe to be chewed on.
Rachel: They’re really cool fidgets – I use them. And they feel really cool. It’s almost like a rubbery type of material so it has a smooth feeling which is kind of fun. And then one of the ones we have from ARK is like a Brick texture which is super fun.
Jessica: I love the little bumps.
Rachel: Yeah I do, too. There’s one texture with bigger bumps and then on the other side there are like little bumps and I really like that. So these are really cool fidget spinners and I feel like fidget spinners have such a bad reputation.
Jessica: They do.
Rachel: But they can be a great tool.
Jessica: Alright, onto the next one. Another new one. Fidget bookmarks. These were super cool. I’m a big book nerd and I like to actually have my book and then I’m always like “well so what am I going to use for a bookmark?” And I always grab a sticky note or something. But these are super fun little bookmarks.
Rachel: They have the little bumps on them too.
Jessica: The little bumps!
Rachel: Can you guys tell that I’m a sensory seeker?
Jessica: These are kind of like the fidget spinners where they’re not like necessarily meant for chewing, but they can be used as a mouth fidget while your kiddo is reading their book. Yep. I love it!
Rachel: Let’s chat about some tips for successful use of these oral motor tools. We already said it, but reiterate because it’s super important: Don’t just let your kid run around with it.
Jessica: Especially that Z-Vibe where they can unscrew it and the little pieces can fall out. But just in general. You know, these aren’t just like random toys, these tools are tools.
Jessica: And they are meant to provide input at certain times during certain activities to help with attention and arousal level. Not just to be ran around with.
Jessica: And I think that that is something that is hard to grasp?
Rachel: Well, it’s important to establish the expectations initially.
Jessica: There it is.
Rachel: So when you bring home these “toys”, or you get them in the mail, make sure that you teach the expectations upfront. So that way you reduce those tantrums that come down the road, when you take it away from the child while they’re running around the house. That rule is there: “You may not run with a Z-Vibe in your mouth. It is only to be used when we are sitting at the table or sitting here or there or wherever it is.” Just establish those early on and it’ll make a big difference.
Jessica: Absolutely, yeah. And teach that they have a positive effect on your kiddo. And for our older kiddos, they can kind of learn that “Oh this helps my body feel good.”
Rachel: Mhm, that’s important too. And make sure that you are chatting with your therapist. If you’re seeing an OT or a speech therapist for feeding specifically, or just oral motor skills in general – make sure that you talk to them about the products that they’re using, the techniques that they’re using. Make sure that they demonstrate what they’re doing with you so that way you can carry it over at home. Because one day of feeding therapy isn’t going to make a giant impact unless it’s carried over into a variety of different environments. So make sure that you are advocating for your child and asking questions and getting these products at home if you can.
Jessica: Yeah, definitely. And I think that some really good times to use different oral motor tools like the Z-Vibe or the chew necklace would be during transitions to get that oral motor input, that proprioceptive input, that can be calming. Using them during mealtime as some preparatory exercises for eating. During challenging activities like during homework or reading. Sometimes when your child needs to be sitting quietly, giving them an oral motor tool to use is a great strategy to use to help with that attention.
Rachel: A super simple strategy.
Jessica: Super simple.
Rachel: Really quick, just put it in your pocket, attach it to a carabineer on your hip.
Jessica: There you go, easy peasy.
Rachel: So, another tip is be conscious of the child’s age. So age and ability, level of function – cognitively. So an older, more socially aware child probably wouldn’t use a necklace. We’d give them those Pencil Toppers or those more incognito tools just to help them fit in and be a little bit less –
Jessica: They’ll stand out less to their peers and for those older, higher functioning kids, they want to be socially accepted and so we don’t want them to be singled out because they’re using a tool that their friends think is weird. So we want to give them the ones they can use a little bit more secretively, I guess?
Rachel: Yeah. You know, find out what is best for your child but we just wanted to throw that little tidbit out there because that’s our goal as therapists. We want these kiddos to to fit in and feel confident regardless of what their needs are.
Jessica: Yes, there it is. Okay, that’s it!
Rachel: Alright! ARK Therapeutic! Awesome stuff, you guys. Check them out! They share some really cool activities and tips and strategies on their Instagram. They share them on their Facebook, they share them on their website, they have a blog.
Jessica: Ooh, their blog is really, really good you guys.
Rachel: So a lot of free information is out there, you just have to take the time to soak it up. Easy.
Jessica: Okay so make sure you leave us a review on iTunes, you guys. We love hearing from you on Instagram but really getting in there and leaving us a review helps us to reach more people. And get out there for more people to listen to us.
Rachel: And it warms our hearts. Don’t you guys want to warm our hearts?
Jessica: (laughs) Don’t you want to warm our hearts?
Rachel: Please, just warm our hearts. Or don’t, I mean, be honest, you know.
Jessica: Yes, please be honest.
Rachel: Some episodes we do better at getting our words out than others.
Jessica: Sometimes we struggle.
Rachel: And that’s okay, so just, you know, lay down the law and tell us what you feel.
Jessica: Yeah, let us know what you think and we’ll talk to you next time.
About The Sensory Project Show with Rachel and Jessica:
Rachel and Jessica, both Certified Occupational Therapy Assistants, created The Sensory Project Show Podcast in hopes of helping families and therapists navigate the sensory world. They interview parents, therapists, and specialists, as well as answer the questions YOU have as a parent, desperate for help. With nearly 100,000 downloads, The Sensory Project Show is changing lives across the world!
This show is a safe place for parents, therapists, and educators to learn the truth behind Occupational Therapy, Sensory Integration, and the key components to finding health and wellness for the entire family. Rachel and Jessica dive into the topics you want to know most about and provide raw, honest, fun ideas and strategies, for parents and families to implement into daily life. They also offer a membership to get access to additional resources, handouts, templates, guides, and videos. Click here to learn more.