Children learn through play. As an occupational therapist who works with children and youth, I use games and toys almost every day to help develop important cognitive, visual perceptual, motor, sensory, social, play and leisure skills. While many different types of activities can be used in therapy, this blog focuses on off-the-shelf games and toys that are accessible to most. Whether you are a therapist, parent, teacher, or a game lover like me, I hope you discover something useful while you are here. Learn a different way to play a game you already own or discover a new game for your next family game night. Either way, just go play. It's good for you!

The OT Magazine named The Playful Otter one of the Top 5 Pediatric OT Blogs.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Make Belief Comix

This site is a FREE comic strip generator that is SO user friendly. There are so many ways you can use comic strips in therapy. Make comic strips from two panels to four panels, choosing from a large variety of characters and backgrounds. I have found that using comics in therapy can add some fun or lightness to a situation that may otherwise be tense or uncomfortable.  For instance, it can allow a individual to see his behavior through the eyes of someone else, where it can be easier for him to come up with creative solutions than it may be when just confronted with a need to change his behavior. It's a place to start communicating. Using comics in this way can reduce defensiveness. I have used them with kids from elementary age to high school. People of all ages like comics!  
I have used these comics to teach things like stranger danger skills/stranger awareness, sensory strategies, interpreting body language, how to deal with bullying, and understanding and respecting personal space. I have used them a lot with kids with autism, but also Down Syndrome, ADHD, and cognitive disability. I have used them in multiple ways including:
   1) Creating a situation for a character in panel 1, letting the character point out the problem in panel 2, and then showing an appropriate response that I am trying to teach in panel 3;
   2) Creating a situation in panel 1, having the character realize the problem in panel 2, and showing the characters in panel 3 but leaving it blank so the child can come up with a solution;
   3) Creating a situation and letting the characters act out a solution, then letting the child tell me if it was a good choice and discussing it.  
I almost always use 3 panels in this way: In panel 1 a problem or situation is introduced, in panel 2 the character, often in the thought bubble, lays out what he thinks is the problem or knows about the situation, and in panel 3 he makes a decision and acts.  
For instance:
Panel 1 - Girl and man with park background. While picking flowers, the girl has wandered a short distance from her family who is having a picnic. Man asks girl to help him find his lost dog.
Panel 2 - Girl considers that she is not supposed to talk to strangers, but the man needs her help.
Panel 3 - I would either show the girl turned around and returning to her family thinking 'just run away, there's nothing to say', or else I would show characters and leave it blank and we would discuss the options the child comes up with. To set up the context, I either type a few sentences before the comic strip or verbally set it up before we read the comic. If we are working on writing also, I may print 2 or 3 blank lines below the comic for them to write a response.
Try this:
  • Make a book of the finished comics.
  • Allow the individual to create the story using your comics.
  • Leave the comics with the family to discuss with the individual. 
  • Cut and paste the comic in the middle of a short social type story, to add a fun visual.
  • Present a single strip and pick characters to read, then discuss.
To use this site to make your own comics or to get more information, go to  http://www.makebeliefscomix.com/

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