Let’s Talk About Touch

The Tactile System: Did you know that the tactile system develops as early as Week 5 in utero? Our tactile system is  important because it provides us with information about light touch, temperature, pain, and pressure and guide how we perceive and interact with our environment. Our skin is the physical barrier between us and the world. Sometimes during early development receptors that carry tactile information such as vibration, touch, and pressure do not adapt & the child experiences a deficit in a sensory system impacting their whole body. Have you ever tried to tie your shoes wearing oven mitts? Imagine how that might feel all over your entire body. Many kids experience this, resulting in significant delays in fine motor skills and coordination. We call this poor Tactile Discrimination. Conversely, sometimes when these receptors aren’t doing their job the brain kicks in with an aggressive response to tactile stimuli to protect the child from harm. Simple light touch from a loved one, texture of clothing, or brushing teeth or hair will result in extreme emotional responses (the brain is screaming DANGER!) We call this Tactile Defensiveness. A child with tactile defensiveness early in development may end up with tactile discrimination issues later as the brain adjusts to everyday touch. If your child used to throw a fit about messy hands but now has no clue there is a chunk of food on his face, it’s because the two issues are closely related. Today’s Tip: for those with poor tactile discrimination: flood them with tactile input combined with a heavy work. Try frog hopping from one area to the next to retrieve toy frogs out of a bin of shaving cream or rice. Be creative! For those friends with tactile defensiveness: please avoid what I refer to as “light creepy touch”. Let them see you coming & make sure you handle them using a bit of appropriate pressure. Never force messy activities on them but slowly incorporate a tiny amount of mess or texture during preferred activities. Use a sticker or a small amount of shaving cream on a favorite toy to help “free” the toy. Try a “car wash” to wash suds or shaving cream off of toy cars. Above all, make it a positive experience!

2/8: What on Earth is a Child’s Occupation

Occupational Therapy is often pretty tough to explain to people because of what it’s called. It honestly sounds like an OT is someone who can help you get a job. But the core of what OT is all about is actually defined by its title. An OT is tasked with using a person’s “occupation” to design the plan of treatment. In the 1920s, when occupational therapy was first defined, an occupation was another word for a meaningful activity. It’s an activity that you prefer and love to do. Essentially, it’s what floats your boat. So, say you absolutely love to cook for your family, but you get in an accident resulting in a physical or neurological impairment. An OT should find out about your love for cooking and use that activity to create a treatment plan to get you intrinsically motivated to do the work to get better. So imagine how fun it is for an OT to work with kids, because what’s the main occupation for a child? PLAY!!! We get to use play themes to help children become motivated to push themselves to try challenging tasks. Watching them and learning about what makes them happy makes our job so wonderful. I always tell parents, if a therapist isn’t asking you about what your child loves, it may be they are doing therapy TO the child instead of WITH the child. It’s also the biggest advice I’ve always given to parents and teachers. If a child is struggling with initiating a non preferred task, do your best to incorporate what they DO prefer, whether it’s trains, letters, dinosaurs, or even rainbow color order. You will see much more progress when the child is the motivated to participate!

Cutting With Scissors: An Underrated Skill

Parents often look at me like I’m crazy when I ask how their three year old is with a pair of scissors. Totally understandable. But cutting goals are hands down some of my favorite goals to write. There are so many things going on when a child cuts with a pair of scissors. On a small scale, there are fine motor muscles at work. A child needs to have the strength and coordination to make separate movements of both sides of the hand. On a larger scale, a child needs to be able to use one hand for stabilization while using the opposing hand for cutting. A child needs to be able to show adequate visual motor development (*note visual motor means eye hand coordination, and often gets lumped with “fine motor”) in order to cut on a line. A child needs tactile discrimination skills to feel the paper appropriately in the stabilizing hand in order to rotate the paper with his/her fingers. The child also needs to use appropriate force on the scissors as well as proper upright positioning. There is vestibular, proprioceptive, and tactile processing all happening in one skill. If your child is not yet ready for cutting, start with tearing small strips of construction paper or tissue paper using a shearing motion. For beginners, have your kids cut play doh or drinking straws. Kids always laugh when the straw pieces pop off and fly across the table. You can string the straw pieces onto a pipe cleaner or make letters or shapes with the pieces of play doh. When transitioning to paper, stiffer paper such as thick construction paper is actually way easier to cut than plain printer paper.

Introducing Tuesday Tips


Hi! I’m Taffta and I wear many hats. Not only am I a mom of three, but I am an occupational therapist and owner of Best Practices Behavior & Occupational Therapy and We Rock the Spectrum The Woodlands, and together with my husband, Dustin, we offer PEERS In The Woodlands, an intensive 14 week social skills training curriculum for teens and their families. Having a sensory based indoor playground and owning a private practice gives us a platform to share resources and information. Our passion is to bring families together, offer support, and share as much knowledge with our community as possible. On Tuesdays, I will share tips, strategies, and interesting tidbits I’ve picked up in my 16 years of practice. Please feel free to send me questions or topics to highlight!

Today’s Topic: Quick Fixes For Fisted Grip

Learning handwriting can be super frustrating for kids of all ages. There are so many physical and sensory aspects that can be the underlying root of handwriting problems, but today we will discuss motivation and independence in fixing that pesky fisted grasp. To discourage the negative feelings associated with prewriting or handwriting, we want to make sure that the child makes as many decisions in the process as possible. When addressing grasp, lots of times we want to spend money on pencil grips, triangular crayons, or adaptive devices. In my experience, shortened pencils and crayons work best. That’s right. Break those crayons and pencils so that they are too small to pick up with a child’s whole fist. This encourages a digital grasp over a fisted one and allows for more control of the writing tool. And most of all, when there are only short pencils or crayons to choose from, you are allowing the child the independence to try out a different grasp without adult correction, reducing that fight that happens over holding the pencil/crayon the “right way”. Even better, provide the child with a slanted writing surface to promote stabilization of the wrist and forearm, resulting in increased movement and control by the intrinsic muscles of the hand. A three inch binder is perfect for this! Make sure you have your child sitting in a chair and desk appropriate for his/her size in order to promote proper positioning, therefore reducing unnecessary physical demands.

Free Training!

Did you know that a large percentage of females on the spectrum are often undiagnosed, misdiagosed, and/or diagnosed at a later age than their male counterparts?

This online (free!) training, hosted by UC Davis’s MIND Institute, focuses on the female experience with autism and ADHD. Topics include:

-Camouflaging in Autistic Women

-Autism and ADHD in Girls and Women: One or the Other, or Both?

-Life on the Spectrum: Women Sharing Their Unique Experiences

Details: 8/7/2020 11am-2:45pm

Register here (CEUs are offered):


Hi Y’all!

Our last winter in California

Dustin and I and our three girls moved to The Woodlands, TX from Redondo Beach, CA in July 2018. While we loved the California weather and views almost as much as we loved our California family and friends, we just felt called to make a change. Being a Louisiana girl, it wasn’t such a huge transition for me, but for my California born and bred husband and daughters, it was such a brave leap. And just like that, they’ve adjusted to Texas living and hospitality and it is more than we asked for.

After working in the public school system for over 15 years, both of us discovered that we were even more fulfilled in helping families outside of the classroom. We decided that when we got to Texas we would focus our energy on family centered intervention and in January of 2019 we developed Best Practices. We are currently in our early stages of figuring out how to get in network with insurances and how our model can best meet the needs of our community. So any input from you is always appreciated.

A bit about us: Dustin was born and raised in Southern California. He attended UCLA for undergrad, receiving his advanced degrees from Cal State LA. He is a die hard Bruins fan, especially UCLA basketball. I was raised in Louisiana and attended LSU for undergrad (Geaux Tigers). After graduation, I thought I might go spend some time in Los Angeles and see what that was like, and within a year I met Dustin and was introduced to Occupational Therapy. We applied to our graduate programs at the same time and got married in the process, in 2006. We have three amazing girls. Our twins, Avery and Finley, are 9, and our “baby”, Mackenna, is 8. We also have a cockapoo (Gumbo) and a puppy golden retriever (Dude).

We have learned so much from having three kids. Especially since they are each so very different. They teach us that even though children may be raised in the same environment with the same parents and same expectations, each may require a completely different approach. That being said, they keep us on our toes, but also keep us in stitches. Currently, our home life is filled with gymnastics, dance, and horses. And dogs. It’s busy and loud, but also very fun.

Now that I’ve provided a little background about us, we are going to use this blog to post resources, information, and thing of interest that come about while working with kids. I’m a bit nerdy and get really excited about sensory integration and behavior and sometimes I’m dying to share.

First day of school in Texas