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Book Review: The Recycling Occupational Therapist

Book by:  Barbara Smith, OTR/L
Review by Rona Silverstein, OTR/L

Have you ever wanted to seek out a mentor, one with many years of experience, and tap into her brain that is rich in ideas to assist you when working with your clients?  I have!  Upon reading Barbara Smith’s book, The Recycling Occupational Therapist:  Hundreds of Simple Therapy Materials You Can Make, I felt like I did just that.
Have you ever taken a course and be so inspired to try the new skill or activity that you want to try it on your entire caseload?  I had the same reaction after reading this book!
This 154 page spiral bound book is a worthy addition to any therapist’s library. Whether working with pediatrics or adults with developmental conditions, or any other physical or cognitive condition, this book would stimulate your thinking on using recycled materials to address activities to promote strength, coordination and grasp.  I was truly impressed with the content and design of the book and impressed by the simplicity and creativity behind each activity.
Barbara Smith, MS, OTR, has worked over 25 years in a variety of settings, but her time in the early 1990s working with the developmentally challenged population served as her inspiration to write this book.  According to Ms. Smith, often items for younger children are found readily in the marketplace, however, activities that are both age appropriate and developmentally appropriate are hard to find for older children and adults with developmental disabilities.  An accomplished author and blogger, Barbara Smith has her own website ( and there you can see videos of the fabrication of some of her highly creative  ideas.  In addition, Barbara Smith has certifications in sensory integration and hippotherapy.  The sensory component is addressed in the activities in this book. Performing tasks either sitting or standing, or alternate the position is recommended. I find this to be a great way to work on postural control while addressing coordination and strength.
Combining recycling with occupational therapy is a novel approach. To come across household  items either tossed out or sent off to be recycled elsewhere, these plastics are easily utilized in many of the activities presented in this book.   It saves us from buying these materials.  So, for those of us environmentally aware, this book is already a hit!
To focus on the recycling element only would be a great oversight.  The core value of this book is the rationale for each of the activities, the elements utilized in each activity, and the adaptations to be used, as needed.  For a new therapist this would help tremendously.  For the therapist with some experience, it is easy to retrieve the exact type of activity from your caseload, whether seeking a group or individual activity, as this book is set up to easily find what you seek.
The book itself is efficiently laid out in sections:  the introduction of the concepts and elements in activity choice, fine motor activities, gross motor activities and sensory activities.  Afterward, the appendixes feature:   games for groups, gross motor group ideas, quiet activities for relaxation groups, pediatric creations, palmar grasping and pre-vocational activities.  A glossary of terms is provided at the end of the book to describe terms that the reader may be unfamiliar with.
My two most favorite sections of the book are “Working in the Vertical” and “Lacing and Stenciling Jigs”.  Working with kids “standing tall” or “sitting tall” is what I say all day.  The importance of the subtle postural strength and stability gained is the outcome and I was glad to see this addressed in Barbara Smith’s book.  I simply love the lacing and stenciling jigs as it incorporates the jug’s handle attached to the shape.  I have often seen children struggle to hold onto the design that they are lacing up.  The handle incorporates a place for the non-dominant hand to hold onto making it clear, lacing is a two handed activity.  Clever!
This book is a great addition to all departments for novice and experienced therapists, instructors and teachers.  Barbara Smith’s writing style, graphics and step by step instructions, make this a useful manual and a great resource.  I recommend it!
Featured Book Reviewer:  Rona Silverstein, OTR/L
Rona is an occupational therapist who has been practicing for 18 years since graduating from the occupational therapy program at Wayne State University in Detroit, MI. With a variety of experiences, Rona currently works with the pediatric population and was recently hired by PediaStaff. Rona is credentialed in early intervention, a specialist in feeding issues, as well as a generalist in a variety of diagnoses and disabilities.

PediaStaff hires pediatric and school-based professionals nationwide for contract assignments of 2 to 12 months. We also help clinics, hospitals, schools, and home health agencies to find and hire these professionals directly. We work with Speech-Language Pathologists, Occupational and Physical Therapists, School Psychologists, and others in pediatric therapy and education.


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