Advocating for Equitable Play to Promote Learning for All

Tia Gamelin is a mother of four and has over 25 years of experience working as a pediatric occupational therapist in the United States and abroad. She has specialized skills and is trained in Sensory Integration and Praxis Testing (SIPT), Sensory Oral Sequential (SOS) Feeding Approach, she is a Level 3 Kinesiotaping practitioner, Therapeutic Listening Certified, Astronaut Training certified, Handwriting Without Tears, and certificated PaddleFit Coach for stand up paddle boarding. (Read More...)
Previously, Tia has worked in the pediatric inpatient and outpatient settings, early intervention, home health, public school system and private clinic. She has managed a pediatric splinting, serial casting and pediatric burn management clinic, has been the therapy program director for an outdoor therapy camp and has worked in both center-based schools and integrated schools in the United States and Germany.  

Tia is a graduate of Lenoir-Rhyne University in North Carolina. Tia has been a speaker for the OT Associations in Virginia and Ohio in areas of pediatric hand splinting, burn care and sensory processing disorder. She is a three-time presenter for the Special Olympics, South Carolina Leadership Conference where she received the 2016 Champion Award for Special Olympics for advocating for individuals with intellectual disabilities. Tia has been a guest lecturer for the South Carolina Down Syndrome Association, The Ohio Early Childhood Advisory Council, The National Institute for Learning Disabilities in Norfolk, VA and various other community and professional organizations. She was the head coach and founder of the Special Olympics Stand Up Paddle board team in South Carolina, the second team of its kind in the nation. She is a member of the AOTA, the WFOTA and has been board certified by the NBCOT since 1997. She has been a mentor and guide to a number of Occupational Therapists who have gone on to own their own practices and become champions of innovative therapeutic practices.  

Currently Tia owns her own nature-based therapy practice called Blackbird Therapy Group, LLC in Littleton, CO, consults with area schools including Rick’s Center for Gifted Children at the University of Denver, and runs an online coaching and education site called Körplay to help caregivers of young children learn how to play with purpose. Tia is passionate about play and practices daily with her amazing husband and four children. 

The Power of Play

Play is the work of children. It’s how they learn to be independent with self-care, self-regulation and learning skills.  All of these skill areas are developed through foundational skills learned through play. Play is how children occupy their time. It’s how their developing bodies experience this sensory rich world and make strong connections throughout the brain. Here are a few ways that toys become the tools that lay the foundation for independence in self care, self regulation, and learning skills.  

Every child is hardwired with the internal desire to play. Play is the universal language for all children, whether they are in a wheelchair, use a communication device to share their thoughts and ideas or they never look you directly in the eye while they play. All children are driven to play.  A child’s impairment should never affect their ability to access the play environment. Kodo is committed to creating equity and inclusion through play.

Tia’s Top Picks

To create equitable play for all abilities, Tia has outlined skills and selected products that will support the growth of differing abilities and meet your children at their skill level. 

For a more in depth look at how each product supports skill growth, view our Product + Skill Correlation Chart.


Feeding is a whole-body sensory experience and understanding the sensory properties of foods is essential for diversifying taste, expanding food preferences, and thinking flexibly about trying new foods and textures. Sensory experiences are explored through the eyes and then the hands. Understanding sensory properties through play helps with the feeding process and expands language for higher thinking skills preparing for math and science concepts.

Dressing, Tooth Brushing + Handwashing
Dressing skills require the understanding of body awareness, concepts of spatial awareness, fine motor skills, balance, and attention. Often taken for granted, this complicated process starts with understanding basic positional awareness and how the body acts on objects to make something happen. The skill necessary in order to hold a disc shape and place it into a slot is a pre-buttoning skill. Understanding that objects have “sidedness” is a key component to understanding right and left, front and back, and inside out orientation. These concepts are all first learned through hands-on multi-sensory play.  
Toileting skills and timing is different for every child. Foundational readiness skills require a basic understanding of body awareness in a toddler. Concepts of wet and dry, the pulling of pants up and down, knowing something is clean and dirty, and the mechanics of completing the hygiene process and knowing directional cues are all important concepts that should be addressed in play in preparation for the actual toileting process.
Pre-Writing / Literacy
Writing is a complex, multi-sensory skill to learn. Using tools such as paint brushes, markers, pencils and pens to express thoughts and ideas is essential for success. The path to becoming independent with tool use for writing starts in infancy when babies are placed on their tummies to play. The work that babies do to strengthen the core muscles and the shoulder girdle during floor play are the necessary ingredients to provide a strong base of support for the arm and hands to move off to use tools to play. To promote handwriting readiness skills, play activities directed at fine motor control, and isolated finger movements, enhancing left and right discrimination and improving orientation to printed language are essential.
Pre-Writing / Literacy - Vision
When we look at the development of pre-writing from a vision standpoint, children first develop the process of space through the understanding of vertical dimensions. Therefore, in pre-writing, the first writing stroke to be seen is a vertical mark on a paper, followed by the development of horizontal strokes. Obliques and diagonals are more complex, and they show up later in development. Children are first able to discriminate vertical from horizontal lines, but they are not able to distinguish between vertical and horizontal and oblique lines until later (Cratty, 1970). The ability to discriminate between mirror or reversedimage numbers such as b and d and p and q takes longer to mature (Ilg & Ames, 1981). These writing skills are not seen if the eyes are not tracking in all 4 quadrants of the visual field, diagonally across the midline of the body and if convergence at the middle of the body is not present.

Magnet Wall

Spectrum Light Table


Wind Tunnel

Weaving Wall


Cloth Tails

Toddler Ball Stacker


Toddler Ball Run

Jurrasic Sand

See Inside Pipe


Finger Puppets

Rainbow Pegboard


Empathy Dolls

Treasure Tubes


Gemstone Matching Tiles



For more resources, or to book Tia’s services, contact her via email at [email protected]com