Saturday, June 30, 2012

Painter's Tape "Laser" Maze for Developing Motor Skills

Go down about halfway into this linked blog post  Laser Maze with Painter's Tape  to see a photo of orange painter's tape used to create a maze.  Make it simple or make it complicated, depending upon the skill level (and frustration tolerance) of your students.

I'm assuming it's painter's tape--it might be orange masking tape but can you imagine what that would do to painted walls?

Friday, June 29, 2012

Helpful Blog on Technology

Looking for info on iPad apps related to fine motor and handwriting I came across this helpful blog:

Tech Blog re Apps and More

Thx to a helpful comment from Abby just now, here's another source of info on FM and HW apps:

Link to therapyapp411 blog

"Buckeye" Fidget Toys

These balloon & lentil-based fidget toys remind me of the Ohio Buckeye cookies my daughter makes with chocolate and peanut butter.  I think using several balloons will help the fidget toy stand up to lots of squishing.  Plan to try it next fall with students who don't put items in their mouths or have latex sensitivities.

How To Make a "Buckeye" Fidget Toy

And, just for fun:

Buckeye Cookie Recipe

Monday, June 25, 2012

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Using Recycled Paint Sample Cards

This afternoon I helped my daughter with a baby shower and remembered how I would like to try using recycled paint sample cards to create different shapes with students.  Most of the time I just use large scraps of construction paper that I scrounge up in classrooms or school workrooms, but these paint sample colors are much more vivid.

Students can decide which colors to use, determine how to compile the pieces to create a design and then attach the finished designs to an inexpensive piece of yarn or rope.

It'll be a fun, alerting activity to practice tracing, scissor skills, using glue and planning how to space the designs on the yarn or rope.

Additional photos at:
More decorative and edible fine motor ideas

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Respect the Heat

Yesterday a friend and I walked just one mile, times two, on the High Bridge Trail.  High Bridge Trail  Although it was going to be a scorcher of a day it was still just 10 AM, so I thought the heat wouldn't be too bad...well, I was wrong.
Since it's a converted railroad line-to-trail it's quite open and shade was scarce.  I almost turned back after 5 minutes.  My buddy is a Grand Canyon hiker sort of person and she was undaunted.  We were only out in the heat for about an hour and all I wanted to do, deep down inside, was go home and drink tons of ice water before taking a long nap.  Could hardly concentrate the rest of the day.
Made me think about our students who have little tolerance for exertion and who spend most of their lives indoors.  How do they feel at recess or outside PE on those hot, Virginia days?  Can they recuperate and focus for the rest of the school day? 

Every summer I have to build up to working outside in the garden and being out in the heat, in general.  If I try to weed and dig and hoist heavy gardening supplies around the yard for too long the first few times I crash.  I bet our students with sedentary lives need to build up their endurance in increasing increments, too.

These views from the bridge will be spectacular come fall. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Little Less Sore Today

Yes, I am a complainer.  Especially about pain.
Stretching helps the soreness from exercise diminish but it comes back pretty quickly.  Yoga today was hard work but even after just 4 classes I can tell that my balance is improving, which is pretty incredible.
An OTR told me yesterday about one of her home health clients who once did not have the endurance to stand from sitting and then walk only 3' before getting out of breath.  Through using breathing techniques that were learned via yoga classes the client improved, over about 2 months, to being able to walk up a flight of stairs without being out of breath.  I don't know much about yoga after just 4 sessions myself but I think that's pretty amazing.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Kettlebells Make You Hurt the Next Day

Our county offers free fitness classes for employees and retirees--a smart move to reduce health care costs.  Yesterday I took kettlebells in the morning (first time ever) and yoga in the afternoon.  Since I was so careful with the kettlebell moves I thought I wouldn't feel anything the next day...wrong!

I can hardly sit down without plopping; no inner thigh strength at all.  So sore.

Good thing I'm also taking yoga--the stretches and poses made the soreness so much better.  Still achey but not so much.

Tomorrow--gardening!  Love summer break.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

School's Out--Time to Explore iPad apps

Along with decluttering my forlorn gardens, treating my cats and dogs the way they deserve and trying to recall how to make dinner I'm hoping to learn more about using apps, since a friend loaned me her iPad for the summer.

To get started, I just found this wiki about school therapy apps and there is a wonderful idea at the bottom related to wearing a thin cotton glove with cut-off fingertips while using the iPad, to allow the hand to rest on the iPad while only the fingertips do the activating.

Anyone have favorite apps they use for working with students in schools and also for working in home health with adults and peds?  Please send me a comment with your favorites and why you think they're helpful--thx.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Online Keyboarding Lessons

This website has always been a "go to" keyboarding source for me in the past.  A fellow staff member just wrote and asked for keyboarding resources for parents so I looked to see if the site is still active...
Yeah--it is!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Last OT Session for the Year Should Be Fun

A little flour, a little salt, a teensy bit of food-colored water---a fun, fine-motor and sensory-imbedded activity to end the school year.
Students in this elementary class measured the soft flour and gritty salt, stirred them together in a generously-sized bowl, then squeezed a little drop (and sometimes a big plop) of food coloring into the water before adding it into the mixture, tablespoons at a time.
The mean OT asked them to pull the gritty dough out of the bowl with their hands and place it on the floured surface.
 I don't think this student ever opened a salt container before.
 Keep trying...
 Ahhh--it worked!
What does "Fill it to the top" mean?  The four students who worked on the activity definitely had different ideas about where the top of the measuring cup was located.
 Steady hands required to transfer the water to the big bowl.
 Stirring was a breeze.
We used recycled necklace beads for added fun.  Can you tell that the student is making a birthday cake design?
Wouldn't you have a fond memory of your OT if this was the final activity of the year???

Monday, June 11, 2012

Scrutinize Your IEP Wording Before You Walk Into the Meeting

During an IEP meeting this morning a student's mom began crying, unexpectedly.

We had been discussing a goal and the way to measure success toward achieving the goal at different points during the next academic year, on a quarterly basis.

The student's teacher was proposing a goal related to math, for the student to be able to identify the correct number of objects in different-size groups.  That's when the mom said, "That's the goal he was working on in 2nd grade."  The student is 17 years old.

It's not that the goal wasn't appropriate to his assessed skill level, but that the mom thought that her son had made no growth in this area for 10+ years.  This lead to many other comments during the meeting about how her son was "still working on the same goals, year after year."

Well, sometimes we do choose goals that are ready for the trash bin and shouldn't be recycled year after year.  Sometimes we write those goals because we feel some kind of pressure, internal or external, to have the student master "the basics"--writing their first and last names, being able to recite their home phone number or tying their shoes independently.

Many folks might feel that recommending more self help, leisure or vocational goals signals that the school team has "given up" on academics; that we're saying the student is incapable of learning more difficult math, reading or writing.

This IEP season, writing 35 present levels of progress and sitting in numerous meetings, has reinforced to me that I need my reports, contributions to the IEP and progress notes to be more specific, to clearly describe what I'm helping the student work on in the classroom.  Also, I'm not much of a data "queen" and my data collection skills can definitely improve.  I'm becoming a big fan of the idea of having the student improve "x" percentage over the first-day-of-school baseline.  Sure, a goal like safely looking both ways before crossing the street should have 100% accuracy, but you've got to start somewhere.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

We Can All Hardly Wait

All school-based therapists who have summer vacation coming up--can you hardly wait???
Although I'm trying to stay calm, I can hardly wait for Friday at 4 PM.  No more school until mid-August--yeah!
Plan to tutor a little, find some home health gigs and spend time with girlfriends.  My DH is great but he's not into lingering over blueberry scones and chai tea at the botanical gardens.

He is good for many things, though, including not being afraid of the snakes we encounter on our hikes around Richmond.  We hiked the Buttermilk Trail along the James River in late May and initially walked right past this very long black snake.  After we realized he was sunning himself on a fallen log my DH wanted to pick him up and love on him but our daughter and I encouraged him to keep moseying down the trail.
I can only imagine how many copperheads were lurking in the lush ferns along the narrow trail.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Use What You've Got--Including Gravity

The last few days of the school year are a little jumbled and activity planning (on my part) isn't always top notch.  This morning I primarily wanted to review the students' progress on their annual goals and the rest of the time we did fun, fine motor work with items available in the classroom.

I think this rack of shapes was originally purchased by the teacher as a shape counter; it reminds me of the colors many educational toys were manufactured in back in the 80's.  Since the shapes were a little smaller than the typical puzzle pieces I usually use for bilateral coordination activities I thought they would make a nice challenge for this student's current skills.

Oh, yes--my sweetie had quite a time coordinating his hands to hold the paper, place the shape right next to a similarly-drawn shape (2 circles touching each other---2 diamonds touching each other...), keep that all stable while tracing around the small shapes.  Whew!  First we drew the shapes and then I asked him to name the shapes so I could write their names.  Next, he imitated my words.

It was a nice, difficult activity but not impossible.  The best part is that it completely altered his attention to task.  Sitting down and comfortably working at a table would have permitted him to pay attention to everything else in the room.  Standing up at a vertical surface to work allowed the law of gravity to force his attention on the task.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A Very Special, Soft Hand Splint

During an IEP meeting one student's mom asked if anything could be done for her daughter's hands, to open them up and keep them dry.  This high schooler in a class for students with significant intellectual disabilities keeps every joint of her body in serious flexion and her hands are no exception.  You can see what has happened to her hands over time and she cries when you gently perform the slightest range of motion.

I adapted my Play-Doh fidget toy Fidget Toy post and made a soft splint.  Same fun shamrock tights but cut in a longer tube, filled with 1/2" cubes cut-up from a brand-new kitchen sponge, with the mass of sponge cubes secured by single knots on both sides.  The sponge-filled section is squeezed almost flat, then guided gently into the student's palm.  The sponge expands slightly to help open the palm, a little.

The student tolerated the soft splint, better on her right hand than her left.  After 10 minutes of wearing the soft splint on her right hand I noted a little indentation on the ulnar side of her palm and it probably was from the pressure of the knot.  So, I'll have to remove the knots and sew the fabric tube closed to the right and left of the sponge cube mass.

So, it might work!  Will have to adapt the design and try it again, checking for reddened areas, before I instruct the school staff and share the idea with mom for home use.

Electrical Tape Boundaries

No, no--not electric boundaries!  We're just using electrician's tape to create visual cues to help students learn about their own personal space.

This sweetie in middle school loves to reach over into his classmates' work stations to "borrow" markers, papers, treats....which does not make the neighbors happy!  The instructional aide and I put our heads together this morning and came up with an idea for helping him understand the boundaries between his workspace and that of other classmates (and adults).

We simply applied red electrician's tape to the right and left sides of his table space and also taped strips along the sides of his chair since he prefers to sit sideways most of the time, further invading another person's space.  Our verbal cue will be, "Are you inside your red lines?" and we'll see if it helps him better understand, over time, where his individual workspace is located.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Practice, Practice, Practice

 I think many OTs agree that we can get a good picture of a student's readiness to successfully begin handwriting training by looking at how well a student can draw geometric shapes.
 Not just how well they copy shapes already on paper, or drawn by an adult while the student watches (imitation), but really drawing the shape from how they picture the shape in their minds.
For this activity the adult drew three squares and asked the student to draw a sun (square #3), a house with the student inside (#1) and a student going down a slide (#2).  While creating these drawings the student was independently able to draw a circle, two rectangles and many diagonal lines.  Pretty good work!  How does his handwriting match up?
To create a sample of the student's current handwriting I asked him how to spell a word related to each picture.  He dictated the letters he thought of and I wrote them down, then I filled in any letters that were left out.
 Then, he imitated the word I had written.  We did this for each of the three pictures.
The student's letter formation was great.  His teacher and instructional assistant work with him on letter formation every day in class.  OT works with him in class for about 15 minutes a week and half of that time is often spent telling his teacher and instructional assistant how his excellent skills are due to their diligence with him.
If this student demonstrated confusion with letter formation, directionality, an inefficient pencil grasp or difficulties using his "helper" hand to stabilize the paper, I would offer much more assistance.  In his case his underlying skills are intact and he truly needs only practice, practice, practice.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Giant Squishy Sensory Bag for Backyard

I sure could have used this last week when it was so hot and humid in Virginia.  This would be an excellent sensory station for an elementary school field day.
Giant Squishy Sensory Bag (for outdoors)

Friday, June 1, 2012

Do I Have a Lot of Autism?

The 6th grader I’ve been working with all year has been bringing up the topic of autism more and more.  Yesterday, after discussing his favorite “Roblox” and other video programs he plays with every day, he asked me, “Do I have a lot of autism?”  What do I say?  It would not be the best idea to tell him that I feel he has so many difficulties in life that autism is probably the least of his worries. 
His growing fascination with imaginary characters who keep him company via the computer after school is frightening, since he has begun acting out some of the game’s monster personalities when he’s upset with perceived injustice from teachers and classmates.  It’s startling to see a mild, kind guy instantly turn into a growling, angry creature when you say something to him that he doesn’t like.
Do I mention how he might be healthier and less afraid of outdoor physical education and movement experiences if his grandparents let him play in the back yard instead of keeping him indoors 24/7?   When I ask him if his grandpa might take him for a walk he told me, “There are too many mean people around my house.”  He’s the only student I’ve ever met who has told me, several times, that being outside at recess and PE frightens him.  The day he commented that riding a bike during PE was kinda fun I inwardly rejoiced.
So, when he asks me this important question, “Do I have a lot of autism?” I take the coward’s way out and answer, “I don’t know.”  Sure, I follow up with a gentle discussion about having difficulties with different things at school, but I don’t answer his question in a definite way.  I really think we all have some autism in us, especially quirky folks like me, and who’s to say how much it takes to have “a lot.”