Friday, May 31, 2013

Memorial Day Cards--A Little Late

We really did these last Friday.  Some kind soul donated these small stencils to the grab-and-take stash in the teacher's lounge...just perfect for me and the long-suffering students I see.

 Let's make Memorial Day cards to give to our families.  What letters do we need?
 How do we plan the letter arrangement so the words fit across the page?
 How quickly do little finger joints become fatigued while tracing within the stencils for 10+ minutes?

Add a design, or two, of your own choosing.
Peace on Memorial Day, or any day, would be wonderful.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Online OT?

Article about on-line OT for Special Ed

I like working 1-1 with students but I bet it's hard to find enough OT practitioners in different spots.

Last "College Cooking" Session for the School Year

What's a de-lish concoction for the final session of the year?  Hmmm...summer is almost here---it's getting pretty hot and muggy in Richmond---how about---fruit pops?!

 Our basic ingredients--frozen strawberries, pineapple and already-mixed orange juice.
 Haven't seen too many right-handed students opening a package in this fashion.
 Pour in about 3 ounces of orange juice.
Add your favorite fruit (for our second batch we realized that we needed to add more strawberries than pineapple, since too much pineapple made the mixture taste too tart.
 Pour the blended mixture into tiny cups for later freezing.  Of course, we all tasted a little sample first.
 Use the power blender to mix up Batch #2.
 More strawberries=more pink-ish color.
One of the teachers sacrificed her ginger ale to add in with the other ingredients.  It also reduces the tartness of the orange juice and pineapple combo.
Our batches went into the freezer, but the hard-working OTR had pre-made some at home for a tasting after the session.
 Not quite popsicle-like, but the frozen fruit pop was goooood.
Our fresh batch went into the same container as the fruit pops I had made at home the night before.  The Saran Wrap is kept in place with a rubberband around the perimeter of the container.  Little slits were made above each cup center and a wide wooden stick was inserted through the top.  A few hours in the freezer and these will be ready to enjoy.

Hopefully, the students will mix up some of these at home over the summer.  Not a bad idea for us grown-ups, either.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

More OT2OT Tips on Improving Scissor Skills

Kathryn W. Mason, one of the OTRs on our staff, shared this info on improving scissor skills:

Encourage a variety of fine motor activities like bead stringing, tearing paper strips, play doh, “Simon Says” and water "squirt" toys to encourage hand development which will help with scissor use.

Hand position:
Photo by Kathryn Mason
Hold the scissors with the thumb on top. (Children initially try to cut with the hand palm down until 3 1/2-4 years old.) Place a sticker on the side of the thumb hole, so that the student sees the sticker when the fingers are in the correct holes. The scissors should be on the middle finger bones, not right next to the palm. The index finger should be in front of the loop. The assisting hand should be thumb up to encourage the scissor hand to have the same position.

 Paper Selection and Cutting Progression:

1. Start by cutting straws. This provides a non-floppy item to cut and there is success after just one stroke. Encourage the child to support his elbows on the table rather than having his arms entirely up in the air. This will provide more stability and help him to align the scissors and the item being cut. (The straw pieces can be threaded on string to make necklaces.)

2. Progress to snipping along the end of tagboard, cardboard cereal boxes or other moderately firm paper. Junk mail envelopes are perfect for this use. Thin paper can be folded in half to make it stiffer. Start with narrow strips that can be cut with one snip. As the child gets better at cutting, provide longer strips of
thinner paper, and teach the child to keep his assisting hand at a location where he can keep the paper from flopping.

2. Fold green paper ½ inch from one edge. Teach the students to snip repeatedly to the fold in the paper, making “grass.” Do this as often as you can during art projects.
Photo by Kathryn Mason

3. Make the strip thicker, so the student has to advance the scissors once to cut across the strip. Continue to widen the paper so that the student learns to advance the scissors. Chant “Open, slide, cut.” Also have the student snip to a sticker or highlighted dot so he starts to aim with the scissors.

4. Make thick lines across one inch strips of paper. Help the child to line up the scissors at the start of the line and snip across. Again progress to wider strips of paper, helping the child to remain close to the line.
Photo by Kathryn Mason

More tips to follow!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Did'ya Hear About "Q" and "U"--They Got Married!

Last Friday I hit upon a gold mine at one of my elementary schools--Q and U got married and the kindergarteners got to be guests at the wedding.

Student "guests" lined up in the hallway and entered the wedding hall individually, holding their letter "gifts."
 Everyone sat very quietly.  Sorry I can't show you that photo!
 "P" is for purse.
 "Z" is for zebra, of course.
 Toy Story!
 The letters kissed after the ceremony, but not the students!
The creative teacher was incorporating phonemic awareness the entire time, but in a very fun way.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Chocolate Chip Day

May 15th was National Chocolate Chip Day, or so I was happy to believe.  Our class for middle school students with severe intellectual disabilities celebrated by making chocolate chip sugar cookies and peanut butter cookies with chocolate chips.

While we were waiting for all the ingredients to get on the table, we enjoyed some old-fashioned butter cookies...  Do you recall putting these cookies on your fingers like this?  You eat the "petals" first, then the inside ring.
 We cheated and used a mix for both types of cookies, but we still had to stir them up.
 After placing a ball of cookie dough on the foil we used our fingers to put the chocolate chips on each cookie.  Some chips accidentally fell into our mouths...
 A few students squashed the cookie dough balls by pressing on top with a flat bottom glass.
 The more chocolate chips you add, the better the flavor.
 We didn't have to wait too long to enjoy the results.  It was hard not to sample them before they cooled.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Sandpaper Letter Bits

I finally remembered to bring my fine grit sandpaper into school last Friday afternoon.
 If you write on sandpaper with a pencil it makes a wonderful mess all over your fingers and the table.
However, if you write on sandpaper with scented crayons it isn't messy at all, and the room smells like roses, or oranges, or limes or...
Cutting through fine grit sandpaper is a little bumpy, but nothing like cutting through coarse grit.  Yes, yes--the student should have his index finger touching the scissors so he can steer it better while he cuts.
 Hmmm, we made a lower case "b."
 This circle has a bit of a square top, but you can still tell it's round.
Each student drew and cut out the same shapes, a straight line and a circle, but must make different letters...
Of course, "d" and "b."  The "d" looks like a quarter note to me but let's not get bogged down in details.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Improving Scissor Use--OT2OT Tips

My fellow OT buddies are so helpful...  Here are lots of ideas for improving scissor control:

• Remember hand anatomy and ergonomics when looking at scissor use. Look at desk height, body stability in chair, student's control of paper as she holds it with her helper hand.

• Use stickers for start-stop points to increase visual attention.

• Wind rubber band or pipe cleaners around inside edge of loops to prevent blades from closing completely (for students who have difficulty opening blades.)

• Experiment with a variety of paper thicknesses to prevent paper bending too easily (cereal boxes, greeting cards, manila folders, tagboard.)

• Challenge students with a variety of approaches, “How many cuts will it take to drive across the road?”

• Review handbook(s) on scissor skills in the OT-PT library.  Does your OT dept have a library with great books--we do.  Guess which OT in our dept sends in the most requests for books???

• Review the scissor use handouts posted on our intra-county web portal page regarding scissor tips.

• When you develop handouts for parents, share a digital copy with your fellow OTs.

• Ask our musical OTR on staff to teach you her “Cut Like an Alligator” jingle…

Sherry--I will ask Frances, our musical OTR, to record the jingle so I can post it.  K.  5-19

Haven't checked out all the links but there seem to be some good ideas for developing scissor skills on this list:  Scissor Skills Development Ideas  5-20

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Embedding Sensory Opportunities into the Classroom

During IEP meetings parents often ask how we OTs incorporate sensory experiences into the school day.  Here are some examples I share, according to the particular classroom:

Note:  Some of these are “out there” so sift through for any helpful ones...

1. Put yesterday’s classroom library books in the M-W-F box and arrange the Tu-Th books neatly on the library shelf in the classroom. (Heavy work—sequencing—spatial orientation)

2. After doing “wall push-ups” on the chalkboard, practice drawing a simple sketch from a drawing book which relates to a topic being discussed that day. (Working arms in anti-gravity position while drawing; joint compression and upper body strengthening which some students find calming; increase success in drawing to increase interest in journal writing or other academics which include student drawing)

3. Extra clean up of student desks, tables. Student or adult squirts thin line of shaving cream on table surfaces, then uses hands to spread it over the table. Student then uses thick cloth to wipe up cream from table, followed by using a drying towel. (This is not really a “cleaning.” Good for L to R sequencing, weight bearing through arms, sequencing of a task).

4. Classic chalkboard cleaning. An oldie but goodie for students who are not sensitive to chalk dust. Students wipe chalkboard with a thick, damp washcloth, with adult supervision to avoid slippery floors. May use spray bottle to dampen chalkboard if student can handle the responsibility. (Anti-gravity arm movement to strengthen arms; left to right sequencing; attention to detail)

5. One student assigned to sharpen pencils, manually. Keep a “sharp” and “dull” basket to avoid sharpening during the day. (Hand strength; attention to task)

6. Use magnetic clips to hold paper, or use blue painter's tape to temporarily attach paper to a classroom easel or whiteboard, for practicing handwriting formation, 5-10 minutes daily.  Alternately, may use for copying homework from board. (Anti-gravity arm movement and pencil grasp refinement).  Ideally, an adult or helper from an older grade should monitor to supervise correct formation. (This will pay off greatly as students may feel better about writing as the year progresses.)

Monday, May 13, 2013

Teacher Appreciation Day--OTs Benefit, Too

This elementary school really does a nice job during Teacher Appreciation Week.  Last Tuesday we were treated to a box lunch, yummy fruit and dessert.  I passed on the raffles since I'm just at the school one day a week; didn't seem fair to take away a "chance" to win from the full-timers at the school.

 Pre-ordered box lunches.  Mine--chicken tarragon (and carrot cake...)!

Look at all these raffle opps!

Grasps--End of Year Reassessment

It's that time of year...getting down to the wire before school ends on June 14th.  Let's see how the students who are receiving special education services due to their mild intellectual impairments are holding their pencils and writing.

Above--a 2nd grader who writes pretty fast.  She's copying from a poster on the table which I took down from the classroom wall.  Thumb wrap, I'd say.  Lots of letters written from the baseline up and some in quite "inventive" styles.
 Grasp looks sorta okay for this 3rd grader, but his head is hovering just 2" above the tabletop.
 This 4th grader copies with fair accuracy, as long as the classroom is perfectly quiet and nobody moves.
Here's a 5th grader with a slightly awkward grasp but she can really write legibly, and with some individual flair, when she's motivated by the subject.

Not the prettiest of handwriting in the world, but legible.  Realistically, this handwriting is often better quality than what many general education teachers typically see in class.  

Friday, May 10, 2013

Pre-School Checklist

One of my OT buddies just recommended this checklist, which she thinks is great:

Preschool Checklist Link

Not sure if you can purchase it, or not.  Maybe it's an in-house resource for the company???  FYI.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Math Project on site

Shameless begging for blog readers to fund a math project...

I've created a classroom project request on a 501(c)3 charity website called  I learned about this organization from one of my high school teachers last year, who was funded for an adapted classroom swing for her students who have severe physical and cognitive disabilities.

I'm writing to ask for any donations possible toward an iPad mini to use for writing math.  No matter the size of your donation, it will help the students I work with, especially students who have difficulty "writing" math.  I plan to also use the device for handwriting remediation, using apps I've written about previously in the blog.

This week only, any donation you make to my project will be doubled! If you know anyone who is passionate about education, please pass this along. Your tax-deductible donation will have a direct impact on students and teachers.

1. Visit my Page, Math Project info on DonorsChoose
2. Choose my project, enter the amount of your donation, and click "Give"

3. During check-out, enter the word INSPIRE where it says "Match or gift code", and your donation will be matched dollar for dollar.

The INSPIRE match code will double your donation for the next 7 days.

Please feel free to send me any questions you may have, and know that I and the students I support greatly appreciate your support.  Plus, you'll get to see lots of photos and info about what we learn about writing math!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Visual Recipes

Oh my, this is a goldmine!

Visual Recipes

College Cooking--Smoothies

On Monday morning the high school students in a class for students with autism practiced making fruit smoothies.

 Of course, strawberries and bananas taste even better with a little bit of peanut butter and/or chocolate.
 We reconstituted the PB2 to make creamy peanut butter.
 It was the duel of the single serving blenders--which would make the smoothest smoothie???
 Our friendly SLP was looking for some good sentences.
Most of the students were real comfy with peeling and slicing bananas.  You could tell who had practiced before.
 After tasting the smoothies the students rated their finished products.
 There were definite preferences--some students went straight for the chocolate and some only chose fruit.
On Tuesday, students in a class for students with emotional disabilities made smoothies, too.  However, ice was added to the mixture today.  We had avoided ice in Monday's smoothie recipe since blending it was VERY LOUD.
 To make the Magic Bullet blender work you had to hold down the top.  Lots of good vibrations.
 All the students demonstrated excellent accuracy when pouring.
One student wasn't crazy about consuming his smoothie, but agreed to create one for the classroom teacher.

We triple-checked to make sure the lids were secure before operating the blender.  The smoothies looked a lot more like store-bought when we used ice.