Monday, March 25, 2013

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Fun Alert for Petersburg, VA

If you live within quick driving distance of Petersburg, Virginia, there's a lot to see in the Olde Town area.  We were fortunate enough to also catch a the stopover of a 1904 steam locomotive on its round-trip excursion out of Norfolk.  That meant we had to compete for coffee and lunch with some of the 500 passengers enjoying their exploration of the city's Olde Town section.

These may look like chalk paintings but it's real paint.  They were right outside the Dixie Coffee Shop where we started our morning.  I'm partial to Yorkies...

The bateau painting is attached to the side of an old stone building, near the depot.
Bye, Petersburg.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Looking Forward to Mid-June

Oh...spring is here so summer is near, right?

These activities would be excellent for an indoor field day at the end of kindergarten or first grade:


Indoor field day???  You don't know how hot it gets in Central Virginia!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Welcome Spring Cards

First day of Spring!  Let's make some Welcome Spring cards, using words found around the classroom walls and displays.

To get started, grab some scraps of leftover construction paper and stamp some cute little hand stamps which sorta look like tulips.  Add some sweet-smelling oil to the stamp pad if the ink needs refreshing.  Cut a tulip shape around the little hands or just cut around the designs in a circle shape, like we did.
We embellished our card designs with green stems and some stencil tracings.

Time to write!  I modeled writing "Spring-ish" words, using little rectangles so the letters would fit into a small space.  Then, the students drew guide lines and cut out their own little rectangles.

It's tricky getting those tall and long letters to fit within the rectangle.
I didn't realize how "orderly" this student was--such straight columns!  And such lovely prehension!  We'll add the little green stems and more decorations at our next session.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

St. Patrick's Day Vocabulary

Where better to practice writing vocabulary words than on your St. Patty's Day card?  We used the teacher's list posted in the classroom to write some descriptive words about the green holiday on our cards.  Eventually, the projects will find their way home but for now they'll be decorating the window alongside the classroom door.

Copy your "Irish" words on paper with highlighted lines.
 Don't just use regular scissors to cut apart the words--grab one of the fun craft scissors to spruce up the edges.
 Remember how leprechauns like to run around the school, playing tricks?  A few of those Irish words can be inscribed on the little toesies of a leprechaun footprint.
 Hang up the finished creations so everyone passing by in the hall can admire them.
Make sure your writing is easy for teachers and other students to read--not upside down or too far sideways.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Functional Origami

So your class has been making origami designs to help them learn more about geometry and improve their fine motor skills, eh?  So you've got quite a few little origami critters laying around the classroom, eh?  So, you're wondering what in the world to do with all those cute little fellers, eh?

Wonder no longer...

Photos from Lewis Ginter Botanic Garden (Conservatory) in Richmond, VA (USA)

Wouldn't these streamers look lovely in your school colors, hanging in the school office or library???


A mom of a middle-schooler I serve recommended this site for motivating students to write:


"Inspired Picture Writing"

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Math Videos for Elementary Grade Students

Well, maybe these math videos are appropriate for higher grades as well:

The one I listened to had a narrator with a young student's voice, which was more fun to follow than a voice belonging to someone my age.

Remember to check out Khan Academy for higher math and other subjects, too.

The Luxury of Using "Traditional" Rehab Materials in Schools

Even though I'm personally very thrifty (AKA downright cheap) about what materials I use for work purposes, our therapy department can occasionally order costly materials which you normally see in physical rehab clinics and these items work wonderfully for building up strength and endurance for better hand function in school.  I feel it also helps upright posture and deeper breathing, at least while performing the exercises.

Using Theraband to build trunk and UE strength and stability requires direct training and frequent monitoring by the OT.  Students are not practiced in maintaining a symmetrical posture while exercising and they won't benefit as much from the activity if they're wobbling all over the room and performing the exercises way too fast.  If unsupervised, it's also easy for students to perform the finger exercises with the Digiflex in a sloppy fashion and race through the repetitions.  I only suggest a home program with these materials if the students have been working with me for months and months.  Also, I usually provide a video of the student performing the exercises after I've brought the parents in for training with their student.  Yes, yes, I do get written parent permission to take the photos for training purposes.

This year I've collaborated with two physical education teachers who work with students in special education, for adapted PE or special PE.  Oftentimes, teachers have therapy bands on hand and they are very happy to work together to provide additional strengthening exercises for the students.  The PE teachers are given a handout with drawings, photos and text describing the exercises we've practiced with the students.

A whole different reason for using the traditional materials is for students to experience heavy proprioceptive work provided during resistive exercises.  This is coupled with the slow, audible counting when holding the pose at the end of range and the deeper breathing required during the exercises.  Additionally, the concentration required to perform the exercises correctly helps the students practice better focus, at least for a few seconds.
 I learned this trick from a middle school PE teacher--stretch out the band on the floor, stand in the middle and then pick up both ends.
 Starting position, elbows extended.
 Raise elbows and try to keep shoulders level.  Count to ___ outloud.
 New exercise:  Stand on far right side of the stretched-out band.
 Use your left hand to pick up the band.  This is the starting position for elbow flexion or shoulder flexion.
 Finger pads right on top of the Digiflex "keys."  The black cushion looks like a whale, so tell them to put the whale tail close to their thumb.
 If the student's arm swings around during the exercise, tell her to hold her elbow.
  Keep those fingers on the keys!

I always do the exercises along with the students, to demo correct form and to avoid having to go to the gym...

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Recycled Letter Practice

Old telephone books are one of my "tools" for helping students sit with good foot support or for carrying around the classroom as part of their daily "heavy work" routine, but yesterday I found a new way to use them, or at least part of them.

Active letter practice!  Stand up and reach across the table to create giant letter shapes.  If it gets confusing to think about how to create the huge letters, use the little photo book made up from the wonderful Handwriting Without Tears letter guide

Here are some of the letters two guys and I created during our session:

 Oops--how many horizontal lines are there in the letter "E?"
 That's better.
 Hint--it's a "K."

Yep, a lower case "t."

Tearing the pieces to make skinny letters proved very frustrating for these first graders.  They had to practice keeping their thumbs in close proximity as they tore down the long page.
Some curvy letters were tricky to make, so we tore the phone book pages into smaller pieces and pressed them onto Wikki Stix lettershapes:

These guys loved standing up and walking around the table to create the letters, especially at the end of a long school day.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Shamrock Cookies with Leprechaun Dust

Ready to bake some St. Patty's Day cookies and improve those fine motor & self help skills?

Mix up some plain sugar cookie dough, or buy a tube of sugar cookie dough from the store*.  If you make your own, add a couple of drops of green food coloring to the batter while it's still in a creamy state, before you add all the flour and it gets clumpy.

 What do you want?  "I want to make Shamrock Cookies."  Our speech-language pathologist had everything ready for us to use for communicating what we wanted to do at each step.
 Using an individual student's augmentative communication device to express wants.
A firm "tumbler" size plastic glass will work as well as a traditional rolling pin.

Nice bilateral hand use and good downward pressure to keep the mat from sliding around the table.
 Asking for and receiving the shamrock cookie cutter.
Let's make more.

Carefully remove the excess dough from around the cookie cutter, then pop out your shamrock and put it on the cookie sheet.
Time for the leprechaun dust.  The OT makes sure the top of the bottle is hard to open...always trying to improve grasp strength.
 Sprinkling the leprechaun dust on the unbaked cookies.  How's your aim?
Just about ready to go in the oven.

Our cookies ended up to be only about 1/8" thick, so they burned in the 350 F oven after only about 10 minutes.  Hope yours end up just a little brown around the edges and chewy in the middle.

*Update:  I'm having second thoughts about using dough with fresh eggs--my students don't always wash their hands very well and I sure don't want them to get sick from anything we use.  What do you think?

Friday, March 1, 2013

Sudoku for Practicing Numeral Legibility?

Does anyone use easy (or difficult?) Sudoku for encouraging students to practice better legibility when writing numerals or within small spaces?

I suppose you could also use the letters A to I (or any 9 letters) instead of the numbers 1-9?

Sudoku Web

Thanks Dr. Seuss

Came to an elementary school to work with my Friday morning student--Oops!  It's Dr. Seuss Day!

Change of plans--take photos of current pencil grasp and writing ability during "morning work" and then observe interactions with peers in class and during the long parade down the hallways, with cheering crowds of older students lining the path.  What a great way to look for self regulation in the midst of way too much excitement for one day!

I asked the classroom aide to observe my target student's behavior later in the day, to see if she might become more upset than usual over various events or something else unexpected might occur, indicating that her equilibrium might have become unsettled by the fun activities of the morning.  Will make a note to ask the assistant next week.