Monday, December 20, 2010

Using our OT Skills at home during vacation

Not writing much in the therapy blog until after New Year's, but if you're working around the house and catching up on stuff left undone during the busy times at school, check out my organizing blog:


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Jazz up those paper Christmas trees

Well, there is a 100% probability of snow for central VA tomorrow, so this may be the last post until January 2011! 
This is for those poor, long-suffering OTRs and COTAs who work in non-snowed-in areas and need some fine motor activities until their holiday break begins.  (We Virginians will be home, drinking hot cocoa and thinking warm thoughts about all you hard-working folks.)Create the punched hole garlands by cutting thin strips of construction paper (about 3/4-1" wide) and then punch holes along the length of the strips.  Following this, trim away as much of the border as possible so you're left with a narrow strip of hole-ridden paper. 
Be ready to offer lots of encouragement to students who are unaccustomed to using a hole punch--it can be quite fatiguing and frustrating.  You might take turns to keep the motivation rolling along.

Christmas in the High School Sensory Room

Update on sensory room equipment in the high school class for students with severe disabilities--sure we study the other "winter" holidays but you can't beat the Americanized decorations for Christmas to capture the attention of students who love colorful, twinkling lights and familiar music that many of them hear in the community or at home.

You might notice the the sensory "tent" is now open air---the fire marshall told the teachers to remove the fabric covering because it was in the spray path of the overhead fire sprinkler.  The area isn't as visually soothing as it had been, but it's still a sought-after space for students.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Little Scissors for Small Hands

This scissors is small, but this kindergarten student's hands are even smaller.  Plus, the student has difficulty with opening (say "Ah") and closing the scissors even with the help of the springy loop.  So, one or two little snips are made and then the scissors turns into a plow as the students forces the blades through the paper.  (Note to self--use thicker paper.)
To make matters trickier, the blades of the scissors are very sharp. Scissor practice is going to be conducted with an adult sitting right next to the student.
Finally, the student pronates the forearm when cutting, so we need to keep a finger or two on the wrist to facilitate a neutral wrist position.  Yet, we need to try not to help too much.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Adapting Handwriting Booklets for Individual Students

A few years ago our county developed handwriting booklets for kindergarten and first grade students.  The booklets are basically okay for most students, yet many of the students who receive OT in the schools will benefit from fewer repetitions of letters and eliminating the laborious sentence copying that is on some pages.

For a student I've recently begun working with in first grade, I added a "bookmark" to her handwriting book.  The bookmark is a clear page protector that has a list of tips to read on one side and a photo of the student's pencil grasp on the other side.  The tips are for the classroom aide, to remind her of how to present and supervise handwriting practice.  The photo is for the aide and the student, to remind them of a functional handwriting grasp to use when writing.  Here's hoping this adapted handwriting practice will encourage the student to write her best during brief practice sessions and improve her legibility over time.

Here are the tips:

 Student demonstrates to adult how to hold pencil correctly.

 Adult asks, “Where do we start our letters?” and student answers, “At the top!”  (Thank you, HWT!*)

 If it’s a round letter, like the letter “O” the adult asks, “Where do we start our letters?” and the student answers, “At 12 o’clock,” or “At the top of the clock.”

 Round letters are formed counterclockwise.

 Point out which line of the letter should be made first and have the student “draw” that line in the air, using their index finger, in the correct direction. Do this for each part of the letter before picking up a pencil.

 Keep your eyes on the student’s paper while they do the following step. Be ready to help them form the letters in the correct direction.

 On the page, have the students trace the guide letters and then write two letters on their own. (We want them to make two well-formed letters, then stop.) Do not trace words or sentences until later in the year.

 Avoid erasing, just cross out a poorly-made letter.

*Handwriting Without Tears has a great song to sing to remind students about where to start their letters.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Sky Writing for Handwriting Remediation

Oh, my goodness, this is unbelievably fun to watch:

Found it, and other interesting resources at:

Website for Handwriting Worksheets to help teachers

This is a great website for free handwriting practice worksheets because you can customize the appearance, layout, font size, number of repetitions.....all very helpful for teachers who only have access to commercial handwriting worksheets, or none at all.  Encourage your teachers to have students copy a letter or word just once or twice so that the quality of the students' work doesn't deteriorate from too many repetitions.

Free Handwriting Worksheets

Monday, December 6, 2010

Fine Motor--Language Rich Activity for the Holidays

This morning the speech-language pathologist (SLP) and I ran an activity group for high schoolers who are in a class for students with autism.  Overall, the students in this classroom demonstrate good eye-hand coordination and dexterity but often have poorer hand strength and endurance than would be expected for their age and general physical ability.  The co-led group is primarily language focused and OT inserts fine motor challenges and adds sensory opportunities to whatever activity is planned.
The students needed a little help with using the hot glue "device" but improved as they several opportunities to place glue on the wooden base.  I helped them by pushing down on the glue stick whenever they pulled the trigger, since the glue was a little reluctant to flow, at times.  You have to be very careful when using hot glue, since the barrel of the device is hot as well as the freshly emerged glue.  Another caution--examine the wood carefully and look for lurking bugs who might be hiding inside any crevices.
The photos will led you through the sequence of the activity.  Note that an adult drilled a candle-sized opening into the wooden bases prior to the activity.  You could hot glue the candle onto a flat base, but it probably wouldn't remain sturdy.
Result:  A festive candle holder which makes a pretty gift for families, favorite teachers and school administrators.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Range of Motion as a byproduct of fun

Plain exercise can be boring.  Get the music going, arrange safe materials to explore in an easy-to-reach location and let the students get their UE exercise in a fun way.

Enjoying the Sensory Flag

Visited the high school yesterday where the creative teacher has placed the sensory tent with all the lights and streamers for students to view and explore.  One student, who usually is only attentive to shiny materials, was seated near the "sensory flag" and was moving his hand across its surface, exploring the sewn-on felt leaves, silk leaves and other items attached to the scarecrow flag.  Lots of active movement going on!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Get a head start on those Christmas trees

When you only work with a student once a week you have to start your holiday-themed fine motor activities long before the special date actually arrives.  On Monday I walked into a classroom to see the cute bread dough turkeys sitting, all lonely, on a drying rack because they hadn't been ready to head to the students' homes in time for Thanksgiving.

Well, we're starting our Christmas trees now so they'll be completed in time for December 17th--our last day of school before the break.  This task is excellent for planning, size discrimination, sequencing, tracing, using paper clips (one smiley face slides on top of the paper and one smiley face goes under the paper,) cutting, assembling, glueing and creative decorating. 

I usually make a tree alongside the students in order to model different ways to approach cutting, drawing decorations and sighing, "It's okay," when something doesn't turn out so perfect.  I had a little guy start to tear up today because his first triangle wasn't perfect but he got over it by the third one.  Besides, the trees look more artistic when they're not perfect.

P.S.  Cutting out those pointy stars is pretty difficult and drawing them is downright impossible for many youngsters.