Thursday, December 15, 2011

Two Weeks Off

This is our last week before Christmas Break.  Hope all of you who celebrate Christmas have a wonderful time with family and friends.  I'm going to try to not eat all the goodies that seem to be everywhere, especially in schools.

To everyone--I hope you have a peaceful time and get to relax and reflect a little.  Here's a tiny glimpse of my birdfeeder frenzy last winter:

Sunny Day Writing

It may be mid-December but it's a sunny day in our town and many elementary school students always write a morning story about the date, the weather and what they'll be doing that day.  But, it's not much fun to labor through all those words describing your upcoming day unless you can illustrate your work as well.

Drawing can be frustrating for students, especially when 2-D visual-motor skills present an extra challenge.  What to do?  We OTs can use simple drawing to help students practice pencil grasp, near-point copying, geometric concepts and the fine art of taking turns.

Instead of using two little pieces of paper for our step-by-step drawing, I drew my picture on a piece of scrap paper and the student drew on their journal paper, within faintly-sketched boundary lines.  We took turns drawing each part of the picture and the student ended up with a clear illustration for their sentences.

 Of course, it provides a wonderful opportunity to practice functional spelling when you label your picture.
Different student here and we're just taking turns drawing a seasonal picture.  I was intending to draw a tannenbaum but the student thought it looked more like a person.  Oh well.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Voting Closed

Yesterday I posted a plea for votes for the Assistive Technology Center door in our building's decorating contest--voting is now closed.  If you voted--thx bunches!

Wonderful blog for toddlers and young children

Engaging Toddler Activities

Lots of great OT ideas here.  Love this one about using bubble wrap to indicate your test answers.

Example of Using Microsoft Excel to "Color"

An interesting, no-frills, no-fuss leisure activity for students who enjoy creating "pictures" on the computer.  This student discovered on her own how to use Microsoft Excel with the computer mouse to "color."  I created a template for her to use each time, with the names of fellow students and her teachers' names, but she simply erases the names and colors as she wishes.

If you want to add an educational twist, you can use the same idea to write alphabet letters and numbers.

Since so many families have the Microsoft Office suite on their personal computers this can be an option for leisure computer activities at home.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Shameless begging for a vote for our door decorating contest

The votes must be in tomorrow by 3 PM, Eastern Standard Time USA.  Please read the impassioned plea in the text below and listen to your heart--then please vote for our decorated door in the Assistive Technology Center.  This year's door decorating theme focused on old holiday movies. 

If it's difficult to figure out from the photos, the door represents a huge iPad.  Please do not send your vote to me--there is an e-mail in the text below for sending in your vote and I'll repeat it here as well:  Simply say that you are "voting for the AT Center door."

Thank you!

The Fulghum Center is once again having a door decorating contest. The AT Center won 2nd place last year. This year, the theme is “Holiday Movies” . ANYONE can cast a vote – simply e-mail and please vote for the AT CENTER DOOR no later than 3pm Tuesday, December 13.

Attached, please find photos of our door. This door is the largest iPad you have ever seen! The apps on the door are a play on words for various holiday movies. Through teamwork and creativity, we have incorporated CCPS, Technology AND holiday movies! Enjoy and thanks for your vote!

With appreciation and technology cheers,  the Assistive Technology Center Staff

Friday, December 9, 2011

Functional Fine Motor Skills and Self Help Skills

We often write "Student will independently perform typical classroom fine motor and self help activities" in reports and IEPs.  What's that?

Here is a sweetie with left hemiplegia showing full independence with "typical classroom fine motor and self help activities" as she retrieves items from her backpack, hands in her homework and prepares to eat breakfast in the classroom.  Believe me, sometimes it's not easy to open that twicky milk carton but, heh, it is chocolate milk and that's work the effort.

 It warmed my heart to see her retrieve a pair of scissors to open the cellophane wrapper of the "Power" donut; an idea we practiced last week.  No, I didn't let myself say anything about whether or not donuts can possibly be part of a healthy breakfast.
 Try opening a milk carton with one hand.  Oftentimes I'll ask students to partially open both sides and then pull the diagonal corners apart just enough to insert a straw.
 Pretty good eye-hand coordination, I'd say.
Grab that package of flimsy plastic utensils, straw and napkin in your fist and knock it on the table until the top breaks open and you can pull out what you need.

Video of Thankfulness Cards activity

Here's a video of the steps we used to create our Thankfulness cards for families:

Creating Thankfulness Cards in High School

Thursday, December 8, 2011

I Really Don't Love Spiders

What would I do without Ed Emberley books???  We took turns drawing a spider, sharing one pencil.  Students are so happy to be able to draw something recognizable that they don't mind the handwriting practice at the end, when they write the name of their creation.
 You can talk about top, middle, bottom, right, left, how many legs does a spider have on this side, how many on the other side, the spider's smile is wide--not narrow, the body we made out of a thumbprint is a sideways oval and not a tall oval, the spider's "string" comes down from the many opportunities for talking about 2-D spatial concepts and directionality.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wonderful book on hand skills

A person wrote and asked about how to learn more about developing hand skills.  Rhoda Erhardt wrote a wonderful book years ago and I learned a great deal from it: 

Developmental Hand Dysfunction:

Theory, Assessment, and Treatment

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What Are You Thankful For This Christmas?

High schoolers in a class for students with autism created cards during our integrated therapy session yesterday, to express how they are thankful for their families.  We incorporated actual photos of most students and used a photo from a newspaper ad to represent the student whose family does not permit photos taken at school.  When presented with several ad photos to represent her, of course our student chose the most attractive photo of the bunch!

It's a simple activity, except for using those tricky scrapbooking scissors!  Some of those are hard to use on the flimsy holiday wrapping paper I grabbed from home.  Most students chose to simply use regular scissors but our speech-language pathologist made sure she kept her hand tightly over the scissors caddy until the students specifically asked to use a scissors.  It was my job to say, "Go ahead and start cutting out your photo," once, twice, thrice...until the students realized that we really weren't going to hand them the scissors and they had to ask for them.  The SLP calls this, "sabotaging the task."  It's very hard for me to remember to do this since my focus is so much on the fine motor aspect of these sessions and not the communication piece.

 Folding the paper like a book.
 Nice, tight crease.
 Make sure the corners match up.
 No access to the scissors unless you request them!
 Adding a festive "frame" around the photo.
 Make sure the frame sticks on the paper.
 Some frames are a little wider than others.
 Writing the note inside.
 Some handwriting is teensy, but legible.
 Great sensory opportunity for deep pressure input to the hands.
This student wrote his note in a secret code.

Be sure to find out ahead of time if any students do not celebrate holidays at their homes, or if a particular decorating scheme should be avoided and you need to use more neutral colors.  The families of the students in this particular class do celebrate Christmas so we went with red and green construction paper as well as newspaper photos of wreaths, pine trees and holiday lights on buildings.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sparkly Sensory Fun

We reviewed our sensory activities in the classroom for high schoolers with autism.  Initially, some of the students weren't too keen on having their hands coated with canola oil or the good-smelling orange Kool-Aid playdough but they loved it once they were gently encouraged to explore the materials.

We focused on applying deep pressure via an (amateur) passive hand massage using the canola oil and also pressing the playdough on and between the fingers.
Even though the playdough was already sparkly we added a bunch more glitter.

Better to alert you to the task, my dears.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving Fun

A friend grows organic veggies on a small plot of land we own--our future mini farm down the road.  She shared this fun decoration with us for Thanksgiving:
Hope everyone had a relaxing, happy Thanksgiving with family and friends. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

In-Hand Manipulation

Sort paperclips by color, draw a geometric "home" for each color and nestle the clips inside, then use only one hand to pick up "x" number of clips, one clip at a time.  Work each clip deep into your palm and then pick up the next clip.  Keep upping the number you pick up.  No, you really can't use the other hand to help.  Sure, some paperclips fall out of your hand but you'll get the hang of it eventually.

In-Hand Manipulation Video

You can also use pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters for your sorted groups instead of paperclips.

This student started off using her left hand but learned that her right hand has an easier time of it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wrapping Up the Holidays--A Video

Do you think your students help with gift wrapping at home?  Give them the opportunity at school and maybe they'll be better able to help their parents during the holiday rush.
Wrapping packages and gifts video

First, we wrapped old phone books to use for proprioceptive/vestibular activities in a high school classroom for students with autism.  Next, we worked with highschoolers in a class for students with emotional disabilities and practiced wrapping small packages, using typical wrapping paper.  Great opportunities for bilateral coordination, motor planning, fine motor coordination and tying bows.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Coffee Lid Happy Face

This morning I threw away the non-recycleable lid from my empty coffee can, got inspired, and quickly retrieved it from the trash can.  What was I thinking???

The bright yellow lid turned into a big happy face, once we added the mouth, nose, eyes and eyebrows.  Each time the bell rang on my timer (every 3-5 minutes) the student received one part of their happy face, if s/he was working hard with smart fingers and paying attention to his/her work.  Some students could even roll the painter's tape into a circle in order to stick the facial features onto the yellow background.

Nice change from simply drawing a smiley face on a sheet of scrap paper.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Fun Way to "Write" Your Name

Having two days off at the beginning of the school week makes for a confusing Wed, Th and Friday.  What the heck--the kids are high energy so let's do fun stuff.

Here's a colorful way to reinforce letter formation; making nameplates using stickers on graph paper.  I drew the outlines of the letters and the students chose which colors and shapes to use.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Elementary Geometry

We can get a good idea of how students will write manuscript (print) letters by looking at how well they can draw simple geometric shapes.  Here's a hands-on way to reinforce in their minds how to create some important geometric shapes, featuring squares and triangles.

Elementary Geometry video link

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sunday School Reality Check

This morning I substituted for a teacher's helper in 3rd grade Sunday school.  Out of 20 little rascals, probably 5 of them had a perfect tripod grasp when writing and drawing with a regular diameter pencil.    At least two of them had those horrendous supinated grasps and there were many varieties of lateral grasps.  The students were able to work for 15+ minutes, writing legibly and drawing, with no outward signs of fatigue or discomfort.

Some of these sweeties had lived all their lives in the USA and several of them had spent at least their early years in the Sudan and other faraway places.

Sure, having an efficient grasp is very nice but my experience this morning showed me that it doesn't seem to make a big deal of difference in handwriting if the student's pencil grasp is not picture perfect.  Kinda makes me question which factors might matter more when it comes to functional, legible handwriting in school.

Friday, November 4, 2011

What a Lovely Video

This little girl is a wonderful actress:

HopeAbilities Fun With Clay

Great Art in the Classroom

I don't work with this student, but I happened to see some of her art this morning.  Beautiful and vibrant.  She's very quiet but her artwork shows how much she appreciates the details of the fascinating world around her.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Home Program and Classroom Program for Hand and Finger Strengthening

Strengthening the Hands and Fingers for Writing

To supplement written home and classroom programs we can also use brief videos. 

These are old photos from other blog posts, assembled to make a "follow along" video for promoting hand and finger strength practice at home and in the classroom.  It really doesn't take too long to make a short video like this one and I can use it for many parents and classrooms.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Good-smelling Pumpkins and Blurry Bats

We traced, cut out and spiced up some Halloween pumpkins and bats this morning, then turned them into a decorative garland for the classroom.  We practiced tying half knots, too, to keep the bats from flying into the pumpkins.
This was our joint OT-Speech-Academic group in the classroom for highschoolers with autism.  Some of the students surprised their teachers and aides by how well they traced around the pumpkin and bat templates and also with how well they cut around the shapes.  Lots of opportunities to practice hand strength when squeezing the glue on the shapes prior to dusting them with cinnamon or ground cloves.

Teeny Tiny Connecting Squares

These 1/3' squares come in handy when you're working with a student who really needs to practice better pinch.  Of course, they can always trick you and use their thumb and middle finger for pinch instead of their index finger!  Oh well, we took turns guessing what letter the other person was creating and that added to the interest. 
This student works real fast and her in-class handwriting shows it.  When you have lots of anxiety about life you tend to rush through things so you can check them off your to-do list.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Changing Planes

It's the Friday before Halloween--definitely a day to rise up from our chairs and get moving.  We stood up to draw Halloween-ish shapes but kept the markers and eraser on the floor so everyone had lots of opportunities to change planes during the session.  An easy way to incorporate vestibular input into a classroom activity.

Yes, the drawing surface it a bit too high for the students, but this encourages them to tilt their heads back a little farther than usual and experience a alternate angle of their head in space.

If you look closely, and recruit a little imagination, you can see that some bat wings look like the letter, "M," and some look like the letter, "W."  This helps you get started in drawing their basic outline.