Friday, April 29, 2011

Functional Assessment of Self Feeding Skills

You know your student is improving with functional fine motor skills related to self feeding when she opens the skinny, flimsy, resistant top of the maple syrup package without a single spill--Yeah!

Well, maybe she did have to briefly use her teeth to start opening the steamy package of mini pancakes, but we all have room for improvement, right?

Happily, the orange juice was easy to open today and she used her more affected hand to stabilize the container without needing a reminder.  Amazingly, the cellophane pack containing her spork and napkin was also easy to open.
Since her right sleeve was dipping in the syrup as she reached for her pancakes, we figured out how to arrange the food configuration so her arm would not travel over the open syrup packet.

Final test--can the messy tray make it to the trashcan without a spill--Yes!

I try to go to breakfast or lunch with her once a month, to monitor her progress and thank the lunchroom staff who help her become more independent.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Tactile Art

Yes, yes, the title of this article isn't very "PC," but looking at the slideshow of fiber art makes me think about fine motor/spatial/sequencing... activities to try with students.  To be attempted at my level of non-artistic ability, of course.

Fiber Art link in Richmond Times-Dispatch

Make Letter Writing More Fun

How to make letter writing practice more fun?  Here's what a little kindergartener and I did yesterday:

Close your eyes and pick a letter from the book.  Make your favorite OT write the letter and corresponding word first, then you get to copy it.

Once you've written a few words from the book that correspond with the letters, set up your work station to "type" your work.  This student has quite a bit of difficulty with legible handwriting, despite the best efforts of his general ed and special ed teachers, so we're also introducing keyboarding at an early age. 
There was a lot of glare from the overhead lights in the hallway outside his classroom, so we kept propping up the AlphaSmart 3000 to get the right angle.  The 3-ring notebook wasn't sufficient and he thought of using his pencil case to improve the angle.  My purse prevents our rigged up system from sliding away.
This low tech slantboard worked well for a few minutes.  Later on in the year, when he earnestly begins his trial period with the word processor in class, we'll figure out a better system that is quick to set up at his desk.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Recycle that styrofoam

Money-saving, time-saving alert---using blocks of leftover styrofoam to create the custom stamps works just fine.  No need to use up your kindling for next winter.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Letterboxing activity

Whew!  5:30 arrived way too early this morning.  Back to work we go.
This morning we started our Letterboxing project with students in two high school classes for students with autism.  This various components of this project should last us until school ends in mid-June. 
Today's activity--creating individual stamps to be used in stamping journals (like collecting stamps in a passport) when the students follow text and visual (picture symbol) clues to locate journals hidden in different locations around the school.
We used blocks of wood, with one side slightly rough so it would soak up the glue; regular glue works fine.  The purchased foam is about 1/8" thick.   Some students traced around simple cookie cutter shapes to cut out their designs and other students were able to cut out the tiny pieces of more complicated stencils.

Students will also make simple journals out of construction paper and copy paper, tied with a length of yarn.  In a couple of weeks they will interview resource personnel around the school (office manager, librarian) to ask which designs are best for making a stamp for their location (maybe an open book shape for the library and an old-fashioned telephone handset for the office.)  We're hoping to address many skills via this activity--orientation in the school building, following directions in written form, increased social interactions with people in areas around the school.
Here's a link to Letterboxing:

Friday, April 15, 2011

American Sign Language site and more sites

American Sign Language Browser

I'm no expert in ASL but this looks very interesting, and probably helpful for quick reference in school.

Here's a source of ideas for home programs, and therapy sessions.  I'd give parents an abbreviated list from the targeted skill area and not expect them to locate the best activities for their student.
Therapy Street For Kids

This part of the site is super:  Recipes

Another site, Jennifer Dodge
Wouldn't these critters be great for inserting those behavior tokens which students earn all day long???

Let's be nice to our PT buddies and share this site with them:  Motor ideas from Wisconsin

Five more minutes until Easter Break begins!!!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

TTAC at VCU Interactive Fun Book

The wild and crazy teacher I share office space with up in our balcony "cave" went to TTAC this week at VCU Training and Technical Assistance Center and came back to work with this fun, interactive book for young students:
It's a complete kit--the cover to the plastic tub has car headliner material glued to the top so it will snatch on to the Velcro placed on the back of the words and photos, even the blue plate.  The potato chip canister has the same car headliner material encircling it.  My favorite prop is the lime green "Tickle Monster"--AKA--microfiber car wash mitt.

Prepping for Summer Home Programs

Yikes!  Summer is almost here!  My summer handouts are looking a little dusty so I better freshen them up in time for June 17th!
Sometimes the home programs need to be very customized.  Here are some photos I took of a kindergarten student who did "morning wake-up" exercises with the whole class, with some accommodations for his more-affected arm.  His dad met us at school during lunch one day to review the activities but it always helps to have photos to freshen-up a memory.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Inexpensive Ideas for Sensory Enhancements in the Classroom

Some people feel the sound of birds can be relaxing and/or alerting.  When no one is around I listen to this CD while I toil away on non-writing tasks at work:
Birdies Singing CD
While the CD is playing on my computer, using Windows Media Player, I see 70's-ish graphics which greatly distract me and I have to minimize the window.  However...I bet you could project these graphics to a Smart Board or a regular pull-down projection screen and students would enjoy watching the ever-changing images.  Some of the students in the classes I serve seem drawn to quickly-changing images on computer screens and this idea might provide a similar "sensory oasis" for them. Kind of like a no-cost version of expensive sensory equipment from catalogs, although not interactive.
Be sure to display the image on "Full Mode" and play around with the "Enhancements" and "Visualizations" buttons in Windows Media Player. 
Caution:  Some of the designs are kind of strobe-y so choose safe ones for students who have seizures in response to optical stimuli.

Fidget possibility

Looking for chewey toys at Wal-Mart, I found a great fidget toy instead: 

Will try this as a quiet fidget toy with an elementary student who does not put things in her mouth.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Ed Emberley Time

A great activity for finger isolation (any finger you choose.)  We inked up our thumbs, then our little fingers, to create thumbprint bodies for crawley critters.  If you have a student who primarily walks around with forearm pronation most of the day, this will encourage them to supinate and look at their inky fingers.
Then we drew our critters, and wrote their names within a small space.  It's a lot more fun to write "Caterpillar" than to write your own name.

By the way, that customed, lined paper at the top of this blog is available, free, at the Handwriting Without Tears website:

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Make Scissor Skills More Challenging

To increase attention to the cutting area, make the task more challenging by having the student draw or glue shapes close together on the background paper.  This little girl loves art and has pretty good fine motor skills, but needs to monitor her work more carefully and work independently, without asking for help, for longer periods.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Keeping it Real

Be sure to frequently roam around your classrooms and look at "typical" handwriting and other skills.  It's always helpful to view the wide range of "normal" abilities.  These are handwriting booklets used for instruction in a general education, kindergarten classroom.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Those Beans and Sunflowers are Sproutin'

The students have been measuring the growth of the beans and sunflower seeds they planted two weeks ago.  Time to start tying them to a support!  How many of your students can tie?

Go VCU--We Still Think You're the Greatest

Okay, our team lost on Saturday night--but they tried hard!  In our high school class for students with autism we recapped the emotions of the game.  We used clippings from the Richmond Times-Dispatch newspaper and captioned them with words describing emotions seen on the players' faces, or actions shown in the photos.  Be sure to see the artistry of one student drawing freehand in some of the pictures.