Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Nursery Rhymes on Video Site

Looking on YouTube for interesting nursery rhymes I found this site:
Autism Is My Life

Created by a mom for her son to use for independent leisure times.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Documenting Handwriting Progress

In addition to reviewing class work, I've been taking monthly samples of a student's writing.  This customized paper can be generated from the Handwriting Without Tears site, under "A+ Worksheet Maker."  http://www.hwtears.com/hwt/online-tools/APLUS

Each sample is clearly dated and I also write down which words or letters the adult has written.  This may seem silly but it sometimes gets a little hard to figure out what I've written and what the student has written, especially since I try to always write sample text for students with my non-dominant hand.  Students sit to my right and I use my left hand to write the letters so the students can see how the pencil is moving on the paper.
In my opinion, the most important measure of improvement is the student's functional writing in the classroom and on homework.  Writing performed under the direct supervision of a friendly therapist is usually a lot more legible than what the hard-working teacher sees on a daily basis.  Yet, it is good to document what the student's "best" handwriting can look like, since that gives us insight into the factors which influence legibility. 
Do they need extra time to form letters correctly--do they rush through the writing in class so they can move on to something else--do they have a difficult time remembering where they are on the page?  Knowing this information helps us suggest accommodations and strategies to the teachers to aid writing in class.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Take Small Bites

Do you have food stuffers on your caseload? Students who like to imitate chipmunks while they're eating?  Sometimes this can be quite dangerous since they overstuff their mouths and then try to swallow the entire bolus of food.

Quickly adapt the lunch tray (cut off the lid to use as a plate) to permit students to practice eating small amounts of food, portioned out by the teacher/classroom assistant.  By giving students just a few bites at a time they may develop better habits related to portion intake.

If you're working with a student who has decreased sensation or impaired oralmuscular control primarily on one side of their face then you've got to add a bunch of other interventions to this simple adaption.

Monday, May 23, 2011

More Letterboxing at the High School

Our letterboxing activity continued this morning.  Thankfully we had beautiful weather, which was very important since it was SOL testing day in the school and the halls needed to remain very quiet during testing.  Our students were quite excited about the activity and it would have been a little difficult to only whisper as we traveled down those long hallways.
Our speech-language pathologist had spent her weekend making up the directions for finding the letterbox kits at two locations outside the school building.  She made up a set of directions with pictures and another set of directions with only text.  The students slipped the shorter, text-only version into their letterboxing journals.  Can you guess where we were headed first?

 You're right--the tennis courts! 

Our letterboxing kits aren't fancy, just clear plastic bags with the stamp, journal and stamp pad inside.  One observant student found this kit pretty quickly, tucked along one side of the court.
We sat on the tennis court and took turns putting our personal stamp into the journal for the tennis court.  Second, we took out the stamp representing the tennis court and stamped it into our personal journals.

 Some students needed a little physical cueing to stamp firmly enough for the design to be seen on the page.
The second mystery location turned out to be the modern sculpture in front of the school's main entrance.  The poor occupational therapist worked hard over the weekend to figure out how in the world to represent this design in a simple stamp.

 Our very observant student was able to locate the letterbox kit for this location.
Students took turns stamping their stamp design into the journal for the sculpture and then stamped the stamp design for the sculpture into their personal journals.
The OT's husband had told her that the tennis racket design looked like a tree, but we all agreed that it really does look like a tennis racket, sort of.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Everything in Its Place

In our elementary schools students work on word sorts each week.  Sets of words are grouped in word families (stop, pop, top, plop) and students use them in different ways during the week.  I try to schedule time with my students when they are working with their word sorts because they have to cut the words apart, align them in columns according to their word families and then glue them in place.  Great functional fine motor and spatial skills practice.  The composition books can get pretty thick, and often messy, with all the glued strips of words.
One teacher I see weekly, who has a class for students with moderate intellectual disabilities (MoID), runs a tight ship.  She is very creative in her teaching yet is also very orderly in how she has the students keep their materials that are used frequently in class.  Above you can see how she has them keep their Word Sort books and also the composition books in which they copy a morning greeting from the board or write other morning work. 

This class utilizes a set of word processors, which students use daily to write their vocabulary and spelling words and sometimes sentences which include the words.  Students also use the simple word processors for other writing, as the teacher wishes.

The teacher talked her husband into making these wooden stands to hold clipboards.  Students can sit tall and look straight ahead to see their words as they type.  If a student loses his/her place on the list then a simple sticky note can be used to underscore the word being typed.

Yes, the classroom organization even applies to lunch choices.  Students and teachers use the colorful nameplates to indicate their lunch choice.  One more way to foster functional reading skills.

My Obstacle Course website


This looks like a promising website for activities.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Little Snips

When you're shaky to start with, and life is so exciting that it makes you shake even more, and the foam you're trying to cut looks like the back of a stegosaurus...well, it's hard to hold your hands steady!

All year this little guy has had trouble even attempting to cut paper (even thick paper) so we tried cutting a leftover strip from one of the wristbands we made yesterday.  If I held the foam nice and taut then he could snip without turning the scissors into a plow.  So what if he used two hands--it's a start.
One cool thing about cutting along a dinosaur backbone is that some of the cutting areas are shallow and some are deep, so it's not too hard and not too easy when you're first learning how to coordinate your hands with the scissors.  Also, the ever-vigilant OT can shift the cutting spot a little to suit the student's abilities.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Foam Wrist Bands to Increase Spelling Accuracy

What--wrist bands to aid spelling??  Bear with me. 
First, have your student cut a long rectangle of skinny foam that is just a few inches longer than their wrist circumference.
Near one end of the band, cut a slit approximately 3/4" long.  At the other end of the band, cut a fish tail-like design.  This will function as a latch so the bracelet will connect at the ends.

First, have the student write his/her name in the center of the bracelet.  This is the part he/she will see the most so it's prime real estate.

Now, pick one or more current vocabulary words or spelling words and have the student write them around his/her name.
At least for today, the student will see a couple of spelling words many, many, many times during the day.

Go ahead and make another one--but make it trickier to cut out.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Video-Based Home Programs

Let's get real--videos are much easier to understand than some written home programs.  Let's give parents access to home programs that are easy to understand and follow.  Feel free to make copies of this list for parents.

Computer-based Video Resources for Teacher, Parents and Therapists

Note: Remember to set your computer’s options to “Safe” settings, to avoid viewing objectionable content on the websites hosting any videos.

Demonstration of using a commercially-available toy for fidgeting. Note that there are various textures available for different sensory preferences.

Almost as engaging as watching a cartoon, this little robot folds towels in a studied, methodical way that is easy to duplicate by us humans.

How to make a jig for folding t-shirts.

Pediatric occupational therapist discusses and demonstrates a variety of commercially-available toys.

Classic fine motor activities: theraputty, geoboard, shoelacing

Use short bits of yarn to create pictures—great for using both hands together.

Hand Skill Development Program: Set 1
Demonstration of activities that promote hand/fine motor skill development.


Make a dynamic hanging activity for upper and lower body coordination.

Simple activity to encourage finger stability and strength.

Writing in shaving--cream classic activity.
Finger strength and fun with your name.

Watch your name “magically” appear in this crayon-resist activity.

Lotto or memory game. Can make from paper as well as the fabric shown in the video.
Be sure to have the student participate in creating the game.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Letterboxing continues

Our letterboxing activity is ramping up.  Today we traveled to the school office and the library, to ask staff members which of  two clip art pictures better represent their workspaces.  Tomorrow, students will create a custom stamp for the office and another for the library, along with journals for each, and then assemble a letterboxing kit for both spaces. 
It was a gorgeous morning so we walked outside and practiced what the students would say to the different folks.

In the school office, the telephone icon won over the envelope icon since the office staff said they spend most of their day answering the phone.

One of the students brought along his letterboxing kit (stamp, journal, ink pad) to show staff members what their letterboxing kits would consist of after their custom stamps were created.

It was another student's turn to be the lead interviewer, so she and the speech-language pathologist practiced in the hallway outside the library.
We have very thorough librarians and they discussed with the students the pros and cons of the two choices.

After a little discussion, the clip art picture of a person reading a book was chosen.

Later this week--making more stamps and getting ready to use text/visual direction sheets to locate letter boxes around the school.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Sensory Board--This Time by VCU OT Students

One of our therapists commissioned this sensory board when OT students at VCU were looking for adaptive aid projects.  Looks irrestible!

No, I have no clue why those empty medicine bottles are there.

Pajama Time

This is Pajama Time! by Sandra Boynton--with added textures and page fluffers.  This preschooler doesn't put objects in her mouth but your student might...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Customized letter strip for desk

In elementary schools just about every student in K-3rd grade has a laminated letter strip stuck to the top edge of their desk.  By this time of year, these strips are looking pretty ratty since they have been wonderful fidget toys for antsy children.
How about the student making a replacement letter strip? Use clearly lined paper to aid in correct letter formation and have the student select their best-formed letter pairs. Cut the paper into upper case-lower case letter pairs and glue them on a second sheet of lined paper.

Part of the perceptual challenge is lining the black guidelines up correctly on the receiving sheet of lined paper.
We'll laminate the custom letter guide strip, or slip it inside a protective sheet before securing it to the desk.  Maybe it'll last until June 17th.....

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Collecting Grasp Photos

I'd like to make an amateur video on different grasps, possible causes for the inefficient ones and hints for remediation.  Please send any interesting grasp photos my way.  No faces or other identifying info, please!  Thx.

Make Numbers Mean Something

Practicing number formation is important; let's aim to make it meaningful when the opportunity presents itself.  This little kindergartener had some math work left to do, so we practiced staying inside the guidelines as he wrote some of the numbers.

Then, we took turns using a flexible ruler to draw and measure lines on paper as well as measuring the dimensions of my calendar notebook.

Even though the ruler is flexible, it allows you to draw a straight, unnotched line.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Mobile Arm Support Attached to Overhead Support and Lever

This is an interesting video about using an iPad with a young student--especially the views of the mobile arm support and how it is attached to the overhead bar of the hospital bed.


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Portable Sensory Board for Students Who Love to Squish Things

Last Thursday, one of the speech-language pathologists I work with at a high school asked me if I had any manipulative items she could use with a student who wants to squish everything.  The student, who is diagnosed with autism, is very distracted during speech-language sessions and the SLP thought that if she could provide the student with some squishy things while he is working then perhaps he might be able to attend to the sessions a little better. 

I asked if the student also put things in his mouth but the SLP said he primarily liked to squish with his fingers.Well, I didn't have a lot of squishy things at home or at work so, of course, I headed over to my favorite spot--Goodwill!  Fortunately, they had swim "noodles" that day so I bought a couple.  Our therapy assistant gave me a ratty, double tri-wall board that had been covered with wood-grain Contact paper, some sticky back Velcro, and I was all set.

Today my DH (dear husband) used our 80's electric knife to cut lengths of the noodles and then slice them open like a hot dog bun. (Yes, yes I do know how to use the electric knife but we had to have some "family time" this weekend.)  We also cut some noodle "coins" for extra squishing opportunities.  The foam sliced very clean with few snaggy edges.  Many students with autism get very distracted by snaggy edges, I've found.  I put duct tape on the short ends, then clamped the foam on the long ends.
Unfortunately, I had placed some removeable squishy objects on the board prior to attaching the lengths of foam, and learned that I had put the removeable objects too close to the edges.  Oh well.
We'll see how this works for the student.
This is a real mix of items--squeezable sports balls, a smooth nail file, yarn wrapped "fruit," a textured patch, a black piece of foam that resembles a slice of  bread.

This is a freebie pencil bag I had at work.  It is filled with thin felt, thin foam and a filmy packing sheet.  I chose not to use a sheet of bubble wrap since that might be too enticing to the student.

I cut extra noodle slices to use with younger students, perhaps stringing the purple ones on something.  Maybe they would make fun rings to wear as a silly way to encourage regard of a more affected hand?