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.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

When Nothing Else Will Do

It's a good idea to keep a little bit of latex-free Theraband on hand.  Especially when you draw a smiley face in the middle of it.

When a student needs to strengthen those instrinsic hand muscles and other muscles related to hand strength just ask them to stretch the smiley face.

Varying arm positions help sustain the student's interest in the activity.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Finger Warm Ups

Many elementary school students seem a little confused when they are asked to attach paperclips to sets of class papers or clip their homework together.  It's easy to show them the two "smiles" in the paperclips and remind them that one "smile" goes in front of the paper and the other smile goes behind.

If you're working with a student who doesn't mind being silly, invent names for the groups of different color paperclips--the "Peppermints," the "Bumblebees," and so on.  Ask the student to sort the paperclips into groups/families and then slide them onto different sides of the "table."

Now, the student is better at using a typical classroom "tool" and their fingers are warmed up for other fine motor activities at school.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Using Music and Visuals to Aid with Concentration and Transition Times

YouTube videos for elementary classrooms

The teacher who uses his smart phone for spelling review shared his YouTube channel with me. 

He writes:
"The music list is used also throughout the day as music for the room. The video itself is minimized as I do other work on the board.

The relaxing fish or beach scenes are sometimes used during math stations... but I primarily use them for a few minutes of transition...and as a good way to calm down at the end of the day."

Sunday, October 23, 2011

October Gooey Gluey Words

Spelling is semi-exciting when you use paper-pencil but it's lots more fun when you write with glue and string.  These kids in an elementary classroom for students with minimal intellectual disabilities were familiar with these "October" words since their teacher had been talking all month about the words, using a poster which included simple sketches of the objects paired with the words.  We took her lead and did some gooey, gluey writing of our own.

All you need is wax paper, scrap paper for writing the underlying "shadow" words, washable white glue, scissors and yarn.

If your student has difficulty figuring out where to cut, use a permanent marker to outline the word.
Be sure to display the students' work where everyone will see it many times each day.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Mardi Gras bead fun

Only had a few minutes left in the early childhood special ed classroom this morning, so I quickly grabbed some wide masking tape to temporarily secure some colorful stacking beads to this sweetie's wheelchair tray.  Sure, the big beads were colorful but not very bling-y, so what did I see in the corner of the room--mardi gras beads! 

That's much better--now he has something glitzy to catch his eye and jangle around the tray for fun sounds.

This sweetie doesn't put things in his mouth and he's not allergic to sticky tape on his fingers.  Still, I took everything off his tray before I left the room.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Near Point--Far Point

Who knows what the trouble really is???  Attention difficulties--glasses sitting on the tip of his nose--having to turn to the far right for each new letter copied from the board???

In the meantime, homework needs to be copied each morning.  We've tried having him sit directly in front of the chalkboard, practicing abbreviations for frequently-used words, and even (gasp) having a classmate copy the assignment for him.

Today we borrowed the assignment book of fellow student who writes quickly and neatly, then copied the work near point, as shown in the photo.  Still lots of pauses to look around the room between each letter but he was able to finish the task with a few minutes to spare and also retrieve a book to read from the classroom library.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Shiny Matters

These letters keep catching my eye when I walk down the hall--it took me forever to realize that each letter is decorated with items which start with the letter it's glued upon.  The letter on the far right is "P" and you can see paperclips and pennies.  This idea would be great for making a textured letter book for students with visual impairments.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Smart Phone Spelling Review

Last year a first-grade teacher at one of my schools consistently drilled students in reading their spelling and vocabulary words as they arrived at school.  The students lined up along the wall outside the classroom and then the teacher showed them a word written on an index card when it was their turn to walk into the room.  Saying the word was their "ticket" to admission.

This year he's using his smart phone for drills; he said he kept losing the index cards last year and this is much easier.  I think it's also much more motivating for our students who are attracted to all things digital.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Drawing Social Stories in High School

Those Wikki Stix came in handy.  Many of the highschoolers in this classroom for students with autism can easily draw stick figures, but some can't, so tracing around a Wikki Stixx figure put everyone on the same footing.

Good thing our trusty SLP was close at hand to direct the creation and writing of simple greetings.

Highschoolers drawing social stories

In the second classroom, with students who have emotional disabilities, the challenge was to keep the written greetings polite and positive.  I left exhausted.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Lava Lamp Relaxation

Last week I visited a high school classroom for students with autism during their "down" time.  The students all had a choice of leisure manipulatives for fidgeting and other activities to pursue during the brief period after lunch and before returning to academic and vocational tasks.  Despite having these options available, a few students appeared agitated.

Lava Lamp Relaxation--Version One

Lava Lamp Relaxation--Version Two

I plan to ask the teacher if she would like to try using one of these very homemade videos as a backdrop to the students' down time.  Just listening to the ticking clock calms me within seconds.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Stick Figure Social Stories for Elementary School

This week we tried out some simply-drawn social stories in the elementary schools.  Next week--high school!

Drawing Social Stories in Elementary School

This little video starts out with two students in a busy K-5th grade special education classroom and then it shifts to working 1-1 with a student in a quieter setting.  If you listen closely you can hear our conversations about the drawings we're creating.

To learn more about how speech-language pathologists and others use social stories with students, search Carol Gray.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


For one of our integrated therapy model activity groups with high schoolers this month we're planning to make a papiermache statue of a raven to celebrate Poe's big birthday.  Thankfully, the teacher for students with autism is also a sculptor and she's going to make the supporting frame before we start messing with the gloppy newspaper strips and paste.

Here's a statue of a friendly piglet, whose young sculptor competed in the Crafts competition at the State Fair of Virginia this month.

Taking Turns

This student and I took turns writing our last names and some recent vocabulary words.  After each word was written and cut away from the original sheet of lined paper we slipped the twin words into the tiny sentence strip holders I bought at Target this August.  Thank you, Mrs. Leila Harris, for introducing me to these miniature sentence strips! 

It was a lot more interesting for the student to get up out of her chair and walk over to the whiteboard with each word as it was finished, rather than waiting for all the words to be completed.

Half-cut composition books

One of my elementary schools supplies these half-cut composition books to students for writing in their journals.  A third-grade teacher explained that his students seem more relaxed about writing because they feel that they don't need to write so much.  The same teacher commented that many students actually write more, because they seem to feel less pressured.

Our local technical skills high school cuts the books, for a very low price.