Thursday, December 20, 2012

Cinnamon-Applesauce Ornaments for Fine Motor Skills and Sensory Fun

 Cinnamon-Applesauce Ornaments:

1 part cinnamon (Go to Big Lots--real cheap!)
3/4 part applesauce (plain)
Extra cinnamon to "flour" the surface prior to rolling
Rolling pin or firm plastic cup
Wax paper
Aluminum foil
Cookie Sheet
Oven to 200 degrees F.

The clouds of cinnamon billowing out of the bowl as you pour the spice into the mix, the sweet smell of applesauce, the gross texture of the dough in your hands, the icky dryness of your hands after you've handled the dough, the difficulty washing it off your cuticles--it provides a perfect sensory opportunity for kids of all ages.
3/4 cup applesauce
1 cup cinnamon
That shaker flip-top is not easy to open.

Mix slowly and make sure you scrape the bowl.  Observe your student's power grasp.
How does your student respond to the cool, sticky dough?

Fine, graded pressure to carefully release the dough from the cookie cutter, without breaking the little bear's arms and legs.
Oops--out of sequence.  You do roll the dough out before using the cookie cutters.

How's that IP joint stability looking?

Turn your head to the left and observe the nice, gooey dough in the student's hands.  That's a sign of too much applesauce in the mix.

Sprinkle more cinnamon on top of the dough to keep it from sticking to the rolling pin.

Some students were able to plan an efficient layout for their cookie cutters.  Others used one pancake of dough for each cookie shape and just kept making additional "pancakes" from the leftover dough.

You'll be hanging these later, so make a tiny hole toward the top of the design.  Try to keep your pencil straight...

Gently transfer the cut shapes from your wax paper to the cookie sheet covered in aluminum foil.

Keep making more until you run out of dough.  Be sure to carefully pull away the dough from the edges of your cut shapes, especially the tiny ones.  You can use a thin piece of firm paper (like an index card) to loosen the shapes from the wax paper.

Almost ready to bake.  Two hours at 200 degrees F.
Cool about an hour, then decorate with scribble paint.  Using dots of paint usually works better than trying to draw lines.
  Dry a few hours and string with ribbon for hanging on a tree or other safe spot in class, or send home as gifts for parents.

These ornaments last pretty well over the years, even in a hot attic storage area.  I've had some for twenty years...

In a few hours our "Winter Holiday" break will begin.  Check back for more ideas on January 2nd!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Under the Table Hammock

Don't know if this is safe, but I hope it is.  What a great, simple idea for a kiddie hideaway:


Gift Wrapping Fund Raiser

No, no--not gift wrap fundraising, gift wrapping.

Time-crunched school staff bring in unwrapped personal gifts and students do the wrapping.  50 cents for a small package, 75 cents for a medium-size one and $1.25 for a real large package.  People donate the materials so it's all profit, profit, profit.

Instead of doing our planned integrated therapy model project with the class for students with emotional disabilities, their teacher begged us to help the students work on the gift wrapping project.  Sounded good to me, since it challenges visual-motor skills, motor planning, use of scissors, bilateral coordination, use of the tape dispenser and that managing that sticky tape...  That reminds me, since the teachers want a "sellable" finished product I better bring along a mock present for my target student to wrap.  I don't think she needs any additional pressure to create a beautiful finished product, using the expensive, donated materials.

So, I rolled up a "too-long-sitting-in-the-pantry" can of blueberries inside bubble wrap and put it in a smallish-size package.  Brought my own wrapping paper and ribbon for back-up.  Put my keys next to it last night so I wouldn't forget to bring it along this morning.

My target student was on a "holiday" from school, so I worked with another student in the class.  He was extremely anxious about his scissor skills so I drew little "x's" along the cutting line, to give him little signposts along the way to his destination when "driving" the scissors.  We also practiced creasing the folds with index fingers rather than fisted hands.

Each student pretty much worked one-to-one with an adult, but one or two students were already pros.  I left encouraged to get cracking on my own wrapping this weekend.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Developmentally Appropriate Fine Motor Practices for Early Childhood Settings article

Do you receive AOTA's Early Intervention & School special interest section quarterly newsletter?  The article by Dr. Christy Isbell is great for describing current "best practice" for OTs working with preschool, Pre-K and kindergarten age students.

I'm going to ask my colleague who supervises early childhood special education in our county to review it and give me her impressions.

There's even a list of tools and materials to suggest to teachers for inclusion in their fine motor centers.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Holiday Hippo Doubles as Assistive Technology

The musically-based theme for the door to the Assistive Technology Center is "I Want a Hippo For Christmas (Yes, I'll take photos for a later post!)

For the final touch to the decorated door, a family member loaned a hippo she uses for cold/hot packs to soothe her little one.  What a nice little kangaroo pouch that hippo has...wonder what else you can put in there beside a hot/cold pack???

A re-recordable talking pressure switch--of course!  Can't you just see students squeezing different cutie pie animals in the classroom, to communicate what they want to do?  What a motivator!

Prepped for surgery...
If you're handy with scissors, needle and thread you might surgically alter plain stuffed animals to create your own kangaroo pouches.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Only in Richmond

Well, maybe you can see fun stuff like this in other cities, but Richmond seems to have quite a few car owners who enjoy the whimsical side of life behind the wheel...

Several friends and I toured ten homes on the Fan District Christmas House Tour this afternoon and most of the decorations were a little more "typical":
There was quite a bit of the Mardi Gras Christmas theme going on this year:

Maybe we'll add some purple and peacock blue to the traditional red and green colors in our holiday activities in school the next few weeks.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Nice PR for Us OTs About Choosing Appropriate Toys for Kids with Disabilities

One of our OT buddies (Angela Meyers) has a great quote in this article.

Article on Modified Toys

Using the On-Screen Keyboard

Have you used the On-Screen Keyboard, one of the Accessibility features found in Windows?  You can drag it over to where your student's text is located on the screen so the student can view it while it's close to the text they've written on the computer.

You can use the regular keyboard at the same time you use the mouse to click letters/symbols, in case an adult or other student is taking turns using the keyboard to write while the first student writes with the mouse.

Now that I have Windows 7 I can enlarge the On-Screen Keyboard to increase its visability; an improvement over past versions.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Textured Grabber for Chewing

In a class for students with intellectual disabilities this morning, a grandma of a student with autism recommended this chewy, saying that her grandson loved it:
Textured Grabber for Chewing

Has anyone had experience with it?  The product description states that it is latex-free.

Fundraising in Class for Students with Autism

When you're organizing a successful fundraiser, it's very helpful to have artists in your classroom.

What's not to love?

These ornaments were created by students and staff, with the illustrations drawn by the student who presented Coach Smart with pictures last year during VCU's run to the Final Four.
Drawings   Students will be marketing their wares and selling them during lunches over the next week or so.

Turns out there are several students artists in the group.  Next t-shirts!

12-10-2012 Update--Arrived at school this morning and learned that all the ornaments sold out the first day!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Sunday, December 2, 2012

What Present Do You Give a Blogger?

My daughter is nutso over this blog:

This afternoon the couple who write the blog were having a book signing at a store in Carytown, the amazing area near downtown where you'll never recognize any names on the retail shops and restaurants, because they're all unique to Richmond.

Since I was invited to accompany her, which is a thrill to any parent of a grown "child," I suggested that I make a gift for the bloggers.  What to give???  I thought about making cookies, but figured that they were smart enough to throw away anything edible given to them by smiling strangers.  The search was on for an idea.  I still had cookies on my mind...

Cruising their blog and searching "cookie" I found this post:  Perfect.

So I made these ornaments:

I didn't dream up the cute spiraled hangers.  My artist buddy, Angie*, uses the idea for her holiday ornaments and gave me the wire 10+ years ago.

And, the recipe is here:

Of course, I'll be making these with students over the next few weeks.  Bilateral coordination, figure ground, grasp, grading muscle control, squeezing the paint bottle, curling the wire around a pencil to make the spirals, wrapping the gift....

* You can see some of Angie's work at:  Arteest Supreme

Friday, November 30, 2012

Some Beauty to Begin the Weekend

Yep, my little camera takes some purdy photos.  Here are a couple to get us all in a happy mood for Friday and the weekend, taken from my driveway tonight...

Have a nice, relaxing weekend.

Save Time and Words--Use Photos for Documentation

Some teachers I work with probably think I'm the school photographer rather than the occupational therapist, but I love to take photos of cool stuff in classrooms.  I own an inexpensive Samsung camera that I've dropped so many times the battery falls out when I open the latch to remove my memory stick.  Because the falls have disturbed the battery connection I must wait about 10 seconds between photos, since the battery moseys along to recharge the camera, taking its own sweet time.  I think that makes me line up my shots more carefully since each one is devouring precious seconds of time with the kiddos.  Despite these tiny problems I do love this particular camera, since it takes such clear shots and they're exactly what I'm aiming for.
Pencil/Scissors Grasp and General Hand Use--1st Quarter

Following the example of my tech-savvy OT buddy, Lauren, I've been including photos in my student reports for a few years.  It saves so much time when writing, since you can simply write, "...adapted tripod grasp (see photo)..." rather than taking two lines to describe what each IP is doing.

Also, I'm trying to use photos more frequently in my data collection, to visually describe a student's progress over time.  Parents and non-OT colleagues can see the positive changes without me having to put them into so many words.

This photo sheet for data collection was created in Microsoft Publisher, since I find it easy to use when you have to move photos around and quickly resize them.  For reports I just insert photos when writing in Microsoft Word.  You Mac folks probably can do this in your sleep.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Way Too Strong Smelling Sensory Bags

I've wanted to make these gushy bags for a long time.  Yesterday I made myself swing by the Dollar Tree on the way home and buy the "ingredients."

 Quart-size bags.
 Slip in a thin foam shape cut from the school's Ellison (die cut) machine.
Measure a few scoops of (gag) lavender air freshener beads and plop them in the bag.  Saw some very interesting grasps used for scooping today--this was one of the better grasps I observed among my students.
Really cool (AKA gross) sounds emitted by the hair gel bottle.  We measured several tablespoonfuls to add to the bag.  The light blue gel looked very attractive but you can use clear gel with food coloring.
This was one of the not-so-"mature" grasps of the bunch.  However, the student could independently use a more age-appropriate grasp on his own.
 Just a few more smelly air freshener beads.  My nose was watering at this point.
No duct tape available so we used cheap Contact paper.  The students figured out how wide to cut the strips to fit the bag exactly.
 And attach the paper to both sides of the bag.
 Be sure to write your name on the bag.
We made several green and red apple bags.  We also used stocking shapes to go with today's theme in the class for students with intellectual disabilities.

I'm going to look for non-smelly beads, or the marble-size ones you reconstitute with water.  My eyes are watering from working with the "air freshener" ones today!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Please Don't Drool

Not having been at work since Tuesday at 4 (please don't drool, all you hard-working hospital-based or clinical-based or home-health based OT folks) I can't imagine getting up at 5:30 tomorrow morning and prepping for work.  So spoiled.  You should work in a school system, too.

Music Shop Window in Staunton, VA

This time of year is a bunch of fun, though.  A short month due to two weeks off at the end of December, lots of red and green and blue and white everywhere, walking into classrooms to see kids and finding the room empty since the whole class is watching another grade's dress's great.  It's easy to get kids to talk since all you have to do is ask them what they're hoping for, gift-wise.  It's easy to get adults to talk since you just have to say, "Are you traveling for the holidays?" and you'll get the inside scoop on their family dynamics.

Working in the school system helps me appreciate the seasons and the holidays.  Every occasion in the year is used as a visual teaching opp for kids so it's always around you.  A continual orientation to time and place and who I am.  Another free perk of working in schools.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Does This Really Work?

Through a link I found this item:

Fidget Toy

Has anyone used one?  I wonder how to make one that is larger to avoid the "in the mouth" potential hazard for younger students?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Skull Sandwiches

What can you do with Halloween leftovers???  Make skull sandwiches!
Use those smart fingers to warm up and soften up the blue tack (for adhering posters to the walls) until it's ready to squish and squeeze into smaller pieces.
 Make one little skull sandwich, then make a double decker, or more.

 Don't let it topple over!
Excellent activity for finger-tip prehension and joint stability.  Disassembling it is a therapeutic activity as well.

Here's an interesting take on creativity from a Richmond local:  Noah Scanlin--365 Days of Skulls

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Turkey Week Perks

All you hard-working OTs who work in pediatric- or adult-client centered clinics, here's one reason to consider switching to school-based therapy---I only have to work two days next week!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Re-Purposing Corks

I just threw away all my corks!  Guess I've got to head to the store to buy more of what came with them!

Tipsy Cork Creations

If I use this idea in a public school I'll probably have to paint the outside of the corks--wonder if the paint will stick?  Maybe the same idea will work with slices of swim noodles???

Monday, November 12, 2012

Wikki Stix Make Great Rewards

Maintaining on-task behavior isn't always on the forefront of students' minds...  Wikki Stix to the rescue!

For every time the bell rang when the students were working hard with smart fingers and talking about what we were doing---they earned one Wikki Stix.  After earning five of them the students created pictures on the wall.  It was a great motivator!

 To him it was a car; to me it was double half notes in reverse.
 Cool place to stretch out the Wikki Stix; he eventually made a snake.

Sailboat or golf flag?