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