Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Progress Notes and IEPs

This year I've been a mentor to two new OTRs on our staff, which has made me hyper-aware of deadlines and standard operating procedures.  One "to-do" I've tried to make as painless as possible for them is keeping in compliance with the due dates of the interims and quarterly progress reports, which coincide with the general education report cards going home.

About ten years ago I worked with a vigilant PT who kept me on track so I usually finished my progress notes ahead of time, but I floundered on my own after I began working at other schools in my county where my friend did not serve the students.  Then, I got back into the swing of things about three years ago, writing joint progress notes on mutual students with my super-structured PT colleague from Belgium and the reports have been rolling out like clockwork ever since. 

We made a point of adding examples of progress, not just general descriptions, and tried to be as objective and to the point as possible.  Since we wrote together we'd call each other out when we were being too vague.  For example, my PT friend would write, "Suzie can independently ambulate, using her posterior walker, from classroom to the lunchroom without rest breaks," and I'd counter, "How many feet is that?"  She'd look at me cross-eyed and say, "About 300 feet," and I'd scoff, "She walked a whole football field?" and she'd groan and adjust her measurement, "Oh, all right; 100 feet."  As you might expect, some of our joint reports took awhile to hammer out.

When IEP season rolled around this year I dreaded the prep for all those meetings, especially writing info on the Present Level of Performance.  Hark--one day it dawned on me that I had already done the work of writing my PLEP "blurb" since my progress reports clearly documented the progress made by the students throughout the school year.  I copied and pasted all my progress notes into the PLEP, removed any duplicated facts and added new information.  It was succinct and accurate, since I knew that I had written careful details throughout the year.

Spending time away from students to write their progress notes and annual plans can be overwhelming, but I've discovered at least one payoff for writing detailed progress notes during the year--less time at my lonely computer during IEP season.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Watch Out for "Dude Bunny"

Are some of your students frightened to death of people wearing costumes or masks?  Well, one of the high school guys in a class I serve for students with autism was scared to death of this chocolate bunny.
He asked his teacher to turn the box around so the bunny was facing the wall.
I guess the "Dude" does have a bit of a cold stare. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Rap Songs for Learning

What a fun way to end the work week.  These songs would keep me awake in class.  You might want to watch them all the way to the end, especially the ones with lots of gorgeous guys dancing, to make sure that your little 3rd graders don't pick up any creative dance moves to show mom and dad when they run home from the yellow school bus and start singing the songs.

Rap Videos for Science, Math, History...

Thursday, April 25, 2013

More Equine Fun

Here's DH in his cowboy attire this afternoon, taking Freddie through the paces of his "be a good, calm horse" training program.

Happy B-Day, Freddie.  Exactly one year old today.

Use What'cha Got

These little hair clips are really hard to open.  You have to have your fingertips exactly in the right place or they'll fly out of your hand.
Still, it's a fun fine motor warm-up activity before working on self-help skills or handwriting remediation.  And, it doesn't take up much space in your OT toolkit.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Who's Training Who? Equine Fun at the Ranch-ette

If you have any students who love horses, reward them with this silly, homemade video of my DH and Freddie, a yearling.

The tarp is used for Freddie to walk over and learn not to be afraid of moving objects in his path.  Right.

This is what the little stinker is supposed to do:

Students with Significant Cognitive Disabilities--Apps

During a planning meeting this morning at one of my elementary schools a tech-savvy teacher mentioned that she is using these apps with one or more of her students who have significant cognitive disabilities:


You may wonder about the second app, since it's really one for science geeks.  Well...a particular student in the class is in love with the solar system and will use her hands more than usual so she can see the different visuals in the app.  It is mesmerizing and enticing.

What apps do your students love? 

More Recycled Earth Day Activities

Lots of ideas for using around-the-house-or-classroom materials to celebrate Earth Day:

Earth Day Ideas

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Comfortable Chairs

Do you think school chairs are uncomfortable?

This student rocked, rocked, rocked until his chair felt just right:
Bending the chair this much only took him two days.

His teachers think that he might be comfortable in a chair that has no back at all.  We've got some donated shower chairs in our storage trailer that might be worth a try, as long as they are very stable.  They certainly won't withstand much rocking.

At the same school a teacher for students with emotional disabilities received funding for a trial with these ball "chairs:"

Her students know that if they bounce on the chairs they'll lose their turn.  However, wiggling is okay.  With only two of these in the room everyone who wants to use one has to share.  During yesterday's college cooking activity two students sat on their ball chairs as they prepped the food and everyone was stable and attentive.  Cool.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

College Cooking Continues--Grip Study

Yesterday's college cooking session focused upon the sensory aspects of preparing breakfast pizza as much as the steps in creating it. We stuck our fingers in the nooks and crannies of the English muffins, we spent time savoring the scent of the basil, oregano, pizza sauce and cheese.

Today's group, high school students with emotional disabilities, benefits from the social and language aspects of the activity as well as the fine motor challenges.  As the token OT in the group, I'm continually fascinated by the variety of grasps used.

Hmmm..what kind of grasps will the students use during the session?
 Students watched a demo of an adult opening the pre-cut English muffins.  The instructions, "Gently go around the equator of the muffin and pry it open."
 This student was very gentle in traveling around the equator.
 This grip looks good, but turned out to be awkward for pouring the pizza sauce onto the muffin half.
However, this is the perfect grip for chomping down on the finished product!

Monday, April 15, 2013

College Cooking--Breakfast Pizza

Hey, if you've been awake since 6 AM and at school since 7:20 AM breakfast pizza sounds pretty good!

What do we need?  English muffins, pizza sauce, basil, oregano and grated cheese.

Plus the non-food items--aluminum foil, toaster oven, oven mitts and a spatula.
 And...a communication board!
 The big debate--toast the half muffin first or leave it untoasted???

We're hungry, just spoon on the sauce.
 What is this student holding and trying to open up?  It's the shaker top of the basil, or maybe the oregano.
 Open the grated cheese carefully, without spilling the contents, then shake a spoonful or two onto the sauce and spices.
 Set the timer so we don't forget the n'little pizzas.
 Mmmmm, they look good.
 Use your aug comm device to request MORE PIZZA, PLEASE!
Everyone in this class for high school students with autism gobbled up their pizza.  Our peer helper asked if she could eat the "demo" slice.  Sure thang.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Taking a Functional Handwriting Sample--Spring Cards

Final step today for our spring cards.  It was a good opportunity to assess the students' functional handwriting toward the end of the year.

This assesses handwriting, not composing and handwriting.  The students dictated a sentence or two to insert in their cards for their moms, I took dictation and the students copied from my writing.

It was mostly near point copying (with the text directly next to the student's paper) but I changed it up for one student whose nose kept bumping the table surface...

Used this activity with three students, photocopied their final products and included the photocopies in their OT files.  Love to pass around these samples during IEP meetings to illustrate a student's legible, functional handwriting when they're motivated to work hard.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

My Car AKA My Office

Early morning in the parking lot of my Thursday school--what do I need to bring in with me from my 4-wheeled "office?"

The 3-ring folder for the school, files of students who are being evaluated, my work calendar and lunch cooler, of course!
Once a week I work with a student whose dad meets us at school to observe the sessions.  To keep things straight I made up an "ingredient list" of the items I need for those sessions, since I'm usually rushing to her school from another school.

One other day of the week I meet a student who is not on my caseload for tutoring at a public library.  I've made a little kit for these sessions and another "ingredient list" to keep me straight.  When I'm in a rush and trying to find something in my stash, I sometimes borrow items from one bag and forget to replace them.  My ingredient list helps me remember to replace everything so I don't have to wing it during a session because I've forgotten to bring in an item I need.

This is my little tutoring kit.  Yes, yes--I know that "tutor" isn't spelled "2-door."

A little ancient history question--does anyone aside from me know what carbon paper is for?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Spring is All About Recycling

The cherry trees are in bloom!

How did the students create this beautiful scene?  Bottle bottoms and egg-shaped stamps.

Cut off the lower inch of small plastic bottles, paint with water-based paint and sprinkle with glitter.  Easy.

Let's add a different style of flower.  What type of blossom does this remind you of?

Asters?  Daisies?  Use cardboard centers from paper towel rolls to cut these shapes.  Dab in a puddle of paint and dust with glitter.

Sparkly!  You can change it up with crafting scissors which produce wiggly cutting lines.

Hmmm...what did the students make out of this gnarly cardboard???


This little guy's hand is usually tightly flexed, all day long, despite his fluctuating tone.  Holding the paint bottle during the activity allowed him to experience a few minutes of functional grasp.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

It's a Little Late for Decorated Eggs, But...

These "shaker" eggs were made from inexpensive, connecting plastic eggs, with dry beans inside the "loud" ones and uncooked rice inside the "quiet" ones.  Clever teacher, Carol Grubb, attached some Velcro to make the eggs easier for little hands to hold.
We can easily grasp these eggs without assistance, but tiny toddler hands sometimes have difficulty keeping a firm grip.  Gotta shake, shake, shake those eggs while Miss Carol leads us in singing some lively songs.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Handwriting--Get Small

What a cool way to motivate kids to write a little smaller than they sometimes do.  Wonderful activities for language arts and math, too.

Nesting Styrofoam Cups

Not to mention the recycling benefit.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Spring Break

Oops--forgot to let you know that we're on Spring Break (which is really Easter Break for me) until the second week of April.

Hope you all have fun at school or at home for the next week.  Today I straightened up after having 20+ folks to our house for dinner yesterday, brushed my cat and dug out a few weeds.