Friday, January 31, 2014

Snow Days are Made Just for School-based Therapists

Little Tucker isn't the only creature in town who loves the snow.  It sure has been nice on us hard-workin' OTs to have these snow days the last couple of weeks.  Especially since my own, personal children no longer have to be bundled up in their n'little snowsuits and taken outside to get cold and whiny...

However, my DH has to go outside in the cold and feed and water the horses, cows, dog and cat. Especially fun is when the well pump that supplies the water supply in the field freezes up and he's got to cart a big tank of water to the cows.

He get a little whiny, sometimes.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

My E-Mail Mess---Decluttering Part 2

Answer:  My Inbox!

Question:  Where can you keep the messiest files around, yet no one but you can see them???

You know we all keep too many e-mails.  Well, except my daughter who keeps no more than ten or so at any time...  I use my Inbox as a reference during the school year, looking back on e-mail threads to recall when I wrote teachers about ideas for students or when I spoke with a colleague about my part of a project.  However, every few months I sort through them and cull the totally unnecessary messages.  This usually happens on Fridays a few minutes before the end of the day.

I used to review them one-by-one according to the date sent, but that got confusing because I'd keep reading portions of the same e-mails over and over, since I was reading repeated messages along the same thread, all scattered through my Inbox in reverse chronological order, and they all blurred together. 

One day a wonderful technology integrator at work gave me a little hint:  prior to reviewing any messages for deletion, first sort them by Sender or From.  Quick Tips for Sorting E-Mails
Don't do this right now!  Listen to the next step and force yourself to do it before deleting anything.

The Next Step  This really should be the first step, but it's so hard to do.  Relax, close your eyes and think about this...there are some messages in my Inbox which can be deleted right away without opening them but there are many which can't be deleted until I review them.  Who sent me e-mails I need to review prior to deleting, or perhaps even keep for a very long time?

For me the answer is easy:  1) My direct supervisor or her supervisor, 2) a colleague who is working on a project with me this year, 3) anyone connected with a student who is having some special concerns at school 4) people who have shared valuable resources with me in a message, like those great folks at Springbook Adult Day Hab in New York who sent me wonderful activities to use with my students and 5) members of my family or close friends.

You May Now Continue  I keep these important Senders in mind and sort my Inbox by Sender (or From).  When a see twenty messages from a school secretary about meetings that have already occurred I highlight them all at one time and delete them as a group.  I work on this for five minutes or so and then it's time to stop, re-sort my Inbox by Sent (that is, the time it was sent to me), and go on with life at school.

Note:  Where I work, we're supposed to keep e-mails we've sent.  Maybe you're expected to do the same?  I'm just talking about the Inbox in this post.

On the last day of school, at the last hour of the day, I delete my Inbox except for about 50 critical messages.  It looks so nice in August to come back to that skinny, lean Inbox.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Mapping Out Our Neighborhood

Time to stand up and write!  We took turns writing and drawing on a large piece of bulletin board paper, taped to the wall.  Benefits--promoting an extended wrist while writing, challenging balance and varying the head position while visually monitoring the task.

We wrote high on the paper then crouched down low to draw and write along the bottom edge.  We sketched our houses, grocery stores and movie theatres and decided to create roads to connect them all.

I think this elementary-age student was pretty excited about the prospect of driving around town!  We live in a fun town, whichever way you choose to spell it!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Decluttering the Workspace--Part 1

Yes, I used the "D" word--decluttering.  We're about halfway through the school year and I'm getting antsy.  Streamlining my work and also my workspace helps me calm down.

Step One--desk files.  Today my single file drawer looks like this:
You'll probably notice that there's a little free space in the front of drawer, a wooden wedge used as a spacer to keep the files from sliding down and flopping around and even room in the back for Mr. Froggy to hang out.  Two weeks ago this drawer was crammed full.  What magic happened?

Well, I took out a small set of files, about 2" worth, whenever I needed to get up and stretch my legs or whenever my brain was so fried that I couldn't write a single word more in the student's progress note or eval report.  When I was super frustrated I'd take the 2" thick stack of files and go into another room in our building, just for a change of scenery.   It's amazing how you can think better and work faster when you leave your desk for a few minutes.

Most of the files were no longer relevant.  Not talking about student information here but class programs from the 1990's and handouts on various diagnoses that are quickly available from and other reputable organizations.  By working on a couple of inches of files at a time over about two weeks my files shrank from overstuffing the drawer to nice and lean.

Student files are kept in a locked cabinet.  When I receive a student file from a fellow OT I purge it--removing duplicate copies of reports and printouts of forms that are available via our online record keeping.  Sometimes I'll treat the student as if s/he is brand new to our county and I'll do a records review at the school, reading recent evaluations by the psychologist, educational diagnostician and others.  It gives me a better picture of the student's abilities and needs and I feel more up-to-speed in knowing him/her.

Next challenge--decluttering those e-mails!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Yeah for Snow Days!

Snow day today and maybe tomorrow!

10 PM news flash--we're out tomorrow, too!!!

1/23--And Thursday...
Maybe we're going back tomorrow?  Just grown-ups, not students.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Treasuring Each Child

Not the usual post--more philosophical about appreciating the interests and uniqueness of each child we encounter, at work and at home:

Treasuring Each Child

Friday, January 17, 2014

To Brighten Your Day--Puppy Photos!

He's not a therapy dog (only 12 weeks old!) but looking at photos of my "grand-dog" is sure therapeutic to me!
First Snow

First bath at home

Thursday, January 16, 2014

A Little Humor to Lighten the Handwriting Load

Kathy Mason, one of our OTRs, just sent this out:

When a teacher asked the six year old student why his handwriting wasn’t as neat as usual.

He responded, "I’m trying a new font."

If anyone knows the source of the quote, please let me know!

Handwriting and Scissor Skills--With a Little Help from Zoo Friends

When I saw a small pack of zoo critter foam beads at my favorite spot, Big Lots, I knew they would come in super handy for motivating students to practice their functional fine motor skills.

With second graders yesterday and a first grade guy today we practiced writing the names of the critters, while standing up and using the wall as our desk, and then put the menagerie into their critter cave (a squeeze-open coin pouch.)  I must say, most the the guys had quite a bit of difficulty making the opening of the coin pouch say, "Ah."

The student and I discussed how to spell each of the critter names, and I modeled how to write each one.  Then, we took my list and a blank sheet of paper over to the door for the student to have a turn.  Are you cringing at the student's grasp?  I am!
After each word I pointed out the letters I thought were written real well.  For those tricky letters I modeled again how to form them and the student tried writing the letter again. 

All three of the students had difficulty squeezing the ends of the coin pouch to open it.

We had critters mark the start and stop points along our mountainous road.

Pretty good accuracy, I'd say.

Let's see how he does on a curvy road.  Hmmm, the driving looks a little choppy.

I asked the student to point out the spots where he had "driven" his scissors the best.
Along with the teachers we OTs assess selected skills listed in the students' IEPs on an ongoing basis.  Lots of my students have goals related to legible handwriting and accurate scissor skills, so it's a fun way to determine how they're doing.  When I work 1-1 with a student I realize that their skills may appear to be of better quality than how they typically perform in the classroom, since there are fewer distractions when I work with them in a separate area of the classroom or the school.  It's not their typical performance, but it is representative of what they can do if some other variables (interaction with peers, extraneous noise...) are eliminated.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Painting Winter Scenes

Well, maybe copying winter scenes.  Students were asked to draw winter scenes or snowy scenes and two large prints were posted on the dry erase board for their inspiration.  Unfortunately, those images were a little too complex for most of the students so they ended up imitating or copying the artistically-challenged OT's design of a house with a fence and trees nearby.

I was curious how students would grasp the paintbrushes, since their pencil grasps are quite unique.  Sure enough, even placing the paper on a vertical surface didn't promote a thumb to two-finger grasp unless the student was already comfortable using that more mature grasp.  However, their control of the paintbrush was good.

We worked with two students at a time.  Funny thing how their pictures ended up so similar...

No, not two watches.  One of the bands is a locator in case the student becomes lost.

The SLP reined in my natural tendency to hand all the supplies to the students before they asked for anything.  A very good opportunity for us to reinforce polite requests and correctly identifying materials used in the activity. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Love Late School Openings, However...

...they don't work well with efficiently locating students in their natural school environments for OT services.

When school opens late some of my students just follow their schedules as if they had been at school all day.  Other schools shorten periods so all subjects get a little bit of time during the abbreviated day.  Even though I keep these schedules in the folder I carry around for each school I still get pretty confoosed when I'm trying to locate students.  Plus, some parents decide to keep their kids at home on days when weather isn't the best.

Time for some de-stressing to get myself back on an even keel.  This video has probably been shared before, but I'm thinking that if it helps me relax while watching it on my little computer screen maybe it will make a positive impact if students who need some relaxing visuals view it on a smartboard or other screen.

Lava Lamp Video for De-stressing

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Sweet Puppy-pie

Insight into my life as an animal lover--I frequently call friendly canines "Puppy-pie," no matter their dog age, and cats are often referred to as "Sweetie Stuffer" or "Kitty Stuffer."  When I'm feeling particularly motherly I also call my grown children, "Sweetie Stuffers."  Just so you know.

Well, my daughter and SIL found their first Puppy-pie the Monday after Christmas.  Since my DD is not in love with hair on her clothes or other belongings, even those strands falling from her own head, she researched dog breeds and crossbreeds and decided on a particular one to match her needs.

First, his photo from the ride home,

then a gorgeous one taken today; both images courtesy of my SIL.
Seems like "Can't buy me love" ain't true, at least in this sweet puppy's case.