Monday, November 23, 2015

Fall Cookies

Our high schoolers with autism made fall cookies this morning.  My SLP buddy and I had planned to have the students blend the food coloring gel into the dough themselves, but after seeing the deep red color all over my hands we switched gears, since it looked an awful lot like blood.  Call me neurotic and overly-cautious but some folks get freaked out pretty easily.

This was our recipe and guide:  Fall Leaves Sugar Cookies

Now, our plan was to make well-blended dough in yellow, orange and red.  The yellow gel blended evenly into the dough but the red and orange maintained a marbleized look, which ended up being kinda pretty.  Thanks to Ms. H for the excellent photos!

Remember, red and yellow make orange...
My SLP buddy drizzled the gel on the dough, then mixed it in with her hands.

We floured the surface and rolling "pin" and rolled the dough about 1/8" thick before cutting it with either a maple leaf or a turkey cookie cutter.  Several students required hand-over-hand guidance to press down firmly on the rolling pin and one student did not enjoy having pressure applied to her hands, not in the least bit.

We used a firm plastic tumbler instead of a rolling pin, since that's all we had.

Students chose coarse, white crystal sprinkles or fine orange sprinkles to dust the cookies before baking.  My SLP buddy is enamored with cinnamon sugar and kept asking the students if they'd like to sprinkle it on, as well.  It probably adds to the taste but it made the top of the cookies look dull beige.

Students used hot pads to safely place the tray in/out of the little toaster oven in the classroom.  I stood next to them with my own hot pads to assist, but it wasn't necessary.
Of course, the SLP and I "sabotaged" the location of the materials and kept ingredients and tools out of the students' reach, so they would have to ask each other to pass something. 

It was an excellent activity for practicing thorough hand washing...

Friday, November 20, 2015

Strategy for Improving Scissor Accuracy

This may not work for everyone but with this 1st grader yesterday we tried it to improve her ability to maintain corner integrity when cutting angular geometric shapes.

Like so many students she has a very difficult time cutting around corners and changing directions without cutting off a large portion of the paper.  So...we tried extending the cutting lines a half-inch or so past each corner to see if "driving" the scissors past the corners and then turning around to change directions might keep the corners intact.   For 2 of the 3 corners of this triangle it worked!  This is a major improvement for this student.

It wouldn't be practical to draw extended lines for every cutting activity she might encounter but it is easy to do during a practice session.  Will have to test it out and see if the strategy works again with her and if it will also help other students.

Did you notice the date and notes?  I try to date each work sample while I'm still with the student and write notes on the back about how much assistance (verbal/physical prompting) was required to produce it.  On late afternoons when I have little brain power left in the day I tape or staple selected samples to a 8.5 x 11" piece of recycled paper and file it in their OT folder, so I can easily show teachers and parents how their students have improved over time.

Usually, many days later, I find these samples shoved into little pockets in my tote bag or even my purse and it's very helpful to have the student's initials and date of the session already written on them.

Use Your Schmartphone to Dictate Progress Notes

My schmart PT buddy, Lisa, recently demonstrated her method of dictating progress notes on the fly, using her smartphone:

Here is the process:
  • Open up Google Calendar on the smart phone and click on the event that you have created to schedule that student for therapy.
  • Click on Edit, and scroll down to the bottom of the screen where you will see "Notes" 
  • Touch the "notes" spot and a keyboard will pop up. 
  • Touch the microphone and begin to dictate your note. When you are finished, press "Done".
Then when you get to a place where you can open your computer, open up Google Calendar.
  • Click on that same event on the calendar.
  • Under "Description" you should see your note.  It may take a little time to sync the phone with the computer or you may need to refresh the page if the note is not showing up.
  • Then copy your note and paste it into Accelify*!  And there you have it!

*This is the online software program for billing Medicaid that is used by our county.

Even though it takes extra time to transfer the note from the Calendar description to the online billing system daily note my PT buddy carries her smartphone with her everywhere and is using it for her scheduling of students anyway, so it is quick and easy for her to dictate notes soon after she sees her students.

In order to use her work calendar on her personal device she has to initially go through a set-up with our technology and make sure it works in all of the buildings she visits.

Lisa luvs technology and she's helping us all use it to decrease our admin time and free us up to work with the kids!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Savoring Beauty, Savoring Life

Not especially OT-ish, but heartfelt:

This is a very trivial post on a day full of images of devastated Paris in the papers. However, it is about bringing a little bit of beauty into and savoring life, which is what I hear the people of France are so good at doing.
A few weeks ago a work friend gave me a very antique power cord for a refurbished computer, thus saving me about $80. When I drove to her home to pick up this gift I spent a few minutes in her kitchen, which had been renovated by her science teacher husband--Paul. Entering her home was what I imagine an Italian home to be like. All the colors were earth-tones or vibrant, like jewels, and her kitchen--her kitchen was a place where you could imagine making homemade sauces and crushing fresh basil every evening for enhancing your mother's and grandmother's recipes.
Her husband had designed and built a coffee bar where her kitchen "desk" used to be. It had an archway of tile, highlighting a high counter of marble where her box-like coffee/espresso/other things people do with coffee machine sat amongst coffee-ish accessories and tools--each one somehow related to the business of making coffee so delicious you spent time relishing it.
I left Italy and came back to my no-frills home. Plopping my purse down on the 2'x2' counter where I keep my Sunbeam drip coffee maker I suddenly felt hungry for texture and color in my life. Over the last three weeks I've tried to figure out how to regain that sense of richness that I felt when I was in my friend's kitchen, yet be true to my personal guide to home decor--only fill space, especially horizontal surfaces, with what is beautiful or functional and, preferably, both.

Scouring my cabinets I pulled out everything related to coffee that I occasionally use and arranged it all around my coffee maker. Yesterday I realized that the Couroc tray What is Couroc? I'd found at Goodwill so long ago might be a decent substitute for the Italian tiles I did not have on hand, so I added it as a backdrop to the coffee scene.

Having these extra items on the tiny counter has pushed me to keep my purse and going-out-the-door stuff somewhere else, which hasn't been easy to get used to. 
I confess that I haven't used any of the unearthed equipment since I've put them out on the counter.
No, wait. I did use the french press that #1 son gave me a few years ago. I know he likes using one himself because when he left RVA to move to his job far, far away he took Uncle Grumpy and me out to brunch at CanCan just before he left town. I remember the server bringing #1 son's coffee to the table, the boy waiting the allotted number of minutes for it to sufficiently brew and then depressing the plunger to separate the grounds from the thick, dark liquid. He savored every minute of the waiting and the drinking, along with his pear-imbued beignet. Where did he learn to appreciate food and drink like that?

Enjoy these photos of my little slice of Italy, with a nod to France. I've never been to either country, but don't we all feel like a little part of our hearts are there today.

Seasonal Pudding Cups

Found this interesting blog today:

This recipe sounds good, although I personally think it's pretty funny to choose organic milk when  you are also using pudding mix and food coloring...but maybe the ingredients balance out???

Let's see---orange for Thanksgiving, red/green swirl for Christmas, pastels for Easter?  Looks like a great way to use up those non-organic cupcake sprinkles I bought years ago in such vast quantities.

Next week my SLP buddy and I plan to make "Fall Leaf Cookies" with our highschoolers, so stay tuned for adorable photos coming up!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Simple Glare Reduction Idea for Laptop Users

Yesterday, one of our hard-working PTs was having quite an issue with the glare from the overhead lights while working on her laptop.  Even with her golf visor on she was squinting and straining her eyes to clearly see the screen while writing her progress notes.

Angling the screen backward from 90 degrees wasn't possible for her, due to her need to keep her forearms resting on the desk surface; there just wasn't enough room on our "landing strip" countertop for her to achieve a comfortable position for working.  What to do???

Aha!  Nesting the laptop inside an empty paper box solved the problem.  The glare was decreased and there was enough room in front of the keyboard now for her long forearms.  Plus, it's super easy to locate empty paper boxes in every building we work.

The air vents on the sides and bottom of the laptop do put out a lot of heat and she knows to monitor it for safety.  I think a spacer could be used to lift the computer slightly off the surface, if needed for improved ventilation.  She'll only use the box when she's directly working on her computer.  Use your own judgement regarding safety.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Standing Work Stations for On-the-Go OTs

Since our OT Dept. was moved to a renovated high school at the end of last year my new digs consist of a "landing zone" (honestly, that's what it's called) and a good number of pull-out horizontal file drawers for my files and toys.  When you add in the storage space available in the back of my car, it's more than enough for an itinerant therapist's needs.

Between visits the space is to be cleared of personal items, but it's super easy to shuttle my office-size pictures back to the file cabinet just a few steps away.

Steps, hmmm...I'm trying to spend more time on my feet this year so I realized that there was an excellent spot to use in the room for a standing desk.

The computer power cord can be snaked over top of a nearby work cubicle and the occasional person sitting there is always happy to share energy.  I cart over one of my pictures to keep me cheerful and, if I look to the right, I can gaze outside and appreciate the pretty fall leaves past the 200+ cars parked in the lot.  Of course, I can't see my car since my PT buddy and I have an ongoing contest to see who can park the farthest away.  You'd think I'd be thinner by now.

What about all the standing and walking--doesn't it cause too much wear and tear on the old legs?  Well, I'm head over heels about the benefits of wearing support hose--especially when they are this cute:  Crazy Socks

And, no, I don't make any $$ from telling you about this website.  Except for the cute patterned socks I like so much it's just a regular independent living aids company.

Wouldn't it be great if our workplaces experimented with standing desks for employees and even treadmill work stations???  We know it's great for most of our students, why not us?

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

One Kindergarten Activity, So Many Grasps

Went to observe a Kindergarten class early last Friday morning and saw so many interesting crayon grasps I didn't know where to start photographing first!  These are all "typically developing" students:

All four students used their non-dominant hand to stabilize the paper.

I really wanted to try on this paracord wristband.
They all demo'd good precision in their coloring.

No classic tripod grasp in this bunch, but some of the other kindergartners in class did demo that typical grasp.  Interesting to note that their fine motor control for coloring was WNL and not affected by the grasps seen in these photos.