Friday, December 23, 2016

Polar Bear Cookies

A good friend brought us 3 different kinds of cookies yesterday and these were the cutest:

By varying how you place the eyes, you can create all kinds of expressions to talk about:  "He looks surprised."  "She looks happy."  Super easy recipe to make with kids--try 'em!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Christmas Vacation--Time to Think About What is Important

Ah...two weeks off school.  It's not just the kids who get excited about Christmas break!

First priority:  Get over being sick for a week.

Second priority:  Get ready for a big dinner next Sunday.

Third priority:  Catch up on all those things I've let slide since September 1st.

Oh, really?  My first priority is always to make sure my priorities are in the right order.

Here's a little story I wrote yesterday, a random essay that was stirred up in my brain while I was opening the Christmas cards that had been sitting on my kitchen counter for several days.  Hope you enjoy it.

May you all have a joyful Christmas.

Maybe it's the week-long bout of sinus congestion, coughing and minimal sleep that has contributed to my flighty thoughts this morning, but opening Christmas cards from friends and family made me think about the connection between anxiety and keeping too much stuff.
It's my practice to tear off those little return addresses from envelopes when the info looks unfamiliar, then stuff them in a little cup in my stationery drawer. All through the year I'm reminded of those labels when I open the drawer to root for cards and paper, but I usually don't get around to updating my late 70's address book until just before sending out a mass mailing. If you're pondering when was the last time you received an annual mass mailing from me it was about six years ago.
This morning I looked at the return address of a buddy who lives in the now-frozen tundra of Wisconsin. The info looked pretty familiar, but was I sure? Maybe I should, wait, stop...I don't need to keep it. My worries were taking over, the address looked just like the one I recalled from last year and, if it really turned out to be a new address that I toss out, I could send her a friendly e-mail or locate her with the help of Mr. Google.
Keeping too much stuff in my life, even a tiny slip of paper with a return address, starts with the thought, "I might need this." Little scraps of paper don't take up much room, but they foster the mindset of keeping other things in your life that add up to consume much more space--in your home, in your car or in your mind. Anxiety always asks, "Are you sure?"
Handsome Casaera
There are things I never want to lose--the locket my mom gave me in 8th grade that holds a single cat hair from my beloved companion, Cesaera, the rock with lichen that Casserine "picked" for me on Whiskey Mountain, the shell necklace Uncle Grumpy bought for me from a street vendor in Carytown in '76. I want to linger over these bits of my past, hold them and feel their textures so I can re-live the memories they evoke. Books I don't love, photos of my friends not looking their best and recipes I'd cook if I ever became a perfect wife have long since left the house. They didn't enrich my life or memories while I had them around, why would I keep them.
This time of year is a little too busy to take on extra tasks, like organizing or streamlining this or that area of your life, but it sure is a good time to contemplate what's precious to you. Which ornaments and decorations give you a thrill when you put them out? When you read that holiday letter from a friend, what do you wish you had done this year to stay more connected? If you have a rare moment of quietness in the next week, which thoughts bring tears of thankfulness?
Here's to doing more of what brings us joy next year.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Holiday Sensory Book

Oops--almost forgot to post the photos of our group of middle schoolers making Holiday Sensory Books this past week!
I did not have a real gingerbread boy at home so I made a zombie gingerbread boy for my sample.
During the activity we made sure we talked about:

  • How the material felt (scratchy evergreen needles)
  • What our eyes saw  (shiny wrapped candy canes)
  • What we smelled as we worked on the project (ginger, pine)
Many of our students benefit from hand-over-hand assistance, to use the materials safely and to sometimes even reach/grasp the items.
It takes a lot of deep pressure to make sure the gingerbread boy is firmly glued to the page.

Our SLP not only spent loads of time creating the pages for the iPads but also in making the 2" gingerbread cookies.  And, they were equally as tasty as the ones my mom used to make!

Couldn't keep the adults in the group from adding some bling!

After the glue and scribble paint dries, the pages can be cut apart and made into a flip book.

Fidget Bracelet--DIY

Just in case you have a snowy, frigid day over your holiday break and want to stay warm and toasty, here's an idea for a fun project to do indoors--a kind of Sudoku for the fingers.

Based on my reading of David Burns' book, Feeling Good, I've been thinking a lot about the benefit of practicing healthy behaviors to promote a positive mood, and a key is to do homework related to the behavior you want to improve--and count the times you practice the new behavior.  So, I needed something to use for counting that was easy to keep handy...well,

Golf stroke counters to the rescue--the watch-style ones looked kinda dorky and were expensive, so I kept hunting for something else...and,

Youtube to the rescue!  Here is a link to making a golf/knitting counter:

I used some cording, beads and findings I had laying around the house and in about 15 minutes made this first edition of my counter:
Here you are at the start, no counting has yet been done.  There are seven beads arranged for counting, the larger square and oval ones in the front.  The other beads in the background are just for "pretty."
Here, one bead has moved to the right, representing a count of one.  Six beads are left to use.

It's a little frayed around the edges, but it sure feels nice and soft on the wrist.  Plus, it works--the beads stay where you slide them.

So, what would you like to count:  The number of times you tell your kids how kind they are being to their grandparents?  How often you deflect a verbal barb from that feisty cousin?  The number of  cookie dough "tastes" you've had in the last ten minutes???
I think my middle schoolers with autism will enjoy making these counter wristbands next January; maybe to use as fidget bracelets?  If we create them in school colors I see a class business project in the making!   


Thursday, December 8, 2016

Portable Device for Pouring Liquids--Switch Access

Leave it to our newest OT on staff, Amanda Beason, to create a portable cup pourer for use by several of her students.  It took her all of 30 minutes from dream to finish--way to go, Amanda!

Cup Pouring Device video

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Smooth, Cool Water Beads

My morning elementary students had a wide variety of reactions to handling these water beads, mostly positive.  We submerged different objects in the beads---plastic letters, foam letters, connecting toys--and the students had to dig out the correct letter or shape to use in our activities.

One student only dared to reach in with his fingertips; the rest of the students seemed to enjoy exploring the cool, smooth beads.  Of course, several students squished them until they popped and one tried to taste them.  Even though the packaging states that they are non-toxic they can be a choking hazard.

You know your fingers want to dive in.
The foam letters don't soak up the moisture from the beads.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Using a Paper Cup to Clean Shaving Cream & Fingerpaint Off a Table

Quick tip:  Yesterday after an extremely messy shaving cream/fingerpaint activity the preschool teacher first wiped off the tables with a dry paper towel and then inverted a paper cup and scraped it around the table in a circular fashion.  Why?  It loosened the dried mess, which then collected in the cup.  Who knew? 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Weighted Shoulder "Shawl"

One of my teachers for high school students with autism asked me about a weighted shawl for trial by a student in her class.  The purpose is similar to using any other type of weighted item that is worn on the body's core--increased awareness of trunk position in space, the need to actively maintain postural integrity because now you're resisting the downward force from the added weight, similar to the feeling you get when a person is gently pressing you downward through your shoulders.  Many people find the input comforting and settling.

If a student has skeletal concerns or neuromuscular concerns be sure to rule out any possibility that the weight on the neck and shoulders may cause discomfort or injury.   Also, this is not a safe option for students who throw things.

This weighted shawl totals six pounds, which is not much for a tall teen.  However, you do feel it after wearing it for a few minutes.  Twenty minutes on, max, and then it comes off.   We'll have to experiment with the weight and wearing time.  If the student responds well to the input I'll sew up a long, skinny pillowcase to keep it in.  Or, how about two colorful soccer socks that meet in the middle?

Thx to my trusty, SLP buddy, for modeling!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Keeping Santa in Check

Unearthing holidays decorations from this storage spot and that, I discovered that I had purchased two more santa Pez dispensers than I needed.  One was missing the paint on his eyes and that inspired this idea for a method of reining in his scrutiny over our household:

Who knows--this technique might also work for that pesky elf on your shelf???