Friday, June 16, 2017

The End is Near--And I'm So Glad

This has been a very happy week for me because I've been looking forward to today, my final day of employment.  Having graduated from OT school in '78 that makes it almost 39 years of working as an OT.  Although I did work a couple of years in another field I felt like I never stopped seeing people's needs through the OT lens.

Being an OT is the best job to have because it helps you so much personally.  Whether you have little ones at home and you're savoring their development day by day or you have a family member who is going through a health battle, OT helps you help others.

This blog will stay up for a while and some of the ideas and activities will remain relevant for OT students, practicing therapists and others looking for ways to help kids learn.  I recommend that you enter a specific topic in the Search textbox in the right-hand column on the page and peruse the posts that relate to that subject.  There are many posts on Autism, Fine Motor, Sensory and School--as well as other assorted subjects.

Retirement equals:
   No more paycheck
   Lots more living

Advice from a retiree:  Invest a little money from every paycheck, live below your means, keep reading and learning, relish feeling awkward and clueless because it means you are growing,  give lots of money and skills away to others in need, figure out why you're here on the earth--if you don't know why, read the Bible for clues.

Chasing preschoolers through the maze

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Rox, 'Pots 'n Roses

Well, if you want to make a retiring OT happy, just give her a party full of rocks, teapots and flowers.

Teapot centerpieces with sweet 'n savory dainties all around.

Our OT with British roots advised the planning committee on just the right brand of tea to serve.

Hmmm...wonder what our presents will be???  My PT buddy and I could hardly wait to find out.

When life gives you rose petals, sprinkle them all around.

My gift--azurite with bubbly malachite.  Rocks--the gift that lasts!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

A Perfect Good-bye Activity for Retiring OTs

At the end of our session yesterday with a class of middle school students with intellectual disabilities, the students and staff arranged a very nice send-off for their retiring OT.

The therapist was given a pretty water and marble-filled vase and was guided around the work table to receive a flower from each student.  By the time the circuit was completed the vase was full.

Pretty special, I'd say.

Plant Markers--the Homemade Way

When I peruse the gorgeous, hand-crafted plant markers at my favorite botanic garden gift shop every summer, I'm so tempted to shell out my hard-earned pennies so I can take home a beautiful decoration for the garden.  If I resist temptation I eventually remember that I can create my own markers with the multitude of materials I've purchased for my work projects over the school year. I have enough money to buy a nice coffee at the Garden CafĂ©.

For our final project this school year our class of middle school students with significant intellectual disabilities painted sun and strawberry shapes to adorn huge tongue depressors, inscribed with motivating words and designs.  The blank designs were made from solid white Sculpey and baked prior to painting.  Customized messages were written on the wood and the painted shapes were attached to the tongue depressors with regular wood glue.

Students used their communication boards to describe the materials needed and then indicated which paint colors they wished to use.  They all turned out pretty nice, eh?
Completed markers on top of the blanks.

Use the end of a paint brush or tip of a pencil to dimple the strawberry prior to baking.

Stretch yourself--use more than one color to paint your sun.

One-inch wide foam brushes work well for a smooth application. 
The 1/4" diameter handles are fairly easy to grasp, or can easily slide into a universal cuff.

Use a personalized phrase for inspiration.

Can you tell that this student loves music by Michael Jackson?

Add a little tag and ribbon, then figure out a way to send them home safely in the backpacks!


Monday, June 5, 2017

Smooth(ie) Sailing into Summer

Our last group of the school year had to be a delicious one.  Give 'em a happy memory and they'll happily come back for more next fall, right?  Well, the students seemed like they were going to enjoy the fruit we brought this morning for our smoothies, but no one said "Yes" to a sampling...

My speech-language pathologist buddy and I decided to try out my new, skinny baggies for creating homemade popsicles, using the leftovers from our smoothie making.  Well, all the blended fruit ended up in the bags since no one was brave enough to sip their smoothies.  Shucks.

Here are photos of our morning adventure with students in a high school program for students with autism:

Communication--paper and digital

Our sample popsicle-in-the-making.  The colors varied according to the fruit blends.

A quickly fabricated, homemade funnel for filling the popsicle bags.

This heavily-vibrating blender is activated by pressing down on the container. 
You believe me when I tell you that it won't hurt you, don't you???

Pouring the blended fruit into the funnel and popsicle bag.

Students chose a combination of strawberries, dark cherries and bananas.
We also added a little water to make sure it would swirl easily in the blender.

Some students need lots of words on their communication boards.

Sorry, you can't have just a banana smoothie today.

The parent-teacher group at our high school has given us Walmart gift cards for the past three years, to help with the expenses associated with our groups.  Some parents also give gift cards to the teachers to help with expenses for extra classroom materials.  Several of my schools develop class businesses to learn pre-vocational skills, social skills and to raise funds for special projects.  Gourmet dog biscuits, fancy soaps, weekly potato "bars," Friday coffee carts, cut-paper stationery, scented sugar scrubs--it's fun to see how well the students step up and improve their fine motor and "people" skills via these school-based opportunities.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

On the Hunt for Rocks

Well, I can't show you the faces or even a clear view of the students walking away on the trail, but it was a warm yet dry day here in Central Virginia and everyone enjoyed walking on the paved path of a local park, looking for rocks left by previous walkers and for good spots to place their own painted rocks.

It was also a time to celebrate the seniors in the class, who will be walking
across the stage to receive their diplomas next week.

A variety of painting styles.

The class box of rox.

Looks like a sassy emoji on the left.

Winner of the "awwww" award.

Googly eyes do add quite a bit.
Hunting for rocks is a great motivator for students to get outside.  It sets them on a "quest" and they notice the beauty of nature along the way.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Give the Gift of Origami

An origami bouquet in an origami container with origami accents---perfect!

Students have to be very patient to make these precise creases and folds for the flowers, container and extra decorations.  What a great way to explore spatial relations, sequencing and improve fine motor skills.

Students sold their creations at an in-school fair, which allowed them to practice social skills and money math.

Barbie Bistro Set

Need more furniture for your Barbie house?

Or maybe for your troll dolls?

This table and stool set was made by middle school students with autism, during their tech study class.  No, not "keyboard" tech but the kind of tech where you make things without the aid of a 3-D printer.

If you're beyond the Barbie stage of life, consider that with the trending of fairy gardens these days these n'little pieces of furniture would be very popular as gifts or maybe as an item for sale in a hobby-business?

Thursday, May 18, 2017


This morning I was talking to the social worker for one of my high schools, about a situation between teens I had seen earlier in the week after school.  She mentioned how the school was planning to set up a "safe zone" of sorts, for students to go to when they are feeling overwhelmed.  My co-worker said the stress level among many students at the school was very high and the school wanted to develop a wellness program that includes managing stress.  This particular school is very competitive, academically, and there are all kinds of pressures that students put upon themselves in addition to the standard teen trials of life.

I asked her if she thought the students came to school--this school--with good resilience.  Her straightforward answer, "No."

I think of resilience as meaning, how do you deal with set-backs, with horrible things that happen to you or with just being disappointed.  It probably means a whole lot more.  As OTs I think we already have lots of ideas for helping students develop resilience and maybe we'll be called upon to be involved with school programs more and more.  Here's some background info; well, it's really a lot of info!


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Sensory Pouch Report

Those hair gel bags we created a week or so ago Sensory Pouch How-To are holding up pretty well:

Some of the small items inside tend to clump together, like the tiny confetti.  Other materials stay separated and are fun to move around with your fingers, like the flat marbles and beads.  If you have students who like to bite into bags, this is not the fidget item for them!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Flower Cards for Mother's Day

Today our group of middle school students with significant cognitive disabilities made some personalized Mother's Day cards, based on ideas from this great blog post:
Flower Cards for Mother's Day

Our patient speech-language pathologist (SLP) took about 15 black & white photos of each student and chose the best one of each student.  These were printed onto half a sheet of 8.5 x 11" photo paper prior to the group this morning.  After drying, they were folded in half to create a card.

Students used their communication device or pointed to choose which paper color they liked for making flowers, then randomly decorated the paper with magic markers.

Even adapted scissors are a little tricky, and oftentimes downright hazardous, in the hands of these students--even with hand-over-hand guidance from adults.  All the staff joined in to cut small flower shapes from the students' artwork.

Then, students chose which flowers to use for their cards and the flowers were taped around the borders of their beautiful pictures. 

The inside of the cards was too slick to write or stamp a message, so we used small pieces of leftover "flower" paper to stamp a greeting and then taped it inside the cards.

"What comes next?"

 By using b/w photos we found that the colorful accent flowers made the students' faces really pop.

Press the flower down nice and tight.

 Gorgeous gifts for the families.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Visuals for Self Regulation

One of my high school teachers for students with autism has tons of visuals all around her room, to help students identify and communicate their internal states and needs:

Teachers Pay Teachers is the place to go for visuals! 
Bin also contains some favorite fidgets and visual toys.

And, lots of cool activities and environmental aids for self regulation:
Mulch-ish dirt--very little scent.

Water table on wheels

Softest sand you ever felt.

Making those glaring lights more bearable.