Friday, April 7, 2017

Creating Sensory Bags

Just found this wonderful blog while looking for activities to use with middle school students who have significant cognitive impairments:

Making Sensory Pouches

Great video for step-by-step demonstration.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Let's All Take Turns Now

About 8 more weeks of work left in the school year—sounds excellent to me!

About this time of year I start wondering, “What have I left undone?  What should I do differently between now and when that happy, final bell rings?”

So, I look at my students’ goals and objectives once more, to see how I can help them be more independent with what they need to do in school.  My calendar gets a thorough review, to find things I have left undone, and then schedule when I will do them.  I ponder whether or not I’ve recently helped my fellow therapists on staff, to share ideas for summer home programs or great resources for therapeutic activities.

There’s another area I don’t consider very often but it does come to mind during our staff meetings when we discuss continuing education or policies and procedures—how much am I contributing to our group discussions?  This may seem like small change in the big picture of working in public schools, but it has a lot to do with being a good team player.  Frequently I look around and notice that several therapists share information in almost every staff meeting yet many other therapists rarely say a word.  The latter folks are the very ones I go to when I have a question about how to help a particularly needy student, and they always have good advice.  They are also the ones who produce top-quality, relevant classroom and home programs.  Why don’t they participate more in our group discussions?

I think there are many reasons for their silence.  First of all, they are using some of the time to write their progress notes.  In any discussion there is some down time, and that’s when I see them hard at work finishing up their notes.  Second, they tend to not be the type of person who anxiously waits to interject their comments into a discussion.  They’re happy to let others do the driving.  Finally, they want to help our boss keep the discussion down to a reasonable length of time and they know that by offering their thoughts, it may send the more loquacious members of our staff into new tangents.

So, am I offering too much input into staff meetings, too little or is it “just right?”  Am I doing my fair share or perhaps taking turns away from others who have something to contribute?  There’s a simple way I’ve used during meetings to find out.

When the meeting gets underway, I wait for the first comment and write down that person’s initials.  Later on, when they make their next comment—even a brief one--I start a tally next to their initials.   This continues with each person, except my boss, who speaks during the meeting.  I figure my boss can have as many turns as she needs.

At the end of the meeting I tally up how many turns I’ve had and compare the sum to the average number of comments made by everyone present at the meeting, including the folks who made zero comments.  That way I can see if I’ve been a little too talkative or if I might have contributed more.  Not every meeting topic is the same so it would be crazy to think a person would offer the same amount of comments at every meeting, right?

Where would you fall if your number of comments was ranked this way?  Are you speaking up and sharing your experiences and concerns?  Are you dominating the discussion?

There are all kinds of ways for us to continue developing our teams and our professionalism.  I challenge you to count your “turns” in a meeting you frequently attend and analyze your input—not just frequency but quality.  Your colleagues just might appreciate it.

Spin Some Beautiful Decorations for Spring

Our highschoolers with autism created some lovely decorations for prettying up their classrooms:

You'll need small pieces of paper, some paper clips or poster tack, washable paint and a salad spinner.
After you clip or stick your paper inside the spinner, add some paint and a few marbles or similar objects.  See if your students can figure out how to place the lid on the spinner--possibly a challenging task?

Some spinners have a knob to grasp for spinning round and round, but this one has a plunger.  It takes quite a bit of force to get it going and, with the marbles we placed inside to make the paint fling around, it gets noisy and provides
a lot of vibration. 

Why is the pencil being held at the base of the plunger?  Because, otherwise, the plunger kept getting stuck in
the down position--grrrrr!

Sometimes the paint spread in a splatter and sometimes it looked more like thick streaks of color.

It will take several hours for the paint to dry before we can string the pieces to make a garland. 
The rectangular pieces will be cut into egg shapes before stringing.

Each trial was different, making the activity all the more interesting.
This activity provided opportunities to practice:
  Fine pinch to use the paperclips
  Practicing use of augmentative communication for choosing which shapes and colors to use
  Tolerance of paint smell and texture
  Maintaining grasp on plunger and using sufficient force to press it down

We're on Spring Break next week--yippee!   I'll be remembering Good Friday and looking for the glory on Easter morning!

Ode to Chihuly Art

This morning I was trying to find a quiet spot to write progress notes, to avoid the roar of students practicing their music for tomorrow's "International Day"at school.  Lo and behold I came across this mesmerizing tribute to the work of the artist, Chihuly, in one of the resource rooms:

As far as I know, the students "painted" the outside of empty, ribbed water bottles with permanent markers and then cut spirals of varying widths from the bottles.  Use invisible fishing line or any string you have on hand to attach the "mouth" of each of the spirals to a firm surface.

Can you believe how beautiful this is?

Never heard of Chihuly?