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.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Handwriting for Heroes

One of the authors of this book was interviewed in Wired magazine, discussing handwriting.   Interesting that she and co-authors have the book in its third edition:

What Do You Like About Your Teacher?

A fellow OT was telling me about her daughter's wonderful school and how the school emphasized social-emotional development, throughout the grades.  Recently, she asked her daughter about her teachers and what they did to help her keep moving forward, past the rough patches in her day.

Her first-grade daughter's answer:  "They don't let me live in my bad day; they help me move on to my next day."

Sounds like a wise kiddo to me!

Gel or Goo?--Students Want to Know What's in Their Sensory Bags

Ziplock bags, hair gel, food coloring, small items, duct tape and a communication board/sheet--we're all set to
make sensory bags.  Thanks to my SLP buddy for all the work on creating the communication board. 
Students also used their augmentative communication devices to request items.
This morning, one of our students would not touch the bottle of hair gel because she thought it was hair goo.  Once we convinced her it was gel, life got a lot better and she felt comfortable enough to participate in the activity.  Mind your descriptive words.
Don't fret about how neatly the duct tape is applied to the edges--it'll all work out in the end.

Tearing the tape can be a four-handed job.  Pulling the tape off the roll is a lovely activity for motor planning
and pinch strength.  Oh, and tolerating the smell, sound and stickiness of the tape.

Want some confetti in your sensory bag?  You'll have to pinch very carefully to pick it up.

It's a little hard to see the pretty shells and other items in the bag when you squirt a boatload of deep purple food coloring inside, but it still feels nice when you squeeze and explore the sensory bag.  Be sure to add a final edge of duct tape across the zipper, so the gel doesn't all ooze out over time.

Bags like this would feel nice and soothing on a hot day.  Try keeping some in the refrigerator to hold after a sweaty physical education class or walk outside the building.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Keeping Safe at School

Have you worked with a student and started to realize that, maybe, you might not be safe?

Maybe it's a student with autism who unexpectedly comes up behind you and puts her chin on your shoulder, then starts rubbing her face across your sleeve.  She hasn't tried to bite you before and she seems calm and self regulated, but you just get this weird vibe.  You don't want to startle her by standing up too quickly, but you have this feeling in your gut that you better change your position fast.

Perhaps it's a high school student who uses everything as a drumstick or a drum--the table, his fidget tool, the therapy ball, sometimes your hand.  You're working side-by-side and he suddenly takes  your forearm and starts using it as a drumstick against the table edge.  He's "drumming" faster and with more force.  Do you pull away and risk upsetting him or do you wait a few seconds longer while you attempt to redirect him?

It might be a student who won't stop touching you while you sit at a little elementary table and work on fine motor skills or self feeding.  She's touching your arm, your leg and sitting closer and closer to you throughout the session.  You keep nudging her chair back to its original spot and clarifying her need to ask "permission to touch other people" but now you find that she's putting her hand in your pocket--to look for those gummy bears???  Maybe not.

Many readers will be surprised at what predicaments we hyper-friendly, gushingly-compassionate OTs get ourselves into.  Go ahead, sink your teeth into us, smack us, pull our clothes--we bear it all for the sake of helping a student improve their skills.  No kidding.  Teachers are as tolerant of this as we are.

Teachers get injured by students and we do, too.  Listen to your instincts and follow them.  Work with students in places where you can get help quickly.  Make sure other adults have a clear line of sight to you and your student during sessions, in case any questions arise concerning an "event."

But, don't put yourself in a bubble.