Kids love pictures – looking at them, taking them, being in them. Photographs of pets and children can be an ice breaker with a new student. You can reward a great job by letting the child take a picture of his work, and allowing the child to bring pictures from home to show the therapist can be especially rewarding – which bring us to number 2!
2. Photos as a conversation starter.
Portable, interesting, and universal, bringing in a few photos of family and pets can be a great starting point for a speech group activity! Having a “show and tell” provides an opportunity to practice social skills as well as language use! Turn taking, adding details, and pronoun use are just a few ways a photo can get our students talking! On his blog, speech-language pathologist Erik Raj recently posted an entry in his blog titled “Using Your Cell Phone Photos as Speech Therapy Story Starters”, check it out for more ideas!
3. Photos as data collection.
Because digital cameras are so easily accessible, including cell phone cameras, it is both inexpensive and convenient to take photographs of student work. This can be a way to be greener, and use less paper. Use a dry erase board for writing practice, snap a quick picture, and erase! Photos can record writing samples that may be completed during a push-in classroom session, when student work may be handed in to a teacher. Also, taking a picture can support a school-based therapist’s memory when a prized piece of artwork is brought home before the note is written!
4. An illustrated exercise program.
Snap some pictures of your student performing their therapy exercises for an individualized way for the family and staff to carry over and record practice. Stay tuned for our upcoming entry about how to easily create a professional looking exercise routine! This could apply to physical, speech, or occupational therapy exercises!
5. To support independence in daily living skills.
OTs are trained in activity analysis. Using this skill, break down self-care, meal preparation, and classroom routines into their component parts, photograph each, and you have a versatile teaching tool! The student can practice sequencing (a great speech skill!), or may be able to complete tasks with faded prompting or assistance. Imagine a laminated visual for dish washing, with an environment-specific photograph of each step, or vocational tasks broken down and attached to a keychain!
6. To complete visual-motor tasks.
Take pictures of each step of a building toy activity. Print, laminate, and place on a keyring. Having the visual of each step is effective in many ways. It allows for a decrease in the amount of auditory input and verbal cues needed, which can be beneficial for students with auditory sensitivities, as well as students with behavioral difficulties, including opposition to adult instruction. It also creates a concrete and predictable end to the task, which would benefit students who find the task difficult or undesirable, or those who benefit from routine and knowing the next task.
7. To educate staff and teachers about therapy interventions.
As therapists, we use many strategies and tools in therapy sessions. But sometimes we don’t see the carry-over across other settings. This may be for a variety of reasons, but, just like our students, adults can benefit from visuals! Take a picture of the correct use of the pencil grasp, half-kneel positioning, or oral motor exercise, and write a short description of the purpose and goal of the image. For example, for a photograph of the child holding the grasp, the back might say “We are trialing a pencil weight so that the tremors in Student’s hand are decreased. We hope that this make it less taxing on Student and his writing becomes more legible.”
8. A low-tech communication aid.
For students who may be non-verbal, or may use AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) devices, communication may become a challenge to the occupational or physical therapist. Student participation in therapy sessions may also be impacted, as a feeling of helplessness may arise from being unable to express wants or needs. For students who are beginning to use AAC or may not have specific options related to OT and PT, photographs of items and activities in the therapy room can be transformed into a customized visual board.
As therapists, we are always talking about goal setting. How can photos help us set and reach goals? Aside from the activities I have discussed so far, we can use photos set goals for ourselves and our students. A picture of a student’s best writing can be a reminder of expectations in the classroom. A photo of the child achieving a milestone – like tying his shoes independently for the first time – can keep him motivated when frustrated! As therapists, we can best help our clients by having a clear picture of our own professional goals. Using photos can help us visualize where we want to be (and I’m not talking about pictures of tropical beaches!) Pinterest is a great example of creating a professional vision board – follow our Pinterest boards here to help you create your own goal board!
10. Photos to learn about self-regulation.
The ALERT program uses engine level terminology to describe states of self-regulation, and included in the manual are cartoon pictures of the different engine levels. But photographs can more engaging and appealing to our students, particularly those on the autism spectrum. Sorting through your own photographs may turn up great examples of states of self-regulation, but there are other great choices available. Websites such as https://www.flickr.com/ and http://www.apimages.com/ have many images that can be viewed online for free. And using photographs of the student’s own expressions and self-regulation states can be a terrific visual illustration for a five-point scale!
11. Self-regulation and sensory learning – a bonus use!
There are so many terrific ways to use photographs with self-regulation, I included one more! A great way to create a portable vision board – print out a variety of photographs, generally “people-free”. Landscapes, buildings, cars, nature, animals are all great choices. Then allow the child to choose a picture that helps them feel “calm and alert”. (For more details about creating this visual, including a quick and easy way for students to choose a photo, check out this post at the Organizing OT.) Then help the child find a way to use this photograph to remind himself of his self-regulation levels and need for sensory breaks or strategies!