In-hand manipulation. The ability to move an object from palm to fingertip and vice versa. Think about it. Or do it. Place a penny in the palm of your hand and move it from palm to fingertip………….but don’t cheat. Don’t use the table surface, or your shirt/chest, or your other hand to move it. Use just your hand muscles (aka intrinsic hand muscles) to get it from palm to fingertip.
Sounds simple doesn’t it? Did you try it? You may be thinking, okay…………..why do I need that skill?
Well, think about when you put money in a vending machine………..do you slam the coin in with the palm of your hand? No!!!!! You use in hand manipulation to move the coin from palm to fingertip and then you place it in the slot. Where else do we use it? Hmmmmmmmmmmm. Grabbing a credit card out of your wallet, getting a string set up in your fingertips to string a bead or thread a needle or tie a shoe, getting your key set in your fingers to unlock a lock, putting an earring on, etc.
Our children need this skill, and we can help develop it. Here are some great activities to help develop this skill:
Have your child pick up a bunch of pennies from the table, and then have him/her place them into a slotted container
Have your child hold tiny beads in his/her hand and then place them one at a time on a string
Have your child hold uncooked beans in the palm of his/her hand and slowly place them one at a time into a bottle.
Have your child place beads into an ice cube tray and take out, one at a time.
The hand is amazing……….it has so many parts……………….and engineered perfectly for so many things.
Well what better day to think about managing your classroom (or therapy room, or home) than Halloween when there is excitement in the air!
As a school-based pediatric occupational therapist I KNOWthat teachers have the very best intentions for their students. Whether it is having the room decorated with oh so many posters and pictures, or rearranging the desks every 2-4 weeks for a change, or even allowing them to have water or chew gum during class!
For some students this is exciting and fun. For others with visual attention problems, auditory sensitivities, tactile needs, difficulty with organization, or decreased executive functioning skills – this can be overwhelming or even scary.
The referrals for students with “sensory issues” is on the rise. So first, it’s important to remember that we ARE ALL sensory beings. We all have our 5 major senses plus PROPRIOCEPTIVE (pressure on muscles and joints), INTEROCEPTION (internal sensations), VESTIBULAR (movement). So we all have sensory needs & sensory issues but most of us have strategies that we use to manage.
I personally chew gum or suck on hard mints, listen to music, take a quiet break after my work day, have crunchy snacks at lunch, exercise, love to swing, play with pen caps, constantly take my hair up into a ponytail and down again, and ask my husband for big hugs. I have learned what makes my body feel good and know to ask for it or seek it out.
Young students cannot and should not be expected to know exactly what their body needs at all times. That’s when we come into play. While every child is different, there are general strategies that can be in place to support a classroom as a whole, not single out a specific student, and provide input to help regulate students throughout the day.
Please click on the link below to see how spending an extra 15-19 minutes a day can give your students more opportunities to move and promote sensory experiences throughout the school day!
I had the opportunity to see Jenny Mills, M. ED speak last week at the Eastern PA Special Education conference. Her topic was one that’s been gaining a lot of public traction in general, but also lately in education: Mindfulness. I’ve been reading about it for the past year and in some of my spare time I practice yoga, which definitely requires mindfulness. I also am a runner, and if any group of people knows how to practice getting comfortable with the uncomfortable, it’s runners. So, I’ve been seeking to be more mindful in my own life, but there’s so much to learn…and kids? How does that work? They’re hardly self-aware. Except that it’s the perfect compliment to their purest form. Jenny defined mindfulness as paying attention to what is happening right now with kindness and curiosity. Kindness and curiosity. Traits and states of being that kids often bring to their world naturally. Things that we often lose as we age… I’ll let that sit right there for a moment.
How often are we moving through the day non-judgmentally? How often are we being thoughtful in our “string of moments” called life? My guess is, if you’re anything like me, the answer is hardly to somewhat at best. I think about almost everyone I know (my family included) and we’re all so distracted by either a screen or the “chatter” that’s in our mind (do we have enough dog food, what am I going to make for dinner, I need to get stamps) that’s we’re not showing up to and in our moments with any kindness or curiosity. We show up critically and with all kinds of emotional reactivity because we don’t have a surfboard. We are not mindful, we are mind full.
So how do we begin to teach our children and students about mindfulness? How do we cultivate an environment of calm and focus? It has to start with us, the adults. Before we can ever expect for a child to know and understand “calm”, we have to show them. We have to show them that:
Nothing is permanent. Not in a scary way, but in a way to show that feelings, thoughts, discomfort, all come and go. Sometimes it can take a while, but they always come and go. This can be anxiety producing, but it can also be very comforting for children to know that if they are feeling nervous or worried about a test, that the feeling will pass.
“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
2. Mindfulness isn’t about clearing the mind. It’s about being able to notice our distractions, our discomforts, and being aware enough to come back to our anchor, whether that’s our breath during an exercise, the teacher’s voice as she’s reading, or the task at hand.
“Mindfulness is the aware, balanced acceptance of the present experience. It isn’t more complicated than that. It is opening to or receiving the present moment, pleasant or unpleasant, just as it is, without either clinging to it or rejecting it.” ~Sylvia Boorstein
3. It’s simple, but not easy. It takes practice. Grown- ups and students need to practice and it’s great to share the process with each other.
Jenny summed it up best when she said that mindfulness is like giving kids a surfboard to ride the waves of emotions. Don’t all kids need help riding the waves of emotions??? The ones I know sure do.
To bring a few simple mindfulness activities to your day, your child’s day, or your classroom, check out these great articles/websites:
And by saddle I mean student drop off lines, classrooms, lunch packing, and homework sessions. It’s hard to believe that it’s already the 8th of September, but here we are and we’re ready to rock this school year!
We thought it’d be great to start you off with tips on a few important topics. We’d love for you to share them with teachers, paraprofessionals, your fellow therapists, and parents.
The first topic is one that’s not really every talked about, but is really important: backpack awareness. AOTA’s (American Occupational Therapy Association) National Backpack Awareness Day is September 21, 2016.
Spread the word!
We want children to be safe and healthy this school year and that’s not done just with hand washing (although that is top priority).
Learn more about National Backpack Awareness day here.
“Preparation, I have often said, is rightly two-thirds of any venture.” – Amelia Earhart
Who can argue with Amelia? Knowing that success only comes with proper preparation, take a look at these organizational strategies to help you get started on the right foot. While they might seem like “no brainers”, they’re actually really helpful for children to get the structure and support they need to do well in school. Organization of time, energy, materials, and belongings through establishing routines and simple environmental modifications will lead to long term satisfaction with the school experience. Check these out below!
As always, we’d love to hear what works for you! Post in the comments any organizational tips, tricks or ideas you have to share. We’d love to hear from you!
A HUGE thank you to Makenzie, one of our OT Students for creating these awesome infographics to share with everyone. They are perfect! 🙂
Wishing you a happy and healthy start to the new year,
The official countdown has begun! Just two weeks left in the school year before we depart for a summer of excitement, relaxation, and adventure. While the days are winding down, the workload (especially paperwork) always seems to pick up! I often find myself taking many deep breaths and taking it a day at a time. Although it can be stressful, here are a few tips for ways to keep your sanity and keep it fun!
Make the last therapy session of the year fun, while still targeting goals– I typically plan an activity that will facilitate communication in a fun way, such as a scavenger hunt around the school. This activity can be used for all students, but can be adapted in a way that targets each student’s individual goals. The kids love the movement and transitions throughout the building. These types of activities make planning simple!
Summer Homework Packets– Many parents often ask “What can I do for my child this summer when they are not receiving weekly therapy sessions?” The answer is to incorporate practice into each day! I have developed my own calendars for each Summer month and designed them to specifically address articulation, language, fluency, pragmatics, etc. The children complete the activities on the calendar and can return the packet in the Fall for a special prize! Don’t have the time to whip up your own calendars? No worries! Sites like Teachers Pay Teachers and Speaking of Speech have pre-made Summer calendars for free or low cost!
Plan Ahead!– Although thinking about next school year may be the last thing on your mind, planning ahead helps to assure a smoother kick-off to the new school year. Update student files/ paperwork, organize materials for ease of use, and determine the size and needs of your upcoming caseload.
Student rewards/ prizes/ gifts– These are certainly not necessary, but are often a great way to end the year! Print certificates for the students which highlight their unique qualities and strengths, award small prizes for completed homework or attendance, or give each student a small token to remember the year! Pinterest is bursting with ideas, so take a look!
Reflect– June is a great time to assess what elements of therapy you would like to continue as well as those you would like to change or add. Maybe you would like to introduce a new social skills group, change therapy materials, or group your students differently. Feedback from colleagues is helpful in accomplishing this goal.
Most importantly, remember the finish line is in sight and you can do it! Just breathe and take it a day (or assignment) at a time! Happy Summer!
This post is about getting ready! It’s May and in the elementary schools, the 5th graders are preparing themselves for 5th grade events like last picnics at their school, milestone trips to a picnic park, field trips, presentations, visits from middle schoolers to talk about the middle school, and graduation ceremonies. It’s a lot to take in! And when you are a student with needs, it’s sometimes even more to take in. And then there are things to think about that are coming such as larger schools, bigger students, different bus routes, switching classes, meeting new students and ……………wait for it ……………………………… the LOCKERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
An occupational therapist can come in handy at this time of year. And our role can help lessen some anxieties. One way we help is getting involved in transitions. A fifth grade student self-advocated to visit her new middle school now to see the school and learn its surroundings. The physical therapist at one of our district’s middle schools set up a tour to see if we could all attend and observe the physical setting and make recommendations as needed based upon a fifth grade student. The physical therapist from our school, myself the OT, the parent, the student, and the PT, OT and special educator from the middle school each attended.
This help put the student at ease to see her future hallways, desks, cafeteria, gym, bathroom, elevator and classrooms. She was able to get in and out of desks, try the bathroom, make her way around the halls, meet other friendly faces, and talk about how to get around such as going in the cafeteria and using trays, or carrying her backpack between classes. She even did a few laps in the gym excited about the bigger space! She got to hear the transition bell, which was a concern of hers, and turned out to be no big deal. It was a worthwhile day!
Back at the homestead at the elementary school, we continue to practice things such as voice output typing for word processing to keep up with the writing in middle school, and also LOCKER skills. We practice use of the lock itself, and using the locker in the OT room (seen below) to practice those larger skills of getting in and out of the locker, managing books and backpack/jackets/lunchbox, etc. This helps the student to build the skills so they feel prepared going in when school starts in September. To master the lock before you leave here is a big achievement that quells many anxieties. Just check out the smiling face below!
When you’ve known these students since kindergarten and some since preschool, it’s amazing to see the growth and achievements they have made. And it is exciting to find out what they do next…………….onward and upward little Exton Eagles! Spread your wings!
Standardization tests started this month…………and some students are stressing about it! The anticipation coming up to the assessments make some students nervous. Is it the change in routine? workload of the tests? etc. One thing is for sure is that you usually come across a handful of students who fret about it.
Therefore, the OT room was designated “lights out” for one week, with calm lighting, soft music, and calm/relaxation activities to use to help with self calming. There were several choices: cocoon swing with light up pillow; tent with soft pillows, massagers, lotion and a light that changes color with a remote control; a light table with moving lights and lava lamp; a rocking chair with foot massager; hand massage station; a cuddle corner with bean bags and pillows; and a ball pit to lie in/get squished.
Students were shown the activity stations and the benefits were discussed. A few days later, a group of students returned asking to use the OT room to relax after taking the tests. Their teacher had allowed them to revisit the OT room to de-stress. They each picked a station, spent 10 minutes visiting and returned to class. It was so happy for them, because they initiated this with the teacher AND she accepted. They visited and picked which stations they preferred based on being exposed to it earlier in the week. And after about 10 minutes they returned to class.
As an occupational therapist in the school system, I am lucky to have a teacher who is willing to address self/calming and working on getting the right fit for attention/focus. She also did her own continuing education and has instituted therapy balls in the classroom for attention/focus, as well as a morning walk, and stretches/movement activities throughout the day. Thanks Marti!
De-stressing/self-calming/mindfulness is also great for staff! We are considering using an empty classroom to provide such equipment for staff as well:) It’s in the makings………….more details to follow.
Speaking of mindfulness……….that will be my post for next month!