The Gift of Giving

“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.” -Norman Vincent Peale

I have to agree with Mr. Peale. Everything IS softer and more beautiful this time of year.  Even though it’s one of the most stressful months for teachers, parents, and therapists, it’s a wonderful season filled with reflection, giving, and spreading warmth to those around us.  It’s even more special when we see our students and children getting into the spirit of giving because it gives us hope for peace and our future.  When children give, it comes from a pure place; when they shine their light, it’s so bright.  When I think about this, I realize that so often the students we work with are on the receiving end of someone else’s help, usually an adult.  They need help with their school work, they have goals and therapy services, they need additional supports to participate successfully in their classrooms and school environment.  But here’s the thing, everyone can give something.  And students with special needs should know that while they are receivers of help, they can also be givers. This nurtures a very important piece of their self-worth, shows that they are important contributing members of society, builds character, and just plain old feels good.

I’m thrilled to say that many of our therapists have embraced the joy of giving in their therapy sessions these past few weeks and we couldn’t be more excited about it. PTS is so very proud of the hard working, creative, and dedicated professionals we are blessed to call teammates year in and year out.

One of our awesome therapists posted on Facebook about her recent therapy session:

“Working on life skills today, while making homemade dog biscuits for Diamond in the Ruff rescue! How could you not love your job when it gives you the opportunity to combine your love of dogs, kids, and baking?!”


Another therapist emailed:

“Here are some pics of making invitations and delivering them……getting ready for the Holiday Breakfast Café!”

A most fabulous Speech Therapist posted in our private PTS team page:

“Social skills activity in an Autistic Support K-2 class. We are learning about kindness and doing acts of kindness for others. So we made a Grinch face & in the smile we drew what we could do to make others smile. Then hanging on the wall was a Grinch. For each act of kindness, the students could put a heart on him. At the end of 3 weeks, we celebrated our kindness with a Grinch Party. We made ornaments & a popcorn snack!”


So as we wrap up 2017 with a beautiful, big and sparkly gold bow, we want to thank our team and their students for making the world softer and more beautiful.  Our gratitude is far deeper than anything I could write in this post.

From all of our families to yours, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. May 2017 be a healthy and prosperous year for you!

Many Blessings,


Ccandice-bio-picandice Donnelly-Knox, OTR/L
Director of Clinical Services & Team Capable Classroom

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Turkey Day!!!!!!!!!!!


Is it the turkey or the sides?

Neither…………………………it’s the SOCIALIZATION!

Ah yes, this week we are all preparing for a delicious meal and time with friends and family.  Such a wonderful time of year.  This occupational therapist’s perspective on this holiday is all about the SOCIAL. So much involved in this holiday.  It’s definitely about the food and the menu. Who’s bringing what?  Who volunteered to bring which side dish? Who is cooking the actually turkey?  Is it fresh, or frozen?  Fresh cranberries or jellied?  Wow, we’ve actually sort of complicated this meal.  LOL.

But is it about the meal?????????????  You see, the Pilgrims and Native Americans came together…………..they came together.  In peace.  To celebrate something.  Ohhhhhhhhhhhh! So actually this meal of thanksgiving was……………………….a SOCIAL event!  Look at that.  An event brought people together………and they had a meal as well.  That’s how I like to think about it.  You see, mealtime is a HUGE social event.  To me, Thanksgiving is about being with family and the meal is an added bonus.  During mealtime, one social skills involves talking/communicating, even though we are taught not to talk while eating, you have to admit that a lot of talking goes on during a meal. Think of mealtime with your family over a regular weeknight dinner.  You talk about:  events of day, weather, school, sports, what’s going on in the news, etc.  Hopefully we still eat with our families………………… (J).

Let’s narrow it down to the other social skills learned or practiced during meals:

  • Volleying conversation (nice casual back and forth conversation)
  • Feelings of universality (we all have things in common, well most of us)
  • Perspective taking (understanding from other’s points of view, you don’t have to agree though)
  • Sharing (passing items around)
  • Turn taking (you might not get the best chicken cutlet that night)
  • Eye contact (you got to look somewhere, lol)

So when you sit down to your beautiful meal this week with family, take note.  How is everyone sharing?  Are people looking at each other when talking?  Does everyone fight over who sits next to Pop Pop (at least in my house we do)?  Is the best slice of turkey given to someone else or did you take it?  Does the last roll go to someone special?  And if you were the host or main chef, feel good about yourself when you realize how you helped strengthen or establish good social skills for your family…………after all………….that’s more important than stressing about lumpy gravy!

Mary L. Adolf, M.S., OTR/L

Manipulation: Not the kind you think I mean

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……… 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.

Get manipulating!

Mary L. Adolf, M.S., OTR/L

Making the MOST of your Minutes!

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 KNOW that 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!


Let us know what strategies you find beneficial in your own classroom!

Happy Halloween 🙂

Colleen Marshall MS, OTR/L


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:

  1. 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 of course, please head over to Jenny’s website

Wishing you a happy and healthy end of October,



Candice Donnelly-Knox, OTR/L

Occupational Therapist

Clinical Director, Pediatric Therapeutic Services

Team Capable Classroom


Back in the saddle (so to speak)!

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,

Team Capable Classroom & the PTS Team


Author:    Candice OTR/L – Clinical Director PTS, Inc. 






That’s a Wrap!

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!