Indoor recess….again?!

First, we hope everyone is surviving the blistering, cold, fierce weather out there!  Sometimes weather can take a toll on our minds, bodies, and our energy.  But we are not the only ones who feel the negative effects of the winter, kids feel it too!  Not only do they have to get bundled up in countless layers, which means extra buttons and zippers, but they may also be forced to have recess trapped inside in the same room they’ve been all day!  Indoor recess can be a pain for kids and also teachers!

Here’s some games to make the most of indoor recess in order to promote physical movement we all know our students desperately need while having fun in order to energize everyone for the day’s demands.

  1. Balloon volleyball – set up a string or rope across part of the classroom, blow up a balloon, and tape tongue depressors to the back of paper plates for racquets! You’re ready to play!
  2. Dance videos for kids on YouTube. There are so many “Just Dance” videos! Here’s links to a few really fun ones!

Gummy Bear Song

Five Little Monkeys

The Hokey Pokey

  1. Sharks and minnows: have one “shark” in the middle of the room and have the “minnows” on one end of the room. They can either crawl, animal walk, hop, walk on tip-toes, or even walk backwards! You could even ask the gym teacher to borrow a scooter and play in the hallway! The object of the game is for the “shark” to tag the “minnows.” Once he tags the minnows, they are turned into sharks. The last person to be turned into a shark is the winner!
  2. Sleeping lions: have everyone lay on the ground and have one “zoo keeper” watch for any lion that is moving. If they move, then they also become a zoo keeper and continue to watch for any more restless lions. The game ends once one sleepy lion is left on the ground.
  3. Rock, paper, scissors: Separate your classroom into two teams and stand in the middle of the room. The wall behind each team is their “safe zone.” Each team either decides what they will be (rock, paper, scissors) or have a teacher decide for them. On the count of three each line acts out what they chose to be (for rock they crouch down into a ball, for paper they spread their legs and arms out like a jumping jack, and for scissors they put their arms out like an alligator). The line that wins chases after the other line as they try to run to the wall behind them.
  4. Silent ball: Have everyone spread out in the room. You have one leader who holds a medium-sized ball and counts down, “3,2,1” and passes the ball to another person in the play area. A player must sit down if s/he drops the ball, makes a bad pass, they talk or make noise. Play continues until only one person remains, last player standing gets to be the leader next round.  For young players have them sit or stand in a circle close enough to catch/throw.  For more of a challenge ask players to put one hand behind their back or spread out even further.


  • Movement is one of the most important aspects of a child’s life! Movement allows children to connect concepts to action.  Children acquire knowledge by doing, which promotes imagination, self-directed play, and movement.  Movement at school will help children focus, relax, and connect with their peers.  Here are some more blogs with more tips on how to keep these kids moving in the classroom!

While we know children need movement, we also know some students probably want to be quiet and maybe just play a game and as teachers your room is probably packed with games already. Here’s some board games that really work those fine motor skills, visual motor skills, and fine motor skills that are often addressed during occupational therapy sessions!

  1. Operation
  2. Connect 4
  3. Geoboards
  4. Pop Up Pirate
  5. Legos
  6. Twister
  7. Rush Hour
  8. Mancala
  9. Hi Ho Chery-O
  10. Trouble
  11. Sorry!
  12. Hidden Picture puzzles
  13. Battleship
  14. Mastermind
  15. Jenga
  16. And so many more!

So while indoor recess can be annoying (to say the least) with just a little bit of work on your part, the time can be spent having the kids play and have fun while working…without them even knowing it!

What tricks of the trade do you have to survive indoor recess? Share your favorite games or activities!

Colleen Marshall MS, OTR/L & Kelsey Bradshaw OTS


The Almighty Dollar Challenge!

Hey! It’s the last day in January and it feels ‘Oh so Good’! I have officially started my “Dollar Challenge” contest for my Articulation students. What is the Dollar Challenge you ask? It’s only the best thing that’s ever happened to articulation therapy! My shout out goe to Jenna Rayburn from Teacher Pay Teacher who created this fantastic product.

This is the way we use it: Each page has one hundred pennies. If you are Kindergarten to 1st grade, you have 10 dimes on one page. One penny for every target sound. The students have a “top ten list” which I made and post to my back wall. You can make the top ten list by doing as many dollar challenges in a session as possible (the standing record is 51. Which is 5100 words). If you make my top ten list by the end of the year (they have about 20 weeks to complete this challenge) then you receive a prize of 10 dollars or less of off Amazon. The students hand pick the prizes and we put them on the wishlist so they know what they are working for.

This is a HUGE motivator and helps me to gauge and take data so easily. I am very picky and monitor each student for correct form and clarity. If you “try to read in your head” and don’t say the sounds, you lose two dollar challenges for every one you didn’t complete correctly (I know, I’m a meanie but this is supposed to be a challenge!) Now, I do have some students who absolutely do not want to put the work in or simply don’t care about the challenge. Those students are REQUIRED to do at least two dollar challenges and then they may do alternate work (usually it takes them all session to do to because they don’t want to do it-ha!).

I love this challenge because it produces so many repetitions of a target sound but it also teaches my students about persistence and patience. It’s such a good feeling to see them come in and race to the table to get their word books and challenge papers. All sessions you hear, “How many do you have? Or I’m on 6!” and this makes a speech therapist’s heart very happy! I am also saying, “Keep your tongue down! Smile when you say those!”

Student Testimonials:

“It’s a fun way to learn and you get free stuff”

“It’s a good way to say |r| words!”

“It’s better than just “reading those books’!”

Here’s the link to Jenna’s Dollar Challenge. It’s worth every penny.

Aren’t I so punny?

Samantha Kessler, M.S., CCC-SLP

“Therapists, Start.. Your.. Engines!”

Happy New Year everyone! Here’s to the hopefulness that 2017 brings. For me, the New year starts in August (the beginning of the school year) a time for new ideas, new organization strategies and new students! I consider the Holiday break my “Second New Year”.  During the second half of the school year, I take time to think of a new project/theme/motivator for the students and re-decorate my room. This year, I love my room and decided to use a the good old “Dollar challenge” for motivation courtesy of Jenna Rayburn on Teachers Pay Teachers (the worst site ever created for my wallet).

Here is a sneak peek at my room this year! (Ps. That’s brick bulletin board paper! Thank you Lakeshore!)



Before we get to some of the great new things to try, let’s take a look back at 2016. The student’s are still trying to figure out how we can keep the Christmas tree out all year and what the New Year’s theme should be for the 5th grade hallway. I feel so incredibly lucky to work at a school that not only allows me to be creative, but encourages it!


Above: Happy Holidays from the 5th grade hallway! –“The four-hour-Holiday-Tree”–“Origami tree gone’ right”–Our new amazing learning lab our principal let me paint–and my ugly  homemade sweater/sweat-pant combo. (I am still healing from 2nd degree hot glue gun burns).

Now as for 2017, I plan to make improvements in self-esteem and success in my students. I want them to believe in themselves! That’s the first step of course: Believing you can accomplish anything! This requires not only my students and I, but teacher and parent collaboration. I’ve just gathered some new and exciting materials to share and help promote carryover that I’m getting ready to share with my colleagues.

Here’s a great one for the iPad users out there! :

So often I find that students will give up if they don’t feel successful. Also, they don’t have strategies for when things seem difficult. That’s my goal this year: to give them better strategies for getting “stuck”.  I decided to make every student write down something they are very good at and something they consider a weakness.

One of my students wrote:

“Strength- Playing basketball/ Weakness: Math”

When I asked him why he was so good at basketball he responded by telling me he wasn’t good at first and that it required an intense amount of blacktop time before he could shoot as well as he does now. Understood.

Then I asked him why “he thought” he was bad at math. He responded with something I didn’t expect. He told me that the instant gratification wasn’t there. He could shoot a basketball and see right away if it went in or not. Math required time and energy and the pay off wasn’t immediate. Well, well. Talk about honesty!  In a time of iPads, tablets, phones and all sort of electronics, instant gratification is required. No, it is expected. So how can we get our students to realize that it’s about the journey and not the end point? That the idea of failure is to try again?

Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.
-Henry Ford

You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing that we call ‘failure’ is not the falling down, but the staying down.”
-Mary Pickford

That’s my goal this year: to make the journey worth it. To make “trying again” a new fad. Are you with me?!


Happy New year!

Samantha Kessler, M.S., CCC-SLP


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