Speech Therapy & Science Experiments

Kelly McLendon, M.S., CCC-SLP, a lead SLP in one of our districts reminds us that not all sessions need to be about data, some can be fun while still targeting goals.

Speech Therapy & Science Experiments

A less common type of activity to do in speech is science experiments. You and your students will love the language elicited!

There are tons of science experiments that use materials that are at school or home, or are cheap and easy to grab. Pinterest is an excellent resource for simple experiments. A few examples are: oobleck, slime, dancing raisins, and elephant toothpaste.

For a recent session, progress monitoring was put aside & fun was had in speech therapy. To celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday, we made oobleck. For those who haven’t heard of it, oobleck is a mixture that sometimes is a liquid & others is a solid. First, we measured out 1 cup of corn starch into a bowl. The kids got to touch it and described how it felt to start. Words used included, “creamy”, “soft”, and “weird”. Then we voted on a color and added a few drops to 1/2 cup water. We predicted what was going to happen when we added the water to the corn starch. Each child had an opportunity to stir, and I finished mixing it together. Then the fun began. We all dove into the bowl, started playing, and talked about how it felt.

oobleck

Here are some goals that can be can addressed during science experiments:

  • Predicting/inferencing
  • Describing
  • Social skills
  • Articulation
  • Fluency
  • Sequencing
  • Following directions

Remember, not all sessions need to be about data, some can be fun while still targeting goals!

Kelly McLendon, M.S., CCC-SLP

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Executive Function and Mindfulness

Last week PTS hosted our first ever Administrators’ Retreat which introduced two amazing speakers to a group of local Special Education Administrators. The one day retreat was the kickoff to our 20th Anniversary of serving students with special needs in the Greater Philadelphia area.

The retreat began with Dr. George McCloskey, a neuropsychologist, who is an expert in the area of Executive Function.  Executive Function is a hot topic these days, and many school based therapists are being asked to work with teams to generate accommodations and to provide staff education on this area.  As an Occupational Therapist, I think this is a fantastic area for our profession to support students and teachers.  I first had the opportunity to see Dr. McCloskey speak at the Special Education conference last year in Hershey. He had a one hour time slot and it just wasn’t enough time. Everyone in the room wanted more.  Why? Because he helped make sense of the students and behaviors that we work with on a daily basis.  Three hours with Dr. McCloskey was still not enough and I’m hoping to one day be able to take one of his day long or even week-long courses.

Here are my favorite highlights from his presentation:

  • Executive Functions ARE NOT the skills of planning, organizing, prioritizing, monitoring, etc. Executive Functions ARE the brain managers that supervise the skills of planning, organizing, prioritizing, monitoring, etc.
  • Executive Functions are the bosses that tell the workers (skills) the WHAT and WHEN and then the HOW.
  • Deficits and/or dysfunction in Executive Function is a production issue, not a capability issue. There may be intact skills, but if the brain supervisors are weak then the capable workers may never be able to show the world what they are able to do.

DrMcCloskey.jpg

This information flowed right into the afternoon session of Mindfulness, which was presented by Jenny Mills of Roots and Wings, LLC.  We learned that mindfulness is being fully present and meeting each moment with kindness and curiosity.  We worked on activities that strengthen children’s awareness and attention.  My favorite highlights from Jenny’s presentation were:

  • Children understand the concept of their attention being like a flashlight that they have control over; for example, “Shine your flashlights of attention on the board”. Using that analogy to facilitate students pointing their flashlights to what we need them to be attending to really can work in a much more effective way than saying, “Pay attention,” which is really quite a vague statement.
  • Playing games such as Mime in the Mirror where two partners are working together; one partner is the Mime and without speaking moves their body into and out of various positions (example: arms flapping, swaying like a tree in the wind, etc.) and the partner, also without speaking, must follow exactly what their partner’s movements are as if they are the mirror reflection.
  • Breathing Breaks. It sounds so simple but so many of the adults in the room confessed that they don’t feel like they “breathe right,” meaning that most of us are living our lives chest breathing and never taking a full belly breath, which is so very calming and organizing for our nervous system. Practicing belly breathing by tracing a finger around a circle on a page (inhale for half the circle and exhale as you trace the second half of the circle) all while following the finger with the eyes is a fantastically quick and quiet (and effective!) calming strategy that can be used during transition times, preparation for a test, or anytime that students need to prepare to focus.

JennyMills.jpg

Overall, this was an AMAZING day of learning and I know that we just scratched the surface of these two topics.  I can’t wait until the next time I can see both of these presenters again and continue exploring these two topics that are so relevant to school based therapy at this time.

For more information on Dr. McCloskey, click here.

For more information on Jenny Mills, click here.

 

Candice Donnelly-Knox, OTR/L – Director of Clinical Services at PTS, Inc.

Seamless IEPs – Student Goals vs. OT Goals

As we prepare to head back to school, Liz reminds us of the importance of IEP goals being the child’s goals, not a discipline specific goal! 

Seamless IEPs – Student Goals vs. OT Goals

Seamless IEPs

by Elizabeth Bentz OTD, OTR/L, SIPT

When I first began my career as a school OT eighteen years ago, I believed I could do it all. With the COTAs, our enthusiasm and magic wands, we could treat every student, climb over every wall, break down those barriers to participation.  That was the fun part.  The not so fun adventure was the avalanche of paperwork that continued to bury us along the way.  Documentation, weekly notes, ACCESS billing, parent communications, IEP development, classroom programs, progress monitoring goals, goals, goals.  All necessary.  All part of the job.  During those marathon OT sessions, every step needed to be paved with a paper trail, evidence that we were there with the student working hard to reach those OT goals.

While my team and I were eager to share the stories about our student’s journey, the harried teachers who were stressed and weighed down with their own mountain of forms, just wanted our IEP input for those OT goals.  Despite positive outcomes during occupational therapy, the student would be unable to replicate those stellar marks in the classroom.  This disconnect between participation in OT and in the class setting became another obstacle to overcome.  I had to find a way to bridge this gap because it didn’t matter how wonderfully the student worked for us.  If he or she could not succeed in the classroom, OT would continue indefinitely.  The marathon would turn into a race on a hamster wheel.  I had to get us off this wheel.

 

Ultimately, the goals are about the student.  They are not about OT, PT, Speech, the teachers, or the vision and reading specialists.  But this becomes the norm when parents and advocates want goals written into the IEP specifically identified by each discipline.  We are now left with a Rubik’s cube IEP with parts and boundaries, a “this is mine and this is yours” approach, rather than a seamless individualized education plan supporting the student’s ability to engage and learn.  In the school setting, occupational therapy is supportive. Education is the primary service.  Aiming towards this direction, we collaborated with the team to create student goals, not OT goals.  Initially, we were met with resistance. The COTAs and I had to break through the mentality of “this is how we’ve always done it”.  It was a tough uphill climb, but eventually we made it over the hump to show the IEP team successful and relevant student outcomes where we support the teacher, the student, and the IEP goals instead of creating separate OT objectives.  The federal regulations are clear that “IDEA does NOT require goals to be written for each specific discipline or to have outcomes and measurements on a specific assessment tool”.  This can be found on page 46662 in the U.S. Department Education’s publication Assistance to States for Education of Children with Disabilities and Preschool Grants for Children with Disabilities (2006b).

While the law indicates that separate discipline goals are not required, it also does not prohibit it.  If the school team decides that the OT will be solely responsible for a particular objective, that is what will be written into an IEP.  We have learned to avoid these tripping stones by defining our role as a related service provider. When the teacher asks us, “where are your OT goals”, we identify the student goals on the IEP that we will help them achieve. Our goals are their goals. We are going to cross that finish line together with the student…as a team.

 

 

 

 

 

Elizabeth Bentz OTD, OTR/L, SIPT

Transitions……transitions……..

It’s that time of year!  School is almost ending!   And while to many it is a joyful time, for some it is a bit scary.   I am an occupational therapist and part of an elementary school community.  And the 5th graders are getting ready for a huge transition.  Think about it. It is a huge change.  Many say things like “kids have it easy.” But think about it, as a child, their worries/cares are just as big to them as our adult worries/cares are to us.  It’s all relative.  Here are some of the challenges or novel experiences our soon to be middle schoolers are facing:

  • going to more than one classroom
  • short amount of time to get to classrooms
  • larger building to get around
  • more students around (larger student body)
  • lockers!!!!!!!! and locker locks
  • carrying more stuff around
  • 6 day schedule?  what is that?
  • more independence needed overall!
  • gym uniform????? lol

This is a list I compiled just from experience.  But think of what the student must be feeling from his/her 11/12 year old brain? The other day my writing prompt was about such a topic.  The starter sentence was:  “Some things I’d like to practice before 6th grade are….”

And the answers were amazing. More than I covered on my above list!    They included:

  • being nice/making friends
  • behaving like a 6th grader
  • going to classes on time
  • learning how to lock and unlock lockers
  • going to lunch on time
  • getting on the bus on time
  • finishing homework5th grade worries

What can we do as professionals and parents to support our kiddos who are about to embark onto the next step of their educational experience?  As an OT, I do the following with my 5th grade students, which can easily been carried out by parents/caregivers as well!

  1. Students are currently practicing locker lock/combinations.  Purchase one now and start practicing!  What a relief to have that figured out how to work one before 6th grade!
  2. Get a copy of a 6 day cycle schedule and start checking that out and discuss how it works.
  3. Have your child do a tour of the middle school. Many do provide that option.
  4. See if your middle school has a “orientation” day.  In our district we provide a special day in summer with a fun scavenger hunt including locker practice.
  5. Literally practice putting things into and out of your backpack into a locker (we have one in the OT room).  At home you can practice this with any closet/surface, just to practice sorting the books/clothing/lunch.
  6. Binders:  get used to them.  And have your child get used to them!  Organization is a key skill in middle school.  Learning how to organize materials by subject and by periods in the day is pertinent.
  7. Keep the writing skills going. Keep a journal over summer that includes writing a paragraph or two about something he/she did that day.
  8. Keep the peer relationships going. Have get-togethers or adventures even after school ends.
  9. As fall gets closer, go over the bus schedule, or even take a ride with your child on to show the bus route.
  10. Make extra copies of your child’s schedule to have in the event he/she loses or forgets his/hers.
  11. Keep encouraging your child to maintain his/her room, supplies, etc., so that the organization skills continue.

 

Remember, school transitions are tough for little minds.  Let’s do as much as we can as parents/teachers to help ease the transition!

 

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

 

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?!”

dog-biscuits

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,

Candice

Ccandice-bio-picandice Donnelly-Knox, OTR/L
Director of Clinical Services & Team Capable Classroom
candice@pts-inc.net

Interested in PTS? Visit our Facebook page                                                                   Or find us here: www.capableclassroom.com  ♥  www.pts-inc.net

 

Toys and Games For Attention and Focus

jigsaw puzzle

Happy Holidays! For some parents, choosing gifts for their children can be an overwhelming challenge! As occupational therapists, we know that play is the primary work of children and an important way to develop skills. And just as any tool, toys can serve a purpose in promoting healthy child development. We have put together some suggestions for toys and games that support the growth of sustained attention and focus.

  • Puzzles – Jigsaw puzzles are great toys, that can be graded, or adjusted in difficulty, easily. A clear goal, and the ability to transfer previously learned strategies to more challenging puzzles make this a toy that a child can learn to complete independently. For beginners, non-interlocking and 2 piece interlocking puzzles can be an introduction to the toy. Increasing the number of pieces adds both to the difficulty as well as the length of the task. Setting up a large puzzle in a central location lets the whole family get in on the fun!
  • Building Blocks – Legos™, wooden blocks, log building toys, magnetic blocks, oh my! All of these are great tools that children can use to develop fine and visual motor skills, imagination, and sustained attention! Following visual, step-by-step directions can be a lot of fun when you end up with a neat helicopter or log cabin!
  • Crafts -Rubber band looms are a very popular toy right now, and along with many other crafts, can help children engage with a task over an extended period of time. There are many craft kits available for children of all ages. Loom or hand knitting, crochet, or model kits all provide opportunities for children to gradually begin working independently, and can be a “just-right challenge,” with readily-available support from an adult.
  • Strategy Games – Like puzzles, board games have a clearly defined endpoint, which can help children practice sticking with a more difficult task. For games that support attention and focus, look for board games that require a slightly longer time investment, and incorporate a logical thinking or strategy component. Examples of board games that may benefit focus include checkers, chess, Monopoly. A quick search online for “strategy games for children” reveals so many more!
  • Memory Games – These games engage children and encourage focus on a single, sustained activity. Memory and Simon can be great games that progress and challenge children. Technology, including iPad and Android apps, also offer options for memory games. For a game that addresses multiple skills at once, check out Listen Close Articulation! Developed by a speech-language pathologist, this game can allow children to practice both memory and targeted speech sounds.
  • Preparatory Toys – Play that incorporates sensory input can also help more active children get ready to focus and learn. Yoga is one fun way to add movement into a child’s day! For more gift ideas, MamaOT has created a list of the “Ultimate List of Gifts for Sensory Seekers.” This list is full of great suggestions for children who are looking for extra sensory input, which can be utilized before more cognitively demanding activities!

Do you have any suggestions for other toys that develop sustained attention?

Increasing Our Impact: Related Services Breaking Out of the Therapy Room!

As we all know, engineering change in our students in the confines of 30 minutes a week can be an uphill battle! How can we share our knowledge and achieve better incomes for all students in our schools?

Collaborative consultation is one way to work with other staff to both provide information and learn more in a meeting of equals. Pros include: specific, individualized contact to an individual child or classroom. Barriers are limits on time and availability, especially with therapists who may travel among schools. Working around these barriers may require therapists to “break out of the therapy room” and devise creative strategies to achieve a greater presence in the school setting.

The November issue of the “Related Services Review,” a Teachers Pay Teachers download from the Organizing OT is available for free. This monthly newsletter, sent to teachers and staff, is an example of one way to reach staff and share therapist knowledge in a deadline free, non confrontational way.

Setting up a table in the faculty lounge can be a way to engage staff members too! Displaying variety of therapy toys or fidget tools, games or materials to support language development, or engaging adults in activities such as quizzes or self-reflection on sensory learning styles can all be ways to share our expertise and engage staff in discussions about student development.

Get physical! Organize a walk or adult-sized obstacle course to start a conversation about incorporating movement into the classroom routine.

Talk to teachers about incorporating an one-time speech, occupational therapy, or physical therapy center to facilitate screening processes. What a great way to see how the students perform in the classroom.

Please share with us! How have you increased your impact in the school setting?