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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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?



30 Days of Thanks & Therapy

In the United States, Thanksgiving falls on the fourth Thursday on the month, and is celebrated with family gatherings, traditions, and giving thanks. This national holiday is a terrific way to frame therapy activities to support meaning and carryover of skills targeted.

For some, the month of November is becoming an opportunity to acknowledge gratitude. On Facebook and other social media, adults have been sharing daily statements of something they are thankful for. What a great way for students to incorporate writing practice in their routine! A short statement, such as “I am thankful for my pet.”, can be composed or copied from a model into a small notebook. A shorter, more repetitive writing activity may support student engagement and success with handwriting activities, especially for students who experience challenges composing their thoughts.

Likewise, statements of gratitude can allow student to practice targeted articulation skills, and give opportunities for students to practice making longer, more varied statements.

Thank you cards are particularly relevant to this holiday. When making cards, adding a craft component to a short writing activity can also allow for the difficulty to be graded to the individual’s ideal level of challenge. Decorative hole punches can add a strengthening component, stickers, practice using the pincer grasp, and scissors, functional tool use related to classroom tasks! Also, children can practice addressing envelopes correctly and legibly.

Talking about why we say thank you, and how to say thank you, can support social skill development.

Practicing setting out place settings, folding napkins, or meal preparation tasks all provide children with opportunities to engage in meaningful activities, that can be modified and supported to support success and progress towards independence.

Football is a Thanksgiving tradition. Throwing and catching the ball, running to the “end” zone”, and doing a victory dance are great ways to get kids moving. Or, encourage students and families to begin a new tradition, perhaps by taking a pre- or post- meal walk.

Another tradition is the annual parade. This is a terrific opportunity for students to talk about what they see, utilizing articulation skills, but also descriptive and varied language and sequencing.

With family dinner as the central focus of the holiday, Thanksgiving also provides opportunities for students to practice table manners. Could you stage a thanksgiving dinner in your speech groups?


Do you have any favorite Thanksgiving therapy activities?

Classroom Integration, Part 5 – Parent Perception

In previous posts, we have talked about what classroom integration is, examples of classroom integration, collaborative consultation, and natural environments. In part 5 of this discussion on school-based practice, we take on another factor that influences successful classroom integration of related services: parent perception.

Parents are experts on their own children, and are key members of the IEP team. As such, it is very important that the relationships between therapists and families are mutually trusting and respectful. Maintaining open communication is a way to form and maintain a relationship with parents. Continue reading Classroom Integration, Part 5 – Parent Perception

Occupational Therapy Global Day of Service

“Life is for service.”
― Fred Rogers

Sunday, October 27, 2013 marks the Occupational Therapy Global Day of Service. This is an observance to promote the profession of occupational therapy and give back to the community! Can you think of a way that you could give back to your community? Maybe a school in-service on the value and purpose of OT? Or volunteering your skills outside the pediatric field, at a home screening or health fair? Visit the website,  Promoting OT, for more information and to register your plan, and then share your plan and contribution with us here on the blog!

Back to school, back to stress

As we return to school, everyone starts feeling the stress. Students, parents, teachers, and therapists, all experience the seemingly abrupt transition from summer fun to the classroom. But there are ways to manage the stress and ease the back to school pains!

Continue reading Back to school, back to stress