Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Sensory Processing Disorder Support Group

I've recently become the group leader for a wonderful sensory processing disorder support group at MDJunction.com. If you have SPD or have a child who struggles with this disorder, you may want to join the support group. First you'll have to join MDJunction then join the Sensory Processing Disorder Support Group. It's all free. There are lots of conversations already going on, or you can start your own. I hope that you'll check it out...it's a wonderful resource! While you are visiting MDJunction, check out the many other amazing support groups available. It's an awesome website!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Handwriting Without Tears

There are a number of different handwriting programs for children. One special needs writing program that I really like is Handwriting Without Tears (it can also be used with typical children). This handwriting program was developed by occupational therapist, Jan Olsen. It is a multi-sensory program designed to help children who have problems with legibility and fluency. I usually recommend Handwriting Without Tears if a child has moderate to severe perceptual or visual-motor problems, because of the multi-sensory nature of the program. There are various components of the program that can be purchased separately, such as a set of wood pieces that the children can use to construct letters, letter cards that can be used with putty or play dough, a slate chalk board, workbooks, as well as CDs. All of the products use the various senses to teach handwriting with a focus on positioning, directionality, spacing and sequencing, making it a great special needs writing program! Click HERE for more information about the Handwriting Without Tears Workbooks including details and pricing, etc.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Visual Perceptual Give Away!

GIVE AWAY: On my new website, I’m going to be giving away several visual perceptual workbooks, so if you would like to qualify, please click here. (The winners of the visual perceptual workbook give away have been contacted. Congratulations! Stay tuned for future give aways…be sure to “like” my Facebook page and sign up for my newsletter and you will automatically be entered when I have one!)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Tactile Board

I’m excited to share this "Tactile Board" that my students and I made during our therapy sessions. Making it turned out to be tons of fun and an amazing multi-sensory experience! Here are the instructions for making a “tactile board”.

What you will need:
1 foam board, poster board or large painting canvas
Hot glue gun
Finger paints, water colors or acrylic (if you use a canvas)
Scraps of various types of fabric (make sure that they have a variety of textures)
Scraps of string/ribbon/yarn
Cotton balls
Pipe cleaners                
Aluminum Foil
You name it…get creative!

Decide on a theme for the board. We chose an ocean/Little Mermaid theme. Use your imagination and come up with something really cool. Some examples are a vegetable garden theme, a flower theme, a city theme, etc.

Paint the background on the board. You can have the children finger-paint it for a multi-sensory experience. Use the scraps of fabric, foil, sponge, etc. to create the components of the picture and glue them on using the hot glue gun. Here are some examples of what we did.
·      Cotton balls for the clouds
·      Shaggy fabric for the whale, a bead for the eye and string for the mouth
·      Silky fabric for one of the fish, corduroy fabric for the fins, a bead for the eye, and satin ribbon for the mouth.
·      Green glitter for Arial’s fin and orange string for her hair.
·      Aluminum foil for the eel and a bead for the eye
·      Sponge for the shell
·      Silky fabric for the octopus body and pipe cleaners for the tentacles
·      Rice for the sand
·      You get the idea…the final result is a sensory board that is a really cool piece of art and the best part is that the students can touch and manipulate the various textures on the board.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Fun Occupational Therapy Painting Activity

This week I tried another activity that turned out to be a big hit with my students, as well as their parents! To get started, you will need a set of finger paints, a small canvas, a small paint brush, and a spray bottle of water.

Have the child finger paint on the canvas, covering as much as the surface as possible. (I placed the canvas on a vertical surface while the children painted.) This was a great tactile experience! Be sure that the child covers the edges of the canvas as well as the front. You can work on finger isolation, having the child point with their index finger to paint the narrow edges.
Once the surface is covered, have the child mist the canvas lightly with water. You can place the canvas flat, or keep it horizontal. (Squeezing the spray bottle is great for hand strength. You could also clean the blackboards while you're at it!) Allow the painting to dry completely. Once it's dry, take the paint brush and paint the child's hand completely with a contrasting color. Then have the child press their hand against the canvas. You now have a sweet piece of artwork that any parent would be excited to hang on their wall! Fun, fun!!!

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Handmade Christmas Ornaments

Check out these simple ornaments! They are so easy to make and you can incorporate all sorts of therapeutic techniques while making them. Start with Crayola Air Dry Clay. Take out as much as you think you'll need and have the child use both hands to squeeze the clay and roll it into a large round ball. (This is a great sensory experience and also works on hand strength!) Then use a rolling pin or smooth drinking cup to roll the clay out to about 1/4-inch thickness. (Working on bilateral skills!)
Then use your favorite cookie cutters to cut the clay into different forms/designs. If the child's manipulation skills are pretty good, they can even form the clay into their own preferred shape or design. Be sure to use the tip of a pen or paperclip to poke a hole in the top of the ornament for the hooks! Now allow the ornaments to dry for 24 hours.
Now all you have left to do is paint them! You can put them on an easel to work on wrist extension during painting. You can make them as fancy or simple as you'd like. We kept ours pretty basic...with just the date, but they turned out pretty cute!

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Friday, December 9, 2011

Guest Post: What is Sensory Processing Disorder?

This past year I wrote a guest post for Our Journey Thru Autism, titled What Exactly is Sensory Processing Disorder? I just found out that it was ranked in the top 10 articles for 2011...it was #3! Here is a link to the article if you want to check it out!
                                   What Exactly is Sensory Processing Disorder?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Transition Strategies for Children with Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome

Students who are diagnosed with autism or Asperger’s syndrome frequently deal with anxiety when there are changes in routine, at home or school. This is because this syndrome influences the frontal lobes of the brain, which controls executive functioning. Executive functioning controls the ability to alter one’s mental mindset, or transition from one task or place to another. This area of the brain also sends a message to wait. Today, I am going to share some suggestions that will help prepare these children for transitions.
When a student struggles with transitions between activities due to anxiety related to changes in routine, this can sometimes lead to tantrums and emotional meltdowns. Here are several techniques that can help transitions go more smoothly for autism and Asperger’s students.
·      Timers can also be helpful when dealing with transitions. The timer is set, giving the student a visual of how much time is left until their present activity has to end.
·      Picture Charts/Visual Schedules- A chart that plainly show each activity that occurs during the school day. It is best to have an individual picture for each task or activity. These pictures can be attached or removed by using Velco. Every time a task ends, the picture can be removed. It can be easier for the students to deal with transition if preferred and non-preferred activities are alternated.

·      Verbal prompts- these work with will older students who understand the concept of time. For example, as statement such as "Reading ends in five minutes, then it will be time for lunch." Student should be informed when an unpredictable events like a fire drill or assembly can is to take place. Such activities can be added to the visual schedule, or the teacher can write the information about the event on the board.

·      Natural ending times- provide reminders that a transition is eminent. For example, "when the classroom lesion is over, it's time for us to get ready for lunch."

Try some of these strategies and be willing to work with the unique needs of these students when it comes to transitions.

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