Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Recycling Occupational Therapist: An Awesome Book!

As therapists (and parents), we frequently work with children on bilateral upper extremity skills. In many situations we request that a child stabilize an object or container while performing an activity. Handles are great for making grasping easier and for encouraging stabilization.

Here is a cool “recycled” adaptation for adding a handle to your object of choice. This idea comes from Barbara Smith’s wonderful book “The Recycling Occupational Therapist”. (Click here to check out the book)

Just cut a handle from a detergent or dishwasher soap bottle and attach it to your item of choice. To increase the proprioceptive (deep pressure) feedback, enclose sandbags inside the flaps created on either side of the handles.

Thoroughly wash and dry the detergent, dishwasher soap, or bleach bottle. Labels usually can be removed by soaking the container in hot water and scraping.

1.     Cut around the top and bottom of the bottle.
2.     Create flaps by cutting along the vertical line on each side.
Optional: Insert a sandbag inside the handle before folding and securing the two overlapping flaps. Enclose both ends with Contact adhesive vinyl or duct tape.
      3. Fold the back flap over the front flap. Secure with duct tape.
Click here for more information or to purchase "The Recycling Occupational Therapist" by Barbara Smith.
You may also want to check out her newest release "From Rattles to Writing"

Tip: I added a handle to a shoe box to which students attach clothespins for finger strengthening. Prior to having the handle on the box, it would just sit on the table and the kids would place the clothespins on it with one hand. Now I require them to hold the shoebox by the handle with one hand, and place the clothespins with the other, turning the activity into a bilateral upper extremity task! Voila!! Thanks Barbara :)

Dear Readers, If you have found my blog to be interesting or helpful, please click here and "like" my facebook page...I'm trying to get my book published and this would be a great help! Thanks :)

Monday, October 24, 2011

World Occupational Therapy Day

     October 27th is World Occupational Therapy Day! In honor of this great day, I just want to say a few words about my wonderful profession. First of all, I can truly say that I absolutely LOVE my job! Every day I go to work looking forward to helping children be the best that they can be. Whether I'm working with a student on handwriting, addressing sensory processing issues, or helping a child work on organizational skills, I always love the challenge and variety of being an occupational therapist. 
    Working in the school setting can be challenging at times. The resources and space is often limited and the paperwork is absolutely overwhelming! However, the kids make it all worthwhile. So for anyone trying to decide on a profession, I would highly recommend checking into O.T. There are a variety of different settings in which you can work, including schools, hospitals, nursing homes and rehabilitation centers. If you have any questions, feel free to message me and I'll answer you as best I can. For more information about World Occupational Therapy Day, click here!

Dear Readers, If you have found my blog to be interesting or helpful, please click here and "like" my facebook page...I'm trying to get my book published and this would be a great help! Thanks :)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Teaching Strategies for Students with Autism

Are you the parent of a child diagnosed with autism or Asperger’s Syndrome? Do you teach a student who is on the autism spectrum? Are you looking for some effective teaching strategies to use when working with autistic students? If so, I’d like to tell you about an amazing book that I just finished reading!  Success Strategies for Teaching Kids with Autism is a reader-friendly book that includes a variety of evidence-based teaching tools and activities that are based on the applied behavior analysis (ABA) approach.

I especially love this book because it includes a plethora of examples of specific teaching strategies for working on social skills, language skills and behavior, making it the perfect resource for teachers and parents! It is available on Amazon, so just click here for more information or to order your very own copy!

For a chance to win a copy of this book, like my Facebook page (upper right corner of this page), and sign up for my newsletter by clicking HERE and filling out the required information.

Dear Readers, If you have found my blog to be helpful, please click here and "like" my facebook page...I'm trying to get my book published and this would be a great help! Thanks :)

Dear Readers, If you have found my blog to be helpful, please "like" my Facebook page and follow my blog...I'm trying to get my book published and this would be a great help! Thanks :) 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Communication Aids for Children with Autism

Many of the autistic students that I work with are non-verbal. Can you imagine how frustrating it must be to be unable to express yourself, make choices, and have some control over your environment? I've found that using a simple communication aid in the therapy setting can make a huge difference for students with communication challenges. Initially, I tried using some of the commercially available picture communication cards, but some students didn't quite seem to understand the meanings of the drawings, so I decided to try actual photographs. (A fellow blogger @ shared that what I'm using is officially called a "choice board" in the SLP literature!)

For example, when a student comes to therapy and our first activity is going to be sensory-based, I will show them the following communication aid:

This is just a file folder cut in half that has been laminated. I took pictures of the therapy ball, the sit-n-spin, and the bolster swing and laminated them as well. There are three blue rectangles at the top of the page and one red rectangle at the bottom of the page. I used velcro to attach the pictures to the file folder. When I initially present the communication aid, all three pictures are at the top of the page. I ask the student, "what do you want to do?"

Typically, when I try this with a student that has never used the system before, the student will run to the actual item and touch it or gesture that this is what they want to do.  Of course that is great, because the student is communicating in a functional way, but since I'm wanting to teach them to use the communication system, I'll take the students hand and guide them in moving the card for their selected activity to the bottom square. I also add a verbal component, such as, "good, you want the sit-n-spin," as I'm moving the card. It usually doesn't take long for the student to catch many instances after only one demonstration, students will start using the cards to make selections.

When teaching a child to use a communication system such as this, I always start with activities that the child prefers. Once the student has an understanding of how to use the system, I'll have the student choose from tasks that he may not be as crazy about, such as writing, lacing, and cutting. This gives the student some control over the environment by giving him a choice, even if it's from the lesser of three evils! It is so exciting to see a student making choices and communicating during therapy. Parents can use a system similar to this so that a child can make some choices at home, such as what to eat for dinner. If you haven't already, I hope you'll give a communication aid such as this a try. All you need is a camera, a file folder, a marker, velcro and a laminating machine (Kinkos laminates for a small fee)! If you have questions, just leave a comment...I'll be glad to help out!

For more great strategies for teaching kids with autism, click here to go to Amazon and order this is a wonderful resource! 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Helping Children with Autism Deal with Transitions

Autism is a term that describes a group of complex developmental brain disorders known as Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD). “The other pervasive developmental disorders are PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified), Asperger Syndrome, Rett Syndrome and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder. Many parents and professionals refer to this group as Autism Spectrum Disorders” (Autism Speaks Website).

It is estimated that one child in every 110 will be diagnosed with Autism, with the diagnosis being 3 to 4 times more common in boys than girls. A large number of Autistic students are referred for school occupational therapy services. I have discovered a number of techniques that are quite effective when working with these students and I'm going to be sharing some of them with you.

One area that can be particularly challenging for Autistic students is dealing with transitions, especially unexpected transitions. One way to help an Autistic child work through a transition is to use cards like these: 

I made these cards out of construction paper, then laminated them. The red one says "Stop", the yellow says "1 minute", and the green says "Go". When the student begins an activity, I give the student the "Go" card, signaling that there is plenty of time to work on the activity. When it's almost time for a transition, I remove the green card, then hand over the yellow card. This means that there is "One Minute" left until the activity must end. After one minute, I remove the yellow card and hand the child the red card and say it's time to "Stop". This is a great way to help a child deal with transitions because it provides a visual as well as a tangible item that can be held and manipulated. If you work with a child that has a difficult time with transitions, you may want to give this strategy a try!   

Dear Readers, If you have found my blog to be helpful, please click here and "like" my facebook page...I'm trying to get my book published and this would be a great help! Thanks :)

Also, For more great strategies for teaching kids with autism, click here to go to Amazon and order this is a wonderful resource! 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Social Stories for Children with Autism and Asperger Syndrome

The concept of social stories was developed and trademarked by Carol Gray, an author and Autism specialist. Social stories are a tool for teaching social skills to children diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome and Autism as well as other disabilities. For more information on social stories, click on the following link:   Social Stories Article

Monday, October 10, 2011

Have you heard of Pinterest?

To all pediatric therapists! I have some great news that I want to share! It’s about a new resource called Pinterest and the great Pinterest page for therapists offered by PediaStaff. 

-Pinterest is a virtual pinboard that allows you to organize and share great stuff that you find on the Internet. You can browse pinboards created by others to find new things and get inspiration from people who share your interests.
-Pinterest offers a great platform to share all the wonderful therapy ideas you find online, the blogs posts you love, and resources that you might want to use in therapy.
-The PediaStaff Pinterest Page has over 50 different pin boards on topics ranging from language and articulation to fine and gross motor skills, sensory, handwriting and many more.  There are also boards with holiday therapy ideas! How awesome!
-How do I join? You have to be “invited” to join Pinterest, so if you are interested, click on this link: PediaStaff Pinterest Page, and request an invite.  Then have fun browsing and getting tons of great therapy ideas!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Prevent W-Sitting

I work as an occupational therapist in the school system, and I cringe every time I see a student “w-sitting”. Are you familiar with the term “w-sitting”? This is when a child sits on the floor with his knees bent, his bottom on the floor, and his lower legs splayed out on either side of his bottom. Just imagine if the child were in a tall kneeling position, spread his ankles apart, and plopped down on his bottom. If you look at a child sitting in this position from the top down, the legs form the letter “w”. (As you can see, I've worked with a student who found a way to "w-sit" on a therapy ball...Yikes! Of course, I got him out of this position right after I took the photo!)

During normal development, babies sometimes briefly move in and out of “w-sitting” when transitioning from one position to another, and this is nothing to worry about. The problem occurs when the little one remains in that position for an extended period of time, for example during floor play or while watching television. Staying in this awkward position for too long puts excessive pressure on the knee, hip, and ankle joints. Constant exposure to this position can lead to future orthopedic problems, such as poor posture, tight hamstrings, or even hip dislocation.
Why do children w-sit? Many children sit like this because it feels more stable than other sitting positions. Because the “w” position of the legs widens the child’s base of support, the trunk or core muscles don’t have to work as hard to keep the child upright. Children with hypotonia, or low muscle tone tend to prefer the stability of “w-sitting”. This is not good, because when in this position children tend to avoid shifting their weight and rotating the trunk while playing. Weight shifting and trunk rotation play an important role in balancing, crossing midline and using both hands together, skills that provide the foundation for hand preference and the development of fine motor skills.
Here are several suggestions that you may find helpful in reducing “w-sitting” in youngsters:
  • With babies, alter their position to kneeling, side sitting, or sitting cross-legged.
  • With toddlers and preschoolers, have them to sit in an appropriately sized chair that is pulled up to a small table for fine-motor activities such as playing with blocks or coloring.
  • Give the child an alternative by saying “would you rather sit like this or this?” and demonstrate appropriate seating positions.
  • Use a low tray as the work surface and have the child position her legs straight out in front of her under the tray.
  • Use a verbal or gestural cue to remind the child by saying “sit nicely”, or “legs in front”. This keeps it positive, rather than saying, “don’t sit like that”.
Dear Readers, If you have found my blog to be helpful, please click here and "like" my facebook page...I'm trying to get my book published and this would be a great help! Thanks :)