Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Fun Fine Motor Activity

Today I tried an activity that turned out to be great fun, and I'm excited to share it with you. Here's what you'll need:
1)  Construction paper
2)  A 3-hole punch
3) A blank piece of paper or paper with designs, shapes, or letters on it
4) A glue stick or bottle of glue

  • Begin by having the child use both hands to punch holes in various colors of construction paper using the 3-hole punch. This is great for arm and hand strengthening. 
  • Remove the construction paper "dots" from the hole punch.
  • Take the paper with the design, shape, letter or number and have the child outline the design by gluing the "dots" onto it. This is great for fine motor skills, and especially addresses the child's pincer grasp.

  • You can also have the child use blank paper and form their own letters, shapes, numbers, or designs. Just use your imagination!
  • Have Fun!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Pull-Out vs. Inclusive O.T. in the School Setting

To all school-based OT's,
I had a great question from a fellow OT, Jackie, that I'd like to share with you all. Jackie is dealing with some challenges that many of us as school therapists face. (see below) If you have any input or suggestions, please comment below, or email your responses to me @ anne_ot (at) hotmail (dot) com and I'll post them. Thanks! 

Hi Anne,
I love your blog!  I am a school based OT for a district that is inclusive.  We are not supposed to be pulling students out of the classroom for special education services.  I am struggling with feeling productive while I'm in the classrooms.  A lot of times, I help my students with their writing assignments/center time, etc but I feel more like a teacher's aide vs an OT...  Are you struggling with this in your district?  Any suggestions for improving my effectiveness for handwriting/fine motor skills in the classroom?  I would also love any suggestions for sensory activities (alerting and calming) for both the classroom and the sensory room. 
Looking forward to hearing from you!

Response from Abby Brayton:
I think this is a very common experience for school-based OTs. In my experience, it takes some time to figure out the scheduling to make sure you're in the classroom at a time when you can work on something productive with the student. It also takes some time to establish rapport with the teachers and to get them on board with your suggestions.

With that said, I think teachers are more likely to follow through with something you recommend if they see it in action (this is especially true with pencil grips and adapted paper). For younger students, you can help the teachers set up fine motor centers. I've found teachers are often open to group handwriting lessons, using a curriculum such as Handwriting Without Tears. You might find out that the more time you spend in the classroom empowering the teacher, the less time students need direct OT services.

I found AOTA's self-paced clinical course "Collaborating for Student Success" to be helpful. If the course is too expensive, you can purchase only the book, for much less (you just don't get CEUs).
Good luck!

Another Response:
I got a little smile on my face in reading your reader's comments about feeling like an aide. I recently had a very similar conversation with a colleague. What I decided to do, was come into class when the students are already writing one week and the next I plan a craft that focuses on the foundational skills needed for adequate handwriting skills. This way I get to see how the students are accessing activities involving written work and then offer any advice or suggestions that I have. Then the next week, we work on improving handwriting skills through more fun, play-based and motivational activities.

What Abby said about rapport building is the most important thing we can do in our practice, with both teachers and students. When you have good rapport, there is more "buy-in" from the teachers and generally more active participation with the students. If you are successful in building rapport, it will make your job easier.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Parenting Website

Hi Everyone!
    I have a new website that contains a collection of all of my articles, along with additional resources, and parenting tips. Be sure to check it out when you have a minute! :)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Assistive Technology for Special Needs Students

  This afternoon I was excited to be a guest of Dr. Kari Miller on Blog The name of the radio show is Special Kid School Talk, and the topic today was technology. Click here to listen to the broadcast and be sure to read all about  Dr. Kari's show @
     When it comes to technology for special needs students, there are low-tech and high-tech solutions that can meet an individual’s particular needs. The high-tech solutions can be really cool, but they are not necessarily always work out best for the child. On the show, I hope to provide several examples of low-tech options that have helped students be successful, such as pencil grips, splints, and picture exchange systems. I will also talk about several app that I really like:

Model Me Going Places- (the basic app is free but the layout can’t be changed)-iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad- You can build social story slide shows for the ipad, about going to the mall, the grocery store, the doctor, and getting a haircut.

Social Skills- ($ can be modified)- iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad- includes 6 social stories that deal with reciprocal play, task avoidance, turn taking, gestures, recess, and school rules.

Proloquo2go- ($189.99)- iPhone, iPod Touch & iPad-Has a vocabulary of over 7000 items; provides a full-featured augmentative and alternative communication solution for people who have difficulty speaking; provides natural sounding text-to-speech voices; high resolution up-to-date symbols.

iCommunicate- ($49.99)- iPhone, iPod Touch & iPad- Creates pictures, flashcards, storyboards, and visual schedules includes. 100+ pictures, and you can add your own. It includes a task completion component. You can actually put a check mark on top of each picture when completed.

Tap to Talk-(Free)-iPhone, iPod Touch & iPad-The app is free but has only one communication board comes with and it cannot be altered. If you subscribe to their online site for 99.95 you can alter boards and customize it.

Smart Pens-Basically a computer in a pen. Go to their website for more info. The site has nice informational tutorials. Also available on Amazon.

Speech-to-Text- Dragon Naturally Speaking- Go to their website for more info. Also available on Amazon.
Alphasmart & Fusion- Cool portable word processing devices. Go to their website for more info and see my earlier post
    Technology can open so many doors for students with special needs. There are many different products available on the market, some that are reasonably priced, and some that are extremely expensive. Please understand that it is critical to have your child's individual needs assessed by an assistive technology team before making decisions about which technology is most appropriate for your child. 

Although it is not necessary to have an AT evaluation conducted by certified professional, you may want to see if there are any in your area. To see if there are any certified assistive technology personnel in your area through RESNA click HERE

Here are a few more references from the radio show:
Daily Living Aids
Computer Access Aids
Environmental Aids
Prentke Romich Devices 

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sensory Writing Group is a Great Success

I just had an article published in our profession's trade magazine, OT Practice, titled "Sensory Writing, A Team Approach to Handwriting Instruction". The article describes a multi-sensory writing group that we hold in a classroom once a week. The special-needs students, teachers, paraprofessionals, and even peer-tutors are all involved. Oh, and I lead the group! :)  The group has been a great success and so much fun!

If you get a chance, check out the article. Just click on the link below:
                                    Sensory Writing Article

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

An Interactive Social Story

I recently made several interactive social story booklets for a student and I liked the way they turned out, so I decided to share one on my blog! As you can see in the photo, I typed the story, but where certain words should go, I typed blanks and also inserted small photos. I then laminated the pages and attached small pieces of sticky hook Velcro just above the blanks. (See photo) 

      Finally, I typed the words that belonged in the blanks, pairing them with the photos, cut them into small rectangles, laminated them, and put small pieces of sticky loop Velcro on the back. I took the pages to Kinko’s and had them bound and voila, I had a social story booklet! As I read the story, my student likes to find the correct word/photo and Velcro it onto the corresponding space. For a child with a limited attention span, this is a fun way to keep them attending to the story!  
      Social stories were developed by Carol Gray and they provide a way to teach social skills to children with autism and other disabilities. These stories provide information about certain situations that a child may find challenging that he would not understand naturally. The story describes the situation in detail and teaches basic social skills by describing the appropriate responses that would occur in that situation.

How to write a social story
  • The special needs child should be the main character.
  • Make the setting of the story familiar to the child.
  • Specifically describe the other characters in the story, making them familiar if possible.
  • Make the dialog realistic and appropriate child’s ability-level.
  • The important story points should be repeated.
  • If possible, use photographs of the child or his peers.
  • Read the story to the child as frequently as possible.
 Carol Cray recommends at least two descriptive sentences for every directive sentence in the story. Good luck!

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