4 Time-Saving Paperwork Shortcuts for School Professionals

4 time-saving tips for busy therapists and teachers

1) Install Grammarly on your work computer.

Just google “Grammarly free”. Then follow the directions to install the extension on your computer. Literally, this has saved me so much time in proofreading and so much embarrassment over typos. Apparently, I am very Comma-happy!
This app is WONDERFUL for busy teachers, parents, and therapists.

It is also a total GAME-CHANGER for children with dyslexia. It takes away all the worry and stress about spelling and punctuation, which is such a time-saver! Just a warning- you may need to have it approved in order to install it on a child’s school computer because it is considered an accommodation – which takes some of the work off of the child.

2) Copy and Paste is your best friend.

This year, it really hit me how often I write the same thing. In my evals, emails, reports, you name it. A long time ago, I started using a “template” for my OT evals. This way, I could use “find and replace” to change the name, the school, etc. But there was still a lot of re-typing.

As I was teaching my OT student to do the IEPS in our IEP management system, I realized that everything would be so much faster if I copied and pasted it in there too. So this year, when I wrote my student’s annual report and progress toward their goals, I copied and pasted the pertinent parts right into the IEP.

How did I not realize this earlier? First, it makes my work so much more consistent. I can document those goals, and report on those goals in the IEP.

It saved me a lot of time. If you’re not already doing this, I really recommend looking at your workload and seeing where you can cut corners with copy and paste.

3) So are “Find and Replace” and “Highlight”

When I started teaching my student how to write evals, I showed her one of my tried and true tricks for saving time and keeping track of myself. I have templates for different “types” of children. Kindergarten boy, kindergarten girl, etc. A child with significant disabilities, a child who doesn’t qualify, etc. When I go to write a new OT evaluation, I choose a template to start.

Then, I use “find and replace” to change the name throughout the report as well as the teacher’s name, the school, etc. Finally, I start to change the details of the report. When I finish a sentence or a section, I highlight it yellow.

I do this because I NEVER get to finish a report in one sitting. EVER. I thought it was me- and my multi-tasking tendencies, but as I taught my student, she continually got interrupted as well. It’s the nature of the job, apparently. This way, when I get back to my report, the stuff I need to work on is plain, and the parts I’ve already done are highlighted. Time saver!

4) Put your checklists and forms on Google Drive.

For years, my district has had “paper copies” of our teacher checklists and requests for requesting OT supplies, evals, consultations, etc. This year, I put a bunch of those types of checklists into Google Forms.

Here are the benefits:

1) I can update or edit the checklist anytime I want (add questions, delete options, etc.)
2) There’s no risk of my losing the paperwork as I run around servicing 6 buildings.
3) I was able to set up the Google form so that I get an Email when a teacher fills it out! Yahoo! Google forms also keep all the responses in a spreadsheet. This allowed me to track which equipment I gave to which teacher, so I can make sure I get it all back in June!

9 BEST SPRINGTIME DOLLAR STORE FINDS

Spring is in the air!

That means nice weather, flowers blooming, and best of all, fun new stuff at the Dollar Store!

By this time of the year, I’m a little sick of all my toys and games. I’m ready for something different and fresh to keep my kids focused and having fun during therapy. BUT – I already spent my OT budget, so I need to keep the costs down.

Like a true budget diva, I head straight to the Dollar Store. Spring is a great time to stock up on cheap supplies that are only available at this time of the year, BUT, you can use them all year long.

I’ve made a quick list for you – along with ideas to for how to use them!

9 Best Springtime Dollar Store Supplies FOR OTs

1). Pool noodles – super cheap and easy to cut to different sizes. You can turn your pool noodle into a bat to hit balloons, use it to help position a child, or use it as a resistive material to stick buttons in. Now is the time to stock up!ot, dollar store supplies, classroom pool noodles, best springtime dollar store supplies

2) Buttons – speaking of buttons, my dollar store (dollar tree) has lots of cute buttons in spring colors. These are perfect for working on manipulation, categorizing by size or sorting by color, and of course, buttoning!

3) Garden “Kneeling pads” – these are great to use as markers for “where” kids should sit during circle time. You can also use them as a visual cue during yoga or core strength activities. My #1 favorite way to use them is to actually have kids kneel. This makes working on a vertical surface fun, or can be a fun “alternative” writing position. You can also use them as a resistive material to stick things (golf tees?) in. They are pretty big, so they last a while.

4) Balloons – Balloons are available all year long, but by now I’ve always run out. Balloons can be used with tennis rackets, pool noodle bats, or hanging on a string from the ceiling. Put your child on a therapy ball and have them cross midline to “swat the balloon”. Use them with the whole class by playing “keep it up” until the music stops. Then have the children hold their balloon and write a spelling word on it with a sharpie.

5) Ping pong balls – Where do I start? Use kitchen tongs to pick them up and cross midline to put them in a bowl. Write words on them and have the children read the words as they “grab” the ball with their tongs. Sort them in an egg carton using word families.

6) Plastic eggs – I love to write on my plastic eggs with a sharpie. Then I can work on rhyming, writing, or matching. Write a capital on one side and lowercase on the other. Putting them together and taking them apart is great for bilateral coordination, visual attention, and motor planning!

7) Jump rope- jumping rope is such a hard skill for some kids. You can also use jump ropes to teach shoe-tying to a whole class. Use them for group games, to make circles for jumping in and out, etc. Teach knot tying and untying. These are daily living skills that are really hard for some kids.

8) Egg dying kits – I love the little different colored baskets that come in the dollar store kit- I have the kids sort spring colored pom poms into the same color basket with clothespins.  The powdered dye can be used to color homemade play dough or to dye pasta for sensory activities.

9) Craft stuff – Check the craft section for all the spring colored pom poms, crafts sticks, buttons, pipe cleaners, and beads. These are perfect for Mother’s Day crafts!

I hope you found this list helpful! So tell me, what’s your favorite dollar store find?

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I want the red shirt.

I go to work every day with a smile on my face. I love my job.

But if I’m being honest, I can share that when I pause and really think about things, It’s easy to feel very down in the dumps about school-based OT.

Are you wondering why? 

Because as a school-based OT, I work the same hours as the teachers, social workers, psychologists, speech therapists, and guidance counselors. I have the same education, responsibilities, and the same role.

But I don’t have the red shirt. And that means I don’t have EQUITY or PARITY.

Every Thursday the staff in my district wear their “Red for Ed” Teachers Union shirts. Every teacher, speech therapist, social worker, teacher’s assistant, school counselor, etc. You get the picture.

But not me.

Miss Jaime OT Facebook, OT advocacy, #SchoolOTsMatter

 

OT is not included in the teacher’s union in my district (and many others), and it causes MANY issues of equity in the school setting.

Last week, one of my kindergarten students said to me, “Miss Jaime, you forgot your red shirt.”
I smiled ruefully at her. “I don’t have a red shirt, Victoria. Those are only for teachers.”
“But you are a teacher, Miss Jaime!”

I answered her sadly. “Thank you, Victoria, I think so, too.”

NY state education department doesn’t categorize OTs and PTs as “educators”. The other “related services” professions – social workers, school counselors, psychologists, and even school attendance teachers fall under the category of “pupil personnel provider.” Pupil personnel is one of the three categories where school professionals can receive teaching certificates.

This impacts PARITY for OTs and PTs in the school setting.  We often do not have the same benefits, salary scale, or professional development opportunities.  We aren’t allowed to advance to leadership positions. Many OTs and PTs don’t even get a lunch hour. 

The exclusion of OTs and PTs from the category of “educators” in the education system is an outdated practice that needs change. 

Are you impacted by this type of systemic discrimination? 

Do you want to learn more about how you can help to change it? 

If so, I invite you to join my Facebook group:

USA School-based OTs & PTs looking for a change

Miss Jaime OT Facebook, OT Advocacy, School-based OT advocacy,

Jaime started the Facebook group “USA school-based OTs looking for change in 2018”. Have you joined yet?

Also, for the month of April, I’m offering a FREE webinar about Advocacy for School-based Occupational Therapists.  (NYSOTA CUEs included!) 

If you have a story about how lack of equity is impacting YOU and YOUR students as a school OT, please email me!  I want to hear your story.  We’re in this together! 

Vision 101 Scholarship Application – February 2021

We’re offering scholarships for our course!

If you’ve been following me, you know that I LOVE to help grownups HELP THEIR KIDS. Whether it’s our students, our own children, or our grandchildren,  our kiddos need us.

So many children are walking around with undiagnosed vision issues, and we understand that this pandemic has caused financial hardship for so many wonderful hardworking therapists out there.

As healthcare and educational professionals, my co-host Robert and I want to give back to our community of followers who may be facing financial hardship.

So we’re offering TEN people a FULL SCHOLARSHIP to Vision 101 for School-based Occupational Therapy Practitioners.

This is a needs-based scholarship for School Occupational Therapists and OT Assistants.

We’ll contact the winners via email.

Announcing the Winners!

Irene Kousouris

Virginia Charles Bodner

Ruqayya Ismail

Monica L. Whitman

Alison Milligan

Meghan Neureither

Nyasha Beremauro

Gaby Jonatan

Maritcelly Mendez

Colleen Redington

Scholarship Rules:

  1. Ten people will be chosen by Tuesday, February 16th at 5 pm EST.
  2. We will notify the winners by email and update this page with the winners.
  3. Winners can take the course and obtain AOTA credit FREE.
  4. Winners will be chosen based on their scholarship answers.
  5. Winners who paid for the course will be refunded.

 

Learn More about Vision:

Continue reading

Understanding Handwriting Terms and Phrases

Grass line, magic c, spacing, Oh-My!

Different handwriting programs use certain words and terminology that can be confusing to parents and new teachers and therapists. It’s so much easier for our kids when everyone uses the same language.

Language matters when it comes to handwriting.

  1. Use the same language consistently when teaching
  2. Follow the language of the program the child is learning
  3. Get the team on board!  Send information to the parents so they use the same language, too!

50 common handwriting terms that parents should know

(Get the printable!)  ➡       ➡       ➡       ➡       ➡  

 

Handwriting Terms & Definitions

  • 90-90-90 position – the ideal position of the body for writing; having one’s elbows bent at a 90-degree angle, hips at a 90-degree angle, knees at a 90-degree angle, and feet flat on the floor.
  • Automaticity – the ability to automatically and accurately form letters through motor planning requiring little to no effort.
  • Ball and stick – lifting the pencil and making a second stroke to complete the letter formation. For example, using ball and stick, the letter b is taught by making a vertical line and then lifting the pencil to draw a circle. (Ball and stick is NOT best practice!)
  • Baseline/bottom line – the line on which most letters rest.
  • Capital letter – an uppercase letter or a letter that is not lowercase
  • Center Starting Capitals – Capital letters that start in the center such as C, O, Q, G,S, T, I, J, A.
  • Developmental teaching order – how to teach the letters in the sequence that children are physically and developmentally ready to learn them, rather than from A to Z.
  • D’Nealian – A handwriting program that uses letters with tails in manuscript printing, to make the transition to cursive simpler.
  • Dotted line – the middle line, halfway between the top and bottom line
  • Dysgraphia – a learning disability that may cause difficulty with handwriting, motor, and processing skills.
  • Fall letters – letters that go below the baseline (bottom line)
  • Far point – copying letters from a board, requiring distance vision skills and the ability of the student to read and hold information to transfer to the paper
  • Fluency – ability to access, retrieve, and form letters reliably
  • Frog Jump Capitals – a term from the Handwriting Without Tears program, these are letters that start at the top left corner with a big line down. Next, the pencil jumps back to the start spot to complete the letter (Examples: E F D B P).
  • Fundations – a reading program that incorporates a supplemental handwriting component.
  • Graph paper – paper used for focusing on letter size and spacing between letters and words.
  • Grass line – the bottom writing line, aka baseline.
  • Gray box paper – paper with uniformly sized boxes to aid with sizing and orienting capital letters and numbers (from the Handwriting Without Tears program).
  • Handwriting Without Tears – a developmental handwriting program that uses simple strokes: big line, little line, big curve, little curve.
  • Left to right progression – the basis for reading and writing, tracking from left to right.
  • Legibility – readability of handwriting
  • LegiLiner – a self-inking, rolling stamp that draws handwriting lines
  • Letter formation – ability to form letters of the alphabet correctly
  • Letter groups – tall, small, and fall letters
  • Letter size boxes – boxes to correctly form the size of letters and correctly place them on the line
  • Letter sizing – the height of letters determined by the space the letter takes up, referring to forming tall, short, and fall letters.
  • Letter spacing – the distance between letters, words, sentences, and lines
  • Lowercase – a letter that is not capital or uppercase
  • Magic C letters – a Handwriting Without Tears term having the student write the letter “c” to begin writing a letter such as a, d, g, o, q.
  • Manuscript – print writing that is made up of lines and circles, often taught in elementary schools
  • Memory – the ability to produce a letter without a visual cue.
  • Narrow lined paper – a type of adapted paper
  • Near point – copying letters from a paper on the desk, which is an easier task than far point.
  • Orientation – refers to letters and numbers that are facing in the correct direction.
  • Plane line – The middle dotted handwriting line
  • Posture and proper positioning – 90-90-90 having feet flat on the floor, knees at a90 degree angle, back is straight, and forearms/elbows on the table at 90degrees.
  • Primary paper – three lined paper with a dotted middle line, helping students size
    letters properly
  • Redi-Space Paper – adapted writing paper designed to improve legibility by providing visual cues for proper spacing between letters and words.
  • Retrace – going back over the same line for a short distance when forming letters.
  • Reversals – writing letters facing the wrong direction.
  • Size Matters Handwriting Program – a developmental handwriting program that uses the terms of size 1, size 2, and size 3 letters
  • Skyline – the top handwriting line
  • Slant board – a slanted writing surface used to create a position to reduce strain for the wrist, arms, hands and shoulders and encourage a proper grip.
  • Small letters – letters that do not go above the middle line, such as a, c, e, m, n, o, r, s, u, v, w, x, and z
  • Space stick – a handwriting spacing stick used as a visual cue for handwriting, such as a popsicle stick
  • Spaceman space – an image to remind students to use spaces between words
  • Speed – refers to how quickly one can write letters and sentences.
  • Start spot – an indicator for where the letter starts.
  • Starting Corner Capitals – Capital letters that start in the top left corner such as B, D, E, F, H, K, L, M, N, U, V, W, X, Y, Z
  • Super “C” letters – a Size Matters Handwriting Program term for letters that start with a “c”
    and turn into another letter (o, a, d, g, q).
  • Tall letters – letters that touch the top line, such as b, d, f, h, k, l, t, and all uppercase letters
  • Top line – the line at the top of the writing space where tall letters will touch.
  • Tracking – the ability for our eyes to move across a paper and scan words and letters
  • Traditional paper – regular lined looseleaf paper with a top and bottom line.
  • Traditional teaching order – teaching letters starting with the letter A and ending with the letter Z.
  • TV Teacher – a developmental handwriting program that uses video modeling to teach handwriting
  • Worm line – an additional line below the grass line to draw fall letters such as g, j or y
  • Woo Tape – adhesive tape that can be used to add writing lines to a child’s paper
  • Zaner Bloser – a Handwriting program with writing straight up and down in manuscript printing and slanted in cursive.

Developmental Progression of a Pencil Grasp:

  • 1 to 1.5 years – Palmar Supinate– the pencil will be held in the palm with the thumb resting on top of the pencil while using larger muscle groups.
  • 2 to 3 years – Digital Pronate – the pencil will be held in the palm with the index finger pointed down to the paper.
  • 3.5 to 4 years – Static Tripod–  holding the pencil with the thumb and index finger and use the middle finger as support. Writing will be using larger movements from the shoulder and elbow instead of the fingers.
  • 4.5 to 5 years – Dynamic Tripod– thumb and index finger holds the pencil with the pinky and ring finger pinched in. Dynamic means that the fingers and wrist will provide more movement instead of the shoulder and elbow.

Motor Memory and Handwriting

Motor Memory Matters!  

Research shows that practice and repetition are the best way to teach children how to form their letters.  It turns out that Mr. Miyagi from Karate Kid was right.

Remember “wax on, wax off?”  We need to practice the same motor movements again and again for them to become automatic.

The same is true when it comes to handwriting

Turns out, it makes a lot of sense NOT to teach the letters in A to Z order.  

Why? 

Because it’s a lot easier to learn to write “F and E” on the same day than it is to learn “A and a”.  

Research shows that 1 in 4 children need more help with handwriting in order to grasp the concepts. This year, schools are full of kids who missed months of “typical learning” due to COVID-19. 

The truth is, there is less time for handwriting instruction in school. 

But here’s a trick that makes the process easier.

Teach the letters in groups by formation. Children learn better when the motor components of letter formations are grouped. Teaching “A” and “a” in the same week expects children to learn two totally different motor tasks. Teaching “F” and then “E” or “n” and then “m” is much easier.

Want to learn more? 

Here’s a FREE Handout about How to Teach the Letters in Groups 

This simple process of teaching letters in a developmentally appropriate way JUST MAKES SENSE!

Don‘t miss out on the webinar! 

CEUs are available: The course is AOTA approved, and you can purchase the webinar, slides and CEUs here

  • The webinar is approved for .2 AOTA CEUs.
  • Applies to any handwriting program your child has been using.
  • Taught by a certified handwriting expert and school-based occupational therapist with 20 years experience.

 

Teaching Letters in Groups Workbook: This 120+ page digital handwriting workbook is on sale for $14.99! It features all the capitals, all the lowercase, and all the letters that can be taught together on the same page.

BONUS: This week, when you purchase the workbook, you’ll get a 32-page FREE handwriting in groups packet. These handouts are perfect for centers, sensory writing, rainbow writing and more.

Watch Miss Jaime, O.T. teach how to “Mr. Miyagi” our kids!

Please keep in mind when teaching letters…

There’s a developmental progression to letters, too!   Children understand straight lines first, then circular lines, then diagonal lines.

So doesn’t it make sense to learn letters like H, L, T, F, E first as opposed to A, B, C??

Look at the letters of the alphabet and categorize them by straight lines, circular lines, and diagonal lines and teach them in that order.

In addition to the webinar, you may like these handwriting products:

Miss Jaime, O.T.’s Favorite Developmental Toys

Have you ever wished for a personal shopping assistant? 

If you’re looking for a special toy that is both fun and educational, your personal shopping assistant has arrived!

A parent once said to me, “You have the BEST toys, Miss Jaime!”

And I thought, “well, toys are important!” We need to get our kiddos engaged in hands-on games and toys that help them to learn and build important foundational skills like motor coordination, eye-hand coordination, visual perception, and sensorimotor skills.

As a school-based occupational therapist, I’m definitely a little picky about my toys.

So I decided to make a list of my top picks from Birth to High school. I’ve picked toys that address important developmental skills, but of course, are FUN!

 ➡ ​Click here for the complete list!

5 Ways to Work on Pencil Grasp Without A Pencil

For an OT in the school system pencil grasp can be a big focus for our students. Knowing how to encourage proper pencil grasp is helpful for all of our young students.

A tripod grasp is functional and it helps with a reduction of pain and hand fatigue.

Many teachers and therapists believe that the dynamic tripod is the only grasp that’s functional. However, there are other functional grasps that are just as sufficient as the tripod grasp.  A tripod grasp does help with more things than just writing like utilizing math manipulatives and engaging in kinesthetic learning with wiki sticks, Play-Doh, and clay.

It’s important  to encourage good pencil grasp early on. After 2nd grade, a grasp becomes “locked in”, and is difficult to change.

How to work on grasp without a pencil

Here are the 5 ways I use to work on pencil grasp with my students.

  Use a Stylus

  • A stylus is convenient to  utilize whenever my students want to engage in an activity on the IPad.  (I am truly passionate about the fact that the students I see have learned to use their index finger so heavily (with technology at an all time high than ever) that the use of a pencil has become very difficult to learn.  Anytime your student is using an IPad, incorporate a stylus. I particularly like the crayon shaped styluses for the younger ones (they are fun and relatable to them).  You can check them out here:

Use Skinny Dry Erase Markers

  • Dry erase markers and chalk are always fun and engaging for the students
  • Writing on a dry erase board/table or utilizing sidewalk chalk
  • Use chalkboard paint to turn any wall or table into a fun writing surface
  • Break the chalk into a shorter piece will aid in enforcing the proper grasp

Magna Doodle & Aqua Doodle

Magna Doodle and Aqua Doodle are awesome tools that make our students feel as if writing and drawing is play and not work (our specialty). Most children haven’t ever seen them.

  • Introduce this tool to draw pre-writing shapes or scribble. They normally come with a short writing utensil (always a plus) and only requires minimal storage space.

A Peg and Clay

Use a short stick (it can be a spare peg, craft stick, etc) to draw in clay, Play-Doh, or shaving cream. You can make this into a creative game with your students. Have them draw a smiley face or a house. Practice shapes and lines.  This works on developing pencil grasp as well as pre-writing skills and visual-motor skills.

Use Fine Motor Toys

There are so many fun fine motor toys to help the development of our student’s pencil grasps.

  • threading beads
  • pegboard activities
  • peeling stickers
  • utilizing tongs
  • stacking blocks

Want more ideas?  Get a free printable handout!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Related Reading:

crayons, grip, tripod grasp. OT, therapy bag, therapy organization, OT toys, Best therapy toys, School therapy supplies pencil grip, how to change grasp, digital pronate
manipulation, fine motor, OT, manipulative scissors, fine motor, manipulation, OT, development, gross motor, MissJaimeOT occupational therapy, OT, MissJaimeOT, special needs,

About the Author: 

Brittany Turner is a COTA/L (Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant) and a new member of the Miss Jaime, O.T. team. She has been in the OT field since 2014. She currently works full time in the public school system in Henry County Virginia with students ranging from 2 years of age-5th grade. She is also working PRN in a skilled nursing facility and inpatient rehabilitation. She’s busy in the OT field but she loves seeing the variety of patients and learning new things constantly.

Brittany graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Rehabilitation Studies from Winston Salem State University. She enjoys exercising, spending time with her family, and being involved with church activities.