My Mortifying Moment as a New Grad…

 

If you’re a Miss Jaime, O.T. VIP, you may remember when I mentioned my EXTREMELY EMBARRASSING MOMENT involving visual perception…

I can’t believe I’m doing this…but, I’m ready to tell it.

MY MORTIFYING NEW GRAD MOMENT

(I’m blushing already. Uggghhh!)

But first, you need the background:

I went to school to be an OT because I wanted to work with stroke and traumatic brain injury patients. I  was sure I’d spend my career working in a hospital setting.

So sure that I didn’t do pediatric fieldwork like the rest of my friends.

AND… I spent way more of my time focused on learning the neurological “tracks” of the spinal cord than I did on doing my pediatrics work.  (Someone- please go back and time and kick me!)

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Miss Jaime, O.T.’s Favorite Visual Perception Toys for Children

The best visual perception toys for children

When parents hear the phrase “visual perception”, they often think it has to do with their child’s vision, and whether or not they need glasses. But in all actuality, visual perception is how your brain perceives what you’re seeing with your eyes.

If your child is struggling with spacing during handwriting, lining up math problems, or finding a specific color crayon in the box, this may be an indicator that your child is struggling with their visual perception skills. It’s a broad term, and professional diagnosis is recommended, but it is something to keep in mind.

For occupational therapy and improving your child’s visual perception skills, there are toys on the market that can be used to grow their abilities. I have a printable list of ALL my favorite visual perceptual toys, you can get it here.visual perception, visual perceptual toys, visual discrimination, visual figure ground

I have MANY favorites, but today, I’m going to talk about just two.

Hammer and nail toy

This toy is known by a few different names. It’s a toy with pattern cards featuring different shapes, where a child must find the correct shape and place it in the right spot. In order to achieve that, they’ll need to use tiny nails to create a replica of the shape they’re attempting to copy.

The toy comes with nails, shape cards, and a hammer, which requires hand-eye coordination from the user, as it’s required to complete the shapes properly. It develops your child’s puzzle/ problem-solving skills as well as spatial orientation. The toy is meant for younger children, so the ideal user is between four and eight, although you’ll need to carefully watch children during use, as the small nails can be dangerous.  I’ve found that even my middle school kids like this one!

On sale for $24.99!

“Shape by shape” toy

If your child is in middle school, or you’re looking for a more advanced visual perception toy, then the “shape by shape” is a good option to consider. With this shape game, there are several different shapes that have to fit exactly within a square box, in order to successfully complete the puzzle. There’s a photo that acts as a guide for completing the task, but requires the child to carefully look at the box and see how the pieces fit together.

It can be fairly challenging, but there are some hints that can be used to assist your child. This toy is meant for children from ages eight and above, all the way up to adulthood, depending on the help given to your child, and how many hints you can provide.

Developing your child’s visual perception skills takes time, but it is an important investment in time and effort.

Getting Your Child Special Education Services

,

“Will Mason be labeled Special Ed forever?”

“Is this a stigma that will follow Emily all the way to college?”

“Will she even get into college?”

“What exactly does this mean for my child’s social life?”

 

Hold Up, Momma!

Dealing with the Special Education process can be overwhelming, upsetting, and let’s face it… CONFUSING!

Parents often feel stressed or torn about bringing their child to the Special Education Committee. But it is NOT a bad thing.

It can be a total blessing to finally get the answers to the questions you’ve been asking yourself…

“Why is it so hard for Mason to sit and do his homework?”

“Emily knew these math facts perfectly. How could she fail the test?”

“He’s falling behind. Will he be ready for middle school?”

 

Asking your child’s school for help in identifying their strengths and weaknesses will help YOU as well as your child. So many children receive some kind of service in school; counseling, RTI, speech therapy, math extra help…

The list goes on and on. Parents often remember what it was like when they were in school.  The “Special” kids left the room or even worse, went to a different school.

It’s just not like that anymore- Thank Goodness!

Receiving Special Education Services at school is simply a way to help your child use their strengths (which the school identified through testing and data) to catch them up in their weak areas.

Feel better?  Good.

Steps to get started with the Special Education Process:

Step 1: Parents, school district staff, or others request an evaluation

Parents, school personnel, students, or others may make a request for an evaluation.  This means they suspect a disability.  If a parent requests an evaluation to determine whether their child has a disability and needs special education, the school district must consider this request and complete a full individual evaluation.

After the evaluation,  the committee (including the parents) gathers to determine if the child s meets the criteria to be classified as a child with a disability. This meeting is called an Initial Eligibility Determination Meeting or a Multiple Disciplinary Team Meeting.  A school can deny/refuse to conduct an evaluation for a variety of reasons*, but the school is legally required to provide the parents with a written explanation of that reason. Schools are also required to present a copy of that state’s parental rights.

Step 2: Parents agree in writing to this evaluation

After the meeting, a document called a Prior Written Notice (PWN) will list each test/assessment/checklist/questionnaire that will be used and/or administered to the student and the professional responsible for completing and/or interpreting that information/test results. Testing can begin once this signature is received from the parent and the school has 60 days (per IDEA) to complete the testing. Some states have shorted it to 30-45 days to complete testing.

Step 3: Testing and SUmmary Report completed, meeting Held

All results and summarized information will then be written into an Evaluation Report. The team will then meet for an “Evaluation Results meeting” to review the results of the evaluation and determine if the student is eligible for special education services.  It can be difficult to understand your child’s test scores. Learn more here.

Step 4: Eligibility Determination

After reviewing all the data and test results in the evaluation summary, the team decides if the student is eligible AND qualifies for special education services. ​The student qualifies if they display a disability in one of the 13 categorical disability areas defined by IDEA. Establishing eligibility for services under IDEA is a two-pronged process. The team of qualified professionals and the parent must determine that the student meets both of these criteria in order to be eligible for special education services:

1- The student must be determined to have one (or more) of the 13 disabilities listed in the IDEA.

AND

2 – The student must, as a result of that disability, need special education in order to make progress in school and in order to receive benefit from the general education program.

An educational classification or category is ​ NOT ​ a medical diagnosis. The student has been found to qualify for an educational categorical label based on an evaluation report. Sometimes, students may have an outside medical diagnosis (such as ADHD), but that doesn’t mean they’ll need special education services. The student must show a NEED for these services. On the other hand, a student may not have a medical diagnosis, but still qualify AND need special education services (for example, Autism).

The 13 categorical disability areas

1. Autism

2. Deaf-Blindness

3. Deafness

4. Hearing Impairment

5. Emotional Disturbance

6. Intellectual Disability

7. Multiple Disabilities

8. Orthopedic Impairment

9. Other Health Impairment

10. Specific Learning Disability

11. Speech or Language Impairment

12. Traumatic Brain Injury

13. Visual Impairment (including blindness)

*Why would a school deny or refuse to evaluate a student?

● The school does not SUSPECT a disability and believe there is no evidence of a disability to test for
● The student was recently already evaluated and did not qualify
● The student just started school and needs to adjust more. The team needs to have data to show this isn’t just an adjustment, but a true underlying disability issue.
● The school is providing non-special education interventions, supports, or help and the student is making progress with this support. (ie: RtI, MTSS, Title 1 Reading Math/Reading Corps, extra
help by volunteers or staff instructional coaches, etc.).
● If a student moves in from another State, the guidelines for qualifying may be different.
● A 504 Plan or Health Plan may be able to provide the student what he/she needs instead

A parent can always challenge this as outlined in their Parental Rights information. However, if a parent is refusing the evaluation, the school CAN NOT conduct an INITIAL evaluation without a parent signature.

A RECAP

Remember, an educational classification as one of these 13 disabilities is not the same as a diagnosis.  The school can’t diagnose your child, only a doctor can! This classification is simply a way to describe what interferes with your child’s learning.

Parents shouldn’t avoid asking for help because they fear a stigma.  Special Education services can help your child by “bridging the gap” between them and their peers.  The steps are listed above. Just get started.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Stephanie Mahal recently joined the Miss Jaime OT team. She is an Occupational Therapist who specializes in supporting students in K -8th grade who have physical, neurological, sensory, mental, and emotional conditions that impact their ability to access their education and community.  She has over ten years of experience in both school and medical settings and currently works in the public school district south of the Twins Cities in Minnesota Low Incident Project School-Based OT and PT Community of Practice. She received her Master’s in Occupational Therapy at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and completed her fieldwork at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. Stephanie is honored to serve her students, staff and fellow Occupational Therapists by using her skills, passion for accessibility and inclusiveness, while creating that ‘just right challenge’ to be successful in all areas of life.  When not at work, Stephanie and her husband John, spend their time cheering on her middle-school-aged son and daughter at all their sporting events and activities!

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5 Strategies to Raising a Confident Kid

HOW TO PROMOTE INDEPENDENCE IN YOUR CHILD

I’ve spent years watching kindergarten students acclimate to the classroom. Some students set themselves apart from their peers immediately:

  • they are very verbal
  • they can already read or demonstrate strong foundational literacy skills
  • they have great drawing or writing skills

But then- there are the little kids who have more common sense, can problem solve and are very self-sufficient in the classroom.

Quite often, these students are some of the most successful learners!  

What sets self-sufficient students apart from the rest? 

    • They don’t wait for an adult to help them
    • They are more confident in trying things themselves 
    • They are not afraid to take responsibility for getting a job done
    • They may not have the answer to every academic question but they are the first to volunteer for anything

The benefits of building confidence in a young child

These confident kids know where to find supplies in the classroom.  They make great messengers, and peer buddies for less confident kiddos.   They’re not afraid to take a risk or try something new.

As classroom learners, these are a great skill to possess at a young age.  Independence and confidence will help young kids excel as students.  

START EARLY

Even toddlers love to “help” mom or dad. Let them!  By giving them small jobs at an early age, you are setting them up for a bright future as an independent preschooler.

HOW TO PROMOTE INDEPENDENCE IN YOUR CHILD

Do a little less FOR them.  This will help your child learn to do more on their own.

1.  Give up Control of the Schoolbag: When a child packs his or her own school bag, they know what’s there and what to give to the teacher.  Rather than emptying and filling a child’s folder for them, let them take ownership.  In preschool, they barely have anything in there.  Tell them about the permission slip or notebook so they become responsible to give it to their teacher.  Then let them be in charge of it.  This means wearing it or carrying it, too. *If the backpack is too big for them to do it by themselves, it’s too big! 

“Let’s face it,  it’s faster and easier to do certain things FOR your children.”

But truthfully, you are doing them a disservice.  If you do too much for your child and make everything “easy” for them, you may be creating a more dependent child.   Plus, this makes more work for you!   

2. Resist the Urge to Get Your Kid Dressed:  If a child is able to perform a dressing task, they should be doing it every day!  Life gets hectic, of course.  But try to give your child enough time in the morning to do the parts that they can.  Rushing through the task of getting dressed doesn’t help you in the long run.  Again, it keeps this chore on your never-ending list of morning to-dos!

Think about it:

Aren’t you tired?  Why are you creating a cycle where you are doing more than you need to?  Back off, Momma! It’s ok! 

3. Doing Homework:  If kids can do homework themselves, let them!  Before you explain what to do, ask your child to explain to you, what needs to be done on the page.  This improves their language and thinking skills at the same time.  If they know what to do, let them work independently! If your child needs guidance, only help on the first few questions.  Then back away and let them try on their own. Only give help when it is truly needed.

3. Checking Homework:  Let your kids do the first part of the page on their own and see if they are doing it correctly.  If they need some help, give it but don’t help too much. I don’t want to take away my kids’ thinking time.  Kids need more time than we do to think about the answers.  

If an answer is wrong, don’t tell them the right answer!  This takes away a great problem-solving opportunity.  Instead, say, “look at #3 again” or “read this question over one more time.”  Give your child the chance to decide what was wrong, why it is wrong and how to get the correct answer.  This is where the real thinking, learning, and carry over to other problems happen.  

GET THEM STARTED EARLY. THEY CAN PACK SNACK AS A TODDLER!

4. Lunch box:  Teach your child the best way to pack their own lunch box!  Let them choose their own snack (from approved choices).

They don’t need to make their own lunch yet, just let them learn how to pack it.  This teaches children to be responsible, manage their time in the morning and hopefully make good food choices.  

Plus, it sets them up for the future of making their own lunch, taking yet ANOTHER chore away from you…

ASK THEM INSTEAD OF TELLING THEM

5. Being prepared for preschool:  Rather than saying, today is Tuesday, you need to remember your “Show and Tell”.  Slowly shift the remembering and responsibility to your child. Ask him, What day is it?  What do you need to remember on Tuesdays?  This small change helps your child learn to think and plan ahead.

When you spend your career studying 5-year-olds, these subtle differences are noticeable even in kindergarten!  Sometimes birth order plays a part in this; but not always.  I’ve seen this capable confidence in firstborns, last borns, and only children. 

My belief is that it has more to do with parenting styles than other factors.  

DO LESS, Mom and Dad!

Try to do a little less for your toddler or preschooler so he or she learns to do more on their own.  When children can think and problem-solve, it helps them to be more confident and independent.

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About the Author:

Gloria is a Juggling Teacher and Mother of four, with a primary focus in Special Education, Technology and Early Childhood Education. She has over 30 years of classroom experience and strives to incorporate the SmartBoard, iPad and all available technology into her lessons. Most important of all, she wants her students to have fun while they are learning.

After many wonderful years in the classroom, Gloria is now beginning her second career. Her new activities include working as a Pre-School Educational Technology Teacher and Itinerant Teacher for Special needs students and their families. Gloria also creates products for her TeachersPayTeachers store and writes. Her favorite pastimes include Paddle Boarding, yoga and reading at the beach!

8 Genius Therapist Inspired Toddler Hacks

My New Favorite Parenting Hack Book

Did you register for “What to expect when you’re expecting?”, My mom asked me on the way to my shower.

“No- there’s an app for that!” I told her, laughing.  I knew she wouldn’t get the joke, but I really did have the app.  It’s a pregnancy milestone app that tells you everything you need along the way.   Truthfully, all the books I registered for were for the baby, not me.   I didn’t think I needed it.  I have the internet.

Genius Therapist Inspired Toddler Parenting Hacks

But when my friend Amy gave me a gift on my last day of work, she said, “You’ll love this book- It’s so you.  I know you love a good hack.  I learned a ton from this book, “Parent Hacks, 134 Genius Shortcuts for Life with Kids”.

She was right- this book was right up my ally.  It was filled with short but brilliant “Parenting  Tips”, but any and all of them would be helpful for a therapist or teacher, too. Therapists who travel from school to school to see different children have brilliant kid hacks.  They know how to save space and money better than anyone.

These OT Inspired Hacks are aimed at parents of toddlers, but they’re great for any parent or therapist who works with children. Here are my favorite!

8 Toddler Hacks Every Parent Should Know

  1. Store your puzzles in an accordion folder.  This limits all those pieces from flying all over- especially if you’re a traveling therapist or a parent who prefers toys over electronics.

2. Store your coloring books in a dish drain container – the slots in a dish drain are perfect for separating coloring books- and you can stick your crayons in the utensil spots- Genius!

3. Clean up glitter with play-doh.  YES! Glitter is sooo fun, but what a pain to clean.  Playdoh is a great idea- and who cares if your play-doh gets glittery? That only makes it more fun!

4.  Turn your portable crib into a ball pit.  Wow- one of the things I don’t like about ball pits is that it’s so tough to keep the balls inside- they always end up everywhere.  But the walls of a pack n play are tall- making it so much easier to have all the fun without the mess.  Love it!  This would be a great idea for a therapy room, too.  Another good one?  Use an empty laundry basket!

SIMPLE WAYS TO KEEP SMALL TOYS IN PLACE

5. Contain small parts with a cookie sheet.   I’ve spoken about this one- but it’s worth sharing.  A cookie sheet is FANTASTIC for keeping messes contained, from shaving cream to clay to beads and Legos.  (I also LOVE the EZPZ for this purpose.  Its initial purpose is to keep kids from spilling food off the tray, but it works great for fine motor activities).  The edges keep them from going all over the table, as well as the floor. I always have a cookie sheet in my trunk and my therapy bag.  Plus, they’re only a dollar at the dollar store!

6. Turn an under bed storage box into a sandbox.  I actually like these for any kind of sensory bin.  They’re nice and big, so the child can actually get inside if they want.  But I’ve used them for rice bins, weather-themed bins (fake snow is always a hit), and fake “coffins” at Halloween time! (see my garden dirt recipe here)

PARENTING and THERAPIST ORGANIZATION HACKS

7. Use a wine bottle tote as a car organizer. This hack is great for parents and therapists!  The tall skinny vertical compartments are great for curling up activity booklets, crayons, sensory bottles, etc. I love to use an empty wipes jar as a fine motor and hand strengthening tool, they’d fit in there perfectly!

8. Use a hanging shoe organizer to organize craft supplies.  These shoe “pockets” are great for organizing glue, paint, crayons, coloring books, etc.  Plus, it takes up vertical space, which is perfect for a small therapy room or a child’s playroom.  This would even be a great way to organize the trunk of your car!  Cut the pockets and hang them around the edge of the car- then you can find all the toys you need for each kid!

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Ten Best Apps for Handwriting with Kids

As I walked into school the other day, a friend of mine grabbed me in a panic and said “Should my four-year-old really be practicing a page of letters every night?! This is the only time I get to spend with her and I’m forcing her to write a whole page of D’s! This stinks!”

No, as an OT, I don’t believe that a four-year-old should be practicing a page of letters for twenty minutes a night.  It’s too much for those little hands.

But – an educator who spends two days a week in kindergarten, I have to say, this is where the curriculum is going. Developmentally, preschoolers are still preschoolers, but kindergarten curriculum expectations have increased tremendously.  Little kids are expected to be able to write upon entering kindergarten.  Preschools are bowing to the pressure and teaching what used to be the kindergarten curriculum.

I felt empathetic towards my friend who just wants to play with her little girl at night, rather than drilling her to finish a worksheet.  But here’s what I told her.

Think about it differently.  You have the chance to make sure she learns all her letters correctly before she starts Kindergarten.  There will be other children in her class who don’t know their letters, and the teacher won’t be able to really sit with them one on one to make sure they get it.  Many teachers teach one letter a day in two forms (capital and uppercase), so the kids don’t really develop the motor memory.  It’s difficult for kids to learn it and to write comfortably at this rushed pace.   If a child learns their letters correctly it is so much easier for them to write neatly.  It becomes automatic.”

 

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Time-saving School-Based Occupational Therapy Resources…

It’s HERE!  It’s HERE! The Ultimate Therapy bundle is available this week only….. and then it’s gone!

Are You wasting Precious time when you could be taking shortcuts?

-If you’re sick of spending hours searching for new therapy ideas

-If you’re looking for ideas, tips, and strategies in a quick, easy-to-share format

-If you’re feeling motivated and inspired to up your game in your therapy practice this year…

 

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