7 Myths about Mindfulness & Kids

Are you practicing and teaching mindfulness?

Mindfulness programming with children and in schools is becoming a more popular practice. Whether you are a parent, teacher, or therapist, is there anything stopping you from practicing mindfulness yourself or from using it with children?

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the practice of focusing awareness of what is happening in the present moment, accepting thoughts, feelings, sensations, and observations with kindness. Mindfulness is a skill we can develop in order to improve attention and self-regulation.

Many occupational therapists use mindfulness as an intervention tool with students on their caseload. However, occupational therapists can also advocate for universal mindfulness programming in their school/district by educating administration/staff and consulting with teachers on mindfulness implementation.

Below are 7 Myths that may be preventing you or others from implementing mindfulness.

Myth 1 – Mindfulness is just sitting silently.

Meditation is one method of practicing mindfulness, but there are many other components and ways to do so. Explore all types of mindfulness practices to find which ones work best for you! Two examples include:

  • Mindful Movement: Try yoga, tai chi, or simply bringing mindful awareness to walking.
  • Mindful Eating/Tasting: Choose a food or meal and eat very slowly, paying attention to the texture and taste.

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My Favorite Parts of #AOTA19

Last week was a complete whirlwind – whew.   I’m finally getting settled at home,  but I wanted to share my highlights of the American Occupational Therapy Association conference in New Orleans, LA.

  1. Reuniting with old friends from across the country and making new ones!

    Every year, two of my girlfriends from Utica College and I attend the conference together, and it feels like we are right back in college.  This year, I also got to hang out with my friend and fellow OT blogger Colleen Beck (From the OT Toolbox) and two other admins of my USA School Based OTs Looking for Change group (Serena Zeidler and Joan Sauvigne-Kirsch).  We had so much fun and definitely had some major brainstorming over the last few days.  It’s amazing what a bunch of OT brains can come up with!   I also attended the AOTA reception for the Communities of Practice. I’m in the state leadership group, so I had the chance to mingle with all the ladies I work with all year long.

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Why do Occupational Therapists want Educational Credentialing?

You may have heard the buzz about Occupational Therapists advocating for Educational Credentialing. Especially if you work in the education world.

What is Educational Credentialing? 

State Education laws vary from state to state.  But in every single state in the USA (except for four), OTs and PTs are not under the “umbrella” of teachers. They do not have “educational credentials”.

Why not? 

This started in the past.  Way in the past, because OTs and PTs were considered “medical” (like the nurses).  However, educational laws have changed to a more inclusive educational community. This changed how OTs and PTs are employed.

Now, school therapists support children’s academic success.   Unfortunately,  the state education departments haven’t revised their terminology and laws to include OTs and PTs as “educators”.  YET.

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What’s in my Therapy Bag?

 

I’ve been a HUGE organization kick lately. Every month or so I need to clean out my therapy bag. Inevitably, I find things out of order, things I need to change up or replace, and things that are missing pieces , etc.

I once posted a pic of the crazy amount of stuff in my bag and everyone on Facebook went crazy commenting and asking questions. I figured, why not share this “clean out” phase with all of you?

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An “Old O.T.’s” Advice for other “School O.T.s”

Forward from Miss Jaime, O.T.:  When I first graduated from OT school, I got a job working as a contract therapist in a public school.  I had no supervisor, no mentor, and no one to ask questions.

Thank goodness, I ended up placed in a school with such a large caseload that there was also another (more experienced) OT.   She took me under her wing and offered me informal mentorship and much invaluable advice as a colleague and friend.

I left that agency very soon to get a district job, but I am forever grateful to my first mentor, Diane Fine, Occupational Therapy Extraordinaire.  Twenty years later, Diane still works for that agency in that building and has generously offered to share her experiences and advice to new school OTs in the field. Continue reading

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“Cookie Cutter Therapy”- Why it’s OK with me….

The other day I did an autumn arts and crafts project with all of the students on my caseload.

Every. Single. One.

Kindergartners as well as fourth graders.

Very often we hear about the problem of a “cookie cutter therapist”.

Meaning – a therapist that does one thing with every single student regardless of their goals or deficit areas.

A lot of people have a problem with this and so do I – sometimes.

I might sound like I’m contradicting myself because I said I’m OK with doing the same activity with every single student but here’s the thing:

One of an occupational therapist’s best and greatest qualities is creativity and flexibility. Teachers have this gift, too!

Every single child has different goals – so tweak that activity to work for them!

Change it Up!

Here are some ways to tweak this simple fall craft.

  • For really weak fine motor skills, take one piece of tissue paper in each hand. Hold the student’s hands up in the air like a “Y”. Crunch the tissues into little balls without using his other hand or his chin or even his belly to help with the crunching.
  • To work on mid crossing midline; place the paper to the other side of the student’s body.  Put the helping hand on vacation (meaning behind his back). His dominant hand has to crossover in order to glue on the leaves of the tree.
  • My student with weak grip strength had to use a clothespin to pick up each tissue ball and place it on the tree.
  • My student with really poor scissor skills had to cut the tissue before he crunched. He also cut a piece of green construction paper to make grass for the bottom of his picture.

So – if you were a random person standing at the door of my occupational therapy room, you’d see every student come out with a picture of a tree with different colored fall leaves on it.

It might look like I’m doing cookie cutter therapy but I’m not.

It’s ok to re-use an Idea

My point is – give yourself a break! It’s OK to do the same or similar activity with different students.

Just use your creative mind to tweak it to work for that student and the needs of that student.

For teachers, this may mean creating groups of students who will complete the task in a different way. For example, the red table will use clothespins to pick up the leaves and the blue table has to crunch with two hands in the air in the shape of a Y.

Once you give yourself permission to do one activity with all the kids; you’ll see how easy it is to change it up.

Need an AMAZING Activity to do with your kids this week?

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The Hidden Benefits of Flexible Seating

An exciting guest post from 4th-grade teacher, Jennifer O’Brien about the Hidden Benefits of Flexible Seating!

*This post contains affilaite links

Prior to implementing flexible seating in my classroom, I did A LOT of research. A flexible seating transformation is so much more than just buying new furniture. There are rules and expectations that must be clearly communicated to the students to ensure an easy transition. While I prepared myself for this change, I learned about some of the benefits of flexible seating: 

  • Comfort: Students are more comfortable, allowing them to focus for longer periods of time. This leads to higher academic achievement. 
  • Differentiated Seating: Flexible seating is essentially “differentiated” seating. There are many different choices, some options giving children the sensory input that they need.  
  • Improved Behavior: Students are less disruptive and are able to burn off energy throughout the day. 

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The “hidden benefits”

When I made this commitment, I never would’ve thought that I’d see such positive changes (so quickly, too!) within my classroom.  

  • New Friendships

    With flexible seating, students aren’t tied down to one desk or seating arrangement. Throughout the day, they are sitting with different children. I have seen new friendships grow from this and I feel like it has only brought my students, and my class as a whole, closer.   

  •  Collaboration

    Tables replaced the desks that were removed from my classroom during this transformation. I’ll admit- I was nervous that this would lead to a much noisier room, but that did not happen. Instead, I found that there was more productive chatter around the classroom. Tables foster a much more collaborative learning environment. I feel that this has also led to the development of stronger social skills in many of my students. 

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    FREEBIE: Choosing the Right Alternative Seating Option

  • Improved Self-Monitoring Skills

    The purpose of flexible seating is to give students the power of choice. They should be comfortable and ready to learn. This has been one of the more challenging skills to master but it has helped my students develop a necessary awareness throughout the school day. When I ask students to choose a “smart spot”, they know what is expected of them. It has been amazing to see them mature with this concept, understanding what both concentration and productivity should look like. When students feel like they cannot focus or that need to move, they may do so.   

  • Stronger Classroom Management

     Since I was rolling out this transformation mid-year, I knew that my classroom management had to be strong. Clear rules and expectations are critical and must remain consistent. Seeing my students understand the daily routine and take responsibility for their learning has been incredible.  I’ve learned so much through this experience, and I believe it has made me a stronger, more effective teacher.  Stronger classroom management is definitely a hidden benefit of flexible seating!


Interested in learning more about Alternative Seating?  Check out:

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It’s almost Back to School time! Get 50% off the Guide to Alternative Seating for the Classroom until the end of August. Use Promo Code: BTS50


The Hidden Benefits of Flexible Seating

Jennifer O’Brien has a Master’s degree in Literacy from St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue, N.Y.. She is General Education and Special Education certified birth-6th grade. Jennifer has been a public school teacher on Long Island for 3 years. In her spare time, she enjoys creating supplemental resources for her students to use as well as reading and going to the beach!  Check out Jennifer’s Teachers Pay Teachers Store.

 

 

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