Teletherapy for school-based practitioners

 

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, I was flooded with questions from therapists who were suddenly thrust into the world of OT telehealth, also known as teletherapy.  Personally, I had never done it, but I’ve always been interested in learning more about telehealth for school-based practitioners. I had the pleasure of interviewing two school-based occupational therapy practitioners, who happily shared their telehealth tips, tricks, and strategies.

Interview with Lesley Geyer, MA, OTR/L & Kendra Cooper, OTR/L

Getting Started in PT and OT TeletheALTH

What is your number 1 tip for therapists that are new to teletherapy?
  • Don’t expect perfection. We are not in ideal times.
  • Do your best and provide lots of consultation.
  • Find a friend to do a practice session with.
What do therapists need to be concerned about with licensure and state telehealth regulations?
  • You need to be familiar with your particular state’s licensure act and what it says about telehealth. Also, check to see if your state has any telehealth statutes.
  • Keep in mind, OT uses “telehealth” but other disciplines use different terminology.
  • Be sure the student is located in the state where you hold a license during all sessions.
  • Notify your malpractice insurance carrier that you are providing services via telehealth

TelEHEALTH & PRIVACY

When it comes to teletherapy, a huge point of concern is privacy for students. How can therapists who are suddenly thrust into teletherapy comply with privacy rules and regulations? What programs do you recommend for teletherapy?
  • You want to use a program that is HIPAA/FERPA compliant (Zoom and Go to Meeting have versions that are).
  • Skype and Facetime are not.
  • Both student and therapist should be using secure servers. Public servers are not safe options.
  • Both student and therapist should also be in a private room.
Are group sessions allowed in teletherapy? Does that violate FERPA?
  • We do group sessions frequently. Our students are in virtual classes with other students. We explain the group process to parents ahead of time to be sure they are OK with it. We use only first names.
  • You can provide an Informed Consent form for parents to sign. Check your school’s policy and state laws and regulations to assure compliance.

What exactly is considered Telehealth?

Many therapists are providing families with videos or packets of activities. Does teletherapy have to be LIVE in order for it to be considered teletherapy?
  • Teletherapy can be live or Store and Forward where a video is recorded and accessed by the client/family at a later time. It must be a video.   If it’s just packets, we consider it to be a Home Exercise Program. 

Effective planning of teletherapy sessions

What is the best way to plan for our teletherapy sessions and not overwhelm the student’s guardians with (handouts, worksheets, activities, education, etc) with everything else going on?
  • Platforms such as Smart Notebook/Smart Exchange and virtual whiteboards are very helpful, online programs such as Go Noodle have many videos that can be used to base a session around
Do you have any time-saving strategies? Tips to cut back on the planning or the paperwork?
  • You should continue with the same documentation you were required to do when you saw the child on-site.
  • Continue data collection for goals but use caregivers/learning coaches to report and assist with data collection.
  • For time-saving prep short videos, save favorites/websites in Word docs for quick access, save individual or category type of Smart Folders. You can begin an activity and begin again where you last left off in the program.
  • Send handouts such as handwriting worksheets or sensory online links in separate emails so that the family/you have quick access during a session to print out/review resources.
  • Daily computer cleans are simple and can improve your computer’s usage and ensure efficiency.
How do you recommend that therapists send or share videos with families? Large files are too big, should they post the videos? Use a cloud drive?
  • Youtube can be used but be careful not to include any confidential information. You can post a video and make it “unlisted”. When you share the link, parents can view the video, but it’s not public. Screen Caster is a wonderful free easy to use the option to create a video to share.

TELETHERAPY FOR Challenging students

Many therapists are finding their OT and PT treatment sessions very challenging with students who have lower cognitive levels and are non-verbal. Also the students that have decreased attention, are defiant, or have limited mobility. How would a teletherapy session look different than a direct treatment session?
  • Sometimes you have to use more of a consultative model with students and guide the caregiver through therapeutic activities.
  • Work with the caregiver to set-up behavior intervention plans and arrange for rewards for good behavior and work completion.
  • Use what the student has in their own environment as motivators e.g. toys, pets, parent-approved videos, animated rewards, at home reward system
Do you have suggestions for OT or PT treatment activities for these types of students?
  • Not all students are appropriate for PT and OT telehealth sessions and need on-site therapy. At this point, this is not possible.
  • For students where you are determining their functioning level, ensure caregiver presence for safety and be prepared to stop a session if you have any safety concerns.
  • Use Smart Notebook simple tasks like matching activities, clicking with a mouse on large targets or using a student’s on-site toys. Use multimedia items online to aid engagement in the task: interactive programs, annotation tools
What about hands-on treatment or cues? Do you instruct the parent in techniques? How involved is the parent? Or how involved CAN the parent be?
  • It depends on the age and level of the student.
  • For younger children and those with more intense needs, the parent attends the session with the child and assists as directed by the OT.
  • Older students may do their sessions without a parent/learning coach present.
  • There is often lots of parent instruction and consultation that occurs. This includes verbal cues, demonstration of the task first with the parent, and education for Hand Over Hand and fading cueing/assist

OT Telehealth for gross motor skills

What about gross motor activities? Do you do them along with the student? Show pictures of what you want them to do, etc.?
  • Often we model first, then observe and have a learning coach there to help with any hands-on assist that might be needed. They could be done with a child following your lead and doing them together.
  • A wide-angle webcam can be helpful. Videos can be a wonderful addition, music, and activities that work well in small spaces vs. a large gym.
  • Consider using bodyweight exercises and animal walks. Yoga, stop/freeze games, and obstacle courses with at-home items.  Use a visual model with reps and dance videos. Take precautions prior to beginning any gross motor tasks. Have the caregiver move the computer/webcam around the work area to ensure it’s safe, well lit and free of clutter.

TEleTherapy and handwriting

Writing over teletherapy is so different. What are your top tips for addressing handwriting via teletherapy?
  • A separate webcam really helps with this. You can also practice ahead with pulling your screen partway down to show tabletop and then have the caregiver do this to view handwriting work if there is not a webcam available.
  • Also, provide more handwriting space on the table  by pushing the computer back. Often students require a visual model on their own paper vs looking on the screen.
  • Email paper types ahead so you and the student have the exact same page. A plastic sheet protector works very well to allow dry erase marker usage and then can be used repeatedly.
For regular therapy, most therapists provide reward time at the end of their sessions. It helps our students get through challenging tasks and is also motivating. What is something fun and rewarding we can offer to our students at the end of our teletherapy sessions?
  • Allow time to play on a favorite toy or App, parent-approved virtual game/video, or use of virtual reward stickers.
  • Bring your or their pet in to see/share. Work with the family to develop a plan for a reward for good work during a session (a tangible treat the parent supplies)
What are your go-to treatment Ideas for kids who have very limited (if any) tools to use at home for treatment such as scissors, markers, shaving cream, etc.?
  • Bubble wrap, carrying and lifting heavy objects, moving furniture, and animal walks for proprioceptive input.
  • We do a lot of with self-regulation using programs like the Alert Program and Zones of Regulation, maximize online virtual games, trivia, videos.
  • Use supplies in the home consider “home care” types of modalities such as cooking, gardening, making homemade play dough, art and craft projects.
  • See what games or toys the student has, board games can be wonderful, using sports equipment such as child bowling sets, marbles, hula hoops, and ball based games.

 

best tech equipment for OT TElethealth

 Is there any special tech equipment that can help make sessions easier?
  • If your internet connection isn’t great, use an ethernet cable to attach directly to the modem for improved internet connection speed & reliability when using various meeting platforms & programs.
  • Separate webcams (moveable, multi direction for practitioner/student) are a huge help and there are a variety of stand devices you can use with them.
  • A headset improves computer audio output/input, reduces ambient noise
  • A mouse and touch pad help for therapist demonstration
  • Webcam mount: optional aid for webcam for handwriting or table top work, match to your webcam base and set up needs
  • External document camera: optional aid to enhance video for handwriting and closer work
 What do you find to be the most common obstacles for telehealth?

We did a study:

  • Technology
  • Attendance
  • Family communication
  • Dealing with attention problems
  • Dealing with negative behavior
  • Communicating with student
  • Addressing motor and sensory needs
  • Completing evaluations

occupational therapy evaluations and telehealth

Can you complete evaluations virtually?

Yes, but you need to use mainly checklist type tools and questionnaires. The DAY-C, SFA, SP and SPM are easy to use. You may use the Beery VMI but you need to mail booklets to families and they need to mail them back to you. You can use other tools and mention in your report that the tool was used in a non-standardized manner due to the session being virtual.

DON’T FORGET TO SIGN UP FOR YOUR RESOURCES!

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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.

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!)

Continue reading

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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