10 Pet Peeves of a School-Based OT

Learn 10 pet peeves of a school based Occupational Therapist

10 Pet Peeves of a school-based Occupational Therapist

In the spirit of teaching the general public about OT, I’ve decided to share some of my “O.T. pet peeves”.  The teachers that I work with know me pretty well.  As a true Sagittarius,  I am a very easy going person, but some things drive me nuts! (Yes I believe in that stuff)

My pet peeves are all with good reason, I swear! Over the years, I’ve managed to rub my “O.T. ways” off on many of them.  Here are my pet peeves with explanations:

CUT THE CLUTTER

1) Over decorated classrooms –  A classroom with too much stuff going on can be really distracting for kids with attention issues.  Too much clutter, every wall covered, things hanging from the ceiling, desks covered with pictures and visual cues, etc.  Children who are easily overstimulated get distracted by all of these things.

Teachers wonder why so many kids have such poor attention – maybe all the clutter is what is distracting them?  Also, when children are trying to copy from the board, they need to change the position of their head (as well as their visual gaze) from looking at a vertical surface (board) to a horizontal surface (notebook). Think of all of the visual distractions in the path from the board to the notebook.  No wonder they have difficulty copying!

Check out my video with tips for “copying from the board” here.

This post contains affiliate links.

2)  Gluesticks – The teachers that I work with know that I NEVER want glue sticks if we are working on an art and craft project.  I prefer regular good old Elmers glue!  Why?  I know they can be messy at first, but that’s because children need to learn how hard to squeeze. They need to be able to recognize that the glue cap isn’t open.  They need to use their little hand muscles to squeeze, squeeze, squeeze.  Real glue, please!  Also – need a quick glue cap #OThack for little hands?  Use a Wikki Stix  (aka Bendaroo) on the cap so kids know where to pinch.  It also helps them to hold, so their little fingers don’t slide when they twist.

pet peeves of a school based Occupational Therapist

SENSORY PROCESSING

3)   Too many cushion seats – This one is in a special case.  Generally, if a teacher asks me for a cushion seat, I’m psyched.  I love that they are looking for a strategy to increase a child’s ability to focus.  BUT – when a teacher approaches me and says “I need five seat cushions”, my immediate reply (in my head, of course) is “Um, NO, you need to change your classroom routine.” If that many children are having difficulty sitting still or focusing, the classroom routine should be altered to include lots of brain breaks, heavy work, and changes in position.

A cushion seat should be the exception, not the rule. Kids need to move! 

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Play and attention

Using Play to Increase Attention

#FunctionalSkillsForKids

*This post contains affiliate links

This month’s topic in the  “Functional Skills for Kids” blog hop is PLAY, so check out the landing page for the rest of our posts and information on all things related to play skills!

what is play?

Play is defined as an activity that a person engages in for recreation and enjoyment.   For children, play is crucial to their development and learning. A child’s primary occupation is to play, learn, and socialize  (AOTA, 2015).     As a child plays, they develop the ability to problem solve, learn new skills, and use coordination and motor skills.   (AOTA, 2011).    It is important to remember that children learn best when they play with toys that are geared towards their developmental level  (raisingchildren.net).   Encouraging play with toys that are above your child’s developmental levels can lead to frustration and distraction.  

why is PLAY important for children to learn?

Play is an important component of childhood learning.  It fosters the development of motor skills, teaches children how to use their bodies, and helps children learn about the world around them.    When a child “plays”, it can be a structured game with rules such as kickball, free play (building with blocks), or engaging with a toy or another person.   Although play is perceived as “fun”, it is also a vital part of childhood development.

For example, an infant may “play” by cooing and giggling with mommy.  That baby is developing the ability to make eye contact, socialize, and form a relationship.   A toddler may play with blocks or toy trains.  He is developing the ability to use his two hands together to connect the blocks, visual skills to line them up properly, and imagination to decide what he wants to build.  As he plays on the floor with his train, he is crawling on all fours, using his body to bear weight,  and using eye-hand coordination to keep his train on the track.  A school-age child plays a board game with a friend.  Although socializing and forming a friendship with a peer, he is also learning to follow rules, take turns, and cope with losing/ or learning to be a good sport.

As children grow older, the activities they participate in as “Play” activities change.  So do the benefits and acquired skills of the activity they are engaging in.

When a child’s attention limits his ability to play for extended periods of time, it also interferes with his ability to develop the skills that naturally emerge from playtime.   So, as you can see, PLAY IS VERY IMPORTANT!

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Puzzle Art Therapy

 

 

 

I always say how much I love being an OT. I also love to learn. I’ve been so lucky that  I’m still energized and excited about my profession.

However….. sometimes you need to shake things up a bit.

Last year, I became certified in PuzzleArt Therapy Systems, a form of therapy that combines Perceptual, Oculomotor, Binocular and PuzzleArt Therapy Sensory protocols using hands-on art.   I’ve always been interested in the vision aspect of Occupational Therapy, so I was really eager to learn new ways to incorporate PuzzleArt Therapy into my Occupational Therapy sessions.

PuzzleART2

Professionals learning how to assess visual tracking, convergence, divergence, and accommodation

What is PuzzleArt Therapy?  PuzzleArt Therapy is a program designed to assess and remediate problems with visual motor integration, visual perceptual skills, oculomotor skills, etc.

The course is taught by International  PuzzleArtist Alli Berman and Dr. Susan Fisher, a respected Optometrist in Westbury, NY.  Occupational Therapists Linda Telford and Serena Zeidler also helped to design the materials to give a therapist’s perspective on the program.

If you are an OT, this course is accredited by NYSOTA and NBCOT.  You can get a certification in PuzzleArt Therapy Systems while getting your CEU’s all in one day.

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#Functionalskillsforkids

Combining Handwriting and Play

This post “Combining Handwriting and Play”  is part of a year-long blog hop called Functional Skills for Kids.  Each month, I will be working with other pediatric OTs and PTs to post on different developmental topics that impact functional skills for kids. I’m so honored to be working with some amazing pediatric bloggers to bring you a well-rounded blog hop that will ultimately result in a BOOK!

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Weighted fidget

How to Make a Weighted Fidget

How to Make a Do-It-Yourself Weighted Fidget

I’ve been blogging a lot lately about fidgets and fidgety kids.  Parents and teachers are always looking for a way to keep fidgety kids quiet and focused.  Weighted items like vests or lap pads are commonly used by teachers to help kids who are fidgety, restless, and unfocused.  Fidgets are another common request – they are great for keeping busy fingers quiet while the rest of a child’s body is attending to the lesson at hand.

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Resistance band, Handee band, strengthening games

Easy Classroom Strengthening Games

Strengthening is easy to include at school

One of my favorite exercises to do with both adults and kids is resistance band. There are dozens of ways to use resistance band to improve strength, balance, posture, and coordination. One problem that I often encounter with children is that they can’t figure out where to put their hands during the exercises.  Even if I start them off in the right spot, their hands slip too far down for correct positioning.  So I was thrilled to find the Handee Band, a yellow resistance band with two hand prints in the perfect spot for little hands.

 

Handeeband

The stand-up easel book is easy to flip and utilize for kids, teachers, and parents!

An easy “Brain Break” and it strengthens, too!

I discovered the Handee Band at the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) conference Expo.  I was excited about the hand prints on the band, but I was even more  psyched about the Handee Band booklet with exercises, stickers, and checklist for the kids to check off what exercises they’ve done.  It’s so easy to use and it’s perfect for a quick brain break, warm-up, or transition activity.  Kids love to move, and the Handee Band flip book and resistance band is a fun easy activity that a teacher can use throughout the day.  Teachers often ask me for ideas or materials for kids that “can’t sit” during circle time, etc.  I am definitely adding the Handee Band to my bag of tricks.

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The checklist is dry-erase, making it easy to use to track the whole class or an individual child. Just erase and use again next time!

resistive band exercises, handeeband flip book

Each monster features a different exercise, making it fun and easy to perform each activity.

My mind immediately started spinning about all the games and activities I could create for my classroom push-ins.  In the past, I’ve also created homework programs so that the parents of my kids could work on strengthening and fine motor skills at home.  The parents and the kids have always responded really well. Of course, I started brainstorming right then and there about the homework program I could create with the Handee Band.

This is a sponsored post, which means that I was provided with materials in order to write this post and put all my ideas into play. However, all of the opinions and ideas expressed in this post are mine and mine alone.  For more info, read my disclaimer.

motor homework program, Handee band

The flipbook includes an easy zip-up bag to hold the resistance band and dry erase marker. Easy to store and easy to transport!

 

About the Handee Band:  The Handee Band exercise kit was created by an Occupational Therapist named Francesca Avalli.  The booklet explains 15 different exercises, each with its own cartoon monster.  Each page lists the name of the exercise with simple, easy-to-read directions to ensure that teachers and parents are helping their students to perform the exercises correctly. The booklet is a stand up easel which makes it is easy for kids to flip over the pages.  It also has two checkoff pages in the back, so kids can visually track and match the monsters with the days of the week.  The checkoff and dry erase marker are perfect for keeping track of how many reps of each exercise the child performed.  I also find that when kids are figuring out how to do the exercises with the bands, they are working on their  motor planning skills and their ability to follow directions.

Handee band classroom games

Using the Handee Band for  Classroom Strengthening Games:

The Handee Band exercise kit works great all by itself. It’s easy for a parent, teacher, or therapist to use the book or the E-book.  Extra bands are available for separate purchase  for as little as $5 so that there is enough for each child.  Once I bought the Handee Band, I started using it right away.  However, I am a little crazy that I like to change things up and give the kids “something different” when I push-in.  The stickers in the Handee Band booklet are perfect for creating classroom games and activities.  The Handee Band is also available in 5 or 10 packs, which is perfect for working in groups or with a class.  You can buy extra stickers, too. They’re my favorite! So here are some of the games I  came up with…

The kit includes a flip book with different exercises, a "Handee Band", and a dry erase checkoff sheet and marker.

Get 15% off until May 31st, 2018

Use the Promo Code: MISSJAIMEOT

1) Handee Band Memory 

I love to combine gross motor exercise with visual perceptual skills.  Memory is a classic game that can be played individually or with a small group.  I  decided to create a “Handee Band” Memory game using the Handee Band Monster stickers.  Each Monster has a Character name under his picture.  I decided to adapt the game by having one version with the picture of the monster on one card  and the name of the character on the other card.  This was perfect for my 3rd grade self contained class.  I made a simpler, more classic version for my self contained Kindergarten class.  Both versions were a hit! And, after I played the game with the kids a few times, they grew familiar with which exercise each Monster represented.  I was able to leave the game and the Handee Bands for the teachers to use as a warm up or a sensory break.

Classroom strengthening OT

Instructions:  Like the classic memory game, with a twist.  A child attempts to find two cards that match.  When any child in the group makes a match, ALL the children do the exercise that Monster represents. After the class does a set of ten, the kids get back to the next turn.

2) Handee Band Dice

Handee band dice game

My students love to play gross motor games using dice. I’ve adapted these dice from the Dollar Tree for other gross motor games in the past. So I thought, “Why not Handee Band Dice?”  Again, I used the stickers to create a simple easy game to play during class Occupational Therapy sessions.  The kids had a blast!  I was able to leave the Dice game for the teacher to use with the kids as a reward, as a sensory break, or as a quick warm up.

Instructions:  The children stand at their desks or in a circle on the rug, each with their own Handee Band.  One child picks a die and rolls it.  Whatever “Monster” the die lands on, everyone does a set of ten for that exercise.

3) Handee Band Spinner   

Handee Band Spinner

Every kid loves a Spinner!  Flicking a spinner is hard work; requiring separation of the two sides of the hand (pinky side  and  thumb side), motor planning, and dexterity.  But even when a child can’t flick a spinner, they can still swipe or hit it.  For this game, the children take turns flicking the spinner. When the spinner lands on a certain monster, the kids grab their Handee Bands and do that exercise ten times.  As the children grow stronger, the repetitions can be increased.

The rules are simple:  The children take turns flicking the spinner. Whatever “monster” the spinner lands on, the whole class does that exercise.  Then the next kid gets a turn.

4) Handee Band Class Checkoff

Handeeband checkoff, OT homework

This magnetic dry erase board is perfect to stick right on the teacher’s desk!

I loved the Dry Erase Checklist in the back of the book so much that I decided to create a larger “class wide” version for the kids to use during the Handee Band classroom games.  I used the stickers to copy the chart in the back. Again, the checklists require visual tracking and matching skills, so the kids are working on visual perception as they keep track of their progress.  I just used a plain dry erase board .  I arranged the stickers on the board and made lines so that it could serve as a Class chart.

Resistive band, Handee band homework, OT chart

My favorite thing about the chart is that the kids can use it to track the number of exercises they did. It also works on math skills, because the kids need to add by ten each time they do another rep.  In a pinch or a rush, the teacher can keep track on the board while the kids keep working.  Either way, my students love having a “chart” to represent how hard they’ve worked.  When I made the chart, I made the lines with a sharpie (permanent marker), but I wrote the initials of my kids in dry erase.  This way, I can use it over and over for years to come!

handeeband, resistive exercises for kids

The E-Book comes with a downloadable checklist, perfect for keeping track of hard work!

15% off UNtil MAY 31st, 2018!

Use the Promo Code: MISSJAIMEOT

Using the Handee Band for a Homework Program:

Resistive exercise band

Kids love to show off to their parents and caregivers, but they love to show off to their friends even more!  Once the kids understand how to do each exercise, the Handee Band Kit is perfect to send home as “OT Homework”.  I have put together homework programs for my classes before in an effort to ensure carry-over into my student’s homes.  Most parents love an easy fun way to help their children grow stronger.  The Handee Band Exercise Kit is the perfect lightweight homework that kids can take turns bringing home.  OT’s and teachers can make an “O.T. Homework Chart” to keep track of whose turn it is to take the Handee Band Kit home.  My kids love to come in in the morning and put their sticker next to their name to show that they did their “O.T. Homework”.  I always include a letter to the parents explaining why the students have “O.T. homework”  and why carry-over is an important part of progress.

Strengthening Homework! What a great idea!

Handeeband homework

HandeeBand

Get 15% off until May 31st with the promo code: MISSJAIMEOT

Handee Band: Resistive Band Exercises for Kids *The Handee Band kit and E-Book are available for purchase at www.HandeeBand.com.    You can also purchase individual or class packs of the bands and extra stickers.  It’s perfect for home or the classroom!

Get 15% off till May 31st, 2018!

Use the Promo Code: MISSJAIMEOT


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communication, therapists, schools

How to Improve Communication From Your Kid’s School Therapist

Communication: the key to success!

Since it’s the beginning of the school year, I’ve decided to share my best advice for improving communication with your child’s therapist. Parents sometimes feel helpless because they don’t know what their child is doing in OT, PT, or Speech.   You can’t be with your child all day long, so you don’t know if they had therapy that day, if it was cancelled, if he/she did a great job, etc.  If your child is non-verbal it’s even more of a mystery.

 

Communicate from the beginning!

My best advice for starting the year off right is to communicate with the therapist.  I like for parents to send in a notebook so I can write a short blurb about what we worked on.  I like to give handouts for suggestions at home and let them know how their child is progressing.

 

However, some therapists don’t like notebooks.  For example, my sister-in-law is a speech therapist. She sees children in groups of five. That means that at the “end” of her session, she would need to write in 5 different books.  With 7 therapy periods a day, that would be 35 notebooks a day. Now, what is more important? Writing in the books or working with the kids? You can guess the answer.

 

For me, I see children individually or in a group of two. So it only takes a few minutes to jot down what we worked on and how the child did.  I have some parents who write me back or put a checkmark every time I write.  Then I have a few others who don’t do anything.  Now I don’t know if they read my note  or even saw it.  Did the book even go home? After a few of these, I have to be honest: I am less motivated to write in that book. Because 1) why bother if you are not reading it and 2) it takes time away from your child.

Communication Notebooks don’t always work

Sometimes parents send in a book and then they get annoyed when the therapist doesn’t write in it. Here is my advice for that:

1)  Write to them first.  Tell them you want to communicate and would love feedback about how your child is doing.  You would love suggestions for home, etc.

2) If it’s been a few weeks and you haven’t heard from your therapist, write a note to the teacher.  Maybe the book is lost or maybe your child sticks it in his desk instead of his backpack.

Sometimes the schedule (the therapist’s or the child’s) interferes with writing in the book, too.  In Long Island, most districts do not have their own OT’s and PT’s.  So the therapists are from contract agencies, working in multiple buildings and even multiple districts in one day.  This means that sometimes they eat lunch in their car in between schools.  Life is chaotic.

Anyway, my point is that a day in a therapist’s life is often rushed and scheduled down to the very minute.  So is your child’s.  They have to fit your child’s OT or PT session around lunch, literacy block, other therapies, resource room and specials.  This means they may pick up your child straight from music and then bring them right down to lunch. Maybe they go straight off the bus to the OT room and then the class picks them up on the way to art. The child isn’t in their classroom and therefore they couldn’t grab their notebook.

Communication: Don’t believe what you hear!

Then there is also this scenario:

Mom: “What did you do in OT today?”

Johnny: “We colored”.

The OT: “Johnny colored in a color-by number sheet to work on visual perceptual skills and matching while laying on his belly to increase upper extremity strength and stability.  He is working to increase his endurance for writing.”

Mom: “What did you do in OT today?”
Johnny: “We played games!”

The OT: “We’ve been working on visual perceptual skills and fine motor skills. Johnny has trouble tracking from left to right when copying from the board.  We played “Battleship” because it works on all of those skills at once. We also played it laying our bellies to improve Johnny’s shoulder stability.”

See the difference?  Kids work hard to sit it school all day, so OT and PT are a great chance for them to move and “have fun”.   So most therapists try to work on their therapy goals while incorporating movement and fun for the child.  To the outsider it looks like all fun and games.  But there is some hard work going on.

Your therapist isn’t going to tell your child all the things they are really working on. So your child won’t tell you.

Communication is KEY to progress and carryover.  Your child’s therapist wants them to succeed and so do you.  If the notebook doesn’t work, ask if you can email. Some districts don’t want teachers to email, so if that’s the case ask for monthly updates or a phone call once in a while.  Keep in mind that your child’s therapist may have between 20-60 other kids on their caseload.

Do you have any tips for communicating with your therapists? Please share!

Miss Jaime OT

Have a great year! ~Miss Jaime, OT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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