Dollar store, stocking stuffers, sensory, fidgets

Dollar Store Stocking Stuffers for your Sensory Kid…

The “little” holiday gifts are sometimes the hardest to think of….

Opening my stocking on Christmas morning was one my favorite parts of the holiday.   My mom always stuffed my stocking with little nail polishes, socks, and other tiny fun things, all individually wrapped. I’m sure she spent a fortune and a ton of time wrapping every little thing, only to the five of us rip through the stockings in less than five minutes.  As we all grew up and moved out, the stocking tradition stopped, which was soooo sad.  Oh well!  Life goes on!

As I ran to the dollar store yesterday to get some tinfoil pans for the ten pounds of mashed potatoes I need to make for Thursday, I was struck by all the awesome Sensory stuff at the Dollar Tree.   In the spirit of the holiday season, I decided to share  some of my Dollar Store know-how for all you moms out there who need to stuff a stocking for your sensory kid!

Some of this stuff is “non-traditional”,  but shouldn’t stockings be individualized to the child?

So if something seems weird but might be something your child loves, go for it.

StressBalls – Tactile and great as a fidget (also great for hand strength)

Koosh balls– Tactile and great as a fidget (some kids are very defensive to Koosh balls for some reason)

Silly Putty – Stretchy and tactile, heavy work for little hands.  (also great for hand strength)

Fake Play-Doh– I say fake because it is imitation play-doh and it’s definitely not as good as the real thing.  However, it is still fun to squeeze, squish and create with.  It just won’t last too long.

Silly String – Tactile- Kind of wet and cold when it squirts; (AMAZING for hand strength – see spray snow) and so fun to play with in the snow!

Shaving Cream – For finger painting, sensory squeeze bags, or the moonsand recipe below, etc.

Body Lotion – For massages, deep pressure and tactile input (can help calm and get little ones to sleep) Dollar Tree has princess lotion!

Hair gel – For finger painting, sensory squeeze bags, etc.

Slime/Gak – These little eggs of goo are usually in the same aisle as the stress balls – they are wet, smelly, slimy, and the containers are hard to  open (need 2 hands and great practice for opening lunch/juice boxes, etc.)

Loofah – Great in the bathtub or out, loofahs can be great for tactile and sensory input

Nail files – This is a tough one to sell for any kid, but a sensory kid really can be defensive when it comes to nail hygiene.  For girls, the promise of glittery nail polish or polish that is “Anna and Elsa’s” favorite color can help persuade them for a little, soak, scrub, and file.  For  boys, sometimes watching mom or dad or an older brother can be a little helpful.  If they really hate getting their nails clipped and or filed, try to do it after a bath and use a buffer instead of a nail file (until they tolerate it).

Velvet color by number– These are fuzzy and fun for kids who enjoy coloring and the tactile feedback helps kids to color within the lines

Scratch Art – These vary by store but the concept is the same, grab your scratcher (with a perfect pencil grasp, of course) and scratch the paper until some fabulous art shows through.  It’s fun.

Chalkboard games – Many of these from the Dollar Store are cheap and don’t last long. But writing with chalk provides a kinesthetic feedback that kids don’t get to experience with dry erase, pencil, writing on a tablet, etc.  It is fun and if used consistently, can really help a child’s motor skills.

Cornstarch – This is a weird one, and your kid may think you’re crazy.

1)  You can use cornstarch to make “oobleck” ( a Dr. Suess favorite – look up the book and here is the link to the recipe)

2) You can make moonsand

Bubblewrap – so, so, fun.  I bring bubble wrap to my classes sometimes when I want to strengthen a pincer or pencil grasp. The weak kids always want to “rip” the plastic with their nails.  Not on my watch!  Get those “pinchers” moving.

Stretchy Bugs, Animals, Creatures, etc. – These are great fidgets for a kid who needs to have something in their hands all the time.

“Fidgets” – I consider mini koosh balls, tops, jacks, mini slinkys, etc. all to be fidgets.  They are small and keep little hands busy when mouths are supposed to be quiet (teacher is talking, waiting in waiting room, sitting in movie theater, etc.)

Grow In Water Pills – I buy these pills a lot when I’m at the Dollar Store – they look like an aspirin, but when they are submerged in hot water, the plastic coating around them starts to melt and then a little sponge in the shape of a bug, dinosaur, etc., pops out for kids to play with.   Because I am always looking for ways to work on hand strength, I put a bunch in a tupperware and then give my students Travel Size Water Bottles  filled with hot water so they can squeeze, squeeze, squeeze until their hands get tired.  I’m so mean, right!?  But they love it and then they get to have water play.  Also, the sponges can be used later for painting activities, etc.   You can do a lot with these little guys – and they are usually 9 pills for a buck – what a bargain!

Grow in Water Animals –  Same concept as above.  But they are bigger and cost $1 each – and they will definitely take up more room in the stocking (that’s always a plus!)

Mechanical pencils -there is something thrilling about replacing the broken lead of a mechanical pencil. That is, the first few times.  After that you start to get annoyed and then think… Maybe I shouldn’t press so hard….If you have a child that presses way too hard when he or she writes, give these a try.  The feedback from the break may be a help with that habit.  If your child is in the second grade or older, I suggest trying to get them to change the lead themselves. Resist the urge to automatically do it for them. Maybe they will be able to do it.

Highlighters – Kids love highlighters.  I think it is because they are mostly a “grown-up” thing.  However, highlighters can be great to help kids with copying, “highlight one line blue, copy it, next line yellow, copy, etc… They can also be great to help outline a shape when your child needs to “cut on the line”. They can help highlight where to write when they need to skip spaces or write smaller. They are even good to make boxes to keep your letters and words spaced properly.

Flashlights – What kid doesn’t love their “own” flashlight?  It may seem like a weird gift, but you can explain that it is their special flashlight to use if the lights ever go out. You can also use it to work on visual tracking and scanning, games like I spy, ( turn the lights off in the living room, “I spy, Daddy!,  I spy, the TV set!, etc.” Your child  has to move the beam of light (aka. tracking) and then settle on the object he is looking for.

Basting Brush – Again, this one is a little weird, but it is basically a plastic paint brush.  The bristles are a different texture for your “multi-sensory” kid and it can be just another tool to have fun and paint with.  Besides, your child doesn’t even know what basting is.

Spray Snow – Spray Snow can provide hours of fun, but obviously your child needs to be chaperoned.  Aerosol cans like these can be dangerous, but I love the position that the little hand needs to take in order to get it to “squirt”.  It is EXTREMELY difficult to hold the cylinder of a can in your thumb, middle, ring and pinky while your index sits on and squeezes the cap.   This one is for older kids (like 8 and up).

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Sensory Processing 101 is a vital resource for parents, therapists, and teachers who work with Sensory Processing difficulties.

Oral Motor

Okay, I am going to include this because so many children have weak oral motor skills and it can impact their speech,  eating habits, and oral hygiene.   That said, your house will be very loud and potentially obnoxious if you stuff your kids’ stockings with these toys.  BUT! in the spirit of the holidays…. it is supposed to be all about the kids, right?  Maybe confiscate the loud ones for “another day” when they can go outside or in the soundproof basement, etc.

Whistles – in the party favor section, there are a lot of different whistles, princess, whistles, hunting “duck” whistles, etc.

Blow toys- not sure what these babies are called exactly, but you have to control your breath so the ball goes up but not too far, etc.  This works on force modulation (if you remember from last week) and breath control.

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Balloons – Kids love balloons and there are a million ways to play with them.  You can put them in their gift and then offer to blow one up and they are likely to play with the balloon longer than your other present.  For older kids, trying to blow up a balloon is a major deal, and something we totally take for granted.   Many dollar stores have them multi-colored bags or one color, which can be fun if you get your child to “help decorate” for the holidays.

Blow outs – these look like the annoying noise makers from New Years Eve, but way bigger.

Novelty straws – Straws are a great way to work on “sucking” and oral motor “strengthening”.  The Dollar Store has fun ones for both boys and girls.

Noise Horns – Again, so annoying but so strangely addicting…

Musical Instruments – On this particular trip to the Dollar Tree, there were a lot of recorders.  Blowing would be work alone, but then you have the eye-hand coordination to try to cover up the holes at the same time.

 

Pin these for Later! 

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What is your favorite Dollar $tore Stocking Stuffer?  Please leave a comment and let us know!

 

Happy Thanksgiving!      ~Miss Jaime, O.T.

 

 

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Getting Your Preschooler Evaluated for Special Education Services

 

Preschool Special Education Services…What does it all mean?

If your child is between the ages of three and five years old and you suspect they may have a delay or a disability, you should contact your school district’s Committee on Preschool Education Department (CPSE).  You can almost always access the contact information on your district’s website.  Smaller districts may combine the preschool and school-age offices into one big Special Education department.  Either way, if you call the Special Education number and tell them you need to speak to someone about your preschool age child, they will direct you to the proper person.

Early Intervention services are different than preschool services. For information about getting your child under three years old evaluated, click here. 

special ed, preschool special ed, CPSE

So then what happens?

If you suspect a delay and wish to have your child evaluated, you need to make a referral to your district CPSE.  A referral can be made by a  parent, a teacher or a professional in your child’s school,  doctors, judicial officers (such as a family court judge or a probation officer) or a designated person in a public agency.  In addition, a referral may also be made by someone from an Early Childhood Direction Center, an approved preschool program or an Early Intervention Program that serves children with disabilities from birth to age three.

A referral is a written statement directed to your school district asking that your child is evaluated to determine if he or she qualifies for special education services.   You should submit the letter to the CPSE chairperson or Special Education Director.  When you write your referral, it is a great idea to include some details about why you are requesting the evaluation.  This will help the committee to make sure they are assessing your child appropriately in the areas that you are concerned about.  Also, include your child’s name and date of birth.

The evaluation process will include various assessments from educational professionals.  Each child is tested according to the Committee’s concerns.  For example, if a parent or teacher voices concerns over the child’s language skills, a speech and language evaluation may be included as part of the child’s evaluation process.   Another child may have strong language skills but very poor motor skills, so that child would be evaluated for occupational or physical therapy, but not speech and language.

special education, CSE, special ed, testing, preschool, getting your child evaluated

As I mentioned before; give some details about why you are concerned.

“My son Johnny has a lot of difficulty running without falling down, he struggles to sit up straight, he appears clumsy and bumps into furniture, etc.”  

“Annie still has a very limited vocabulary and is difficult to understand when she is talking.  My husband and I can understand her, but strangers don’t know what she is saying.”

“Jayden still switches hands when he picks up his scissors or a crayon. He dislikes wearing socks and tantrums if we insist that he uses a spoon instead of his fingers.”

“Matthew’s teacher states that he only likes to play by himself.  He needs constant reminders not to shout indoors.  He has been getting aggressive with his friends, and he hit someone last week when he was upset”  

This will help the committee to make sure they are assessing your child appropriately in the areas that you are concerned about.   After all, you know your child better than we do!

***Miss Jaime OT’s #1 tip – as you begin this process, get in the habit of being very organized. Get a binder or a file folder and keep all of your child’s evaluations, IEP’s and paperwork in one spot.  You won’t regret it!

Next, you will receive a request for your written consent to have your child evaluated.  Make sure you return the papers!  I can’t tell you how many times a parent has complained about the evaluation taking too long when it is simply because the district doesn’t have written consent.   It may seem redundant, but legally the district has to have their “ducks in a row” before they can get started.

The evaluations can take place at your child’s preschool or your home.  Your district will provide you with a list of evaluators or agencies that you can choose from.  I suggest asking your friends for input- did they use an agency that they really like?  If you don’t know anyone whose child has been evaluated, you can ask your CPSE chair for suggestions.


The evaluations will take place at no cost to you.

The evaluations must be comprehensive and will be conducted by a psychologist and other professionals that have specific knowledge about your child’s disability (special education teacher, speech therapist, occupational therapist, etc.)   It will probably take a few sessions to get all of the testing done. In addition, you will be contacted for information regarding your child’s milestones, habits, strengths, weaknesses, etc.  This is called a social history.

The results of the evaluations will be shared with you face to face or by mail.  You will then have a formal CPSE meeting where all of the professionals who worked with your child will go over the results of their testing.  You can bring any additional information or testing to this meeting to add to your child’s case.   The point of this meeting is to get a complete “picture” of your child and to determine if they meet the criteria to qualify for Special Education services.  If you have questions about any of the reports prior to the meeting, feel free to call that evaluator or the CPSE chairperson.  It is only fair that you understand what you are reading. Sometimes the educational reports get very wordy and confusing for someone who isn’t in the field.  It’s Ok, just ask!

 

In order to be eligible to receive services, your child must meet the criteria set forth by the New York State Education Department.  It must be determined that your child has a disability which impacts his ability to learn.  Here are the NY state regulations on determining if a preschooler meets criteria to receive special education services.

http://www.p12.nysed.gov/specialed/publications/preschool/guide/eligibdeter.htm

So all the testing is done… Now what?

 

If the CPSE determines that your child is ineligible for Special Education services, they will explain to you why your child doesn’t qualify and provide you with written notice of this decision.  If you disagree with the recommendations or decisions of the CPSE, you can begin steps to request mediation or an impartial hearing.  Click on the link above for more information regarding mediation.  You can also consider going through your health insurance.  You would need to speak to your family physician as well as your insurance company to see if these services are covered.  A final option would be to pay privately for the services you feel your child needs.  Much like a tutor, a private teacher or therapist would work on your areas of concern at a schedule that is convenient for you.

If the CPSE determines that your child is eligible for Special Education services, the Committee will then take the steps to develop an IEP for your child.  An IEP is an individualized education plan that is developed specifically for your child’s educational needs.  The Committee can consider providing your child with just related services (speech and language or OT) or counseling.  Sometimes a child needs a SEIT Special Education Itinerant Teacher or even a half day program.  Each IEP is designed to address your child’s strengths and weaknesses in the Least Restrictive Environment.  The Committee will discuss the supports, services, and modifications to meet your child’s needs.

Once the IEP is developed, you will receive a written copy which will include the goals that the professionals servicing your child are working toward.  The district will follow a timeline to set up the services for your child in a timely manner so that he or she can begin getting the help they need as soon as possible.

Here is the link to the New York State Special Education Website, which includes more detailed specific information about the process.

http://www.p12.nysed.gov/specialed/publications/preschool/brochure.htm

The process takes a while to learn, but soon you will be an expert!  Consider joining your district’s SEPTA (Special Education Parent Teacher Association) to learn more about the Special Education process and all the supports that are available to you and your child.

Knowledge is power!

Good Luck!

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What to do if you think your baby needs services

You noticed that your baby isn’t able to do some of the things that other children his age can do. 

What do you do now?

Who do you call?

Where do you go?

 

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There are a lot of feelings and worries attached to getting services for your child.  BUT the importance of getting your child the services they need can not be stressed enough!

Here are some tips to help you get started.

The whole process can be overwhelming; but the sooner you get started, the better.  If a child is behind in development and he isn’t getting help, the gap will only get wider.

Early Intervention Services

EARLY INTERVENTION- services for children birth to three years old

Children who are younger than three years old who qualify for services will receive them through the County Department Of Health.  The first thing you should do is contact your county DOH.  Here is the information for Long Island, New York.

SUFFOLK COUNTY

http://www.suffolkcountyny.gov/Departments/HealthServices/ServicesforChildrenwithSpecialNeeds.aspx

Telephone  (631) 853-3100, by fax (631) 853-2310

NASSAU COUNTY  

http://www.nassaucountyny.gov/3899/Early-Intervention

Telephone (516) 227-8661

Look for the early intervention or special education services number on your city or county’s department of health web page.  The process will be the same.

What will happen next?

The County Department of Health will set you up with a  “service coordinator”, who will be your “go-to” person in regards to getting your children’s evaluations set up and services delivered.

If your child has a diagnosed with a disability, she or he will always be eligible for early intervention services. Some children do not have a diagnosis but exhibit delays that cause their parents concern.   Your Service Coordinator will set up a multidisciplinary evaluation to look at all areas of development and help with the development of an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP).


Every child referred to the Early Intervention Program has the right to a free multidisciplinary evaluation. This is sometimes referred to as a “core evaluation”.  Multidisciplinary simply means that more than one professional will be a part of your child’s evaluation. Your child’s evaluation team should have:

  • A professional who can look at your child’s overall development.
  • A professional with special knowledge about your child’s problem. For example, if your child is delayed in sitting up or other motor abilities, an occupational therapist might be on your child’s team.Early Intervention Services

Your initial service coordinator will give you a list of evaluators. You have the right to choose any evaluator from this list.  You can ask your initial service coordinator if you need more information about an evaluator to help you decide what will be best for your child and family.  You can also ask your friends or family if they have used a particular agency or evaluator that they were happy with.   Once you pick an evaluator, either you or the initial service coordinator – with your permission – will call the evaluator and make an appointment for your child and family.

Here’s what happens next:

  1. The evaluators will usually come to your house for the evaluation.  It takes between an hour and an hour and a half.    They will play with your child, look for particular skills within their field, and ask you a lot of questions about your child, their milestones, etc.
  2. The evaluators will contact you (usually within a week or two) to tell you what they found, what they think your child’s strengths and weaknesses are,  and if they qualify for services.
  3. Once it is deemed that your child qualifies for services, your Service Coordinator will help you to set up therapy and/or services for your child.
  4. The team will then develop an IFSP (Individualized  Family Service Plan) which will outline your child’s strengths and weaknesses.  It will also state the goals that your child’s therapists will be working toward, and what methods they will use to achieve these goals.  Your family will have input into the IFSP.
For more information about IFSP’s, go to www.health.ny.gov/publications/0532/steps4-1.htm
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The information was obtained from NYSED, and Suffolk and Nassau County department of health websites.  For more information, check out the links provided.

Getting Early Intervention Services can be overwhelming to start this process but you are not alone!  Good Luck!

~Miss Jaime, O.T.

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Scissors tricks- 5 tips to help your child

cutting, fine motor, scissors skills, OT, MissJaimeOT

Sale starts Monday!

 

5 Tricks to help your  child with cutting

1.   Thumbs up for good cutting!  

Teach your child that  “thumbs up” means “good job”. Then, show them that in order to cut properly, both hands should be “thumbs up” or “thumbs on top”. Most parents don’t realize that their child is”thumbs down” on the hand that holds the paper.

In order to have the best control, both thumbs should be facing up.

scissors, scissors skills, cutting tricks, fine motor

 2.  Elbows in!

Many children use their whole arm when they only need their hands. This is a sign that they are still developing shoulder stability.  You’ll notice that they may stick their elbow out,  instead of keeping it stable by their body. This is a sign that they are compensating for weak upper body strength and stability.  You can help this along by having your child spend more time on their belly when reading or doing puzzles, etc.  In the meantime when they are cutting, remind them “elbows tucked in”.  This will give them better control.

scissors skills

3.  Right side up! 

cutting, scissors, fine motor, scissors skills, cutting tricks

If your child consistently forgets to hold the scissors right side up with their thumb in the little hole, make it fun by drawing a face on their thumb or their thumbnail before they begin cutting.  Tell them that the thumb is the bus driver.  He sits in the front seat (small window)  by himself.  The rest of the fingers are the kids, they sit in the back together.  Most kids like this trick.

If they still have trouble after a few times, you can also try gluing or drawing eyes on the “little hole”.  This way, when your little one picks up the scissors, the eyes are “watching him”.  Hot glue does not last very long on plastic, but that’s ok! Hopefully, by the time the googly eyes fall off, your child will have developed the proper habit.

4. The writing hand is the cutting hand!

Children should have developed their hand dominance by the time they are four.  However, sometimes they may still switch for certain activities.  With scissors, I find that lefties often switch to “righty” to cut because the blades of typical scissors work better when cutting with the right hand. (Most lefty scissors have the blades reversed – who knew!?)  Some parents buy their child a lefty scissors to make it easier.  I highly suggest this!

But they may still switch hands.

If your child is switching hands, encourage them to use their dominant hand.  If you aren’t sure whether they are lefty or righty,  watch which hand they use to pick up their fork, crayon, or a toy.   Place objects in the middle of their body and see which hand they prefer.  Once your child has chosen a hand, encourage that hand for cutting, coloring, and using a fork.   One tip to help them remember is to use a tattoo!  Put a removable tattoo on your child’s dominant hand as a “reminder”.  Kids love tattoos and it’s an easy fix.

cutting, fine motor, scissors skills


 5.  Get those muscles strong! 

One of the reasons that cutting is difficult for children is that they have to separate the two sides (pinky and thumb) of their hand.  This is hard work, and sometimes hard work is NOT fun.  If your little guy gets frustrated with cutting, work on their hand strength with other activities that work the same muscles.  This way, the muscles are getting stronger while your child is having fun doing something “different”.  Here are some simple everyday activities that develop separation of the two sides of the hand:

1) Fill an empty spray bottle with water and let your children spray the plants, the car, the chalk off the driveway!

2) Bring it to the beach or the pool and let your children spray you, themselves, or each other when they get hot!

3)  Same goes for old fashioned (trigger style) water guns.

4) Use your old tweezers to pick up beans, beads, or anything small.

5) Use Spaghetti  Tongs to pick up all the dirty laundry (or anything else) off the floor.

5) Use an old sock to make a sock puppet – draw a mouth and a face so your child practices “opening and shutting” the mouth as he talks.

 

scissors skills, cutting, occupational therapy, fine motor

On sale Monday to Friday!

Hope these simple tricks help you to help your child with the tough task of learning how to cut!  Good Luck!

#functionalskillsforkids, toileting, potty training

~Miss Jaime, O.T.

 

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