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

The best visual perception toys for children

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

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

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

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

Hammer and nail toy

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

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

On sale for $24.99!

“Shape by shape” toy

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

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

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

Getting Your Child Special Education Services

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“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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For the Hardworking Therapists Who Work With Children with Special Needs

therapist guilt, fine motor skills, primitive reflexes

I’m sure you’ve heard of Mom guilt, Daughter Guilt, and Irish Guilt, but have you ever heard of Therapist Guilt?

I may have invented it…

You’ve probably read letters and blog posts written toward the parents of children with special needs; talking about how strong they are and how hard they work to help their children.

It’s true.  But many of those selfless parents still have “The Guilts”.

WHAT ARE “THE GUILTS”?

When you have “the guilts”,  there is always something you feel guilty about.   It could be about not having a spic-n-span house, not being able to go to loud family events, or losing your patience with a child with special needs.  The guilt is always there.

It’s often there for therapists, too.

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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 affiliate 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. 

flexible seating, alternative seating, The Hidden Benefits of Flexible Seating

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. 

  • 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!



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.

 

 

How to Determine the Frequency and Duration of School-based Occupational Therapy Services


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Free Informational Posters – Click here!

“I just don’t know what to do!”

The Occupational Therapist was upset and frustrated.  Her desk was covered in papers, folders, and notebooks.   She ran her fingers through her unkempt hair and sighed.  I understood. I’d been there, too.

“This child’s OT scores are really low, but the teacher doesn’t see any functional difficulties in the classroom.  I can’t recommend OT if there’s nothing functional to work on!”

Occupational Therapists and Committees on Special Education (CSEs) are often in a dilemma when it comes to determining the amount of services to recommend for a child.

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Understanding Your Child’s Annual Review Test Scores

Learn more about Sensory Processing in this FREE webinar!

Annual review time can be stressful for parents and teachers.

Unfortunately, sometimes the child simply doesn’t qualify for what a parent is asking for.  It’s very important to understand your child’s test scores and to know the special education process.

Understanding Your Child’s Standardized Test Scores

The district will only provide special education services to a child who is significantly behind his peers. A child who is “Below Average” is NOT significantly delayed.

Parents are often unhappy with “Below Average” or “Low Average”, but those terms are still within the Average range.

First, a child meets eligibility criteria to be classified as a child who needs specialized instruction in order to access their curriculum. Then, the Committee on Special Education or the Committee on Preschool Special Education will classify that child into one of 13 different categories.  They will develop an IEP  (Individualized Education Program).

The classification DOES NOT determine the level of services a child will receive. For example, a classification of Autism does not automatically mean the child will receive more services.

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