Naked Walls

Tabula Rasa

The blank slate.
That’s the look we’re going for on the first day of school.
While many teachers work frantically to cover the walls of the classrooms before the school year begins, much of their effort is in vain. Children often never notice the colorful posters, let alone the instructive advice. It’s stimulus overload.
Proactive therapists can help teachers avoid the pressures to become interior designers. Instead, suggest that nothing be displayed until the information contained therein is properly introduced to the students and understood.
Then, with the children’s full attention and at their direction, hang each display one at a time over the course of weeks and months. A little to the right. A little higher or lower. Getting the kids involved in these decorative placement decisions builds their investment in the materials and the chance that they might actually access them when they needed.
Looking out for your teachers pays off in dividends. Who knows… one day you may have an informational poster of your own that you’d like your students to reference.

Centennial Vision

So proud to be an Occupational Therapist in 2016.

As we enter a new year, it is thrilling to see how our profession and colleagues are all striving to achieve the CENTENNIAL VISION. Consider this:

We envision that OT is a powerful…

More and more, OT services are recognized for their early and continued emphasis on function and participation, and its holistic appreciation of the mind-body-environmental-cultural-societal interconnectedness

widely recognized…

(See below.)

science-driven…

Yes, we are informed by the neurosciences, our knowledge of development, physiology, physics, behavior and psychology,

evidence-based…

We are increasingly deferring to research to guide our clinical decisions.

and diverse workforce…

Look around you. OTs and OTAs today, in your schools, your local OT organizations and AOTA. Our therapists come from the broadest of backgrounds and bring unique insightful perspectives.

meeting society’s occupational needs.

Occupational needs? How does that apply to us therapists working within the educational system?

First, recognize that our society is the school system and our population is the children within them.

As far as their occupational needs, they are threefold. We are charged with helping children:

  1. Reach their educational potential
  2. Access their grade level curriculum
  3. Fully participate in the school environment

But there is that one clause, “widely recognized” that still eludes us. While consumers are increasingly pursuing Occupational Therapy services as the holistic solution to their complex needs, other providers are closing in on our domain.

Please, my friends. Do not be complacent and think that our Centennial Vision will realize itself. It is important that we protect this marvelous profession before others claim ownership of Activities of Daily Living, Leisure and related functional activities.

It is already happening.

Learn more from your state organization. Join your state organization. Attend AOTA’s national convention. We are a marvelous supportive and generous group. Let’s not become an irrelevant profession simply because someone else seized an opportunity to write into their licensure bill practice domains that have historically, empirically and conceptually been ours.

And let’s have a happy, healthy, productive, and widely recognized New Year, everyone.

Personal Exercise Charts

Savon's Exercise Chart

Shpilkas, n. [shpeal-kuz] (Yid. obs) shpeilkas, the state of constant movement; restlessness.

  1. A condition marked by an inability to sit or stand still.
  2. A source of endless exasperation to parents and teachers.
  3. A colorfully linguistic equivalent of more common psycho-educational

terms– hyperactive, sensory-seeking, impulsive, high strung.

While he always looked like he had to go the bathroom, it was determined that what Noah really had was shpilkas.

The treatment? More. More movement. More resistance. More repetitions. More variety. More intensity.

Personal Exercise Charts not only give children the outlet they need, they empower them to take responsibility, exert control and gain insight into their behavior. Assure the kids who may have previously gotten in trouble for being in perpetual motion, “You’re OK. You’re just a kid with a lot of energy. Let’s find a way to get rid of some of the extra energy that may be interfering with your work.”

Then, with the teacher’s knowledge and permission, hang the chart in a pre-designated spot and get ready to demonstrate the first rotation of exercises alongside them. First, note the month and date in the appropriate box. After each routine, have the child place a tally mark next to the corresponding exercise. If one series isn’t enough to satiate the child’s needs, do the entire cycle again.

Teachers may subtly suggest a round of exercises before any lesson, prolonged sitting period, group activity, etc., especially those that have been challenging in the past. Encourage children to advocate for themselves if they feel like they need a break. Once children recognize how ‘their own engines run,’ they begin making huge leaps toward regulating them. When that happens, heap on the praise.

Personal Exercise Charts should be checked and updated regularly. Increase the repetitions and vary the exercises.

Oh… and have fun.

Life After Video Games

Yes, there is more to life than that which ends at the tips of one’s thumbs.

Many kids today only know how to entertain themselves in front of a colorful monitor. Don’t get me wrong. I actually don’t have a problem with handheld interactive video games… to a point. It’s all about moderation. But unless kids are turned onto the options, they’re likely to continue ramping up their ‘engine levels’ through endless thumb work.

And sometimes, what they really need, is to learn how to ramp it down.

Want an alternative that can be done for hours, is productive, relaxing and positive?

Hope you’re sitting. You’re not going to believe this. It sounds too ‘Little House on the Prairie’-like to be true.

It’s crafts. Yep. I’m talking needles and yarn, loops and looms, beads and string, leather and lace.

The amazing thing is that kids don’t know how much they’ll like it until they do it. Especially those rhythmical ones whose repetitive motions lull the mind and body into a Zen state.

It’s been my experience that once kids are turned onto crafts, they invariably ask to do them again and again. They even like taking them out to the playground, working on them during recess and continuing on the weekend. From kindergartners to high school, hyperactive students to impulsive ones, those emotionally disconnected to others riddled with anxiety disorders. It’s a winning alternative for all.

Stay tuned for some easy, affordable and proven ideas.

Singin’ and Dancin’

Clearly, I’m not getting any awards for song writing. But this is the sound bite that the kids, teachers and I repeat over and over again. It’s memorable. It’s short and sweet. And it brings home the concepts like nobody’s business.

It’s THE RULES for Letter Size, and the one for Size One letters goes like this:

First, the hand motions. Poke the sky at eye level when you say ‘Top Line.’ Poke the sky at chest level when you say ‘Bottom Line.’ Then, imagine yourself twirling one finger skyward with the word ‘higher’ and spiraling downward with the word ‘lower.’ Lastly, conjure up your best hula dance as you flutter you arms in front of you… floating out to sea.

And a one, and a two, and one, two, three….

Size One Letters

They have to touch the Top Line.

They have to touch the Bottom Line.

They can’t go higher.

They can’t go lower.

And they can’t float in the middle.

Yes. I know what you’re going to say. Don’t quit your day job.

But you’ve never seen me dance!

Realistic, Fiscally Responsible and Embeddable Handwriting Program

0001q3The beauty in having a handwriting program that doesn’t rely on a set instructional time and/or a workbook for every grade for every student for every year is economy. It’s economy of cost, of time and of energy.

The Size Matters Handwriting Program was born of the realities facing all of us school-based Occupational Therapists.

There is no time.

There is no money.

And teachers are truly struggling to cover all the content needed to secure proficient scores on all the mandated state and national tests.

Unfortunately, research shows that handwriting is not a self-evident skill. It needs to be taught and it needs to be practiced. But practice in a vacuum is itself meaningless.

For there to be follow-through by teachers and carryover by students, the principles germane to legibility need to be do-able within the context of the already pressing academic schedules.

With a concept-driven approach to teaching and remediating handwriting, our mission to promote function and participation is exponentially easier. The Key Concepts are simple. The Rules are memorable. The Dice Game is fun. The materials are reusable. The Scoring is empowering.

The teachers who have always said that they believe in handwriting instruction but couldn’t figure out how to fit it into their day will say to you, “I can do this.”

This is not rocket science. But it is a new and different way of reaching the end goal. And it works.

More to come.

We’ve got some singing and dancing in our future!!

Copying Rubric

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Data. Data. Data.

It never ends.

But how does one collect quantitative data on copying? Try this easy rubric.

In the Copying Rubric, the qualities that define accuracy in copying are divided into 4 areas: Distance, Distractions, Visual Cues and Chunking.

distance refers to the placement of the prompt with regards to the location of the writing paper.   In a Direct Line Copy, the writing prompt is placed directly on the paper onto which the student will be writing. A near point sample at the edge of his/her desk, midpoint a 3-5 or 5-8 feet away still at midline and finally far point is at the far side of the room.

DISTRACTIONS refers to any other visual information nearby. This progresses from no visual information nearby, to slightly more but unrelated writing, to that in which the text to be copied is embedded in a larger whole.

VISUAL CUES refers to the presentation of the written prompt and the availability of other visual cues (i.e. a desktop alphabet strip or an Alphatrangle. If the prompt is written on the lined paper similar to that on which the student will be writing,, or if a near point reference is available, the student may be able to reference Letter Sizes and attention to the Writing Lines.

Chunking refers to the number of letters or words copied at a time. To observe this skill, therapists should sit perpendicularly to the student, observing their gaze shift to the copying prompt and back to the paper. Note the amount of letters or words written before needing to look back to the prompt.

When using the Copying Rubric, circle the answers in each column that best describes the student’s performance. For chunking skills, record the number of times the student copies 1-5 letters or 1-5 words at a time. How do you track that? Keep reading. Scooping is next!

Slant desks

Sometimes it seems like our furniture was designed to appease the janitorial staff.

After all, the desktops are hard laminates that can be easily scoured with heavy-duty cleansers and the silhouette has become ideal only for those concerned with efficient stacking.

But if you harken back to school days of yore, you’ll recall a soft wood finish in which initials could be carved and the gently sloped slant desks that insure a comfortable reading and writing surface.

Ah… to live in the ‘60’s again.

While there is certainly a lot to be said for progress, the changes made in classroom furnishings has created a less than ideal work set-up.

Let’s start with the angle of the desk itself.

A work surface parallel to the floor is, by its very nature, perpendicular to the child’s seated body. That means that the visual process of regarding papers and books requires the length of focus to shift anywhere from 18” to 8” from the nose when reading (or writing) a page from top to bottom. That’s tricky. At the farthest point, it’s like looking at the horizon. The print appears smaller and less precise. It’s the reason most kids don’t utilize the alphabet strips on the ends of the desk… if they even notice they’re there!

An inexpensive solution to making slant desks?

Enter—the trusty screwdriver! Raise the far legs of the desk a notch. Maybe even lower the legs abutting the child’s body a notch. Just be careful not to overdue it or the contents will fall out.

Creating a slight slant to the desktops will help your students with reading, copying, writing, posture and overall attention.

Conferences

Bev is scheduled for numerous conferences during the upcoming year. Be sure to follow our social media for the latest updates. Take a look at each of our courses offered below. To register, click a “Register” link below. Then select your state and scroll through the offerings until you find our course.

Practical Strategies Course

Practical Strategies to Increase the Effectiveness, Efficiency and Impact of your School-Based Occupational Therapy Practice

Dates (2015) Locations Register
November 16 Wichita, KS Register
November 17 Oklahoma City, OK Register
November 18 Sacramento, CA Register
November 19 San Jose, CA Register
November 20 Honolulu, HI Register
Dates (2016) Locations Register
January 19 Manchester, NH Register
January 20 Pittsburgh, PA Register
January 21 Minneapolis, MN Register
January 22 Sioux Falls, SD Register
February 22 Chicago North, IL Register
February 23 Peoria, IL Register
February 24 St. Louis, MO Register
February 25 Kansas City, MO Register
February 26 Denver, CO Register

 

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Bureau of Education and Research

The Bureau of Education and Research is currently listing my course, “Practical Strategies for Improving the Effectiveness, Efficiency and Impact of Your School-Based Occupational Therapy Practice.” If you contact them, I’m happy to coordinate a full-day seminar at your school district or practice. Click to see the listing, or view my instructor’s page.

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Time-Saving Strategies Course

Timesaving Strategies to Integrate Your OT Interventions into Classrooms: Accelerate the Success of Your School-Based OT Practice

Dates (2015) Locations Register
December 16 Syracuse, NY Register
December 17 Long Island, NY Register
Dates (2016) Locations Register
January 7 New Brunswick, NJ Register
January 8 Harrisburg, PA Register