Monday, January 30, 2012

Adapted Paper for Math

Difficulty aligning numbers when completing math assignments is one of the most common handwriting related problems I see when working in the schools. Today I'd like to share some adaptations that I've used successfully with students.

I found a great website that allows you to make your own graph paper for free! It definitely takes some playing around with the dimensions to get the squares the size you want, but it is worth it in the end. I've created small, medium, and large graph paper.

The small is about the same as standard graph paper you can buy at the store. I don't use the small one very often, because it is too small for most students. I use the medium size the most, although the large is good for younger students.

The dimensions I used for each:
Small Graph Paper:                Medium Graph Paper:                 Large Graph Paper:
minimum border: 0.50"           minimum border: 0.50"                minimum border: 0.50"
grid line weight: 0.50 points   grid line weight: 0.50 points         grid line weight: 0.50 points
spacing: 4 lines per inch        spacing: 3 lines per inch              spacing: 2 lines per inch

Here's the medium graph paper in action:
I also used the inverted graph paper option to create this paper:

This paper can be helpful for young students who are just beginning to complete written math assignments.

The dimensions for this paper:
minimum border: 0.5"
grid line weight: 15.00 points
grid spacing: 1 line per inch
color: blue (and then I printed on a black ink printer to get the gray color seen above)

Another option is to use RediSpace Transitional Notebook Paper by Mead. This paper was created by an occupational therapist and helps with spacing between words. It can also be used for math.
Here's a picture of the cover of the notebook, which provides an example of how to use the paper for math.

And here's a picture of the paper being used for math.

I like using the Redispace paper because it looks similar to standard notebook paper, which is often important to students, because they don't want to look different from their peers.

Last, but not least, here's an old standby. Turn standard notebook paper sideways and use the columns to align the numbers. The only downside to this technique is that it does not provide a baseline, which some students need. I often see teachers encouraging their entire class to use their paper in this way to complete math assignments. By having the entire class do math assignments in this way, it does not single out the students who need special paper to keep the numbers lined up.

What strategies do you use to help students line up numbers when completing math assignments?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Friday Features

With National Handwriting Day on Monday, handwriting news and blog posts were everywhere this week.

~Handwriting in the 21st Century? An Educational Summit was held in Washington, DC on Monday to discuss the importance of handwriting instruction. Click here for a summary of the summit and be sure to check back for an upcoming white paper summarizing the research, as well as recommended handwriting standards to supplement Common Core State Standards to be posted on the Handwriting in the 21st Century? website.

~Jen Dermody, OTR/L, of Jen's OT for Kids, celebrated the day with her students by having them write handwritten notes (in their very best writing) to special people around the school. Such a cute idea! You can check it out here.

~Sari Ockner, OTR/L wrote a great post, Pencil Picks for Sensory Kids. This post gives a great overview of the different types of pencils that might work for students with sensory processing challenges.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

How to make a weighted glove

Despite my mom's best intentions and efforts, I do not know how to sew. I came up with a no-sew way to make a weighted glove. The glove I used was too large for the student I had in mind, so it didn't work out as well as I had hoped, but I thought I'd share it anyway.

The idea behind a weighted glove is similar to a weighted pencil. A weighted glove can provide additional sensory input to the hand for children who need the extra input to be more aware of the position of their hand. I don't often use weighted gloves because they are expensive and lack research to support their use, but every now and then I get a challenging student that I'm willing to try just about anything.

What you'll need:

  • velcro
  • some washers
  • a mitten/glove (I found these at Target. I love that it has a button to hold the flap part back and what little boy doesn't want a Lightning McQueen glove?)

First, attach the velcro to the inside of the flap, so you can close the flap tightly.

Then, place the desired amount of washers inside the flap.

Close the flap, cut off the thumb, and now you have a weighted glove!

Like I said, the glove was too large for the student I had in mind, so I can't really report on the effectiveness of using this weighted glove. An older student spotted the glove and wanted to try it out, so here it is in action:
This is still a work in progress for me. If you try to make one, I'd recommend placing something (maybe tissue paper) inside the flap prior to putting the washers in. That will place the weight closer to the fingers (but not on top of the knuckles). 

Have you used a weighted glove with any of your students? If so, did you find it beneficial?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Happy Birthday, John Hancock!

In honor of John Hancock's birthday, today is National Handwriting Day!

Last week, I used the Handwriting Without Tears National Handwriting Day paper with some of my students. In this era of computers and technology, I was trying to help my students reflect on why being able to write is important. Here's what one student came up with:
What are you doing to celebrate National Handwriting Day?

P.S. To check out National Handwriting Day in the news, click here and here.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Check out my therapy store!

Click here to check out my occupational therapy store on Amazon! It contains games and activities to promote fine motor development, my favorite handwriting supplies, and activities for preschoolers working on developing scissor skills and pre-writing skills. It is a bit of a wish list for school OTs and early elementary teachers (if only school budgets allowed for such dreams :). I hope you find the store to be a useful resource.

I plan to add more categories in the future to include infant and toddler development, feeding and eating supplies, and sensory activities. Please let me know if there are any other areas of development that you would like to see me include.

Disclosure: I am a member of the Amazon Affiliates Program. If you purchase an item on Amazon after clicking on my page, I will receive a small percentage of the price of the item. This does not affect the price you pay. I plan to use the proceeds I receive to donate to charity or to purchase therapy equipment for families in need of assistance.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Friday Features

~New blog alert! Check out A Stroke of OT to follow Bea, an occupational therapist, on her journey of raising her son, who had a stroke on the day of his birth. 

~Next Monday, January 23, 2012 is National Handwriting Day. Check out the Handwriting Without Tears website for ideas on how to incorporate National Handwriting Day into your classroom. In addition, Handwriting Without Tears is hosting a contest to win a free license to their interactive Digital Teaching Tools. What are you doing to celebrate National Handwriting Day?

~February 25, 2012 will be OT Global Day of Service. This is a day for occupational therapy practitioners and students to participate in volunteer activities. For more information and ideas on how you can participate, check out the Promoting Occupational Therapy website. Slack Incorporated will be making a donation to UNICEF. This donation is tied to participation, so be sure to register your day of service.

~Thank you to Lindsey Biel, OTR (from Raising a Sensory Smart Child) for bringing this amazing young woman to my attention. Anastasia Somoza is a 27 year from New York, who just happens to have cerebral palsy. She received a scholarship to pursue a masters degree in human rights at the London School of Economics. Due to her cerebral palsy, she is not able to live alone and needs funding for an aide to assist her in London while she pursues her studies. To learn more or to donate to her cause, click here

~The National Fragile X Foundation unveiled their new website this week. This is a great resource for families and anyone who works with someone with Fragile X. Be sure to check it out!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Shaving Cream Snowman

This is a simple winter activity involving tactile sensory exploration and body awareness. 
Use shaving cream paint (see recipe below) to make a snowman on construction paper and then add body parts (cut out of colored paper). When the snowman dries, it will feel puffy!

The child who made this snowman didn't mind getting messy, but remember to offer a paintbrush, Q-tip, sponge or other tool for your more sensitive kids.

Recipe for Shaving Cream Paint:

  • Mix equal parts of shaving cream and glue
  • Use a paintbrush or hands to paint
  • Shaving cream paint will be puffy when it dries
  • Optional: add a drop or two of food coloring (I like to add red to make pink hearts for Valentine's Day)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Debut Performance of the British Paraorchestra

Check out this amazing TED Talk from TEDxBrussels featuring Charles Hazlewood and the British Paraorchestra.

Charles Hazlewood, whose five year old daughter has cerebral palsy, founded the British Paraorchestra for musicians with disabilities to have a platform to perform. For more information, read this article from the London Evening Standard, or check out Charles Hazlewood's website.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Scissor Skills Snowflakes

This is a fun activity using coffee filters or cupcake liners to create snowflakes. Not only does this work on scissor skills, it also works on motor planning, visual motor skills, and bilateral coordination.

First, flatten the coffee filter.

Then, fold the coffee filter in half.

And keep folding in half.

I drew lines for the student to cut.

Cut on the lines.

And now you have a snowflake, like this one.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday Features

Happy Friday the 13th! Webinars seem to be popping up everywhere this week.

~The next Handwriting Without Tears webinar will take place on January 31 at 8:00pm EST. I have viewed webinars by Handwriting Without Tears in the past and the content is always great. I'm sure this timely webinar, Response to Intervention - The Link to Handwriting Instruction and Intervention, will be great as well!

~Thanks to Your Therapy Source, I came across Head Start Body Start National Center for Physical Development and Outdoor Play. Not only is their website full of useful information, they also offer free webinars! The next webinar (Including Preschoolers with Special Needs in Active Play) will take place on February 7 at 1:00PM EST. If you can't make it at that time, past webinars are archived on their website for viewing at your convenience.

~Friends of PediaStaff can receive a discount on a webinar on selective mutism. Parenting a Child with Selective Mutism will be on Friday, March 2. It is a three hour webinar for only $30 with the discount and you will receive .3 AOTA CEUs!

In non-webinar news:
~Heidi Nejezchleb Tringali is a pediatric occupational therapist who was interviewed about OT. Check out the 20 Questions interview for a very informative overview of pediatric OT, as well as advice for OT students. 

~I discovered a new OT blog this week, Child's Play OT. This blogger has a 2012 challenge to blog daily about turning everyday objects into fun therapeutic activities. Be sure to check it out! Child's Play OT looks like it will be full of useful therapy ideas!

~I spotted OT students, Houman Ziai and Josh Springer in the December 19 issue of OT Practice. They are driven by AOTA's Centennial Vision and are striving to make OT a more widely recognized, diverse and powerful profession. Through the brOT Movement, their goal is to reach out to males who are undecided about a career path and educate them about OT as a career option. They plan to get into the full swing after the AOTA Conference, so be sure to check back in late spring to follow their progress! 

~Heidi Kay from PediaStaff wrote a guest post over at Love That Max titled Great sites for therapy ideas for kids with special needs. This list contained many of my favorite blogs, as well as some great new ones, so be sure to check it out!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Tactile Winter Scene

I spotted this cute winter scene in a classroom I was visiting this week. I get some of my best inspiration from creative teachers and classroom aides! I love that this incorporates fine motor skills (squeezing a hole punch to make snow, pinching and gluing), as well as tactile experiences (glue, cotton balls, pom-poms, shredded wax paper).

Monday, January 9, 2012

Sensory Friendly Films

AMC Theaters have teamed up with the Autism Society to show sensory friendly films. These showings have no previews, so they get right to the movie. Best of all, they have the lights turned up, the sound turned down, and movie-goers are invited to get up and move around during the showing!

Check out the AMC website for more information and a listing of participating theaters. My local theater is not on the list, but I know that they recently started participating in the program. If you don't see your local theater on the list, first call to see if they are participating. If they are not yet participating, the AMC website contains a contact to request a sensory friendly film in your area. A parent in my area recently did this and the first showing was such a hit that we now have regular showings of sensory friendly films!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Friday Features

I am going to try to do a post every Friday to share highlights from the week that I think are worth checking out. Here's my roundup for this first week of 2012:

~The blogging world is full of fresh starts and New Year resolutions. Stephanie Bruno, MS, CCC-SLP has a high-five list for the workplace and Your Therapy Source has a list of suggested goals for 2012.  

~The Occupational Therapy Association of California has started OT Leaders that Shine, as a public awareness initiative to support OTAC's Vision Statement and AOTA's Centennial Vision by encouraging OTs to connect and share volunteer experiences on their blog.

~Readers of Jen's OT for Kids can receive 50% off Zaner-Bloser Fonts Online Plus.   
~I  received a postcard in the mail this week about early identification of neuromuscular disorders. Portions of the website appear to be under construction, but it looks promising.

~The December 19th issue of OT Practice featured an article Introducing...the Journal Club Toolkit by William E. Janes and Lizabeth Metzger. The Journal Club Toolkit described in the article is now available on AOTA's website.

~As an Iowa native, I always keep an eye on the caucus news. I was especially impressed with nine year old Sam Wessels, an individual with autism, questioning each candidate about their position on helping children with special needs.

~Thanks to Your Therapy Source for finding these free webinars on Sensory Integration. The next one will take place on January 12.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Just One Thing

In light of the new year, which is often full of fresh starts and resolutions to make changes for the better, I'd like to share some inspiration I received at the AOTA Autism West Conference in December.

During the expert panel discussion, Dr. Winnie Dunn challenged all practitioners to change just one thing in their current practice of OT. She broke it down further by encouraging us to make just one change with one client. Dr. Dunn was confident that if we made one change with one client, it would soon transfer to other clients, and would then just become the way we practice occupational therapy. If each occupational therapist changed just one thing, it would have a rippling effect throughout the profession of occupational therapy, not to mention in the lives of the clients we serve.

I took Dr. Dunn's challenge to heart. For my "one thing", I decided that during the evaluation process, I would like to ALWAYS ask parents what they see as their child's strengths. I can hear you now, "what do you mean, you're not already doing that?"  My former OT professors are probably saying "didn't we teach you ANYTHING, Abby?"

I'm willing to admit that I'm not perfect (here on the web for all to see), and in the rush to adequately assess a child's abilities, discuss all of the parent concerns (which is often a list about a mile long), and explain the evaluation process to parents, I sometimes forget to clearly and directly ask parents what they see as their child's strengths. I now make it a point to do so, and most parents respond quickly and easily, but some parents act surprised and stumble a little, as though they've never been asked the question before. This has definitely been a positive change that really only takes about a minute and gives me a much better picture of the children and families I am serving.

To start off 2012, I challenge all occupational therapists out there to change just one thing, with just one client.

What is your one thing you plan to change?

New Year, New Name

Happy New Year, everyone! I've decided to start this new year out by slightly changing the name of my blog. I started my blog last fall as a place to keep track of fun therapy activities, share news and resources relating to pediatric OT, and to connect with other occupational therapists. I don't claim to know everything there is to know about pediatric OT, so I feel Notes from a Pediatric Occupational Therapist is more fitting. I'll try it out for a bit and I can always change it again :)

Thank you to all of the readers and followers for your support. My blog has received more traffic and feedback than I ever anticipated (thanks to people pinning away on Pinterest, which, by the way, activating my Pinterest account is on my to do list for this year!). I hope you continue to find something interesting or useful (or both!) in my blog. As always, feel free to contact me at AbbyPediatricOT [at] gmail [dot] com anytime with questions, comments, topics you'd like to see me blog about, random thoughts, or whatever else is on your mind!

Happy New Year!

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