Tuesday, February 26, 2013

TED Talk Tuesday: The birth of a word

Last week I had the opportunity to tour the MIT Media Lab, where I was truly amazed by the creativity,  talent, and big ideas coming out of such a small place.

One researcher whose work caught my eye is Deb Roy and his study of language development. He recorded every moment of his son's language development for his first three years of life. Based on his TED Talk, he seems to be applying his research to media and language, but I would love to see him use all of this rich data to dive into how language develops in babies. I'm not an expert on language, but it seems like he should have a good amount of data to analyze the progression of sound development, which could be incredibly helpful to therapists working with children with speech delays.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Parent's Perspective - JJ's Journey

Lori and Jeremy being interviewed on NBC. Scroll to the bottom for the full interview.

Today I am pleased to share Lori Ciccarelli's perspective with you. Lori is mother to Jeremy Brooks, a 23 year old young man with Autism Spectrum Disorder, who will be graduating college this year with a bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design with a concentration in Illustration and a minor in Writing.
Jeremy was inducted into an international honor society for college students with special needs.

Lori is a regular contributor to Special-Ism, a website dedicated to addressing the varied challenges within the "invisible" special needs community. Lori also created a documentary, JJ's Journey: A Journey About Autism, to share the struggles she and Jeremy have faced, as well as how they overcame many challenges. Lori is currently earning a master’s degree in Leadership and a certification in Spiritual Leadership. She would like to pursue a doctorate in Hospital Chaplaincy. Lori holds an appointed seat on the Board of Directors for the California State Council on Developmental Disabilities.

Our life in four words:

Determined. Thrive. Hopeful. Advocacy.

Four qualities I look for in a therapist:

  1. Compassion: The number one quality I look for in therapists is that they can put themselves in my son’s shoes and try to understand his perspective.
  2. Creative: It’s important that therapists go outside the box setting up their clients for success which may include non-traditional learning techniques as not everyone learns traditionally.
  3. Experience: Because my son was diagnosed with autism a couple of decades ago, there was not much information or experienced professionals in this field. We have been the pioneers for so many situations. It’s wonderful when we can connect with therapists that already have experience with Social Cognitive Deficit Disorders.
  4. Passion / drive: When a therapist is burned out or doesn’t want to work with special needs children, it is obvious and it leaks all over the place. Our kids must sense that the professionals working with them really do care and want what is best for them to thrive.

Three resources I can’t live without:

  • Michelle Garcia Winner’s Social Behavior Map – a tool to help my son take the perspective of others. Typically those on the spectrum are challenged with going outside of themselves to understand the perspective of others. This tool makes it more concrete and not only helped my son connect with others, but also helped with reading comprehension placing him in the character’s shoes. I have derived Winner’s tool to use in leadership workshops when I teach on elevating Emotional Intelligence as it is all about social competence.
  • The Incredible 5-point Scale by Buron and Curtis. This tool is like magic!! For those on the spectrum with low impulse control, to self regulate can be a challenge. This tool helped to make self regulating very concrete with a plan in place to help when emotions start to flare up. I also use this tool when teaching leaders on how to enhance Emotional Intelligence.
  • God: I am a very spiritual person. There are so many challenges that come with raising a child with special needs. God gives me strengthen. Over the years, I prayed for patience, perseverance, compassion, and unconditional love. God wasn’t going to just hand over those qualities instead He provided opportunities for me to grow by blessing me with a special needs’ child. I am not the same person I was 25 years ago.
Jeremy participating in therapeutic horseback riding.

A few words of advice for parents raising a child on the autism spectrum:

  • Remember, you are your child’s best advocate. You need to stay involved with the educational team. Remember, you have rights and so does your child. Your child has the right to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). Make sure the school is meeting the goals and objectives on the IEP. I had to call the State’s Department of Education, Special Ed a couple of times due to frustration and they reminded me that my IEP was a legal document should I need to take action.
  • Be resourceful. It is unfortunate that the school districts will not inform you of all the resources available to your child because of budgets. Connect with parents that have gone this route for resources available.

Two words of advice for parents of a child newly diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder:

Persevere. Don’t give up. There is hope. I was in denial for many years. Once I accepted my son’s diagnosis, doors started opening because I started opening those doors. When I finally realized my son didn’t need a cure and focused on tools for success, he then started to soar!! I was the obstacle in the way because I spent time looking for a cure. We are proud of who he is and how far he has come.
Jeremy, age 4.

One dream for my child:

Happiness and acceptance. The hardest part of this journey has been the bullying and the intolerance of others. I would like for my son to find his “peeps.” Everyone wants to belong and fit. I pray that he stays strong and proud of his uniqueness while finding a network of true sincere friends.
Jeremy didn't enjoy Disneyland until he was 17 years old because of experiencing sensory overload.

What I do to rest and recharge:

I love to be outside in nature walking, hiking, meditating and praying. Letting the cares of the world go!

Lori, thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your journey today! Readers, please be sure to visit Lori's website at www.autismjourney.net and to follow her posts on the Special-Ism blog. You can also follow Lori on Facebook and Twitter. Don't forget to check out this article featuring Jeremy at college.

Jeremy and Lori's television interview: 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Shelby's Quest App Review {+ giveaway!!}

Shelby's Quest is an engaging pre-writing app that was developed by occupational therapist, Kami Bible, OTR/L, to give children a fun way to practice fine motor and visual perceptual skills. In Shelby's Quest, the child helps guide Shelby the dog on a journey through the forest, while developing pre-writing skills.

Shelby's Quest consists of three different quests, with each one focusing on a different skill:

    In the first quest, the child helps Skip the Salmon find his family. This quest develops visual motor skills by dragging Skip through the stream, while staying within the boundaries.

    The second quest develops a pinching motion while helping Samantha the Squirrel place her acorns in the correct bins. This also helps develop basic sorting skills.

    In the third quest, a stylus or finger can be used to trace shapes while helping Maurice the Moose find the trail.

    *Each quest contains three levels, which get progressively more challenging.

    In addition, you can easily collect data on multiple students.

    How I use Shelby's Quest in therapy:

    With handwriting and pre-writing apps, I like to focus on transferring the skills developed on the iPad to paper. With Shelby's Quest, I do this by printing out a screenshots of some of the quests, placing the sheets in page protectors, and then having the student complete the quest using a dry erase marker (or you can use my favorite, Crayola Dry Erase Crayons). 

    I also use the screenshot printouts as a way to incorporate multisensory learning. Here I used colored sand, but you could use shaving cream, gel, rice, playdough, etc. 

    **If you're going to use screenshots in this way, I would recommend printing them in color for better contrast and using a lighter colored sand.  

    What I like about this app: 

    • Fun and engaging
    • Cute graphics
    • Developmentally appropriate progression of pre-writing skills
    • Good voice over directions
    • Can track student progress, including multiple students
    • Admin account is very easy to create 
    • Easy to use  


    Best for ages:

    Children who are developing pre-writing skills, typically between 3-5 years of age, although it would be beneficial for children of any age who are working on developing pre-writing skills.

    Bottom line:

    This is a great app for parents, teachers, and therapists alike. Shelby the dog is cute and engaging for children, and the progression of skills is great for developing pre-writing skills in young children. These skills can then be transferred to functional pre-writing tasks on paper.

    For a demo, see the video below:

    App information:

    Name of App: Shelby's Quest
    Publisher: Doodle Therapy Apps
    Compatible with: iPad. Requires iOS 5.1 or later.
    Price: $4.99 available for purchase from the iTunes App Store.

    App information was correct at the time of publication of this review, but is subject to change,especially compatibility and price, so please confirm prior to downloading.

    How to enter the giveaway: For a chance to win a copy of Shelby's Quest, all you need to do is leave a comment below telling me how you would use the app. All comments must be received by 11:59 PM EST on February 28. A random number generator will be used to select the winner. The winner will be announced on March 1 and will have one week to respond to claim the prize. If you leave a way for me to contact you (email, Twitter handle, blog url) in your comment I will contact you directly. If the winner does not respond within one week, a new winner will be chosen.

    Disclaimer: This app was received via a promo code provided by the Shelby's Quest app developer. However, all opinions expressed are entirely my own. This post also contains affiliate links,

    Tuesday, February 12, 2013

    Ted Talk Tuesday: "The power of introverts"

    Last Thursday, on the eve of the big snowstorm, rather than going out and gathering last minute supplies, I went down to my local bookstore for an author event. And I'm so glad that I did. The author was Susan Cain and she was discussing her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. You may remember that this book is on my reading list and today I'd like to share Susan Cain's Ted Talk, The power of introverts.

    A few things to think about as you watch this talk:

    • Where do you think you fall on the introvert/extrovert spectrum?
    • How does this affect how you interact with your children or students?
    • Do you think students should be graded on participation?
    • What can we do to make our schools and workplaces more welcoming to both introverts and extroverts? 
    • What's in your suitcase?

    "I wish you the best of all possible journeys and the courage to speak softly." -Susan Cain

    Sunday, February 10, 2013

    Yarn Heart Ornament

    Looking for a simple, last minute Valentine's Day craft? I've got you covered. These heart ornaments can be made with a few simple supplies that you probably have laying around your house.

    Supplies needed:

    • cardboard
    • yarn 
    • scissors
    • hole punch


    • Cut a heart shape out of cardboard (I did this step for my students)
    • Cut small notches around the edge of the heart (I had some of my students do this step themselves - cutting through cardboard is great for increasing hand strength)
    • Punch a hole near the top of the heart
    • Lace yard around the heart, pulling it tight into the notches
    • Continue until you're satisfied with the design you've created
    • Lace a loop of yarn through the hole and tie
    • Hang the heart and enjoy!

    Skills addressed:

    • bilateral coordination
    • fine motor dexterity
    • eye hand coordination
    ** For an extra challenge, make a sample heart ornament, and then have your child try to make the same design on her cardboard heart. I tried this with one of my students and it is very challenging. It was a good test of frustration tolerance for both of us :-)

    February: Currently

    digging out from the snowstorm that hit New England over the weekend.

    thankful to have had power throughout it all.

    voting for Kate of Chasing Rainbows in the Parents Magazine Blog Awards. You might remember Kate from her feature in my Parent's Perspective series. Kate writes from the heart and will have you reaching for the tissues (in a good way!). She's nominated in the "most likely to have you reaching for a box of tissues" category and after you visit her blog, you will understand why.

    loving this blog post by Christopher Alterio. Very well said and a must read for any parent of a child who receives therapy.

    also loving this blog post! Blogging takes so. much. time. Thank you Katie for sharing what it takes! And for doing what it takes!

    planning some fun posts for OT Month. April will be here before we know it!

    Wednesday, February 6, 2013

    Paperclip hearts

    I'm always looking for fun ways to teach functional classroom skills, like using paperclips. Simply paper-clipping a stack of papers together is not all that fun or interesting, so I had one of my students create letter hearts to work on spelling words. This makes studying spelling words more fun, too!

    Supplies needed:

    • colored paper
    • scissors
    • marker
    • paperclips


    • Have the student cut small hearts out of colored paper.
    • Label the hearts with letters that can be used to spell student's spelling words.
    • Read a spelling word to the student.
    • The student must locate the hearts with the letters needed to spell the word and then paperclip the hearts to a piece of paper.

    Skills addressed:

    • bilateral coordination
    • fine motor dexterity
    • eye hand coordination 
    • visual discrimination
    • scissor skills
    • spelling

    Tuesday, February 5, 2013

    TED Talk Tuesday: "What I've learned from my autistic brothers"

    Today I'd like to share Faith Jegede's TED Talk, What I've learned from my autistic brothers.

    This touching talk will show you that autistic means extraordinary, while encouraging you to live a life beyond what is perceived as normal. This TED Talk is a quickie and will only take about five minutes to watch.

    What are the extraordinary traits autism has shown you in your life?

    "You don't have to be normal. You can be extraordinary." -Faith Jegede

    Monday, February 4, 2013

    I'm loving...

    I recently stopped into a little store in my neighborhood that sells fun and quirky gifts, toys, paper products, and home decor items. While I was there I restrained myself and did not buy everything in sight, but I did manage to come up with an OT wishlist :)

    Kido Go Car

    Kid O Go Car
    I've seen these cars in action and I love how they are easy to grasp for children with motor impairments, such as cerebral palsy.

    Kid O Cutting Fruit

    Kid O Cutting Fruit
    Play food is great for exposing children (especially selective eaters) to food. I like that these are held together with magnets and kids can use a plastic knife to cut the fruit into slices.

    From the makers of Bananagrams, this game is kind of like dominoes with letters. While I was researching it, I also discovered Pairsinpears, which also follows the theme of using letter pieces to create words. Any of these could be adapted into a creative way to work on handwriting skills (and maybe even visual perceptual skills, too!).

    A-z Animal Place Mat Coloring Pad
    A-Z Place Mat Coloring Pad
    Okay, this is pricey for what is essentially just a coloring book, but I liked the pictures and how much fine motor control and fine motor precision could be worked on with these pictures.

    About Face Card Game Activity 
    About Face
    This game looks like a fun way to work on body parts (at least parts of the face) while encouraging categorization and language development at the same time.

    *This post contains affiliate links, but I highly encourage you to shop locally whenever possible. Support small businesses!

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