Friday, August 29, 2014

A Few Things

I hope you all have fun plans for this Labor Day Weekend! Here are a few things that I think are worth sharing (you'll notice I still have a back to school theme going here):

These free schedule cards from Your Therapy Source are awesome. If I was working in schools this year, I would definitely use these to help teachers remember when I'd be seeing their students.

This grid paper looks great for working on letter size with students.

Great tips for parents to reach out to their child's IEP team.

Back to school time can be especially challenging for selective eaters. Here are some tips for helping hesitant eaters eat at school.

Books can be extremely helpful for kids to understand their feelings. Know a kid that is worried about the new school year? Here's a list of picture books about worrying.

This free app looks awesome!

Friday, August 22, 2014

A Few Things

Happy Friday! Here are a few things I came across this week that I think are worth sharing:

These tips from Mama OT for OTs new to school-based practice is so thorough and so amazing. If you are new to schools this year, check it out!

Love all the creative ways Natalie uses a yoga mat in therapy sessions.

Some back to school must-haves from an occupational therapist (including see-through sticky notes!).

These free downloadable handouts from AOTA for Backpack Awareness Day events are awesome! This makes me want to have a bag weigh-in!

Use this "shade wisely" freebie from Your Therapy Source to work on grading pencil pressure. Great back to school worksheet!

Seven questions to ask parents at the beginning of the school year (thanks PediaStaff!)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Workplace Wednesday | Facebook groups

A few weeks ago I told a parent that her homework for the week was to quit Facebook. She was falling into the comparison trap, and while I half-joking, I was definitely half-serious. I think Facebook distorts reality and causes all of us to compare our everyday life to all of the best moments that everyone else chooses to share. For parents of children with special needs, these comparisons are only magnified.

So what was the mom's response? "I've seriously thought about it, but the groups are so good."

Which got me to thinking. Facebook groups can be a wealth of information, as well as a way to connect to others in a similar situation. I imagine this is especially helpful for parents who have children with rare conditions, and who might not meet anyone locally who is in the same boat as them. That's one way Facebook (and social media in general) can be awesome.

Are you a member of any Facebook groups? Lately, I seem to only check Facebook to see what's going on in the groups I'm in. In my non-OT life, I've joined Facebook groups for a local running club and a group for my family (where we can share photos and stories without sharing with every person we've ever met).

In the therapy world, these are the Facebook groups that I belong to:

Therapy Bloggers: This is a closed group for physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech therapists who have blogs. While I already followed many of these bloggers blogs, it's been a great way to connect.
Early Intervention Occupational Therapists: This is a closed group for occupational therapists practicing in early intervention. The field of early intervention can feel a bit isolated at times, so this is a great way to connect with others.
Pediatric Occupational Therapists: This is a closed group open to all pediatric occupational therapists. This is a very large group and while I don't actively participate in this one as much, I do check it for information and resources periodically.

A word of caution when using Facebook groups: even though these are "closed groups" there is no way to really make sure that only therapists are members of the groups, so always be careful with the kind of questions you are putting out there. For more sensitive or controversial topics, I recommend using the members-only forums on AOTA's OT Connections.

Are you a member of any Facebook groups? What are your thoughts on Facebook? Do you think these social media groups are good for connecting with others? Or do they just make you feel overwhelmed?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

In My Therapy Bag | Christie from Mama OT

Today I am so excited to welcome Christie from Mama OT to share one of the must-have items in her therapy bag. If you are a reader of Christie's blog, then you already know that she is full of great (and affordable!) ideas for therapy supplies. With the new school year upon us, today Christie is sharing something that's in her therapy bag as she moves from school to school.

What’s in My Therapy Bag?

School-based occupational therapists often have to cart around therapy materials from school to school, so it’s important to have access to versatile, lightweight materials that can be used to work on a variety of skills. That’s why I love keeping ping pong balls in my therapy bag!

I have used ping pong balls with students from Kindergarten all the way to sixth grade to work on fine motor, visual motor, oculomotor, and attention/regulation skills.

Here are three examples of how you can use ping pong balls in OT treatment:

1. Have the child hold the ping pong ball with their thumb and index finger while making an “O” shape. Then have them maintain that “O” position as they pinch their fingertips together to make the ping pong ball go flying! This is excellent strengthening practice for kids with decreased strength in the thumb and/or web space between the thumb and index finger and can be really difficult at first. Once the student is able to maintain the “O” shape while pinching and launching the ping pong ball, then they can start trying to aim as they pinch the ball so it either drops or bounces into a small bowl (which is another supply I keep with me in my therapy bag). Have a contest with your student to see how many balls you can get into the bowl…it’s actually pretty tricky!

2. Write a few letters all around the ping pong ball in permanent marker. Have the student hold the ball with their fingertips (maintaining an open web space and flexion in the fingers, and only the tips of all five fingers) and then rotate the ball to find a targeted letter with their thumb. For example, tell the student, “Find the F with your thumb.” You may even have to have them sit on their other hand so they aren’t tempted to use it to turn the ball! This is a challenge for the intrinsic hand muscles and for overall dexterity. You can have different types of letters written on different ping pong balls (such as “Frog Jump” letters, “Diver” letters, commonly reversed letters, letters with diagonal strokes, capital cursive letters, etc.). You can use this activity as a fine motor warm-up prior to actually working on handwriting during your session.

3. Place a ping pong ball on the table and have the student blow through a straw until the ball rolls off the table. The combination of blowing through a straw while coordinating the eyes to focus at midline is helpful for practicing convergence and visual tracking, both of which are needed for reading, writing, and copying. The physical act of taking a deep breath and then blowing out through the straw for multiple repetitions is also helpful for increasing attention and regulation. Just make sure they take nice slow, long breaths so they actually do have the intended effect. We don’t want anyone hyperventilating! You can vary this activity by having the student rest their chin on the table so they really have to track with their eyes instead of moving their head around to follow the ball, having them blow the ball in the direction of your hands so you can “catch” the ball, or having them blow the ball through a maze (a similar activity has been featured with a pom pom here, though with a ping pong ball I’ve found it’s best to use a maze with raised boundaries such as Jenga blocks or Wikki Stix).

Stop by the dollar store and pick up a pack of ping pong balls for your OT treatment sessions.

And if you’re looking for more ideas of what to keep in your therapy bag or box, check out my post with 60+ therapy supplies for school-based OTs. It even includes MORE ideas for how to use ping pong balls, too!

Connect with Mama OT

Be sure to check out all of the other great posts in this series to find out what must-have items therapists have in their therapy bags and maybe even pick up a new idea or two. Do you have an item in your therapy bag that you'd like to share? I'd love for you to share it in an upcoming post! Just send me an email, AbbyPediatricOT {at} gmail {dot} com for more information. Open to all therapists! You don't have to be a blogger to participate!

Friday, August 15, 2014

A Few Things

Happy Friday, everyone! Here are a few things I've come across that I think are worth sharing.

AOTA has updated their list of apps. Check out the Children & Youth list here (AOTA member log-in required). The list now includes a section on executive functioning! Yay! Now I have even more apps to check out! (App list for all practice areas can be accessed here - again, AOTA member log-in required).

Therapy bloggers are filled with back to school tips right now. Here are a few of my favorites:

A bunch of therapy bloggers also held a blog hop all about tummy time this week. Did you miss it? Check out Mama OT's tips for using a therapy ball to make tummy time easier (and click on the links to all of the other blogs, too!)

Finally, in light of Robin Williams death this week, what we shouldn't say when we discuss suicide.

Friday, August 8, 2014

A Few Things

Is anyone else wondering where July went? As summer continues to fly by, here are a few things I think are worth sharing.

AOTA is gearing up for 2014 Capitol Hill Day. Want to participate? Sign up here.

Summer winding down means the new school year is right around the corner. And that means it will be time to manage your workload for the school year. AOTA recently collaborated with APTA and ASHA to create a document about adopting a workload approach, rather than a caseload approach.

NPR Ed is running a series of stories this week on Playing to Learn. Occupational therapists have long understood the benefits of play, and in recent years have been advocating for play to be valued in our fast-paced high-tech world. I'm a little bummed that OT isn't mentioned in any of these stories, but they are still good and definitely worth a read (or a listen).

This last one is not related to OT at all, it just made me feel nostalgic and I wanted to share it with you. Here's a fun fact about me. Long before I was an occupational therapist, my first job was delivering papers on a paper route. In a small town in Iowa. Just like this boy. What was your first job?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

In My Therapy Bag | Cindy from Your Kids OT

Today I am happy to have Cindy from Your Kids OT here to share what's in her therapy bag. Cindy is a pediatric occupational therapist joining us from Sydney, Australia! I especially enjoyed her submission, because I like to have an arsenal of paper choices for students when I'm working on handwriting. When it comes to handwriting, the paper that works for one child doesn't always work for another. Read on to check out the Earth Paper that Cindy has created to help kids with letter sizing. 

What's in my therapy bag?

Earth paper is a series of coloured scaffold lines for writing to assist with letter sizing. This includes earth (brown), grass (green), and the sky (blue). I usually use earth paper when introducing letter sizes and reinforcing starting points for letter formation. Earth paper may be laminated for durability to use with multiple children or repeated use with one child.

As a child becomes familiar with earth paper, I may place a copy of the earth paper under their regular notebook as a faint guide. I will then withdraw the use of the paper as the child shows more consistency with letter size and formation.

Here's a brief guide for using earth paper for small letters, tall letters, and tail letters. For a complete guide, please visit Your Kid's OT.
Small Letters

Tall Letters
Tail Letters


Get your own Earth Paper:

Earth Paper is available in the Your Kid's OT shop or on Teachers Pay Teachers.

Connect with Cindy:

Teachers Pay Teachers:

Have an item in your therapy bag that you'd like to share? I'd love for you to share it in an upcoming post! Just send me an email, AbbyPediatricOT {at} gmail {dot} com for more information. Open to all therapists! You don't have to be a blogger to participate!

Monday, August 4, 2014

App of the Week | Dexteria Dots 2

I've long been a fan of Dexteria apps and I'm happy to report that Binary Labs, the creators of the Dexteria family of apps, has done it again!

Dexteria Dots 2, which builds on the skills taught in the original Dexteria Dots, is an app designed to teach young children basic math concepts. While this is a math app, as an occupational therapist, I like that it also encourages development of visual motor skills. As you can see from the screenshot below, this app is played by slicing, tapping, and dragging the dots.

How to play:

In the first game, the goal is to slice, tap and drag the dots to make two equal dots. Here's an example:

In the second game, the player must compare the dots to determine which was is greater. Again the dots can be sliced and dragged to help figure out the answer or it can be done visually without moving any of the dots. It all depends on the child's ability to estimate.

In the example below, these are dots in the expert level. Since this might be challenging for some to visually tell which dot is larger, I sliced each dot to the smallest sizes. Now I can count the dots and tell that the one on the left is larger than the one on the right. This is also a good way to teach students to check their work.

Another cool thing about this app is that each dot has four attributes: the number itself, dots, color, and size. As you progress through the levels, there are fewer attributes. So in the beginner level, you have all four attributes to visually assist, but by the time you get to the advanced level, size is the only attribute available. These attributes and the ability to choose the level (and thereby choose the number of attributes) is great for visual learners. The decreasing attributes as you progress through the game is also great for further challenging and developing executive function skills.

Let me show you a few examples:

Beginner Level

Intermediate Level

Advanced Level

Expert Level

Not only is this working on math skills, while sneaking in some visual motor skill practice, this game is also challenging students to use their executive function skills! While some kids may be tempted to just slice and drag the dots without much of a plan, to really master this game, kids need to plan ahead, problem solve, and then execute the solution. Yay for executive functions for making that all possible!

 Are you a fan of Dexteria apps? Which one is your favorite? I have to say, as an occupational therapist, Dexteria Junior is the one I use the most!

App Information:

Name of App: Dexteria Dots 2
Publisher: Binary Labs
Compatible with: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch; optimized for iPhone 5; requires iOS 6.0 or later.
Price: $2.99

*Disclosure: I was provided with a free promo code for this app, however, all writing and opinions are my own. Information was correct at the time of publication, but is subject to change, so please confirm prior to downloading. This post contains affiliate links.

Friday, August 1, 2014

A Few Things

Happy August, everyone! Here are a few things I've come across that I think are worth sharing:

Are you an OT student or new practitioner? Here are Five Tips for Your First Five Years on the Job from AOTA.

There is an interesting discussion happening on the AOTA SISIS forum about when to stop handwriting instruction. (AOTA Member log-in required)

The new school year is right around the corner. Are you planning an event for Backpack Awareness Day? If so, be sure to register your event with AOTA. Registration is new this year to help AOTA plan for future years AND you have a chance to receive free backpacks to hand out at your event!

When I worked in the schools, I always dreamed of starting the year organized (and staying organized the entire school year). Chanda has got a back to school game plan for organization that I could get on board with.

Back to school also means data collection on IEP goals. I like this idea of student generated data collection from Your Therapy Source.

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