29 Sep 2011

OT brain overload

Today I went to one school to do my weekly self-regulation “seminar” with some kids with various special education needs, saw one kid for half his normal time then bolted to a second school for two meetings in a row, then bolted back to the first school to do an evaluation. I brought in THREE giant bags of toys for this one evaluation – I really need to work on streamlining my evaluation tools.

I read a recent article in Advance – which I typically skim and find like one interesting thing in – from this lady who talked about pulling up to schools with like a carnival in her car, but is getting away from that (ie not bringing OT clinic to school)  and trying to stay more in the classroom. I agree that is an ideal situation, but there are so many variables that affect it. For example, the teacher has to have an open mind/reasonable attitude about your role/presence. (And I realize being a good role model/example is a good way to start building that relationship….). But also, and somewhat even more importantly, SCHEDULING gets in the way. If you have tons of kids in tons of schools in tons of grades with tons of different “special” events and special subjects (ie rotating art, music, computers, etc), it is a NIGHTMARE to schedule kids, period. And that's pulling them out. Pushing-in requires really careful coordination with a teacher to always make sure they are going to be doing a “valid” exercise when you are in the room – ie, not watching a movie. Many teachers will say “Oh, 9am to 930 is great for writing” and then you show up and they are on the playground until 9:15 and you've lost half your session…

Don't get me wrong, I push-in when I have to legally and/or when I think it is most appropriate, but depending on caseload/availability, it's not always feasible….it seems like some schools have a global attitude that is more accepting than other schools….every school has its own culture! And I learn different areas of culture….like in all of my schools, the special ed teachers (“educational specialists”) tend to sit in their own rooms with each other at lunch whereas the lunch room is typically filled with general education teachers. I don't know if that's normal or not. I personally like doing both…you learn a lot in the lunch room/lunch time chatter in general. I guess gen ed sticks together the way special ed sticks together, and occasionally we get teachers who are bridges who like to hang in both areas!

I REALLY love working in my school system this year. Last year I was insanely stressed out learning my new job in the midst of IEP season. I had some great training but there is still a learning curve. This year I feel much calmer, even in the midst of ten thousand evaluations. I don't know why. Especially since I have some really challenging cases this year in terms of advocate involvement. 🙂

I think one of my big strengths is communication with parents via e-mail…..it's a lot of fun sharing what kids are doing with parents. I type fast/write fast/think fast/read fast so I get a lot of joy from that.

My brain feels full today with all the things I am trying to figure out. I know I have an eval Friday and Monday at one school for two young kids, that I have three evals I need to write up ASAP for kids ranging from Kindergarden to 5th grade, that I have more I need to schedule ASAP to stay within legal timeline, that I need to stop by to get some more theratubing from a fellow OT for my kids chairs and give her a pair of preschool scissors Faber-Castell has that I love, bring in some fidget choices for another child, and then of course just my typical treatments/consultations etc. Tomorrow I have a full day of kids that I need to plan for tonight, organize my toys for, etc…..typically I do a combination of either fine motor or visual motor or both + some handwriting….obviously it all depends on the kids goals though. Sometimes its a little scary putting all this out into the world….not that I think I am saying anything horrrible, but I definitely leave myself open to criticism.

My newest favorite tool is LAVA/WORMS. Sizing/line orientation can be a big issue for kids using the 3-line paper with a dotted middle line. I got the suggestion from a special ed student that LAVA works well. So you take a red pencil and cover the dotted middle line with red which is your lava. There are tall strong letters that can go through the lava like h, l, k….but also baby letters like a, e, r, that will burn if they touch the lava. Incidentally, if their letters drop below the line and they aren't supposed to, ie the a gets a little too low, the worms attack. The worms are only okay with familar tails like y, g, p….anything else is trouble. I draw in tiny worms and say Oh nooo the worms are attacking if they go too low, and I draw little lines coming from the top of the letter and say Ohhh ITS bURNING ITS BURNING if they go too high and touch the lava …….most of my kids respond really well to the drama of lava/worms.

The two biggest issues I run across is A) kids wanting to draw their own lava line and making a mess of it, and B) wanting to draw in worms/other bugs too and it gets messy…..but seriously, I've seen some really nice handwriting come out of the lava/worms. 🙂

This is the longest post I've had in a long time. I need to be thinking of a blog carnival post for World OT day coming up.

I still promise to respond to all my OT emails soon. I am getting 1-2 blog emails a day now which is a little crazy considering all my best posts are like 4 years old lol.

Category: Occupational Therapy | Comments: 3

27 Sep 2011

Dycem for OT

I am not ready for the official review because I want to include a picture I take, but I want to say I LOVE The Dycem place mats (in shapes like a turtle) because when the child is dealing with something that might fly away, like a bead or a pom-pom, those semi-sticky mats are awesome and keeps things from getting away and minimizes frustration. I am using the Dycem placemats a lot now and want to order some more, and the other OTs liked it too. More soon.

Can I mention I love my job working in an elementary school system? The teachers/colleagues/SLPs/OTs/principals/etc are soo fun and awesome! I drive home smiling thinking of random events that occurred during the day. Well I guess not always smiling depending on how many meetings or crazy things happened that day, but most days. Like today.

I also want a scooter board. And a few yoga mats. And a few weighted lap pads and/or vests. Etc. Maybe for my birthday which is coming up!! (October 21st)  I will buy myself some of that stuff! I am obsessed with buying new toys!! Okay. More later.

Category: Occupational Therapy | Comments: none

27 Sep 2011

Quotes of the day…

Playing a push-pin game with a kindergartener. I had a pink ball pushpin and he had a black normal pushpin. “Our pushpins are different because yours is a sphere and mine is a cylinder.” Wow.

Walking past a kindergarten playground at another school: “SIMON SAYS KNOCK YOUR EYEBALL OUT!!!!!”

Having fun with my kids and my colleagues! Started putting pictures of the child's grasp in the OT evaluation report (just the child's hand, no identifying features) and it has been well received to have that “custom” picture. 🙂

I've been showing a lot of the teachers the stuff with styrofoam, golf tees, marbles, clothespins, cotton balls, etc, and they are enjoying it!  🙂 Gives them ideas for fine motor centers.

I got to help a special ed teacher in training learn how to score the VMI the other day, that was nice. I also got to give a little informal talk to a couple of high schoolers today visiting a learning center – showed them my toys and told them what OT was and they were all like COOL! 🙂

For those of you who have recently emailed me – I have really been getting more blog emails than ever before – I promise I 99% of the time respond, I am just slow. I have them all saved as new to get too, I promise!

Category: Occupational Therapy | Comments: none

22 Sep 2011

OT cleaning

Every night I come home with about 3 bags of toys which I promptly dump all over the floor so that I can repackage for the next day.  The last few days I've been bad about repacking and so things have gotten mixed together. You could barely walk in my bedroom because of all the toys. Now I've separated the golf tees from marbles from pipe cleaners from glittery poms from cotton balls from clothespins from fat pencils, skinny pencils, triangular pencils, fat short, fat long, skinny short, skinny long, pencil grips, fake bugs, yarn, straws, etc. So you can walk in here now. The bad news is, I stepped on a bamboo skewer and it really freaking hurt!

I've started taking pictures of my kids' hands while they are writing, during their evaluations, to copy/paste into the report as a visual. I literally only take the picture of the hand so it's otherwise not recognizable/a privacy issue. It helps explain their grip better. (I still am confused as to why some people say grip and other say grasp interchangeably yet I've joined the bandwagon).

My favorite new activities that I've been using constantly lately:
1) Corkboard alphabet game using push pins and dice, practicing the letter they land on. Home-made. And/or just sticking a pushpin in each square, kids are fascinated by pushpins.
2) Sticking pipe cleaners into colorful colander turned upside down, in any pattern/method they choose.
3) Sticking bamboo skewers into styrofoam and having the kids find beads in their theraputty then string them on the skewer.
4) Sticking golf tees into styrofoam and then having them balance marbles on top.
5) Using clothespins and/or tongs to sort fake bugs.

I think that's it for now. I want to start using paper clips and staples more often too. I am really getting great ideas on Pinterest (pinterest.com/funkist/ot-ideas) should take you to my area. I have like 10 more I want to add but Pinterest was having a temper tantrum earlier so I could not.

I feel a lot less stressed out this year so far, I think a lot of it is that I now know more what to expect and how to navigate the system, who people are, etc. I've enjoyed more kids learning my name. A few of them even come up to hug me. Including strangers. One little girl I've never met came up to me while I was sitting down and gave me a big squeeze hug and I was like um, hi? AHAHAHAHA

I had this conversation recently with a 5 year old:
Boy: This table is dynamite!
Me: So we are going to explode?
Boy: I am a parrot,  I will fly away!
Me: What about me?
Boy: :::looks at me sadly:: You're going to die.

LOVE working in an elementary school setting! (Okay, four elementary settings) lol

Category: Occupational Therapy | Comments: none

20 Sep 2011


6 meetings in 5 hours + an eval today! Tomorrow includes an IEP meeting, treatments, an eval, and an OT meeting. I guess I should go get ready for tomorrow eh? My goals for this week include writing about Dycem and Linda's book! Also catching up on blog reader e-mails. Hopefully I can meet those goals!!!

PS: I saw an interesting article on a link between autism and atheism today……

Category: Occupational Therapy | Comments: 2

19 Sep 2011

Oh my beloved neglected OT blog..and neglected readers

Somehow I've had a ton of e-mails from OT blog readers lately – I'm still down to less than 70 in my mailbox so I hope to get to them soon!! I think about my blog a lot but not much makes the leap to it since I always worry so much about privacy laws! Rightfully so, too…

This week I have a lot of meetings, plus several OT evaluations, so I need to prep my evaluation tools and for the meetings tomorrow…..I should probably get going on that, eh? 🙂

I'm still working in my head on a “typical day” post….have to kind of muddle it up a little so it's not a TRUE depiction of a day but a good representation….

Category: Occupational Therapy | Comments: none

12 Sep 2011

Buying OT toys left and right….

Last week I went to the teacher store, Lakeshore for some pencil grips, and then also found some awesome Faber-Castell items at Barnes & Nobles, such as pre-school scissors, and jumbo crayons. This weekend I went to a gourmet cooking store and bought some cute crocodile tongs for kids, then to the pet store to buy small tennis balls, to make tennis ball heads using the smaller tennis balls for smaller hands. 🙂 I also bought some straws and an ice cream scooper for like, 25 cents, since you can never have too many straws for kids, lol. Blowing and sucking cotton balls etc! Also I bought some bamboo skewers to stick in styrofoam to make bead patterns on….actually now that I think about it the skewers may be too thick for my little beads. We'll see.

My room is filled with sooo many toys, it is unbelievable, considering I am a single female, not like a mom with fifty kids. 🙂 I love toys a little too much and am constantly on the lookout for new ones, although most of the time they end up being like from a dollar store, office supply, pet store, kitchen store, Target, etc. Rarely are they true OT toys but I turn them into some. Like I am going to go raid my kitchen to see if I can find a melon ball scoopy thing, to use for collecting marbles…I also need a bottle and a spoon for a similar task, scooping marbles with the spoon and placing into the bottle….

I've discovered kids LOVE pushpins, and so if you can supervise them/trust them, just about anything you can dream of with pushpins will work. I've been using my new pushpin game I made this last week where the kids write out whatever letter they land on 3x, and they've been engaged for the entire activity, even though I would have thought they'd get bored of it halfway through.

My goal for tonight….well I have many goals for tonight, but one big one is making an eval cheat sheet which I should have done a long time ago. I have ten evals to get through in the next few months so I need to figure out a way to do them more efficiently without losing any data!

I have seen comments requesting a day in the life of a school OT….I'll have to think about that one! Sorry I have been such a blog neglecter lately. I don't even have the excuse of being too busy, just distracted by other things! I really enjoy my blog though so need to keep it up. Oddly enough even with the neglect i've gotten quite a few e-mails from readers with questions which I obviously need to respond to ASAP!

Alright that's it for now….I also have a review for Dycem and a review for Linda's daily living book to do sometime very soon! 🙂

Hope all y'all have a good week….I've got a combination of 30 day review meetings, treatments, and evaluations to get through this week! 🙂

Category: Occupational Therapy | Comments: none

4 Sep 2011

My tennis ball friend

Meet my tennis ball friend. Hold him open to give him yummy treats like pennies, then he can throw them up! The wider the mouth you make, the less resistance….I'm still on the lookout for the smaller tennis balls for smaller hands.

Category: Occupational Therapy | Comments: 1

4 Sep 2011

cool scissors

I know this is a bad picture, sorry. I found these scissors today at Barnes & Noble from Faber-Castell and they are hopefully going to be great for beginning cutters! I hadn't seen any like that before in stores. I also have a few other types….

Category: Occupational Therapy | Comments: none

4 Sep 2011

Weighted pencil

I am figuring out how to make my own weighted pencils. I took a pencil and wrapped tape around it (the way you do a ring that is too big), then I put a bolt on it and it fits snugly. I had taken pencils to the hardware store and found bolts that fit close but still a little loose, so the tape was perfect. First I tried super glue but it wasn't quite enough. Tape worked better. 🙂 But i am not sure the best placement of the nut on the pencil, so I may do some experiments with that, and also try putting more than one nut on, etc.

Category: Occupational Therapy | Comments: none

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