31 Aug 2012

Magic Weighted Blanket Give-Away: Enter Now

Update: Lesley Parker in Tennessee is the winner! 🙂 Congratulations Lesley! I will pass on your information to the Magic Weighted Blanket people. 🙂

I was recently e-mailed by Keith, who told me about his magic weighted blanket company, saying “We’ve been in business since 1998.  We first called our blanket the “Bean Blanket,” but people were assuming it was filled with beans.  So we changed the name to The Magic Blanket, after one of our customers told us her daughter called it her “magic blanket.”  We’ve recently created a new web site called www.magicweightedblanket.com

His signature line is “The Magic Blanket — The blanket that hugs you back” – LOL, I like that 🙂
The blankets are cotton or fleece, and are machine washable and dryable. (Apparently I made that word up). The give-away blanket can be anything you want if you win, up to their $164 twin size chenille blanket, and they will pay the shipping costs, U.S. residents only. 🙂 
They are in the process of sending me a blanket to review. It’s a 36×60-inch, 10 pound Billowing Clouds Cotton Magic Weighted Blanket. I am excited to give it to one of my schools to use this year in their learning resource center and will be reviewing it once I get it (my honest review!). 

Sooo…..this contest is open until 11:59pm of September 14th, 2012. Just leave a comment on THIS entry saying you are interested in the give-away (anyone can enter, OT or not). I will use a random number generator to choose the winner. I don’t typically get that many comments, so chances of winning are exceptionally high, I think.

Of course I’ll like you more if you leave a comment of value, but you can win regardless by any comment. Make sure if you leave a comment that there is a method to get ahold of you, or to check back in a few weeks after the contest ends. Please only leave one comment. 

GOOD LUCK!!!!!!!!!! 
PS: This is my first formal give-away so please inform me if I’m missing any vital information. 

Category: Occupational Therapy | Comments: 42

30 Aug 2012

Rambling occupational therapy school OT thoughts…

It's past midnight, I didn't hardly get any sleep last night thanks to advocate concerns. As I earlier mentioned on Facebook…I don't care if I am the most perfect person and OT in the ENTIRE WORLD….if an intimidating educational advocate gets on board, I'm going to doubt myself. I could have written a fifty thousand page book on X, but if the advocate questions me I, inside of my head I am like WHAT IS X I FORGET AUGHHHHHHHHH and then I tear out my hair and run screaming from the room. 🙂 Just kidding. But seriously. Wow. I understand why parents hire educational advocates, but some feel like a great part of the team while others seem to exist solely for torture. Parents…if you're in a reasonably good district with good workers and a good reputation and you want an advocate….PLEASE consider hiring someone who is known for their teamwork/collaborative process with the team. The vast majority of IEP teams have good intentions and want to help your child as much as you want your child helped. A good advocate aids this process of collaboration and recognizes a good team. I, of course, am biased, but I think my district does an amazing job. I have quite a few schools and I am impressed with each team, even though they all have different personality dynamics, so it's neat to see the interactions between teams, parents, advocates, students, etc. 🙂 

My current favorite toy is http://www.amazon.com/Play-Visions-Stretchy-Mice-Cheese/dp/B0018KJTBC   I stumbled across it on Amazon and bought it and it's so worth it. The children try to stick the mouse through the cheese, and/or get it out, and it's got a mooshy rubbery texture and the kids really like it so far. Plus, then I pull out lots of tiny animals and bugs from my own collectionand then the MONSTER CHEESE EATS THEM AUGHHHHHHH….they love hiding the stuff in the monster cheese and then re-finding it and pulling it out. It's a nice NOVEL fine motor task that requires bilateral hand coordination and motor planning. It's not that expensive and I can definitely see a LOT of use coming out of that toy. I just realized it came with two mice? I only seem to have one now. I wonder where the other one went. Hmmm. Oh well, I actually prefer my version of “monster” cheese so that's okay.
This is another one I like. I also just stumbled across this on Amazon one crazy night when I bought like a hundred dollars worth of OT toys for no good reason besides desire. Stupid reason. 🙂 I JUST got this one and while it's really geared towards younger kids (like 3ish), I used it with a preschooler recently and we both enjoyed it. The tweezers are a little hard in that it takes a lot of pressure, but it was great for imaginative play. Especially because we used tweezers to put a bunch of bugs into the pie, and then I used file-drawer things stacked on top of each other to make an “oven” and then we baked the pie. While finding material to make the oven I found a tiny stretchy elephant and I showed the child and asked if we should include the elephant in the pie that we had placed in our oven. Apparently “No, that is too mean” is the proper response. We then presented the pie to people to eat and we enjoyed their “shock” at discovering bugs in our pie! It would be a great speech toy as well. We carried it with us to the speech therapy room so they could continue to chat about the awesome pie and all its many contents…fruit, bugs, animals, sections, colors, shapes, categories, whatever, you name it. 🙂
I've also been trying to do more creative letter stories…for example, a little person lives in “O” and if you don't close the O, the rain can leak in and get the person wet…yikes!! And that when 7 is the first in line, 7 is selfish and has a big hat and won't let anybody get under it… (working on not reversing the 7)…or things like the g has a curve so someone can sit in the swing. Turning the letters into little people. 🙂 
And that letters FALL FROM THE SKY, they don't grow from the ground. I make a big fuss with my beginning kids when they do letters bottom-up….do you think letters grow out of the ground?!! They're not vegetables. We don't want to eat our letters!!!” etc…Nooo they fall from the sky! 
I'm also trying to improve my IEP goals….they always focus on function, but sometimes I think the measurable piece ends up getting ridiculous depending on how written, and/or has too many elements within a single goal. I know Christopher Alterio of ABC Therapeutics's blog once wrote a post about how some OT school goals he has seen has like, eight elements in it. Ridiculous, yep. But almost all of us are guilty of it sometimes. So when I have a kid who needs work on EVERYTHING – letter formation, sizing, spacing, etc, instead of talking about accuracy within EACH arena, I am focusing on basic legibility without context. For example, if I am writing “My name is Karen” and I have a few messy letters but you are reading the sentence, you may figure it out. But if  you mask EACH letter individually, no context, then each letter by itself needs to meet basic criteria, so I'm focusing on the big picture of legibility which will INCLUDE working on each of those sub-areas. If the child only needs to work on a particular area then yes, goal, but I think legibility is a better goal when working on all sub-areas. And for typing…now with so many touch tablets and different sized keyboards, home row-key touch typing is less important. However, finding a key instantly is important. The keys don't move…a D is always where a D is. So my goals focus on a child being able to find each key within ONE SECOND, instantly zeroing in on a key rather than continuously scanning. A huge pet peeve of mine is people who have to scan their keyboard for letters. You've stared at them your entire life. They've never moved. Memorize them and save yourself SO MUCH TIME in the long run. Of course it can be graded, ie hints such as it's on the top row…etc. Another great typing goal can include just being able to input usernames and passwords from an index card or list, within a certain reasonable amount of time. Even our first graders these days are being asked to do that, and that can get frustrating. 
It's funny how as we learn, we focus on different things…so right now I'm focusing on certain types of goals, certain functionalities…I'm sure as I evolve (this is the start of only my second school year as an OT in schools), I will constantly be finding new things to look at in new ways..and all OTs see things a little differently. Like pencil grips….opinions vary dramatically. Of course ultimately you would ideally focus on the evidence-based research. 
Speaking of evidence-based research….Christopher Alterio of ABC Therapeutics once again, has commented on the scarcity of good evidence in regards to sensory strategies/accomodations in the literature. ONE DAY I WILL BE ABLE TO SPELL ACCOMODATIONS WITHOUT LOOKING! I *JUST* learned how to spell tomorrow properly…by thinking of it as the name “Tom Sorrow” to remind myself its one M and two Rs….) moving on….So, sorry that the evidence doesn't show X. But if I am seeing with my own eyes that X works for certain kids, and it's not harmful, then X will be used. Maybe I SHOULD get my PhD so I can do research in the school systems. 🙂 I hate stats but I
can just hire my OT friend Bill for that because he loves stats! 
Sorry this is the most rambling post ever. I know I'm not supposed to write so much random stuff at one point. BUT HAHA I CAN DO WHATEVER I WANT MUAHAHAHAHA THE POWER IS RUSHING TO MY HEAD!!!   Just kidding. But it is almost 1am. And I had chocolate.
Speaking of which….I know anybody who has read my occupational therapy blog for any length of time but doesn't know me in person, may have a warped sense of what I am like in real life. I'm calmer in real life, I swear. Way easier to be hyper online. I've recently met a few people in real life that only knew me online, and they all commented I seemed much more normal than they were expecting. This made me laugh. 🙂 Like I've been sharing my possum chronicles lately on Facebook as I've recently had a possum in my bedroom more than once. Apparently that story sounds hideous online only, but when I share it in real life, it “sounds almost normal.” I'm telling y'all right now, my entire life is one big possum chronicle of ludicrosity (word inventions), but it sounds less weird in real life. I think. Maybe. Sometimes. 
Okay I'm giving up and going to bed. Anybody who read this far gets my love forever. I have a lot of love to give. I haven't forgotten about my magic weighted blanket giveaway. I got side-tracked by advocate drama and – wait for it – BABY CUDDLING! Yes, I am officially a volunteer baby cuddler at a local hospital after being on a wait list for over two years. I used to do it in Memphis and am now resuming it here in California. Yay! 
The magic weighted blanket give away is for US residents only, can be for a weighted blanket up to $164 dollars, and they will make it/ship it to you. They are making me a lovely blanket to try out at my schools and I am very excited about it. You can enter just by submitting a comment, ideally one that says something they like about OT or weighted blankets. The winner will be chosen randomly using a random number generator (and by the way, I don't typically get many comments, so the chances of winning are likely really, really high). DO NOT comment about it on this post, but my next post should be the formal give-away. 
PS: I know many of my readers want to read more about NON peds or school OT….I do have quite a lot to share/write in those arenas, it's just lower priority to my current life, but I will try to sprinkle them in more often. 

Category: Occupational Therapy | Comments: 3

28 Aug 2012

Facebook OT

I have so much I want to write about that I've been e-mailing myself lists of things I want to write about which doesn't even include the INCREDIBLY huge bag of blog stuff I have next to me. But alas, it's bedtime, so I will copy paste this status update I wrote on Facebook…

I had MULTIPLE general education teachers at multiple schools tell me today how excited they were about the things they learned in Friday's OT presentations and how they went out and found old phone books, clothespins, made centers, have been having their kids do finger exercises, etc!! One super awesome gen ed teacher sent me a text with a picture of her new “OT” centers she set up for her kindergarten. That makes me SUPER happy!!! Yay for OTs!! (cheers for my OT co-workers)

Tomorrow night's one and only blog goal: Put up the magic weighted blanket give-away 🙂 

Category: Occupational Therapy | Comments: 2

23 Aug 2012

"Quiet hands"

I've worked with children who flap their hands with excitement. Their joy is so great they can't contain themselves in those moments. Even when playing an iPad game where the game requires constant touch, those hands fly up on their own to flap in excitement. Those gestures “stand” out and label the child as different. 

I've also worked with children with autism perfectly absorbed and content in their own world. They could happily throw leaves into the air and watch them drift down for hours on end, or spin things, or do whatever else necessary to make their world bearable. 
Then I'm asked to change them. I don't work with moderate/severe populations now, so this is more looking back at some of the play therapy I did in college. 
I'm supposed to draw these children out. I'm supposed to help them blend in with their peers. No more flapping or obvious “stimming”. No letting them sit absorbed in their own world for hours on end. 
Part of me sees the point of “changing” them. After all, it's easiest if kids fit in, right? And people on this Earth are social beings, so they should interact, right?
The other, bigger part of me, agonizes. Why does it really matter if a child flaps his little hands in excitement? Why should I take a child content in his own little world, and make them live in ours? Who am I helping? The child? The parents? Society? I know the parents would love to see their child look at them and engage with them, instead of ignoring them while spinning toy cars. But what about the child? What if the child's neural world is so disorganized that our “neuro-typical” world is too disorganizing and challenging? What if the child uses his flapping hands as his greatest expression of joy? Who are we to say that our world is superior? 
I always struggled with these thoughts when working with those children, and while most of my current OT children are much higher-functioning, it does sometimes still come up. For example, a child with a diagnosis of autism who likes to wander around the playground at recess, not interacting with others. Is this a huge deal? If the child wants to interact and doesn't know how, and we can help the child, then sure, great. But if this child with autism is bombarded all day every day with stimulation and needs recess to decompress and wander around alone and is perfectly content, should we take this opportunity away from the child and force social time? I say no, but many others would disagree with me. And I can see their point. But I can also see mine. 
These midnight thoughts come from reading a poignant journal entry, which I saw thanks to Bill on Facebook… http://juststimming.wordpress.com/2011/10/05/quiet-hands/
*Obviously I work with students with special needs, and I try to always keep their best interests at heart…I work with an interdisciplinary team and we work very, very hard to help our students reach their goals and participate in the educational curriculum to the best of their abilities. We work to improve their areas of weakness while remembering to celebrate their strengths and unique abilities! 
**Keep your eyes open…the magic weighted blanket give-away will come sometime this week and be up for several weeks…winner chosen randomly….U.S. residents only (sorry Emma)…:) 
Category: Occupational Therapy | Comments: 3

22 Aug 2012

An OT Pinterest kind of night…

Playing on Pinterest tonight…..found this site with a really really cool sensory lab she did

Check out my OT ideas here 🙂 
Category: Occupational Therapy | Comments: none

21 Aug 2012

Buttermilk the baby dwarf goat is a little rambunctious with her friends :)

Let’s see if this works! 
If it doesn’t, google Buttermilk the dwarf goat friends, and you will get something that should leave you laughing out loud. It’s only one minute long. 🙂
Essentially it’s this tiny goat who is MUCH more active – hyperactive – than her little goat peers. She occasionally uses their bodies as props to jump off of, knocking them down. You see them patiently get back up as she scampers away, oblivious.
This little goat is absolutely adorably rambunctious and fun. She APPEARS (trying not to anthropomorphize or whatever the word is, too much here) to be filled with joy. Can you imagine trying to make this little goat stand quietly like the other goats? No. This goat’s engine is running high, and she needs to find a way to use her energy. Granted, knocking over the other goats isn’t the best method, but it’s clear this little goat is different.
I see this adorable “goat” often, because children with hyperactivity stand out from their peers in a school setting. Rather than sitting still or quietly milling about, we see many of these children running around, clearly with their engine running at a different speed. Some of them DO bump into other children (who are hopefully patient) because they are less aware of their bodies and proximity to others and/or have a higher threshold for bumps tolerance! Can we just tell these kids to sit down and be quiet? No. The challenge is finding ways to calm them down in a healthy way so they can focus on learning, while understanding their engine levels naturally run higher than the others, AND while ensuring we don’t break their wonderfully rambunctious spirit. I’m sure grammaticians (new word?) are rolling in their graves at this awkward paragraph. AHAHAHA
Anyway…I in NO WAY, shape or form, mean any offense…I just LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this little goat and her antics, it made me laugh out loud which, contrary to popular belief, is rather hard to do via Internet. 🙂 And it filled me with fondness for my OT kids! School started back TODAY! So I’m back at work. With a huge bag of “blog stuff”, quite literally, begging to be dealt with…Day by day. 
Hope you watch Buttermilk and laugh. 🙂 She made my week! 
Category: Occupational Therapy | Comments: 1

18 Aug 2012

Diaphragmatic breathing for children with anxiety

“I'm feeling like a star, you can't stop my shine” – lyrics in Ridin' Solo.

A teacher told me she used that lyric in her classroom as a quotation. I LOOOOVE IT. Going to do that. 
Mind blown: BerenSTAIN bears, not BerenSTEIN bears…..Whatttt….. I would have sworn my first born child and sixty million dollars that it was STEIN. Alas. My childhood, my spelling efficacy…good thing I didn't bet…
I spent this Friday evening with my friend who I met through work, as she is the district's autism behavioral specialist. We hung out casually at her house and we spent a ridiculous amount of time looking at the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems (I had to refresh my memory a little) and how it relates to autism/anxiety and flight or flight school mode, etc. Then I talked to her about deep breathing/diaphragmatic breathing and we researched how to teach that best to children.
Here's what I have seen happen. Aide, to rapidly escalating anxious child: “Calm down, take some deep breaths”. Child: ::rapidly takes quick shallow breaths with chest rising while standing there, essentially beginning to hyperventilate which is not in any way helpful::
Deep breaths: great idea, great plan.  However, most children – and many adults – don't understand what that really means and how to properly execute it. Diaphragmatic breathing typically takes some practice, and is best learned while lying down. Most children with anxiety for whatever reason, are constantly in fight or flight mode with their sympathetic nervous system in activation, meaning ready for that lion (or piece of homework, or another child's light touch, or a transition) to come at them at any moment. This is exhausting and consumes so much energy and is not a good state to be in while in the school environment (except perhaps a little bit before a test or something). We want to help these children learn to rest/relax a little, not see school as a lion. To activate their own parasympathetic nervous system. 
Deep breathing for several minutes, slowly, can help activate that more relaxing system, but it requires actual understanding of how to use the diaphragm appropriately instead of the shallower chest breathing most of us do. I researched Youtube videos and websites and either I'm a really bad google searcher, or there really wasn't any high-quality websites clearly showing the relation between anxiety and the nervous system in an understandable manner, and the few Youtubes we looked at were either too quiet to hear properly, or didn't have enough live video, etc. So my coworker and I want to see about doing a better version. I find it VERY hard to believe it's not already out there though, as we'd rather not re-invent the wheel. So I feel confident that perhaps some of you have a link to a good site and/or Youtube video that will help us describe the nervous system and the sympathetic/parasympathetic aspects as well as the benefits of diaphragmatic breathing, in a way we can use with elementary school aged kids?  I liked the idea of a light stuffed animal on their stomach that they can watch rise. If I make a YouTube video or a hand-out, I'll share it here…Or if someone sends me one they have used I would love that person forever. 
It's almost midnight. I better go to bed. I am just rambling my braincells away so I can clear it for bed! Good night 🙂 
Category: Occupational Therapy | Comments: 1

17 Aug 2012

Insiduous changes…

So today I ran into a front-desk lady at one of my schools who has told me about her grandson at the end of last school year, and we had chatted about him. I don't remember how his name came up, but she was talking about how he didn't like to do all these things and she was pushing him to do them and couldn't understand why he fussed so much. I asked her some questions and he sounded like a TOTAL sensory kid, in the sense that he over-reacted to a lot of different sensory stimuli. Anyway, we talked about some tactics she could use to gently get him into trying more sensory experiences, and also recommended he did lots of swimming, etc. 

Today, I stopped by and asked how her grandson was doing. She told me about how he had gone from not being able to put his face in the water to being able to SWIM and loving it, and how excited and happy she was for him, a tear coming to her eye. She mentioned somebody said it wasn't a big deal but that SHE knew it was such an accomplishment for a kid like that. 
I smiled happily. She didn't realize it, but late last year SHE was the one saying that he should be able to do these things, and now she is defending him and realizing that certain things truly ARE harder for him to handle. I feel certain I had a part in having her change her mindset, although I don't think she would realize it. I'm totally okay with that. I'm thrilled for her and her grandson. 
I like – no – LOVE – when I can help someone change their mindset in a way that allows for more compassion for a struggling child. I feel like in a little way, I changed that child's world, for the better 🙂 
Category: Occupational Therapy | Comments: 1

16 Aug 2012

Starting the school year off right…

Sorry guys. I apologize in advance. I feel like rambling. So yes, I could break this up into like ten posts. But I won’t. You have to roll with it. No pictures either. 

Tomorrow (Thurs) is my first day back to work. We have two prep days/meetings and then the kids come back Monday. I am trying to stay calm, but the first few weeks are definitely stressful trying to figure out scheduling. I like to work with the teachers and ensure the child is getting a time that doesn’t make him miss important items, but I also have to schedule so many kids with so many teachers at so many schools that scheduling isn’t exactly easy. 

Tomorrow I plan to go through my work emails and ensure I’m caught up on things we talked about at the end of last year, organize my files, write up a Hello Parents Letter and a Mini Contract, Print out all Goals, etc. So much to do, and I swore I’d work on it all summer, but I lied to myself, I guess…Just like we all have our great intentions. Whoops. :O

Another thing I want to write up is a little something the kids can be “tested” on which is what OT is (briefly), why that child has it, and who I am, and their goals. All in very simplistic language, and I know some of my kids know all that but some don’t and I want to be consistent. My “what OT is” is simply knowing that the term occupational therapy exists and is separate from speech or PT, and that we try to help the child be successful at school, etc etc. 

Blogging wise, I have accumulated a massive amount of things I want to at least briefly blog about, and it’s going into this one bag/box, but it gets so overwhelming. I know I should just use OT on myself and break things down into little steps, etc, but it’s kind of like how maids can have dirty houses 😉 

I’ve been walking a lot with co-workers and friends, and I love them all. One of my co-workers, Amy, is especially deep and we have similar philosophies in many ways. She is a teacher.  We discussed how she works hard to empower her students so that they don’t say “She taught me how to read” but rather “I know how to read”. Sometimes I get caught up in getting credit, or just wanting them to learn, that I forget how important empowerment is. We want the child to have a sense of self-efficacy, of being able to be independent and know how to do things and apply that knowledge, taking pride of the fact “I CAN” rather than “She taught me…” In fact, I think I want to go get the “I think I can, I think I can” tank engine book! That might be a slogan that goes on my wall… “I think I can!” 

We also talked about knowledge itself and how it’s just a foundation, a baseline. Then you build up on that knowledge, and take it much further. The knowledge is JUST the start, not the finish. Again, so true. We talked about Bloom’s hierarchy and the pyramid and working to higher levels once the knowledge is situated.  Again, not something I had really specifically thought about before, but true. In this case, I could break it down to something as simple as tying shoes. We start with two different colored laces within one shoe with a specific pattern. Once we have that, we can move on to contextualizing generally, being able to use the same colored laces, maybe making the pattern faster, being able to tie swim trunks and bows and other things besides just shoes, being able to show others how to do it, being able to take responsibility and power for knowing how to do it, maybe using knowledge of tying shoes in other formats or problem solving skills, etc etc. That was a kind of lame example, but you get the point, I hope. 
Finally, I love that she told me a story about how one of her old students Facebooked her from many years ago, and she wrote to him “I believe in you.” He wrote back “I believe in me, too”. This was a common thing she had done with her kids, always telling them she believed in them, and them responding “I believe in me too”. I love that. She has this very special way of encouraging her kids, believing in their mistakes being learning opportunities, and teaching them self-respect and self-efficacy. 
I think in *some* ways I do these things, but I need to work more on it with a more conscious view of what we’re working on. A child is never going to learn to write beautifully if he thinks he can’t, doesn’t believe in himself, etc etc. I do often talk to my kids about their frustration or anxiety budget as I’ve mentioned before, before we try frustrating tasks – tying shoes happens to be one of the worst. We decide how much frustration we can tolerate that day and go from there. Come on, we’ve all been there, days where we can tolerate a lot or not so much, depending on what’s already happened that day, what side of the bed we woke up on, etc. As adults we give ourselves a lot of leeway, we need to remember that SOMETIMES kids need it too.
There are days and times when I know I gave a child too much leeway, but other days when I see a child who desperately needs some leeway, not getting it. I need to work on putting firmer boundaries in place, while still giving the child some leeway, it’s hard to combine the two I think! But so necessary! I’m trying to decide if I want a SET discipline in check that’s the same for all kids, or maybe one for each school depending on what their special ed teachers use, or what. Last year, near the end of the year, I got bad about using candy as a reward. It works SO WELL, but I know it’s not a great idea. But most of my kids aren’t thrilled with just a sticker or a stamp. Hmmm. Still pondering that one. 
Sorry this was so long. I know I am supposed to be blogging about set topics and in much smaller doses than this, so if you read this far, thanks. Just
getting stuff off my chest, I know much of it is repeated throughout the blog but clearly it’s the stuff I’m still heavily pondering. I still need to put aside a set time to blog. I was thinking about maybe designing certain days of the week blog days, certain days of the week writing days (not for blog), for a 30 minute session. 
Majorest goal of all, besides improving my grammar, haha: NOT stressing so much about starting the school year and the transition from lazy days to running around. It’s all going to happen whether I stress out or not, so why not just be chill? 

Category: Occupational Therapy | Comments: 1

14 Aug 2012

This is the company I work for, and I recommend them. :)




Category: Occupational Therapy | Comments: none

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