28 Feb 2013

Child by Sylvia Plath

Your clear eye is the one absolutely beautiful thing.
I want to fill it with color and ducks,
The zoo of the new

The start of a poem by Sylvia Plath that I recently received in my daily “The Writer’s Almanac”. I loved the first few lines that I copied over…it goes on, but I don’t know all the details about copyright and such so I stopped there. For those of us that work in pediatrics (or have kids), the purity of our children can be astounding. 🙂 I love the idea of their “clear eyes”.

Category: Occupational Therapy | Comments: none

25 Feb 2013

LetterReflex: Review + Give-Aways of Dexteria and LetterReflex!

I just saw that none of my pictures are showing up right now! I wonder why not! Anyway, our winners via random.org are Ray for Dexteria and Deanna for LetterReflex! Congrats! 🙂 I contacted them both via e-mail to get them their free codes. Thanks for participating!

I was recently given the opportunity to review LetterReflex – “Overcoming Letter Reversals & Backwards Writing in Early Childhood Development & Dyslexic Children”. It’s considered a medical app and was developed by BinaryLabs, Inc. It’s part of BinaryLab’s “trilogy of essential apps for OTs” along with Dexteria and P.O.V. I’ve already reviewed Dexteria here and I’ll review P.O.V at a future date. I received these apps for free (which cost $3.99) in exchange for writing an unbiased review on my blog.
I also get to host a give-away! You can win your own free downloads of Dexteria and LetterReflex! You need to comment on this post, one comment apiece for each app you are interested in (so up to two comments) with at least a quick sentence as to why you would like your own copy of Dexteria and/or LetterReflex! Make sure you specify in the comment which app you are interested in, and leave an e-mail address. Spambots like e-mail addresses, so if you leave your e-mail leave it in a funky way, like Bob3333 AT AT AT gmail or something like that. 🙂 This give-away is open until 11:59PM Pacific on Sunday, March 3rd. I’ll use a random number generator for the comments for Dexteria, and comments for LetterReflex, to determine the winner for each! Good luck! Now onto the review…

LetterReflex is available for both iPhone and iPad. It has “two activities to help overcome common letter reversals”. The first is called tilt-it and is to help distinguish left and right. It has a b, d, p, and q in each of the four squares/corners and you have to tilt to get a ball into a hole in one of the four squares that it asks. You have to listen closely and sometimes I miss what it said. I’ve found that sometimes the ball moves quickly and so the kids get frustrated when it goes in the wrong hole by accident.
I do like from the OT standpoint that it forces the kids to work on gradation of movement – they can’t just tilt the iPad furiously left or right but have to gently and gradually move the iPad in various directions. I hadn’t until just now, when writing this review, noted that it worked on lefts and rights, however.
What I like about this particular activity is gradation of movement and following directions and seeing whether the child can quickly discriminate the b/d/p/q – which I don’t think is quite what the activity was intended for (apparently distinguishing lefts and rights!).

The second activity is called “Flip It” for Letter Discrimination – the client sees, for example, the number 6, then a bunch of 9s as well, and has to swipe the 9s to match the 6s. They are being timed for speed and measured for accuracy as well. I like this activity a lot as it definitely works on exactly what it says – discrimination – and the fact that it’s timed and measured means that even though the client can likely do the task no matter what, you can watch whether they are improving by their accuracy and speed.

For example, I can do it relatively quickly, swiping, but I have terrible accuracy because I have horrific spatial difficulties so I just swipe randomly until it tells me its right. I’m not dyslexic in the slightest and never have reversals, but if it’s sideways and backwards, I can’t easily figure out how to make it right in the least amount of swipes. I could mindlessly swipe away and not learn a thing, which is how I tend to do it…but hopefully I have an OT forcing me to think about my actions and do it in the least amount of swipes and making me look at my scores. 🙂

I work with elementary school aged kids and they like this one for at least a few levels before they want to move on. I could definitely see this being great for older-aged kids and adults with cognitive issues as well.

Overall, I liked this app. Do I love this app with a passion? No, but it’s a nice one to have in the toolbox, especially for only $3.99.

I definitely recommend you see if you can get yourself a free download. Comment here! The chances of winning a code to get a free download are pretty astronomical on this post as I don’t usually get a lot of comments. You have one week. Go!

Category: Occupational Therapy | Comments: 7

23 Feb 2013

How to Draw: Using Progressive Drawings from a Website

My OT kids are motivated to use a website to learn how to draw. We’ve had success using

There’s only a limited amount there – 13 drawings to be exact – but my OT kids are more willing to use it and follow it than the similar progressive drawings I have on paper.


Since I’m left handed and my OT kids are usually right handed, it works out to draw a line down the middle, and then we both use the same piece of paper…I draw the first step, then my OT kid copies….we just keep following that website till we finish each drawing. With a motivated and relatively speedy child, we can get through about 5-6 drawings in a session…meaning we typically can only use the website 1-2x total.

If anybody else knows of similar websites, I’d love it. This one is not perfect, some of the shapes are a little hard, but you can’t beat the motivation of it being computer-based…

The reason we do the progressive drawings is to help my OT kids learn how to break down the drawings into small shapes and see how the whole breaks down into its parts (and how the parts turn into a whole!). Also many of my kids have trouble with shapes in general, especially rotated shapes, so we can work on that too…big, small, rotated, shapes…following directions…spatial orientation…etc. When a teacher comes to me and says wow, we just did an art project and my student REALLY couldn’t follow along, look at what he did…..this is the kind of session that follows. 🙂

Category: Occupational Therapy | Comments: 1

21 Feb 2013

Figuring out What to do at Conference

As I blogged about here: http://blog.missawesomeness.com/2013/02/come-to-aota-conference-i-beg-you-i.html, PLEASE Come to AOTA Conference.

Next morning’s update: Read Cheryl’s comment below before you start doing anything (after reading this post!)…she explained that there is a conference schedule builder you can use which is less work, etc…thanks Cheryl

if you feel like stalking me there, I am copy/pasting what I hope to be doing, not for the purpose of stalkers, but because I want you to see what it looks like. What I did was go through the conference booklet and (messily) in Word write up the courses and posters that most appealed to me so that I could get a sense of the time. If I were a better dork (or a nerd or a geek) I’d have done it in Excel. But I’m not so this is as good as it gets. At least this early in advance. I mostly focused on “Children and Youth” because I work in that field, although in reality there was plenty in other areas that appealed to me as well. I’m also probably helping work in my company’s booth (School Steps Inc.)
If you’re going or thinking about going, I recommend at least highlighting or marking in some fashion what you are interested in, then hopefully taking the next step of making a schedule of some sort. It will be way easier and less overwhelming to follow that, then leafing through the booklet frantically when you get to San Diego. 
Two things I’m trying to figure out.
1) How to go to a course AND see posters that may be at the same time 🙁 There seem to be some super cool posters I am verrrry interested in.
2) What exactly RWP is or Research Program… I know they have to do with Research and I saw what the exact acronym stands for, (although I forget now) but I don’t know what the exact mechanism is – does it seem like a poster, or do you sit in a classroom and they present their research, or what?
Without further ado, and without yet bidding you adieu, here’s what I’m hoping to do:
Thursday April 25th, Keynote Speaker 4 to 530, then Maybe work an Expo Booth
Friday April 26th + Booth Times
9:30 – 11:00 am : SC 214  Multiple High and Low Tech Interventions For Improving Social Participation
11 to 12:15 Booth Work? 
12:30 to 2:30pm POSTERS: Neuromechanisms of Dsylexia, Competency Checklist for Neonatal Therapist, Exploring Role of SI Among Educators
2:00 to 3:30pm: Research Program 213: DCD – Early Screening – Write Start ??? What’s Research Program Look Like???
2:00 to 3:30pm: SC 221: AOTA: Value Added Assessment of School Based OT Practitioners
3 to 5pm: Posters: ALERT Program, School Based OT Beyond HW and FM skills, Visual Perception in Preterm Kids at 5 years of age
330 to 5pm: SC 234: Electronic Scoring of SPM
Saturday, April 27th
830am to 930am: SIS Buzz Sessions – Creative Ideas for Applying Sensory Based OT in Schools by Deanna Sava
9am to 11am: Posters – Classrooom Integrated Therapy for Handwriting, Effectiveness of SI Therapy in improving School participation, Repetitive Behaviors/Sensory Responsiveness, Looking at Multisensory Handwriting Program, Quality of HW and Scaling of Hand size/Pencil Size   also Karen Jacobs poster 9am to 11, Power of Social Media under General and Professional Issues…and Social Networking and E Profesionalism…
930am to 11am: SC 325 School Based Workload, What’s Magical formula?
1230 to 230 Posters: VP skills and HW, what is link? Implementing Alert Program, Addressing School Servivce – 3:1 Model, Experience OF OT in Rural, Using Self-regulation Program, Empowering Kids to Set Goals, Draw a Person Tests…Sensory Supporting Swimming…
1230 to 230: RWP Infant head movements, NICU Professionals
2 to 330: OUR COURSE SC 328 What’s New in Digital and Social Media for Occupational Therapy?
4 to 530: SC 371: Leadership for All, Developing Inner Leader to Advance School Based Practice
Sunday, April 28th
WS 408: AUTISM/Scerts: 8am to 11am: Maximize Social Participation and Sensory Emotional Regulation or OT role in addressing Bullying
Or Revising Assertiveness….WS 404 OR 
WS 407.Sensory Tools for Mindful Living
I also hope, of course, to hang out with my out of town OT friends, and I bought a ticket for AOTPAC night which was a lot of fun last year. I hope to do a lot of social networking while at conference and if any blog readers are there, please let me know so we can arrange a face to face! HEY, OMG, If Myy Space and Facebook ever merged, they could call it Space2Face. CLEVER. 
Hope to see you all at Conference! 
Category: Occupational Therapy | Comments: 3

19 Feb 2013

Come to AOTA Conference, I beg you, I love you…

The American Occupational Therapy Association’s (AOTA) Conference is this April 25th through April 28th, and CHECK IT OUT, it’s in SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA!!!!!

This happens to be my hometown, which means I am definitely going to it. 🙂 
The keynote speaker this year will be Aron Ralston, who wrote “Betwen a Rock and a Hard Place” – remember the movie 127 Hours? His Story. Ouch.
If you aren’t a member and still want to go to conference, you can save 15% on membership and 30% on registration by signing up for both.
I love AOTA conference because it gives everyone a  boost of confidence and inspiration that we are in a great field with a great message surrounded by amazing and awe-inspiring people. I love all the OT energy you can find all in one small area. It’s amazing the Convention Center doesn’t go into ORBIT with all that energy. Pretty sure I just mangled some analogies (or metaphors, or something) there, but let’s go with it…cough, moving on…
Right now I’m sitting down with the conference booklet (or you can look on www.aota.org in their conference section), figuring out what courses I want to go to and what posters I want to look at specifically! What dates and times. 
And Expo Hall is my favoritest thing in the world. Well besides sloths. Expo is where there are tons of booths that give away free stuff, let you learn about places you might want to work (or do work), and sell stuff you’ve maybe never seen, or have seen and want to buy easily. I looove wandering around Expo. 
I’m going to be working my company’s booth, School Steps Inc., some of the time, and I don’t know their booth number but if you come to Expo, come say hi and tell me you’re a blog reader. 🙂 Or that you want a job with us at schoolstepsinc.com …!! 
I also know that on SATURDAY, April April 27th, I am part of Short Course (SC) 328, sponsored by AOTA: “What’s New in Digital and Social Media for Occupational Therapy?” The five of us presenting are the same as those of us that presented last year: Anita Hamilton of Australia (Whoah nelly lol), Cheryl Morris (OT Notes), Me (Miss Awesomeness/Days of Our OT Lives), Erik Johnson (OT Army Guy), and Christopher Alterio (ABC Therapeutics).
In an very appropriate and fitting nod to technology, within our presentation, Anita of Australia will be presenting from Australia this year since she can’t get to CA, and Cheryl will be presenting from Maryland since she will be about to have a BABY!!!!! Woot woot! I’m pretty sure she’s naming it Karen, don’t quote me on that….Actually quote me. Again, cough. Literally (I can’t get rid of it) and figuratively (since there’s no way). 
(I like parentheses)
AOTA would like if I posted seriously about how awesome AOTA conference is and didn’t add all this extraneous random crap that entertains solely me. Sorry AOTA. I love you guys and I love conference and I want everyone to go and nobody asked me to write this post, so I get to tell everyone how awesome it is and BEG THEM TO GO PLEASE COME PLEASE COME GUYS PLEASE I WANT TO YOU TO COME AND I WANT YOU TO COME SAY HI AND I WANT TO MEET YOU AND I WANT YOU TO COME LEARN ABOUT STUFF AND GET CONTINUING EDUCATION AND MOST ESPECIALLY COME TO EXPO WHICH IS SO COOL AND COME TO OUR PRESENTATION AND BE A PART OF AOTA. 
But also. I want to make myself laugh. Which I accomplished, becase as an easily entertained dork, I can do that with my own writing.
Mission accomplished. Go to conference, it’s pretty awesome. http://www.aota.org/conference
Category: Occupational Therapy | Comments: 7

19 Feb 2013

How to Not be a Crappy OT (Learned the Hard Way), Lesson #1

Edit: I’ve posted this several times, then unposted it. It makes me feel so weird to share one of my most shameful moments, even though I realize that this may not seem like a big deal for some people.

I can hardly share this without cringing. Every day this week I’ve passed the evidence with a wince and thought to myself, “do I really want to do this?” I decided that yes, I do. An important part of “learning publicly” is transparency, and that includes, at times, embarrassment.

This incident happened in my first week as a “real” OT, in Fall of 2009, meaning my first week as a registered/licensed therapist, working in Georgia. I share this with you as a precaution of what NOT TO DO! as an occupational therapist.
*Names have been changed to protect the innocent (him) but not the guilty (me).
He was a man who had had a a stroke (my notes say L CVA meaning left cerebrovascular accident). I’ll call him Bob*. We were working on him writing,  for the first time since the stroke. We were using a built-up pen. Now, before I tell you what I had him write, let me explain one thing in my defense: He was an easy-going guy, we had a good rapport, and he had a great sense of humor. We were both excited to have him write.
For his first sentence that he practiced, which was illegible by the way, I had him copy: “Karen is cool”.  I was kidding around with him. I didn’t really think about it.
I then had him write “Karen is here” then “I’m cool” then his signature.
On the next page, after he had some practice and we had done some adjusting and his handwriting was becoming legible, I told him to write whatever he wanted, as I had run out of ideas.
He thoughtfully paused for a second, then wrote, “*John and *Jane are my babies”
That sentence, my friends, is when I first realized the error I had made. As occupational therapists, we pride ourselves on working with people on the activities that bring meaning to their lives. Here I was, a brand new OT, fresh with theory and foundation and insight, and I had made such a basic error. I was so pleased with myself – so pleased that I had helped a patient who had a stroke learn to write again – that I had taken away something meaningful from him – his first written sentences after his stroke – and replaced them with something meaningful to ME. I had assumed he had no story of his own. I had made his first written words be “Karen is cool” (sure, funny to me at the moment) instead of allowing his preference, “John and Jane are my babies”.
I gave him a copy of the second piece of paper, which started with the sentence about his children, to show his kids how his first real sentence (his first legible one) was about his kids, and I saved a copy of the first page, to remind myself to never make that kind of mistake again. That it was always about the meaning for THEM first, not me.
I cringe writing this. I know ultimately it’s not the biggest deal in the world and bigger mistakes have been made, but I felt sick to my stomach as I watched him write the sentence about his babies and realized what I had done. We can be pleased with ourselves as OTs for helping a patient/client/consumer reach a milestone, but we need to make sure we let them attach the meaning to it themselves, and not steal it away with our own delight.

My one and ONLY reason for sharing such a shameful moment? To hope you as a new or future practitioner will never make the same mistake. That when your client is about to do something, or write something, that you make sure it’s with their best interest in mind, not yours. That you let them script their own story and don’t put words into their mouth, no matter how silly you think you’re being, if they have their own words you’re replacing.

I know I shouldn’t let things like this haunt me, but they do. Because I want to be a good OT, and that means not making mistakes like this – or at least learning from them.

Category: Occupational Therapy, reflections | Comments: 1

17 Feb 2013

Real-Life Dexteria: Practicing Finger Isolation with Popsicle Sticks

I like the program Dexteria, and have blogged about it here: https://missawesomeness.com/ot-review-of-ipad-app-dexteria-for-fine-motor-skills/

It is too fast for some of my elementary schoolers (and I bet for others with cognitive impairments or recovering from certain types of hand or neurological injuries). I’m hoping with a future upgrade they allow a setting where the sequence can be slowed down or press-dependent rather than by time. In the meantime,  I made my own physical version in 3 seconds by grabbing some colored popsicle sticks. By having my little OT kid practice with these popsicle sticks in real life, I’m hoping it will speed her up and carry over so she can do the i-Pad version soon, which is much more motivating/engaging. 🙂

Category: Occupational Therapy | Comments: 3

16 Feb 2013

Robot Space Caterpillars: Coloring inside the Lines


As an elementary school OT, to practice coloring inside the lines (when working on fine motor skills, keeping the wrist still and just moving the fingers, visual attention, distal control, etc) we make “robot space caterpillars”. We use small grid paper and practice outlining the shape before coloring it in. We usually do about 5-6 boxes at a time.

It’s definitely more fun to make robot space caterpillars than to color in boxes. 🙂

Category: Occupational Therapy | Comments: 1

12 Feb 2013

The "Love Potato" : Quick and easy OT Valentines Day Craft

Last night I said I wasn’t a good OT because I wasn’t going to do any Valentines Day Crafts with my kids. I perused Valentines Day stuff on Pinterest, and kept seeing the same things over and over again. Lots of hearts, lots of candy, lots of red. It just all looked the same to me. The only thing that even remotely interested me was lovebug stuff. Lots of it was super cute and awesome, I’m just a weirdo. So I made the executive decision that (some of) my OT kids are going to make love potatoes. That’s right. We’re going to cut out potatoes, put up to 9 googly eyes on it, and handwrite “I only have eyes for you, Be my Valentine?”…..because come on. Who else gets a love potato? It will be unique. 

I included a picture of my sample above! Inside it says “Dear Mom, I have eyes only for you. Be my Valentine? Love, Kid” 

The kids have to fold, cut, glue, deal with googley eyes, trace, copy, handwrite, etc…so a lot of great OT components. I can “grade” the activity (not give it an A or an F, but meaning make it harder or easier) depending on the kid’s ability level). IE maybe do some of the cutting or writing for them. I have at least a few kids I’d like to do this with. And I think the googley eyes part is what will sell it to them, haha. 

Today’s Facebook status was: 

May or may not have gotten under a table today with an upset student to meet them at their level. May or may not have made “love potatoes” today with googly eyes with a kid. May or may not have sung (only by request) a made-up song about a kid swinging to space on a blue hot dog rocket.

Shared here for those of you who aren’t on Facebook with me (if you want, follow me here (I think all you have to do is “Like” me to follow me): 
Category: Occupational Therapy | Comments: 4

10 Feb 2013

The Cricket Symphony: Surviving Childhood Without Social Skills

Every cricket had a job all throughout my childhood. Each time my mouth opened, the symphony began. People would look at me quizzically, alarmed by my nonsensical humor and lack of social understanding. One time, during Peter Pan practice rehearsal (I was Tootles, one of the lost boys), a girl complained of a mosquito bite. She reached over to scratch it as I laughed. What I wanted to say is “I am sorry you hurt your leg. That must really hurt.” But what came out was a short, tight, laugh. She looked at me with a pained expression on her face, noting out loud that I was weird. I felt bad, but I grinned at her exaggeratedly, unable to express myself properly.
            Each time I was supposed to smile for a photo, my face and mouth would curl up in a grotesque, over-exaggerated, distorted version of myself. I couldn’t seem to just smile. “Karen!” They would protest, “don’t smile like that! Stop playing”! And yet I couldn’t. All my face could do is continue to freeze into that same warped smile, as everyone’s smiles around me melted into frowns.  Every picture I have during that particular stage of childhood shows me, the little ugly duckling, trying desperately to fit in with the smiling swans all around me. I’d paddle and paddle but just never matched their grace.
Upper row, third from left…obviously!

            I survived my worrisome tendencies (and put a few crickets on unemployment) by escaping into the magical world of reading. I could transport myself into stories and not have to worry about saying or doing the wrong thing at the wrong time; my script was right in front of me. I read and I read and I read. I spent my childhood reading. Many trees met their deaths because of my insatiable urge for more books. I typically read at least nine books a week – I could read an entire Sweet Valley High book within a few hours when it took most children my age a week. Sweet Valley High books were fun because the protagonists were twins, just like me and my sister. I was more of a Elizabeth (minus the popularity) while my twin Kristina was more of a Jessica. Elizabeth was so good that Jessica could only look bad. It’s easy to look good when all you do is read. I also loved the Babysitter’s Club series as those girls were everything I wished I could be. The babysitters were prepared, smart, creative, funny, and courteous. This was me, except for well, the funny and courteous part. I was exceptionally funny in my brain, but I’d start to speak and my witty remark would come out as gobbledygook. I remember the way my 5thgrade teacher used to look at me. I’d try to impress her and instead confirm her belief that I was astoundingly weird. The crickets would chirp their agreement. 
            I started to read books like “The Stand” by Stephen King and “The Clan of the Cave Bear” when I was in 5th grade at 10 years old. The Stand was over 1,000 pages long in a time well before the Harry Potter books made that a less impressive feat. It had a tiny-font and was truly a tome of horror. I read that book every night and every week for hours, determined to present it for a book report. I recently stumbled across my teacher’s review of it and she was very impressed. I apparently knew enough to leave out the incredibly inappropriate parts of sex and gore, focusing on the main plot line of infectious disease. I am sure that presenting that book did nothing for my popularity, although I was very proud of myself.
            As I am sure I’ve made clear by now, popularity was something I never had. I understand ways to reach that elusive status, but I either couldn’t or wouldn’t try. For one thing, you had to be able to smile and talk in a way that didn’t leave the crickets scrambling. For another, I had the perception that you had to be willing to do things that hurt other people. For example, I heard whispers of toilet papering and throwing eggs at houses, or shoplifting small items from Claire’s. The popular children laughed hysterically when discussing their exploits; to me all I could see was the face of the person left to deal with the mess. Popularity wasn’t worth that to me. I would rather read.
            As I grew older I learned how to express myself in person better, although I still preferred to stay under the radar during middle school and high school years, when children are at their most cruel. Now that I am shockingly a grown-up, my awkwardness is more accepted and my popularity has increased, although I’ll never be part of any “in” crowd, unless it’s a dorky crowd. I survived childhood. I’m a (mildly) successful adult, although the crickets still linger nearby. I currently work as an occupational therapist in an elementary school setting. 
In my particular case, I work with quite high-functioning children with various diagnoses, and I find most of them to be extremely delightfully quirky. They keep me smiling on a daily basis. However, these quirks, which adults find so sweet and endearing, make it very challenging for most of them to make friends with their peer groups. I completely understand their pain. I was there. These children end up in all sorts of social skills groups and therapies and interventions. I would have too, if such things had existed when I was in school. Sometimes it helps them and sometimes it doesn’t with regards to learning socially appropriate behaviors and applying them to real life scenarios. 
I can’t force friends upon them, but I do my best to help them understand that life will better and better and that people get nicer and nicer.

Category: Occupational Therapy | Comments: 2