Superstar Sources for School OTs

open clipart vectors pixabay

by Molly Shannon, MS, OTR/L, ATP, on the ATandOT Blog

As an OT with over 30 years’ experience in working in public schools and in assistive technology, I feel a key contribution we provide to our special needs students is that of being a wonderful source for a wide variety of resources for our team members and families.  In the schools as OT practitioners, we strive to maximize function and independence in our students in order to facilitate their access to their educational program. The following sources and resources are my professional favorites and are top-notch.

1. A Little Bit of This and That: Evaluation/Frequencies/504 Plans/Workloads:

A. Systemic Decision-Making Process for OT/PT Services, guidelines for evaluation/frequencies from NSSEO. These type of rubrics are to assist districts or schools in provision of consistent recommendations to the IEP teams (always considering the individualized goals and needs).

B. Assessment Sources:

1. Consider this writing assessment tool by a well-known OT. It is such a reasonably priced resource that has been out in various forms through the years and now is available commercially. The Writing Protocol by Denise DeCoste, Ed. D, OTR, is only $25 and is available as a download from Don Johnston, Inc.
2. Speech Recognition as AT for Writing, an excellent, free booklet with tons of assessment and training ideas for AT for writing by Daniel Cochrane and Kelly Key
3. While there are some excellent handwriting assessment tools available commercially, this is a rubric for assessment which is a great tool. Free handout: Handwriting Assessment Rubric
4. As OTs, we are often asked just what are the norms for handwriting speeds in the schools for students without disabilities as a point of reference for our students with special needs. Here is a free guide: Handwriting Speeds for Copying Tasks
5. Here is another nice reference tool for Handwriting and Keyboarding Rates
6. Thorough guide from a school AT team from the Boulder Valley School District. School-based Writing AT Evaluation: An Interdisciplinary Approach (Paul Visvader, AT Coordinator) download free PDF booklet from bottom of book in “book” section)

C. 504 Plans are often misunderstood. Check out this excellent source for Understanding 504 Plans explained so well from website Understood. This is a fantastic website with a broad range of supports for professionals and parents.

D. This is a hot topic throughout the US and that is OT workloads! This is a source from my state that is well done and highly respected that can help with caseloads in a fair manner. Determining FTE and Workloads for OT, PT, and SLPs (UNC)  AOTA has several excellent articles for members regarding converting “Caseload to Workload,” as well.

2. OTs Ya’ll Need to Follow: there are so many available, but these are my favs!

A. Sugar Aunts
B. OTs with Apps and Technology
C. Growing Hands On Kids
D. Your Therapy Source
E. Inspired Treehouse (an OT and a PT blog):
F. MamaOT and love this post “What’s in My Therapy Box” about the 60+ items that are in her therapy box
G. Handwriting with Katherine a super EBP blog about all things handwriting
H. Lemon Lime Adventures: a great sensory resource, this is a great blog “Sensory Break Ideas for Kids”
I. 20+ OT Blogs to Grow Your OT Career: blog post by OT Potential
J Not an OT, but David Banes has a wealth of current technology and inclusion articles in his newsletter: AT and Inclusion Newsletter
K. Plugs! Our collaborative blog for school OTs: Go to For OT by OTs: Stacy Turke, Marie Toole, April Franco and me! Plus my own blog, AT and OT

L.  Miss Jaime OT

3. Gotta See AT Resources:

Public Domain Pictures Pixabay

A. OCALI and ATIM, amazing info and free online training resources for exceptional children and AT. These are two must see resources!
B. Jane Farrell excellent guide to “Switch Accessible Apps for iPad and iPhone” and she has one for AAC apps as well on her website.
C. My handout from my 2016 AOTA presentation about Technology/apps for Prewriting, Handwriting and Writing
D. AT Solutions for Students with Visual Impairments (Low, Medium, and High Tech)
E. With all of the Chromebooks available in schools now and with so many speech options and others available, this is a great guide to a variety of extensions: 21 Google Extensions for Struggling Students and Special Needs

4. Some Rockin’ Resources from North Carolina!

A. From a great SLP who provides many free adapted books or icons: Chapel Hill Snippets
B. Tar Heel Reader has thousands of free books developed by and for those with disabilities with adapted access and speech options.

5. Website Wonders: these sites work so well with SmartBoard activities and especially with wireless/wired switch access methods:

start up stock photos pixabay

A. Priory Woods (variety of access methods) wide array of engaging videos
B. Jacob’s Lessons: a website with many free online activities developed by a father of a child with autism.
C. Some more excellent and FREE online switch activities from Ian Bean.

6. Social Stories Galore

A. The best source I’ve seen for an amazing wealth of social stories and links is from PBIS World
B. Check out my blog post about OTS and social stories: “Unique Ways OTs Support Social Stories”

7. Power in Numbers!

A. Check out and join our 22k strong Facebook Group: Pediatric Occupational Therapists. OT practitioners ask for help and gets tons of responses on this closed group.
B. There are a wealth of OT resources (over 4K) on Teachers Pay Teachers. My favs are Jan McClesky, OTR, Gift of Curiosity, Jennifer Hier, Autism Adventures or Autism Helper. Please share yours with me in the comments.
C. Pinterest: how can you be a school OT and not love Pinterest to find great free printables, resources, and activity ideas? Remember that most of the bloggers noted above also have Pinterest boards. Check out my boards for OT, EC, AT, academia, and more: Molly Shannon, MS, OTR/L, ATP Pinterest Board

While we wear many important hats working in the schools as OTs, being a go-to source for a wide variety of information and resources is vital in our provision of quality services to our students, their educational team, and their families. I hope that you’ve discovered a few new gems to help you in your job as a school OT. Please share with me any of your favorite, must-have resources, as well!

 

 

 

Molly Shannon, OTR/L, ATPMolly Shannon, OTR/L, AT , is an occupational Therapist with 33 years’ experience and  currently working in the public schools as a school-based Occupational Therapist in NC. She has specialized in the provision of Assistive Technology for 29 of those years and is RESNA certified as an Assistive Technology Professional. In addition, Molly is an Adjunct Professor of Occupational Therapy at Cabarrus College of Health Sciences in the Master’s Program teaching Therapeutic Adaptations/Assistive Technology in OT. She loves to present and train others in Assistive Technology and has been a national-level conference presenter since 1989.  She has worked with clients of all ages and with a wide range of disabilities in public/private school settings, non-profit educational/therapeutic agencies, outpatient/inpatient rehabilitation, and with the North Carolina Assistive Technology Program.  You can connect with Molly on Twitter sitePinterest Boards, or her ATandOT Facebook page.

Disclaimer: The information shared on the Go-To-For-OT Blog or affiliated Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest sites, and shared on social or public media or as links on other sites is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice or evaluation and care from your physician/medical team or any other qualified health care providers. Therefore, the authors and administrator of these posts take no responsibility for any liability, loss, or risk taken by individuals as a result of applying the ideas or resources.  

All photos that include a link to an originating site should be used with a link back to that site.  

Superstar Sources for School OTs

Updated DIY Adapted Stylus or Pointer

Shannon Intro Pic August
Photo property of the Molly Shannon.

Updated DIY Adapted Stylus or Pointer

by Molly Shannon, MS, OTR/L, ATP,

on the ATandOT Blog

 

 

 

Why would I need to make an adapted stylus or pointer?  Many children, students, or adults with physical limitations have difficulty holding a stylus and/or have difficulty isolating their index fingers for using technology, pointing to indicate their choices in communication, or in turning pages of a book.  These styli can be made very inexpensively as a DIY project.  As an Occupational Therapist, I have used these types of styli for operating standard computer keyboards, touch screens, augmentative communication devices, pointing for choice-making, or even to assist with turning pages in books.  There is an option to use either a standard pencil with an eraser tip or a specific stylus with tip (capacitive tip) depending upon your client’s need when making this stylus.

This project can also be a great community service project for students.  I have used this as a great hands-on DIY activity with college-level occupational therapy students.  You also could donate the extra styli that you make from the additional materials to local schools or rehabilitation centers.

The following instructions have been updated and edited from a variety of older sources to make the steps easier to understand and to encourage the use of these low-cost adaptations in cases where finances prevent purchase of expensive commercially available options.

Please use caution with any of the tools involved in making these styli.

Materials needed:  PVC pipe, cutting tool, sand paper, acetone, cotton balls, markers, fast-drying glue, drill, two-sided fastening strips, small pencil or inexpensive stylus, and pliers:

  1. Cutting PVC:  Buy a ¾” piece of PVC pipe from the hardware store.  (They are sold in about 10-foot pieces in the plumbing section.)  You can ask them to cut 4-inch-long pieces for you, otherwise proceed to a. and b. below.  Some resources recommend using 1″ diameter PVC, but this is too hard to cut with the PVC cutter.
  • Measure and mark 4-inch segments along the pipe’s length with a permanent marker.
  • You will then either cut the segments out with a handsaw or PVC pipe cutter tool. Be careful as the Shannon Cutter Toolsegments can tend to pop off once you squeeze the cutter tool very tightly. PVC/pipe cutter tools are available online or from Home Depot (from $15-30.00).

 

  1. You can perform the next steps in any order:
  • Acetone:   You will need to purchase acetone from a drug store or online since it is no longer an ingredient in gel fingernail polish used in the homes (cost from $4-10.00).  Use the acetone with a cotton ball on the piece of PVC pipe to remove markings from the manufacturer and your black marker marks.   Shannon Acetone   Be careful and wash hands afterwards as the acetone is powerful!

 

  • Sand the ends of the cut PVC pipe smooth with a medium-grade sand paper.  It is easier if you cut small pieces of sand paper.
  • Cut 11″ of double-sided fastening tape (Velcro brand is a more expensive option) to assist in holding the adapted stylus or pointer.  I ordered a roll of this product in a 5-yard roll from Amazon for $6.85 (product name:  Fastening Tape 0.75-inch Hook & Loop Fastening Tape 5 yard/roll – Black or other colors).

 

Photo property of Molly Shannon.
Photo property of Molly Shannon.

Shannon Velco 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • If making a pointer:   For typical situations, you can use a small pencil.  You can break a long pencil into a shorter pencil or use a Handwriting without Tears small pencil.  But if needed, for your client’s purposes, use a longer pencil in the stylus.   For example:  You may need to use a longer pencil for turning the pages of a book.  The eraser end will be pointing out towards the surface it is pointing at or is pressing on.
  • If making a stylus:  Use an inexpensive stylus (from the Dollar Store or get multi-packs from Amazon for example) for use with touch-sensitive technology.  You may have to use pliers to pull out the piece on the end of the stylus that is typically used to “clip-on” to a pocket or else the stylus cannot fit into the hole that you will drill.

Shannon Stylus

Shannon Tripod Grasp

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Making holes for the stylus or pencil:  You can use a ¼” drill bit for a pencil that will be used as a pointer (eraser tip pointed out to access keyboards or communication devices without touch screens) OR use a 3/8″ drill bit for use with a standard, inexpensive stylus for touch screens (capacitive screens).
  • Place a dot with the marker about 1-1 ½” from the end of the 4″ piece of PVC pipe.
  • You should score the drawn dot with a nail and hammer in order to more easily drill a hole into the PVC pipe.
  • Stabilize the PVC pipe piece with a table clamp.
  • Use the drill (cordless for the ¼” for a pencil or corded for the stylus) carefully.    Get a peer to stabilize the pipe if needed.
  • Again use the ¼” drill bit for a typical pencil and the 3/8″ drill bit for the stylus.
  • You can use the nail to clean out the hole or sand it a bit as well.
  1. You can leave a pencil in the hole without glue typically, but you would need to use a quick-drying glue, such as Gorilla Glue to stabilize the stylus.  If over time the stylus tip stops working (as they often do), you can pull/pry out the stylus and insert and glue in another.  Give the glue a few minutes to dry.

 

  1. Add the double sided fastening strap into the adapted stylus, join the ends, and it is ready for use with your client once the glue dries.

    Photo property of Molly Shannon.
    Photo property of Molly Shannon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now you are ready to begin using your DIY stylus to help your client with access to technology, turning pages of books, or indicating their choices by pointing for communication.

 

Molly Shannon, OTR/L, ATPMolly Shannon, OTR/L, AT , is an occupational Therapist with 33 years’ experience and  currently working in the public schools as a school-based Occupational Therapist in NC. She has specialized in the provision of Assistive Technology for 29 of those years and is RESNA certified as an Assistive Technology Professional. In addition, Molly is an Adjunct Professor of Occupational Therapy at Cabarrus College of Health Sciences in the Master’s Program teaching Therapeutic Adaptations/Assistive Technology in OT. She loves to present and train others in Assistive Technology and has been a national-level conference presenter since 1989.  She has worked with clients of all ages and with a wide range of disabilities in public/private school settings, non-profit educational/therapeutic agencies, outpatient/inpatient rehabilitation, and with the North Carolina Assistive Technology Program.  You can connect with Molly on Twitter sitePinterest Boards, or her ATandOT Facebook page.

Disclaimer: The information shared on the Go-To-For-OT Blog or affiliated Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest sites, and shared on social or public media or as links on other sites is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice or evaluation and care from your physician/medical team or any other qualified health care providers. Therefore, the authors and administrator of these posts take no responsibility for any liability, loss, or risk taken by individuals as a result of applying the ideas or resources.  

Photos that are the property of the author should not be used without a link back to this blog.  All photos that include a link to an originating site should be used with a link back to that site.  

Updated DIY Adapted Stylus or Pointer

Handwriting Development Apps

Symbaloo

Handwriting Development Apps

by Molly Shannon, OTR/L, ATP,

on the ATandOT Blog

 

This blog post highlights handwriting development apps and it continues as the second in my series of three posts elaborating on apps for pre-writing, handwriting development, and writing.  Here is a link to the first in the series for pre-writing apps:

Old Time Fun Therpay Shannon May Blog Intro

 

The use of apps is a very hot topic within therapy and education arenas, with many opposing voices and research on each side of the discussion.  I am a firm believer that what our grandparents told us remains true today in that wise saying about “everything in moderation”.  As a mother, grandmother, and OT with over 30 years’ experience and a specialization in assistive technology, I still think there is a definite time and place when using technology to augment developmental/educational skills, for rewards, and for leisure skills.

 

Places to find Handwriting Apps and Print Resources

For those of you on Facebook that are OT practitioners, there is an excellent (closed) group “Pediatric Occupational Therapists” you may wish to explore and a wide variety of apps are frequently discussed in this group. (To join, enter your email address to request membership on their page.)  A unique website for app review via videos is “Apps for Children with Special Needs” was developed by a father of a child with autism.   Another great OT resource is the blog/website “OTs with Apps and Technology” by Carol Leynse Harold,   My new website, AT and OT, is also a resource for technology.   My friend and mentor, Katherine Collmer of “Handwriting with Katherine,”  shares handwriting development research and strategies on her site and has written a book, “Handwriting Development Assessment and Remediation:  A Practice Model for Occupational Therapists, available on her site.

An App Review

Remember that no two therapists, teachers, or parents will agree on all apps for every educational or therapeutic purpose.  It is important to note that these apps can benefit all children (with or without special needs) to assist in developing and practicing the letter and number formation skills required for handwriting.  The use of these apps are meant to be used in conjunction with typical hands-on materials in the home, educational, or therapeutic settings.

I have tried to include both free and paid apps for your potential use.  As there are over 200 handwriting apps on the Apple App Store, I am only including those that are of a higher quality, which means no ads, some ability to “grade” the accuracy of the student’s handwriting attempts, adjustable settings, and/or some data collection option.  I have included them in two methods: one, using a list format and another via a Symbaloo chart. (Click introductory graphic above or here).  If you are not familiar with Symbaloo, it is an awesome method of visually organizing lots of links and references for ease of use.  Each of the icons will take you to the correct app store for review and possible purchase from iTunes for IOS or Google Play for Android.   Each app icon tile has a title indicating parameters regarding cost and platform (space permitting).

Free Apps:   Free versions of apps often do not include all letters/numbers/options or data collection.  For descriptions of paid versions, see the list below.

  1. Little Writer (shapes, letters, numbers, words), IOS:   many therapists like this one
  2. Ollie’s Handwriting and Phonics, iPad:   really nice app for free with some ability to grade difficulty, can turn sound on/off, includes phonics
  3. iTrace Free, IOS:  limited set of letters (6), numbers (2), name, words(1) for one player and does some stroke history
  4. iWriteWords Lite, iOS:   (only 3 letters and 3 words)
  5. Kizzu Letter Workbook, IOS:  (12 letters free) can be difficult as the child has to practice each letter 12 times
  6. Blobble Write, iPad and Android:  all upper and lowercase letters trace letter on top and copy on bottom of screen, options: can show errors/strokes, easy mode, baseline, audio.
  7. ABC Pocket Phonics Lite, IOS:  includes 6 letters
  8. Letter School, IOS:  subset of numbers and letters
  9. Handwriitng Wizard,: IOS,  does keep user stats which is rare in a free app

 

Paid Apps:  These types of apps provide the entire alphabet (some include numbers or words), with full options, more choices for handwriting letter styles, or possibly data collection.

  1. Write my Name, $3.99 iPad, by Injini:  one of my all-time favorite early handwriting support apps for developmentally young students. It is a very user-Shannon June Blog Write My Namefriendly app in that if the student makes an error, there is not a loud noise or negative reaction. You can upload their picture which is very motivating for them to see and students often want to write their peer’s names in addition to their own! No data collection. Also works on letters and words.

 

  1. Ready to Print, $9.99 IOS and Android: $9.99 IOS and Android:  developed by an OT and may be the closest to that ONE app that does have the pre-writing and letter/number formation components that are helpful in handwriting development in one app.  It also has data collection (paths, shapes, letters, numbers).  A must-have in my opinion!

Shannon June Blog Ready to Print

  1. Writing Wizard, $4.99 and Cursive Writing Wizard, $4.99, both IOS, and Android: tracing various visual motor designs, plus letters, numbers and words.  Another fairly all-inclusive app that is highly motivating and collects data.  It is one of my all-time favorites due to this versatility.
  1. Touch and Write, $2.99 and Cursive Touch and Write, $2.99, both IOS:   Very popular apps with many of my students on the autism spectrum as they seemed to connect to the structure and appreciated the audio and visual feedback in this app.  No data collection is available, but you can import your own word lists in addition to using their pre-made choices.
  1. Handwriting without Tears-Wet Dry Try Suite, $4.99 iPad:  data collection, pay per student
  1. Letter School, $4.99 IOS, $3.96 Android:  4-step process for learning letters/numbers of introduction, tap to learn starting points, tracing, and then writing from memory.  Three Handwriting styles: Zaner Bloser, Handwriting without Tears, and D’Nealian.   It only keeps data depending on whether or not the students have performed the letter or number yet.   For 3 users.
  1. iTrace, $3.99, iPad:   3 Handwriting styles:  Zaner Bloser, Handwriting without Tears, and D’Nealian;  data collection; includes visual perceptual rewards after stroke formation
  1. iWriteWords $2.99, iOS:   saves user progress, can adapt contrast/difficulty
  1. Kizzu Letter Workbook, $2.99, IOS:   Student has to trace the letter 12 times to move onto the next letter which would make it too challenging for many students.
  1. Yum-Yum Letters, $2.99, IOS and $1.99, Android:   New app with lots of great features, data collection.  Very cute app and says was developed with input from OTs and teachers.

Shannon June Blog Yum Yum Letters

  1. Blobble Write, $2.99 IOS, .99, Android:  shows errors, easy mode, audio feedback
  1. ABC Pocket Phonics, IOS, $6.99:   data collection, phonics, Zaner Bloser/Handwriting without Tears/D’Nealian AND cursive are all included as options within this one app.
  1. Zaner Bloser Handwriting, Manuscript or Cursive, $1.99 for each, IOS:  shows Shannon June Blog Zaner Bloservideos of letter formations, very clean/uncluttered screens, can trace letters/numbers and practice without lines (have visual cues for starting point), and can press the “check it” button to see if performed correctly, no data collection.

 

 

While these are some of mine and other OT’s favorite apps, each of us undoubtedly will have our own particular “must haves.”  These apps can assist with handwriting development.  Technology can never replace the need for using crayons and markers for coloring, drawing, or tracing with pre-writing and early letter/number formation tasks, but the judicious use of apps can be a great motivator for some children or clients as another tool in our OT toolbox.  Let me know if you have discovered other handwriting apps that you are using!

 

 

Molly Shannon, OTR/L, ATPMolly Shannon, OTR/L, AT , is an occupational Therapist with 33 years’ experience and  currently working in the public schools as a school-based Occupational Therapist in NC. She has specialized in the provision of Assistive Technology for 29 of those years and is RESNA certified as an Assistive Technology Professional. In addition, Molly is an Adjunct Professor of Occupational Therapy at Cabarrus College of Health Sciences in the Master’s Program teaching Therapeutic Adaptations/Assistive Technology in OT. She loves to present and train others in Assistive Technology and has been a national-level conference presenter since 1989.  She has worked with clients of all ages and with a wide range of disabilities in public/private school settings, non-profit educational/therapeutic agencies, outpatient/inpatient rehabilitation, and with the North Carolina Assistive Technology Program.  You can connect with Molly on Twitter sitePinterest Boards, or her ATandOT Facebook page.

Disclaimer: The information shared on the Go-To-For-OT Blog or affiliated Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest sites, and shared on social or public media or as links on other sites is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice or evaluation and care from your physician/medical team or any other qualified health care providers. Therefore, the authors and administrator of these posts take no responsibility for any liability, loss, or risk taken by individuals as a result of applying the ideas or resources.  

Photos are the property of the originating sites and should not be used without a link back to that site.  

Handwriting Development Apps

Old-Timey Fun = Therapy

Old Time Fun Therpay Shannon May Blog Intro

 

 

Old-Timey Fun = Therapy

by Molly Shannon, OTR/L, ATP,

on the ATandOT Blog

 

 

In over three decades of being a mother and occupational therapist, I have seen such a drastic shift in the amount and type of play that children in our country participate in today. With the summer school break not too far away, I wanted to share some insights and resources regarding the importance of play, and in particular, older time-honored classic games and activities you can share with your children to help improve their overall fine and gross motor skills, upper body strength and coordination, handwriting skills, memory skills, and social interaction abilities.  Parents are always asking me for activities to do at home with their children who receive occupational therapy and are excited to hear about some of these tried-and-true activities that can help their child developmentally.

There has been a great deal of buzz in the media in recent years about the vital role that play, outdoor play, and recess provide to children. With an eye on evidence-based practice, this is an intriguing study published by the JAMA that identified that about half of the preschoolers in their study did not have even one parent-supervised outdoor play opportunity per day. There is one school district in Texas that has quadrupled recess to research the benefits to students.   My peer blogging buddy, Marie Toole (School Tools for Pediatric Occupational Therapists) recently posted an excellent blog about incorporating sensory breaks and movement throughout the school day.  Another great article noted the challenges facing the current crop of “helicopter” parents’ in allowing their children to simply play outside and understanding that these skills are critical for childhood development.

As an OT that has specialized in school-based therapy, I have seen such a decrease in both typical and special needs children’s ability to hold a pencil using a correct, functional pencil grip and in overall legibility with handwriting.  Some of the reasons for the poor grip and messy handwriting may possibly include the decreased time that children are playing outside, the increased time spent indoors using a variety of technology, the lack of time children are “non-scheduled” with afterschool activities, the increase in finger foods which do not require the use of utensils, and the lack of participation in games and activities that promote fine and gross motor coordination (such as old-timey activities and games).

As a child in the 60’s, I spent hours and hours outside riding my bike, practicing clapping games with my friends, and playing hopscotch.  My four children, raised in the 80’s and 90’s did spend a lot of time outdoors, yet not as much as my generation, playing on their non-motorized scooters, riding in their “cozy” car, and jumping rope.  Yet, my four grandchildren, aged 2-8, spend so much less time outside playing; and if they do, they may be in a motorized car, playing briefly with balls, or on their swingset (if their parent is available to watch them).  I do think that there is an increased fear that parents now have about their child’s safety and they are fearful to let them out of their sight.  When my grandchildren do come to stay with Mimi and Poppa, we make a concerted effort to never have the TV on and to work hard at interacting and playing with them both inside and outside.

 

Hula Hoop
Hula Hoop

 

Fortune Teller
Fortune Teller

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are some classic games and activities to play with the children in your life along with some potential developmental benefits of each. If you don’t remember how to play some of them, just check out Pinterest or the internet as there are many great resources available (Here is a link to my Pinterest board “Old Timey Fun=Therapy.”

 

Activity Gross Motor Fine Motor Motor Planning Bilateral Skills Strength/

endurance

Visual Motor  Social Skills Sensory Skills Perceptual/Memory
Hula hoops and Skip bo x x x x
Hopscotch, Croquet, ring toss, bocce ball x x x x x x x x
Jump rope, chinese jump rope, and limbo x x x x x x x
Clapping games, string play x x x x x x x
Pick up sticks, Tiddly Winks, Jacks, marbles, Potato head x x x x
Card games: Old Maid, Go Fish, War, etc x x x x x
Games: Red light/green light, charades, Simon Says, Hokey Pokey, Hot Potato, Hide and Seek, Duck-Duck-Goose, Musical Chairs x x x x x x x
Bubbles, giant bubbles x x x x x
Ball play, obstacle courses x x x x x x
Origami, fortunetellers x x x x x x
Playdough, paper dolls, cutting dough x x x x x x
Washing their bikes, toy cars or helping their parents wash and dry their cars x x x x x
Sensory play and tasks with gardening, playing in the dirt, water play, sidewalk chalk, water balloons x x x x x x x

 

So put down the phone, remote, or tablet yourself as a parent or loved one.  Make the effort to spend time playing with the special children in your life and it will help them with their overall development too. The bottom line is that these games and activities are FUN and that is why they are treasured classics.

 

 

Molly Shannon, OTR/L, ATPMolly Shannon, OTR/L, AT , is an occupational Therapist with 33 years’ experience and  currently working in the public schools as a school-based Occupational Therapist in NC. She has specialized in the provision of Assistive Technology for 29 of those years and is RESNA certified as an Assistive Technology Professional. In addition, Molly is an Adjunct Professor of Occupational Therapy at Cabarrus College of Health Sciences in the Master’s Program teaching Therapeutic Adaptations/Assistive Technology in OT. She loves to present and train others in Assistive Technology and has been a national-level conference presenter since 1989.  She has worked with clients of all ages and with a wide range of disabilities in public/private school settings, non-profit educational/therapeutic agencies, outpatient/inpatient rehabilitation, and with the North Carolina Assistive Technology Program.  You can connect with Molly on Twitter sitePinterest Boards, or her ATandOT Facebook page.

Disclaimer: The information shared on the Go-To-For-OT Blog or affiliated Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest sites, and shared on social or public media or as links on other sites is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice or evaluation and care from your physician/medical team or any other qualified health care providers. Therefore, the authors and administrator of these posts take no responsibility for any liability, loss, or risk taken by individuals as a result of applying the ideas or resources.  

Photos are the property of the author and should not be used without her expressed permission.  

Old-Timey Fun = Therapy

What OT Is and Isn’t: In Honor of OT Month

Title Picture1 AprilWhat OT Is and Isn’t: In Honor of OT Month

by Molly Shannon, OTR/L, ATP,

on the ATandOT Blog

 

 

In honor and recognition of Occupational Therapy’s annual OT month celebration, I wanted to share some recent experiences and new information from our recent AOTA Conference, as well as personal insights about describing our unique profession. Perhaps it is the very “uniqueness” of OT that makes it so hard to define at times.  Some of the professional experiences and learning I gained from our OT leaders and inspirational keynote speakers at AOTA Conference 2016 helped me further clarify our roles as OT practitioners.  I wanted to share these insights and some “FAQs” I’ve answered in my 34 years of practice as an OT during this important month celebrating occupational therapy.

A recent personal example of this difficulty in defining occupational therapy was at a well-attended Open House this past month at our college. There were three faculty members present with a total of almost 100 years’ experience as OTs, but each of us faced this basic description and explanation of our beloved profession with some degree of trepidation.

Obviously, AOTA is well aware of this ongoing dilemma that we face as OTs.  In that light, our incoming AOTA President, Dr. Amy Lamb, shared this updated AOTA Vision 2025 statement of OT with the AOTA 2016 conference attendees:

“Occupational therapy maximizes health, well-being, and quality of life for all people, populations, and communities through effective solutions that facilitate participation in everyday living.”

Another excellent resource I greatly identify with as a description of OT is a quote by our outgoing AOTA President Dr. Ginny Stoffel:

Stoffel Quote1

 

We were so honored to be present for the Keynote speakers at the AOTA 2016 Conference:   Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes, a married couple and Boston Marathon bombing survivors.  (See more from OT Practice Magazine.)  As they shared their inspirational story of survival and the support of their OT in their recovery, it made all of us as OTs even more proud of our profession and brought many of us to tears.  Jessica, who is a nurse, had a unique perspective on the distinct value of OT, as she stated that OTs helped her and her husband to “overcome, participate, and excel.” These three empowering words were worth the cost of attending the conference as it summed OT up quite succinctly.  Please watch the full video AOTA has posted of their keynote address available on YouTube.

Keynote Picture1

 

Furthermore, I wanted to combine some of the frequently asked questions about OT that I have been asked many times in my 34 years as an OT, along with the empowering language of our positive keynote speakers, Jessica and Patrick.

 

Frequently Asked Questions about OT and Answers:

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) Answers: Ways in which we assist our clients in overcoming, participating, and excelling.
Do you get people jobs? Indirectly we do contribute to a client’s potential abilities to gain or regain employment following injuries or as a result of diseases.  But this is just one of many areas of “occupation” or activities in which we work collaboratively with our clients to achieve their highest level of function.
You do “basket-weaving”?  Insert: ADLs, playing, handwriting, etc. The roots of our profession were as Reconstruction Aides in WWI and those early therapists did perform “hand crafts,” such as basket-weaving, with their injured servicemen.  We have always used functional activities in OT to work on those skills our clients have valued and needed to fully participate in to excel in their occupational roles in their lives, no matter if this is in a medical, community, or school-based setting.
You just do exercise/range of motion, splinting, and physical agent modalities? Unless functional activities and tasks are used in conjunction with these preparatory tasks, these are NOT considered occupational therapy (OT Practice Framework, 2014).  As a profession, we do use these treatment methods and approaches to prepare our clients for completing those activities and occupations that have been identified through assessment that they wish to be able to perform, or to return to, in their lives as independently as possible.
So, OT is the same thing as PT? We love our physical therapy team members and quite frequently we work in conjunction with them. Yet, as a profession, we each hold distinct value for our clients in many ways. This ability to clearly articulate OT’s distinct value to the public is an important goal of AOTA.  In 2015, they identified the distinct value of OT as “to improve health and quality of life through facilitating participation and engagement in occupations, the meaningful, necessary, and familiar activities of everyday life. Occupational therapy is client-centered, achieves positive outcomes, and is cost-effective.”  (See more at AOTA.)

 

As OT practitioners, we are often asked to describe to the public exactly what OT is. Hopefully these resources have given you a few more tools with which to answer that and other frequently asked questions you may encounter in your OT practice.  Also, if you get an opportunity to attend the AOTA annual conference, you should take it, as it is such a wonderful source of continuing education and networking opportunities.  But perhaps even more so, it reaffirms the reasons that you became an OT practitioner in the first place.  Every day, with every client, we as OTs are working with them to overcome the limitations of their injuries or disease processes, to fully participate in all of their desired occupations and activities, and to excel by returning  to or establishing their highest level of function in order to live their lives as independently as possible.

 

Molly Shannon, OTR/L, ATPMolly Shannon, OTR/L, AT , is an occupational Therapist with 33 years’ experience and  currently working in the public schools as a school-based Occupational Therapist in NC. She has specialized in the provision of Assistive Technology for 29 of those years and is RESNA certified as an Assistive Technology Professional. In addition, Molly is an Adjunct Professor of Occupational Therapy at Cabarrus College of Health Sciences in the Master’s Program teaching Therapeutic Adaptations/Assistive Technology in OT. She loves to present and train others in Assistive Technology and has been a national-level conference presenter since 1989.  She has worked with clients of all ages and with a wide range of disabilities in public/private school settings, non-profit educational/therapeutic agencies, outpatient/inpatient rehabilitation, and with the North Carolina Assistive Technology Program.  You can connect with Molly on Twitter sitePinterest Boards, or her ATandOT Facebook page.

Disclaimer: The information shared on the Go-To-For-OT Blog or affiliated Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest sites, and shared on social or public media or as links on other sites is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice or evaluation and care from your physician/medical team or any other qualified health care providers. Therefore, the authors and administrator of these posts take no responsibility for any liability, loss, or risk taken by individuals as a result of applying the ideas or resources.  

The title photo is the property of the author and should not be used without her expressed permission.  

 

What OT Is and Isn’t: In Honor of OT Month

Best Pre-Writing Apps

Shannon March Itro PicBest Pre-Writing Apps

by Molly Shannon, OTR/L, ATP,

on the ATandOT Blog

 

When apps first emerged for handwriting, there were a wide variety for practicing letter and number formation. Yet, as an experienced occupational therapist (OT) that has worked in the public schools and has specialized in assistive technology for several decades, I was surprised that these educational apps did not include practice in many of the developmental tasks required in handwriting, such as skills in visual motor, visual perceptual, bilateral motor coordination, and fine motor. While the newer “crop” of educational apps offer many more options, few apps can target all of the skills that are necessary components in handwriting.

No listing of apps from any one source can be an all-inclusive listing, but those that I offer below can “point you in the right direction” regarding apps to support pre-writing. Obviously, as an OT I realize that use of technology is just one of many tools we have in our arsenal as therapists to augment and foster the skills required for handwriting. The use of apps with certain children with special needs on any given day can facilitate and motivate them in ways that sometimes hands-on tasks cannot do. These same apps can benefit all children (with or without special needs) to assist in developing and practicing the pre-writing skills required for handwriting. The use of these apps are meant to be used in conjunction with typical hands-on materials in the home, educational, or therapeutic settings.

Visual Motor Skills:  Allow children to use their hands and eyes to form or trace pre-writing patterns or shapes, letters and numbers.

  1. Gaar Pre-Writing, free IOS and Android:  An excellent and little known early app for tracing vertical and horizontal strokes with a basketball or train.  Very motivating for young children, especially boys with autism spectrum disorder.
  1. Ready to Print, $9.99 IOS and Android:  Developed by an OT and may be the Shannon Ready to Printclosest to that ONE app that does have all of the pre-writing components helpful for handwriting in it.  It also has data collection (paths, shapes, letters, numbers). A must have in my opinion!  (Click on the picture to watch a video of the app!)

 

  1. Dexteria Junior for Preschoolers, $2.99 IOS:  The Dexteria series of apps has long been popular with OTs. This preschool app has a substantial visual motor component called “Trace and Erase” with 29 lines, shapes, and mazes to trace AND erase for a second chance to “trace”.
  1. First Lines, $1.99 IOS and Android:  This includes tracing of lines, shapes, and pictures with 3 Shannon First Lines Appdifficulty levels, but may need to use with a stylus or on a larger tablet to increase overall accuracy.

 

 

  1. Writing Wizard, $4.99 IOS and Android:  This includes tracing various visual motor designs, plus letters, numbers, and words.  Another fairly all-inclusive app that is highly motivating, collects data, and is one of my all-time favorites due to this versatility.  (Click on the Writing Wizard title above to watch a video of the app!)

 

Visual Perceptual Skills:  Is the ability to see and interpret visual information.

  1. Puzzles are always an excellent source of practice in visual discrimination, form constancy, and spatial relations. My favorite apps in therapy include puzzles such as:
  • Amazing Shape Puzzles, free IOS:  This includes a great wealth of puzzles presented at an early level for visual part to whole perception.  Many of my students with autism would want to complete all of the puzzles in a particular category, such as Space or Food.
  • Kid’s Learning Puzzles Farm Animals, Tangrams, free IOS:  Nice app with rotation of pieces, but must have some good fine motor skills to rotate the pieces in the tangrams.
  • My First App Vol. 1 Vehicles, $2.99 IOS:  This app offers puzzles where you can adjust the level of difficulty with number of pieces as well as a unique rotating pieces option.
Shannon My First App
My First App Vol. 1 Vehicles with the puzzle labyrinth

 

  1. Match it Up (1-3), free IOS:   Great app for beginning visual discrimination skills.
  1. Build it Up, free IOS:  Good app for visual spatial and visual sequencing with virtually “building” activities.  Two activities are included for free and the full version is $2.99.
  1. Bugs and Buttons and Bugs and Buttons 2, $2.99 IOS and Android:  Award-winning app and favorites of many OTs with 18 activities for pre-writing skills including a very wide of visual perceptual and fine motor skills. Lots of bang for your bucks as therapists, teachers, and parents! (Click on the picture below to watch a video of the app!)

Toole Bugs and Buttons 2

 

  1. Dot to Dot or Find the Difference apps (by Michael Contento), free IOS, such as:  Easter Find the Difference, ABC My Little Farm Dot to Dot, Dot to Dot for Kids and Toddlers, etc. Fun apps for visual tracking, visual discrimination.
  1. Color Dots, $2.99 IOS:  visual tracking listed as “Infant Baby’s Starter Game”.  You can adjust the speed, size, and borders of the dots.

 

Bilateral Motor Skills: Using both hands together in a coordinated manner.

  1. Labyrinths, which use two hands to roll a ball into puzzle/picture holes, are great ways to practice using two hands with a tablet. My favorite is hidden within this great “puzzle” app called My First App Vol. 1 Vehicles, $2.99 IOS: This app has puzzles (can adjust number of pieces and whether they need to rotate the pieces or not) plus the labyrinth task.
  1. Driving Apps, such as Dr. Panda’s Bus Driver, $2.99 IOS (or Space, Mailman, Airport):  Great use of both hands for “driving” the bus or other transportation. Very entertaining and fun!

Shannon Dr. Panda's Bus Driver

Fine Motor Skills:  Ability to manipulate small objects, pinching, finger isolation, or grasping.

  1. Dexteria Junior, $2.99 IOS (tasks: Squish the Squash and Pinch the Pepper) and Dexteria, $3.99 IOS (tasks: Tap It and Pinch It):  Both of these apps target fine motor skills required in using touch screens on tablets.
  1. Bugs and Buttons and Bugs and Buttons 2, $2.99 IOS and Android:  As noted above there are many fine motor skill components in the 18 tasks included in each of these apps. Fantastic!
  1. Ready to Print, $9.99 IOS:  As noted above, this app by an OT has 10 different activities including pre-writing skills of visual-motor, visual-perceptual, fine motor, and letter/number formation.
  1. Lazoo Squiggles! $2.99 IOS:  This is a great first “doodling” app with structured prompts that makes early drawing easier AND more enticing for young children.

Shannon Lazoo Squiggles

 

  1. Early and structured drawing/coloring apps are important for young children and those with special needs as they are another motivating way to practice fine motor skills. Some of my favorites as an OT include:
  • Paint my Wings, free IOS:  An unusual app in that what is colored on one side of the butterfly is mirrored on the opposite side.
  • iLuv Drawing Animals, $2.99 IOS, series includes dinosaurs, people, vehicles (each priced $1.99-$2.99):  These are structured drawing programs to help with fine and visual motor skill development and are very motivating to children.
  • KidsDrawing: Princesses, Pirates, Dinosaurs, free on IOS:  More fun topics for structured drawing using fine and visual motor skills. A student favorite!
  • Drawing Programs that record voices and the drawing strokes to make a video: Kids Doodle, free IOS, and Sago Mini Doodlecast, $2.99 IOS

 

While these are some of mine and my student’s favorite apps, each of us undoubtedly have our own particular “must haves.” These apps can assist with the pre-writing and developmental skills required for handwriting. Technology can never replace the need for using crayons and markers for coloring, drawing, or tracing with pre-writing and early letter/number formation tasks, but the judicious use of apps can be a great motivator for some children and provide wonderful sensory feedback. Let me know some of your favorite pre-writing apps too!

 

Molly Shannon, OTR/L, ATPMolly Shannon, OTR/L, AT , is an occupational Therapist with 33 years’ experience and  currently working in the public schools as a school-based Occupational Therapist in NC. She has specialized in the provision of Assistive Technology for 29 of those years and is RESNA certified as an Assistive Technology Professional. In addition, Molly is an Adjunct Professor of Occupational Therapy at Cabarrus College of Health Sciences in the Master’s Program teaching Therapeutic Adaptations/Assistive Technology in OT. She loves to present and train others in Assistive Technology and has been a national-level conference presenter since 1989.  She has worked with clients of all ages and with a wide range of disabilities in public/private school settings, non-profit educational/therapeutic agencies, outpatient/inpatient rehabilitation, and with the North Carolina Assistive Technology Program.  You can connect with Molly on Twitter sitePinterest Boards, or her ATandOT Facebook page.

Disclaimer: The information shared on the Go-To-For-OT Blog or affiliated Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest sites, and shared on social or public media or as links on other sites is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice or evaluation and care from your physician/medical team or any other qualified health care providers. Therefore, the authors and administrator of these posts take no responsibility for any liability, loss, or risk taken by individuals as a result of applying the ideas or resources.  

Title photo is the property of the author and should not be used without her expressed permission.  Photos that include a link to an originating site are the property of that site and their use should include the link provided.

Best Pre-Writing Apps

Great NEW AT Products: 2016

AT 2016

Great NEW AT Products:  2016

by Molly Shannon, OTR/L, ATP,

on the ATandOT Blog

 

 

After attending the annual Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) conference in Florida last week, I wanted to share some new or just great assistive technology (AT) products and resources. As it is so expensive to attend out-of-state conferences and most employers are rarely funding continuing educational conferences anymore, I hope that you find some new AT for you to consider. The extensive list below includes a combination of access devices, apps, sensory, or activities of daily living AT products.

 

Enablemart (www.enablemart.com ):

Chester Keys1. ChesterKeys, $52:  This is a big and bold colored Bluetooth keyboard for use with an iPad to assist with motor or sensory challenges.

 

 

 

 

Anthro Cup2.  Anthro Thumbs Up Cup, $15:  This is a daily living product designed to assist people who have decreased grip strength, wrist pain, or hand deformities.

 

 

Shannon Feb Writing GRIP3. Writing GRIP $10:  This grip has an unusual design and is made of non-slip material that assists in holding a pen, pencil, stylus, or paintbrush.

 

 

 

 

TECLA Shield from Komodo, $349:  This device is sold through many vendors or can be purchased through Tecla.   It helps address limited upper body mobility and helps people access their touchscreen devices. Tecla works with iOS and Android smartphones, tablets, and computers.  It is accessible through assistive buttons, switches, or wheelchair driving controls. While it might not be new, it is a popular and powerful device.

Tecla Shield

 

RJ Cooper:   This site is an excellent resource that offers apps, iPad accessories, software, and hardware for persons with special needs.  He has updated 6 of his software programs to iPad apps. Of course he has a treasure trove of other technology for switches, mounting, and access in general.

 

Inclusive Technology:

 iSwitch1. iSwitch, $165:   This is a new Bluetooth switch for IOS devices.

 

 

 

 J-Pad2. J-Pad, $275:   This is a Bluetooth joystick interface providing switch access to all iPad functions.

 

EyeGaze3. Three software programs for eyegaze systems including: Attention and Looking, Exploring and Playing, and Choosing and Learning.

 

 

Adaptive Switch Labs (ASL):  The ATOM Electronic Head Array is a new switch interface for head access via switches and other new products for access and power wheelchair controls.

 Head Array

 

 

 Go Worksheet Maker

 

Attainment Company Go Worksheet Maker App, $20:   This is a full and free version. The app converts printed worksheets to customizable digital forms on an iPad so that all students can read and answer worksheet questions.  Looked great!

 

 

School Health:   This site has a variety of new no-tech tools:

Caterpinch Gel Fidget

 

Gel Fidgets:  The Caterpinch Fidget, $18

 

 

 

 

Cozy Shades

 

 

Cozy Shades for filtering light, $42

 

 

 

 Halo Cup

 

Halo Cup, $6

 

 

Ablenet:

1. Hook+, $165:  Hook+ is an IOS switch interface that provides wired access.

 Hook+

 

2. Blue2 Bluetooth Switch,$179:   This switch provides single or dual switch access via Bluetooth connection to iOS, Apple OS X, Windows, Google Chrome, and Android devices.

 Blue2 Bluetooth Switch

3.   Relax IR Remote, $400:   The NEW Relax is an accessible infrared (IR) learning remote and provides simplified control of almost any IR device.

 Relax IR Remote

4. my Gaze Assistive 2, $1495:  myGaze Assistive 2 is an easy and affordable eye gaze control system for hands-free computer access compatible with USB 2.0 on Windows 7 and 8 or USB 3.0 on Windows 8 and 10.

Feb My Gaze

 

 MiloRobots4autism Curriculum:  Milo, RoboKind’s life-like robot, pairs with traditional intervention methods to help children with ASD reach their developmental goals. Robot-generated instruction teaches social understanding and improves a child’s ability to use social behaviors. It is IOS and Android compatible.  I was actually quite impressed with this product and could see many students with ASD connecting with this combination of the robot and the tablet curriculum which are used simultaneously. Take a look at this video to help you why!

 

Therapy Box:  InkuInk,  $20:   This IOS app has word prediction, spell check, speech-to-text options, and it has customizable options.  Here’s a good article comparing INKU with Don Johnston’s Co: Writer Word Prediction from OTs with Apps.

 

 

 Snug VestSnugvest, $365:  This vest is designed for individuals with autism, sensory processing disorder, or anxiety.  Snug Vest inflates to provide adjustable pressure for a hug-like squeeze without pressure. This jacket had a very pleasing texture, looked stylish, and it was pumped with a squeeze device.

 

 

 

Modular Hose:  This site offers mounting for switches and devices and they have very reasonably priced resources. Not new, but a great resource!

 

Modular Hose Mount Kit

Awesome Free Resources:

1. Ablenet IOS 9 Accessibility:  This is  a fantastic resource!

2. Speech Recognition as AT for Writing Guide by Daniel Cochrane and Kelly Key

New AT Reference book:   Quality Indicators in Assistive Technology: A Comprehensive Guide to AT Services, $50:  This book is written by the industry leaders in AT and published by CAST.

 

So there you have it!  Connect and let me hear about some of the new AT products you have found lately.  If you get a chance, you really should try and attend this great conference held annually in Orlando:  Assistive Technology Industry Association (atia).  

 

Molly Shannon, OTR/L, ATPMolly Shannon, OTR/L, AT , is an occupational Therapist with 33 years’ experience and  currently working in the public schools as a school-based Occupational Therapist in NC. She has specialized in the provision of Assistive Technology for 29 of those years and is RESNA certified as an Assistive Technology Professional. In addition, Molly is an Adjunct Professor of Occupational Therapy at Cabarrus College of Health Sciences in the Master’s Program teaching Therapeutic Adaptations/Assistive Technology in OT. She loves to present and train others in Assistive Technology and has been a national-level conference presenter since 1989.  She has worked with clients of all ages and with a wide range of disabilities in public/private school settings, non-profit educational/therapeutic agencies, outpatient/inpatient rehabilitation, and with the North Carolina Assistive Technology Program.  You can connect with Molly on Twitter sitePinterest Boards, or her ATandOT Facebook page.

Disclaimer: The information shared on the Go-To-For-OT Blog or affiliated Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest sites, and shared on social or public media or as links on other sites is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice or evaluation and care from your physician/medical team or any other qualified health care providers. Therefore, the authors and administrator of these posts take no responsibility for any liability, loss, or risk taken by individuals as a result of applying the ideas or resources.  

Title photo is the property of the author and should not be used without her expressed permission.  Photos that include a link to an originating site are the property of that site and their use should include the link provided.

Great NEW AT Products: 2016