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

Water Fun!

Turke Title PictureWater Fun!

by Stacy M. Turke

on the On the Road with @stacyturke OTR blog

 

 

It seems hard to believe, but it’s already August, which means that the new school year is just around the corner.  I am starting to see the “Back to School” section of my local stores filling up with the usual supplies such as crayons and paper, backpacks, and locker organizers.  TV ads for school uniform sales and tutoring services run all afternoon, and school parking lots are already showing signs that teachers are beginning to set up their classrooms.  I have started organizing my activities and files, getting them ready for that first week back; and I’ve begun to put important dates on the calendar for fall.  All the things I need to do to be ready when that day arrives in the not-too-distant future.  But I have this nagging thought that I’m structuring and organizing and sorting my way through these days without enjoying the slower pace and longer daylight hours that summer brings.  I can’t help but wonder, “Can’t we slow this down a bit?”  I mean, we still have a few weeks of summer left before the rush begins again!  Can’t we keep playing for a bit longer?

The answer of course is “yes, yes, we can!”  And for many of us, we should.  I believe it’s important to play and keep the slower pace of summer as long as we can to help refill our sense of well-being and energy.  And it doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated play.  Think back to your own childhood, mom and dad.  Do you remember what you enjoyed doing the most in the summers when you were young?  My guess is that your favorite summer activities involved water, in some form or another.  And in the heat of this extra-hot summer, what could be better than playing with water?

Water-Play Ideas from your School OT

Swimming

Yep, tried and true.  I didn’t have to mention swimming and your mind already went there, right?  So why state the obvious?  Because I wanted to be able to share WHY swimming is so great for kids.

  • On a hot day, nothing cools a body as quickly and efficiently as a dip in the pool (or lake or ocean).
  • Swimming involves the whole body, which means the whole brain is engaged, too.
  • When kids are swimming, they are strengthen all of their muscles; and strong muscles are needed to maintain sitting positions in school.
  • Learning to swim, and playing in the water in general, helps kids develop motor planning skills, which will make learning new physical activities easier.
  • Swimming lets kids explore different sensations, such as water lapping gently on their skin or rushing past their face; the quiet of the world when underwater;  or the light of the sun dancing off the waves.
  • Kids don’t have to be expert swimmers to have fun with other kids in the water.

Turke idahoptvRunning through the Sprinkler

My family didn’t have a pool and we were not close to a swimmable lake.  But we had a sprinkler; and as kids, my brother and I took advantage of it often.  I can still remember how those first droplets of cold water felt on my skin when the sprinkler began to spin and spray, and how long our giggles lasted as we jumped through the middle to get to the other side.  So what, besides fun, did we get out of running through the sprinker?

  • A chance to cool off
  • Aerobic activity and fitness
  • Varied sensations, such as cool water, slippery grass, sunlight on the water droplets which may create rainbows, to name a few
  • Silly, goofy play, and rarely being alone.  Just try to run through a sprinkler as a solitary activity.  Friends will come out of the woodwork!

Paint with Water

I personally loved painting with water when my own kids were young.  We would take a bucket of clean water outside with a couple paintbrushes, the kind you would use to paint paintbrush 1588877 pixabaythe house.  MAKE SURE THEY ARE CLEAN (did I yell that?) or you might end up painting for real!  The water “paint” can go on any surface, but we especially enjoyed painting the driveway and garage door.  On sunny hot days, the water dried pretty quickly, so the surface could be repainted endlessly.  We painted tic-tac-toe; we painted letters and words, simple shapes, whatever we were interested in.  And while we were having fun, my kids were working on:

  • Strengthening the muscles and joints of their arms, which provided stability for those writing muscles in the fingers
  • Improving the development of their eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills
  • Being creative and sharing materials
  • Bonus:  Take sidewalk chalk outside with you; and after drawing, “paint” over your work with the water.  It will dry clean and you can write all over the driveway again!

Bathtub Playbathtub play Kaz pixabay

Inevitably, one or more of your remaining summer days will be a rain-out.  But no problems if you have a bathtub or large sink! You know all the usual water play toys, but have you ever taken a water squirter or turkey baster into the tub?  What about shaving cream?  Or the two together:  use shaving cream in the tub, then wash the designs off the bathtub wall using the squirter or baster!

 

 

I assume it goes without saying, but just in case: remember to supervise your kids when  water safety Fotomek pixabaythey are playing with or in water.  Keep eyes on swimming kids at all times and use floatation devices in addition.  Grass gets slippery when wet, so consider using water shoes to increase traction.  Use sunblock.  And most of all:  MAKE SURE YOU HAVE FUN TOO!

Yep, I yelled that also.  Never underestimate the impact of fun! 

 

 

Stacy M. Turke, OTR/L:   “On the Road with @stacyturke OTR blog.”  Stacy has been a school OT for 30 years with the same school district in Michigan in what she describes as “my dream job.”  Her career has ranged from working in a “center-based” school to working in public and private schools throughout the county, including those in the rural, suburban, and urban areas.  She has experience working with students with a wide range of educational needs, to include cognitive impairments, Autism Spectrum Disorder, physical challenges, sensory processing needs, and many other learning challenges. She expresses her enthusiasm when she says “This career has been fulfilling, always presenting new and interesting challenges, and is NEVER boring!”  You can connect with Stacy on Pinterest at  https://www.pinterest.com/stacyturke/ and on Twitter at @stacyturke.

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.  

Picture Credits:  

Photos are the property of the photographers or site owners and their use should include the link provided to the contributor’s source.

 

Water Fun!

Using Bubbles to Support Handwriting? Really?

Using Bubbles to Support Handwriting? Really?

by Stacy M. Turke

on the On the Road with @stacyturke OTR blog

 

soap bubble platinumportfolio pixabay

Another amazing school year is about to come to a close in my county, and staff and students are looking forward to some well-deserved time off. We will spend the summer wrapping up year-end paperwork, planning for the next school year, and hopefully getting a few moments off with our families to refresh and reconnect.  Some of us have to-do lists longer than there are days in the summer, which we will tackle with various levels of intensity and focus.  All of us will find the time flying by too quickly without a doubt!

At this point in the year, parents are asking School OTs what they can do over the summer to support their children’s handwriting and fine motor growth and successes so that they don’t lose too much of their skill during this down time.  I  know most are expecting to be provided with a list of “homework” looking activities, such as practicing grasp patterns using tongs to sort tiny objects, hunting for seasonal words in Word Search puzzles, and using handwriting books to practice correct letter formation. These are certainly favorites of mine and are important components to include in a summer program designed to support improved visual motor skills.  But I don’t like to ask families to do these kinds of things exclusively.  Summer is a time off from the usual demands of the school year and busy families often find it challenging to get their kids to do the more “schooly” looking tasks.  I remember well trying to get my own kids to use the practice materials their teachers sent home at the end of the school year in an effort to reduce lost skills…and it wasn’t pretty!  So when parents ask “What should I do with my children to help improve their visual motor skills this summer?”, I suggest the tongs and the letter formation practice, and I add this sure fire way to get kids engaged:

Play with bubbles! Seriously!

Bubbles

 

I’ve never met a kid who doesn’t love bubbles, so this will be an easy one for you. There are so many benefits of bubbles, all of which contribute to improved focus, visual tracking, and eye-hand coordination. First, let’s talk about the more standard types of bubbles, the ones in which children hold the bubble bottle (of various sizes and shapes) in their non-dominant hand, Bubble Wandsthen dip the bubble wand carefully into the bottle to load it with the bubble solution using their dominant hand. To begin, the children use fine motor skills to grasp and twist open the top of the bottles, which requires strength and coordination of the shoulders (for stability) and hands. Kids have to dip carefully or the solution will spill, and in order to do that they are using eye-hand coordination and bilateral hand skills. Bringing the loaded wand to their mouth involves visual-motor coordination using both eyes together and good visual tracking so that they don’t stick the wand over their noses or in their mouths (which I’ve done on many occasions…yuck!).  Kids must grade and control their breath to gently and continuously blow to allow for as many bubbles as possible to come out of that wand.  And then the visual tracking that happens when they watch (and chase!) the bubbles as they move away is where the magic happens, right?

 

So think about this.  When kids are using standard bubbles, they are working on or getting:

 

  • Upper extremity strength and coordination
  • Bilateral hand skills
  • Motor planning
  • Grading of movement
  • Grasping skills
  • Eye-hand coordination
  • Visual tracking
  • Convergence (eyes working together)
  • Focus and attention
  • Focused breathing
  • Aerobic exercise (as they chase the bubbles)
  • Tactile and olfactory input from the bubble solution

 

I love using different kinds of bottles of bubbles with kids, even in the same session.  I’ve used the more typical bottles, that hold 4 ounces or so of the bubble solution, but I also enjoy bringing out the tiny bubbles that you find in the party section of discount stores because the fine motor and visual motor skills needed are different. And who doesn’t love the bubble wands that look like long, colorful tubes and have really large bubble openings? These are especially great for bilateral control.

 

But if my students love standard bubbles, they ADORE this next method of bubble delivery (to sound scientific!). This is so simple, you probably have all of the materials needed for this bubble process in your house already. There may be a more official name, but we call them Bubble Cups because, well, we make them out of cups!  For each child, you will need:

 

  • 1 Disposable plastic cup
  • 1 (or more) Straw
  • 1 piece of an old towel or wash cloth, just large enough to completely cover the top of the cup
  • 1 rubber band
  • 1 pie pan (or similar dish for dispensing the bubbles)
  • Bubble solution

 

Bubble Cup1

Bubble Cup2

To make the cup, simply make a hole approximately 1 to 1-1/2 inches from the top of the cup using a sharp scissor.  (Please do this for your child in advance of the activity so they don’t hurt themselves).  Cover the opening of the cup with the piece of washcloth and use the rubber band to secure it so that it’s snug across the top.  Invert the cup and dip it into the bubble solution (in your pie pan) until the cloth is soaked, then lift and allow the extra to drip back into the pan.  Invert the cup again so that it is right side up and insert the straw into the hole.  Blow into the straw (making sure that it is not pressed against the side of the cup or nothing will happen) and you will see the coolest bubble rope develop. Your child will be amazed as will you, especially when you look at your watch and notice all the time that has gone by!

 

 

 Bubbles3

 

Using bubbles can be a great precursor to a more traditional handwriting practice activity because you will have helped your children prepare their minds and bodies for the focused work that comes with writing or coloring. The whole body will have been engaged by way of motor skills, visual processing and visual tracking, and self-regulation support.  And the child will have had a chance to enjoy and wonder at the beauty and simplicity of bubbles while getting fresh air outside. This will be the kind of “homework” that everyone wants to complete!

 

A hint about bubble solutions:  Add a little bit of glycerin (available at most pharmacies in the diabetic supplies section) to make the bubbles super bubbly!  I add a teaspoon or so to the large bubble wands and maybe that much to the pie pan when I add the solution for the bubble cups. You’ll notice that the bubbles coming from the wands and cups have greater staying power and your child will likely have greater success blowing lots of bubbles.

 

Do you have a favorite way to play with bubbles? Please share in the comments section!

 

 

Stacy M. Turke, OTR/L:   “On the Road with @stacyturke OTR blog.”  Stacy has been a school OT for 30 years with the same school district in Michigan in what she describes as “my dream job.”  Her career has ranged from working in a “center-based” school to working in public and private schools throughout the county, including those in the rural, suburban, and urban areas.  She has experience working with students with a wide range of educational needs, to include cognitive impairments, Autism Spectrum Disorder, physical challenges, sensory processing needs, and many other learning challenges. She expresses her enthusiasm when she says “This career has been fulfilling, always presenting new and interesting challenges, and is NEVER boring!”  You can connect with Stacy on Pinterest at  https://www.pinterest.com/stacyturke/ and on Twitter at @stacyturke.

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.  

Picture Credits:  

Photos are the property of the author or site owners and their use should include the link provided to the contributor’s source.

 

Using Bubbles to Support Handwriting? Really?

OTR-OTA Relationships: Grow and Learn Together

pinky-swear cherylholt pixabayOTR-OTA Relationships:  Grow and Learn Together

by Marie Toole, MS, OTR/L

on the School Tools From Your Pediatric   Occupational Therapist Blog

 

 

One of the joys of working in the schools is the relationships you make with the teachers and other staff members.  One of the more important relationships to feather is that with the custodian as he or she will be your go-to person for a myriad of reasons.  Another person is the tech teacher for all things computer, keyboard, or technology related.   BUT…..the most important relationship there is in school-based occupational therapy is that between the Registered Occupational Therapist (OTR) and the Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA).   I have been working with COTA’s (Certified OTR’s) for many years, first in the hospital setting and for the past 21 years in the schools.  I have learned a thing or two in that time about fostering that relationship and I wanted to share my perspective as an OTR who is supervising two COTA’s with more experience than me!

Although these suggestions can help all OTRs who are supervising COTA’s, they can be especially beneficial to those of you who are new graduates and will supervising COTA’s for the first time or someone who has transitioned into the school setting.   Here are a few of my suggestions:

Know your state guidelines for supervision.  As the OTR, it is your responsibility to know and understand your state guidelines for supervising COTA’s.  The American Occupational Therapy Association shares an informative outline for state-by-state guidelines.  Your license is on the line each and every time a treatment session commences between your COTA and the students on your caseload.  You are responsible even if your COTA carries her own caseload.  You need to know what is happening with those students. office-upsplash pixabay Your state licensing act will be very specific about how much supervision time is required.  My COTA’s have almost 30 years of experience each.  We have been working together a long time.  We have a formal sit-down time of one hour per week but have lots of more informal time to catch up and discuss cases.  I spend half my week at each school so there is plenty of face time at each building.  Make sure you both are comfortable with the amount of formal and informal supervision time you spend together.  You should always err on the side of caution and use your best judgement when deciding how and when supervision should occur.  Does it need to be sit down time? Do you attend IEP/evaluation meetings together?   Do you meet each morning over coffee?  Whatever works for you and meets the letter of the law is good.  If it doesn’t work or you find yourself skipping it…you need a different system.  Try different methods, meeting times, and scheduling.  Make it work so you both feel comfortable and ethical.

Understand each other’s role.  It is very important to understand the scope of practice for the COTA and OTR.  See the Standards of Practice for OT at this link, as well as the AOTA Guidelines for OTA Supervision for specific details.  The OTR performs most of the evaluations but there is a role that the COTAs can play as well.  Although the COTAs cannot interpret results, sometimes they have more time with the students and have a better relationship with them.  In this light, they can perform portions of evaluations under the direction of the OTR or complete classroom observations to add anecdotal information.  That is valuable information that will assist in making meaningful and appropriate treatment sessions.

diversity-ambroochizafer pixabayHave Mutual Respect.  I think this is probably the most important aspect of the OTA/OTR relationship.  It needs to be a true partnership in every sense.  Trust needs to be there as does open lines of communication.  When I first left the hospital setting and was transitioning to the schools for work,  the COTA I was to supervise had been working in the schools for years.  She had vast experience and knowledge that I soaked up and used to better myself.  I was coming from a medical model background and it took time to make the transition to the education/related service delivery model instead.  She helped me navigate the intricacies of IEP’s and school-based OT evaluations.  She schooled me on the timelines and regulations that go along with all things school related.  She was and still is a wealth of knowledge to this day.  I could not have done this job without her.   Yes I was her supervisor, but I was never her superior, nor will I ever be.  We have a wonderful working relationship and enjoy each other’s company on the occasional social events outside of the school day.  We have presented several workshops together and we often finish each other’s sentences.  Years of working together with both of my COTAs has shown me what mutual respect can look like.    Knowing your limits and what each can bring to the table will greatly enhance your relationship.

Coordinate your Professional Development.  One area that we work on is continuing education and professional development.  We almost never go to the same workshops.  Going to different workshops or conferences brings more knowledge into the working relationship.  We share what we learned and try out new ideas or treatment methods and have an honest and true discussion about merits and pitfalls.  You have to be able to give and take and at times agree to ditch something that is not working for something better.  Bettering yourself professionally only enhances that relationship.

businessman-ravadosa pixabayHave a Way to Communicate quickly.  Sometimes I am in one building and something happens at the other building that needs immediate or quick attention.  Sharing schedules and telephone contact information only enhances your communication.  We use text messaging as well as phone messages and email as ways of communicating quickly.  The school secretary can always find me if it is a true emergency.  Sometimes, if there are snow days or holidays, I may not get to one of the buildings for several days.  Things come up.  So have a way of communicating that works for both of you.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!   Speaking of communicating…do it often!  Open lines of communication are a MUST in this job.  Do not let things fester or boil over.  We need to work as a team to get the best from our students.  The best and easiest way to do that is to talk, and talk, and talk some more.  We often bounce ideas off each other or ask questions and even think out loud.  Often I am typing evals or writing IEP’s if I am not working directly with students.  My favorite thing is when my COTAs say “When you have a minute, I need advice/have a question/want to try something, etc.”  It lets me know they need something but gives me a chance to finish up what I am working on to shift gears and give them the full attention the request deserves.  Do not be checking email or your phone while doing this.  Listen attentively and actively; and if you need time to digest or think about their request, let them know.  Sometimes I don’t have all the answers…actually more often than not I don’t.  It is okay to say that and to gather the information and report back.  It is not okay to guess and make a mistake because you thought you had to have an answer right then and there.  “Let me get back to you on that” is a great phrase to use.  Sticky notes are my absolute favorite things ever (why didn’t I think of that invention?).  My COTAs leave me sticky notes so they won’t forget to ask me something the next time they see me.  Have a spot where they can leave you notes/messages/forms that need signing, etc., and that they do not want to forget.  I have a mailbox and share a desk at each building.  It is the first place I check when I arrive at each building.    My COTAs know it is the place to leave all important things that need my attention.  Make sure you have a place that is safe and secure so that wandering eyes do not necessarily see information that is private or sensitive.

Know each other’s strengths and weaknesses.  This goes back to communication.  You must share and acknowledge the areas that are challenging for each of you.  One of my COTAs is “technologically challenged” and she readily admits it.  I help her with all things team geralt pixabaycomputer and she balances my impulsiveness.  When the ebb and flow of the school year gets crazy and there are all kinds of evals to complete, this is when you need to be able to say “Can you shift something to help me with this?”  When you understand each other’s strengths and challenges ,you can play off each other and complement services to fit both people’s needs.   It is a give and take and with time this should be a comfortable arrangement.  When you both share the same drive and passion for working with children, this is easy.  When you are out of sync it takes work.

Understand that life happens.  I think this is the best piece of advice I can give you.  Personal issues come up, there are weddings and  graduations to attend, babies and grandchildren are born,  kids or parents get sick, loved ones die….all these things need to be put into perspective.  As I tell my COTA’s (and anyone who will listen), “They are not going to name the school after you!”  Giving each other the needed time off to attend to family needs is a must.  Family comes first and when a crisis hits, you want to know that your school family will be there to support you.  Being flexible and understanding goes a long way in building trust and respect.  Allowing each other the room tolive life to the fullest  will guarantee a mutually respected, complementary, trusting OTR-OTA relationship that others will be envious of.

 

**This blog is dedicated to the two amazing COTA’s I work with.  Penny and Judy …I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the helping me to grow as a supervising OTR and for the trusting, caring, mutually respectful relationship we have.  You Rock!  I will miss you as I start my new adventures in life!

 

 

Marie TooleMarie L. Toole, MS, OTR/ L, is a pediatric occupational therapist with 28 years experience in NICU, Early Intervention, and private practice with the last 20 years spent working in public schools. She is NBCOT and SIPT certified as well as a member of AOTA and NHOTA.  She lives in southern New Hampshire and can be reached at marietoole320@gmail.com.  Follow her on Twitter @MarieTooleOTNH, on Pinterest marietooleNHOT, and on School Tools for Pediatric Occupational Therapists  where she tweets, pins, and posts about OT, education, autism, and sensory integration, as well as other school related topics.

 

 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 photographers at Pixabay and their use should include the link provided to the contributor’s source.  

 

 

OTR-OTA Relationships: Grow and Learn Together

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

Three Easy Ways to Thank a School OT!

 

 Three Easy Ways to Thank a School OT!  by Stacy M. Turke on the On the Road with @stacyturke OTR blog

 

Three Easy Ways to Thank a School OT!

 by Stacy M. Turke

on the On the Road with @stacyturke OTR blog

 

 

 

If you are reading this blog post in April, are you ever lucky!  April is Occupational Therapy Month, and had you waited to read this in May, you’d have missed the opportunity to say “Thanks!” to your School OT for the work he or she does to support the students in your school and in your life during “our” celebration month.  I feel so blessed to have been able to work alongside the intelligent, creative, authentic OT staff at Ingham Intermediate School District over these past 30 years, who daily support my growth as a clinician and as a human.  In this post I say thanks to them and offer suggestions for creative ways to say “Thanks” to your own school OT staff!

(Caveat: we will accept cards, flowers, and chocolates at any point during the month of April in celebration of OT Month!  However, keep reading for cheaper and more meaningful ideas…)

 

Thanks Turke

Three Easy Ways to Thank Your School OT

 

Perhaps you have a student who struggles to complete written work or to copy sentences from the board.  Or maybe you’ve noticed that one or two of your students have more difficulty than their peers staying focused during large group lessons, especially on “indoor recess” days.  So you’ve called your School OT for help.  After offering several possible fixes for the challenge, your OT goes on to the next classroom or school and you embark on trying out these ideas within your classroom.  Saying thanks for these efforts is easy.  After agoal-clipart-stickguygraphrgb week or two, simply share your feedback with your OT about how things are working out!  You have no idea how much we appreciate getting this kind of feedback from our teachers and parents!  Truly, hearing that a strategy is the answer that you’ve been looking for really warms my heart and is all the thanks I need.  And if the strategies AREN’T working, or if part of the problem is resolving and you want to bounce new ideas off your OT, please share that feedback too.  We have access to all sorts of Evidenced Based Practices and often know what typically helps most challenges that kids face at school.  But we don’t work with cookie-cutter students and neither do you. The data you collect and the feedback you offer helps us to help you and other kids like your students.  Help us help you and WE are the thankful ones!

 

 

Therapy Room TurkePlease invite us into your classrooms!  This can be as simple as asking us to observe how a particular student is engaging with a piece of equipment or learning tool that we provided.  Maybe one of our mutual students has just experienced some type of breakthrough and you want to share.  Or you might want to bounce an alternative seating or classroom arrangement idea off us.  Oh my goodness, do we ever love these kinds of opportunities!  I have worked with several schools this year, at their request, to assess and help redesign classrooms to increase movement opportunities and enhance learning for kids.  I was initially overwhelmed with the thought of getting into all the classrooms and providing inservice to an entire school staff given the high workload already in place.  But the impact that this service had on the school cannot fully be measured in time or in increased test scores alone.  I’m able to support many students in a rather short amount of time and I’m feeling valued as an OT and as a colleague.  A “thank you” coffee is nice…but valuing someone’s work goes such a long way.

 

How about that student in your room who has Direct OT services and who has suddenly smile and chalkboard geralt pixabaystarted to soar using the strategies you and the OT have mutually put in place?  PLEASE share copies of that student’s classroom work with the OT so that we can share in the joy of success too!  I recently had just such a thing happen and I will not quickly come down from that heartwarming experience.  I have a third grader on my caseload who has always been a very reluctant writer for a variety of good reasons.  This child has been on caseload for several years, and while the work within the OT setting has improved, this has not transitioned easily to the general education setting.  This child has been very reluctant to give up the one-on-one time to allow “push in” services, again for a variety of good reasons.  Typical classroom-based writing assignments for this child yield a page of writing at most, though usually the work completion was much shorter than that.  So imagine my surprise when this teacher colleague of mine approached me a couple weeks ago with a paper in her hand and a twinkle in her eye.  She said, “You’ve got to see what our student wrote for me today!”  I glanced down at the stapled pages in my hand and saw this particular boy’s name at the top and his very familiar writing all over the page.  I flipped through ALL 5 PAGES, completely full of text, and looked up at the teacher who was just beaming.  I checked out the title of his paper and immediately felt tears come to my eyes.  The title? “Working with Ms. Turke!” This boy wrote 5 full pages about what going to OT was like.  He described in (mostly accurate) detail what we do and why, and he ended it with, “She is always nice to me, and I love her!”  I think this teacher knew what a tremendous impact this paper would have on me.  Her smile and hug said it all.  Celebrating this child’s new found confidence with his teacher was one of the greatest “thank you” gifts I have ever received.

 

I’ve been blessed to work with some of the most generous, knowledgeable, creative OT colleagues over the years, all of whom have contributed to my ongoing growth as an OT.  The folks I work with are quick to share therapy activity ideas and information on current research articles.  Without sharing identifying information, we consult with one another when a student isn’t making the progress we had hoped for and we are looking for other intervention ideas.  We mentor one another in district procedures and processes.  We celebrate successes together.  And we do what OTs do best:  we help each other complete the occupations of the job with greater ease and efficiency.  To Jennie, Jane, Cindy, Angie, Donna, Jodie, Mya, Ellen, Paula, Trish, Sue, Leanne, Liz, Cheryl, Amy, Allison, Kari, Ken, Tammy, Kelly, Jessica, and Marge, (and any others who worked at Ingham but whose names I’ve missed), I say Thank You.  From the bottom of my heart.  Happy OT Month, Friends!

Group Picture Turke

 

 

Stacy M. Turke, OTR/L:   “On the Road with @stacyturke OTR blog.”  Stacy has been a school OT for 30 years with the same school district in Michigan in what she describes as “my dream job.”  Her career has ranged from working in a “center-based” school to working in public and private schools throughout the county, including those in the rural, suburban, and urban areas.  She has experience working with students with a wide range of educational needs, to include cognitive impairments, Autism Spectrum Disorder, physical challenges, sensory processing needs, and many other learning challenges. She expresses her enthusiasm when she says “This career has been fulfilling, always presenting new and interesting challenges, and is NEVER boring!”  You can connect with Stacy on Pinterest at  https://www.pinterest.com/stacyturke/ and on Twitter at @stacyturke.

 

 

“Thanks” image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

“Stick Guy Graphing” image courtesy of Clipart Panda.

“Chalkboard Smile” image courtesy of geralt on Pixabay.com.

 

 

 

 

Three Easy Ways to Thank a School OT!

Collaborating with Classroom Teachers: A win-win

Collaborating with Teachers: A win-win by Marie Toole, MS, OTR/L

Collaborating with Classroom Teachers:  A win-win

by Marie Toole, MS, OTR/L

on the School Tools From Your Pediatric   Occupational Therapist Blog

 

 

I often get asked how long I have worked for the school district I am currently employed with.  When I tell them I have been there 21 years they are amazed.  The next question is always “How can you work in one place for so long?”  My answer always is “I work with the best teachers and we collaborate to provide the best services for our students.”  How do we do that you might ask?  Here are a few of the programs we have in place that help me to collaborate with the teachers I work with.

Collaborating to “SPOT” those children struggling in the curriculum

child writing picjumbo pixabayYou will see SPOT time on my schedule.  In our kindergarten classroom, the Speech Pathologist (SP) and the Occupational Therapist (OT) have time blocked in for classroom support time, 30 minutes per week in each kindergarten classroom.  We each have separate blocks to go in and “SPOT” those children who may be struggling with curriculum or motor skills.  The speech pathologist might work on language or articulation skills.  As the OT, I am looking for those little friends that may have challenges with holding a pencil, using scissors, forming letters, coloring, or using blocks.  I often go in when it’s center time and run a fine motor or hand skill center that the teacher has set up to coordinate with the curriculum work they are completing.

 

When I first started in this district 21 years ago, I had lots of referrals for handwriting, hand skills, and pencil grips. Since then I have presented a lot of teacher and professional development workshops on these particular topics and my classroom teachers are well versed in typical development and what is expected.  For the first few months of the school year, I work with all of the kindergartners.  As we get into the second half of the year, my groups have been streamlined to include those 5 or 6 students per class that continue to struggle.  We may work on writing their name, or the letter of the week, or maybe we work on math or number formation.  Those children get small group instruction in hopes that we can stall a referral for special education or an occupational therapy evaluation.  The philosophy of the school district I work in is to give students supports early on and do what is right for students.  I am lucky in that regard that I can service all students using the Response to Intervention model (RtI). Working with the classroom teachers this way has cut down on our referrals significantly.

 

Collaborating in the Classroom during Writer’s Workshop Time

Pen Pal ProgramAnother area in which I work closely with the classroom teachers is PenPals.  In third grade the OT staff and the classroom teacher co-teach cursive writing. We take it slow and teach 2 letters per week over the course of the school year. At the end of the school year, the OT staff coordinates a PenPal program amongst the three elementary schools in town.  We explain the program to the students and get parent permission for their child to participate.  We gather all the permission slips and then match PenPals together.  The goal of the program is to get the students to write to each other at least three times over the summer.  It is a great way to practice cursive writing and keep those skills in the forefront before fourth grade!

 

I also conduct another PenPal Project  with one of my second grade classes.  On Friday afternoons, this classroom teacher has set aside a writing block where the students write home to their parents about their week at school.  The students brainstorm all the cool things that happened over the course of the week and then they write home to an adult who writes back.  The students love getting a letter from their parent, a grandparent, an aunt, or older brother or sister.  I use this block as one of my therapy times for students in her classroom.

 

A third PenPal program we have is Letters to Soldiers.  In early November our elementaryPen Pal Letters schools participate in a drive to send care packages to soldiers overseas.  There are specific items that can be sent and the students love to bring in granola bars, small boxes/bags of candy, white tube socks, or lip balm to put in the packages.  Along with the goodies, our students write letters as well.  Sometimes we get letters or pictures back and classrooms have an ongoing relationship with that specific soldier.  We do this in conjunction with a Veteran’s Day program which is truly humbling to be a part of.

 

 

Collaborating on Scheduling:  Push In vs. Pull Out

Another area where I collaborate closely with my classroom teachers is on scheduling.  I like to work with my students right in the classroom.  I sometimes pull out to the OT office as well for specific therapy skills that need polishing, but for the most part I work in the classrooms.  At the beginning of the school year, scheduling is always the priority.  The teachers I work with understand the crazy schedule of a school therapist who goes between buildings across the district.  I try to work around their schedules to get the best times that students ludi pixabaythey will be doing Writer’s Workshop times in their classrooms.  Once they get the schedule from the special education team, the teachers always want to schedule with us next.  They love having an extra pair of hands in their classroom to help with the craft of writing.  Whether it is writing personal narratives in second grade or state reports in fourth grade, the OT staff is there to assist our students with written expression. “Showing what you know” is one of the most difficult tasks we ask our students to do on a daily basis.  Sometimes a little help with scaffolding ideas or a reminder to put spaces between words and use capital letters or punctuation can put the polish on a piece of writing and make our students proud of their work!

 

One thing to remember when scheduling time in the classroom: You are a guest in that teacher’s classroom.  Work with the teacher to make sure you are on the same page and have the same goals for each lesson. Sometimes it helps to check earlier in the week to make sure all is set. Find out if the teacher likes you to pull a small group to a back table or if you can work with students right at their desks. Getting this information right up front will help everyone have a more successful school year.  When you work together and respect each other’s roles, it not only helps your students but helps your scheduling.  When classroom teachers likes and respects you they will a) go out of their way to make the schedule work, b) will drop what they are doing to switch gears if necessary when you show up in the classroom, and c) be more likely to tell you early enough in the week when plans need to change.

 

Collaborating with the teachers I work with has made my job so much easier over the course of my career.  I plan to retire from this school district at the end of this school year.  Although a move across country has made this necessary, it is still hard to say goodbye to a team of teachers in two different buildings that I have worked hard to “train” and educate as to what OT’s have to offer.  I am hoping to land a school OT job in my new community and will bring these ideas with me.  It will be starting anew for all of us.  I can only hope that my new colleagues will be as willing to collaborate as my current teams are.

 

 

 

Marie TooleMarie L. Toole, MS, OTR/ L, is a pediatric occupational therapist with 28 years experience in NICU, Early Intervention, and private practice with the last 20 years spent working in public schools. She is NBCOT and SIPT certified as well as a member of AOTA and NHOTA.  She lives in southern New Hampshire and can be reached at toolem@sau25.net.  Follow her on Twitter @MarieTooleOTNH, on Pinterest marietooleNHOT, and on School Tools for Pediatric Occupational Therapists  where she tweets, pins, and posts about OT, education, autism, and sensory integration, as well as other school related topics.

 
 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 or site owners and their use should include the link provided to the contributor’s source.  
Collaborating with Classroom Teachers: A win-win