Sunday, October 26, 2014

OT's Role in a Zombie Apocalypse

It dawned on me the other day, with the impending doom and end-of-days, occupational therapists have the untapped potential to address the needs of a new population: Zombies.

With the unique training and ability to look at the whole person, an occupational therapist should remember to address all occupational areas when providing treatment during the Zombie Apocalypse:

Environmental Modifications:
A zombie's ataxic gait and poor safety awareness puts it at greater risks for falls in the home and community.  Recommending the removal of scatter rugs, improved lighting in hallways, and instructing them in the correct use of adaptive mobility equipment such as a walker or cane (in coordination with a Zombie-Certified Physical Therapist of course), can help decrease the risks of a fall in the home.

Self Help Skills:
Having observed functional deficits in Zombie eating habits such as open mouth posture,  poor tool use and hygiene issues, an OT practitioner should consider meal time adaptations. A Nosey Cup or weighted utensils could provide the difference between certain messiness and spillage to a more socially acceptable behavior.  Pacing eating by encouraging small amounts at a time can hamper pocketing or stuffing.

Social Skills- Supporting Functional Communication:
If only the Zombie could tell you, "I WANT BRAINS PLEASE."  But it appears from countless Zombie observations that oral communication is limited.  Incorporating a picture support system, gestures and sign (in coordination with a Zombie-Certified Speech and Language Pathologist) may mean the difference from an impulsive and frustrating attack on you or a loved one and the happy exchange of pleasantries.  And if the Zombie client demonstrates efficiency with low-tech supports, then an assistive technology assessment should be completed to identify other high-tech options that may be indicated.

Workforce Reentry:
Even a Zombie needs to participate to the best of his or her ability in a vocational outlet.  Looking at interests and skills with a Zombie-Certified Vocational Counsellor and an occupational interest inventory, your Zombie client may find a meaningful position.  Don't forget to evaluate the needs for  assistive technology or environmental modifications such as work from home, standing stations, a quiet brain-free office versus a cubicle to inhibit any distractions.

Leisure Balance:
When looking at the Work-Leisure balance of your Zombie client, it may be clearly out of whack.  Exploring creative outlets including music, exercise and arts and crafts could mean the difference between an overstressed Zombie to one with meaningful play.  And if reading is something your Zombie client is interested in but the visual attention and perception has caused a print disability, Screen reader software or audio books are a great option.

So if you are an entrepreneur or enjoy a challenge, the Zombie Apocalypse may be a great opportunity for you to put the step back into the walking dead.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

These are a few of my favorite things for Back to School- btw I know you are singing just like Julie Andrews

With just one week to go before the start of school, I was perusing some of my older posts and decided to do a little best-of products and ideas summation.

Favorite Lunch Box:Planet Box
We are now on our third year of using Planet Boxes.  These are stainless steel meal boxes that might remind you of an old-school frozen dinner plate.  But it is much more than that.  Using the Planet Boxes has made making lunches sooo much easier and quicker.  It helps to create a balanced tray that doesn't look visually cluttered or overwhelming.  Since their inception into our daily routine, my picky eaters come home with empty lunch boxes; which did not happen before.  Though expensive initially, the Planet Box has probably saved me more money in food waste and a gave me a priceless peace of mind that I am making my kids balanced eaters.  Not only that, I have not had to purchase another lunch box for school.  I just purchase new magnets for $3.95 for the beginning of school and the boys are thrilled. Since my first post about this lifestyle change, they have added another version, the Shuttle, which is slightly smaller and would be perfect for preschool and daycare.  I have the Launch, and the boys have the Rover. I get lots of comments at work while I am eating (and logging my treatments).   These are truly an investment for building solid eating habits and organization.  Bonus factor, kiddos with fine motor challenges or sensory challenges can easily access these boxes to open and shut them.

Favorite App:Writing Wizard
L'escapadou hit the ball out of the park with this app.  It is still my favorite app to support good handwriting habits.  The customizability of this app is outstanding.  Many of the teachers that I have introduced to it have incorporated it into independent work stations and vocabulary lessons.  Because you can easily input words and record the pronunciation, it provides a multi sensory learning experience for those with learning challenges.  But because it is visually fun without being nauseating, kids enjoy using the app.  What I especially love about the app is that during the tracing activity, it prompts correct letter starting points and formation.  Though I use Handwriting without Tears formation, the app has D'Nealian and Zane-Bloser formation too so you can choose what works for your classroom.  Overall, this app is well worth the $2.99

Favorite Office Supply:3M Post Its.
I put them on my forehead, my shirt, my IEPS, my computer, basically anywhere I need the cue to remember to do something.  But I also came across Avery See Through sticky notes which are so convenient to have around to help visually highlight reading words or math problems so that homework doesn't seem so overwhelming.

Favorite Math Game: Think Fun! Math Dice
Any version of this game is a great go to for independent or group stations. It is easily differentiated for all levels of learners and abilities. From Math Dice Jr. to Math Dice Tournament Kit, students will be immersed with skills from number recognition to exponents.

Favorite Reading/Language Game- Think Fun! Zingo
Zingo! is bingo with an (educational) twist.  Early readers can benefit and begin to associate words and pictures as they match the tiles to the boards. Or for emergent readers, and even for small group resource time, use Sight Word Zingo to increase and fluency with sight words.

Favorite Mom Item- True Lemon, Lime and Orange
Nope, not coffee. But these True Lemon packets make me drink.  I have to be motivated to drink water. So when I finally added these little packets of bliss into my Thermos, my hydration levels improved. I don't need it sweet; I just need a little essence of citrus to make me suck it down. So not only is a caffeinated mommy a happy mommy, so is a hydrated one.

What are your favorites back to school things?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Back to School Tried and True

By this time of year, I am prepping to return to work and have found something that I cannot wait to use.  But honestly, this year, I can't wait to go back to my tried and true, my go-tos, my faves.

1. Music
People think I am nuts, but I sing everything. EVERYTHING becomes a song. Working with 3-5 years olds all day long will do that to you.  Almost each session incorporates something from Handwriting Without Tears Get Set for School album.  Kids love it.  I love it.  The songs address so many things from socialization, left/right discrimination, body awareness, language, pre-math concepts, I could go on and on.  In fact, the students even when they leave preschool, still expect to sing the Hello Song and do Tap, Tap, Tap.

My other top music pick incorporates technology.  Inclusive Technology's apps have such catchy tunes that I'll incorporate an app for my kiddos that need to work on cause and effect, assistive technology access learning, turn taking or counting.  The activities are great one on one or in groups.  I often will connect my iDevice to the Smartboard in the classrooms after our music and movement activity and before we move to the fine motor fun.  They just released two multi-songs apps that I might just splurge on, because I know I'll use them.

2. Scissors
I love cutting.  Put a tool in a child's hands and you can see their eyes and bodies hone in on the activity.  Snipping the paper strips or theraputty is, well, therapeutic.  Snipping through the resistance of the putty builds strength of the intrinsic hand muscles, while forcing bilateral hand skill development.  Adaptive scissors help to make it accessible to most, if not, all students, with the just-right assistance level.  And I started downloading or making play mats from Teachers Pay Teachers to support early math skills like one to one correspondence, number recognition and counting.
Scissor Assessment Kits from Achievement Products
Scissor Assessment Kit from Achievement has a great variety of left and right adaptive scissors for just about any need or ability.

3. The Peanut Ball
I think I need to order about 5 more this year.  The peanut ball is such a great tool for core strengthening, balance, attention, and upper body strengthening, that its versatility equals its weight in gold.  Sit on it. Straddle it. Lay on your belly. Lay on your back. Throw it. Kick it. Carry it. Roll it. Do any of those while participating in an activity and the session gets even more bang for the buck.

4.  Theraputty
I  have been having so much fun adapting and creating activities using Fun and Function's variety of putties.  I heart the Animal Rescue Discovery Putty.  But over the year, the kiddos have lost most of my animals.  So I purchased the Emotions Putty which are totally cool.  It comes in Calm which is labeled as Soft. When cool, it is blue. When warmed up, it turns purple, like the old school mood rings.  It also comes in Energize which is labeled Firm.  It's this metallic glob of fun that reminds me of Terminator 2 when Robert Patrick oozes and molds into forms.  It is so mesmerizing that kids and adults alike will choose it.  The Putty Elements packs are a great addition. Because they are named Earth (green/ medium), Desert (red/ extra soft). Sun (yellow/soft ) and Sky (blue/extra firm) that along with science, it can support persistence and strength.  Note, it felt like their resistance did not match their labels; but that was ok.  For the ages with whom I work, I am less concerned with the resistance level than I am with engagement with a substance that will either challenge their sensory or fine motor needs.
Calm Emotions Putty
5. Dice
I am not just talking about the standard dot dice from the board games; I am talking about turning a couple of those random blocks you have laying around and creating new activities.  Roll picture/word dice to create silly sentence that not only address writing skills such as spacing, formation, and capitalization, but also supports language development and awareness.  Roll a move, dance a groove.  Easy way to add a movement break into an activity or the order to which a student completes an obstacle course.  Changing the way a learning center or activity is built, such as adding the playful component of dice, can change the attitude and engagement of a student learning a novel skill.
Foam Dice with Who? Where? Verbs? When? Boardmaker Pictures to prompt sentence expansion
Now that I have shared some of mine, what's in your back to school tool box?