Saturday, August 16, 2014

Six Back-to-School Strategies for our Sensory Kids

Back-to-School time can be so stressful for kids, especially our sensory kids!  All of the unknowns can be so scary! While our kids might have a lot of questions like, "Who's my teacher?" "What does she look like?" "Where's my classroom? "Where do I eat my lunch?" "Do I have my own desk?" "Will I have to sit still all day?" "Is there a swing on the playground?" some of our kids aren't able to tell us that those things are causing worry. While we might not know exactly what our kids are thinking, we can help provide some predictability, which is so crucial for our children. Keep their routines consistent and their sensory needs met and you'll have a successful start to the new school year!

Consider these six strategies for a seamless Back-to-School!

1.  Visit the teacher and the new classroom on a day other than Open House. While you're there, take pictures of the teacher, his desk, the cafeteria and the playground so that you can continue to talk about those things once you get home and for the week leading up to school.  Our kids like to know what to expect, so this will help them feel better.

2.  Create a social story using pictures you've taken or ones that you draw together about different parts of the school day:  the car ride, the bus ride, the teacher, circle time, new friends, lunch time, music time, PE, who's picking him up, or any other part of the day that your child is excited or nervous about.

2.  Prepare the teacher for your child's sensory needs. While we don't want to overwhelm her, we do want to help her, help your child.  Prioritize 3 things that your child needs and what you or last year's teacher found that works. Ask her if you can send in fidgets, objects or special snacks for chewing, or a dynamic seat cushion.

3.  Limit morning chaos! Create a visual schedule for the morning routine.  Use a timer (sand timer, microwave, etc.) to keep everyone on track. Prepare as much as you can the night before so he knows what to expect the next morning:  the outfit, what he'll have fore breakfast, etc. Allow him to wear his most comfy, tag-free outfit.  Be sure to wash any new clothes to get rid of the  store smells and "crispness". Provide a breakfast that will meet his sensory needs. Does he need "alerting" foods to wake up or should he eat a chewy bagel or suck his favorite yogurt through a straw?

4.  Create a cozy corner for some "decompression" time once he comes home.  Facilitate any other sensory strategies that you know makes him feel good and organized. A safe place for your child to retreat to in the classroom may be needed, too. Help your child and his teacher identify or create a quiet retreat.

5.  Provide structure and organization surrounding homework.  Follow the same routine each day. Some kids need some outdoor time before getting started, while others need to get it done right away.   Have a "finished" bin or notebook to be sure that once they've competed it, it actually gets handed in! Use any sensory strategies that you need to:  chew gum, stand up, sit on a ball, take movement breaks, eat a crunchy snack, listen to music, etc.

6.  Promote a calm and predictable bedtime routine.  Ditch any electronics two hours before bedtime! Allow plenty of time for winding down. If bedtime is at 8:00, start at 7:00 with a warm bath with dim lighting, follow it with some deep pressure or massage. Read a book together or talk about what tomorrow may bring using a soft, slow, calm voice. Limit other household distractions by closing doors or even using a white noise machine.  Some children calm and fall asleep easier with heavier blankets such as quilts or chenille blankets or the use of weighted blankets.

Michelle Yoder, OTR/L

Monday, March 3, 2014

Don't Let The Thought Of Kindergarten Scare You: Rely On Our Kindergarten Readiness Checklist!

It's that time of year when we must make a decision regarding school placement for next fall!  We have to decide, is he ready for Kindergarten or should I place him in a T-K program?  This is a big decision and it can be tough!  My advice is to first, trust your instinct.  Next, listen to your current teacher.  Ask her opinion during parent-teacher conferences.  Thirdly, run it by your pediatrician.  If you still have doubts, come to us for a free screening.

In the meantime, take a glance at our Kindergarten Readiness Checklist.  I just shared it with a preschool teacher this morning for her to use in her parent-teacher conferences.  Perhaps it will help you feel confident in your decision.  As well, do not hesitate to call one of our therapists, who are specialists in child development, with any additional questions that you may have. We're here to ensure that your child is successful in school!

Monday, February 24, 2014

We now have speech therapy!

Keeping with our tradition of hiring experienced therapists, we are excited to welcome Lori Kury to our Touchstone team!  Lori comes to Touchstone Therapy with 23 years of experience as a speech language pathologist.  She specializes in the treatment of children with speech, language, swallowing and feeding challenges. Welcome, Lori!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Today Is National Puzzle Day!

January 29th has been declared National Puzzle Day!  Have you noticed that puzzles aren't for everyone?  You know, some people will sit for hours to complete a 1000 piece puzzle, while some have trouble completing the 100 piece puzzle with their children. Perhaps the disinterest in puzzles is because it's a bit challenging.  Does that seem silly?  Well, if we consider the demands of completing a puzzle, it makes sense.  Not only does putting the pieces together require fine motor coordination, eye-hand coordination and problem-solving skills, but it also requires a great deal of visual perceptual skills, specifically:  spatial relations, visual closure and figure ground.  No kidding!  Let's take a closer look at these visual perceptual skills.

Spatial Relationships:  The ability to determine how something differs from the other similar objects or forms.  It allows us to recognize that one part of a form is turned in a different direction from the others.  This is finding that right puzzle piece and figuring out how it fits in with the rest.  

Visual Closure:  The ability to imagine a completed design or a whole picture when it is incomplete. This allows us to recognize the form or shape when the whole picture is not available to us.  So, when we have the border of the puzzle finished, but there is a gaping hole in the inside.

Figure Ground:  The ability to pick out details or find something among others in a busy background.  Can you find that puzzle piece you're looking for among all others on the table?

Since it's a snow day, today is a great day to break out a puzzle! When they come in to put their gloves in the dryer, gather the kids around the table and have them work together to complete a puzzle!

Michelle Yoder, OTR/L

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

There Must Have Been Some Magic In That Old Silk Hat!

We cannot deny the excitement of the snow that we are expecting today!  While I was at my schools today,  the kids were all sharing with me how they plan to enjoy the snow.  There are big plans for  snowmen, snow angels and lots of snowball fights!  But, how are you going to entertain them once their fingers and toes are frozen?!  After they build their Frostys, have them come in for a cup of hot chocolate and a fun game with the neighborhood kids.  Here's a game that I guarantee they'll love!

You can use any hat, or even a sock or a mitten.  I used Frosty's Magic Hat today for a game of stereognosis.  In OT terms, stereognosis is the ability to perceive common objects, through the sense of touch, only.  So, NO PEEKING, allowed!  If needed, use a scarf to blindfold the children to really work on using their fingers to feel the objects.

Take a quick trip around the house and pick up everyday, familiar objects to put in your hat.  Then, round up the kids and get the game started! Without looking in the hat, have the kids identify an object, using only their "magic fingers" and sense of touch. Or, to make it a tad easier, give them a specific object to look for.

Have Fun!

Additional tidbits:

  • Add some excitement to a Christmas party with Stocking Stereognosis!
  • Practice snow angels, they are great for bilateral motor coordination.
  • Gather a bunch of pairs of white socks and have an indoor snowball fight!
Michelle Yoder, OTR/L

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Handwriting Help: 13 Signs That Your Child May Need Assistance From An OT

It's National Handwriting Day and there's a bunch of buzz today about writing.  For some children, the act of writing comes quite naturally.  However, for others, it's a dreadful event that often ends in a standoff, tears and ultimately poor self-esteem.  Many of our children are bright, have vivid imaginations and a lot to share, however, they just cannot get their thoughts down on paper.  So, how do you know when your child could use the help of an occupational therapist?

Signs your child may need assistance from an occupational therapist to improve handwriting:

  • Awkward pencil grasp
  • Presses either too firmly or too lightly
  • Changes hands, or hasn't chosen a hand dominance by the age of 5
  • Works closely to the paper or tilts head
  • Has trouble sitting still in the chair
  • Writing is illegible
  • Difficulty forming letters or forms segmented letters
  • Misspelled words
  • Slow to write
  • Disorganization of work on page
  • Poor spacing of letters and words
  • Avoids written work, has trouble completing work
  • Good oral skills, but cannot put it into writing 

 OTs have a multitude of tools and strategies to make learning handwriting fun! 

Fundanoodle's Paper Promotes Success!

Fundanoodle's MagnaStix provide a multisensory approach to learning the letters.

"Story Starters" Hidden in Valentine Hearts help us get started! 

Ask an OT today how your child can be more successful with writing! 

Michelle Yoder, OTR/L

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Six Ways to Celebrate National Handwriting Day!

January 23rd is National Handwriting Day! We all know the importance of handwriting!  After all, 30-60% of a child's day at school is spent handwriting!  In addition, research shows that handwriting instruction benefits students' cognitive and motor development.  Other literature shows that four year olds who exhibit strong handwriting skills are more likely to succeed academically in elementary school.

Handwriting extends beyond the walls of the classroom! At home, children may write in journals, on grocery lists or even to create a birthday wish list!  And, let's not forget about Valentine's Day, which is right around the corner.  Twenty-eight signatures on those cute little cards can be quite daunting for some of our kids! Like most things in life, practice is the key!  Experts recommend 15 minutes of handwriting instruction and practice per day.  I wouldn't recommend pushing a child beyond that 15 minute limit.  As well, I always say, motivation moves mountains, so make handwriting fun!

Try these six ways to celebrate the day!  And remember, a little practice each day, goes a long way!

1.  Surprise a family member with a special note!  Tape it to the cereal box, or use a dry erase marker to write one on a mirror. Window markers and crayons are fun, too! For something different, write on aluminum foil with a Sharpie!

2.  Practice your autograph using a variety of writing tools- gel crayons, chalk, charcoal crayons, pastels, markers.

3.  Sculpt a masterpiece with Playdoh or clay and then write a few descriptions about it.

4.  Write a book- have fun being both the author and the illustrator.

5.  Send a note to a cousin, grandparent or a pen-pal.   Embellish it with stickers or a Wikki Stix border.

6.  Save a tree- practice spelling words or letters in media such as:  cornmeal, flour, insta-snow, shaving cream or a baggie of hair gel.  Use a skewer or push pin to write in Playdoh.

Share how you're celebrating National Handwriting Day!

Michelle Yoder, OTR/L