Friday, December 9, 2016

Mindfulness and Yoga for School Children

Mindfulness and Yoga in School Children
Mindfulness can be defined as paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.  Research has indicated that mindfulness in school children may help to improve:
1.  emotional well being.
2.  learning  and  associated cognitive  processes,  such  as  attention,  focus  and  executive function skills.
3.  mental health.
4.  physical health (reduction in blood pressure).
Many schools are adding mindfulness and yoga programs into their daily routine.  Move with Me offers a wide variety of videos and flash cards to help you get started with a combination of mindfulness and yoga programs for young children.  Here are some suggestions if you are working on:
The best deal is on the complete bundle of 9 videos and flash cards.  This can take care of your lesson planning for all of 2017!
Scooter & Me Bundle – 9 Videos & 16 Self-Regulation Flash Cards
Reference:   Weare, Katherine (2012) Evidence  for  the  Impact of  Mindfulness on  Children  and Young  People.  Retrieved from the web on 12/9/16 at http://ift.tt/2h636CN

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Thursday, December 8, 2016

Visual Prompts and Handwriting

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There are many types of handwriting programs, papers and videos available to help children with visual prompts for proper letter formation. Regardless of the handwriting program used, some visual prompts used for teaching handwriting include:

Verbal prompts when teaching handwriting may include:

  • reminders to start at the top
  • scripted letter formation guides

Physical prompts when teaching handwriting may include:

  • guiding a child’s hand to start at the top
  • guiding the hand to hold the pencil correctly

As the child learns to master parts of the skill of handwriting, gradually fade the visual, verbal or physical prompts to encourage full independence by the child. Some research indicates that reducing prompts is the most effective fading prompts technique because it results in fewer errors and quicker skill acquisition than the least to more prompting method (starting with the least amount of prompts possible).

Here are some free downloads that provide visual prompts when teaching handwriting:

Download the Fading Alphabet Letter Aa Dotted Line Style

Download the Fading Alphabet Letter Zz Double Style

Download Handwriting Templates with the Alphabet Freebies

Read more about how to use prompts effectively.

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Fading Alphabet includes worksheets that gradually increase in visual motor difficulty while decreasing visual prompts for letter formation. There are 26 double lined worksheets for boxed capital letters and 26 double lined lowercase letters (Handwriting with Tears style) OR Fading Alphabet – 26 Uppercase Letters and 26 Lowercase Letters Dotted Lined worksheets (Zaner-Bloser style).  Find out more information.

Reference: MacDuff, Gregory S., Patricia J. Krantz, and Lynn E. McClannahan. “Prompts and prompt-fading strategies for people with autism.” Making a difference: Behavioral intervention for autism (2001): 37-50.

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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Q&A with the Creators of EazyHold – Flexible Universal Cuffs

Q&A with the Creators of the Flexible Universal Cuffs EazyHold

Once in awhile, a new product hits the market that can be a game changer.  In my opinion, the EazyHold flexible universal cuffs, appear to have accomplished this by helping children (and adults) with physical disabilities.  Since I have a big interest in entrepeneurship, I thought it would be great to hear about the story behind the EazyHold.  Plus, as pediatric occupational and physical therapists day in and day out, we constantly adapt items on the fly.  This product seems to be a simple solution to help children grasp items such as toys, utensils and more so children can increase their independence.  (This post include affiliate links).

Here is the Q&A with Kerry Mellin, one of three sisters who created the EazyHold.

Q: How was EazyHold conceived?

While preparing for a family holiday I grabbed my broom and went to sweep out the barn. But due to the arthritis in my thumbs I was having a really hard time gripping onto the brooms handle and sweep after sweep it only became more painful. I was determined to finish the job though, family was coming soon so I grabbed some duct tape, made a loop across the broom handle and slipped my hand inside. I was really surprised how effortless it felt having this little bit of support over my the back of my hand! I was able to maintain control sweep after sweep with very minimal amount of grip and this little bit of leverage.

Hmm, I wondered if there was anything like this on the market? My only knowledge of ADLs was when I spent a year at Northridge Hospitals OT Center 30 years prior as a volunteer. I remembered the old fabric and leather cuffs, but they were not very adaptable or hygienic. Had they improved?

So later when my sisters were over for the holiday, we started talking about the arthritis the runs in our family and the challenges that we were all having and probably many other people were having and I told them about my trouble that day and showed them the duct taped broom. Couldn’t we come up with a better solution to alleviate some of the pain of everyday tasks by giving a little grip support? We started brainstorming.  We wanted something soft, adaptable and comfortable. So we grabbed a silicon pot holder from the kitchen, cut a couple of holes in it and slid it over the broom handle. Voila!

We decided that very day to innovate a new product that would help people get a grip on objects. (After a bit of research we discovered that there had been no improvements made in the old universal cuffs that I had used 30 years back!) Our idea was to make something that would fit on brooms, paint brushes and outdoor equipment that people might want to use during their daily activities.. Little did we know there was a HUGE special needs community of children as well as adults who desperately needed this long overdue problem solver for utensils, writing implements and even toys!

We got to work the very next day doing all the prototyping making ourselves. We learned to to sculpt clay and make molds. We learned to mix, color, pour and to cure silicone. We designed 20 different sizes and styles of EZs and made about 1000 samples EZs to trial on every ADL we could think of.   And then we really got to work!

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With, boots on the ground we went from school to clinic to therapy center to hospital.  We initially tried to set up appointments with therapists and doctors, but the receptionists had no protocol to fit us in, after all we had no medical background or degrees. So we would camp out in the waiting room until we saw a therapist walk by and we’d ambush them with prototypes in hand and show them how much more effective are little straps were compared to the devices they were familiar with.

 

We dropped off samples to professionals all over Southern California sending them out for trialing at educational facilities, nursing homes, pediatric hospitals and to the parents of special needs children.

We went to flea markets and set up booth with all the things that EazyHold could adapt to and got amazing feedback from from a wide variety of people who told us what they could use it for as well!

The response was pretty profound. We went to the Abilities Expo and were overwhelmed by the positive response by therapists. We starting started getting requests from all over the country for more samples and invites from hospitals to show their staff of nurses and therapists how our products worked. The word of mouth from parents of special needs children was phenomenal. They were so anxious for any new innovation that can help their kids, that the word spread rapidly. EazyHold, the first silicone, universal cuff and grip assist for a child sized hand was available!

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Every therapist and physician we’ve talked with about EazyHold has said of this simple invention, “Where has this product been and why hasn’t it been invented before?” The reality was… It’s a melding of old and new ideas. The old “universal cuff ” made better by utilizing a relatively new material called silicone, which doesn’t harbor bacteria and is easily washed and dried, and so for the first time can be used and reused in care facilities, is soft and stretchy, super adaptable and it fits a much wider range of sizes! From tiny infant hands on a bottle, to an adult on a garden tool.

Q:  Do you manage the EazyHold from start to finish?

As three sisters, we run all the day to day operations, from packaging and fulfilling orders, to marketing and reaching out to therapy centers, schools, hospitals and assisted living facilities. We have been selling EazyHold for a year and a half.  EazyHold  is Trademarked and Patent Pending.

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We have a facebook page and what a joy it is to wake up every day to photos and videos posted by the parents of the children who are using our products to do the things they have never been able to do before. To drink, eat, play music, brush their own teeth!

We receive messages every day saying thanks to EazyHold, my little girl has been able to draw her first Valentine’s Day card. We are seeing children who have never held onto an action figure or a doll now learning to play and explore new learning opportunities. We are hearing every day from excited parents who are seeing what their special needs child can accomplish and achieve independently with this little assistance.

Q:  What is your #1 tip for entrepreneurs?

We invented our product just about 2 years ago in 2014. But because I have sisters whom I love and trust we were able to bring our product to market in a year. So my suggestion is to make sure you have a good team around you for support. Be it financial, creative, or just “boots on the ground” it takes a lot of hard work and commitment, and a team to lift you when you hit a road block and push you forward with fresh ideas and inspiration!

As baby boomers my sisters Merrily and Wendy and I have all had fulfilling careers: Merrily in Early Childhood Development. Wendy in Food services and Art, and myself, Kerry, a Costume Designer for the entertainment industry. Our combined work history and talents have enabled us to innovate and create a new product and business. That while initially born of necessity because of the arthritis in our own hands, has now become a labor of love ,and is driven and thriving due to the intense desire to create useful tools for therapists, teachers, caregivers and parents of children with special needs who deserve the chance to play and learn and create with the joy of independence!

Q: Where can we find the EazyHold

We sell on our website at http://eazyhold.com/ and Amazon.

We also have 10 distributors across the globe.

Facebook:  http://ift.tt/2h2NqxF

Pinterest: http://ift.tt/2gkce5T

Instagram: http://ift.tt/2h2MDwX

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Monday, December 5, 2016

2 Key Factors to Help Increase Participation of Children with Autism

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OTJR: Occupation, Participation and Health published qualitative research investigating the viewpoint of teachers and occupational therapists (who work with children with autism) on the sensory-related environmental barriers to participation within the preschool context. Following interview questions, the data was analyzed and indicated that there are two essential components to increase the participation of children with autism in the preschool setting:

  1. Provide consistent routines.  Provide structure to the day and provide consistent participation in sensory activities.  The teachers and OTs stressed the importance of visual schedules and routines to offer a predictable sensory experience for children, increase on task behavior and to reduce harmful behaviors.
  2. Modify the task or environment and offer sensory supports to increase participation.  Modifications include changes to the environment, grading the amount of sensory stimuli or changing the type of sensory stimulation.

This study can help educate parents, teachers and school staff on a starting point when evaluating the participation of children with autism in the preschool setting.

Read more on visual supports – 5 Ways to Incorporate Visual Supports During a Therapy Session.

Reference: Aimee Piller and Beth Pfeiffer. The Sensory Environment and Participation of Preschool Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder. OTJR: Occupation, Participation and Health July 2016 36: 103-111, doi:10.1177/1539449216665116.

Visual Supports for Self Regulation and Classroom Participation

Self-Regulation and Classroom Participation Visual Supports Designed by a school based occupational therapist, Thia Triggs, this color coded visual support system is suitable for children with autism, emotional behavioral disturbance, intellectual disabilities, ADHD, communication disabilities, and more. Pictures are cute, engaging, and easy for children to understand. Visual supports for self-regulation can be pivotal in implementing an IEP in the least restrictive environment. This digital download includes 283 visuals.  Find out more information.

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Sunday, December 4, 2016

Proper Positioning for Keyboarding Rubric

Proper Positioning for Keyboarding Freebie from Your Therapy Source

Here is a free rubric on the proper positioning for keyboarding from the Keyboard Rubrics digital download.  School based occupational and physical therapists are frequently involved in evaluating positioning needs in the schools including computer stations.  With more and more children spending countless hours in front of a computer screen, proper positioning is essential to prevent long term complications with posture or overuse injuries.

A rubric is a scoring guide to judge performance on a specific task. A skill is broken down into different components and a numerical value is given to each component. The performance is then scored by totaling the sum of the numerical values. Rubrics are used as assessment tools to evaluate an individual’s ability to complete a task which in this case is maintaining proper positioning at the computer.

This rubric evaluates head position, back support, elbow position, wrist position, finger position, hip position, knee position, legs and feet.

Download Proper Positioning for Keyboarding Rubric as a PDF document

Download Proper Positioning for Keyboarding Rubric as a Word document

Keyboarding Rubrics from Your Therapy Source Inc

Keyboarding Rubrics digital download includes 28 rubrics to assess keyboarding skills in PDF and Word format. Also includes 3 references pages on work station area, keyboarding and the common core and fluency chart of handwriting versus keyboarding K-8.  Find out more information.

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Saturday, December 3, 2016

5 Ways to Play with Mini Erasers

5-ways-to-play-with-mini-erasers

Have you seen all the adorable mini erasers at the Target dollar spot?  They are also frequently at party stores and other dollar stores, too. They are festive, fun and cheap.  Big bonus – they are great for fine motor activities.  Here are 5 ideas to use mini erasers to work on children’s fine motor skills.

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Mini Eraser Idea #1:  Count the Erasers – Put the mini erasers directly on your printer or copy machine lined up in order.  Make a color copy of the erasers.  Now write in the numbers and the child can start using the mini erasers as math manipulatives.

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Mini Eraser Idea #2:  Stack Up the Erasers – put the erasers on a tray.  Using tongs or tweezers, can you stack the erasers as high as possible without them falling over.

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Mini Eraser Idea #3:  Drop Into Slot – using a clean, recycled jar cut a slot in the lid.  The child can drop one eraser at a time through the slot into the jar.  Seems super simple, but trust me, little ones love this!

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Mini Eraser Idea #4:  Match Up The Erasers – place the erasers in random order on the copy machine or printer.  Make a color copy.  The child can try to match up the eraser directly on top of the pictures that are in all different directions.

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Mini Eraser Idea #5:  Seek and Find – hide the erasers in some dried beans that match the color of the erasers to make them a little more difficult to find.  Since we had tree mini erasers, we used dried peas and white beans.

What is your favorite activity to do with mini erasers?  And please don’t say erase.  Haha – actually I am not even sure if they do erase!

Print and Play Fine Motor Activities Pack #1Need more fine motor activities?  Check out the Print and Play Fine Motor Pack #1.  This download includes fine motor activities that promote cutting skills, finger isolation and in hand manipulation.  Find our more information.

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Friday, December 2, 2016

6 Strategies to Optimize Learning With Physical Activity

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Research strongly indicates that exercise and physical activity helps to boost brain power.  Here are 6 strategies to put that research into motion:

  1. Get students moving and physically active.  Inspire students to exercise and be physically active.  School staff can add movement during brain breaks, recess time, during physical education, transition time and during lessons.  Parents can encourage decreased screen time and increased outdoor time at home.
  2. Incorporate exercise into learning activities.  When possible, teachers can add in physical activity directly into the lesson.
  3. Schedule physical activity during the school day at the best times.  Try increasing physical activity before at test or a challenging class.  Read 10 Easy Ways to Get the Brain Ready for Testing.
  4. Educate the school and family on the benefits of physical activity.  This will help everyone understand and encourage children to be physically active inside and outside of school.  Read 5 evidence based reasons how exercise impacts brain power.
  5. Start a committee to help increase physical activity in your school or community.  Create and develop a plan to start increasing physical activity throughout the school day and in the community.
  6. Teach the students the health benefits of being physically active.  When the students are educated, they will be more internally motivated to exercise.

Reference:  Reference: Marcus Conyers and Donna Wilson. Smart moves: Powering up the brain with physical activity. Phi Delta Kappan May 2015 96: 38-42, doi:10.1177/0031721715583961

Classroom Activity Posters

Classroom Activity Posters is a download collection of 16 exercise activities, 4 large posters and a brief, simple video demonstration of each exercise.The posters are divided into four groups: posture, alerting, ready to work and focus/balance. All of the exercises are performed in standing. Try these activities prior to starting fine motor activities, for posture breaks, to refocus students attention and for vestibular/ proprioceptive input in the classroom.  Find out more information.

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