First Day of School: Here We Go Again

by Neva Fenno, M.S.Ed. MLIS

Every year, it never fails. The last days of August go by and that tickly feeling in my stomach starts. Mine includes a little thud at the end of 20 seconds of elevated heart rate. The thud part is generally located in my mid-section. I have never seen a doctor for this phenomenon because I know it is an automatic healthy response to the coming of a new school year.

Daily Organizer

Over the years, I have developed a fail-safe to-do list that I review before I go in to the school building and tackle the job of putting my classroom back together again. Inevitably, well-meaning custodial staff have once again moved everything despite my explicit instructions not to. The floors will sparkle (careful here, they’re slippery). I’ve always wondered why they don’t mix sand in the wax; it would save many cases of sacroiliac joint dysfunction—this is a fancy medical term for “oh my aching back.” If you are smiling at this description, I have met my goal for the article.

The first day comes and goes, and not once have I experienced the cataclysmic disasters my fertile imagination produces each and every year. I don’t lose any students, the one-to-one aides are really great people and they don’t add work to my special education routine. We’re good to go.

At the top of my list are supplies (disclosure: this blog is a product of Achievement Products®, a wonderful one stop shopping site for all your classroom needs). This year, I’ve been taking a close look at allergen free products. Is it my imagination, or are kids coming to us with more violent allergies? Peanut allergies are common, and so many food products have been made in facilities where peanuts are used that it really pays to read labels carefully. Our kids have enough challenges without facing allergies in the classroom.

There are now all sorts of hypoallergenic markers, crayons, paints and glue for students to use. There are even hypoallergenic balls and other playground items. It’s going to become my practice to add the word “hypoallergenic” to every search I do for supplies no matter where I decide to shop. Better safe than sorry. And if you’re like me, the purchasing process in your district is so convoluted and difficult that you always use some of your own money to outfit your classroom.

It seems I see more and more kids with perceptual disorders. There are some thoughtful products for these kids at very reasonable prices. Here are some new arrivals for you to explore.

I’ve been adding to my collection of exercise items in the classroom. Even if I don’t have children with specific physical disabilities, I have many overweight children and students who rarely get outdoors for fresh air and exercise. It seems they are all playing video games. Video games can be good training for some children, but you must also get them up and moving.

Achievement Products has a carefully selected group of adaptive technology items for the classroom. There are also products for students with communication challenges.

So when you wake up on day one, don’t reach for Pepto-Bismol. You’re just having first day jitters—perfectly normal. I’ve put together some resources for new and experienced teachers as they face the all-important first few days of school.

New Teachers, New School

Checklist

Practical Advice for Jitters

Survival Guide for New (All) Teachers

Creating a Teacher Mentoring Program

Special Education Teacher Support

Add to our list of resources, help guide this blog and tell me about your challenges. I may feature your class or school in upcoming blog entries.


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Funded By: Finish Line Youth Foundation

Description: Giving on a national basis in areas of company operations, supporting organizations involved with athletics and youth development. Special emphasis is directed toward programs designed to promote active lifestyles and team building skills; and camps designed to promote sports and active lifestyles, and serve disadvantaged and special needs kids.

Program Areas: After-School, Disabilities, Health/PE, Special Education

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Website: Finish Line Youth Foundation

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Save 15% on Sensory Stimulation Products!

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You can save 15% on Sensory Stimulation products starting today! We have everything from weighted blankets to fidgets to sensory sand finger paint to quiet corners!

Here’s a sneak peek at some of the products we have available for 15% off through August 14!

The Time Tracker® Mini (AP6909) helps develop time managements kills with its uniquie visual and auditory timer.

Our new Fashion Fleece Weighted Vests come in red or blue and have three different size choices. These weighted fleece vests can be used to calm and provide great sensory input for children. Fidgets are also sewn into the pocket to help calm the sensory system.

Our exclusive Cushy Bean Pads (AP9300) come in a four-piece set and provides a choice of textures! Provide tactile and proprioceptive input with thse pads. Each pad is made of a soft, flexible plastic and is covered in three different textures: plushy Sherpa fleece, smooth sateen, and corduroy.

Our Sensory Stimulation sale lasts through August 14th, so don’t miss out! Shop now at www.Achievement-Products.com and use code APSALE2 when you check out!

Save 15% on All Air Cushions!

Air cushions are perfect for children who cannot sit still! These cushions provide the “squirmy” child with the means to meet his or her movement needs in a chair without disrupting the learning environment.

Through July 31, you can save 15% on all Air Cushions! The offer is good while supplies last so don’t miss out!

See below for more information!
email_07_17_13 1Check out more of our Active Seating product assortment and save 15% on your Air Cushion order before July 31!

Save 15% on Therapy Solutions!

Stock up on therapy tools during this fantastic sale! Don’t miss out. Offer good while supplies last! Here is a sneak peak at some of the unique therapy items you’ll find in our assortment:

Our Soothing Stars Vibrating Pillow offers proprioceptive input, which can help calm children with sensory processing difficulties. It’s moon, stars and planet pattern soothes and calms as the pillow vibrates when squeezed gently

The SI Pressure Vest {size small} is a wonderful self-regulation tool. It is made of soft neoprene and can be worn under or over a child’s regular clothes. The vest is completely adjustable at each shoulder and each side with hook and loop closures.

The Achievement Body Rocker offers soft support and cradles little ones as they are rocked or cushions older children as they learn to rock themselves. It is perfect ofr side, tummy or back lying!

Check out more of our Therapy Solutions assortment and save 15% on your order if you order before July 16, 2013!

Favorite Product Review! Textured Grabber XT

Textured Grabber XT

Item # AP3662

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“Easy To Store, Easy To Clean, Easy To Use, Durable, ‘Soothing!'”

“My grandson has spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy and has a tendency to bite his hands when upset or excited. Give him the grabber xt and his attention is immediately focused to chewing not biting.” – A satisfied Achievement Products Costumer

Product Overview:
Our popular chew tool now comes with 3 different textured surfaces! Each surface serves to add extra tactile sensations to the lips, cheeks, gums, and tongue. Can also be used to assist in transitioning individuals with sensory issues from puree to textured foods. It is sure to spark the interest of all age groups. For added interest try the scented versions. An XT version is also available for individuals who exert more jaw pressure. FDA approved. No latex.

To shop this product and similar products please click here:

The Benefits of Yoga

Every Occupational Therapist has his/her “bag of therapy tools” from which they can pull. This bag contains the individualized tried and true therapeutic techniques and activities that each therapist can use to address any given set of challenges. For a rapidly increasing number of therapists, one of the most frequently used “tools” in this bag is becoming the use of yoga.

Little Girl Doing Handstand

Yoga and OT are a natural fit as both disciplines focus on the individual as a whole person not just the part that may be a particular challenge. The use of yoga as a therapy technique provides many benefits for adults and children alike and the beauty of yoga is adaptability. It can be performed almost anywhere by almost anyone and the benefits can be long lasting. Yoga provides a medium for developing physical strength, flexibility and body awareness. It provides a medium for developing stress release and relaxation as well as focus and concentration. It can be a both a powerful social activity or an activity that can be performed in solitude with similar benefits.

Physical development is inherent in yoga as it is an active technique. However, the depth of the physical development goes far beyond muscle strength and flexibility. Yoga also works on motor planning skills as each pose requires a separate plan to execute. For beginners, physical imitation skills come into play as most often they are making their own bodies copy either a picture or an instructor. As the skill level progresses and familiarity comes into play, the individual can execute a pose based on the memory of the picture, the instructor in the pose or simply the name of the pose increasing the complexity of the motor plan and utilizing muscle memory. Yoga also allows the participant to develop better overall body awareness as executing and sustaining a pose requires intimate knowledge of one’s body in space to perform correctly.

Kids Instructional Yoga DVD

Yoga is one of the most powerful methods available for stress reduction and relaxation. The concept of deep breathing can itself be used without the poses to relax but when combined with the physical demands of the pose, the relaxation effect is enhanced. The focus and concentration required to execute and sustain the poses allows the individual to center their attention and thereby further their stress reduction or relaxation. Physical exertion in and of itself has been shown to have a beneficial stress reduction or relaxation power. Yoga provides a means of combining poses that require a significant amount of physical exertion with poses that are relaxing by nature. The combination of physical exertion and relaxation serves to provide deeper relaxation at the conclusion.

The power of yoga can be perfectly provided with the Kids Instructional Yoga Mat and DVD. This set provides the perfect method of engagement for any child. The soft textured mat is lightweight and easy to carry which allows for easy transport and use in a variety of settings. The provision of a non-slip surface allows for a safe work surface in almost any setting.

Kids Instructional Yoga Mat

The mat was specifically designed with appealing pictures of animals and the corresponding pose in order to capture the attention of the child and encourage engagement in the yoga activity. Each picture is labeled which provides a multi-modal learning method for the child. The inclusion of step-by-step instructions in the DVD in combination with the labeled pictures will help the child develop skills crucial for success in the educational setting, at home, or in the community such as following instructions, sequencing, and attending to task while providing another layer of multi-modal learning by engaging both the visual and the auditory systems. Overall, the Kids Instructional Yoga Mat and DVD are the ideal yoga companion for any child.

Take a look at these other yoga products:
Yoga for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Step-by-Step Guide for Parents and Caregivers (AP84318)
“Bal Yoga for Kids” by Glenda Kacev and Sylvia Roth – Book with CD and DVD (AP9555)
Yoga Pretzels Activity Cards (AP97819)
“Frog’s Breathtaking Speech: how Children (and Frogs) Can Use Yoga Breathing to Deal with Anxiety, Anger and Tension” by Michael Chissick (AP84819)
YogaKids® DVD Set (AP9880)
Angel Bear Double CD Set (AP90063)

*This post was written by Scott Russo and was brought to you by Achievement Products®.

Activity Guide – Tactile Sensory Ball

The team at Achievement Products® asked our consultant, Occupational Therapist Scott Russo, to provide some activity suggestions for incorporating some of our favorite items into daily classroom activities or curriculum. Scott has provided some really great and creative ways to use items (that may have been originally designed for typically developing children), in special needs environments.

Today we will look at the Tactile Sensory Ball.

 
 Introduction:
The tactile sensory ball is an excellent tool for the development of balance, core strength, and vestibular and proprioceptive stimulation with the added benefit of increased tactile input. This ball is perfect for the child or teenager who is challenged by an under-regulated sensory system or overall decreased body awareness. The ball is a normal therapy exercise ball with hundreds of sensory bumps which increase the awareness of both the ball and the body during activity.
Activity ideas:
All activities should be engaged in with a caregiver or teacher in attendance. Develop static (non-moving) and dynamic (moving) balance skills. Start by having the child or teenager simply try to maintain their balance while their feet are on the ground. Move the ball in different directions and have the child adjust their balance accordingly. Start with slow movements and gradually increase to more challenging movements.
  • Have the child or teenager sit on the ball and try to maintain balance with their feet off of the ground.
  • Lying on the belly, have the child perform wheelbarrow walks. Make sure their legs are together and supported as they walk forward and backward on their hands.
  • To increase upper-body strength, have students try pushups with their feet or legs supported by the ball. The pushups can be graded by having less and less of the leg supported as the child or teenager walks out on his/her hands.
  • From a sitting position, have the child or teenager perform situps while maintaining their balance, have them lean back as far as they can support themselves, or with a spotter supporting them, then bring themselves back up to a sitting position.
  • Use the ball as a chair for increased attention. The ball can be used at a desk or table during fine motor or academic tasks.
  • Use the ball as a balance challenge for gross motor play such as balloon volleyball or catch. For the teenager, there are a variety of resistance activities that can be done using the ball as the balance device while performing normal weight training movements.
  • For increased sensory input, have the child or teenager lie on his/her belly and use the ball as a roller, applying pressure over the back.

For more information about the Tactile Sensory Ball and other great items please visit http://www.achievement-products.com.