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.


Grant Name: Finish Line Youth Foundation Grants

Funded By: Finish Line Youth Foundation

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

Eligibility: Other

Proposal Deadline: Ongoing

Annual Total Amount: $200,000.00 – $500,000.00

Average Amount: $1,000.00 – $50,000.00

Address: 3308 North Mitthoeffer Road, Indianapolis, IN 46235-2332

Telephone: 317-899-1022 x6741

E-mail: Youthfoundation@finishline.com

Website: Finish Line Youth Foundation

Availability: All States

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!

Activity Guide – Squeeze and Feed Frogs

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 Squeeze and Feed Frogs.



Introduction:
Squeeze and Feed Frogs are rounded, pliable frog faces that open their mouths when squeezed to “gobble” foam bugs. The resistance provided when squeezed is excellent for the development of hand and grip strength, and manipulation of the small bugs assists with finger dexterity and in-hand manipulation skills. The set comes with both a number die and a color die for ease of grading the activity to children of various ages. The dice also provide the opportunity for social play as Squeeze and Feed Frogs can be used as a game.  The bugs and the frogs are both visually appealing which increases the motivational component of the game.Activity ideas:

  • The simplest activity is to have the child squeeze the frog and place the bugs inside the mouth with their other hand. Have the child place his/her thumb on one side of the frog’s mouth with the other four fingers on the opposite side forming a cupping of the palm when squeezing. To increase the challenge, have the child try to pick up the bugs using only the frog and not their other hand.
  • Play a game using the die. For younger children, use the color die and have them race to get as many of the colors as they can into the frog’s mouth. For school-aged children, have them use the number die for number recognition. To increase the challenge, have the child use both dice and see if they can pick up the correct of number of the correct color.
  • Develop social skills. Have the child use the frogs for conversations. Have the child make the frog talk by squeezing and releasing the mouth. In a small group with two children, or a simple 1:1 adult/child situation, the frogs can have a conversation with each other.
  • To develop bilateral integration skills, use one frog to pick up a bug and have it feed the bug to other frog.

For more information about the Squeeze and Feed Frogs and other great items please visit http://www.achievement-products.com.

Activity Guide – Toppletree

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 Toppletree.

Introduction:Toppletree is a fun and challenging fine motor game. Starting from the base, players try to build a branch of the tree with four consecutive color pieces without toppling the tree. The game requires fine motor precision as the child must use muscle coordination to grade his placement of the pieces without toppling the tree. This game also assists the child in the development of planning and reasoning skills as they must be able to see how to get to their piece in the correct order while not compromising the tree’s balance.

Activity ideas:

  • Use the tree as a simple construction toy. Rather than following the actual game rules, allow the child to simply build the tree and see how big they can make it without toppling it over.
  • In a small group, each player selects a color and must build their branches using only that color. Taking turns, they must find a way to connect four consecutive pieces of the tree with their color.
  • Develop color identification skills. Specify which color piece you want placed at any time and have the child place it. Increase the challenge by telling the child which color you want placed on another color (ie. “Place a blue piece on a yellow piece”).
  • Using the idea above, develop social skills by having one child be the leader, calling out to the other children where they want different color pieces placed.

For more information about the Toppletree and other great items please visit www.achievement-products.com.

Activity Guide – Gel Spiral Pad

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 Gel Spiral Pad.

 

Introduction:

The Gel Spiral Pad provides a fantastic overall sensory experience while increasing finger and hand strength, and improving visual-motor control. The texture of the gel combined with its bright but soothing colors provides the perfect combination of tactile and visual input in a non-threatening manner to the sensory defensive child. The gel provides resistance for finger and hand strengthening as well a visual-motor challenge as the child tries to maneuver the embedded plastic pieces through the maze.

Activity Ideas:

  • Use the pad for sensory exploration. Have the child free play with fingers and palms across the surface of the pad. Cool the pad in a refrigerator before use for increased sensory input.
  • Place the Gel Spiral Pad on a light table for added visual stimulation, to reduce boredom and increase attention span.
  • Use the pad to develop finger isolation and strength. Indicate a finger for use on each hand and have the child use only that finger to move the plastic pieces, or simply to trace the spirals. Switch fingers at random intervals or when fatigue is noticed.
  • Time the child and see how fast he/she can get the plastic pieces through the maze.