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

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

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Proposal Deadline: Ongoing

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

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E-mail: Youthfoundation@finishline.com

Website: Finish Line Youth Foundation

Availability: All States

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Favorite Product Review! Textured Grabber XT

Textured Grabber XT

Item # AP3662

Image

“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.

Activity Guide – Balancing Hat

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 Balancing Hat.

Introduction:

The Balance Hat is a fun way to work on body awareness, gross and fine motor control, social skills and pre-academic skills. The lightweight foam pieces provide comfort when it is worn as a hat, safety if/when it is dropped, and ease of use due to the light-weight and easy grip material. The different colored and sized pieces allow for a wide range of pre-academic categorization options.

Activity Idea:

Simple stacking activities. Have the child use the “hat” as a simple stacking activity without putting it on his/her head. Discuss the sizes, shapes and colors of the blocks while the child familiarizes his/herself with the “hat”.

  • Have the child stack the blocks on their head while standing still. Place the blocks on a surface that allows the child to be able to reach the blocks without bending, and stack the blocks in the correct order. Doing this activity in front of a mirror can help the child with poor body or spatial awareness and can also assist the child in finding the correct order with the visual clues seen in the mirror.
  • Increase the stacking challenge and the motor coordination of the child, by having the pieces positioned on surfaces of different heights that require the child to reach up, bend down, and stack the blocks all without the tower spilling.
  • Introduce balance into the activity by placing the pieces on different surfaces around the room, then have the child move from place to place, putting each piece on their head without spilling the tower.
  • For group or individual play, complete a relay race. Separate the pieces so that child must walk back and forth between two surfaces to achieve the correct order of the stacking. If working in teams, each player must pass the hat successively to the next for the placement of the next piece.

Other relay ideas: the teams must first work together to create the stack in the correct order on the table. Then each team member takes a turn wearing the hat while walking a fixed distance. The hat must be passed between teams members as a baton would be in a relay race.

Activity Guide: The Button Bear Weighted Lap 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 Button Bear Weighted Lap Pad.

Introduction:

Providing both a weighted lap pad and a bear with several different options for developing dressing skills, the Button Bear Weighted Lap Pad is perfect for developing the fine motor skills needed for buttoning, zipping, tying, and additional dressing skills while providing the option of a weighted lap pad for improved sensory regulation. The detachable bear allows the pad and the bear to be used separately or in conjunction with each other. The colorful and charming nature of the bear provides a naturally engaging dressing toy that will entertain children for extended periods. The fabric was also designed to assist with tactile processing skills, providing several different textures that should be pleasing, even to the tactile defensive child.
Activity Ideas:

• Add the weights into the pad and place the pad on the child’s lap during classroom or community activities that require a child to maintain a seated position or long periods of focus such as circle time, church, car rides or dining out. The weighted nature of the pad will provide proprioceptive input and the bear will provide fidget toys, both of which should assist the child with self-regulation and attentional focus.

• The bear is attached to the pad with hook and loop. Have the child pull the bear off the pad and reattach. This exercise will help develop strength in the hands and arms and also improves motor planning.

• Place the pad (with or without weights) on the child’s lap with the bear’s feet facing the child’s belly. Experiment with the different dressing items.

• Switch the orientation of the bear so that the head is against the child’s belly and experiment with dressing from this direction. The change in orientation will provide a different challenge for the child but is also closer to the perspective of dressing themselves.

• Have the child remove the bear from the pad. Using just the bear, the child can engage in pretend play with the bear as if it were a typical doll.

• With the bear removed, the pad can be used as a regular weighted lap pad for proprioceptive input.

• The bear itself can also be used as a portable and socially appropriate fidget toy for holding attention and self-regulation.

For more information about the Button Bear Weighted Lap Pad and other great items please visit http://www.achievement-products.com/Default.aspx?src=logo.

Activity Guide: Octaband®

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 Octaband®.

Introduction:

The Octaband®is a great tool for group activity. It helps to develop strength and motor coordination while developing the ability to function as part of a group. Listening skills, teamwork, attention, and cooperation can also be taught. The Octaband® can be used while sitting or standing and can be used with the hands or the feet.
Activity Ideas:

·        Ring Around the Rosey. Have each child grab one arm of the Octaband® and stretch it to its full length. The arm must be kept at its full length while the children walk in a circle to the Ring Around the Rosey tune. When they “all fall down” they must let go of the arms of the Octaband® and grab a different color for the next round.

·        Play Duck-Duck-Goose. Each child sits and holds a fully extended arm. When the “goose” gets picked, they caller needs to get to the open arm and stretch it out before they are safe.

·        Play Hokey Pokey. When the children “turn themselves around” they have to hold the arms fully extended while they spin in a circle.

·        Have each child grab hold of one arm of the Octaband®. Call out a color and the children holding that color must stretch out and come back to the circle. Give them unique moves to do when they come back into the circle such as spinning into the circle so that the Octaband® arm wraps around their body, hopping in on one foot, taking one big jump to return, etc.

·        Work on teamwork and sequencing by doing “the wave”. All the children holding the pink arms pull out and come back. When they get to the center, the children holding blue pull out and come back followed by the yellow. See how many correct rotation the group can achieve.

·        Holding an arm in one hand (specify left or right) have the children rotate the Octaband® to the opposite hand to spin it in a circle. Perform with both hands.

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