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

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

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!

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:

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: 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: Tobbles™


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 Tobbles™.

Introduction:

Tobbles™ is an almost full-proof balancing/nesting game. Each piece is designed to be able to balance in numerous positions to create multiple different tower configurations. Most importantly, Tobbles™ allows kids to be successful in stacking while working on fine motor skills. Used in a group, kids can work on turn-taking, social skills, teamwork, and cooperation.

Activity Ideas:

·        Simple stacking activities. Let the child be creative with his/her designs.

·        Group activities. Take turns stacking the pieces.

·        Sequencing activities. Give the child a sequence of colors or sizes for stacking and see if they can follow the sequence from memory.

·        Color matching. Stack the blocks according to matching colors.

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

Tickle Your Senses!

This post is authored by Anna Reyner, a registered art therapist and licensed marriage and family therapist. Anna is a nationally recognized arts advocate that has conducted over 500 hands-on art workshops for learners of all abilities. Follow Anna’s blog at Art and Creativity in Early Childhood Education.
Special Needs Application:
Children explore sensory and tactile play while learning important lessons of imaginative and symbolic thinking, enhancing motor skills, safely expressing emotions and communicating in a non-verbal format.

Messy Art is fun and provides a delightful way to learn about the world and it’s physical properties. Most children love to get their hands into paint and other gooey materials that “tickle their senses.” Messy art lets children discover the emotional pleasures of sensory and tactile play while they learn important lessons of cause and effect and the material properties of matter. What’s more, messy art develops important cognitive, social-emotional and multi-sensory skills. Self directed learning with fluid, sensory and tactile art materials is especially important in early childhood and continues to have benefits for older children as well.

What exactly is “messy art” – is it simply fingerpainting? A lot more, actually. Messy Art is a friendly description for art experiences that involve paint and other fluid materials that change with ease as you manipulate them. These fluid “sensory art” experiences provide children with exciting physical contacts that motivate exploration. The fluid nature of paint provides for dynamic and rapidly changing explorations of color, shape and textures on paper. Children often feel very powerful when painting, because the cause and effect of their actions becomes apparent very quickly. Painting allows children to make decisions rapidly, and to operate more independently than they are usually accustomed to. Paints continuously move and blend, creating new combinations and secondary colors. With just a few swift brushstrokes, an entire painting can change and transform into a new creation. Painting is indeed, a powerful process!

Messy Art activities are one of the best ways to promote early childhood learning. Preschool and Kindergarten provide an especially important opportunity for hands-on, self-directed learning. As children grow and advance through elementary school, art continues to provide opportunities for mastery and learning. Art teaches critical thinking, self-expression, problem solving, individuality, creativity and self-esteem.

Messy Art experiences, those that rely on fluid and tactile art materials, provide children with great reward for their efforts. Not only do children often find it exciting to have the freedom to “get messy,” but child development theory teaches us time and time again that tactile and sensory experiences are one of the best ways children learn. So designate an area of your room to messy art, cover tables and floors with newspaper if necessary, and find time to tickle your senses!