Monday, September 23, 2013

Fairs- great sensory trips

We went to the fair the other day and I realized just how much sensory input a fair delivers.  First, all the noise of the fair.  A crowded fair tends to be quite noisy and stimulating with sudden loud sounds, animal cries and people laughing and screaming.  I noticed quite a few children with their hands over their ears.  Second, there are lots of smells- some good (food) and some not so good (animal droppings).  The smells can be quite overwhelming at times as you walk around.  Third, the proximity of all people and animals.  As you walk around the fair, it is inevitable that you get jostled and pushed by other people, while animals walk near by.
For a child with sensory issues, a fair can be quite overwhelming.  But don't just avoid the situation- a fair can be quite educational for children.  They get to see up close animals that they may not see in everyday life.  So, ease your child into the experience.  Let them know what to expect prior to going and throughout their day.  You could say, "ok, we are going into the cow section.  It may be loud and smelly."  If your child is not able to handle the full experience, just stand in the doorway to see the cows.  Allow your child to put his/her hands over his/her ears, if necessary.  Read your child's reaction to the stimuli so that you are able to deal with it before it becomes too intense and you are facing a meltdown.  Remember, it's ok to leave an area that is too much for your child.  It's also ok to stay in an area, even if it's mildly uncomfortable to your child.  You need to be aware of your child's reactions to best deal with the situation. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Learning colors

I recently had a teacher ask me for suggestions to help a child learn his colors.  This child just wasn't grasping the idea of colors and, despite months of being taught his colors, could only name one.  The teacher was frustrated and wondered if I had any suggestions.  I assured her that she was not the first teacher to have this difficulty and told her that there are some children that have a particularly hard time with this concept.  Colors are difficult for some children to learn because color is an abstract idea. We point to the car and say it is blue.  The sky is blue,  his eyes are blue, and so on and so on.  A child is looking at the objects and thinking "how can they all be the same?"  So, be sure to teach colors using alike items.  Place 2 blocks in front of the child.  Say, "these are both blocks- one is blue (point to it) and one is red (point to it)".  Do this with a few items.  I recommend using 2 completely different colors- not red/orange. 
Once you have introduced the concept of colors, use the colors throughout your day.  One suggestion I gave the teacher was to put construction papers on the back of the chairs.  Give one child at a time a color to find and sit in that chair.  At first have the child with difficulty  choose between only 2 colors.  Practice one color at a time (so have him find red for a few days until he is consistently picking it).  Gradually increase the number of chairs/colors he picks from.
Another suggestion is to use gross motor to teach colors.  We have mentioned in many posts how the use of movement increases a child's ability to learn. So, glue colored papers on a wall and have the children throw balls or beanbags at a color.  Tape colored papers on the floor and have a child jump to a certain color. 
Remember to label items with their colors throughout your day.  Say, sit on the blue carpet; go to the red table; pick up the purple cup.  Saturate your day with colors and you should see the children grasping the idea in no time!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Stand up to work

Kids today are much more sedentary than we used to be.  We were always out and about playing in the yard and in the neighborhood.  There were always friends and games to play outside.  We didn't have all the video devices, phones, and other electronic devices available today.  Kids today (for the most part) sit far more than we ever did.  We see it in the obesity epidemic in children and we see it in some children being generally weak.  So, have children stand to do tasks.  Have them stand to do puzzles at the table, have them stand to do table top tasks such as stringing beads, lacing cards or playing games.  Standing is great to help strengthen the trunk and add stability, which is important when students are writing.  We need trunk stability to use our arms and hands for writing and cutting.  It amazes me when I get one of my students to stand up to work, just how quickly they tire out.  Children sit for most activities now and find it difficult to stabilize themselves to stand and perform.  But, it is so important for them to be able to do just that.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Good Ways to Use Equipment in EI Classrooms

Lots of kids in EI classrooms would benefit from the use of standers or special seating throughout their day, even also those kids placed in regular ed environments in need of this type of equipment. Try using a visual schedule of activities with a pictures of the equipment underneath.  That way the teachers and therapists can coordinate in which position the child would be able to best work on specific goals.  And it can be modified easily from day to day while keeping everyone on the same page.

Even kids that have trouble paying attention may benefit from sitting on a dynamic cushion or rocking chair during group learning times like circle.  Everyone may exit circle to go to centers more calmly if they are to crawl through a tunnel after stating their center choice.  Talk to your OT about other ways that special equipment in the classroom, whether it be low tech like a beanbag chair or high tech like a mobile stander, can benefit your child!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Good positioning for handwriting

It's the beginning of the school year and kids are starting the learning process.  Now is the time for teachers/ therapists to assess the children and their positioning at their desks/tables to ensure the best possible positioning for handwriting.  If the desk is too high, or too low, or if the child is not sitting well, handwriting suffers.  So, now is the time to assess your students' positioning to allow them to do the best work they can.  Here are some general rules for optimal positioning:

Desk height should be approximately 2 inches above the student's elbow level

   Feet should be flat on the floor when possible

1-      Smaller students may need a foot stool to stabilize their feet

2-      Smaller students may need higher chairs.

3-      Try to group children by size, if possible, when using multiple tables and make height of table appropriate for the group

The child should be positioned in a 90-90-90 position, or as close to this as possible.  A 90-90-90 position is one in which the hips, knees and ankles are in a 90* angle

The child should be positioning squarely in front of the desk and close enough for easy access.

The child should be sitting upright, not leaning one way or the other

Remember that children grow, so their positioning should be monitored throughout the year and adjusted as necessary.