Wednesday, August 26, 2015

10 Back to School Tips for School Based Therapists

10 Back to School Tips for School Based Therapists from www.YourTherapySource.comIt is that time of year again – back to school.  Here are 10 tips to help you get started on the right “foot” (for the PTs) or “write path” (for the OTs).  Get it hahahaha!  Ok, I know lame joke but I couldn’t resist.  Here we go:
#1:  Get organized.  Here are a few specific tips to help –
1. Try using one color folder per school. For example, for every student at school XYZ use a red folder. For each student at school ABC use a blue folder.
2. In each student’s file, keep an general information page including goals. There are several free versions of this from TeachersPayTeachers such as
3. Keep a binder for all your daily notes. Using file folder dividers with tabs, write the student’s name on the file folder tab. Try to keep it in alphabetical order to quickly find a student’s name.  Check out the Therapy Planner for 2015-2016 to organize your binder at
4. Keep a file folder with your most popular hand outs in your bag. When teachers or parents need extra information on a popular topic you will have it all at your fingertips. Check out all of our hand outs for ideas at
5. Keep a pack of sticky notes ready to jot down a note or reminders. At the end of the day transfer any information on the sticky note to the proper location.
6. Schedule a meeting with yourself at the end of the week to stay organized. Create a time slot in your schedule at the end of the day (or at home) to sit down go through all the important papers from the week and re-organize to get ready for the upcoming week. It will be a time saver in the long run.
#2: Set up your therapy space.  This can mean so many different things to different therapists.  Perhaps you are lucky enough to actually have a therapy room.  Design your space with universal design principles to set a good example and help all children that come to the therapy room.  Want to make it look nice?  Check out some of our motivational posters for pediatric OTs and PTs at   If your therapy space is a hallway or small closet start setting up your car.  Clean it and organize it so that you have space for all your equipment as your travel.
#3:  Learn about the students’ curriculum.  This may sound like a huge undertaking but at least start out by understanding what is expected of the students on your caseload.  Things have changed so much over the last several years about what is expected of children to learn.  As school based therapists our job is to help students achieve their educational goals.   That job is impossible if we do not fully understand what they need to learn.  If your school is using the common core standards you can get an idea of what is expected for each grade in IEP Goals Related to the Common Core for OT/PT Grades K-2  at or IEP Goals Related to the Common Core for OT/PT Grades 3-5 at
#4:  Check current goals.  Learn about each of your students.   It can be hard to get a clear picture of a student’s skill based on what you read on paper.  If you had the student previously, have any skills changed over the summer?  If a decline is observed, be sure to collect some data to help justify services over the next summer if needed.  If the student has improved, check if goals needs to be adjusted.
#5: Observe your students in the educational environment.  Observe the student in the classroom, on the bus, in the cafeteria, etc.  Can the student physically access all the materials? Are there certain modifications that need to be made to the environment to make it easier for the student?  Sometimes as therapists, we focus on what we can do to help with specific therapeutic interventions to help a student improve his/her skills.  We need to remember the quick fixes that can be done to the environment around the student to help achieve goals.
#6:  Collaborate with teachers, parents, students and other school staff.  Introduce yourself to all of the team members,  Explain how you can offer help in certain areas for students and encourage the team members to contact you if they have any questions.  Don’t forget to collaborate with the most important team member – the student!
#7: Communicate.   Communication is different than collaboration.  Inform students, parents and school staff what you are working on with the student and offer suggestions of how they can help.  Want more suggestions?  Check out this article Let’s Talk – How to Communicate Effectively with the Special Education Team at
#8:  Establish goals for yourself.  Keep it nice and simple and try filling out this worksheet on how you can improve this school year –
#9:  Don’t judge.  If you have new students on your caseload, do not judge them solely on what you read on paper especially their motor skills.  Don’t assume that a child can not achieve a certain skill.  Take the time to get to know each student (see tip #5).
#10:  Be prepared.  Children tend to exhibit inappropriate behavior when they become complacent during unstructured times. It is critical to plan out in advance exactly what goals you will be addressing during the session and design an activity keeping those goals as the focus. Always have in mind a few extra activities. Some activities that you may think will take 20 minutes may take 5 minutes leaving you with a chunk of unstructured time.  Make sure that students can complete the tasks you will be using while being challenged.  You can find thousands of activity ideas at 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Movement, Math and Visual Perceptual Skill Freebie - Roll, Move and Cover

Alphabet Animals - Roll and Cover from is a fun game, Roll, Move and Cover that incorporates movement, visual perceptual skills, fine motor skills and math skills.  It is a freebie game from Animal Actions A to Z.  Basically, the student rolls two dice, adds up the numbers, finds the number, performs an animal action and then colors in the circle to cover it up.  Another option is to cover up each circle with a small ball of clay.  You can download the free activity here

Monday, August 24, 2015

Benefits of Fidgeting for Children with ADHD

ADHD, Fidgeting and Improved Performance - YourTherapySourceThe Journal of Abnormal Psychology published research to determine if hyperactivity with ADHD is a deficit or a compensatory behavior.  The researchers compared the working memory (WM) performance and attention in boys aged 8–12 years  with ADHD (n = 29) and typically developing children (TD; n = 23).  Each child’s phonological WM and attentive behavior was evaluated during four counterbalanced WM tasks during four separate sessions. The data was then sequenced hierarchically based on behavioral observations of each child’s gross motor activity during each task.
The results indicated the following:
1.  higher rates of activity level predicted significantly better, but not normalized WM performance for children with ADHD.
2.  higher rates of activity level predicted somewhat lower WM performance for TD children.
3.  variations in movement did not predict changes in attention for either group.
4.  children with ADHD were more likely to be classified as reliably improved in their WM performance at their highest versus lowest activity level.
5.  the typically developing children were more likely to be classified as deteriorated in their WM performance at their highest versus lowest observed activity level.
The researchers concluded that  there is a functional role to hyperactivity in ADHD and recommend avoiding overcorrection of g gross motor activity during academic tasks that rely on phonological WM.
The lead author of the study, Dustin Sarver, discusses with National Public Radio that  “We think that part of the reason is that when they’re moving more they’re increasing their alertness”.  He goes on to explain that a level of alertness functions on a “rainbow curve.”   “You want to maintain a “Goldilocks” level of alertness — not too much, not too little. That’s why moving around didn’t help the typically developing kids; it might even have distracted them”.
We would love to hear your opinion on what your favorite interventions are to help students sit during classroom lessons.  Please take a moment to answer our current survey at
Dustin E. Sarver, Mark D. Rapport, Michael J. Kofler, Joseph S. Raiker, Lauren M. Friedman. Hyperactivity in Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): Impairing Deficit or Compensatory Behavior? Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology. April 2015. DOI
Kamenetz, A. Vindication For Fidgeters: Movement May Help Students With ADHD Concentrate.  Retreived from the web on 8/19/15 from
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Need ideas to incorporate more movement into the classroom?  Check out all these Brain Breaks at

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Building Block Pattern Freebie - Full Size Patterns

Building Block Free Sample PagesHere are a several free printables from Building Blocks Patterns and Games.  These free sample patterns are full size, ranging from simple to more complex patterns.  The full size patterns make it easier for children to match up the blocks exactly if they need a little extra help to complete the cards.  You will need DUPLO size blocks to use the cards.  Check out these free sample pattern cards to challenge fine motor skills, visual perceptual skills and motor planning skills.
Building Block Sample Pages from at the easiest level and match up the blocks.
Building Block Sample Pages from
The next level of cards includes different sized blocks to match.
FullSizeRender (13)
Try creating a more complex pattern.  First, find and count out the blocks you will need.
Building Block Sample Pages from create the pattern using the blocks.
Building Block Patterns from
Now lay the block tower right over the pattern page and the child can self check his/her creation!
You can download the sample pages here
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Building Block Patterns and Games from

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Mental Practice, Motor Learning and CP

Physical Versus Mental Practice, Motor Learning and Cerebral Palsy - Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities published research on the effects of physical and mental practice in acquisition, retention, and transfer of a motor skill in 29 males with cerebral palsy.  The participants were assigned to three homogenous groups; physical practice (n = 10), mental practice (n = 10), and control (n = 9). The experimental groups (physical and mental practice) performed 5 sessions (6 blocks of 5 trials in each session). The acquisition test was run immediately at the end of each practice session and the retention and transfer tests were run approximately 48 hours after the acquisition phase.
The results indicated that:
individuals with CP have the ability to acquire and retain a new motor skill with either physical or mental practice.
The researchers concluded that this study confirms previous studies involving typically developing individuals and indicates the benefits of mental practice for people with CP.
Reference:  Mohammad Reza Sharif et al. Effects of Physical and Mental Practice on Motor Learning in Individuals with Cerebral Palsy. Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities
August 2015, Volume 27, Issue 4, pp 479-487
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Teaching Motor Skills to Children with Cerebral Palsy -

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Listen, Follow and Move

Listen for the Code Movement Game from www.YourTherapySource.comPurpose: Encourage listening skills, following motor commands, self regulation skills and left right directions.
Materials: small object i.e. toy car, small doll, etc.
Before you start establish what the movement pattern will be.  Try to write it down so the
children can refer to it if necessary.  For example a pattern could be the following:
clap one time to move forward
clap two times to turn to the right
clap three times to turn to the left
slap knee one time to move backwards
Pick one child to be “it”.  This child will have to listen to a pattern to determine where to
go to find a missing object.  The child needs to close his/her eyes while someone in the
group hides the object away from the child who is “it”.
Make sure all the children keep calm during the game since it does take some
Once the object is hidden, the child who is “it” can open his/her eyes.  Now the group
must direct the child to the hidden object only using the established code.  No talking
allowed.  You can have them take turns to clap out commands or agree to the code and
then all clap together.   Once the child finds the hidden object take turns letting the
other children be “it”.  Try changing the code every few rounds.
Want to make it harder?:  Play music in the background so the child has to filter out
the background noise and concentrate only on the established code.  Blindfold the
child and they have to feel for the hidden object.
Want to make it easier?  Limit the code to very simple directions – clap once to move
forward and clap twice to move backwards.  Use verbal directions for right and left.
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instant sensory motor group activities from

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

They See Me Rolling....Sight Words

Steamrolling Activity for Strengthening from is a activity idea similar to one from our electronic book Play Strong – Activities to Promote Muscle Strengthening in Children Through Play This is a four year old boy working on bilateral coordination, upper extremity and trunk muscle strengthening. The equipment needed is a regular size rolling pin and index cards. There are several index cards folded in half with sight words written on each card. The adult or friend calls out a word. The boy rolls the rolling pin over the correct word to steam roll the card.
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Play Strong ebook for children from
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