Making a Thingie

Super easy.  Super cheap.  Super appealing.

Follow the slide directions.

This is a great way to correct the angle of your student’s pencil so that it rests in their first web space.

Let your students chose the color of their loop and the design of their bead, button or charm.  Everyone is going to want one.

The one caveat is that your students must leave them in the class before they go home or you’ll be making them everyday!!  preview5

Centennial Vision

So proud to be an Occupational Therapist in 2016.

As we enter a new year, it is thrilling to see how our profession and colleagues are all striving to achieve the CENTENNIAL VISION. Consider this:

We envision that OT is a powerful…

More and more, OT services are recognized for their early and continued emphasis on function and participation, and its holistic appreciation of the mind-body-environmental-cultural-societal interconnectedness

widely recognized…

(See below.)


Yes, we are informed by the neurosciences, our knowledge of development, physiology, physics, behavior and psychology,


We are increasingly deferring to research to guide our clinical decisions.

and diverse workforce…

Look around you. OTs and OTAs today, in your schools, your local OT organizations and AOTA. Our therapists come from the broadest of backgrounds and bring unique insightful perspectives.

meeting society’s occupational needs.

Occupational needs? How does that apply to us therapists working within the educational system?

First, recognize that our society is the school system and our population is the children within them.

As far as their occupational needs, they are threefold. We are charged with helping children:

  1. Reach their educational potential
  2. Access their grade level curriculum
  3. Fully participate in the school environment

But there is that one clause, “widely recognized” that still eludes us. While consumers are increasingly pursuing Occupational Therapy services as the holistic solution to their complex needs, other providers are closing in on our domain.

Please, my friends. Do not be complacent and think that our Centennial Vision will realize itself. It is important that we protect this marvelous profession before others claim ownership of Activities of Daily Living, Leisure and related functional activities.

It is already happening.

Learn more from your state organization. Join your state organization. Attend AOTA’s national convention. We are a marvelous supportive and generous group. Let’s not become an irrelevant profession simply because someone else seized an opportunity to write into their licensure bill practice domains that have historically, empirically and conceptually been ours.

And let’s have a happy, healthy, productive, and widely recognized New Year, everyone.

Personal Exercise Charts

Savon's Exercise Chart

Shpilkas, n. [shpeal-kuz] (Yid. obs) shpeilkas, the state of constant movement; restlessness.

  1. A condition marked by an inability to sit or stand still.
  2. A source of endless exasperation to parents and teachers.
  3. A colorfully linguistic equivalent of more common psycho-educational

terms– hyperactive, sensory-seeking, impulsive, high strung.

While he always looked like he had to go the bathroom, it was determined that what Noah really had was shpilkas.

The treatment? More. More movement. More resistance. More repetitions. More variety. More intensity.

Personal Exercise Charts not only give children the outlet they need, they empower them to take responsibility, exert control and gain insight into their behavior. Assure the kids who may have previously gotten in trouble for being in perpetual motion, “You’re OK. You’re just a kid with a lot of energy. Let’s find a way to get rid of some of the extra energy that may be interfering with your work.”

Then, with the teacher’s knowledge and permission, hang the chart in a pre-designated spot and get ready to demonstrate the first rotation of exercises alongside them. First, note the month and date in the appropriate box. After each routine, have the child place a tally mark next to the corresponding exercise. If one series isn’t enough to satiate the child’s needs, do the entire cycle again.

Teachers may subtly suggest a round of exercises before any lesson, prolonged sitting period, group activity, etc., especially those that have been challenging in the past. Encourage children to advocate for themselves if they feel like they need a break. Once children recognize how ‘their own engines run,’ they begin making huge leaps toward regulating them. When that happens, heap on the praise.

Personal Exercise Charts should be checked and updated regularly. Increase the repetitions and vary the exercises.

Oh… and have fun.

Slant desks

Sometimes it seems like our furniture was designed to appease the janitorial staff.

After all, the desktops are hard laminates that can be easily scoured with heavy-duty cleansers and the silhouette has become ideal only for those concerned with efficient stacking.

But if you harken back to school days of yore, you’ll recall a soft wood finish in which initials could be carved and the gently sloped slant desks that insure a comfortable reading and writing surface.

Ah… to live in the ‘60’s again.

While there is certainly a lot to be said for progress, the changes made in classroom furnishings has created a less than ideal work set-up.

Let’s start with the angle of the desk itself.

A work surface parallel to the floor is, by its very nature, perpendicular to the child’s seated body. That means that the visual process of regarding papers and books requires the length of focus to shift anywhere from 18” to 8” from the nose when reading (or writing) a page from top to bottom. That’s tricky. At the farthest point, it’s like looking at the horizon. The print appears smaller and less precise. It’s the reason most kids don’t utilize the alphabet strips on the ends of the desk… if they even notice they’re there!

An inexpensive solution to making slant desks?

Enter—the trusty screwdriver! Raise the far legs of the desk a notch. Maybe even lower the legs abutting the child’s body a notch. Just be careful not to overdue it or the contents will fall out.

Creating a slight slant to the desktops will help your students with reading, copying, writing, posture and overall attention.

Bonus Round!

OK… one more exercise each.   I’ll explain a few on the unknowns on the menu.  Don’t want you to get frustrated!


  • Wipe the Board.  Actually, this could be called ‘Help the teacher decorate and clean!’  While many teachers ask for student volunteers to erase the board or assist in hanging work samples, this activity brings the necessity of doing this to a conscious level.  Used as a daily exercise, different students are responsible for washing the entire chalk or white board, stapling displays onto the bulletin boards, dangling pictures from the suspension ceiling frames or otherwise installing educational and aesthetic items around the room.  Encourage teachers to add or subtract materials on a regular basis.


  • Can Can.  Divide the class into 2-4 groups.  Students stand side by side along the front, back and sides of the room, linking their arms over each others shoulders.  In unison, they kick their right legs to the left and then their left legs to the right.  It’s like a chorus line.  Repeat this performance while singing your school song, a top 40 favorite or even Happy Birthday.


  • Yabba Dabba Doo.  Fred Flintstone knew how to have fun.  Using his timeless cheer, instruct student to bend and reach with both hands to the outside of the left ankle.  Shake your hands while down there and say, ‘Yabba!”  Immediately swing your arms to the outside of your right ankles, shake your hands and say, ‘Dabba!’  Then, without hesitation, reach skyward shaking both hands and say ‘Doo!’  Repeat 5 times.  Reverse directions, right ankle then left, and do it another 5 times.  This exercise can be done sitting or standing.

I can feel the energy rising already!

The Coke and Pepsi Game

The Coke and Pepsi Game is inspired by a popular children’s party game, this is the school version.  The goal is to provide six different types of movement experiences.

Start by creating a safe track around the room.  The teacher (or therapist) announces the name of the soda.  Students start moving in a counterclockwise direction on the ‘track.’  Teach one movement at a time so students master it.  Gradually add another and another.

  • COKE.  Clockwise walking.  (Linear movement).  When students hear this, they commence walking forward.  If Coke is announced again, students walk backwards.  Reverse directions each time Coke is said.  Whenever Coke follows a different soda name, the movement is always forward.  It is only backwards when it is said two times in a row.
  • PEPSI.  Jumping up and down.  (Vertical movement).  Students keep jumping until another soda is called.
  • DR. PEPPER.  Turning in circles.  (Rotary movement).  When Dr. Pepper is called, students  slowly rotate in place.  Always be sure to call Dr. Pepper twice so students can unwind.  Help students reverse directions if they don’t remember which way they turned first.  Those that claim dizziness or nausea can stand this one out.
  • ORANGINA.  Push-ups.  (Heavy Work).  Students should find floor space in which they could extend into a full plank.  Modified push-ups with bent knees are acceptable.  So are desk or wall push-ups.  I always tell students that they can chose any variation they want.  It just depends on how much they want to impress me!
  • MOUNTAIN DEW.  Shadow boxing.  (Crash and Bump).  In clinic settings, you may have space for a ball pit, crash pad, large scale trampoline, king sized mattress or punching bag.  In these cases, students can actually ‘dive’ in, reveling in the joy of their full body weight and contact on a forgiving surface.  Otherwise… we’ll creatively resort to simulating the experience as best we can.  So…. Float like a butterflySting like a bee.  Act like Muhammed Ali is watching.  Get those fists rapidly punching the air and those feet hopping as if they’re landing on hot coals.  Quick… a left upper cut!
  • SPRITE.  Ostrich walking.  (Inversion).  Bend fully at the hips so you can look between your legs.  Walk in that direction, in other words, clockwise, around the room.  Look out for cheaters!  Students must have their heads down so they reap the reward.

The movements of the Coke and Pepsi Game are identified by names of popular soft drinks native to the northeast.  You can replace them with your own regional preferences.  Schools on healthy food initiatives can substitute better choices.  It doesn’t matter.  CARROT JUICE is certainly a worthy way of calling for a bunny hop.

Either way, the Coke and Pepsi Game will help kids drink up!

Column C


No more static fluid build up.  Let’s start sloshing those semi-circular canals around.

The vestibular apparatus, comprised of the semi-circular canals and the saccule and utricle, has direct connections to the Reticular Activating System.  The RAS is responsible for alerting us.  This is such a primary pathway largely because it is fully operational at 6 months in utero.  All the more reason to make sure that we tap it as fully as possible.  Doing that involves moving our heads in all different planes–forward and backward, up and down, circularly clockwise and counterclockwise, and even upside down.

Sneaking motion or repositioning breaks into the school day without causing classroom chaos is surprisingly self-organizing.  In fact, it is often the pursuit of these very same end results provided through intensive stimulation that allow students to finally be calmed.  To wit… they’ve been satiated.  That’s what they sought in the first place.  You’ve just helped them achieve it in a more effective and efficient way.

Here are some good ones:

  • Squat Thrusts (aka Burpies).  Standing tall, each student reaches toward the ceiling.  Next, squat low, placing both hands on the floor.  Kick your feet backwards so your body is in a straight plank, arms extended.  Jump back into a squat and return to stand.  Reach up.  That’s one.  Do this nine more times.
  • Switch.  Students assume a hands and knees position on the floor.  Instruct them to elevate the right leg hip height and straight behind.  At the same time, ask them to reach the left arm straight in front.  Hold this position for 5 seconds.  Call “Switch!”  At this point, students should extend the left leg and the right arm.  Repeat this 10 times.  Vary the length of holding times.  Sometimes ask students to maintain this position is more challenging than assuming it in the first place.
  • Turn Arounds.  Everyone has to find a spot against the wall.  Both hands should be placed flat at shoulder height on an immovable surface.  Ask the students to turn clockwise once.  Place hands back onto the wall.  Turn again in the same direction.  Do this 3-5 times in one direction, being careful to give the wall a “High Ten” on each pass.  Stop and ascertain each student’s tolerance for spinning.  Turn the same number of rotations in the opposite direction. *  It’s OK to only do one rotation either way in the beginning.  As students become more tolerant of spinning, you can increase the quantity.
  • Ah runs.  Create a track around the room.  Remove all obstacles that might cause a student to trip.  Ah runs can be done with only a few students at a time, or the entire class… one right after another.  Designating a starting spot, the teacher instructs the student to take a deep breath and then commence walking quickly (not running!) around the room saying “Ah!” Realize that the child may circle the room more than once.  The child should stop when they are no longer able to say, “Ah.”  The teacher marks that spot with the student’s name and the number of laps.  At later times in the day or week, teachers can repeat an Ah run.  Students quickly learn how to take a deeper breath so they can better their last run.  Label the spot where each student runs out of Ah.
  • Coke and Pepsi game.  This is a fan favorite.  In fact, it’s typically such a hit, that we’re going to devote a post about it all on its own.  Don’t go away.

* If a student feels dizzy… see the blog on Fishy Faces.