Monday, March 31, 2008

Kids First

Autism: The Musical

This uplifting documentary explores one L.A. woman's pledge to lead a group of autistic children in defying diagnosed expectations by writing, rehearsing and performing their own full-length musical.
Autism: The Musical has been making the rounds at film festivals this year. I missed it when it was playing in Newport, Rhode Island. Last week the full documentary was available to watch online for free and I had time to watch only half of it. This week it seems to be removed, so I am out of luck again! If you have HBO, you can watch it this month, however. The schedule of showings can be found on their site.

I am impressed with the uniqueness and difference of each child in this film. It reminds me that they are kids first, kids who happen to have autism. Let's try to unlease the creativity in all children. They will surprise us!

Thanks to Karen Janowski for her post on this inspiring musical. Read her thoughts and reflections here.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Beach Balls - More than just a day at the beach.

Did you know that you can have fun playing with beach balls all year long and not just when you're frolicking on the beach? Beach balls are a great way to help children develop ball skills. They're softer, easier to catch, lighter, and move slower than a regular playground ball. For these reasons they're less threatening to a child just learning to catch. The slower movement helps children develop visual tracking skills, improved reaction time, and eye/hand, foot/hand coordination. Catching is easier than throwing, so to start out, stand no more than 3-4 feet from the child and gently toss the ball to his/her outstretched hands. As the child develops skill in catching the ball, move further away. To practice throwing, begin by having the child throw the ball into a large container (trash barrel, bucket, hula hoop). Start at a close range and move further back as the child's skill develops. Once a child is having success in catching and throwing in these non threatening ways, you can start tossing back and forth with another person. Again, start at a close range and move further back as skill develops. Here's some other beach ball activities to help develop more advanced ball skills.
  • child returns a ball thrown to him/her by hitting it with two hands
  • bounce and catch - first to a partner and then to him/herself
  • kicking a stationary beach ball
  • kicking a moving beach ball
  • drop kicking
  • practice batting skills using a beach ball and a plastic bat
  • suspend a beach ball from a string to practice two handed hitting, one handed hitting, batting
Try some of these activities and have a ball!

Thanks to Maria, our physical therapist, for her ideas.

Photo citation - valentinapowers

Push Pin Pictures

Here's a fun activity to help children develop a tripod grasp. Find a simple line drawing. Preschool coloring books are a good source for these. Secure it to a piece of colorful construction paper with a couple of small pieces of tape. Put the construction paper on a rug square or on a carpeted floor. Take a regular or extra large push pin and poke holes along the outline of the picture. The holes should be fairly close together (no more than 1/8" apart). Once you're done, carefully remove the picture from the construction paper. Tape your picture in a window where the light can shine through the holes and enjoy your creation.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Staying in the Lines

Here's a nice tool made by Kim, here at Hosmer, to help a student with significant difficulty with motor control learn to draw shapes. She used a piece of foam board and an Xacto knife to cut out the lines. She taped heavy (duct) tape over the lines of the shape on the back to reinforce it. The grooves are large enough for the student to use either a marker or his finger to trace the shape. This technique can be used to make letters, numbers, names or any simple pattern. Thanks Kim.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Doodling in Class

Doodling in class doesn't always have to be bad. At times, it can enable a student to listen to classroom instruction. I know because drawing engages my attention when I am stuck talking on the phone longer than I like! After finishing a conversation, I usually am amazed how much I covered a page in scribbles and designs without being fully aware of what I was drawing.

Doodling can help a student transition from one task to another. I observed one youngster draw an on-off switch, tap it and move on to what the teacher asked the class to do.

For some youngsters, drawing is a strength that should continue to be strengthened. It might be the exact thing that determines their career path. There is a powerful connection between the hand and the mind. If you have a budding artist in your midst, think of how you can harness this ability and use it to improve other skills.
  • draw out a plan for a story using a storyboard
  • tell stories by drawing a comic strip
  • help understand social situations by drawing out social stories
  • draw out math problems to fully understand concepts
  • sketch out scientific processes
  • improve reading comprehension by drawing scenes from a book
Celebrate the strengths of our students. Be amazed at their talents. Use them wisely!

Take 5 minutes to watch this incredible video that honors an individual's strength.

photo citation: karindaiziel

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Picture Writing

Picturing Writing
is an art-and-literature based approach to writing developed by Beth Olshansky to meet the needs of students with diverse learning styles.
They learn how to create pictures that tell a story and write words that paint pictures.
Students start by painting a picture with watercolor and crayon resist. Then they brainstorm to create rich vocabulary to use with their pictures, in essence learning to "read their pictures". The writing process involves visual, kinesthetic and verbal modes which makes the students' work come alive.

One of our third grade teachers just finished a project on "Time of Day". Visit the students' stories on display in the library and be amazed by the richness of the language and paintings!

In A Whole New Mind, Dan Pink introduces six essential abilities one needs to be successful in today's world, the Conceptual Age. Two of these are evident in the process of picture writing. One is "symphony", perceiving the big picture, recognizing patterns and seeing relationships. These third graders are becoming active observers, seeing their world in new ways. The second is "story", explaining the world with "context enriched by emotion". The student passages accompanying the paintings are descriptions full of feeling. Nurturing symphony and story will help our students prepare for whatever path they choose.

connection to occupational therapy - treating the "whole person", multisensory activities