Friday, May 27, 2011

The Art of Making Life Easier - Tying Shoes

I happened by this TED video this morning on tying shoes. Apparently most of us have been doing it the wrong way all of our lives. No, the incorrect way is not the bunny ear technique. Check this out:

Of course, I needed to grab my shoes to see if I was using the weakened knot method. Happily, I have been tying my shoes the correct way, so I will not have to reteach myself. If you are one of those unfortunate people who have been tripping on their shoelaces because of a faulty knot technique, consider making the change. You will have to establish a new motor memory pathway and it will feel awkward at first. All you need is 21 days to form a habit, so check back with me next month!

Last year, a fifth grade teacher approached me at the end of the school year. She said that a particular student in her room requested to talk to me about a sensitive topic. I wasn't sure what to expect when he came to me, but he confessed that he could not tie his shoes. He did not want others to know that this skill somehow got by him. Well, with a couple of weeks left of school, we had a dilemma. I asked him if he had access the internet at home. He assured me he did. I created this flip video, posted it on Vimeo and told him to practice it at home. He could replay it as many times as he needed.

The next week he saw me in the hall and said he was tying his shoes...success! That is the power of visual demonstration provided in a way to make it easily accessible.

Monday, May 09, 2011

A day in the life of an OT with an iPad...

I bought myself an iPad last summer and work has not been the same. To explain this best, I thought I would give you "snip-its" of my day today with one in hand.

As I walk into school, my briefcase is much lighter. I leave my school lap top at work now and in its place is the feather weight iPad. It is amazing how heavy those school laptops are!

I stop in a kindergarten class to work with a youngster with weak hands and poor fine motor skills. He is finishing up a center activity, a mosaic paper tearing task. I demonstrate how to tear paper with the tips of his fingers instead of a whole hand grasp. He signs his name on the back with a more confident signature. His lines are darker and straighter instead of light and wavy. It must be the prior finger activity preparing his muscles and joints. Next, we use pop-toobs as a two-handed task to build arm strength. They make a very satisfying sound. After stretching them out, I have him put one end to his ear as he repeats positive affirmations ("I am amazing") in the other end.

We open the iPad and use Doodle Buddy to practice drawing a person. We sing the Mat Man song to help guide his drawing of body parts. By holding down the home button and on/off switch at the same time, we take a photo of his drawing. He goes to the photo app and compares the drawing with one he drew several weeks ago.

Finally, we open the Dexteria app to the Tap IT activity, a finger dexterity and isolation task. He is learning to isolate individual finger movements, something needed in order to manipulate a pencil to form letters, type on a keyboard or play a musical instrument. Hmm...he has improved over the past month when all his fingers moved at once.

I consult on a youngster in second grade with challenges in attention, sensory regulation and motor output. As I walk into his classroom, he is finishing up a story on crocodiles. I check up on the writing strategies we developed for him. After just 5 minutes of working with him, it is snack time (you don't own the schedule when you are a school based therapist!). The student is ready to be done with writing, and is hungry to boot! As he eats his snack, we keep the focus on crocodiles. His most recent page in his story is on crocodiles and predators, so we look up more information by googling this using Safari. Because the iPad is "instant on", we don't miss a beat. If I was waiting for a laptop to open up, I might have lost his interest. We discover an interesting article on Animal Planet. I read the information to him, but he could have listened to it using VoiceOver (an accessibility feature built right into the iPad). Next, I refine the search to images. This brings up many intriguing photos of crocodiles and their predators. The student remains engaged, building his knowledge base. He scrolls through the images, enlarging them with a two finger touch and goes to the link to get more information. After snack, he hasn't "checked out". He uses his writing checklist to make corrections in his story for capitalization, punctuation and spelling. He then transitions to the next activity, energized from this experience. The iPad supports the third principle of UDL, for sure!

After lunch, I have an IEP meeting. Several years back I took notes by hand. I was a terrible filer and I struggled with an ever-growing pile of paper on my desk. Last year I moved to typing notes on a laptop. I never liked the separation a laptop created on a table. Often, I would keep the laptop on my lap to avoid this.

Today, I open Notes and start a new page for this meeting. The iPad can sit flat or with a slight incline. It does not create a barrier between you and others at the table. It is like writing on a piece of paper. We consider different writing support programs for this student. One is Clicker 5. As the special educator explains the program to the regular ed teacher, I bring up the website and show an image of the tool. As the meeting adjourns, I put my iPad to sleep. This is one note I will not misplace on my desk.

At the end of the day, I open the First Class app and send a few follow-up emails.

My day with an ipad...doing things differently. I wouldn't have it any other way.