Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Girls Reunited

I read somewhere that twin girls are closer and more in tune with each other than twin boys, and certainly more than a boy/girl set.  I can't speak for all twins, but Vicki and Andorra, (my girls), today are both seniors at the same university, have similar friends, and finish each other's sentences.  They are masters at Pictionary if on the same team---one only has to draw a little squiggle and the other instantly knows what she meant to draw. As a team, they can go around the gameboard twice as fast as the other unfortunate pairs!
Andorra left, Vicki right
Vicki left, Andorra right
For them to be apart from each other for an extended time is rare, but recently, Vicki went on a Marine Biology trip down the east coast for three weeks.  She had a wonderful time, and Andorra certainly was independent minded and kept busy here at home with work and friends. I noticed that she did sigh occasionally, and wish for her sister.
       Well,  Vicki returned today---and they both have been hanging around together since!   Welcome home!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Lesson Planning and Feathered Ducks

It takes time to plan activities for my students.  First, you actually need to think of something from an infinitesimal number of things to do with children.  The activity needs to be functional and specific to their IEP needs, appropriate for their age level, motivating, and based a little on the students' prior knowledge.  It has to be something that can be accomplished in a 30 minute therapy session, and inexpensive.  Ideally, it should fit in the classroom curriculum.  Ideally, you can work on multiple goals at once, and use the activity with several different levels of children's language skills. 

Once the planning is done, then materials need prepared, and assistive technology needs programmed, pictures made, communication boards printed, and sometimes an example of what you need the child to make needs to be made prior to the therapy session.  (Students need to see what the goal is!) This is where my daughters have been very helpful.  On Memorial Day, I asked Andorra to make a 'feathered duck', and she obliged.


I got the duck idea from a wonderful website that TJ, my co-worker and speech pathologist, pointed me to.  (No Time for Flashcards).  There are about a million pictured step-by-step directions of all types of crafts, and these all can be adapted for the Pictello App that I wrote about earlier.  Andorra assembled the duck, took pictures of each step, and we both programmed Pictello to make a beautiful sequenced set of directions for our little duck.  Below are a few of the steps that are presented to the child in Pictello.  The really nice part of the program is that the iPad also says the directions.






  I think the kids will be thrilled.  I next need to match this activity with a children's book.  An Eric Carle book, "!0 Little Rubber Ducks", comes to mind.

I'll let you know how this all goes tomorrow when I have to actually use the lesson with children and work on their language goals!
Thanks, Andorra, for your help! You will be a wonderful OT someday!
  And thank you, TJ, for showing me the website and always inspiring me!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Including Samuel (and many others)

This is a wonderful YouTube video!   It's actually only the trailer of a longer "Including Samuel" documentary, but the full length version is 25 dollars.  For now, the trailer makes it point, and a valid one at that!

Click here to watch the video.

When I was in elementary school --in the 60s  ---special needs children were often excluded from school altogether.  In 1975, Congress passed Public Law 94-142 which ensured that handicapped children had a right to a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment.

At that time, I was at Kent State University thinking about majoring in deaf education.  Since then, I've worked at residential facilities for both hearing impaired kids and children with autism, public schools, and home health agencies. I've gone on to be a speech-language pathologist.  In the public schools, I've worked in inclusive regular education classrooms and separate classrooms for our EC kids.

There's no 'one size fits all' answer out there, but in IEP meetings, I continue to try my best to be open-minded but gently push for inclusion.  You can see in the video that this can be challenging, but the value of positive peer role models can not be underestimated!    Plus, the value of having a special kid as a friend is invaluable to any regular education child!

I can't say it's the only way to go for all kids, but I can say that inclusion should be tried if it seems like a remote possibility.  It seems like this is right for Samuel!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Be Creative


I never took pottery.  My kids, though, started in the first grade taking classes from Carmen Elliott, later with Hollie Taylor, and finally at UNC Asheville.  There are creations in many nooks and crannies throughout our house, and rather than keeping the family china in our china cabinet, we filled it with priceless pieces made by all of the kids. Who needs family china, anyway?  My kids' masterpieces are too precious to give up!  I think that allowing time for creativity really helps people flourish in other ways, and makes you a more well-rounded, happier person. 
My china cabinet


For this reason, I enrolled Alana in a short pottery class at the Carrboro Arts Center.  The instructor was a young man named Jason, and the class spent an hour and a half for five Friday afternoons learning about hand molding, coil pottery, wheel throwing, and glazing.  Alana said that the class was worthwhile and fun  .....and she wants to do another one!  All kids (and grownups) need times for creativity!  Maybe Alana will fill her own house with her art!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Love all creatures---even daughters and snakes

This is a bit off topic from iPads and end-of grade-testing.  I was lounging around the house and noticed the cat staring intently out the window-----hissing.   This was extremely unusual and my first thought was "Oh, no! The bear is out there!"  See this link to learn more about that.
  I looked out closely and saw it was a different kind of creature, trying to go through the large glass picture window. I'm not one to pick up snakes, but I do admire them from a distance.  They are amazing creatures--I love the way they glide and slither along the ground, flick their tongues, hang off of limbs. I just couldn't touch it, but felt that it had to get off our patio.


  This is why I have a daughter---I yelled for her, she went outside, picked up the black snake and posed.  Then she carried it off to the bushes to give it a new place to explore.  The snake was happy, I was overjoyed to have pictures for this blog, the cat was relieved, and Andorra was proud of herself.  No fear in her eyes! Thanks!  


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Donors Choose

    The last few years, I've been fortunate to have received several Donors Choose grants.  For those of you who don't know, Donors Choose is a wonderful website where teachers can post requests for funding of specific projects, and groups or individuals can donate to those projects.  If enough people donate, the project is funded and Donors Choose purchases and sends the materials.  It's sort of like Christmas!  I write the grants for teachers in my school and have included requests for sets of magnetic letters, audiobook libraries, a CD/tape recorder, a digital flip camera, and the most recent, an iPad.
I can't speak highly enough for those who donate---in times of budget deficits and struggles, these people validate everything that we try to do in the classroom with children! 

Click here for a look at my completed project.

One group right here in Chapel Hill who has consistently provided funding for my projects and for other projects in the Chapel Hill school system is The Chapel Hill Golden Tarheel Kiwanis Club.  I've actually never met these generous souls, but I see the name of the group on the list of donors frequently.  We had the kids today write thank you cards to them for funding the iPad--cards will be sent to the main Donors Choose office who will forward them to the Kiwanis Club.  I hope they enjoy reading them as much as I've helped the children make them!  My wonderful co-worker and speech pathologist, TJ, also had one of her students make a cute little card.




Cute little letter!




Monday, May 23, 2011

Throw me a Bone

video

Happy Monday!   Our school is in the middle of the NC End of Grade testing with a lot of stressed-out teachers and students.  To alleviate the strain, I want to talk about fun and games!  I have an extensive collection of board and battery operated games in my room.  The thrift store, yard sales, and Ebay offer an endless supply.  Why play games?  In the speech world, they are good for following directions, social skills, the language of interacting, and a wide range of other skills, depending on the game.

They are great for reinforcing activities after 25 minutes of more mundane speech therapy activities.  Kids negotiate with each other on what game to play together, and practice cooperation skills.  It's also very nice for them to play a hands-on game as opposed to a video game, which all too often is the leisure activity they engage in at home.

One such game is pictured here---"Throw me a Bone"!    For this game, the children take turns throwing beanbag 'bones' on selected pictures (the one that lights up).  There are many sound effects, directions, and gizmos that attract attention.  I particularly love the slurping and chewing noises when the bag hits the right target!  This was an Ebay purchase and the kids love it!  I had actually not heard of it before, but did a search on battery-operated children's games resulting in this one popping up. This game gives immediate feedback, and offers lessons in turn-taking, along with a great hands-on component!    It's good for all ages (teachers like to play it too!)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Geocaching 101

On Facebook, I regularly post about going geocaching with David, my husband.
What is geocaching?  From the website---www.geocaching.com---the exact definition is: "Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location."
   In more fun terms, it's taking a walk in a nice spot finding some treasure boxes along the way.
   

Today, our hike was on the American Tobacco Trail.  There are oodles of caches hidden about one  every tenth of a mile, easy to get to, with scenery, birds, and today, cicadas to enjoy.
Each icon on the map is a hidden treasure along the American Tobacco Trail!




American Tobacco Trail (Rail to Trail in Durham, Wake, and Chatham counties)


My geocaching partner on one of several bridges.

Under same bridge looking.



Can you see it?

The more fun ammo box cache


GPS---cache is 20 feet away


To go geocaching, you should have a GPS unit---preferably hand held.  Ours is a Garmin but there are several options.  You also need to become a member of www.geocaching.com.  (There's no charge for basic membership.)  This is a great way to see things you wouldn't normally see, go hiking, and get to know your community better.  I'm sure I'll be posting more about our geocaching adventures!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Festival Time!

Andorra, Alana, and I went on a Saturday outing up to Hillsborough for their annual festival, Hog Days.
 Arts and crafts, food, music, friendly people, it's all there!  Not a whole lot to report, but I took some pictures of random crafts and such!  It was a great day to spend with the two young ladies!

Bottle top art



Beer can art.




We pondered future hair styles.

New sunglasses


The most bizarre part of the festival was the TV trailer.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Das Boot via Pictello

Pictello is a great app for my iPad.  Originally, I bought it to make social stories....this can certainly be done, but it's a magical way to present sequence pictures with directions and voice when making a craft or recipe.  Today, the younger kids in the EC classroom made sailboats! The following pictures are screenshots from Pictello.  I had a couple of kids make the boat on a previous day---it was a simple matter to take pictures of them making the boat with the iPad 2, import them into Pictello, and make the sequence story.  The sequence story is what today's kids followed to make the little sailboats. 
Communication board to go with activity

Screenshot from the Pictello app

Another screen shot

iPad screenshot


iPad screenshot
 
Pictures were presented one by one on the iPad.  The kids could listen to the direction as often as they wanted by touching the picture. My role, as a speech pathologist, was to encourage the children to also provide either a word or sentence of their own to describe the picture.  I was amazed at what some of the kids could say!   At the end, we tested the boats in a pot of water.  Most actually floated!!! One little boy carried his boat around with him for the rest of the afternoon.

Have a nice weekend everyone!   Can you tell that I really like my iPad?

What fun things have you done with technology?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Doodle Buddy


Happy Thursday!   I contemplated a mental health day, but resisted the temptation.  Here is another iPad posting.  Some of the kids have a great deal of difficulty giving and following directions using positional words (prepositions).  A great way to teach both is through barrier tasks.  One child has a drawing, the other has something to draw on and the drawing child can not see what the other child is holding.  In this case, we let the drawing child use the iPad (Doodle Buddy) as the medium.
  This activity goes as follows:
        I draw a shape on a piece of paper.  Child A holds the paper and says "Draw a rectangle"
             Child B hopefully draws a rectangle using her finger on the iPad screen. Child B can not see what Child A has on the paper, but Child A can see the iPad, and verbally helps to correct any mistakes.
        I add another item to the paper drawing.  Child A then says "Draw an x"
              Child B hopefully asks for clarification by saying 'where?'
              Child A would then clarify by saying "the x is over the rectangle"
              Child B hopefully would then draw the x in the correct position.....

        The activity goes on for several more turns and then the children switch jobs.  My role is in eliciting the correct words, modeling language, cuing when appropriate, and then asking questions to each about the final drawing and where items are placed.  I have goals in mind for target vocabulary, and can expand into kindergarten curriculum words such as '1st, 2nd, last, more, less, tall, short, wide, between'---all of which are used during the math part of the day.  We can also work on 2 step directions, and sequencing letters for spelling. I read a recent blog on Therapy App 411 about Doodle Buddy which described its versatility perfectly. Check it out!

The iPad adds to this activity by making things more fun.  The kids can pick the colors with which to draw, and for some kids, it's easier to draw using a finger rather than chalk or a pencil. The technology aspect always helps to hold attention!  We all love our iPad!!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Miracle of the iPad

I had a very interesting and rewarding day today.  Most of you know that I'm a speech-language pathologist.  Part of my job is working part time with our assistive technology team.  This team of two occupational therapists and me is responsible to evaluate special needs children in the school system to see if technology can help them access their education.  Today, the child was in a regular education kindergarten and hasn't spoken for over a year.  Diagnosis is still pending, but for my part, I brought toys and books to the school along with my trusty iPad loaded with Proloquo2Go. This is an 'app' that converts an iPad to a dynamic display communication device.  The child touches a cell (usually a picture is in the cell) and the iPad speaks for him.  He can touch a category cell which then jumps him to another page, so if he is playing with a toy, but suddenly wanted a drink, he could touch the 'drinks' cell which would take him to a selection of items to quench his thirst!   See this link if you want to hear from this program's creator:

 http://abcnews.go.com/WN/proloquo2go-ipad-software-voice-autistic/story?id=10497862

  My boy learned how to use this in about 10 minutes, navigating the pages, and playing the marble toy with me.  He was requesting the marble toy pieces with this voice output system, asking for 'little' marbles (when I gave him a giant one!), and saying 'my turn'.   Maybe now he can talk to his friends!   How frustrating the past years must have been for him!

What work or volunteer activity do you do that makes you feel like you have made a difference in the lives of someone?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

"The Meadow"

This is my first post, and I don't know where to begin----life is so full and complex, so how do I narrow my thoughts down to a few paragraphs? I thought I would begin by saying that my own children are all adults, or so it seems by their birthdays, so to give back and make my life more fun, I do mentor a 10 year old girl through the Blue Ribbon Mentor Advocate program. We get together a couple of times a week. Yesterday, we went to 'The Meadow' which is a delightful place just a few blocks down from where we live. There is no longer a direct path there, so with the neighbors' permission, we walked through driveways, and under canopies of trees to arrive at the open field, wild flowers, birds, and bugs. Alana (my mentee), Andorra (my daughter) and I walked completely around the meadow, splashed in Morgan Creek, walked over the new greenway bridge, and studied the plant life carefully. It couldn't have been a nicer outing! I love Chapel Hill for its greenways and open spaces!  I didn't take my camera, so these photos are from Andorra's computer from a meadow visit a while back.