Friday, July 29, 2011

The Smurfs

Today was the last day here before heading up north for vacation.  It was also a very hot day.  So I had a choice--do I hang out at home worrying about global warming and all of the consequences (hurricanes, drought, crop failure, famine, starvation......) or do I take Alana to see the Smurfs?  We chose the latter---not my usual kind of movie, but it provided some very interesting dinner conversation.

---apparently Smurfs live in a Utopian, communistic society most of the time and wear only pajama bottoms and hats.  They seem to grow up with accents from other parts of the world, but not like each other.  (Similar to if someone grew up in North Carolina with a spontaneous Irish accent, but has never been around anyone Irish)
---there is only one female Smurf, and she bore an uncanny resemblance to a former student of mine, but her voice was none other than Katy Perry (I know about Katy Perry now thanks to Alana)!  I was actually excited to see her name in the credits.
---There was a very evil but rather dumb wizard--and the movie was filmed in New York City so the scenes brought back memories of Home Alone 2--same bumbling badguy persona.
---Smurfs never appear to get hurt, even when zapped really, really bad by the blue essence zinger laser.
---Joan Rivers showed up---she hasn't changed for about 30 years.
---Cats know how to talk, sort of.
---Leaf blowers suck in and blow out---the first I've ever seen!

I guess I'm trying to analyze this too much.  I would never have gone to this except that my mentee wanted to---and the laughter I heard made the movie going experience worth every penny!  I did enjoy the scenes from New York City, and want to go back soon!  with Alana!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Swimming Success!

Short and sweet---Alana swam three-fourths of the length of Meadowmont pool today without touching the bottom!!! 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Combining things I Love--iPads and mentoring through origami

You need to be an engineer to figure this out!
I picked up Alana today, and after enduring the heat and mosquitoes at the Botanical Garden, we relaxed at home---my daughter, Andorra, joined us for video games, dinner, and last--origami.  I've never been that good at origami.  The diagrams for making even a simple box look like the blueprint for a space shuttle.  After struggling a bit, Andorra taught the two of us to make paper cranes, but the challenge was making something from a written diagram.  Enter iPad and YouTube.  I discovered that there are about 20000 videos of origami instruction on YouTube, and following an actual visual demonstration was incredibly easier than the hieroglyphic-looking instructions. The iPad was conveniently placed exactly in front of the girls and the video could be stopped at crucial folding moments. The end results were a couple of cute envelopes! (Andorra then gave a lesson to Alana on addressing and stamping an envelope with plans to mail notes to each other later this week!)  We'll do some more origami tomorrow!
Check out the origami envelopes! We're mailing each other notes soon.
If I were to apply this to teaching and education, the application is obvious!   Hand-on, real life modeling is achievable these days with multimedia, and kids really learn from it.
We made penguins the next day!  And frogs.


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Mentoring fun---Cookie Fine Art

cookie cutter phase

 What happens when you put a couple creative girls in the kitchen with no restrictions? They start with traditional rolled cookies, and then the 'art part' of their brains take over.  Cookie cutters are abandoned.  Results below.
Hand-sculpted phase

More sculpture

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Assistive Technology---for a Tortoise

This illustrates the power of assistive technology.  The tortoise can now function rather independently (except for the fact that it's an exotic species and really can't live outside of the confines of its caged-in area) Small details!
Read the complete story here about this tortoise.

 Also overlook the fact that there are lots of children all over the world who don't really have access to the same level of healthcare that this tortoise had.  Oh well!  I really do love turtles and tortoises!   More power to this spunky creature!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Almost Done---Bittersweet Days

My co-workers and I have been obsessive about announcing how many days are left in ESY (Extended School Year). " There are four days left!"--I anticipate that announcement tomorrow at 8:00 am and then I'll repeat it to the next person I see.

In most ways, I'm really looking forward to vacation.  My husband and I will be traveling north to Erie and then to New Hampshire.  (Heat wave vanquished!)   I'm looking forward to a new year at Ephesus starting August 17th, with a new co-worker SLP, but basically doing the same job I've been doing for a long time.  It's like putting on a comfortable pair of shoes.

I'm looking forward to my old room with all my games and toys the kids love, seeing the familiar office staff, greeting old friends, and meeting new children (there are always new children).  I like the cooler temperatures, and even like bus duty on the kiss 'n go driveway where I talk to parents and new 5th graders on safety patrol. 

That being said, ESY has been amazing!   The kids in particular have proven themselves so resilient, yet loving; willing to learn better ways to express themselves, and just darn cute!  I've also been blessed to have a UNC graduate intern, Alisha, working along side of me, taking over much of what I do.  Young and eager to learn everything she can, pragmatic, efficient, and hard-working---also organized!  The list could go on.

Memories are still swirling around a bit, but a few of our best moments with the 26 kids we worked with were-
  • Trying out the iPad everywhere!  Everything from Pictello to Proloquo2Go to Talking Tom; individual children or groups of kids.  It really worked and kids and adults loved it!
  • Starting a Picture Exchange Communication system for a child who was hitting adults and kids out of frustration.  It seemed to be a good start and something that we can tell his teacher next year. This child said "High 5" to me today, and then we gave each other a High 5!  This was the first time he initiated with me all summer. 
  • Teaching a beautiful child to point--I described this in my earlier post.  

  • Watching a girl learn to communicate in 4 word sentences using augmentative communication, and be excited about it---especially when picking out different colored and decorated fingernails for the Funky Fingernail game. She dresses in pink daily, by the way---very much a little girl.

  • Making crabs, sand art fish, rainbow fish, and jellyfish---one each week for our speech/occupational therapy groups. One teacher continued the theme and the classroom is decorated with an ocean of various sea creatures.
  • Working with a child going into kindergarten on early literacy skills---and seeing him make connections between text and speech
adapted book page

  • Making new and exciting adapted books.  Adapted books are those that are created with simple text and photos on powerpoint, printed, laminated, and embellished with manipulative icons.  My latest is "What Can Cats Do".  It's a nice bridge to literacy, and the kids have responded eagerly! 
I'm sure I'll think of other highlights.  Maybe there will be a part II to this little blog entry.  The kids I work with are often quite difficult and have lifelong disabilities.  I do feel for the parents who struggle every hour with challenges and grief; but this summer, I've felt lucky to have been with them.  Most will go on to other schools for the year, and I hope that all of their teachers will feel as lucky as I feel at this moment.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Every Day Should be Pie Day

      I never made pies....I love them though. I grew up with homemade fresh fruit pies--apple, cherry, peach.  My mom made the best crust ever!  Now in the summers particularly, I get cravings for pie.  My mother-in-law makes them when we visit from time to time, and Whole Foods here in Chapel Hill has great ones. One summer in particular, I was addicted to their blueberry pies--making a trip there every other day.

      Then my diet changed, and unfortunately, most pie crust is from wheat flour (gluten).  It's hard to get away from that!  Pie without the crust wasn't pie.  Last year, though, I was poking around in the Whole Foods freezer, and-- Wow!  They had gluten free frozen pie crusts!  Since then, during the summer, we've made our own homemade berry pies.  There's several recipes, but today we used this one from Pillsbury (without the lattice design). We substituted their crust with the premade gluten-free one. 

The Carrboro Farmer's Market today had perfect blueberries--sweet, big, fresh.  The pictures say it all, except they don't show ME eating three pieces.

She doesn't seem to mind gluten-free pie!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Dents, dry ice, and playtime

I'm learning new things all the time.  Take carbon dioxide---I thought it was a product of combustion, and never really had a use for it.   Frozen carbon dioxide (otherwise known as dry ice) I discovered today has several uses---two of which are demonstrated here.

The first use is when one of your children dents a car (by hitting a bush).  (It came out of nowhere).  Apparently you can apply dry ice to the dent, and then the metal (from contracting, then expanding) miraculously pops back into place. 

When the "dry ice to the dent" method becomes extremely boring, and the dent won't go away, the second use for dry ice is just to have fun.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Mentoring fun

This is short---Both mentors (David and I) and mentees spent a couple hours at the pool.  Then with the twins help, there was heavy math going on as we made pizza, added toppings, and cooked it.  For those of you who are considering being a mentor, here is a little glimpse into one time of mentoring fun. No bells and whistles--we all just were making pizzas together. 

The end result was delicious and the meal was great!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Pomegranete Beef CrockPot Stew---another Vicki success! (Gluten-Free)

This time, she made Pomegranete Beef CrockPot Stew----delicious!    We had two dinner guests--Raul and Alana, and they both gobbled down the main dish, plus many of the sides, enthusiastically!

     The recipes were actually originally posted on two blogs that I read:
  First it was on The Gluten-Free Goddess website and then A Year of Slow Cooking reposted it. Even if you are not into gluten free cooking, check these out. 

Thanks again, Vicki!   Please don't go back to college in August!  I need you!

Vicki's creation---Looks pretty good to me!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Speech Therapy Disaster!

Maybe not a disaster---at least not like a train wreck or the Titanic---but at that moment, when a graduate intern, an occupational therapist, a teacher, a TA, and I couldn't settle down four unsettled children, with the din rapidly increasing in an ear-splitting crescendo, and children literally escaping, it seemed like a disaster!

Let's start from the beginning--

1. The week before, all of the related service people (OT, graduate student intern, SLP) collaboratively planned a lesson.  It was to be taught jointly integrating fine motor skills, literacy skills, and language skills.  It was to go along with our summer ocean theme.  We found an inexpensive paper plate version of a rainbow fish and discussed supplementing the easy craft with a Tarheel Reader book (adapted with Boardmaker manipulatives) and some music.  It seemed fun to me!  It was a nice way for kids to answer questions, predict the steps, follow directions, make choices, and comment.

2.  All of the materials were prepared.  A sample rainbow fish was made, a YouTube music video was found, an adapted book was prepared, communication boards were completed, directions and photos were programmed into Pictello. We had a picture schedule all ready! It had the makings of a perfect lesson--one for the textbooks
screen shot of Pictello directions
Another screen shot--text to speech output as well!

3.  We did a trial run the day before with one of the children, and he loved it! His rainbow fish was beautiful! I was certain this activity would go smooth as silk with the class after this. 

3.  The appointed time came for us, the therapy goddesses, to descend upon the class.  The first glitch (after the video) was immediately apparent when most started loud protests when asked to write their names.  ("No writing!" "No back of plate, FRONT" "I don't want a red marker! I don't want brown"  "No, No, No!")   It only got worse---resulting in no euphoric rush from teaching a great lesson today.  I'll skip the gory details.   Needless to say, teaching children doesn't always turn out the way we want---and I've certainly had my share of difficult times.  After each trying moment, I do try to self-evaluate, and learn a new strategy or two to prevent the same outcome.  We did try to plan for communication needs, multiple learning styles, and behavior---obviously not effectively.

So, lessons learned here?
  • Plan a way for students to protest a little more appropriately.
  • Give kids more choices if possible.
  • During the fine motor activities, give the children more room--split up into two smaller groups.
  • Provide a reinforcing activity following the perhaps less desirable one. 
  • Show enthusiasm.             
Just last week, the class did great with a different, yet similar type of activity. I just need to keep the above pointers more front and center in my mind, and remember that moods and motivators fluctuate with everyone, including the kids.  We just need think ahead if possible to ward off more potential disasters!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Indian Shrimp Curry (Gluten Free)

In the summers when some of the kids are home, we take turns cooking.  This can be slightly challenging due to my special gluten-free diet, but we've all managed to adjust---very few fast food nights, hardly ever do we eat out, and most of our meals are made from scratch.  Tonight was no exception--it was Vicki's turn, so she found a great recipe for Indian Shrimp Curry that you all should try whether you are gluten free, or love your bread.  We added more spices than it called for, but it really wasn't hot.  For a summer night, it was just right!  Thanks, Vicki!

The Chef

Saturday, July 9, 2011

A Night of Art---Carrboro Style

This was a double dose of art----the 2nd Friday Art Walk, plus the annual 10 by 10 plays at the ArtsCenter.

  • Paper Hand Puppets were first.  Handmade puppets were covering the walls.  The actual puppet shows start on August 5th at the Forest Theater in Chapel Hill if anyone is interested in going.
  • The next art exhibit was entitled "The Paths I Trace are the Stories You tell".  This was a series of newspaper articles that were cut out line-by-line and arranged linear fashion as paths that went along the wall, intersecting at points.  My daughter immediately found the name of our friend, Jamezetta, in the newspaper trail.  (I need to let her know that she is now part of art.)
  • Last was the annual 10 by 10 play---great fun, with the 10 year anniversary series coming up in a couple of weeks (the best of 10 by 10).   We already have our tickets for that.

My favorite




Wining and dining along the art walk
Getting ready for the plays

Thursday, July 7, 2011

More ESY fun---sand art fish!

It's really not about the fish.  Making a craft isn't the point of ESY speech therapy---it's the process.  The kids have to request materials, follow visual and auditory directions, take turns, comment, answer questions, and pay attention.  They have to use fine motor skills, write their names, possibly draw or color, and use school tools such as scissors. Of course, the point of a speech pathologist and occupational therapist being there is to teach the above-mentioned skills.  The children really do learn!  The tangible result is a child-crafted creation that is beautiful to their eyes and to the eyes of the speech pathologist. The less immediate result is the next time a child participates in a classroom group, he will be better able to apply skills to do something else.  I try to capture my moments through pictures, and I really do love the little groups of kids who participate in this type of activity.

The creations from one of the classrooms.  There are 7 classes at Rashkis this summer!

communication board made with Boardmaker to go along with the activity

This picture and the following two pictures are from Pictello--an iPad app that has text-to-speech features
from Pictello
from Pictello

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Simple Cause and Effect with the iPad

I found a new iPad app for my little student who needs to learn to point! The name of it is 'Tap Tap Baby' and I learned about it from a nice blog--Babies with iPads.  The website author wrote,  "This blog is designed to document infants/toddlers with disabilities using an iPad to promote their development. I hope to show how this new technology can help children with disabilities develop their communication, play, pre-literacy, cognitive, visual/auditory and motor skills."    I checked out some of the recommendations and this app looked perfect.

There is no dragging or swiping with the screens.  The child merely needs to touch to get something to happen.  My girl's favorite page was the  monkey face.  She had to touch the face to get sounds and different facial expressions.  Here are some screen shots and a picture of her developing her 'pointing'.

Check out the nice pointing finger.  She does have a tendency to point repetitively, but we can work on that!

Other activities include touching an animal to hear the sound it makes, touching a shape to hear a label, and touching a house and car to hear the sounds.  You can also touch the night sky to see fireworks.  For simple pointing, and learning cause and effect, this is a great app!  My student certainly thinks so!

The child touches the sky to see and hear a simple animated firework display.

The child can touch different items for simple animation and sound effects

The child can touch the shape to hear the label and see very simple animation.

The child can touch the animal to hear its sound.