Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Electronic Medical Records – Pediatric Therapy

Fusion Graphing Goals - Your Therapy Source

Are you familiar with electronic medical records abbreviated as EMR?  For most school based occupational and physical therapists, electronic medical records are not being used in school districts.  Some school districts do run software programs to generate and monitor progress for students’ IEPs. I recently had the chance to view a demonstration of an EMR system specifically for pediatric therapists called Fusion.  I have to admit I was quite impressed.  My background is as a school based physical therapist so my perspective is based on my experience from working in school districts and not as an outpatient therapist.  I will say this though, after seeing how easy it was to use this EMR system (which is ICD-10 & HIPAA Compliant), it made me want to open my own practice since the software seemed so streamlined, efficient and easy to use.  (There are affiliate links in this post).

In my opinion, here are the benefits of using Fusion for school based pediatric therapists:

  1. Documentation tools – need to write up an evaluation?  This has 80+ therapist built evaluation templates and standardized tests.  No need to copy and paste information on each standardized test – it is all done for you with a simple click.  A SOAP note format is used for documentation of individual sessions.
  2. Access –  it is web based software therefore you can log in from any device to use it.  Home computer, school computer, tablet, etc – just log in and start documenting.
  3. Easy scheduling – the scheduling feature is amazing if all the therapists that you work with are using Fusion.  You can view a client’s schedule including other services. No more running around to check if you can schedule a make up session at a certain time or day – just log in and see what Johnny’s schedule is for the week and add in your therapy make up session.
  4. Automated progress graphing – this is my favorite feature!  You can visually graph goal progress tracking data in percentages, trials (x of y), feet, reps, assistance levels, and any other metric you use!  This is an amazing feature for RTI data collection, quarterly and annual progress reports.

If you are an outpatient therapist or you own a clinic the billing and management tools are also amazing!

I highly suggest scheduling a demonstration for yourself.  Each therapist has different tools that they need so when they walk you through the software you can ask any questions you may have specific to your situation as a pediatric therapist.  Fill out the form below to request a demo.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

5 Reasons to Use Student Generated Data Collection

5 reasons to use student generated data collection

Do you struggle to keep up with data collection when it comes to tracking progress for school based therapy services?  Why not encourage the students themselves to help with data collection?  Here are 5 reasons why student generated data collection is beneficial:

  1. students learn to take ownership of their own progress and set appropriate goals.
  2. motivational levels may increase when students organize and collect the data.
  3. students learn to organize information and graphically represent the information.
  4. data collection becomes part of the routine to make it more efficient.
  5. therapists get help with data collection to indicate goal attainment.

Not sure how to get started with student generated data collection? Check out this video to get more information on student generated data collection using My Goal Tracker

The post 5 Reasons to Use Student Generated Data Collection appeared first on Your Therapy Source.

Monday, August 22, 2016

DIY Scratch Art

CD Scratch Art

I love scratch art and always have even as a child.  Now as an adult I am way too cheap to buy all the expensive papers.  You can make scratch art paper using crayons and paint but it is labor intensive.  When I came across this blog post from iCreativeIdeas on Pinterest I knew I had to try it.  It looked too good to be true.  The part that I was skeptical about was being able to use regular acrylic paint.  But guess what it works!  This is a super simple way to make DIY scratch art.  You can add some pizazz to prewriting skills and drawing skills when you do scratch art.  Bonus tip – may help some students to increase pressure on the pencil when writing since you need to press hard when doing scratch art.

First grab some recycled CDs.  If you don’t have any ask anyone born in the 70s or 80s for some, they most likely have some.  Another option is to check with your school’s IT department – they probably have some old ones hanging around.  Paint the shiny side of the CD with acrylic paint.  Let it dry completely.  I do recommend you use dark colored paint so the reflective mirror part of the CD shows through and shines.

CD Scratch Art 1

Once it is completely dry which does not take long you can start using it for scratch art.  Grab a sharp object to draw a scrape away the paint letting the mirror like CD shine where you draw.

CD Scratch Art 3

Create whatever design you like.  You could even draw lines in pencil first if you wanted the student to practice drawing particular lines or shapes.  I even found it to be less messy than purchased scratch art paper.

CD Scratch Art 4 CD Scratch Art 5 CD Scratch Art 6

You could make it a collaborative, group project and make a mobile to hang when done.  So, this project actually was as easy as it looked on Pinterest.  Woohoo!  And I found a cheap way to make scratch art!

The post DIY Scratch Art appeared first on Your Therapy Source.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Self Regulation Skills at School

Self Regulation Skills at School

Self regulation skills at school require the ability to tolerate sensations, situations and distress and form appropriate responses.  Simply stated, it is the ability to control emotions, thinking, behavior and motor actions in different situations.  In children, self regulation matures just like other developmental processes. Children get older and learn to think before they act. Research indicates that self regulation in children is a predictor of academic abilities. Children with higher levels of self regulation have achieved higher scores in reading, vocabulary and math. In addition, some research has shown that the ability for young children to self regulate is associated with higher, future education levels.

Obviously, self regulation skills at school is a super hot topic when school begins.  Students are expected to control their actions in large group settings, small groups, transitions, independent work time, recess, the lunchroom and more.  When students struggle in the area of self regulation it can result in loss of instructional time due to unacceptable behaviors.  Teachers frequently rely on school based occupational therapists and school based physical therapists to help students learn how to self regulate.  The Self Regulation Skills Curriculum – Move Work Breathe was created by a pediatric OT to help school wide in the development of self regulation skills.  It includes everything you need to start a school wide self regulation skill curriculum.  This will help to put all providers on the same page when teaching self regulation skills.  Start the school year off with everyone working together rather than fixing it after the fact.   This curriculum is all set to go to help you train staff, develop goals, collect data, create self regulation plans and more!

Self Regulation Skills Curriculum 5. Screen Shot 2016-02-06 at 3.00.16 PM 3. Screen Shot 2016-02-06 at 2.59.24 PM 2. Screen Shot 2016-02-06 at 2.58.57 PM

Here are 6 simple tips to encourage self regulation in all children:

1. Therapists, teachers and parents should model good self regulation and self control. Use a calm tone in stressful situations. Model self control during disruptive classroom or   home time.
2. Partner children who lack self regulation with children who exhibit better control to act as appropriate role models.
3. Play fun games that require children to wait for directions before they act (i.e. Simon Says).
4. Play fun games that require turn taking.
5. Keep activities structured and predictable.
6. Students respond to opportunities for self-regulation significantly more often in small group and play contexts.


Flora, I. Developing Young Children’s Self-Regulation through Everyday Experiences. Young Children July 2011 pp 46-51.

Ponitz, C. et al. A structured observation of behavioral self-regulation and its contribution to kindergarten outcomes. Developmental Psychology. Vol 45(3), May 2009, 605-619.

Timmons, Kristy, Janette Pelletier, and Carl Corter. “Understanding children’s self-regulation within different classroom contexts.” Early Child Development and Care 186.2 (2016): 249-267.

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Pretend Play Mask – Free

Pretend Play Masks Freebie

Practice scissor skills, coloring and imagination with this freebie to create owl and peacock masks with these pretend play masks for free!  Combine fine motor skills with gross motor skills with this fun activity.  Print the black and white versions of the masks, color the masks and cut them out (an adult can help cut out the eye holes).  Laminate them for durability or print them on heavier paper.   Then start moving around the room like an owl or a peacock.

Check out the complete Pretend Play Mask download which  includes 20+ masks to print and role play. The download is in color and black and white (color it yourself). Play pretend, retell stories or use with different classroom themes. The masks included are: owl, peacock, fox, bear, goldilocks, little red riding hood, wolf, pig, superheroes, princesses, pirates, clowns, firefighter, police officer, boat captain, chef and construction worker.

Pretend Play Masks

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

How Do Gross Motor Skills Affect Academics?

How do gross motor skills affect academics

Most school staff are already aware of the physical benefits of exercise, such as strengthening of the heart and lungs, preventing weight gain, healthy bones, good posture and more. However, many are not aware of the potential brain-boosting benefits of physical activity with regard to school performance.  Unfortunately, students are missing out on opportunities to accomplish this physical activity. For example, years ago kindergarten was meant to teach children how to play, listen, follow rules and interact with peers.  Now kindergarten teachers, and even preschools teachers, are forced to spend more time on structured, academic instruction. This frequently translates into more seatwork time and less movement and active free play time. Physical education class and recess are usually the first things cut when more academic time is required for remediation in reading and math skills. At the end of the day, the children are spending too much time in a sedentary mode.  Research indicates that this sedentary lifestyle has a negative effect on cognitive development.

How do gross motor skills/physical activity affect academics?

Gross motor skills are completed by using the larger muscles in the body to roll, sit up, crawl, walk, run, jump, leap, hop, skip and more.  Regular participation in these types of physical activities has been associated with improved academic performance and important school day functions, such as attention and memory.  Even a baby’s ability to sit up unsupported has a profound effect on their ability to learn about objects (Woods, 2013).

One of the greatest brain gains of exercise is the ability for physical activity to improve actual brain function by helping nerve cells to multiply, creating more connections for learning (Cotman, 2002; Ferris, 2007).  Research has shown that an increase in physical activity has a significant positive effect on cognition, especially for early elementary and middle school students (Sibley, 2002).  As an added bonus, being physically fit as a child may make you smarter for longer as you grow old. (Deary, 2006).

Recent research indicates that regular participation in physical activity may improve academic performance.  Schools that have added physical activity into their curriculum showed a 6% increase in student’s standardized test scores when compared to peers who had inactive lessons (Donnelly, 2011). One comprehensive research review included 59 studies, indicated a significant and positive effect of physical activity on children’s achievement and cognitive outcomes, with aerobic exercise having the greatest effect (Fedewa & Ahn, 2011).  Ninety minutes per week of cardiorespiratory fitness has been associated with improvements in the cognitive control of working memory in preadolescent children.  Children who participated in 90 minutes/week of moderate to vigorous physical activity during an after school program displayed improvements in working memory (Kamijo, 2011). Physically active lessons including physical activity breaks have been shown to reduce time-off-task (20.5%) and improve reading, math, spelling and composite scores (Kibbe, 2011).  In another study, children who participated in physically active lessons had significantly greater gains in mathematics speed test, general mathematics, and spelling scores although no changes were seen in reading scores (Marijke J., 2016).

Physical education classes and recess offer opportunities for students to increase physical activity throughout the school day.  Although, at times children are sedentary even during these periods.  Research indicated that children who participate in physical activity during physical education lessons may facilitate immediate and delayed memory (Pesce, 2009).  Many studies show that the more vigorous the physical activity is the larger the effects on academic performance (Carlson, 2008; Castelli, 2011).

Even acute bouts of physical activity have been shown to improve cognition.  One study revealed that preadolescent children who completed 20 minutes of treadmill training at a moderate pace responded to test questions on reading, spelling, and arithmetic with greater accuracy and had improved reading comprehension compared to children who had been sitting.  In addition, the children completed learning tasks faster and more accurately were more likely to read above their grade level following the physical activity (Hillman, 2009).  Perhaps try some of these 10 easy, physically active ways to get the brain ready for testing.

10 Ways to Get the Brain Ready for Testing

How do gross motor skills/physical activity affect concentration?

Teachers know all too well how much effort is spent on trying to get and maintain students’ attention. Teachers try frequent questioning, moving about the room, changing tone of voice and many more techniques. An alternative method for teachers to increase attention, concentration and on-task behavior may be to incorporate bouts of physical activity throughout the school day. Research has shown that some children who participated in an in-class physical activity program improved their on-task behaviors by 20 percent (Mahar, 2006). Additional research regarding physical activity and school performance revealed that physical activity may improve concentration (Taras, 2005).  Active lessons that require more coordinated gross motor skills such as balancing, reaction time, etc. were associated with better concentration on academic tasks (Budde, 2008).

How to increase gross motor skills/physical activity during the school day:

There are many ways to incorporate more physical activity and movement breaks into a school day. One of the easiest ways to increase physical activity time is to add physical education classes and recess. However, this can be the most difficult to accomplish within a school day since so much time is already devoted to structured learning.  If additional physical education and recess time is not available, work on incorporating physical movement throughout the school day with brain breaks. During transitions from one subject matter to another, perform short bouts of exercises such as jumping in place, dancing to music or jumping jacks.  Help teachers develop multisensory lessons that incorporate movement with academics. Not only will the multisensory activities increase movement time, but they may also assist kinesthetic learners to improve academically.  By teaming up with members of the school and community, physical and occupational therapists can help make active changes to children’s patterns of physical fitness, health and cognitive function!

This post is part of the Functional Skills for Kids series is school day functions.  This series is a 12-month long series written by occupational and physical therapy bloggers on the development of 12 functional skills for children.  Stop by to see what the other occupational therapists and physical therapists in the Functional Skills for Kids series have written on the school day functions.

Fine Motor Skills Needed at School and Classroom Activities | Sugar Aunts

How Do Gross Motor Skills Affect Academics?  | Your Therapy Source

40 Helpful Strategies for Students with Sensory Challenges | Mama OT

Brain Breaks to Help Concentration in the Classroom | Your Kids OT

Things You can do at Home to Help Your Child in School | Therapy Fun Zone

Tips for Following Directions in the Classroom and Home  | Growing Hands-On Kids

Positioning In The Classroom |Miss Jaime OT

10 Transition Strategies for Kids: Preventing Tantrums  | The Inspired Treehouse

The Case for More Play in the School Setting   | Kids Play Space


This post is part of the Functional Skills for Kids: 12 Month series by Occupational and Physical Therapists. Read all of my monthly posts in this series HERE.


Active Living Research (2015). Active Education: Growing Evidence on Physical Activity and Academic Performance.  Retrieved from the web on 8/15/16 at

Budde H, Voelcker-Rehage C, Pietrabyk-Kendziorra S, Ribeiro P, Tidow G. (2008) Acute coordinative exercise improves attentional performance in adolescents. Neurosci Lett. 441(2):219–223.

Carlson SA, Fulton JE, Lee SM, et al. (2008) Physical education and academic achievement in elementary school: Data from early childhood longitudinal study. Am J Public Health. 98(4):721-727. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2007.117176.

Castelli DM, Hillman CH, Hirsch J, Hirsch A, Drollette E. (2011)  FIT Kids: time in target heart zone and cognitive performance. Prev Med. 52(Suppl 1):S55-S59

Cotman, C., & Engesser-Cesar, C. (2002). Exercise enhances and protects brain function. Exercise and Sport Science Review, 30(2), 75-79.

Deary, I., Whalley, L., et al. (2006). Physical fitness and lifetime cognitive change. Neurology, 67, 1195-1200.

Donnelly JE, Lambourne K. (2011) Classroom-based physical activity, cognition, and academic achievement. Prev Med. 52 (Suppl 1):S36-S42.

Fedewa AL & Ahn S. (2011) The effects of physical activity and physical fitness on children’s achievement and cognitive outcomes: a meta-analysis.
Res Q Exerc Sport. 82(3):521-535.

Ferris, L., Williams, J., & Shen, C. (2007). The effect of acute exercise on serum brain-derived neurotrophic factor levels and cognitive function. Medical Science of Sports and Exercise, 39(4), 728-734.

Hillman CH, Pontifex MB, Raine LB, Castelli DM, Hall EE, Kramer AF. (2009). The effect of acute treadmill walking on cognitive control and academic achievement in preadolescent children. Neuroscience. 159(3):1044-1054. doi:10.1016/j.neuroscience.2009.01.057.

Kamijo K, Pontifex MB, O’Leary KC, et al. (2011). The effects of an afterschool physical activity program on working memory in preadolescent children. Dev Sci. 14(5):1046-1058. doi:10.1111/j.1467-7687.2011.01054.x

Kibbe Dl, Hackett J, Hurley M, et al. (2011) Ten years of TAKE 10!: integrating physical activity with academic concepts in elementary school classrooms. Prev Med.52(Suppl 1):S43-S50.

Mahar, M., Murphy, S., Rowe, D., et al. (2006). Effects of a classroom-based program on physical activity and on-task behavior. Medical Science of Sports and Exercise, 38(12), 2086-2094.

Marijke J.  et al (2016). Physically Active Math and Language Lessons Improve Academic Achievement: A Cluster Randomized Controlled Trial. Pediatrics, Mar 24;137(3):e20152743. Epub 2016 Feb 24.

Pesce et al (2009) Physical activity and mental performance in preadolescents: effects of acute exercise on free-recall memory. Ment Health Phys Act. 2(1):16–22.

Sibley, B., & Etnier, J. (2002). The effects of physical activity on cognition in children: A meta anaylsis. Medical Science of Sports and Exercise, 4(5), 214.

Taras, H. (2005). Physical activity and student performance at school. Journal of School Health, 75(6), 214-218.

Woods RJ & Wilcox T. (2013). Posture support improves object individuation in infants. Dev Psychol. Aug;49(8):1413-24. doi: 10.1037/a0030344. Epub 2012 Oct 8.





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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Scheduling for School Based Therapists is NOT FUN!

Scheduling for school based therapist

When back to school starts, school based therapists have to hit the ground running.  There is rarely time to organize supplies, review IEPs or even go to the bathroom haha!  Most therapists start the school year off with scheduling.  This is BY FAR THE WORST part of being a school based therapists in my opinion.  Please if anyone has any tips to create super easy schedules with loads of kids, classrooms and schools I know we would all love to hear them.

STEP ONE: SCHEDULE –  You get your list of students and schools and you head off feeling super optimistic.  This is the year that scheduling will go super smoothly and you will be done by the end of day one making you ready to work with students day two.

STEP TWO:  CONTINUE TO SCHEDULE – We all know that scheduling never comes off without a hitch.  You know you try to out run all the other school based therapists and beat them to scheduling but you can’t win that race in every classroom.  So maybe you are the last to schedule a child who receives almost every related service and you say goodbye to the schedule you created yesterday.  Retrace your steps, quietly interrupt again in the classrooms, and change your schedule.

STEP THREE:  RESCHEDULE – Just when you thought you were done and you are almost writing your schedule in pen you get an email that Johnny’s IEP is wrong and he actually gets therapy 3x/week for 45 minute sessions but all your sessions are 30 minutes long.  Not only do you have to reschedule again, you probably just lost your lunch or evaluation slot.  Maybe I am being dramatic, but I am 100% sure you can all relate to the nightmare of scheduling.

Here are a few tips to make scheduling easier:

1. You can start with this free schedule form to write down your schedules from Therapy Planner.  You can edit it in Word or just print it out and start writing in pencil of course with a huge eraser.


2.  Try sticky notes – check out this on Pinterest where the therapist uses sticky notes on a file folder.   Seems pretty genius to me but knowing my luck, I will carry that in a wind storm and good bye schedule!  Maybe little flag sticky notes on the printable schedule above might help when considering who to move where when conflicts arise.

3.  Push in – sometimes the easiest way to make everyone’s schedules work in to provide push in therapy.  Children won’t miss important academic time.  You can role model for teachers and parents techniques and suggestions.  Another huge bonus, is that you are seeing the student in his/her natural environment.

4.  Out of ideas already… So let’s share – what is your BEST TIP for scheduling?

If you want to stay ahead of the curve, keeping organized all school year check out the Therapy Planner for 2016-2017 or watch the video to see the sample pages.  It is available in 4 different styles (one being white background to save on printer ink). This is an electronic document with all the materials to stay organized this school year starting July 2016 through June 2017. More pages added this year!  The planner includes the following:

General Information page
12 Full Page Monthly Calenders
12 Two Page Monthly Calenders
12 IEP Review/Eval/Screenings Monthly Reminder Pages
12 Attendance Records for each month
1 Daily To Do List
2 Weekly To Do Lists (print as many as you need for each week)
Lesson Planning Page
Consultation Notes
CEU Tracker
Communication Log
Progress Report Tracker
Evaluation Tracker
Notes (print as many as you need for the year)

All you need to do it print out the pages, punch holes and toss them in a binder. This planner will help you stay organized all year long.  FIND OUT MORE.

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