Tuesday, April 25, 2017

3 Strategies to Help Children with Anxiety

3 Strategies to Help Children with Anxiety

Anxiety can be very difficult for children resulting in considerable stress with negative consequences on daily living skills.  Many children with co-morbid conditions such as autism spectrum disorder or intellectual disabilities are at greater risk for anxiety.  Parents, teachers and children can learn strategies to help deal with anxiety.  The strategies to help children with anxiety can be proactive, communicative and reactive.

Proactive strategies:  The goal of these strategies is to prevent the anxiety from occurring.  Some suggestions are using visual schedules, talking and explaining, relaxation techniques and physical activities.

Communication strategies:  It is important to help children develop self-management, self-regulation and social interaction skills.  Strategies in this area focus on encouraging children to identify their emotions and forming a controlled emotional response.  A visual scale can be used to help children to identify emotional states.  Here is an example of a visual scale to determine if a child is ready to work.

Reactive strategies:  In order to manage anxiety once it already has occurred try distraction, quiet time, calming techniques, having fun and comfort strategies.

What is your best strategy or suggestion to help children with anxiety?

Reference:  Gobrial, E., & Raghavan, R. (2017). Calm child programme: Parental programme for anxiety in children and young people with autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disabilities. Journal of Intellectual Disabilities, 1744629517704536.

Visual Supports for Self Regulation and Classroom Participation

Visual Supports: Schedules, Self-Regulation, & Classroom Inclusion

Designed by a school based occupational therapist, Thia Triggs, this color coded visual support system is suitable for your children with autism, emotional behavioral disturbance, intellectual disabilities, ADHD, communication disabilities, and more.  Pictures are cute, engaging, and easy for children to understand.

Visual supports for self-regulation can be pivotal in implementing an IEP in the least restrictive environment. This digital download includes 283 visuals.  FIND OUT MORE INFORMATION.

3 Strategies to Help Children with Anxiety pin

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Monday, April 24, 2017

5 Activities to PREPARE Children for Scissor Use

5 Activities to Prepare Children for Scissor use 2

Children are interested in scissors at a young age and begin to start testing them out.  Scissor use actually requires a high level of skill in the fingers, hands, arms, shoulders and even the hips for stability (read more on that here).  Most children are proficient with scissors by early elementary school.  Here are 5 activities to prepare children for scissor use or help them to improve their scissor skills:

  1. Puppets:  Grab some hand puppets or make some.  Children can practice opening and closing the puppet’s mouth which is similar to the skills of opening and closing scissors.
  2. Finger Rhymes:  Teach child finger rhymes to practice open and closing the fingers and stabilizing the arms.  The Fantastic Fingers® Fine Motor Program provides instruction for 60 songs and games to get the hands ready for fine motor success.
  3. Squeezing Activities: Practice squeezing water out of small sponges, squeeze tweezers or tongs to pick up small objects or squeeze a stress ball.
  4. Play Dough:  Squish, roll, squeeze and pinch play dough for open ended, hand strengthening fun!  If the child is low tone or has decreased muscle strength in the hands, check out The Hand Strengthening Handbook for more ideas.
  5. Bilateral coordination activities:  Perform activities where one hand is stabilizing while the other hand is moving – activities such as using a fishing rod, using a hand mixer, stirring ingredients in a recipe, hammering a golf tee into Styrofoam, etc.

On May 1st, the Functional Skills for Kids team will be launching The Scissors Book.  This book was written by the same team that brought you The Handwriting Book.  For this week, you can get a FREE printable packet of cutting practice sheets: 17 pages of Cut and Paste Puzzles, 7 pages of Scissor Cutting Strips and printable template of a Scissor Skills Puppet Craft.

scissors skills freebie week one


Looking for more scissor activities?  Here is a collection of three activity downloads for scissor practice.

Scissors Bundle from Your Therapy Source

  1.  Cut, Create and Play Reproducible Scissor Activities for Children includes (40 pages) of 23 scissor and fine motor activities for young children. Each of these activities are ready to go.  Just print, copy, cut and create craft projects and games to play.  The activities promote the development of scissor, fine motor and visual skills by encouraging practice with cutting snips, 1″ – 3″ lines, paper in half, straight lines, rectangles, squares, angles, curves and circles.
  2. Cut and Fold – This download is great to encourage fine motor skills while creating fun puppets, games, stationery and more. Children will love the simple cuts and folds to create the toys.  Available in color and black and white.
  3. Tangrams for Kids – Tangrams are chinese puzzles that consists of 7 pieces of a square. The children can cut and arrange the 7 pieces to match the pictures. Included in the download are 10 tangram puzzles to cut and piece together with 3 levels (easy, medium and hard).

Regular retail price for these three titles is $14.97.  When you purchase the bundle the 30% off sale price is only $10.47!

Order the Scissor Skills Bundle.

5 Activities to Prepare Children for Scissor use

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Friday, April 21, 2017

Wishing You a Happy Mother’s Day Fingerprint Craft

Wishing You A Happy Mother's Day Pictures 2

As a mother of 6 children, I happen to LOVE homemade Mother’s Day crafts.  I also love anything that has a child’s fingerprints, hand prints or a drawing on it.  I created the Wishing You a Happy Mother’s Day Fingerprint Craft template so the children can simply press their finger prints on to the paper to give Mom an adorable keepsake (see below for the download).  Not to mention, children will get some nice practice in for fine motor skills, visual motor skills and tactile input.

Wishing You A Happy Mother's Day 3

All you have to do is print the Mother’s Day Fingerprint Craft template and start adding fingerprints.  If the child doesn’t want to use his/her fingerprints, sponge painting works well too.

Wishing You A Happy Mother's Day 2

If you want to add in some oral motor skills, you could drop some paint on the paper and blow it across the page using a straw (see here for an example of this).


Looking for more Mother’s Day activities?  Check out Mother’s Day Movement Cards and Games.

Mother's Day Movement Cards and Games

Looking for more Fingerprint Fun?  Check this out!

Fingerprint Fun

Enjoy and Happy Mother’s Day!

Wishing You A Happy Mother's Day Pictures


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Thursday, April 20, 2017

What is a Growth Mindset?

What is a Growth Mindset

What is a growth mindset?  It was developed by psychologist Carol Dweck who explains mindset as a self-perception or “self-theory” that people hold about themselves.  For example, it is believing that you are smart or not smart, good athlete or bad athlete, good at knitting or stink at knitting.  This type of mindset can have a profound effect on learning achievement and skill acquisition.

Carol Dweck explains mindset further comparing a fixed  mindset to a growth mindset.  According to Dweck, “In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort.”   In comparison, Dweck explains that “In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.”

Overall, her research revealed that when students learned through a structured program that they could “grow their brains” and increase their intellectual abilities, they did better. In addition, having children focus on the process that leads to learning (like hard work or trying new strategies) fosters a growth mindset and its benefits.

The way we respond to students learning effects how they learn.  One of the examples Dweck provides is instead of simply responding “Good effort” when a child is trying to learn something new but struggling, try responding “The point isn’t to get it all right away, the point is to grow your understanding step by step.  What can you try next?”

A growth mindset is not just about effort.  Students need to apply effort of course, but they also need to discover new strategies and ask for help when needed.   This helps students to face challenges head on and understand that setbacks occur on the path of learning.


Dweck, C. Carol Dweck Revisits the ‘Growth Mindset’. Education Week. Retrieved from the web on 4/20/17 at http://ift.tt/1iNW5o6

Hidden curriculum (2014, August 26). In S. Abbott (Ed.), The glossary of education reform. Retrieved from http://ift.tt/2pGlAyE.

Growth Mindset Curriculum

Growth Mindset Curriculum: This Growth Mindset curriculum, created by Thia Triggs, school based Occupational Therapist, includes 5 units that will help you to support your children in developing a Growth Mindset  FIND OUT MORE.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

7 Features of Effective Classroom Rules

Creating Effective Classroom Rules

The Teacher Education and Special Education journal published a review of the literature on creating and managing effective classroom rules and behavior.  Teachers report that verbal disruptions, noncompliance, and being off-task are the most frequently observed challenging behaviors.   Ineffective classroom management changes the overall classroom environment, affecting students’ social and academic outcomes and teachers’ self-efficacy, attrition, and burnout.  Teachers may come to related service personnel to look for suggestions to help with classroom behavior for students.  In addition, related service providers may have small or large groups to manage for therapy that also would require managing behaviors and establishing rules.

The researchers identified seven features of effective classroom rules:

  1. Number of rules: Establishing a smaller number of rules is better than larger.
  2. Get student input when creating the rules:   Gather student feedback, discuss with the students and then create the rules with the students.
  3. Be positive:  Using wording that describes the desired behaviors when creating rules.  Tell the students what you want them to do, not what you don’t want them to do.
  4. Be specific:  Create specific and observable rules.
  5. Display the rules:  Hang up the rules to serve as a visual reminder for students and teachers.
  6. Teach the rules:  Make sure you actually take the time to teach the students.  For example, explain the rule, provide the reason for the rule, give examples of following the rule, provide examples of not following the rule and provide time to practice.
  7. Establish consequences:  Create positive and negative consequences.  Reinforce good behavior with positive rewards.  Make sure the consequences reinforce rule compliance and follow through.  Make the negative consequences logical and reteach the rule.

Overall, the research indicates that the two characteristics of classroom rules that were most important to their overall effectiveness were number 6 and number 7: teach the rule and and tie the rules to positive and/or negative consequences.

Read more about teaching rules on the playground.

Read more about positive reinforcement during therapy sessions.

Reference:  Alter, P., & Haydon, T. (2017). Characteristics of Effective Classroom Rules: A Review of the Literature. Teacher Education and Special Education, 0888406417700962.

Punch Cards and Reward Cards for Therapy

Punch Cards and Reward Cards: Download of 40 punch cards and 10 reward cards for motivation to complete pediatric therapy goals or following rules. Set goals and rules for the student to achieve. When the student completes an activity, punch a hole in the card. After 10 punches, the student chooses a reward card (with free prize suggestions). Also included is a list of 30 free or low cost rewards. FIND OUT MORE.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Mother’s Day Movement Activities

Mother's Day Movement Ideas from Your Therapy SourceMother’s Day is just around the corner.  Children will enjoy these Mother’s Day movement activities as they move like the baby and mama animals.  Below are some ideas from the Mother’s Day Movement Cards and Games complete packet.  You can download three sample pages for the full color posters.  Encourage the children to make small movements while moving like the baby animals and larger movements while moving like the mama animal to practice grading muscle control.

Mother's Day Movement Ideas from Your Therapy Source 2

  1.  Fly like a baby owl.  Fly like a mama owl.
  2. Crawl like a baby lamb.  Crawl like a mama sheep.
  3. Climb like a baby panda.  Climb like a mama panda.
  4. Slither like a baby snail.  Slither like a mama snail.
  5. Walk like a baby chick.  Walk like a mama chick.
  6. Trot like a baby zebra.  Trot like a mama zebra.
  7. Leap like a baby frog.  Leap like a mama frog.
  8. Move like a baby calf.  Move like a mama calf.
  9. Stand tall like a baby giraffe.  Stand tall like a mama giraffe.
  10. Waddle like a baby penguin.  Waddle like a mama penguin.

Mother's Day Movement Cards and Games

To get all the movement cards and 2o suggested games to use with the cards, check out the complete Mother’s Day Movement Cards and Games.

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Monday, April 17, 2017

Are You The Best Person for the Job?

Are you the best person for the job

Do you ever ask yourself if you are the best person for the job? For any children who receive related services, hopefully this question is asked frequently. When teachers create class lists for the following school year, they usually make a recommendation based on the student and the teacher’s style. The students move from grade level to grade level with different instructors. Does this get done for therapy services as well? When a new skill needs to be taught do you ever consider changing therapists? Or perhaps a goal is not being accomplished – do you ever consider it may be the therapist and not the child?

For some reason in the “therapy world”, occupational, physical or speech therapists may see the same child for years. For some children this is beneficial. For example, children who are medically fragile and their families may benefit from the continuity of the same therapist from year to year. Perhaps families feel comfortable with the same therapist since a bond has been created between the therapist and the child.

Many times the therapist’s experience is taken into consideration when creating caseloads. For young children with cerebral palsy, a part of therapy is usually neurodevelopmental treatment. Using their hands, the therapist attempts to facilitate proper movement patterns while inhibiting abnormal muscle tone. One therapist may be able to facilitate a child’s movement patterns very differently than another. Perhaps ones hand placement is just slightly different or hand size is significantly different this can influence neurodevelopmental treatment. Many time parents or teachers will say “I don’t seem to do it as good as you”. Therefore, something to consider when a child is not reaching a specific goal is to think about changing therapists. It is not to say that the current one is not good, but you never know what a different set of hands may illicit. If you do not want to change completely, another idea is to ask for another therapist to consult on the child. Maybe the therapists could do one co-treatment session to see if a different set of hands can help the child to achieve the goal.

What about different diagnoses? Some therapists work very well with children with certain diagnoses. Just like some teachers prefer to teach math over reading, some therapists prefer to work with children with autism instead of cerebral palsy or ambulatory children versus non ambulatory children. Therapists should look closely at what type of child they work best with and offer to help if that is their “niche”.

What about the goal? If the goal requires a significant amount of assistance who might be best for the job? A small therapist may not be a good match. If the goal requires a significant amount of patience like learning to ride a bicycle, an individual with a short fuse may not be a good fit. If the goal is climbing the jungle gym to the highest point, a nervous individual may not be the best person for that job.

What about carry over at home or in the classroom? It is not always possible to have a choice of which adult can help, but if it is possible consider the adults’ strengths and weaknesses. When teaching a skill like toilet training patience is a virtue. Teaching a child to do the monkey bars or a to use a fire pole, requires some strength and is not for the faint at heart.

Therefore, when a child is learning a new skill consider the therapist’s style and experience in addition to the child’s goals and diagnoses to create the best fit possible.

If you are a pediatric occupational or physical therapists, check out all of our resources, hand outs and forms to help make your job more efficient.  We know how hectic your day to day job is  – work smarter not harder!

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