Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Virtual work samples?! Yes, Please and Thank you.

Let's be honest. I use work samples a lot as a means of keeping records and to accompany my daily note documentation. However, I absolutely dislike keeping a MILLION pieces of paper in a working file. I also almost never took the time to look at or go through working files given to me by other therapist with tons of papers and work samples.

Last school year, a wonderful teacher at my school told me about the app Seesaw. The light bulb came on in my head and my face lit up.  Here is the answer to my work sample nightmare!

SEESAW is an app for making digital portfolios. I am not completely using it as intended. I am using it to keep records and document student progress in Occupational Therapy

To start, you have to set up an account. Next, you add all of your students into your "classroom." Next, let the fun begin!

Here are some of the features:

  • take pictures of students work
  •  take video of your students in therapy or the classroom
  •  students can draw and/or write in the app
  • Therapist can make notes about the amount of support needed to accomplish the final outcome
  • Therapist can also draw on the photo to indicate therapist model vs student work
  • Therapist can import work directly from other apps or camera roll

I like that I can view all work added for a given day for all students or just the items in an individual student's folder. Items can be flagged for later review.   Parents can be given access to view their child's progress from home by logging into the app or individual pictures can be shared with them via email.  I just love this aspect as it gets families involved in OT more and allows for more communication.  A picture or video can be very helpful and worth a thousand words.  It is definitely a great way to share work samples with the rest of the IEP team as well. I have the free version but there are more features with the upgraded/ paid version.

I give the SEESAW app a big three thumbs up! 

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Documentation - using Google Forms

Last school year, I said goodbye to handwriting notes and typing just narratives on word.  My school district doesn't have a standard method of documenting therapy sessions. A colleague of mine switched to Google forms years ago so I decided to give it a try  So far, so good!

Here's how I got started -

1) You have to have a google account. Sign in to your account.  Go to the multiple squared icon. Then scroll down to the purple forms icon and click on it. You may have to click the more button to see the icon.            

2) Select the blank form.


3) Next, I recommend to start out with a template. The template has all of the information that you use with all of your students. For each question you have several choices for how you would like the data to be entered. This is what I am currently using: Date (text box),  Location (checkboxes),  if no, OT why? (checkboxes), session length (text box), Progress (checkboxes), Activities and Outcomes (paragraph text), Plan (checkboxes), and signature (text).   I save this and then add the students individual goals by going to file and then make a copy.

Screen shot of the top of my template form

5) Next, making the individual goals as checkboxes is how I usually complete the data for the goals. How you complete this part depends on how you write your goals and how you want the data to appear in the summary.

Example for cutting goal
Example for grasp goal - level of support needed
Example of grasping goal - percentage of accuracy

6) I like to customize the page for each child to go along with my students interest or things that remind me of the student. You can change the color or pick a theme. This is just for fun. :)

7) You can make folders and place students into a school folder or make multiple forms (per quarter) for each student and then make student folders. There is various ways to organize your forms.

8) When you complete a form, the information goes into a spreadsheet. To view the responses, you can go to 'view responses'.  To see graphs, counts and percentages, go to responses and then to summary of responses. These are sometimes nice to share with parents at IEP meetings.

example of summary of responses

9) I  dictate in the paragraph box by hitting the fn key twice after my cursor is in the activities and outcome box (I am currently using a MacBook Air).

10) You can also set it up to use on your iPad.  If you email yourself the form and then open your email on your iPad. Touch the link in your email. Next touch the box with the arrow coming from it in the left hand corner. Then add it to the home screen. Last group them together in a folder.

                                                Hope this helps.  Happy Documenting!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Vacation - My current Occupation

This is where my soul comes alive. The feel of the sun kissing my skin and the gentle breeze floating around my body. The initial chill of the water that quickly becomes comfortable. The smell of the ocean and light fragrant scent of suntan lotion. The roar of the ocean brings such peace to my mind. To see the excitement on my son's face and the joy my parents had playing with him in the ocean that appears to meet the beautiful blue sky. To taste a bit of grit from the sand and any guilty pleasure of the beach such as seafood, ice cream, water ice, funnel cake, salt water taffy, etc. This is where I am inspired, where I am happiest, where soul comes alive. --Tamika


As an OT, I realized that I wasn't practicing what I preach. In thinking about Models of Practice and going back to the roots of my practice, I recalled learning the Model of Human Occupation (MOHO) and the Canadian Model of Occupational Performance (CMOP) in school. My OT students have made me aware of the KAWA model. I have been missing balance in my life for a number of years, especially since I became a mother.

Occupational Therapist write goals all the time. I have recently been working on setting several goals for myself.  One of my new goals is to take the time to stop and notice the beauty all around. Slow down and enjoy life. Live and not just survive.


-  reminds me to include my spirituality.

- environment influences occupation. Therefore, I need to take time to be more aware of my environment and the environments that I create.
- Focus of MOHO - engage people in occupations that restore, reorganize or maintain the motivation, patterning and performance capacity, therefore their occupational lives. (Ramafikeng, 2011).

- Belonging, Being, Doing
- Harmony and balance

Vacation provides rest, and renews your being so that you are ready to return to your everyday life ready to fulfill your purpose and be all that you were called to be. It makes me a better mother and therapist. It inspires your life and ideas. I challenge all that read this to work toward balance and harmony and engage in the occupation of vacation. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

Chewy, Chewy, Chewy PENCIL?!! - When chewing at school and home becomes a problem

Do you have a student or does your own child seem to chew on EVERYTHING? Ok, maybe not everything but they have destroyed pencils and shirts galore. Well, the photos you see below are actual pictures of pencils chewed on by one of my students. 

Maybe your student has been chewing all year long or maybe it started at a certain part of the year. For me, my little guy was a chewer most of the year but it got significantly worst as the end of the school year approached.

While I knew my little guy was a sensory seeker anyway. I feel that anxiety truly had something to do with the increase in oral seeking behaviors at the end of the school year. Transitions and the unknown can be very anxiety provoking and stressful for little people. Chewing provided proprioceptive input (heavy work/ deep pressure) into his mouth and the proprioceptive input was calming.

So, what did I do to help my little fella?

1) Experimented with several chewy tools to see which would work the best for him. - This little guy needed something sturdy because he was even biting off pieces of a chewy necklace. He also needed something with a strong lace to attach or a non-cloth attachment as he was chewing on this as well and destroyed a string necklace in one day.

2) Asked his mother if he could have crunchy and chewy snacks and drink from a water bottle that required a straw or sucking.  We also tried chewing gum. - This provided another way to provided extra sensory input into his mouth.

3) I provided more opportunities for deep pressure input during sensory breaks and used a pressure vest. - He typically went for vestibular activities but we saw a difference in him and his ability to calm his body when he was provided with an appropriate amount of deep pressure input.

4) Wrote a social story and made a chew chart. He got frequently rewarded for engaging in expected chewing vs. unexpected chewing behaviors. - My little guy was already familiar with social stories, social thinking, and Zones of regulation. I used all of these approaches and consulted with my speech therapist to come up with his social story and chew chart.

Chew Chart
Social Story

Well, I wasn't able to stop him from chewy as much before the school year was over, but at least he was doing it in a safer and more socially appropriate manner. His mom was happier as she didn't have to replace as many shirts and his teachers were happier because he wasn't chewing up as many pencils. He was happy too. So, Cheers to the small steps in life!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Forget March Madness! It's End of the School Year Madness!

I'm back!!!  Sorry for the little hiatus.  April, which was OT month by the way, was very busy for me. I had to move and we celebrated both my son's birthday and my birthday. Now the May/ End of the school year madness has begun. Why do I call it madness?  Well, let's see.  There are transition meetings, ESY meetings, annual reviews, finishing up evaluations, students getting anxious due to end of grade tests and summer coming, looking for summer work, etc. When you are a single mother, trying to keep balance and order in your life is an ongoing task. So, what are some things that I am doing to try to stay sane and keep my feet and head on the ground. Think Mental Health since May is Mental Health Awareness Month.

1)  Read, Pray, Listen - When things start getting wacky, I need to start my day off right. Reading my bible daily helps me keep the peace and find joy. I get up at 4:30 am to get my quiet time. I currently use the Youversion bible app. It has plans on it for various topics. Some plans have guided prayers as well.  Also, I love Jesus Calling devotional by Sarah Young.  In addition, I am reading Fervent by Priscilla Shirer with my bible study group. I have begun to write down my prayers and celebrate answered prayers with a visual prayer box. Listening to worship music on my way to school and while I get dressed has also done wonders.

2) Meditation - I got into meditation approximately a year ago.  I love it.  I sometimes use the or calm app.  I have used this in therapy with my students as well as with my son. You can select various background sounds. Choose between guided or unguided sessions. Other options include - topics with affirmations, programs, and varying length of time.

3) Massage - I absolutely love getting a massage. I used to have a membership at Massage Envy.  Now, I go when I can as I am being more conservative with my funds as a single mom. If you are a single mom too, just know there are other options. You don't have to go to a fancy spa to get a good massage.  Look into massage therapist who work out of small offices or even will come to your home.  Also check Groupon and living social for deals.

Chris Curls

4) Exercise - Now, this one is a must but not actually always my favorite. I have been using my son as an excuse as to why I am not consistently working out. Yes, I have limited time.  Yes, in the past, he got in my way.  Is that a good enough excuse though.  NO!!   Recently, I have begun to include him. That was the best decision I ever made. It's a good full body workout too.  He loves it. He actually will request it so that's extra motivation and a great reminder. We also play tag at the park, go for walks, and play sports such as basketball, soccer, and football. Be creative. Get active. Play and have fun.
Lift and Squat
Bridge Planks
baby suicides
Leg Lifts

5) Social/ Friendships - Last but not least, I make sure to fit in time to meet up with my best girlfriends.  Make sure you cultivate and nourish your relationships.  Set up a lunch or dinner with your "bestie".  Choose a relaxing activity to do with a friend like yoga, hiking, gardening or painting.  I recently did a Paint Nite with co-workers. It can be so rejuvenating.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Self-Regulation in Young Children

With the increase in demands on children at a young age, the push for children to demonstrate self-regulation at a younger age increases as well. Thus, to develop self-regulation skills, children need many opportunities to experience and practice with adults and capable peers. Self-regulation skills develop gradually, so it is important that adults hold developmentally appropriate expectations for children’s behavior. Modeling, using hints and cues, and gradually withdrawing adult support is the appropriate mode of intervention and support.  

Within the groups I co-teach at my school with awesome teachers, we have to really stretch ourselves to help very young children to not only understand the concept but to begin demonstrating the skills. I have tried to explain to the regular education teachers that the goal during their kindergarten year is not that they will be able to do this independently but that they will gain understanding and accept help and redirection in difficult situations.

I have been using the Zones of Regulation curriculum at my school. To adapt it for my students with cognitive limitations and the younger population, I have begun to use books and videos.  We are also using real photos or pictures of people and themselves to help learn facial/ body cues for various emotions. Our boys love books and love to read so this just sort of makes sense. Also, visuals speak a thousand words for them, especially since they have Autism. Pete the Cat has become on of my favorites this school year.

Who doesn't love Winnie the Pooh and his Friends? They make great examples of being in various states of arousal.  Sesame Street also is a great resource for teaching kids concepts. This video is about happy and sad. They have other's on impulsivity, taking turns, deep breathes and anger management, and whole body listening. 

We practice while playing games as a group and the students are able to get feedback on the spot.  They similar terms are used within the classroom to help with generalizing and performing the skills within the regular education setting.

Self-regulation Games        Cranium Hullabaloo

One of my teachers, who teaches in a separate setting, is also using books to help children understand their emotions and help them regulate by taking a break when needed.  This is the visuals within her break area after the students did a unit with the book, knuffle bunny.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Sensory Rooms in Schools

This is such a debated topic among Pediatric OTs. There is a lot of concern about removing kids from the classroom to engage in activities in another setting and the liability. There has been a lot of debate on what the rooms should be called and who is responsible.  The list goes on and on.  I had a mother tell me in an IEP meeting that he son needs to jump for hours when he gets home after being at school all day.  My response was that maybe he needed more input throughout his school day. 

Do I provide clinical SI treatment in the schools? NO!   However, I have become an advocate for the proper use of our movement break/sensory room. 

When I started at my current school, the room already existed. I had mixed feelings about it. I had never worked at a school that had one before and it clearly wasn't always being used appropriately.  I honestly didn't even know where to begin at first with turning things around.  After working on this
 for 3 years, it has finally happened and I am excited about it.  It has truly been a community effort though.

I started with doing an in-service with all of the staff that would potentially use the room. I explained the rationale behind the reasons why we use various input. I taught them about sensory diets and why they are important.  We talked about not using sensory breaks as a reward and recognizing our students sensory needs.  Also, we talked about the proper use of the equipment. Staff were truly appreciative.  One Teacher Assistant truly didn't know all of these things and was truly in awe and thankful for the knowledge.  I have been co-teaching the Zones of Regulation program with my resource teachers for 2 years now.  Therefore, the bulletin board and sign in sheets use the terms and language from the program. 

With the help of my awesome speech therapist,  we replaced a swing with a donor's choose grant.  My school psychologist was able to donate another swing.  With PTA grant money, we were able to buy a new crash pillow and pea pod.  The principal has generously offered to give me more money for other equipment to add. 

It was also important to me that we build in structure. The room can be easily very overstimulating for some children.  I decided to start providing students with schedules so it was clear as to what they are to do while in the room.  I am planning to make specific schedules for some children and for others, teachers can make the schedule with the students based on their current need. I am planning to add real pictures of some of the equipment for the schedules. We are also having children check-in and collect data as to how the children are responding to the stimulation.  Another OT that I work with shared a contract that she uses with students and I decided to implement that as well with my regular education students. 

We are all sensory beings.  Some children with special needs have difficulty dealing with various sensory inputs within the school setting (regular education and separate education settings).  The need for vestibular and proprioceptive input throughout the day can impact learning and behavior. It is my desire to help my students and teachers meet their needs so that optimal success can be achieved in the educational setting. 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Allow me to introduce myself......

Who do the kids at school say I am?  I am the Fun Teacher.  This is what a student called me when asked by her teacher, who taught you to tie your shoes.  "The Fun Teacher taught me!"  - That's me. Even though, I am a therapist, I embrace the term. At the beginning of my career, I didn't make sure that my students knew my name. OTs see students 1-2 times per week. At that time, I was at multiple schools. The kiddos knew my face and where my room was but did not know my name.  Of course, I introduced myself to them when I began working with them but that was it. Now, for social skills purposes especially, I make it appoint to make sure my students know that the Fun Teacher actually has a name...............

Hello, My name is Tamika (Dopson) Harris. I have been an Occupational Therapist for 14 years. I have spent the majority of my career as a School Based Pediatric Occupational Therapist.  I have also spent a lot of time working in early intervention with children in their homes and daycares.  I have a passion for children which grew after I had my son. 

I am an OT at school and at home. Poor boy. His momma never stops thinking like an OT and educator so he is exposed to lots of good stuff including sensory experiences and social skills/ self-regulation techniques. He is my guinea pig for new ideas and frame of reference for development. 

 I am planning to use this blog to share ideas for Occupational Therapists and Teachers. I am planning to share free materials and materials for purchase. I will be talking about what it's like to raise a son as a single mother. I also would like to share my faith with others and provide inspiration to those who are in need. While I am only human, we as women put an "S" on our chests and fly through life like superwomen.  Please join me in this journey and new adventure in my life.

My son picked this dandelion the other day and said I wish for you momma.  He will never understand or know how many years I prayed for him and continue to pray for him daily.