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.