Posted in Eleanor Cawley, M.S., OTR/L

Creating Digital Notebooks

Reduce frustration for you and your child

Organization Group NewsIt is difficult for some students to get through school well organized.  Parents, teacher and even students become frustrated with missing homework assignments, notes out of order torn or even missing altogether.  When frustration ensues, it is easy to become argumentative, which is counter-productive to getting work done.

It is my goal to support your efforts to help your child by taking that task over. Creating digital notebooks with your child, there is little worry about losing important work.

Children with Executive Function Disorder have difficulty performing “activities such as planning, organizing, strategizing, paying attention to and remembering details, and managing time and space. ”

Using technology I can help your child manage all that paperwork and not feel so frustrated.  Just think, once a document is loaded into the correct digital notebook, it will never be lost.  If your child loses a paper document that has been uploaded, all he or she needs to do is print out the document.

When teachers request that the student present a notebook, the notebook can be e-mailed to the teacher.  If the teacher will not accept a digital form of this notebook, the notebook can be printed.

Notebooks will be available, in real-time, on the web allowing access in any location with an internet connection by simply using a log-on and password.

Less frustration for all makes home and school life smoother. Please feel free to call for further information.  631-629-4699

 

Posted in Eleanor Cawley, M.S., OTR/L

So Why Should Occupational Therapists Bother to Write Rubrics?

Mostly, therapists read my posts on social media and then move on. Some comment positively and others, not at all. But then there are those times when there  is that one person who challenges you. I must say, that one person tends to get my fight on! I feel that I have to prove my work all over again. But I really love the debate. To those of you who feel that rubrics are not necessary, that’s okay. However, I feel they are.
Rubrics have been around for a very long time. During my research for my book, “Using Rubrics to Monitor Outcomes in Occupational Therapy“I found that rubrics actually began not in the educational field but in the medical field, decades ago. I feel that rubrics were lost in the shuffle in part due to the changes in the provider/client relationship, moving from power over to power with and ultimately to power through our clients. Now that we are searching for ways to become more ‘client-centered’ as a profession, I feel that transparent, understandable documentation is the key.

It has always been our premise, as occupational therapists, to have our clients engaged in purposeful activity. With the increasing intrusion of third-party payment systems into what we do with our clients and the struggle to become ‘client-centered’ having a method of recording progress becomes increasingly important. Yes, of course, we need to get paid for our work but we also have an obligation to our clients, any one receiving our services.

We all have those people, who question what we do.  I am sure that each and every one of us has had this experience.  Sometimes we can explain what is going on, through statements based on clinical knowledge, but then there are other times that we need real data.  Some challengers will accept the “+” or “-” system of data collection [“+” yes the client was able to perform the task or “-” no the client was not able to perform the task]  while

 

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others want more information.

So rubrics offer us a method of documenting some of our thought processing with regard to critical thinking, clinical reasoning and judgment. Sharing rubrics with clients and caregivers provides them with a tool to engage them in the treatment process in a way that is greater than just sharing goals.  By encouraging clients to monitor their own progress they become more vested, more engaged and more accountable to themselves and to us, their service providers, ultimately leading to greater gains.

Rubrics may be initially time-consuming to learn and to write, just like any other skill, the experienced therapist will soon be developing rubrics a lightening speed and have at their disposal a wealth of data and documentation supporting our services.  In my humble opinion, if a therapist chooses to use or not to use rubrics, it is okay, it’s their decision.  I choose to use rubrics, engage my clients in progress monitoring, and have data specifically highlighting the client’s progress.  In my opinion, how can I expect my clients to make the best progress if I do not share my expectations with them. I feel that I empower my clients through the use of rubrics, because I want to, not because I have to.

 

 

Posted in Assistive Technology, Eleanor Cawley, M.S., OTR/L, New Beginings, Occupational Therapy

Note-Taking from an Occupational Therapist’s Perspective

Taking notes is a very complex skill rooted in abilities developed in infancy.  While sitting in a classroom, a student is expected to have appropriate cognitive and motor responses to the teacher providing the lecture.  That is easier said than done! 

As an infant, we are supposed to alert to a sound, respond to that sound with head turning in that direction, differentiate pleasant sounds from unpleasant sound and learn to express pleasure or displeasure.  Visually, we are expected to respond in a similar way: alert to a visual stimulus, respond by following that stimulus by turning our head to follow it, differentiate pleasurable from displeasing.  Infants are expected to demonstrate a motor response to the stimulus, i.e., eye opening, finger splaying, and activation of limbs.

Just as an infant is expected to display a motor response to stimuli, a student is also expected to respond motorically to stimuli provided by the teacher.  Students learn to respond to certain cues, i.e., “This is important,” “Conversely,” repetition of the information, etc.  It is very difficult for student to respond if he or she lacks the prerequisite skills.  Alternatives for taking notes should be offered to the student.  The least invasive is to have the student copy notes from the board (far point).  Some students have difficulty with visual skills such as pursuits and saccades (visual tracking and changing fixation from one target to another) making this difficult.  First a slant board (often a binder) can be used to address this issue.  If that doesn’t work then maybe copying from near point will work. 

The next more invasive intervention might be providing the student with some form of prepared notes, i.e., Cloze Notes.  Cloze notes are fill-in the blank notes.  Students are only required to add one or two words to a statement rather than copy the entire statement.  The next level might be providing the student with a copy of teacher generated notes prior to the class for the student to highlight during class.  The next level might be having the student attempt whatever he or she is able then giving a copy of notes to the student, usually a copy from another student who takes very good notes. 

Another strategy is to use on-line notes for a site like www.studyblue.com.  You may be lucky enough to find course notes similar to class notes with flash cards.  Kno.com is a site where you can buy electronic textbooks (usually at a reduced cost), this site also provides lecture (from the book), study materials and social networking for studying.  Kno.com is iPad friendly.  Along with programs like Evernote with Penultimate, this maybe all the student needs to be in class.  A student could photograph handouts and never have to carry another piece of paper.  Assignments could be entered into Everstudent (a digital assignment book/agenda). 

 

One of the last options would be to type notes on a laptop or a computer.  If the student lacks the prerequisite skills for note taking, they cannot be expected to be successful if you give them something to type on even though they can type at a good speed with good accuracy.  A sixth grader is expected to type at a speed of 25-30 words per minute with 93% accuracy.  If a student has only handwriting concerns, is able to meet all the prerequisite skills for note taking, can type 25-30 words per minute with 93% accuracy then maybe the option for using a keyboard or laptop is the answer.

Posted in Assistive Technology, Eleanor Cawley, M.S., OTR/L, New Beginings

Assistive Technology Assessment

Thinking in Terms of Developing Skill Sets Rather Than Compensating for a Disability

There are many types of assistive technology evaluations including:  mobility, seating/positioning, communication, computer access, switch-access, and aids for daily living, work-site modification, home modification, and recreational assessments.  While assistive technology should be considered in the typical ways; it should also be considered in other ways, i.e., development of skill sets.

From the use of smart phones to navigating the community, developing visual picture schedules to support a cooking or grooming task to the use of laptops and desk top computers for literacy programming, assistive technology supports the development of skills or skill sets.  [Assistive] Technology is here to stay.

Students who are unable to develop skills similar to their peers may very well be more capable with the use of technology.  The Cloud, iPads, iPhones and tablets make taking notes and organizing those notes much easier [with training] increasing a student’s ability to be independent.  Using literacy programming may actually provide a student a voice where he or she did not have one before.  Using technology successfully has the potential to help a student develop confidence and self-esteem.

What makes the addition of developing a skill set different from the typical assistive technology evaluation?  First the referral is targeted toward a specific reason for that referral.  All of the same criteria for that typical evaluation are assessed.  The same programming and devices are explored as is the student’s responses.  Each teacher working with this student is provided with a questionnaire and interviewed based on those responses.  This then gives the evaluator a picture of the student and the skills required to meet the demands in each core class.  A clearer picture of the student’s abilities to achieve the desired skill set is then established.

Based on the demands of that particular skill set, the student is observed discreetly in a core class.  For example, if the desired skill set is to take notes, the following skills will be explored and data collected:  responses to sight and sound, orientation to the teacher, motor response to cue words, quality of the notes taken (content, legibility and organization), etc.  Based on the data collected, recommendations are then made to help the student reach the goal of the desired skill set.  This may be almost a full day of assessment for a particular student.

Once recommendations have been made, and the report has been submitted to the district, the real work begins.  It is important for the evaluator to be in contact with the district’s technology team.  Together with the technology team, a device can be prepared to meet the student’s needs in each of his or her classes.  In the case of note taking, it may mean that a device must be in sync with the Smart Board in class so that the student can save the lecture notes.  Different programs, based on teacher preference, may also need to be learned by the student to ensure that the notes are recorded.

So after a full day of evaluation, and further consult with the technology department, it is prudent to set up additional consult sessions to train the student and the staff in the use of the device, develop future goals and assess whether or not this plan of action will be successful for the student.  In order for assistive technology to meet the needs of the student, it must be constantly assessed and re-assessed, with additional support to the student.

In a different scenario, a student may be recommended for an assistive technology evaluation to address poor handwriting skills.  In addition to the typical assistive technology evaluation where the student’s keyboarding ability is assessed, he or she may need additional support in keyboarding using a touch typing method to improve speed and accuracy.  Often a student with poor handwriting skills has been provided with a computer as needed but he or she has not learned the correct method of keyboarding.  This leads to greater frustration and disenchantment, with any device provided, due to a higher error rate.

A traditional assistive technology evaluation may be requested if the student has reading difficulties, for example, Dyslexia.  Options for assistive technology include text to speech programming-having text from a computer read to the student in a computer voice.  Once the student has been approved for assistive technology, depending on the programming chosen by the district, the voice in the test to speech program can be somewhat pleasing or definitely irritating.  It is difficult to train a student to to modify and use this type of programming during the initial evaluation.  Digital book sharing services require that the student have an account.  This account needs to have a completed application, parent consent and a sign-off by a professional to indicate a visual print disability.  It can take a day or two for the company to approve the application.  Upon approval, a Welcome e-mail is sent to access the account.  Often, an additional program needs to be downloaded before the student or parent can download books to read.

There is a significant delay in the student accessing and using this programming.  If the teacher has not had access to digital book sharing prior to this student, he or she also needs to learn how to use the programming.  So in addition to the evaluation and initial training, follow up and ongoing training is necessary.  This training can be done by the evaluator or district personnel knowledgeable in this area.

In general, assistive technology can only be considered successful if the student is using it to function within his school and home environments and is able to perform the activities with an increased level of independence.  This brings attention to another issue that arises with the use of assistive technology, which is caregiver training.  Frequently, in this training loop, the parent [or caregiver] is left out.  It is important to have the parent participate in at least one training session, once the technology, approved by the district, is in place.

It is ny goal to ensure that every student receiving assistive technology, either through the district or through private funding, receive the training that he or she needs to gain independence.  Once again, if the student is not comfortable with the technology or does not fully understand how to use it, the technology is wasted as is the money spent or the evaluation, purchase and training.  We must also be very careful in not allowing the assistive technology provided being considered another failure.  This can further undermine a student’s self-confidence and self-esteem.