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

 

My Book Cover2
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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 Eleanor Cawley, M.S., OTR/L

Revisiting The Student Interview

The Student Interview CoverAI have worked with middle and high school students most often.  At this age, a student’s frustrations increase proportionally to the workload.  They are aware of what works and what does not work for them.  When frustrations run so high and parents begin to panic, it is at this time other professionals, advocate and lawyers, become involved.

The Student Interview was developed because of a number of school-based cases that I had been involved in were quite intense.  Every small detail of the case was explored in depth.  I felt that it was imperative that the student have a voice and that I had a document that asked all the right questions. While it is very sad to see the state of the educational system, as it is right now, I feel that the educational system is in transition.  There are always ups and downs when experiencing a transition.

Over the last few years, I have used this interview with many students.  Since this is a form to complete, it is good experience for a student in the transition process.  There is a variety of questions, relevant to the student’s educational, vocational and self-care needs.  Some questions require a yes or no response, while others are open-ended and call for more detail.  The Student Interview serves its intended purpose quite nicely. Since using The Student Interview, I have not had that “uh oh” moment when something comes up that I should be aware of.  At least nothing that I have not at least asked and have a response to.

I really love a student’s surprise when he or she is asked to complete the satisfaction survey.  This is often the very first time a student is asked for his or her opinion on services.  I, now, provide each student with this interview.  I find it an invaluable tool not only as written documentation but also as a basis for a deeper conversation regarding a student’s skills, and their perceptions of themselves.

 

Using Microsoft OneNote for Homework Assignments for Students with Special Needs

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As you may or may not know by now, I love using Microsoft OneNote with all my students.  There is an iPad app for OneNote  as well as computer applications.  As of this date, the app is free.  Since there is an iPad app, iPads do not need to be sent home with students.  Parents can access the app for their own iPad.  With the Notebook stored on Windows Live, the parent, the student and the teacher can access the notebook.  OneNote comes with any Microsoft Office Suite.  It is more cost effective to buy the suite than just OneNote alone as you then have access to other programs.  If you click on the image, you can enlarge it to see all the notes that I have written.  If this assignment is going to a number of students, you can e-mail the page so that it can be opened in each student’s notebook.  This is my notetaking program of choice for all my students.

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

School-Based Professionals Using Microsoft OneNote

As I have always said, Microsoft OneNote far out shines its free counterpart, Evernote.  I use OneNote for all my documentation needs. In fact, I wrote about it in my book, ‘Using Rubrics to Monitor Outcomes in Occupational Therapy.’  OneNote acts as a notebook or file folder.  Each notebook can have an infinite number of tabs [sections] and pages.  The best thing is that you can carry all your files, well organized, on a thumb drive [USB Drive].  Student work samples can be scanned into OneNote and other work samples can be printed into OneNote.  I can enter a page from any program or website. For me, the best feature of OneNote, and the one that makes it so much more flexible than Evernote, is the ability to create templates that can be used in every notebook.  Templates are universal.  That saves much needed time, as I do not have to redo the template for each of my students. OneNote conserves your energy since you never have to take large files or notebooks home.

 

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

Annual Review will be here before you know it–Create Balanced Assessments!

That’s right!  Annual review season will be here in just a few months.  You should start writing your annual reviews shortly.  During annual review, it is prudent to get a student’s feedback on what is working and what is not working.  Make sure that you have a way to gain that additional information.  An interview is always helpful to provide insight on a student’s ability to function not only in the classroom but also at home.  Parents so often paint a different picture of a student’s abilities at home.  Students can behave differently at home.

This is the time to put all your ‘ducks in a row.’  When assessing your students, make sure to have a balanced assessment with some type of real-life [authentic] assessment.  This often means having a rubric to demonstrate how a student’s progress has been judged and the data that supports the student’s progress.

Think about interviewing your student to learn about his or her insights into their skills. Did you ever think about providing your student with a satisfaction survey?  This is quite eye opening.  By developing a rapport with your students, you have the opportunity to create a report that is quite inclusive of all their skills and their opinions.  Listening to and including your student’s opinions leads to better goal development, better outcomes and improved compliance with recommended strategies.

Engage your students in every way possible to participate in collecting data and the development of their IEP.  You will go a long way in developing the respect and the trust of your students.

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

Does Backpack Safety Awareness go far Enough?

ImageDoes your child come home like this?  Does your child complain of back pain?  Do you think that your child’s backpack is too heavy?  Well, it probably is.  The American Occupational Therapy Association has done an admirable job at promoting backpack safety awareness  and offers additional suggestions for parents and students. 

Most schools provide a double set of books to each child-one for school and one for home.  This is a good option but it does not go far enough.  There are some students who carry an overstuffed backpack because they do not know how to organize, others because they don’t want to be caught without an assignment.  When the time comes, though, the assignment is nowhere to be found.  There are other options.

Have you ever heard of a flipped classroom?  A flipped classroom provides supportive learning activities in the classroom [homework done in class not at home] while providing lectures through other media at home.  What about doing this with handouts, notes and other backpack materials.

Suppose handouts and lectures were viewed at home with a parent.  The parent would be learning the same material as the student, in the same way that it is taught in the classroom.  Handouts and paperwork could be viewed at home, while the actual labs and other materials were viewed in school.  This would then provide a significant measure of consistency between home and school.

In order to improve backpack safety and reduce pain and injury, I propose the following:

  • Parents access the handouts on a weekly basis either through e-mail or downloaded from a school server or even Google Drive.
  • Parents will review the handouts with their child prior to going to class [part of good note-taking-preview the material first]
  • Students will engage in activities based on the handouts and be scored on their knowledge using rubrics
  • Students will engage in class lectures in other media at home, with parent involvement [can be previewed or reviewed at any time]
  • Lectures can be provided daily or weekly and need not be long- Facts and a few examples provided with leading questions for thought to be addressed during the school day.  Class time is then spent on implementation of the lecture material to real life situations fostering critical thinking.
  • Engagement in after school team sport’s can be considered physical education–criteria can be scored and met with supervision of the physical education department–providing more class time
  • Parents can review a student’s progress at any time via a parent portal-[teacher needs to upload activity results daily or even weekly]

In my opinion, this can also increase educational time without having to increase the length of the school day or the length of the school year.  This may be a simplistic view, but in order to maximize parental involvement, educational exposure and decrease injury due to a lack of knowledge or follow through on backpack safety, this is an option.  Backpacks would be significantly lighter since little paper work goes between home and school.  Handouts and other paperwork is stored on a server so that it is never misplaced.  In addition, technology would then become a learning tool and not just for play.  Teachers could recommend apps and programs to support learning targeted skills turning gaming into learning.

The Common Core is probably here to stay since it’s goal is to develop and to reinforce critical thinking.  There may be modifications along the way, but the concepts will remain.  Critical and computational thinking are the skills that will bring our children into the future, the basis of STEM Programming and problem solving.  No backpacks will be required in the near future.

 

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

-Daily Task Worksheets

When working in schools, there is a constant need to collect and analyze data.  In doing so, I also feel the need to constantly evaluate my students’ skills in other areas as well.  I always try to assess or reassess skill(s) during each session.  I began creating Daily Task Worksheets.  I typically work with an older population [middle and high school] so that vocational skills also enter into the therapy session.  My thought was to get my students used to using and finishing a checklist in a timely fashion.  I now keep my forms in Microsoft OneNote so that my students’ work was organized and they can use technology while completing a number of tasks assigned on any given day.  Students were assigned to one of my computers [they all had names] and asked to open their own notebook.  Since many of my students are seen in groups at this age, it is important to create an individualized plan for each student that encompasses their goals and promotes a sense of independence.  My students love working on daily task worksheets.

Daily Task Worksheet 5

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My students were able to complete tasks independently or with very little assistance.  At the same time, I would be assessing activities of daily living [tie your left shoe], left-right discrimination, handwriting, following written directions, and any other number of skills.  Since each of the worksheets were created for individual students, I could easily include activities that would measure goal progress and, of course, explore daily progress on anything related to those darn standardized assessments.  If the worksheet is completed on a tablet, a stylus is offered to the student for handwriting.  Sometimes that portion of the worksheet was printed so that the student could complete it on paper.  I always worked on a student’s signature, whether or not is was a goal and had them sign in daily [this just supported my billing].  It was the very first part of the therapy session.  Students were required to keep an agenda for school, so I used that agenda to further increase their independence by applying a label for OT, which they applied to the correct date and added a period #.  I found that students with transition issues were able to get so much more work accomplished than when they did not have a worksheet.