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 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.

 

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

Imagine the Life of a Student with an Executive Function Disorder…..

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If you click on the photo above, you can read the infographic on a student, named Josh, who happens to have an executive function disorder.  This is all too common for many parents and teachers–the student unintentionally comes to school without ……. Homework is one of those things that is typically forgotten. Imagine how the student feels when the teacher asks for the homework and it’s not there.  There has to be a solution and there is.  There are a number of ways that the forgotten homework problem can be resolved through technology.

A great way to resolve this problem is by using Microsoft OneNote.  Microsoft OneNote comes with all Microsoft Office Suites–from the least expensive to the most expensive suite.  If you have purchased Microsoft Office then you have OneNote.  Most school districts use Microsoft Office so that they already have it as well.  A student’s homework notebook can be stored in a number of ways:  1.  The school district may allow access to the district server with a student log in from home.  2.  The district can allow access to a Windows Live account from a school computer or iPad.  The OneNote iPad app is free!

So now, the student, through whatever means, is able to access his or her homework assignment in their OneNote notebook.  As soon as the student enters any response to the assignment, it is instantaneously updated on any device that the student or teacher has access to.  So that means when the teacher says, “Josh do you have your homework?” Josh can say yes I do!  If it is not the paper version [easily printed from OneNote], at least Josh would be able to retrieve his assignment from OneNote.  This problem is then eliminated thus helping Josh feel more secure in his abilities.

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Remember that this is only a very basic rubric and will need to be modified to meet the individual needs of each student

It is very helpful to use rubrics to help a student see progress.  This rubric can be saved as a template within OneNote and be completed immediately after the homework is complete.  An additional rubric can be used to demonstrate Josh’s progress in locating his homework at school. In my opinion, we have to stop sweating the small stuff and find ways to help students with Executive Function Disorder be more successful in school.  If we can eliminate minor problems by using technology then that’s what we need to do.

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

The Student Interview

The Student Interview Cover

The Student Interview has been something that I have used when assessing students for occupational therapy for some time now.  I have found that by providing a structured interview, that the student could complete independently, allowed the student to provide information in such a way as not to be embarrassed. Although the student knows that the document will be reviewed later, it is much less stressful to check that box and to know what will be discussed; like a celebrity preparing for a television interview.

The Student Interview explores the following areas:

  • Orientation
  • Activities
  • Activities of Daily Living
  • School Skills
  • Technology
  • Self-Regulation
  • Includes open-ended questions regarding the student’s current programming
  • The student’s wants and needs
  • Student Satisfaction Survey- Yes even your students should give feedback- It can be eye opening.

The Student Interview also includes a rubric to assess the responses to the checklist questions.  While not a developed verbatim, it allows the therapist to get an overview of the student’s perception of his or her own abilities.

As a student begins his or her transition into the real world, it is our obligation to help our students to become participants in the development of their IEP and contribute in any way that they can.

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Posted in New Beginings

Civility

Parents, Advocates and Lawyers, Oh My!

I am not sure why the CSE Meeting or the IEP have become such a battle ground for parents and school district administrators but something needs to change.  I have absolutely no doubt that parents, teachers, therapists and administrators have the best interests of the student at heart.  Everyone working with the student wants this child to succeed to the best of his or her ability.  What I don’t really understand is the lack of real communication between parents and school district staff.  

I do not know one teacher or therapist who would not try to incorporate the parents’ requests in a student’s educational plan.  Sometimes, for whatever reason, a second evaluation needs to be done.  Maybe the first one was conducted on a bad day for the student or even the evaluator and/or did not provide enough recommendations.  So the evaluation is performed again by a different evaluator.  It is not an insult to anyone.  It is just done.

I would assume that parents and district staff take notes during conversations and meetings-it helps us to remember what occurred during a meeting.  But we all need to follow the law about what is recommended and how it is recommended.  There is a referral process and a procedure that needs to be followed.  There are activities that can be performed based on the student’s educational placement.  For example: community integration and travel may occur at the alternate assessment level but not at the inclusion or resource room level.  

Activities of daily living that include self-care, should be done within the home unless the school is set up and approved to do this type of training [most, if not all, public schools are not].  As a therapist, I can provide some structure to the activities at home by picture prompts [showering, for example], task analysis and rubrics so that together we can get the job done-school staff and parents working together.  

The most important thing is that we need to listen to the student.  Sometimes the student says, “Enough, no more therapy.”  At that point we need to go into consult mode, reduce the therapy sessions to a very low frequency or discontinue therapy.  We must respect the student!

The most important thing that I hope anyone reading this blog takes away, is that we all need to communicate with each other with the student’s future in mind.  We all need to be able to ask questions and answer them, civilly, without threat of legal ramifications.  Unless the situation has degenerated to a point where no communication is occurring, parents and school staff should be able to address all the student’s needs through effective meeting strategies.  

We should be able to:

1.  Start any meeting in a timely manner [some might be a bit late for whatever reason-participation is the import thing]

2.  Set the ground rules.  This is often done with a parent receiving a handout of rights and responsibilities.  I think that this should go further and an agenda be provided prior to any meeting.

3.  Follow that agenda.  Agenda should be developed with the parent and possibly the student [if old enough and able] to ensure that all their concerns are addressed.  

4.  Monitor time spent.  Respect the time of the parent, the student and professional staff at the meeting.  There is generally another meeting that follows right after.

5.  Encourage participation of all those involved, including the student.  Both parents and staff should enable the student’s participation by either a portfolio or statement to be read.

6.  Approve any new follow-up assessments or actions by both parents and district staff.  Referrals need to provide good information about the reason for referral so that all the questions are answered in the report.

7.  Read a summary of the minutes taken before the meeting adjourns for clarity.  

8.  Minutes should be provided to all parties-all district staff and related service providers involved and parents, after the meeting in a timely manner.

 

The thing that I find that does not occur and should is an agenda.  The agenda provides a structure to the meeting and makes sure that all concerns listed are heard and addressed.  It limits the potential for disagreement during the meeting.  A new meeting can always be scheduled to address any new concerns.  It limits the “Uh Oh!” moments for both the parents and the staff.