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

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

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

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

-Using OneNote for Daily Tasks in an Alternately Assessed Classroom

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One of the daily tasks that a student in an alternately assessed class can do is to take attendance.  Many students can recognize classmates names, even though he or she is unable to read.  By using OneNote, the daily attendance can become an activity that is easily mastered in a short period of time.

In the screen shot above, I have added a number of fictitious names with a check box next to each name.  I have enlarged the font making the requisite eye hand coordination a bit easier.  The student in charge of attendance merely needs to either click on the box, or if using a tablet, tap it to check the box to indicate that the student was in attendance.  You can make the template a bit more challenging by adding additional responses, such, absent, and even add related services, i.e., OT, PT, Speech, etc.

The Attendance form is saved as a template so that there is no need to recreate the form each time.  The form is easily modified to add or subtract additional students.  A space for a student to sign can also be added and completed with with a pen tablet on a PC or with a stylus on the iPad or tablet.

Attendance 2

This is another, more advanced version of taking attendance.  The template saved on OneNote can be modified as your students abilities improve.  The student responsible for taking attendance will need to interact with each student in the room to obtain his or her initials on the form.  This can be accomplished using a pen tablet with a PC or a stylus using an iPad.  Learning how to write initials is another skill that will become useful in vocational training.

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.