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

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 Occupational Therapy

To all the Lefties Out There! Yes, Our President is a Lefty!

Check out the President's position.  His paper is set up for a right-handed writer.
Check out the President’s position. His paper is set up for a right-handed writer.

 

Recently we celebrated Left-Handers Day.  There were a number of articles written about those who write with their left hand.  Some articles talked about the psychological differences between lefties and righties.  Other articles discussed the statistics of lefties vs. righties. BUT what about the functional aspects of handwriting for lefties?  This is really a world made for righties!  Just look at notebooks and binders.  The rings of a binder and the spiral of a notebook are all on the left side of the book.  The left handed writer must learn to navigate around and through these obstacles.  Do you see how this young woman is attempting to write in a binder awkwardly navigating her hand through the rings of the binder?

Lefty with binder

There are a few ways to solve this problem without having to torture your students:

  • Flip the binder around so that the rings are on the right side (upside down to a righty).  You will be writing on the backside of the righty page (front side for a lefty).
  • OR Take a page or two out of the binder to write on then replace them when you are done.  Some times it helps the quality of the handwriting by having a page or two under the one that you are writing on.
  • OR Use a loose-leaf pad for notes and (easier to carry than a binder) then place the notes in the binder at the end of the day.

If you must use a notebook, you can use the following tips:

  • Start at the back of the notebook instead of the front.  Particularly if you use one of those wire spiral bound notebooks.
  • Use a notebook that has the spiral at the top instead of down the side.

Spiral on the top Notebook

 

Stay organized.  Keep your binder neat and tidy so that you can use it as a slant board.  A slant board will help extend that wrist a bit.  By extending that wrist, you can prevent smudges and fatigue from that lefty flexed wrist.

lefty on a slant board

 

Lastly, if you are a lefty, elevate the corner of that paper.  This may also help you extend that wrist a bit.

Lefty paper position

 

Happy Belated Left-Hander’s Day!

 

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

Daily Task Worksheet 5 pg2

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.

 

Posted in Assistive Technology

-Using OneNote to take Notes in Secondary Schools and College

Another of my favorite therapy areas is teaching students how to take notes.  Taking notes is not easy.  Students must be able to respond to auditory cues with a pen/pencil or a keyboard.  Some students feel the need to take down every word, while others can take down the highlights.  Since I am an occupational therapist, my job is to teach students how to respond to environmental cues with movement.  So I would like to talk about taking notes in my favorite note-taking program, OneNote.

There are a number of reasons to set up note – taking templates or forms in OneNote.  For example, this T-Chart can be used for a number of different classes and discussions within a class.  Prompts that may indicate that a T-Chart should be used are:  Compare/Contrast; Conversely; Vocabulary Words/Definitions; Pros/Cons, etc.  This note-taking template can also be used for pre-algebra/algebra or anywhere where there is a rule and a sample.  The Cornell style of note-taking also uses a asymmetrical T-Chart for cues and notes.

Simple T-Chart created from a table and saved as a template
Simple T-Chart created from a table and saved as a template

Much of the job is already done for the student.  The page is already formatted for the student.  I find that formatting is often part of the delay and disorganization in taking notes.  If you click on the date, a little calendar appears and the date can be easily changed (calendar will indicate the correct date).  The same can be done for the time. Rows can easily be added to the table by clicking on the appropriate icon in the ribbon at the top of the screen or by right-click and then click on Table.  The color of the page and print can also be changed to address any visual concerns.

The real trick is learning the verbal prompts so that the appropriate form can be identified and opened.  The great part of this system is that this is an auto-save program!  If the student closes the program before saving, the work will still be there.  Another factor to consider is keyboarding speed and accuracy.  Figure out if the student can take dictation on the keyboard accurately before recommending this method to any student.

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

Should Middle and High School Students Participate in the Evaluation and Annual Review Process?

Should Students Have a Voice?

Absolutely!  Most students at the middle and high school level are looking for a sense of independence.  Students of this age are often at a point where they want to know why they should continue therapy, and if they continue, why they can’t decide what they need to work on.  In a school setting, the goals need to relate to a student’s educational and/or vocational needs.  There is so much more information that a therapist needs to know to determine a student’s perception of his or her abilities and further determines whether or not a student really needs to continue.  Standardized test scores, although important, are only a snap shot of the student’s abilities at the time the student participated in the assessment.  It is not a clear and thorough picture of the student’s ability to function in a classroom.

I have often found that a student will provide more information if the questions are presented in a written format, particularly with sensitive areas, like activities of daily living, presented in checklist format.  Students will review the document, quickly at first, check an answer [which the therapist or teacher can expand on later] and then move on.  The written format provides a canvas, if you will, to create a dialogue with the student.  For example, let’s say that the student checks off that he or she can make a sandwich, ask the student how he or she makes that sandwich and you will get a better idea if he or she really is capable of making that sandwich.

I have developed a written interview, which I began using with some of my students over the last few years.  I was able to better assess a student’s abilities and perceptions of being able to care for him or herself and support classroom skills.  It prevents that ‘oh no’ moment when something is revealed in a CSE meeting that you should know but don’t surfaces.  When interviewing a student verbally, many of those items are glossed over and the interview proceeds.  A written document is a bit impersonal and the student may just answer more truthfully and feel more comfortable in doing so.

Let’s go back to that sandwich; a student checks off that he is able to make a sandwich.  Later, when reviewing the interview with the student, you ask, “How do you make that sandwich?”  The student lists all the items that he needs for the sandwich but is unable to describe how to actually make that sandwich.  This may indicate that a student has a form of dyspraxia or apraxia that has been addressed in other areas through years of therapy, but not yet in the area of self-care.  In very basic terms dyspraxia (problems with) or apraxia (unable to) refer to sequencing the steps to perform a skill.

This is enlightening and indicates other areas need to be explored.  When evaluating a student, all methods of gathering information should be used.  Standardized and non-standardized testing is important but so is the interview of the student and the teacher and authentic assessments, such as a rubric, to provide a balanced assessment of the student’s abilities.

A school-based assessment includes a reason for the referral [the problems that the student is having in the classroom], and his or her motivation for educational activities.  In my opinion, motivation can be broken down in to at least two components:  skill and desire.  If a student has limited or no skill in a particular area, there will be no desire to engage in the activity.

Motivation becomes a particularly important factor in the middle and high school years.  In order to encourage participation in therapy, students need to participate in and feel part of the evaluation process.  For one reason or another, a student may become disillusioned with therapy.  Comments may be made by peers, making the student uncomfortable with being pulled out of class.  Pushing into the class may not be an option either and may further target the student for comments and potential bullying.  At this point, if the student is so resistant to the therapeutic environment, consults may be the only option other than discharge.

Bibliography

Cawley, M.S., OTR/L, E. (2013). Using Rubrics to Monitor Outcomes in Occupational Therapy. Huntington Station: Eleanor Cawley, M.S., OTR/L.

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.